blacklist union

Interview: Blacklist Union’s Tony West Remembers Mike Starr, Andrew Wood, & Guns N’ Roses

Blacklist Union are a Los Angeles-based rock group that formed in 2004 by frontman Tony West. While the band has yet to hit mainstream, the act’s impressive accolades are stacking. They will release their fourth album, Back to Momo, on July 10th. We spoke to Tony West about the upcoming album, his past relationship with Alice in Chains’ bassist Mike Starr, the Seattle Sound, Guns N’ Roses, and more. You can view our interview below.

blacklist1 Cover artwork for ‘Back to Momo’

You guys will be releasing your upcoming album, Back to Momo, next month. Can you talk about how this album differs musically compared to past releases?

Tony West (frontman): The first three records are dealing with a lot of darkness, pain, and anguish. My first wife, girlfriend, and best friend died in my past and it definitely took a toll on me. I got to write with Todd Youth, who I basically grew up with and I have a lot of respect for. We set out to make a record that was light, fun, and real. I think we accomplished that.

Regarding the lyrics on this album, is there a central theme or specific message?

Tony: It is the same message in every other Blacklist Union release. Each song is about a real life experience. Nothing is contrived to sound cool, but rather each song is a story in its own right. Similar to how Steven Tyler, Bon Scott, Layne Staley would write. For instance, “Evil Eye” is about my mother and my quest to have a relationship with her my whole life, despite the fact that she was abusive. So, that song was about giving up that delusion and coming to terms with that. “Alive N Well Smack in the Middle of Hell,” which is our first single, is about being able to persevere and going to the big city despite dying, drama, and rumors that drag 99.9% of the people down and out. Every Blacklist Union song is very real and I think it comes across that way.

The band’s influences are quite diverse from classic rock to more modern alternative music. Which genres and artists influenced the sound of this upcoming album?

Tony: I call our music “street rock,” basically because it comes from the street and it’s as real as you get. For this album, we had the same influences that we’ve always had like Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, and Alice in Chains. We’re big Turbonegro fans. We’re really into punk rock like The Ramones. GBH is one of my favorite bands. We choose from stuff that strikes us as real and authentic and it’s a lot of grounding in blues and punk rock on this record.

Official Music Video for newest single “Alive N Well Smack in the Middle of Hell”

Currently, are there plans to tour in promotion of Back to Momo’s release?

Tony: I certainly hope so. We’re trying to get over to Europe right now. That’s our focus along with South America and Australia. Touring in the states is a whole different animal. It’s pretty difficult nowadays. 

Ideally what other bands would you want to tour with?

Tony: Of course I’d like to tour with Aerosmith. We’d like to do some dates with Backyard Babies or Sixx:A.M. or any band that is relevant in the 2000’s. We definitely don’t want to be going out with those 80’s bands. I think those bands should just hang it up. As matter of fact, I think it does more harm than good to new rock bands. I was born in 76′ and a lot of the punk bands I listened to in the 80’s are still going hard today and play clubs and pack in the house. All the rock bands that hit in the 80’s aren’t doing shit and are lucky to get people at their gigs. People know what is real without even consciously knowing. The kids in punk rock nowadays are wearing the same shirts that I was wearing.

You performed at a Mike Starr benefit show earlier this year. Did you have a relationship with Mike and what is your opinion on the Seattle scene in general?

Tony: I thank God for the Seattle scene. Mike Starr happened to be my roommate in 1994 and he was my dear friend and I loved him very much, which is why we play the Mike Starr show every year. Alice in Chains was a huge influence on me and Mother Love was even more huge. Singer Andrew Wood was probably my main inspiration. I love that music. I can’t stand Pearl Jam, but I love Mother Love Bone. If you compare Andrew Wood to Eddie Vedder, it’s like two different leagues. I actually ended up singing in Andy’s band, Malfunkshun.

“Diggin’ 4 Gold” Music Video Off 2012’s ‘Til Death Do Us Part’

Blacklist Union formed over ten years ago. Reflecting back, what would you say is the most significant event in the band’s history or your personal music career?

Tony: I think like I said, singing in Malfunkshun is a huge thing for me in my personal career. As far as Blacklist Union, we’re really recognized by a lot of peers and people I have respect for in both the business and artist side of the music industry. It’s really flattering to hear these big names enjoy our music. Right now we’re working with Vicky Hamilton, who also worked with Guns N Roses. They were huge to me when I was a kid. I ran away to Hollywood when I was thirteen because of them. I’m very honored to have my name thrown in the mix with these bands like Malfunkshun and Guns N Roses. I say this very humbly too, but it doesn’t get any better than that. The only way it’d get better is when Steven Tyler asks us to come with Aerosmith. I’m waiting on that call.

Besides the release of Back to Momo, what else is coming up for the band?

Tony: We’re doing a music video for our second single, “Evil Eye,” which will feature my son. On July 4th, we’ll be playing with John Corabi at the Whisky a Go Go. I have a lot of respect for that guy. Things are slowly unfolding and coming together with each passing day.

What do you see for the future of Blacklist Union and your music career?

Tony: My whole goal is making an impact. I was a kid who needed music. IT helped me survive. The most important thing is making an impact on someone who needs it.

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  • dakotablue

    Wish he would have shared more about Mike Starr than he loved him very much. I wonder what Mike S was doing and thinking in 1994, the year after he was kicked out of Alice in Chains. And hey Riley, as a “fan of the grunge genre” you should know it’s S-T-A-L-E-Y.

    • Riley Rowe

      I’ll follow up with Tony and see if he could share maybe some stories or memorable moments with Mike.

      And yikes, how embarrassing. Thanks for catching that typo.

  • Billy Koepke

    Great singer this Tony West…..