Latest Release: Give ‘Em Hell (Frontiers)
Sebastian Bach has not only survived the American rock scene of the late eighties intact but has endured mudslinging via media with former bandmates in Skid Row to successfully carve out a reputable solo career that has allowed him to continue touring globally. He has also starred in several Broadway musicals whilst maintaining his enthusiasm for rock as heard in recent studio and live albums that stand up exceptionally well to the earlier, nostalgic major label material. Back in Australia currently with a powering live band that shows no signs of slowing down to deliver more blistering live performances, Loud Online sat down with the man.
This is the bit where I get to say ‘Rollin’.
Ha, okay, ‘Rollin’. Things are good, I just did a TV show [Channel Seven’s Morning Show] and they were cool. Not a lot of rock bands get to do stuff like that. The first time I played here was in 1990. Now, it is 2015 and it is incredible to think that for twenty five years I have been coming here and playing music. It has been a long career for me, big time.
A recent article about Keith Richards [SMH Good Weekend] inferred Keith doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and stated it is performance that keeps him getting up onto the stage.
Yeah, I don’t either and it is also that people enjoy it, you know. I am an entertainer and I think that people don’t just dig me for my music but also for my personality because I seem to make people laugh. I’m not trying to but I just have a good time because rock’n’roll is supposed to be fun.
Do you find that whole era of being an outspoken rock star is going away since whatever is said from the stage is almost around the world thanks to the digital realm?
Now with the Internet, everybody has their own site or whatever. Before that, people used to buy mags like Kerrang!, Metal Edge, Circus and Hot Metal here in Australia. So we used to all read the same articles. Now, everybody goes to their own websites so I don’t really read what other guys are saying unless it is something comical like Kayne West. When people say outlandish things that you end up hearing about. Before, we used to all read the same magazines. Today it seems that everybody goes to Blabbermouth as their main news source.
Does it annoy you that you’ll do an album and instantly they are trotting out the comparisons?
I learned something very important about myself from doing press for my last record [Give ‘Em Hell]. On the week that is comes out, I shouldn’t do any press because I am so sensitive since I have spent a year or something making this record so I’m defensive and protective. I’m ready to say, ‘fuck you!’ if you don’t like it and I am kind of a little bit like a parent with a kid. When I put out Give ‘Em Hell, I made a comment in an interview that that first week sales were over four thousand but I have a million followers so I thought, ‘what the fuck are you all following?’ if I have a number on the FB page of 900,000 people. So I made that comment and it became a huge story that overshadowed the record. So, I shouldn’t have done any interviews that week. I should have just put the record out because they’ll take a little comment and then it becomes gigantic. I could not believe that this comment I made was bigger news than the record I fucking put out and it made me nuts. I should not do interviews some times. The thing about it is they take one sentence out of context so you cannot clarify what you’re saying. But, all musicians go through this, you know.
The tour is happening now in Australia. Can you talk about your band?
Yeah, it’s great. I’m so excited. We’ve been on the road in America for seven weeks. We’ve just complete a full, intense tour with about 40 gigs. So when you play that much you become more than just musicians, you become like a real band, playing together. We have chemistry up there and we get on really well. I have the same drummer [Bobby Jarzombek] and bass player [Rob De Luca] that I brought along for the Guns N’ Roses tour. Bobby is from Halford and also on the Angel Down record. To me, he is the best drummer in the world, he is so fucking good.
Playing night after night can be taxing on the voice. How do you keep it in healthy condition?
I have to warm up my voice all the time. I do these scales. It is just like a muscle that you work out in the gym to build up your muscles. You have to be careful with your voice because it is a fine line between screaming your ass off and blowing your throat out. You have to be careful, you can’t overdo it. I don’t find air-conditioning affects me too much. For me, it is the style of singing, I don’t strain my throat. I remember when Dimebag Darrell was taken from us and we were on tour then and we decided to do the Pantera song ‘Walk’ at the end of our set and it was so hard for me to sing that way because I don’t song like that. The way I sing is from a more clean vocals place, not a roaring growl. I didn’t like singing like that because it hurt my throat.
You’ve had bassist Steve DiGiorgio from Sadus in your band, amongst others such as guitarist ‘Metal’ Mike Chlasciak. But the vocals in that extreme genre are very different.
I don’t know how those guys do that, year after year. If I push my voice too hard, it doesn’t work too well, I have to not force it too much and that style is all forcing, completely. I love this song by Lamb of God called ‘Contractor’ and there is a scream in there which I think is the most badass scream I have ever heard but I don’t know how those guys do that.
If you look over your back catalogue, which one would you say has your best vocal performance?
I’d say Angel Down. Neil Young invented this music player called Pono [PonoMusic] which plays back high res files [flac file extensions]. You can store all of your music in there and it is not mp3. It is my favourite toy. So I put all of my records in there to have them at the highest quality. I was practising for my tour and singing along to some of my songs. To explain this, the album Angel Down was recorded at Sound City. Dave Grohl made a movie about that studio. So when I rehearsed to the song ‘American Metalhead’, I went over to my amplifier because I thought that I had changed the settings. I will say to any audiophile that this is the best sounding record I ever made. More than Skid Row and I’m just saying because you can listen to it yourself but there is something production wise on that one as there is on ‘Stuck inside’ and ‘Back in the Saddle’ [Aerosmith cover]. I have to say it must have been that analogue board [multi-track recording studio desk] that is in that movie. He saved the board and that is what Angel Down was recorded on.
Nice. So, in that light, is it the studio equipment that gives the vibe happening for performance?
I think that is what it is. I love the Kicking & Screaming and Give ‘Em Hell albums but they are more modern sounding whereas Angel Down is more analogue or classic metal sounding.
You’ve mentioned Neil Young, who initially famously repelled digital. Nowadays recordings are primarily digital but some are over processed, compressed and noise gated to hell.
Yes, I can’t stand it. When I listen to the radio today the voice doesn’t sound like a voice, it sounds like a keyboard and that is not singing.
So with your own vocal performances today, how much input do you allow from a producer?
It depends on the producer so you have to consider the source. But Bob Marlette, the producer of my last two records, is such a great songwriter that he really helped me with melodies and hooks. Some things are simple but work as hooks and he really helped me with that. You hire a producer for their objectivity or opinion. I know when I’ve done a good take but I trust guys like Bob and if I am working with someone like that, I trust their opinion.
Do you listen back to live performances or recordings off the sound desk at all?
My challenge is that sometimes I get a little too excited on the stage and move around a little too much but that is part of the performance. Sometimes I will just say to myself, ‘just stand there and sing’ but if I do that, I feel like an idiot just standing there. I get into the vibe of the rock and the movement or sound.
Does playing an arena as opposed to a club make you feel you have to project more as a singer?
There is definitely a difference. In an arena, the voice seems to soar a lot more when I hit a note in a big huge room whereas in a club it is more compact or compressed. I’m all about the sound and I’ve got be honest, when I go to club, nine times out of ten it is too loud. I don’t want to just be fucking overpowered with volume, I want to hear the songs.
How about doing musicals? That must be a challenge and a contrast.
It is completely different. There is no amplification, there are only supplementary microphones that are taped to your cheekbone. That is done for the very back row because everybody is hearing you live so it is completely different. I did four Broadway shows and the first one, Jekyll and Hyde let me sing the songs in the key that suited my voice. That was the favourite one that I did because they kind of let my voice dictate the way the songs would be sung.
You’ve got something in common with Paul Stanley given he has done a musical. Did you learn something from him or take cues from his approach?
No, I learned from Ian Gillan because he was the first singer on Jesus Christ Superstar on the album. So I got that old album and sang along to Ian. He is amazing.
Finally, what was Ted Nugent like to work with on the reality TV show Supergroup?
Ted Nugent’s political opinions overshadow his amazing music, that’s my opinion. I love his music but his opinions can be offensive.
Did being in a room with him and Scott Ian make you think you needed to make an impression?
Well, Ted doesn’t want anybody else to sing. So, any time that I would go to sing he would jump in front of the mic. I’d be thinking, ‘why the fuck am I here?’ Ha-ha.
Sebastian Bach is on tour in Australia this week:
22/9: Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane QLD
23/9: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
25/9: Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
26/9: The Gov, Adelaide SA
27/9: Astor Theatre, Perth WA