Sebastian Bach Talks Professional Jealousy, Skid Row and Being the Last of a Dying Breed: Exclusive Interview
It’s a chilly fall night in the Northeast and Sebastian Bach is unwinding on his tour bus with a glass of red wine after a sold-out show at a nondescript club in a sleepy, off-season beach town. And while it may be a far cry from the arenas he got accustomed to playing some 25 years ago while fronting Skid Row, the fans in attendance were no less enthusiastic as he belted out classics like “Youth Gone Wild,” “Monkey Business” and “I Remember You.”
Bach has been the most vocal proponent of getting his old band back in the saddle with him at the mic, something rock fans have been clamoring for since he was unceremoniously shown the door in 1996. There have been varying rumors over the years at how close a reunion has come to actuality, but as previously reported, the singer and his ex-bandmates were unable to complete even a group text discussion.
One thing is certain, Bach still considers Skid Row a musical outfit he is very much a part of, whether it’s via the legacy he was an integral part of creating or a potential future, as he continually refers to it in conversation as “my band.” It’s not done as a dig, but as a matter-of-fact sentiment he might not even be conscious of doing. It's one which most fans would agree with, many of whom would be hard pressed to name even one of the three vocalists to pass through the revolving door since Bach exited.
During our exclusive interview with Bach, he talks about his involvement in promoting CBD oil for children with illnesses, the legacy of his father and how the recent passings of Vinnie Paul and others musicians have haunted him.
You’ve been working on new music for a bit now, what can we expect it to sound like?
I never go in with a pre-conceived notion of what it’s going to sound like. I try to make it sound like something that I want to listen to – that’s it. I’m proud of all my records, so, it’s just gonna be like, “the next one.” I’m just doing demos right now. I have two songs with John 5 – this will be our third album in a row we’ve collaborated on – and I’ve got a song with Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band; he was on my last record too. My last record was a top charting Billboard record. Give ‘Em Hell got to No. 70; all my records have been 70, 71 and 72 [laughs] – it’s like the exact same thing. I can honestly say that I’m fortunate all of my solo records have charted on Billboard.
Earlier this year, you publicly got behind the use of CBD oil for children with cancer. How did that come about?
Well the thing is about weed and, well – ok, weed – is, I was sober for about six, eight months of my life. I didn’t drink anything, I still smoked a little bit, but I was a miserable son of a bitch. Kudos to everyone out there that’s sober, good for you – that’s great, I commend you on that. But I went to the doctor and all of the sudden I had high blood pressure for the first time in my life. My doctor goes, “What are you doing?” I go, “Well I don’t drink anymore,” and he said, “That’s great, but what are you doing different?” I go, “Well, I take sleeping pills because I can’t sleep at night. I’m always on the road and I can’t fall asleep sometimes.” He goes, “Well what did you drink?” I told him I had red wine with dinner, and maybe a couple more glasses before bed. And he says, “What the fuck? So now you take sleeping pills instead of that? Sebastian, you’re a hundred times better off – health-wise – having some wine with your dinner and smoking a joint and falling asleep. Throw those fucking sleeping pills in the garbage.” So I don’t take sleeping pills anymore.
I’m not a child, but all I know is the difference between the way Ambien and Xanax and when I was taking those pills, what it made my personality like, was so weird and so different. Now that I don’t take it and I have some marijuana to go to sleep or whatever, I feel like myself. CBD, I think for anybody, is better than synthetic drugs. The point I’m trying to make, through all of that, I think it’s less harmful and more helpful. It works better and I think the side effects are minimal. You might want to eat salt and vinegar chips and you may want to binge watch Antiques Roadshow, that might happen, but where’s the bad part?
Your father [celebrated painter and artist David Bierk] passed away from cancer. You commissioned his artwork for the cover of [Skid Row’s] Slave to the Grind and your Angel Down solo record, how important is it for you to keep his legacy alive?
Well, those two covers are iconic. They’re incredible album covers, both of them. But I think my dad helped me even more with my book [2016’s 18 and Life on Skid Row], because all the photos from my childhood are through his eyes. It’s almost as if he wrote my book with me from the grave, because I couldn’t bring myself, after he died, to go through his stuff. No man wants to lose his dad; it’s not a good time in your life, and there’s nothing you can do to change it, it happens to everybody. For me it happened way too soon, he died at 57. I’m 50 right now, so that’s haunting to me…I can’t even. My drummer is fucking 56.
Do you think about that a lot?
I think about it all the time. Vinnie Paul, if you notice we talk about him during the show, and I was like, “You know what? Let’s take 'Cemetery Gates' out of the set,” because [Paul’s death] was a couple months ago. The fans demand it. They’re coming now wanting to hear it – they are. They know we did it and they want to hear it, because you’re not going to hear it anymore. So that’s it. And that’s fucking awful for rock fans. So I don’t know how long we’ll do that, but right now the fans want to hear that.
When you see guys pass who you were associated with like Pantera or Motorhead or Soundgarden, you can never see those bands again. What’s that like to see on a professional level?
I definitely feel like one of a dying breed – literally [laughs] – knock on wood. There’s just not a lot of guys left like me; there’s just not.
When you get to that point, do you think to yourself, “Now my generation is starting to go?”
Yes, I do. And it’s very scary. I turned 50 on April 3. Vinnie Paul was at my birthday party. He was there, this April, he was there. He was totally normal, totally the same as he always was. Then in June he went to sleep and never woke up. So that’s really terrifying.
Lightening things up a bit, let’s talk about your appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1991 and the infamous “Kiddie Metal” skit. Since then you’ve branched out into theater, television, but that was the first thing outside the parameters of rock and roll you did. Was it the impetus to be like, “You know what, I’m gonna do more than this?”
That’s kind of viral now, I see that pop up a lot. It wasn’t even me deciding, it was them asking me to do it. That was Kiefer Sutherland and Adam Sandler; they wanted me to be in the skit. We also did another skit when Nirvana were the musical guests. We were on that episode with Chris Farley at a mall and Adam Sandler was a chick and we were doing an in-store or something, so it was kinda weird. I’ve been on the show a couple times and Robot Chicken, Johnny Bravo; I’m on all those shows. My voice has a life of its own – that’s for sure, but I love singing rock and roll. I know that the fact that I can still scream like that, I’m meant to be doing this. There’s just so few guys who are screaming – like at all. Axl [Rose] is, Steven Tyler is, Ian Gillan, Rob Halford…
You’re known as the guy who kind of brought Axl Rose back into the spotlight with that 2006 radio interview when he had basically disappeared for so many years. You joined the reunion lineup for their second show in Las Vegas back in 2016. Did you have any idea how huge the whole thing was going to be, with them touring almost through the end of this year?
Well, there’s very much professional jealousy because my band are too self-absorbed to even think about our 30th anniversary or re-releasing the old records on vinyl or putting out Oh Say Can You Scream on Blu-ray, like, obvious shit just doesn’t fuckin’ happen for Skid Row fans.
You can’t even get most of the Skid Row catalog on vinyl.
That’s because of Skid Row. Like, God bless ‘em, starting your “new” band in your fuckin’ late 50s – way to go. You’re starting your new band in your late 50s. Most musicians, in their late 50s, are fucking playing to the fans that put them there, giving the people what they want. I didn’t invent that phrase.
Not getting a new singer.
Not getting seven new singers. Like, come on. The reason I get pissed off is because we still get the royalty checks and I get a tremendous sense of guilt when I get these checks because I know the fans want a fuckin’ deluxe edition, just like Guns N’ Roses…I can’t even complete a group text with these guys. I don’t understand it, because we don’t even have to like each other to put out an old record. I don’t get it. It’s like banging your head against the wall.
Just for the sake of argument, in your opinion, what would be more likely, Van Halen reuniting its classic lineup with Michael Anthony, Kiss doing a reunion of sorts on their farewell tour, Richie Sambora coming back to Bon Jovi or Skid Row?
Well the thing is with Skid Row, we were very, very close. We actually were close. I don’t know if people know the story, but I did a show in New Jersey with Halestorm, Tom Kiefer, like two summers ago. This is when we were close to getting back together. So after the show this drunk guy comes into my dressing room and is like, “I’m Rachel's [Bolan, Skid Row bassist] best friend.” And I go, “Settle down,” [because] he was all loaded. And Skid Row was doing a show opening up for Flavor Flav and Tiffany, and I thought it was fake. I go, “You're Rachel’s best buddy? Fuckin’ ask him what the fuck is this shit!” I wasn’t ripping anybody apart, I wanted to know, is this real? I had just come off stage so I wasn’t drunk or anything, and this guy got all pissed off and I had him kicked out of my dressing room. And that really was Rachel’s best friend.
The next morning I woke up, [Rachel texts me] “Hey Sebastian, way to go. Just when I’m thinking about getting into a room with you, you rip me apart to my best friend.” I go, “Your best friend was fucked up, in my face, slurring drunk. You cannot tell me what happened last night was more important than the reunion of Skid Row.” Then Snake [Sabo, Skid Row guitarist] chimes in, “Well, I stick behind my buddies.” And I go, “You guys are so…how can this be important?” A drunk guy comes in my dressing room, I tell him to get the fuck out of here, that’s more important than 20 million records sold, iconic band status, all the royalty checks we get – that doesn’t mean shit.
I don’t even know what to say. How is that important? How does that make me a fucking dick if I say, “Why are my band opening for Tiffany?” What am I supposed to say? Like, “Right on!” Is this what I’m signing up for? Because I ain’t fucking opening up for Tiffany. Like, what’s going on? There’s no way I’m doing that. Does that make me hard to work with because I won’t open for Tiffany? Does that make me a dick? “Oh, he’s really hard to work with.” You’ve had seven fucking singers – maybe you’re hard to work with. My band’s been the same for 10 years or 15 years; same band. No problem in four Broadway shows and a cast of 70 people, Gilmore Girls…they don’t think I’m hard to work with. Netflix loves working with me. Trailer Park Boys, fucking eight seasons – they don’t think I’m hard to work with. Maybe those guys are fucking hard to work with.
It’s just a shame because our fans would like it, and there’s no reason why not to.