Tony West has penned, performed and lived the songs that speak of hard times, street life and his personal demons that’ve pushed him forward. Every stage is sacred, serenading the audience with tales of abuse, loss and redemption. Blacklist Union’s newest offering Back to Momo is a vindication, releasing him from the emotional darkness of the past. West wrote the 13 tracks with Todd Youth saying that life isn’t always fun but sometimes the best songs come from the worst experiences.
From the hard knuckled streets of Hollywood, West is the lived and learned true tale of a teenage runaway, taking pages from the greats, honoring mic maestro’s Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Layne Staley and Andrew Wood among others. West keeps the spirit of the front man alive as a scarfed microphone shaking outlaw, musical shaman dancing to the rhythm of the loud healing medicine rattling from the speakers.
The inherent power, inspiration and therapy in music helped West cope and survive, arriving in LA during the punk movement and tail end of the glam scene, from the streets, to the stage, to rehab, to clarity and healing. Through the glitz and gutters of LA, Blacklist Union morphed into the no bullshit, non-PC S.O.B.s you see today. The beaches and bright neon may hide the struggles in the City of Angels, but what happens in the dark corners sometimes make the best song lyrics.
You’re guaranteed inspiration with this brand of street rock. Back to Momo is their fourth release. From the first record to 2016 they‘ve crawled and kicked their way to success, earning a reputation for better or worse. It began with 2007’s After the Mourning, earning acclaim with a sound mixing Jane’s Addiction, Mother Love Bone and Buck Cherry with the swift dirty kick of punk.
They continued in ’08 with Breakin’ Bread with the Devil. Jesus might have built the hot rod but it was used for very alternate purposes. Sixty Five Steps Away cries out personal tragedy with a moody, gothic cemetery tribute to lost loves playing out the pain through strings, stricken eyes and graveyard contemplation. 2012’s Til Death Do Us Part hit like an Alabama Slammer with Diggin 4 Gold’s war cry, guitar dance with Native American blood coursing.
Momo brings out the decadence and debauchery on Alive N Well Smack in the Middle of Hell, while finally conquering the childhood demons on Evil Eye.
West’s rough early childhood experiences have fueled him, eventually bleeding productively into his music. “The only happy memory I have with my parents together was when I was a kid, in the back of the car and Saturday in the Park by Chicago came on. I started singing, they looked at each other and smiled,” he recalls.
Early inspiration would hit with some stardust. “I asked my uncle, ‘who’s that girl on that poster you have’, he said, ‘that’s not a girl, that’s David Bowie’. In that moment I decided that playing music was going to be my life.”
Music is an inspiration, motivator and healer. For West it was literally a lifesaver. “I was a kid saved by music. My sanity and life was saved by drugs too until (they) almost killed me. Music is the way of healing and the safest route.”
The love he never got from his mother he sought in other relationships, recreating the same pattern. “You know it was heavy and being a little boy that was rejected by his mother is a big deal.” The 12 steps helped him heal. His shunning by family left an emotional mark that fuels his music.
Being from NY, the whole scene was a great community. Then Guns n’ Roses came out. “It was like, well I can be a junkie and a fuck up and a rock star.” West spent a few Hollywood nights on the street, in stairwells, squatting and surviving when a lot of people around him didn’t. “I invented ‘roaching’ where you’d call restaurants and (say), ‘we were just there and found a roach’ and we’d get free food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’d feed the whole city.”
“Glam was never my thing. I was more influenced by punk rock, and the real rock n’ roll bands like AC/DC, Van Halen, Gun n’ Roses and the first two Skid Row records.”
Mother Love Bone’s influence was profound on West. “The Seattle thing was my era. I learned everything I know from Mother Love Bone and ended up singing in the band (Malfunkshun) with Andy’s brother, which was Andrew (Wood’s) first band before MLB. He’s done more for me then I can ever convey. Mother Love Bone’s the holy grail of rock n’ roll to a lot of people; I was honored to do those shows.”
Geraldo and rehab saved him from being another statistic. “When I was a kid I was on Geraldo with (Ratt’s) Robbin Crosby. They offered us treatment. I said to Robbin, ‘dude why don’t you go.’ He said ‘I already had my day Tony, you go.’ So I went and that saved my life. That began my journey into healing and sobriety, I don‘t have a perfect record. I’m sober now and the 12 steps taught me more than any school ever did.”
“I’m not the kind of guy to let someone walk all over me. I used to say shit about it from the stage. I have ‘outlaw’ tattooed on my stomach. I wanted to be a fuckin rock n’ roll outlaw. It just so happens that I am, there’s nothing more rock n’ roll than a notorious reputation. It just so happens that, that’s my story.”
They’ve had their adventures and issues with crazy, sleazy promoters, haters and saboteurs. “We’re not called the Do Gooder’s motherfucker. Pay us or we’re gonna beat your ass. In the beginning I had to be the spokesman. I had one guy I had to chase down the highway to get our money. There’s another guy, we were on the road with no gas money. I said, ‘I have your address, I’ll send over a notorious motorcycle gang to get my money right now unless you send it Western Union’. An hour later we had the money. It’s survival on the streets. Rock n’ roll ain’t always pretty.” Growing up the way he did, West won’t take jealousy, hate or crap from anyone, especially undeserved.
Momo’s about a house in LA that rises with the sun. West had intimate encounters with working girls at a young age via his womanizing dad. “I hadn’t even kissed a girl yet.”
“Back to Momo’s like, my mother kept (symbolically) showing up in my relationships. So [I’m] like, man another failed relationship, back to Momo. It’s not something I wear like a badge of honor. It’s a play on sexual addiction, not glorifying that lifestyle.”
On the Sixty-Five Steps Away video from Breakin’ Bread, “My ex-wife died from cancer then I had an ex-girlfriend die in a car accident. Those two events (caused) a nervous breakdown. They’re sixty five steps away from each other at Hollywood Cemetery. It was about walking through the darkness and in the end I was walking away with my son. At the end of the tunnel there’s always light. I had to walk through the darkness but got to walk away with my little boy at the end.”
Weird road stories include their bass player at the time deciding to tell them he had tits at a gig in Texas, whipping them out. “I told him, ‘you couldn’t tell us this shit in West Hollywood?’ At the end of the night I was talking to this good ol’ boy and said, ‘you wanna hear some shit,’ he said, yeah. ‘Our bass player has tits.’ He stopped, stepped back, looked at me and walked away and wouldn’t say another word to me the whole night.”
West wants to use his experiences to heal and motivate kids. “I wanna touch, move and inspire people with our music. I want to reach the kid that’s in the darkness and help them. I want to bring healing and good times to people and make them feel inspired. That’s my goal. We’d like to travel the world to do it in a huge way. At the end of the day if I’ve touched one person, I’ve done my job.”
Every tune they play live is his favorite, “We make our records all killer no filler. No bogus tracks, every song counts.”
West loves a great show, recently seeing Guns N’ Roses in Vegas. “Turbo Negro from Norway is a band that I walked away saying, wow, that was great. That’s what you’re gonna get when you see Blacklist, you’re gonna walk away saying, wow, that was kick ass. That’s the level we play at, we’re not fucking around. We wanna kick your ass.”
“If you don’t know who Blacklist Union is, check out the name, we have the hype and the delivery. It’ll make you fuck harder, drive faster and drink harder.”