“I’VE GOT TONS OF SH*T TO SAY”: THE SEBASTIAN BACH INTERVIEW
Photo by Clay Patrick McBride
Sebastian Bach’s new record is surprising and unsurprising. That is, no one who has witnessed the former Skid Row singer’s recent playdates with members of Asking Alexandria and Black Veil Brides could be shocked by Kicking And Screaming‘s slick, modern vibe. Plus, a clue was provided by each of Bach’s personnel moves, be it a 21-year old guitar prodigy, or a producer of tight radio rockers (Shinedown, Saliva) and lovable old guys (Iommi, David Lee Roth). And duh it’s 2011: For mainstream rock, the choice is big production or small potential. And there is nothing small about Sebastian Bach.
Anyway, those were my thoughts during the opening notes of Kicking And Screaming. But the album’s surprise element mounted with each song: He pulled it off! Yes, Bach is great at bright, pop-punkish hard rock throughout the totally lovable Kicking. Eventually it dawned on me that Bach might’ve been supplementing — not discarding — his OG fans via cavorting with scenebros, dissing of today’s Skid Row, and tabloid-friendly barroom antics. Via producer, boy wonder axeman, and his own snarling edge, his aim was a collection of jamz for both sensibilities and their overlap. Via classic Bach thrust and charm, Kicking is a Skid Row fan’s newest friend.
Last week, I spoke with Baz about Kicking And Screaming‘s creative team, singing high, being high, Steven Adler, John 5, Phil Varone, and tons more in an epic MetalSucks interview that crescendos from chill (excited new album chatter) to silly (an impromptu stoner giggle party) to rampage (invective against the Skid Row he never bargained for). Read and laugh!
Anso DF: I’m pumped about your new record. Are you pumped?
Sebastian Bach: I’ve read five or six reviews of the CD and every single review has said that this is the best record I’ve ever done. [laughs]
Which is amazing! There’s an old saying that you don’t want to read your reviews, because you have to read the bad ones and the good ones or whatever. But I’m happy to say that people are really enjoying this record. They’re really liking the sound of it. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m just trying to put out a new CD to fit with the others I’ve put out. So far, so good.
Do you agree that it’s the best-ever recorded music with Sebastian Bach on it?
Each record is different, and music isn’t like sports. I don’t compare Kicking And Screaming from 2011 to the Skid Row album from 1989. They’re twenty years apart. It was a different world back then. All I can say is that my voice sounds the same, or better than it did on those records. Sonically — I’m talking production-wise — this album is Sebastian Bach singing in the studio in 2011 with all the 2011 production values. A record now isn’t going to sound the same as a record done 20 years ago; this album sounds way better. The bass frequencies, the sonics, all that stuff.
But I don’t think that one record is better than another. This record is very high-quality as far as songwriting, performances, and production. I’m happy with that.
There are some killer hooks on Kicking And Screaming. They really dig into your brain. Was that a goal? Did you aim for hooky, catchy singles?
No, no. Y’know, from a person who’s not a musician I’ll get the question asking if I could go back to the Skid Row days and write songs like those. But there’s no such thing… You go into the studio with nothing. No sounds. You have to walk out of there a month later, or whatever it is, with a record that you have to stand by for the rest of your life. The words, the tempos, everything. So who’s to say, ‘This is a better note than that note.’ Know what I mean?
All I ever did was make music that I personally love. I love the first Skid Row album; I love Slave To The Grind; I love Angel Down, and I love Kicking And Screaming. I don’t know why [laughs]. Like, I’ve always wondered why music does this to us? Why do we respond to this sequence of notes or how this guy sings? It’s fascinating to me! But I know it when I hear it; I know that Kicking And Screaming stands up in my iPod next to the Skid Row albums. If you play them all on a long flight, you’re gonna like Kicking And Screaming if you liked Slave To The Grind. I made both of those records, so I guarantee it [laughs].
Sebastian Bach is slightly different now in 2011. You’ve gone through a few changes: You’re all single n’ sexy now —
— and mixing it up with some young bands. Would you say that this album is you now? Does Kicking And Screaming capture today’s Sebastian Bach?
100 per cent. I don’t look at it as mixing it up with younger bands, just really good bands. I’ve always been a rock fan. I mean, you’re talking to the guy who brought Pantera on their first arena tour of America. I’ve always been into other bands, from Pantera to Black Veil Brides to Asking Alexandria. These are all my friends. So if I hear an album I like, I’m not going to not like it because they’re young. I don’t give a shit [about age]. My guitar player, Nick Sterling, is 21 years old; when I got him in the band he was 19. I said to myself, ‘I can’t play with a 19 year-old cuz I’m too old!’ [laughs] But what kind of weird logic is that? Like, I’m not going to take the best guitar player cuz he’s gotta be old. What the fuck is that? [laughs]
That’s stupid [laughs]. So I got him in the band and he’s been perfect! I’m quite immature really as a human; I’m not some old fuddy-duddy. I like to have fun and party. I think people know that about me. I can hang with the kids. [laughs]
Bob is incredible. He gets such a cool-sounding low end to his songs. I sing high. There’s a lot of high screams, and the sound of my voice is hig … Maybe because I’m high [laughs].
[laughs] Me too.
[laughs] But if I sing high and I am all high, I need a low end beneath all the highness. Bob gives me that, so I can get really high [laughs]. Right on!
[laughs] Yeah dude! Back to Nick: He is a very young guy, but he’s already done albums of his own — one at age ten. Could you see yourself as an Ozzy type, discovering and delivering ace guitarists?
Yeah! Definitely. I think that is the exact model that me and Nick fit. He’s my young Randy Rhoads, and I’m the old, drunk, crazy wild man. [laughs] I even bite people! Ozzy bit the head off a bat; I bit the arm of a bar owner [laughs]!
But the bar guy deserved it. [laughs]
I never shorted ants yet. But I’ve snorted Splenda. [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah. You’ve known me for years. Everybody knows me. I can’t walk down the street without everybody telling me how much they know me.
And Randy Rhoads was the angelic, gifted guitar hero — that’s Nick for sure. He’s fucking amazing! His playing on this record is going to make him a big star. I know it for sure. He sounds great.
We mentioned the use of modern production techniques before. How did that sit with you while making of Kicking And Screaming? Did Bob want to use auto-tune and stuff?
That’s a good question. I hate auto-tune, and my voice is not perfect. So, we would get in little, uh, discussions — not arguments, really. I’d say to him, ‘Don’t fuckin’ put any auto-tune on my voice cuz it makes me sound like Celine Dion and I’m not!’
Janis Joplin-meets-Rob Halford is [the description] I like. But he doesn’t use it too much. I did an album called Frameshift a couple years ago that sounds way too perfect to my ear. It sounds artificial because it’s so perfect. Rock ‘n roll is about being a human being and [about] your emotions as a human. So you [must not] overdo that stuff. That’s the danger with modern technology: You can fuck with something until you suck all humanity out of it. You don’t wanna do that. Use things here and there, but not too much. Bob’s very smart about that.
So a balance was struck.
Yeah, like if I would hold a note too long, over the end of the song, he’d chop it or move a note so it was tight. That’s fine, doing stuff like that. But I don’t like putting a whole lead vocal track through the auto-tune. It just sounds fake. I just hear the auto-tune when I hear that. I hear the effect, not the singer.
I’m not that chick who sings “Friday Friday Friday.” I’m fuckin’ Sebastian Bach! [laughs]
Well, I’m a fan of your singing. So I think auto-tune should be using you. That’s written right here in my notes.
There you go! [laughs] There was no such thing as auto-tune when I sang “I Remember You.” I sang that shit! It came out of my mouth!
Shit, you want to start listing great Baz vocal performances? I could go for a while.
Thanks man. I just gave you thirteen new ones I hope. Hope you like ’em.
I love the jam with John 5.
Yeaaah. “Tunnel Vision”!
Did he come in and meet you? Or was it done by [email] —
He sent me that song completed with no vocals. No words, no melodies. I wrote all the melodies and words on top of it, and that’s the song. It’s just me with John 5. It’s very organic … It fuckin’ sounds bad-ass to me! That’s a heavy riff, boy: [hums main riff]. To me, it’s the same feeling [I get] when I hear “Monkey Business” in my car. It’s that killer, slow-groovin’ rock ‘n roll.
Can I ask you about old business?
I want to talk about the Skid Row song “Wasted Time.” To my knowledge, that song was written for Steven Adler.
How do you view that song now?
That’s a weird song. I wrote that song. Except for the very ending part [sings]: “Creations colors seem to…” The part at the end that different from the rest of the song, I didn’t write. I wrote all the rest of the song. [pauses] The fans really love that song. I don’t think it’s as good — to me, to my ear — as “In A Darkened Room.” I think that’s a better song. But a lot of the fans love “Wasted Time.” Every time I play live, people are like, [intensely] ‘You gonna do that song?’ I guess it struck a chord with a lot of people; it’s a little too dark for me. I don’t like the video. To me, it glamorizes drugs a little too much. But the fans really like it. I don’t think I was a great songwriter back then as much as I am now. I’ve improved. If you like it, great. I’m not going to tell you not to like it.
[laughs] Have you spoken to Adler about the song?
Yeah, he knows it’s about him. He’s told people [that]. I wrote it right when I was hanging out with him back in ’91. I was hanging out with him and I couldn’t believe that he did too many drugs to be in Guns ‘N Roses. [laughs]
That’s a lot of drugs [laughs]. You know you’re a serious partyer when you party yourself right out of Guns ‘N Roses.
Hey, I aspire to that!
But then you look at him on Celebrity Rehab and you can see what it does to ya. It’s very fucked up. He’s lucky to be alive.
One more Skid Row question: I read an interview in which you expressed a little fatigue talking about Skid Row all the time. But the next day, I saw a news item that you played with former Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso. That must’ve been fun!
Let me clarify that: Rob Affuso has nothing to do with Skid Row 2011. Neither do I. He’s been [out of] the band almost as long as me. To me, it’s a complete insult that they call themselves Skid Row in 2011 with two guys in the band. It’s an insult. When someone says, ‘Oh you don’t want to talk about Skid Row, but then how can you jam with Rob Affuso,’ [my reply is that] there were five guys in Skid Row. It was me, Rob, and the other three guys. There are no other guys that were in the band. [Rob] has a right to the name Skid Row like I have a right. I don’t think that the three guys in the band that weren’t in Skid Row … I don’t think Phil Varone has a right to the name Skid Row. He uses it every single time he opens his mouth, like ‘I was in Skid Row.’ I’m like, ‘You were not in fuckin’ Skid Row. You were in Ozone Monday with a different name. I am Skid Row.’
You wanna walk down the street with Sebastian Bach, I’ll show you who the fuck the public thinks Skid Row is. It’s not the other guys. I’m not bragging; this is the truth. You wanna come with me to the mall? I’ll show you who the fuck Skid Row is. I can’t walk down the fucking street without somebody yelling ‘Skid Row!’ or ‘Youth Gone Wild!’ I can’t leave the house! I’m not making it up; you can come hang out with me any time! It’s ridiculous! So when other people take that name and call themselves [Skid Row], it’s insulting to me. They have no right to do that.
So I don’t consider me playing with Rob Affuso anything to do with Skid Row 2011. It has nothing to do with that. Those guys are playing cruise ships or whatever it is they’re doing. I’m releasing new albums that I feel are very high quality. Me and Rob playing … I’ll play with whoever I want to play with. The fact is that on that night, my solo band had as many members of Skid Row in it as Skid Row does [laughs].
It’s really funny. Half the time, Snake’s not in the band — he’s off managing Phil Anselmo — or Scotti Hill is not in the band and there’s some other guy.
I’m not trying to egg you on here, but I saw a crappy Skid Row set just a couple weeks ago.
So I hear what you’re saying.
Well, the fact that they call it Skid Row is sad. I’ll call my band Sebastian Bach, and I’ll take all the heat for it, good or bad. But I’m not going to call it Skid Row, because it’s not Skid Row. That was five guys. Actually, it was three guys! There were three of us five signed to Atlantic Records: me, the bass player, and the guitar player. The other two guys never signed the contract. It was us three that were signed; the business of Skid Row was three people.
Is that right.
Yeah. So [as] one of the guys who deserves to call themselves that, I’m beyond it now. My dad taught me — he was an art teacher — when I was a little kid the difference between form and content. It’s about the content for me. It’s about what’s inside. It’s not about the way something looks or the name of it. That’s superficial. And I know that concert promoters are totally superficial [laughs].
They’re way more interested in the form than the content. They’ll have five guys called The Beach Boys that were never in the band and sell tickets. That’s not me. That’s not the way I am and [pauses] tough shit. [laughs] To me, it’s more interesting to put out a good CD here in 2011.
I want you to have veto power over replying to this question, but I must ask: Today, David Lee Roth is in Van Halen and Joey Belladonna is in Anthrax. What would it take to get Skid Row back?
Well, I’m not Joey Belladonna or David Lee Roth. I’m Sebastian Ba — … I’m a different human being and everybody’s different.
What Joey Belladonna does [laughs] has nothing to do with what I do. That’s great for Joey; it’s awesome. But what it would take for me to even be interested is new music. It doesn’t interest me [when] somebody asks, ‘Hey you wanna go on the road for a year and play all old songs every night for two years?’ No! That doesn’t fuckin’ interest me! It’s boring and gay and I’m just not into it. That’s not being a real musician; that’s being a jukebox. You might as well go to Branson, Missouri with Tony Orlando and sing “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree.” What’s the difference? That doesn’t take any effort. I want to create something that I’m proud of. I want to brag about it; I want to shake you by the collar and say, ‘Listen to my new fucking album. It kills, man!’ That’s what excites me. I don’t wanna say, ‘Hey come see my show! We’re gonna do “Youth Gone Wild”! We’re 56!’
I don’t get it [laughs].
[laughs] You are hilarious, dude!
I mean, what am I saying that’s not true? It’s all logical, what I just said. People say, ‘Oh, he’s got Lead Singer’s Disease.’ What the fuck? I have two ears on my head! [laughs]
I think you’re really in a tough spot.
I am. Nothing good ever comes easy, y’know? I look at guys like Ozzy Osbourne or Neil Young or Sammy Hagar that came out of bands to have a successful solo career. I have to put it down to what my dad taught me: form vs. content. The business seems to be ruled by the form, but I’m more interested in the content. That was taught to me when I was a boy and I never knew how important it was. That’s what makes me hard to work with [laughs]. Just cuz I refuse to suck. [laughs]
[laughs] Some people are happy to.
I’d rather just not be a part of it. To me, it’s embarassing. If you’re going out and playing concerts without anything in the set that you’ve written in the past two years? Get the fuck off the stage. Fuck you! Who cares about that? You have nothing to say? You have zero fucking things to say? I’ve got tons of shit to say [laughs].
Sebastian Bach’s sophomore solo album Kicking And Screaming is out September 27 on Frontiers Records. Order here.