Blackie Lawless came to Washington recently.

Plugged in. Rocked out.

The Republic still stands.

Blackie Lawless sighs.

"At the end of the day, when all has been said and done, more has been said than done."

That may be true of this particular day. But Lawless' band, W.A.S.P., has said and done enough in the past to linger as Exhibit A in the hearts and minds of rockophobic parents everywhere.

The group's first single, "Animal" (the full title is unprintable here), was so controversial that Capitol Records, which had just signed W.A.S.P. to a huge contract, refused to release it. (Lawless calls the staff of the label's international office, which made the decision, "the sickest, most spineless wimps I've ever had the displeasure of working with in my life.") On W.A.S.P.'s new album, "Inside the Electric Circus," there's Blackie posing nude, albeit painted to look like a tiger.

Then there are the memories of Blackie's bad behavior on stage, things such as drinking "blood" from a human skull, tying scantily clad women to a rack and terrorizing them with the buzz saw strapped between his legs, cutting holes in the backsides of band members' pants in the hope of getting more girls to come to their shows.

"It's a goof," Lawless insists. "I tell people, will you just relax? How can any grown man walking around with a 12-inch saw blade between his legs be taken that seriously?"

The Washington-based Parents Music Resource Center, through executive director Jennifer Norwood, begs to differ.

"According to Blackie Lawless, 80 percent of their audience is male adolescents," Norwood notes. "Through their songs and stage shows, W.A.S.P. is promoting the myth that women enjoy brutality and forced sex. And the idea that they serve as a catharsis for pent-up adolescent aggression and sexuality is refuted by the many studies that reflect that violence on TV promotes aggressive behavior in society."

Lawless again: "Anyways, we only did the buzz saw on our first tour, and the buckets of blood have been replaced by buckets of sweat. It's rock 'n' roll in a pure sense, designed for people to have a good time."

Still, on a recent tour, the head W.A.S.P. sported a specially designed codpiece that shot out an 18-foot flame. "Man, it was something to see," he gushes. But he had to dispense with this device when it backfired, though not enough (thanks to a fiberglass jockstrap) to turn him into heavy metal's first soprano.

"It got away from me a couple of weeks ago. It's like a quarter stick of dynamite and it exploded in Dublin. I'm here to tell you, they were picking pieces of me off the lighting rig."

Despite some bad leg burns, Lawless and W.A.S.P. stayed on the road. "Until I think up something equally outlandish or outrageous, we'll just go out and play for a little while," he says.

At least the stage isn't as crowded as it was in those early days when W.A.S.P used to run rats through a meat grinder (these were special effects, of course, so don't call the SPCA), or when the band used to throw chunks of raw meat into the audience, only to be upstaged by an audience that hurled larger chunks of meat back onto the stage -- including, once, the entire hindquarters of a moose. (Lawless speculates that it was sneaked into the auditorium under a hat and coat, disguised as a fan).

In fact, most of the things that have made W.A.S.P. notorious -- the group is often singled out as the most offensive, lewd and bizarre rock band around -- have been played out on overseas tours. Subsequently, W.A.S.P. has been banned (usually temporarily) from such foreign shores as Ireland, Sweden and Las Vegas, the city where rock 'n' roll is considered too de'classe' to rub shoulders with gambling, prostitution, organized crime and polyester leisure wear. In Finland, the group's tour bus was attacked by two live moose (possibly rock critics in disguise), but lawless & Co. were not targeted by last year's Meese Commission report on pornography, even if they were officially Exhibit A in the congressional hearings on rock-porn "leerics" in 1985.

But by then, W.A.S.P. was already shifting its emphasis from violence back to sex, which may explain why these days the stage tends to be littered with lingerie. At one concert, the band strung together dozens of fan-hurled bras into a jump rope.

"Even if we wanted to continue as we were, what were we supposed to do, bring a hippopotamus on stage and hack it to death? There came a time where it had to go on to something different."

So these days, the gore-mongering is pretty much gone, and the emphasis is on songs such as "Animal," "Sex Drive" and "King of Sodom and Gomorrah."

"All of those songs are about the favorite American pastime, which we all suffer from, some of us more than others," Lawless chortles. "Sex is the essence of rock 'n' roll. Let's face it, there's a tremendous amount of fantasy that goes on. It's just like with those movie stars in Hollywood's golden era -- Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, all those guys."

Except not everyone could grow up to be a movie star, whereas anyone can grow up to be a rock star -- or, at the very least, to look like a rock star.

"This business is not everything you think it is," Lawless protests. "It's 95 percent work and 5 percent glamor."

Then he smiles again.

"But that 5 percent is the most intense 5 percent you've ever seen in your life. It's everything you've heard about and more -- things people couldn't even fathom. I've seen things that would curl your hair, and I'm speaking in a sexual sense now ... "

Blackie's mind starts to wander.

"There's three things in the world everyone wants to be -- the heavyweight champ of the world, the president of the United States and a rock 'n' roll star. And I'm here to tell you, the first two of those three probably think about being a rock 'n' roll star, too."

All right, W.A.S.P. is rude boys making noise that annoys, some parents' worst nightmare come to life in a swirl of spandex, leather, hair spray and stiletto heels. But Lawless insists, "We never meant it to be serious and suddenly people started freaking out about it. The fans understood it, saw the humor in what we were doing, but parents look at it and wonder: 'What is the social significance of what's going on here?'

"And there is none. It was never designed to make sense."

Just dollars.

"We laughed."

All the way to the bank.

Still, Lawless admits, "it got out of hand. We started pulling some stunts at the beginning, to entertain ourselves. It also got us publicity. The only thing I wouldn't want is misinterpretation and I don't think the kids do."

So Blackie, does the bad reputation exceeds the reality?

"I sometimes wonder myself. We are a heavy metal band, whatever you want to call it, but it's like the old Billy Joel song -- it's still rock and roll to me. Now, I'm not saying that some of this is not true. It's like being a bully. You'd have to beat somebody up at least once in your life to get that reputation. I'm not trying to make it sound like we are choirboys, or that we're harmless, by any means. But like I say, it's only rock 'n' roll.

"And rock 'n' roll is an aggressive art form, pure hostility and aggression, which I will not make excuses for. I believe in that like a religion."

Even the name is a semireligious stunt, one that's led to more interpretations than you can shake a shtick at. Lawless, who's Jewish, concedes he was looking for "a name that was controversial and in that sense it's been nothing short of genius. We were in love with the idea of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant -- it had nothing to do with 'We Are Sexual Perverts' {a common assumption}.

"A lot of what we did was planned, but a lot of it couldn't have been. If we were as smart as people credit us, we'd write a book. This is rock 'n' roll, for heaven's sake, it's not brain surgery."

Brain surgeons they may not be, but W.A.S.P. has succeeded beyond its founders' wildest expectations. Not only have they alienated parents, radio programmers (almost all of whom refuse to play their records, along with those of Ratt, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and other Los Angeles compatriots), they've alienated some of their old fans, who have not taken to the sex-without-brutality routine.

But most notably, they alienated the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which offered W.A.S.P. as the worst of the worst at the congressional porn-rock hearings. Not that Lawless minds the publicity, though he insists it neither hurt the group nor helped it.

"You walked into 7-Eleven even before this happened, we were on the cover of half the magazines in the rack," he says. "So for the PMRC, what better way to get attention than to go after an attention-getter? It's true that they did make us a household word in America, but they made us a household word to people who didn't know we existed -- people's grandmothers. And those people don't buy our records anyway."

Ironically, when Capitol signed W.A.S.P. in 1984 -- in one of the largest deals in history for a previously unsigned group -- it was for W.A.S.P.'s songs. "They were initially interested in this band without seeing us live," Blackie points out. "When they finally saw us it turned them off so bad they almost didn't sign the band."

Considered hair-apparents to the metal throne a few years back, W.A.S.P. has not quite lived up to expectations, instead watching Mo tley Cru e, Ratt, Cinderella and Bon Jovi jump ahead into the mainstream. Metal, which is more popular and profitable than ever, has traditionally been rock's most extreme form, but W.A.S.P.'s heavy metal thunder has been upstaged by the new strain of "speed-thrash" metal offered by young groups such as Slayer, Megadeth and Poison, and by metal-rap hybrids such as the Beastie Boys.

In fact, it's intriguing to note Lawless' disdain for bands such as Slayer, which have been on some of W.A.S.P.'s current dates. "I will get them off this bill as soon as I can," he says. "I won't do songs about 'kill, kill, kill.' That's not in me and I don't think that's right. We sing about our hormones, but when you get into areas that are physically harmful, that's where I draw the line, that disturbs me."

Wait a minute -- about that chain saw ...

"I never saw anything wrong with sexual aggression, but I don't like to see people beating their neighbor. Rock 'n' roll to me is supposed to be a release, not something that creates more hostility. Even in the original show, we were just trying to get them so worked up that when they left, they were exhausted."

Which may explain why he turned down the role of heavy metal demon Sammy Curr in the film "Trick or Treat" (though the character still bears a remarkable resemblance to the public Blackie).

"I thought there was too much gratuitous violence. I know that sounds strange coming from me, but W.A.S.P. is good theater, done in fun. The movie was serious and too loosely related to my onstage character."

Not that Lawless is antifilm. Eighteen months ago, W.A.S.P. started a production company in Hollywood to do videos (including Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling") for other groups and as "a vehicle to intercept scripts floating around the neighborhood."

He grew up as Steve Lawless, not Blackie, in a lower-middle-class family in New York City, spending two years in a Florida military school ("they're all glorified reformatories... when I came back, that's when I was locked into rock 'n' roll, hook, line and sinker"). He served a musical apprenticeship as the guitarist in the last days of the notorious New York Dolls.

"They were scary, the only band I knew that could sit in an airplane terminal and miss five planes in a row. They showed me what not to do. Those guys were screwed up real bad."

So Lawless moved to Los Angeles and put together his own notorious band, Sister, which begat W.A.S.P. The inspiration came, he remembers, when he spied an Enquirer-style tabloid sporting the banner headline: "Bigfoot Stole My Wife."

"I thought, man, if I can harness that and turn it into rock 'n' roll, I can make a million dollars."

Which he has -- or close to it. And as befits a man with his name, it's all tax free. W.A.S.P., he says, is an offshore corporation. "We pay no U.S. tax and it's totally legal. If Ronnie Reagan wants to build rockets, let him go do it through someone else.

"I'm not a conscientious objector, man, it's just business."