Will Lackey's double life is the stuff of superheroes. He manages the video production team LumiVid in the daylight, but when the sun goes down he becomes Drake Darrington, lead singer of the spectacle act Metal StudZ. Or, at least he will channel his inner Def Leppard for one last show at Helen Fitzgerald's (3650 South Lindbergh Boulevard, 314-984-0026) on Saturday, December 10 before he leaves to pursue his new project Platinum Rock Legends. Lackey took some time from the Clark-Kent-ian activity of attending his daughter's volleyball practice to talk about Metal StudZ, the corporate rock scene, and his exagerrated bulge.
Ryan Wasoba: Will you please describe Metal StudZ to the uninitiated?
Will Lackey: Metal StudZ is a hard-rocking parody circus of a show of an '80s hair band. It's a comedy and it rocks really hard and it's built up quite a following in the past seven years. Spandex, wigs, eye makeup, the whole thing. Stage antics. I've electrocuted myself, hung myself, severed my head, I've swung hanging upside down from the rafters. I once took a shower onstage singing "Cum On Feel The Noize," so it's that kind of a show.
How did you get started doing an act like that?
I worked as a network manager for Sisters of Mercy and I had a system administrator working with me, and I found out he played drums. We found a guitar player and started playing in the basement. So here we were, these three computer guys and they talked me into doing this hair band thing. I was against it at first because I was saying "I can't wear spandex and wigs. I'm a grown man. I'm a member of society. I have kids. I live in the suburbs." And as I was explaining to him why I couldn't do it, I realized I had to do it because I was so bored with what I was saying.
Did Metal StudZ become an escape for you?
And at first I thought it'll be cool, we'll put on these disguises and then we can go back to our normal lives and nobody will ever know. But then people got so curious about this thing. I mean, I don't know if you can understand this, but we'd go up on stage and for four hours we were bona fide rock stars. And then after I was up there I discovered "Oh my God, these girls think I'm sexy!" I actually wound up getting in shape. I lost twenty pounds to put on that spandex. I'd say about four years ago I was at a point where I was going shirtless on stage. I'm in the best shape of my life, and it's all because of Metal StudZ!
Was it difficult to negotiate the parody aspect and still take it seriously as an act? Well, this is how it worked. We would go on stage and you could hear people laughing, which is fine. We originally thought we were going out there to do this parody, to be a comedy. Then we'd be on song three or four and people would stop laughing and start pumping their fists. People would grab us between sets and say "Oh my God, you guys rock!" So that's kind of how it turned out. Now we have this big following and it's all about the rock show, the big rock concert and people don't really see it as a comedy anymore. But I'll get people who come up to me and say, "You're the funniest guy I've ever seen on stage" because I have this enormous bulge down there in my pants. Everything is an exaggeration for me. I play off the size of my bulge quite a bit. What material do you use for the bulge?
I originally started off with the traditional tube sock, and then I didn't find that to be adequate. And it was a little lumpy. So I eventually went to Wal-Mart and bought a bag of pillow stuffing, and I found I could take these large handfuls of pillow stuffing and shove them into Ziploc bags, like individual serving sizes for a show. At one point in time, I had brought a bunch of bags of bulge - I just kind of called it bulge. Little baggies, almost like little bags of drugs or something, and I would throw them out in the crowd in case anybody wanted to join me.
It seems like, even though Metal StudZ has an impressive following, a surprising amount of people have never heard of the band.
This is a tough town for promoting an act like this. And venues just kept dying off and dying off. We were doing monthly shows at a place called The Phoenix in South County, and every time we played we'd have at least 1,000 people. Our record on the clicker was over 1,300 one of the nights there. We did a show at the Family Arena last year in August, and 5,000 people actually showed up with that one. There are not a lot of places in the city limits that can meet the minimum requirements for a big stage show like this. We have lights, big sound system, double kick drum set, props, all of those things. I had an electric chair, I used to do a disappearing act and electrocute myself.
What song soundtracked your electrocutions?
"Welcome To The Jungle."
So why leave Metal StudZ behind?
I guess just so long after doing the same routine over and over, I felt like I couldn't really take the show any further. We had several opportunities that fell through. We were scheduled to do monthly productions out at Harrah's Casino, and executives came in and turned the venue into a piano bar, so we were out. I've tried to elevate this thing higher and I finally decided that I just need a different act that I can take farther. I'm an actor first and a singer second. In this town, you basically have all these bands and they're musicians and their philosophy is quite different from mine. I step on the stage to entertain, and almost everything I do ends up being a comedy whether I'm serious about it or not, I can't help but be funny. That's why I started my new show, Platinum Rock Legends. It's a much more corporate friendly act.
What do you mean by corporate friendly?
Corporate festival planners, all they have to go from is what they can see online on an electronic press kit. And Metal StudZ was originally a play on words, but it sounds too dangerous for a corporate event. I absolutely know that Platinum Rock Legends would be hugely successful at those events because the huge sweet spot for those songs, all in the '80s, is the sweet spot of that demographic at corporate events. And there's more variety, so there's more material to play. With Metal StudZ we were forced to do this '80s hair metal and only play the most popular songs in that specific genre. Which basically means we can play about a total of 36 songs. So with Platinum Rock Legends, we're actually going to have a menu so people can pick and choose what impersonations they'd like at their event. I can meet with these event planners and figure out who the target people are out there in the audience to integrate with, because I'm out there in the crowd on my roller skates. I'm singing Bon Jovi and giving girls roses, embarrassing the heck out of the Director of Human Resources or whatever. It's a very crowd integrated show.
Is the main difference between Platinum Rock Legends and Metal StudZ a broader spectrum of songs?
Platinum Rock Legends also has a girl in it, Amy Jordan who does Pat Benatar impersonations, Joan Jett and Blondie. I'm also working on Ozzy Osbourne. What I do is take these singers and hone in on what made them these memorable, iconic characters and do full blown, exaggerated impersonations. So I Billy Idol and I have the big spiky hair, and I put pins in it so I can pop balloons with my hair. I'm working on a Freddy Mercury impression with prosthetic teeth. We do a Journey spoof where I'm Steve Perry and my character wants to sing sweet lullabies to all the pretty ladies. But our guitar player, who is a 1976 version of Neal Schon, just wants to rock. So he gets mad, quits the band and I go solo and sing "Oh Sherrie," and I'm on roller skates the whole time.
Wait - can you explain the roller skates?
I don't know. I can sing high but I would never consider myself good at singing love songs. I'm more of a rocker. So I thought I would distract people visually to take attention away from my voice. The first time I sang "Who's Crying Now," I put these roller skates on and skated around the stageand it was a huge hit. So I turned this Journey impersonation into the only place in the world you will see a skating Steve Perry.
I don't know if that's entirely true.
You think there's another skating Steve Perry out there?
Are you trying to say that Steve Perry has never put on a pair of roller skates before?
Not on stage!