BLASKO: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Rob “Blasko” Nicholson has quite the impressive metal resume. He’s played with Prong, Danzig and Rob Zombie, he’s played (and still plays) with Ozzy mothafuckin’ Osbourne, and he’s got his own roster of management clients. I first met Blasko at the CD release party for In This Moment in the Summer of 2008 (he was there because he manages ITM… I was there for the open bar), and despite the fact that MetalSucks had done nothing but trash the band in the weeks leading up to that album’s release, Blasko was super-cool, friendly, totally down to earth, and had nothing but praise for MetalSucks. That’s the kind of guy Blasko is… he gets it.
Blasko’s latest project is Heavy Metal Karaoke, a project with guitarist Tommy Victor (Prong, Danzig, Ministry) and drummer Tommy Clufetos (Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent) that gives the average fan a chance to go up on stage and sing metal classics with a real, live band. I caught up with Blasko just before the Thanksgiving holiday to ask him about Heavy Metal Karaoke, working with Rob Zombie and Ozzy, the Zakk Wylde / Gus G. situation (I couldn’t resist), Blasko’s work in management, and the state of the metal industry in general. Our chat, after the jump.
Heavy Metal Karaoke; what can you tell us about it?
That it’s going to be the most awesome thing ever. [Laughter] What I can tell you about it is, for anyone that does karaoke normally, it’s not so far removed from that idea with the exception of you’ll [be able to] play specifically heavy metal songs or you’ll sing specifically heavy metal songs with a real band instead of some silly backing track. The scenario of going to a bar, getting wasted with your friends, getting up and singing, having fun and making a fool of yourself and that whole process is definitely still the same. It’ll just be more aggressive.
Yeah. So how did the idea for this come about?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s the most original idea ever or that I’m the first one to think of this or any of that crap. At the end of the day, there’s a band out here called Punk Rock Karaoke, and that’s where the idea stemmed from. These are dudes that play in Bad Religion. These are legit dudes from legit bands like Bad Religion and NOFX. The idea is pretty much primarily that with the exception that we play heavy metal songs and they play punk rock songs.
Why now? How did it come about with these guys that you’re doing it with, which is a cool group of guys for sure? Why did you decide to get this going now? Was it a break from touring and your other projects?
You know what? There is a little bit of a break. Why now? Why didn’t I think of this two years ago? I have no idea and I really kind of wish that I did. But there’s no other time like the present, right? So hopefully we’ll make up for some lost time, and everyone will come out and have a good time with it.
How do you go about selecting the songs?
It’s one of those things where you can sit down with your friends and bang out the obvious ones – like the ones that come to mind. Just to sort of reiterate, I bought this book, The Top 500 Metal Songs of All Time, and I went through it and confirmed some of the songs that I didn’t think of. A lot of it too is stuff that we think is going to be relatively simple for someone to get up and sing and something that is also a pleaser for the people in the crowd. We’re not going to be busting out with “The Rime of Ancient Mariner.” You know what I mean? We’ll stick to the classics.
Stick to the “Run to the Hills.”
Yeah, like “Paranoid” vs. “Sleeping Village.” It’s stuff that people are going to enjoy and that people can get up there and sing and have fun with.
Do you ever worry that some drunken douchebag gets up there and totally makes an ass of himself?
I hope that happens.
That would be awesome if that happened. To me, that’s kind of the whole point.
[Laughter] It should be fun if anything.
I would say so, and the goal is that it’s fun for everybody. The goal is that it’s not only fun for the people who get up on stage and sing with us and make a fool of themselves or impress people, but that everyone there is going to be laughing and having a good time with it as well.
So you’re doing 8 shows or something? Is that right? Like 4 at each venue, 2 venues?
We’re still confirming all that, but it’s looking like we’ll do a residency at The Whiskey in Hollywood, and we’ll do a residency in Vegas as well through January and February. If all goes well, we’ll continue it until all of us have to go on tour. Who is to say that I can’t be Gene Simmons about it and replace people as they go on tour just to keep this thing rolling if it’s successful?
Right. I’m sure most of the songs that you guys are doing, you’ll all probably kind of know or do know completely anyway. I wouldn’t think that there would be THAT steep of a learning curve with this stuff.
It’s not a huge stretch, no. You are correct. [Laughter]
Cool, man. So what else is going on? I guess you’re not doing the Zombie thing, because isn’t he out at the moment or about to go?
I haven’t been in his band since 2005 or something. He’s out doing a tour, and it’s going well. I haven’t seen it this time around, but from what I’ve seen online, it looks pretty kick ass to me.
Is everything cool between you guys?
Oh totally, totally. There are no issues, man. It was a very professional situation, and these things happen. Some dudes got to join Metallica, and some dudes got to join Ozzy Osborne. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Speaking of Ozzy, what’s happening with him?
Last night there was a Slash and Friends Show in Hollywood. He came out and did a few songs. We went up there and hung out and did that whole thing. Otherwise, it’s just working on a record and progressing as a normal rock guy day to day.
Cool, man. Obviously I have to ask about the Zakk Wylde situation. What’s your take on that?
I have no take on that.
I have no take on that.
Very PC of you. How about this: how’s the Gus G. situation?
It is what it is. It’s really not my position to talk about this in any way. It is what it is.
That’s cool, man. I dig his stuff in Firewind. I think he’s a great guitarist. I think it’s great for Ozzy to be working with him. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with.
Totally, and you know what? He’s a great dude, but it’s hard for me to commit to any sort of answers about any of this stuff because it’s not my place.
I get no sleep. Everything is a constant work in progress. I’m always working and trying to make things happen: booking summer tours for 2010 already. Getting all my bands locked in for summer tours for next year. I was taking a nap one day and got woken up to start booking bands for next summer. I was like “what? This summer is not even over yet.” So that’s how far ahead we’re going – 8 months, 10 months in advance we have to think that far ahead. It doesn’t always work out so well for me because I really can’t think that far ahead. I’m pulling it together.
You do what you got to do.
You do what you got to do, man. It’s survival.
It seems like it’s an okay time to be Blasko. It seems like you’re doing just fine.
Yeah, man. I’m staying busy, that’s for sure. I suppose there’s been times in my career where I felt “whoa, is this where it ends? Is this where I need to have a change of careers where I need to start taking myself seriously and focus on my responsibilities as a human being?” Luckily I kind of just stuck to my guns and was able to progress through all those gray areas. There were times when I didn’t know what was going to happen and came through the fog. I’m happy with how things are progressing to say the least.
Definitely. What’s your take on the health of the metal industry in general? That include: bands, labels, managers, everyone.
To put it in very simple terms, I think that whenever you talk about genres like metal, punk rock, or whatever; things of that nature that tend to go in cycles, I feel like the metal world is in a downturn right now. You can attribute that to a million different things, but I think the reality is that it is in a down time. Hopefully this will turn around and we’ll see a resurgence in it again. What will trigger that? I have no idea. It just seems to me that we’re in a down time, and I think it’ll turn back around but it is hard to say what and when that’s going to be.
So if we’re in a down time, then what would you think was the peak over the last several years? Where do you perceive the peak as being?
It’s hard to pinpoint. I think there was probably a time a few years ago that Ozzfest was hitting and bands were selling more records and there was a healthier scene in terms of record labels and bands being on tour and doing well on the road. Bands are selling less records, and we’re talking about bands that have been around for years and have put out 3, 4, 5 records. People are selling fewer records. They’re not necessarily doing less business, but like I said, it could be due to a million different things: maybe it’s just an over saturation, maybe it’s the economy or maybe it is what it is. You’ve heard as many horror stories as I have of bands going out there and doing half business or 2/3rds business. It’s just a different time. That makes me think that maybe it is just an overwhelming amount of information out there that is contributing to a little bit of a downtime in the metal world. I think something significant will happen to kind of spike that again, but when and where that’s going to happen is hard to determine at this point.