An intriguing conversation with Blacklist Union’s Tony West, tops this writer’s chart.
Tony West of Blacklist Union
One of the best parts about adventuring into the music world is being given the opportunity to meet incredibly interesting people. One such experience occurred the other day when I had the good fortune to catch up with L.A. Rocker, Tony West, lead singer of Blacklist Union. The band has recently released a video for the song Evil Eye from their latest album Back to Momo.
In a very open and inspirational conversation, this intelligent, well-spoken, hot, rockin’ dude with a killer voice, made me pause with thought about a few things:
It is possible to transform yourself
Dreams do come true, especially when you concentrate on what you want
Seriously, don’t listen to people who tell you that you suck (haters gonna hate)
“Keyboard warrior” is a pretty hilarious expression
Make sure to check out Blacklist Union’s Evil Eye on iTunes and in the video below!
How did you get started as a musician?
It started when I was 5 years old when I asked my uncle, “Who’s the girl on that poster?” He said, “That’s not a girl, that’s David Bowie.” And then he played me Space Oddity. In that moment, I knew what I was here to do. When I was a teenager, I ran away [from the Bronx] to Hollywood to see Guns N’ Roses, and that was basically it.
Do you write all of the music for Blacklist Union?
Todd Youth and I wrote a song together on the “Til Death Do Us Part” record in 2012, and then decided to write a whole record together. I grew up seeing a lot of Todd’s bands: Murphy’s Law, Agnostic Front, Cro-mags. We’ve been friends for about 15 years. We come from the same school of music, so our writing process is easy, fun, and effortless.
How do you write songs?
We just sit down and arrange. We come up with good riffs, and then I’ll usually take it home and write melodies. Melodies first, and then I apply the lyrics.
What is the inspiration behind your music?
My life, circumstances, and experiences I’ve been through. Everything from addiction to being sober, birth, death. You name it, it’s in there. Dealing with my parents, having abusive parents. All that stuff is real. There is nothing contrived to sound cool.
I do love lyrics. I take pride in writing kick-ass lyrics. It’s important to me that people get their om-like experience with the words.
I believe a lot of people will be able to relate to Evil Eye. [Blacklist Union’s song is about the abuse that Tony suffered from his mother as a child. Make sure to listen to this amazing song with video below.]
I’ve received a lot of communications from people, and how over the years the music has helped them heal, from death or whatever. I’ve dealt with the untimely death of many people that I’ve loved. With Evil Eye, I was carrying around that stuff with my mother for so long, it manifested into all of my relationships. Evil Eye was part of the process of really letting go of the idea that she would be different, because it’s just not going to happen. The only person I can change or transform, is myself. I got into a lot of drugs and alcohol behind those feelings of being inadequate, not enough, and unlovable.
Thank you for sharing because I think a lot of people can relate to this.
Will you be touring soon?
We certainly hope so. We are releasing a 7-inch of a few songs in the UK, and we really want to get over to Europe. And, we’re hoping to do a Warrior Soul and Blacklist Union tour. Warrior Soul is an obscure underground band that has been around since the ‘90s and had a huge influence on me.
Do you ever get to see concerts?
I took my son last year to see the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Motley Crue. And, I just saw Guns N’ Roses the second night in Vegas, which was amazing.
Axl Rose is one of the greatest rock and roll singers in history, and everybody always slags on him. The guy has sold millions and millions of records, and it’s amazing, the hatred that these keyboard warriors have, ragging on him. I think the guy is awesome. I’m a singer. I was looking for any mistake, but there was not one. He sang perfectly. On point.
What do you like to do for fun or adventure outside of music?
I like to hang out with my kids. My son is 9 and my daughter is almost 4. I also do this thing called Landmark, which is like looking in the mirror and taking a look at yourself, and letting go of the past and the ties that bind you. I like to read. I like to practice vocals, even if it’s by myself. And, I own a business, too.
Wow. So, you’re busy!
Yeah, but I make time for things.
Back to Landmark…. What is that exactly?
It’s called the Landmark Forum, and it’s really amazing stuff. I’ve been in and out of A.A. for a long time, but doing this program really helped me to get to the core issues that kept getting me loaded. In the last several years, it was always pot and wine and cigarettes. Those were my last vices. And, it just didn’t work anymore. No matter how hard I tried to stay sober, I always went to the old thing that was always there for me. This program, and the courses they offer, really helped me get to the core issues and let go of them. I mean, the 12 steps work. They really do work, but there was always some residue left over that I just couldn’t get in touch with. And Landmark helped me with that immensely. I’m a different guy. In a meeting the other day, a guy told me that I looked completely different. It’s because I let go of all the anger. I was very angry; I was a reactor. Now I’m calm. Even my son said, I hope you keep going to this thing because you seem so happy.
Are there any local or popular bands in L.A. that you want to share with us?
There’s a cool metal band called Attack of the Rising that are friends of mine in L.A. Great guys. They’re just starting out. Stone Breed is another one.
Have you been in bands other than Blacklist Union?
I played in L.A. Guns for 13 shows helping Tracii Guns finish a tour because their singer quit in the middle. I enjoyed it; Tracii’s a great guy. I also sang in Malfunkshun, which was the first band of Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone. Andrew Wood is the guy I learned how to sing to. It’s a really weird story because when I started singing as a kid, and really decided that I was going to do this and started learning, I learned everything from Mother Love Bone. I would say a prayer and burn sage. I would say this prayer exactly: “I pray to the spirit of Andrew Wood. Please help me to help you have the world hear your music again. Please use me as a channel. Please help me sing.”
Several years later due to a bunch of circumstances, and my ties to Alice in Chains, I became the singer of Malfunkshun, which was Andrew’s band. It was really a dream come true for me. It was such an honor to be a part of it. To have my name mixed in with Andrew Wood is just incredible for me.
I share that story because of all the kids and the people that say that you can’t do something or that you suck. Everyone starts at zero. It’s up to you to reel in your talent. Don’t listen to anyone who says you suck. If Axl Rose listened to people who say he sucks, he’d have no work and probably be curled up in a fetal position somewhere in Malibu. You know what I mean?
I’m going to take what you said and use that as my inspiration for the week. Thank you.
Nice. You’re welcome.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with me or the readers of Adventure Music Life?
Check out the Back to Momo record. It’s kick-ass. It delivers. But, there is a warning: It may make you drive faster, drink harder, and fuck harder.
Sounds excellent, Tony!
Check out Blacklist Union’s latest video Evil Eye! Per Tony West: “This song is about the abuse I suffered from my mother as a kid and throughout my life and how I let it destroy me for many years. I just had to let it go and realize she is a sick woman who didn’t and still doesn’t know any better. The video was extremely emotional for me. The part when my son acted as me when I was nine suffering abuse was so real and so life-like I actually cried a few times. Matt Zane [director] really brought it to life and I absolutely love the guy and love working with him.”
Watch Blacklist Union’s Evil Eye Video