Latest release: Kicking & Screaming (Frontiers)
Powerhouse vocalist and former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach is back with a cracking new album (Kicking & Screaming) and a new guitarist (21-year-old Nick Sterling). Loud caught up with Bach during a hectic day of press to talk about the new record, his recent personal turmoil, what it would take for him to return to Skid Row and new music he’s currently enjoying.
Q: I understand a great deal has happened in your personal life lately. Has it been welcoming to channel some of that frustration or energy into creating and promoting this new record?
A: Well, making the record I was going through a divorce, so a lot of the lyrics have to do with losing your love or finding new love, so it’s quite an emotional album. Since then I’ve lost my home recently, (laughs) which is quite crazy. (Editor’s note- his home was recently condemned due to the storms created by Hurricane Irene) So yeah, I’ve been going through some really crazy times, that’s quite accurate. But you know, my friend John Rich from the band Big and Rich, a country band, said this to me, “Sebastian, don’t ever be afraid to write what you’re feeling, because someone else is always feeling what you’re feeling”. And I think that’s quite accurate, so yeah, that’s what it’s about. The title, Kicking & Screaming, well, it’s about kickin’ ass and screaming rock ‘n’ roll (laughs).
Q: Great to hear. Can you tell us about your new guitarist Nick Sterling?
A: Yeah, I got him in the band when he was 19 and I was looking for the best guitar player I could find. He was very young and I said to myself, “I don’t know if I can be in a band with a 19-year-old’. But then I said, “wait a minute, am I going to eliminate a guitar player because he’s too young? That’s pretty stupid”. So yeah, I’ve been playing with him for two years and the record is incredible, he’s very easy to write songs with. We get along really good and I think the record came out incredible. He wrote a lot of it and he’s very talented, he’s like the next guitar superstar. He’s very much like Randy Rhoads, the way he plays, the way he writes, the way he looks, he looks kinda similar, it’s very, very crazy.
Q: I guess he helps keep you young as well (laughs).
A: I don’t know if he keeps me young, but it is amazing being on-stage with him. When I look over at him and we’re doing a song called ‘Youth Gone Wild’, I’m glad at least one of the guys on the stage is a youth (laughs).
Q: (Laughs) How was the experience of working with producer Bob Marlette on the new album?
A: It was really good. The thing I love about Bob is that he always has a really heavy, deep bass tone to his music. When I’m singing super high, doing all my screams and stuff like that, I have to have a good bottom end to even everything out. Bob has this gigantic bottom end on this record that is really kick-ass. He also helped write a couple of songs; we wrote ‘Dirty Power’ with him, ‘Kicking & Screaming’ with him and we also worked on a couple of the other songs we had. So he’s very talented in the songwriting aspect.
Q: You’ve said in the past that you’re a major fan of heavy riffs and screamed vocals, but you’re also very fond of ballads as well. The new album, much like almost everything else you’ve done has a strong mix of both. Is it not a Sebastian Bach album without a few ballads?
A: I am definitely made to sing ballads; my voice sounds good like that. You always have to use your instrument to its fullest capabilities and when I sing a ballad, I just have this special kind of sound to my voice. From ‘I Remember You’, ’18 and Life’, ‘In a Darkened Room’ and ‘Wasted Time’ up to ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Wishin’’ and ‘Dream Forever’ on the new record. When I did Broadway a lot of my biggest songs were ballads and some rock singers might shy away from singing ballads, but for me music’s all about emotion and if you’re feeling an emotion when you’re singing it, then I don’t care if it’s a fast song or a slow song. If you’re feeling the lyrics then that’s what I’m going for; I’m trying to deliver emotions, vocally, through the lyrics and the music. So whatever I feel in my heart is what I’m going to go for.
Q: With regard to touring in support of the new album, is it likely we’ll see you in Australia in the near future?
A: Oh yeah, we played Australia like three times in the past five years, so Australia is definitely one of our biggest markets. We did two tours with Guns N’ Roses and then we headlined a tour as well. So I’ve always loved Australia. I love the weather down there, I love how you guys like to party, you guys love rock ‘n’ roll and I know we’ll be back there. We always come there, it’s a great place for us.
Q: Your live set lists in the past have always been a strong mix of your solo material and Skid Row favourites, so I’m assuming that’s not changing with this album cycle?
A: Yeah, I’m just like Ozzy or Vince Neil or David Lee Roth or any… I will definitely sing my songs for the rest of my life, definitely.
Q: Good to hear. You’ve often claimed in the past to be the “metal fan” when you were a member of Skid Row. What do you think when you hear their more recent material?
A: Well, I haven’t listened to them too much because it doesn’t sound like Skid Row to me, it sounds like a punk band or a country band or something that doesn’t sound ’18 and Life’ to me. I think that my (solo) records sound far more like Slave to the Grind and the first Skid Row record than what they do without me. I’ve always done the same thing in the studio with whoever I’m playing with, so they can tell you that I’m hard to work with, but you know, I’m not hard to work with – I just refuse to suck (laughs).
Q: (Laughs) It’s been 20 years since Slave to the Grind was released. What are your memories of that era and making that album?
A: That was a cool album. On the first Skid Row record we had such big hits with ’18 and Life’ and ‘I Remember You’ that we were determined to prove to everybody that we were real rockers. So we wanted to make a real rock album with Slave to the Grind and that’s a very heavy album. I think it really stands up; when I hear the songs, especially ‘Monkey Business’ on the radio or on TV, it’s fucking badass. It’s like, “wow, cool song” (laughs). But yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do with Kicking & Screaming. If you like Slave to the Grind, put this on your iPod and I think that it fits really good next to that record. I think it has the same kind of heavy feel, cool guitar riffs, kick-ass screams and that kind of vibe.
Q: So is Slave to the Grind your main reference point, or your blueprint when you write a new album?
A: Well, also the first album too, both of them. They’re different records, but you can’t argue with ‘I Remember You’ or ’18 and Life’, those are incredible songs. So my whole past always goes into what I’m doing in the future. I want, if you like ’18 and Life’ I want you to like Kicking & Screaming, you know? I want you to put it in your iPod and to me it’s like the next logical step of music that I would be doing. That’s what it sounds like to my ear anyway.
Q: Many Skid Row fans have called for your return to the band for more than a decade. What it would take for you to consider returning to the fold?
A: A lot of people ask me that, would I go back to Skid Row? Just the words “going back” annoy me (laughs). I don’t want to “go back” to anything. I want to go forward; I don’t want to “go back”. Any true artist doesn’t “go back”. I mean, for me to be interested in being in that band again would mean that we would make a new record. But that’s not the way these nostalgia reunion tours work; it’s all about just playing an hour’s worth of old songs, taking the fans’ money and doing it all summer long. That just doesn’t interest me; if we were to get together and maybe make some new music, make a new CD, and then go and tour in support of it, then that would interest me. But nobody’s talking about that. I’m just more interested in leaving this world with a body of work that is as big and as high quality as I can and I think that Kicking & Screaming is a very valuable addition to my body of work. If those guys wanted to make some new music then I’d be interested but it’s more about, in America anyway, these reunion tours are all about just playing the old songs over and over again, and that is just boring to me. I would like to make new music.
Q: Are there any of the “nostalgia tours” that you referred to that you think have been done the “right” way?
A: Well, there’s only one tour that was done like that, the right way and that was the Kiss reunion tour, when they all got the make-up back on and with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. That was the ultimate reunion tour; there was no tour like that, that was amazing. But for Skid Row, I think that we were more about the music than the image, so for me to be interested in it, it would have to be about a new record.
Q: Changing topics, are there any new releases you’re enjoying at the moment?
A: My favourite new band and album right now is Black Veil Brides’ Set the World on Fire. Which is kinda like early Mötley Crüe, but they’ve got their own sound, they’re very good musicians and they look really cool with their make-up and leather and studs, I love all that shit. There’s another band called Asking Alexandria, who do ’18 and Life’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’ on their record and they’re a very heavy band. Those are the two bands that are brand new that I really like a lot.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Well, I would recommend that the fans pick up the deluxe CD/DVD edition of Kicking & Screaming, because it’s got an hour-long DVD with live concert footage from the Guns N’ Roses tour, five camera angle-shot and Pro Tools from the board, professional sound. It’s a very funny, entertaining DVD. If you’re going to get the new CD I would recommend the DVD edition, that’s what I would say.