Blacklist Union's Tony West talks new music
Updated: Jul 8
Los Angeles hard rockers Blacklist Union are gearing up for the September release of their fifth album Letters from the Psych Ward.
The band recently released the title track and Rock Life spoke to frontman Tony West about the making of the track and what to expect from the new album.
Rock Life: Anything coming up that you'd like to highlight?
Tony West: We have a gig here in L.A. on July 29th at the Whiskey for Cruefest. Then we have a record release show in September, which we're trying to book at The Viper Room. We're also in talks about doing other things as well. There are all kinds of irons in the fire.
Rock Life: What do you want people to know about the forthcoming album and the direction it's moving in?
TW:I mean, we're basically moving in the same direction. We're just a hard rock band that's influenced by punk rock. It's always been a consistent sound of just in-your-face rock n' roll.
There's a couple of songs that are kind of slower and have more groove this time around. We have a couple of those songs like "Queen of Everything," which is out now and "Dirty Halo," which is going to be our third single. We also covered "Mia," which is an Aerosmith song off of Night of Ruts. My daughter was named after Mia, who is the daughter of Steven Tyler. That song also has that slow groove. We put our own spin on it.
Rock Life: Your brand of in-your-face rock is rare nowadays. Is it important to you that you keep that music going and that flag waving?
TW: Yeah, that's so important to me! I play the kind of music that I want to hear. You know, kick-ass up tempo rock and roll. I mean Buckcherry is really the only big one out there doing it. There's also this band out of Atlanta called Kickin' Valentina that are friends of mine and they're pretty cool. Unfortunately, that type of rock is becoming a commodity because it is so rare nowadays.
Rock Life: How did your new single "Letters From the Psych Ward" come together? And the video as well?
TW: I've just been saying lately that it's just about trying to stay sane in a world that's gone mad.You know, through all the f*cking crazy ass bullsh*t that's happening everyday in this country and the world. We're just trying to stay sane and keep our heads above water. Everything is just crazy expensive from groceries to gas and all kinds of sh*t so its hard to just live. And then we have our standard pain and ups and downs of life that just come with being human.
The "Letters From the Psych Ward" video was produced by Thomas Crane, who also did the "Queen of Everything" video and we just did two more videos with him. He's a great guy. The concept behind it is a live performance along with psych ward scenes.
Rock Life: One thing I've noticed is how your lyrics are very visual and tell a full story. Is that something that's important to you?
TW: Yes! Some of the greatest lyricists like Bon Scott, Johnny Cash and on and on have always painted a picture of a story. That's super important to me. I write all the lyrics and I consider myself a wordsmith. I really like to write and English was my favorite subject in high school.It was the class that I always kicked ass in because I loved it.
I actually had this English teacher who was from Ireland, Mr. Mitchell and if I cut class he would come find me and tell me I was such a great writer that I needed to be there. I always enjoyed writing.
Rock Life: Christopher Johnson produced this one and he's worked with the band for a longtime. I imagine it's easier to work with someone who knows you so well?
TW: Yeah, songwriting is essential. The last record Back to Momo I wrote with a guy who passed away so I had to find someone else for this one. Finding someone to write with is kind of like trying to find a spouse; it's not an easy thing to do.
So I ended up writing this album with Chris Johnson who had produced all of Blacklist Union's albums and knew my voice and knew our style. He's a great songwriter who has worked with Buckcherry, Evanescance and so many others and who has done all types of things throughout his career. We've been friends for a long time and it was the best solution to get things out.
It's been eight years since our last record, time really f*cking flies! We had a lot of things to cover on this record and just really wanted to get it released. I've solidified a great lineup so I'm excited about that.
Rock Life: And what has kept you going through the pandemic and such a unsteady music business?
TW: I'm a lifer. There really is nothing else for me. There's a love in music. I have my wife and my kids, but since I was five years old, it's always been about music. That's never going to change! I've tried to not care about music, but I really lose my sh*t without it. It's just a part of me.
Rock Life: What do you feel it is about your music that really connects with people?
TW: I mean, we've consistently put out kick-ass rock records and also people know when something is authentic or not. The subjects are deep and spiritual. We also have a kick-ass team behind us. My manager Paul Crosby, who used to be the drummer in Saliva , is great and all the rest. We finally have a great team behind us That definitely helps.
Rock Life: And what's the most important thing looking ahead?
TW: Just getting the music out there and hopefully getting a record deal. A real record deal, not just one for bragging rights. One that is with a true partner.
We also want to get out on the road. I actually can't wait to get back out your way in Detroit! One time I played at The Ritz and I got roofied right before I went onstage and then another time our tour manager got arrested and we had to bail him out. There's always some kind of shenanigans going on in Detroit!
I've played The Token Lounge, The Ritz, The I-Rock, Bullfrog's and on and on. We have a great fan base there. The thing that I love about Detroit is that it's blue collar and if you f*cking suck they'll let you know, but if you're a kick-ass rock band they will come and pack the place. I wish the rest of the country would get on board with that!
Blacklist Union's next single "Dirty Halo" will be out on Friday, July 21st and can be pre saved now.