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December 5, 1999
What the hell is a Sebastian Bach interview doing next to features on bands like In Flames, Dimmu Borgir, and Crisis? Well, for those who don't know, Sebastian Bach is metal. Yes, that pretty boy you remember singing MTV-power ballads from the eighties probably is more metal than half the hardcore wannabes, new metal pogo-ers or evolving European artistes currently saturating the scene. You see, folks, metal is an attitude, a state of mind. And whether you like what he's doing or not, Sebastian Bach represents an important element of modern metal. A throwback of sorts to the days when loud guitars, Marshall stacks, heavy drinking and screaming vocals fell squarely within the metal genre, no questions asked. Bach has been to the mountaintop, surrounded by the booze, the groupies, the money, and the stadium tours. Yet after all these years he still can hang and talk a little King Diamond. With the release of his new album 'Bring 'Em Bach Alive,' the Metal Update had the opportunity to speak with the former Skid Row vocalist about metal, girls, and his legendary travails.
METAL UPDATE: Tell us what Sebastian Bach has to offer hardcore metal fans in 1999.
SEBASTIAN BACH: I've got Paul Crook in my band right now, and he's from Anthrax. He is one of the heaviest guitar players around and he brings a real heavy sound to songs like "Slave to the Grind." I've got a new album, 'Bring 'Em Bach Alive' with Wolf Hoffman from Accept. Anybody who ever listened to "Restless and Wild," "Fast As a Shark," or "London Leatherboys" from 'Balls to the Wall,' you know all those great metal riffs. I definitely love metal. There's no doubt about it. (laughs).
MU: Are you a metal singer, Sebastian?
SB: I'm a screamer, man. You can ask Phil Anselmo. You know, he had me out every single night to do "This Love," and "A New Level" in 1998. "Of confidence and power," man. (laughs) Every single night.
MU: Were Pantera fans receptive to your role in that tour?
SB: Sure, man. We took Pantera on their first ever U.S. arena tour.
MU: You're on tour right now. You must be having a blast.
SB: Oh man, we are kicking ass. We're having a lot of fun.
MU: Who's coming out to these shows? Old school fans?
SB: Well, its just packed. So whoever can get a ticket. (laughs) Tell you the truth, I do get more females at my shows than most metal bands. I can't lie. (laughs)
MU: Are they still babes or are they just the same women who came to see Skid Row, only ten years later?
SB: Well, to be honest . . . the girls who had their picture on my wall when they were like, twelve, well, they're twenty-two now. (laughs) So they're all coming to the show and they're like, "I've been waiting like ten years for this!" (laughs) They're always like, "my mom wouldn't let me come see you," and everything. (laughs) And they're all like, dressed to kill and everything.
MU: So the shows aren't so bad for the guys, either . .
SB: They're like, "dude, you bring out all the chicks!" It's hilarious. I just go up there and sing my set. I don't analyze it.
MU: What bands did you listen to growing up?
SB: Like every kid, I was a KISS fanatic. Earlier KISS. Like the first three albums. And 'KISS Alive.' And then the New Wave of British Heavy Metal hit, and I was really into Venom and Exciter and Anvil. Actually, I just got asked to join Exciter in an email. I was like, "thanks, guys, but I'm doing pretty well on my own though." But yeah, I stood in line to get King Diamond's autograph on the 'Don't Break the Oath' album.
MU: What do you think of King Diamond now?
SB: He's cool, man.
MU: Do you consider his style to be what you would call good vocals?
SB: Yes I do. You have to be very talented to pull off those high notes, those falsettos. I can't sing falsetto. I'm full-on screams. I don't know how he does it. Plus, he's opened up for us a couple of times in Brazil. And he smokes cigarettes all day. I'm like, "how does he do it?"
MU: Sad that those guys made more money from Metallica covering their songs on 'Garage, Inc.' than from the entire balance of their careers.
SB: Well, they are pretty big, man. In some countries. In like, Brazil, they do 20,000 seaters down there. And in Europe.
MU: So, at the beginning of Skid Row, it seems you had more of a metal attitude than a glam one.
SB: Yeah, but I also dug bands like . . . Kiss was nothing but makeup. So I do enjoy a visual presentation as well. Judas Priest, with the black leather and all that shit.
MU: But those bands have a little more substance than some of the other bands who came later, in the "makeup-and-hairspray eighties."
SB: Oh yeah. I know. I don't see any similarities between "Unskinny Bop Bop Bop Bop Bop Bop Bop" and "Slave to the Grind." I don't hear the similarity. I know I got the same haircut as that guy, but so does Willie Nelson and Greg Allman. (laughs)
MU: Were you ever friends with those people?
SB: The only time I ever met Brett Michaels was when he came to see us when were on the road with Bon Jovi. That's the only time I ever really met that guy.
MU: Do you miss the days of playing stadiums?
SB: It's really simple for me. I just book a show, it sells out. I do another one. I do a CD. I don't really analyze where I fit. I have too much to think about. I have a musical vision. I don't want just three CDs. I want like, twenty CDs. I respect bands like Rush that follow their own musical vision.
MU: Why didn't Skid Row become a Rush, AC/DC, Aerosmith or a Van Halen?
SB: I got kicked out of the band in December '96. And the drummer got kicked out after that. That's basically what happened. You'd have to ask the other guys. They own the name. If I owned the name, Skid Row would still be going.
MU: No chance of a Skid Row reunion in the near future?
SB: No. I just signed a four album deal.
MU: With Spitfire?
SB: Yes. So I'm gonna be crankin' out solo albums like rapid fire.
MU: How do you feel about Spitfire records?
SB: I think they're awesome. They're hooking me up with people like you, and they believe in rock and roll. Atlantic Records doesn't give a dog shit about rock and roll. They don't even like rock and roll.
MU: What about the other artists on Spitfire?
SB: If it's good enough for Alice Cooper, it's good enough for Sebastian Bach. And believe it or not, they just signed Motley Crue for all of Europe and Japan.
MU: Is Motley Crue an influence?
SB: The first two records, 100%. 'Too Fast For Love' and 'Shout at the Devil.' My god.
MU: Are you friends with those guys?
SB: Yes. I'm friends with Vince Neil and Tommy Lee and Nikki.
MU: Why did Tommy Lee leave the band?
SB: I don't really know about that. Last time I saw them was at Roseland in New York, I think. But I actually got asked to join the Crue before John Corabi. I auditioned with them, and they wanted me to join the band. But I had a tape of 'Slave to the Grind' in my pocket at that time. I had to get that out to the public. I love that album. And Nikki goes, he says at the time, "if Aerosmith had asked me to join around the time that 'Shout at the Devil' was about to come out, I would have said no too."
MU: Why did you bust out at that point with an album that was that much heavier? Every fourteen year old girl in the land bought your album and hung your picture on the wall. And you come out with an album that's more metal than the first!
MU: And a lot of metalheads really stand behind what you did with 'Subhuman Race.'
SB: Right on. Yeah man, there's some heavy shit on there like "Frozen." I still do "Frozen" in the set 'cause it's really fuckin' heavy.
MU: How did Skid Row go heavier at the height of their popularity? You got a big bag of cash on one side of the table, and musical integrity on the other. What stopped you from making the equivalent of a Backstreet Boys album with guitars and long hair?
SB: I was nineteen years old, when we recorded the first record. I was trying to be heavy. (laughs) I thought songs like "Sweet Little Sister" were the heaviest fucking things in the world. I was really going for it. But I was only nineteen. I didn't physically . . . I mean, when I listen to that album -- it's got great memories but I sound like a little kid. And I didn't have the muscles in my throat to really belt out kick-ass rock like the verses to "Monkey Business." A couple of years later, I'm twenty-three or twenty-four. And, you know, money doesn't mean shit to me. I'm not from a rich family. My dad's a painter, he paints pictures because he loves to paint pictures. And I rock and roll because I love to rock and roll. And I'll never stop doin' it. Because I'm a singer, and I was the lead soprano in my church choir when I was like eight years old. And that's like the same thing that I'm doing right now. Just doin' whatever music I want. I can't sing music I hate.
MU: Did you make enough money from the good times with Skid Row to afford you that luxury now?
SB: Well, believe it or not, we just did 1200 kids two nights ago in Baltimore, MD. Twenty bucks a pop. I'm not really relying on the past. I'm doin' fine right now.
MU: Tell me about 'Bring 'Em Bach Alive.'
SB: I have some great players on there. On the studio tracks I have Anton Fig from the first Ace Frehley solo record. Need I say more on that one? He's also on the David Letterman Show. And, at The Chance in Poughkeepsie on the 17th, and at the Birch Hill in New Jersey on the 18th, I'm gonna have two drummers. Two drummers set up side-by-side, playing the entire set. It's going to be so metal. I can't wait.
MU: Is this just to whet the appetite for the real solo album you're doing next year?
SB: Yeah, but this is a real album. It's got five studio tracks at the top that definitely are new tunes, and show a different side of me. "Done Bleeding" is a pretty metallic track. And "Counterpunch" is very heavy too. But, basically, if you look at the back of the album, Atlantic Records is still on the back. Because they put that album out in all of Europe and Japan. Like thirty-two countries. and Spitfire got it for the states and Canada. Which is awesome 'cause they're really doing a great job promoting it.
MU: MTV News Online had an item on a rumor that you were joining Van Halen recently.
SB: I saw that. I also heard it on Howard Stern.
MU: Have you been on Stern's radio show?
SB: Two times. I love him. He sets my attitude up every morning.
MU: Is the Van Halen thing completely out of the question?
SB: I've never been asked. It's the weirdest thing. It's nothing but rumors.
MU: Would you take it?
SB: Yes, I would. If you are interviewing Alex, tell him to give me a call. (laughs) At least let me try out. I never tried out man, Jesus.
MU: What do you think makes sense for them now?
SB: Give 'em David Lee Roth. That's what I think. But I'd just like the chance to try out. 'Cause I can scream the old Roth. I think I can do the Sammy Hagar stuff as well. I don't know if I can do the Cherone-era, but I'll give it a shot. I love Gary man, but you can't be a really nice guy and be the singer of Van Halen. (laughs) When he goes, "I've been to the edge, and then I stood and looked down." (laughs) It's fucking mean, you know? That's fucking kick-ass rock.
MU: Ever seen the Slayer home video, 'Live Intrusion'?
SB: I'm in it, aren't I? Smokin' some bud. (laughs) Believe it or not -- this will blow all you metal guys away -- those guys opened for Skid Row twice, in England, at Castle Donnington, in 1992 and 1995. In '92, it was Slayer, Skid Row, and Iron Maiden, and in '95 it was White Zombie, Slayer, Skid Row and Metallica. (laughs) So those were pretty heavy bills.
MU: And you never thought you'd be better served gigging with Warrant and Poison instead of Slayer and Iron Maiden?
SB: No. I don't hear the similarity in the music, man. I know there's this perception, I guess, of some people. But at the time, in 1991, Skid Row was on tour with Guns 'N Roses, and we were doin' 70,000 people per night. Just us two bands. And then we headlined arenas and took Soundgarden on the 'Badmotorfinger' tour on the road for two months opening up. So anybody who was around then knows the true scene of what that was. I guess it's the way I look or something. But I can't help the way I look.
MU: Part of it had to do with the fact that you had a couple huge singles that were monster mainstream hits.
SB: And, well, videos too. Videos kinda put us in that bracket. But "Monkey Business" is a heavy video, man. (laughs)
MU: What are we gonna hear on the next solo record?
SB: I'm gonna do more songs with Wolf, more songs with Larry, and probably some songs with Paul Crook from Anthrax.
MU: What songs are you doing on tour?
SB: We're gonna do some really obscure Skid Row songs. Like "Livin' on a Chain Gang," is in the set. It was never in any Skid Row set. All the new shit. All the hits. You gotta come see me with two drummers. Anton Fig is great. Paul Crook adds a really heavy sound to the gig. He's going out with me, then he's gonna play with Anthrax in January and then back out with me in February. Goin' all across America, out to California, up through Canada and back again.
MU: Will you ever get back to the sales figures you had at the peak of Skid Row?
SB: I'll have fun tryin'! It's kinda like makin' babies -- tryin' is the fun part. (laughs) It's like, "oops. this album didn't do as good. Time to make another one." (laughs). I love rock and roll too much.
MU: Is the lifestyle on the road still the same?
SB: No. I have to be honest with you -- I can not drink Jack Daniels anymore. I'm thirty-one. When I was twenty-one, I could drink a whole bottle of that shit. Last night, I had one blast of it, and I'm hurtin' right now. (laughs) But I party, drink a couple beers, I smoke a little bit. But I can't drink the hard booze anymore. I don't know how I did that. Jesus Christ!
MU: Give me a rock and roll road story of yore.
SB: Wow. Let's see. The Guns 'N Roses days were the craziest times.
MU: Do you know Axl Rose?
MU: You could just call him up and . . .
SB: Not right now, I couldn't. A couple of years ago I could. He sends me like Christmas cookies at Christmas. And like, when we played in Hollywood at the Whiskey last year there was a big bouquet of flowers with a note on it which said, "Have a great gig. you're buddy, Axl." He's kinda like Charlie, from Charlie's Angels. You don't really see him, but you know he's around, somewhere. (laughs)
MU: So give me a story from the G'N R tour.
SB: Dude, they rented the MGM Grand plane. And you probably don't even know what that is. Most people don't even know what that is. It doesn't even exist anymore. But back in the early nineties, there was a 747 that was only for movie stars and rock stars. It was like a complete tour bus in the air. But it wasn't a little plane like most of the bands have. It was a freakin' 747 or a DC-10 or some shit. And they used to rent this, and it would seat 400 people, and they only had like seventy people. Three-quarters of it was empty! And we'd be flyin' around over the United States doin' all sorts of crazy shit. And I kept trying to get on this plane. They didn't tour by bus, Guns 'N Roses, they toured by plane. And I'd say, "Axl, let me come and party on the plane, man." And he's like, "yeah, probably next week, man, you can come on." And I'm like, "c'mon man, let me come on the plane, man." He goes, "yeah man, next week man, we'll do it. I'll be great." And I'm like "C'mon man. Dude, I just scored a big ball the size of my fist of sticky, black, opium, man." He goes, "Sebastian, get on the fuckin' plane!" (laughs) That was my admission on to the plane flight. I don't think too many people get on plane flights with a ball of opium. (laughs)
MU: Any last words for your internet fans?
SB: Yeah. Please go over to my site, www.sebastianbach.com for the latest tour dates and all that stuff.
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Interview: Eric German [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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