One moment, Tony West is running through the streets of Hollywood, young but so alive and just looking for a shot without starving to death or becoming another casualty who heads to L.A. for fortune and fame.
The next moment, West and his band Blacklist Union are on top of the world, the next Guns N’ Roses according to the critics who always love a good “Rocky” story.
Of course, this happens over and over again, enough to drive you crazy, but West, with the strength of 10 men, keeps on going. With three solid CDs under their belt and a good amount of exposure and hype, Blacklist Union is on the very cusp, one break away from being the biggest band in the world.
And West has the scars to prove it
Now living in North Hollywood, West has been beaten and abused, battered and jailed, ostracized and ousted, addicted and recovered and addicted and recovered again -- and the music is West’s salvation. Songs likes “Alabama Slammer” and “ ’Til Death Do Us Part” have kept West alive and turbo-charged the fervor of a growing legion.
“I ran away from home because of Guns N’ Roses. I was a kid from the Bronx with a really abusive father, and Axl was the reason I ran away,” West said, being as brutally honest as you can possibly be. “I had grown up in the punk rock scene because my uncle used to hang out with Circus of Power and Warrior Soul and D-Generation.”
At just 13 years old, West broke free. With a guitar on his back and $20 in his jeans, he hitchhiked to the Hollywood sign.
“I didn’t want to be just a street kid, so I hustled,” West said. “I’d play and write songs all night, and during the day I would do telemarketing or whatever I could, even got arrested for selling fake IDs. I definitely did drugs, but I didn’t get lost in drugs.”
West was doing whatever he could to keep himself alive when a local band called Daux Haus Mob eventually took him in. And that’s where he learned about the two things that fuel the Hollywood rock underworld – great music and great parties, a torrid combination if you can handle and big trouble if you can’t.
“I lived with the Daux Haus Mob guys on Hollywood Boulevard, and after the clubs closed, we would literally take the whole club to our apartment,” West said. “Everyone was there, from members of Guns N’ Roses to Dogs D’Amour to all these random people. Bam from Dogs D’Amour is the one who told me about singing in pitch. I didn’t even know what he was talking about.”
West’s first band was a Ramones tribute outfit. Then he formed Blacklist Union and caught the attention of top producer Chris Johnson (Goldfinger, Buckcherry, Hilary Duff). Together they’ve done three albums -- “After The Mourning,” “Breakin’ Bread With The Devil,” and “’Til Death Do Us Part.”
West has toured the country with Blacklist Union, opened for big stars, and he has sold a lot of CDs – and in-between he did a tour as an emergency replacement in L.A. Guns.
“Tracii Guns taught me a lot,” West said. “He had sold millions of records but was traveling around the country in a cramped van. And he was humble about it, not crying like a baby about it. I was impressed. He told me if you don’t have haters, you’re nothing, and that really motivated me.”
Blacklist Union has been featured in such magazines as Revolver, Metal Edge, Metal Hammer and others, and the band is an underground favorite that’s popular on YouTube and other independent outlets. But just about everyone agrees the band is on the rise, and West’s best days appear to be ahead.
Deep inside, West always knew he had stories to tell with Blacklist Union, words that still had to get out and reach the masses. Rock is West’s calling, and he screams for vengeance.
“Tracii told me the world needs a band like Blacklist Union,” West said.
West is putting finishing touches on a new Blacklist Union CD, and this is the one that is going to push the Tommy Lee-look-alike over the top. You can either come along for the ride, or watch him go.