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Interviews   

Sebastian Bach keeps up his hectic pace


Sebastian Bach keeps releasing albums, and we, the public, always delight in his modern hard sleaze. When you think about it, it’s a bit like doing an interview with the former Skid Row frontman: you know he’s going to be passionate, generous, sometimes a bit over the top, but that’s precisely what defines him. But to be honest, in the following interview, Sebastian Bach seems to want to keep sensational statements to a minimum. He even takes care to not babble too much about people, whether it is his former guitarist, Nick Sterling (whom he fired), or Mötley Crüe (whom he says he auditioned for, which caused one hell of a media stir at the end of the past year). The same goes for social networks, where every single one of his statements, even those made as a joke, ends up as « the biggest headline in every website and every rock thing in the planet ».

Let’s be clear, though: the man still has the gift of the gab, and he never hesitates to talk about the music he passionately loves, to have a good laugh, or to express things some might consider cynical. For instance, according to him, there’s no need to get along with the musicians you play with on a personal level – and to prove his point, he even quotes a certain Rammstein song…

« I wanna be able to grab your collar, shake you and say: “Oh my God, you gotta fucking hear this, man!” That excitement that I get is on every Skid Row album and every Sebastian Bach solo record I did. »

Radio Metal: Last time we spoke, in 2012 at the Hellfest in France, you said: “I don’t think the public understands how much effort, money and time it takes to make a real good CD.” So, how much effort, money and time did it take to make this new record?

Sebastian Bach: I literally have listened to Give ‘Em Hell in one form or another for a year, at least, possibly more. This is what I do for a living. Modern technology makes it very simple to bring your music with you wherever you go, so I just collect music from my friends John 5, Duff McKagan and Steve Stevens, put it into my Iphone, make a playlist of new demos, and then I listen to that everyday until I like it! [Laughs] It took around a year. The Kicking & Screaming album before this was a little quicker because a lot of material was more done, but I love Give ‘Em Hell so much, it’s just a really heavy album. That’s my technique: I go running and listen to the playlist. It takes me a long time to like what I’m hearing but when I do like it, other people like it too, that’s the way it’s been for a decade now.

You seem to be more enthusiastic with each new album, you went as far as saying that you reach a new level of album recording with this new one. Do you think you’re learning from each experience and perfecting your music?

Yes. One thing that I’ve learned really as I get older, is that studio work is very much different than live work, and I wanna get to the point where I make the live experience more like the studio. Live is so crazy, loud and nuts, while the studio is very controlled, so I think differently. In the studio it’s just a completely different vibe, and when I listen to the record, it’s so amazing to listen to, so yes, I’m learning a lot. And when I say a new level of recording, I mean as an audio file. Bob Marlette as the producer coupled with Tom Baker, the guy who masters the record, are the best in the business, and I’ve worked with them for all my last couple of records. I’m talking about the sound and the way the production is on the headphones, about the voice, the screams, the guitar tones and all this, that’s what I mean by a new level. It sounds to me like the best produced Sebastian Bach record. Maybe I’m wrong, but maybe I’m right! [laughs]

It’s interesting because you said that you wanted to make the live experience closer to a studio experience whereas usually rock bands tend to do the opposite: they try to make the studio experience more a live experience, recording live the band etc…

Everybody’s different. I found that when I’m listening to music on my own, then I tend to listen to a lot of 70s’ recordings, like Steely Dan, The Eagles or stuff like this that are really well produced, real great sounding records. I think making a record is an art in itself. It’s more mental when live is more physical, about sweat, energy and craziness. I think YouTube changed a lot of things: everybody films every note of every show and puts it up on their YouTube channel. That has changed the live experience as well, and not for the better [laughs]…

You fired your guitar player Nick Sterling two years ago and welcomed Devin Bronson last year. How can you explain the fact that you keep changing your guitar player with each new album? Is it so hard to find the right permanent guy?

Yes it is. That was just a simple case of my old guitar player not wanting to be a part of the new Sebastian Bach DVD that was called ABachalypse Now. So, if he didn’t want to be a part of that… I don’t wanna fight somebody in my band, you know, that’s not gonna happen… [Laughs] He’s a great guitar player and I wish him all the best. Duff McKagan, who wrote the song “Harmony” with me on Give ‘Em Hell, and also plays bass on half of the record, introduced me to Devin, who plays on most of the record and does a great job. He also plays live with me. Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band is on three songs and John 5 is on one song. You know, you say: “Is it hard to find the right guy?”: John 5 would definitely be the right guy but he’s extremely busy [laughs]. But he has time for me too, so that’s very cool. He wrote the song “Temptation”, which is the first single and the first video which will be coming on TV any day now.

You said Nick didn’t want to be on the live DVD… Why not?

You have to ask him that! He wouldn’t sign the release that everybody else signed to be on television for the live broadcast. He refused to sign; I had to sign it… So you would have to ask him that question.

He didn’t give you any reason?

Well, I was very busy that day, I was going live on television across the United States of America, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people would be watching me sing that night, so I didn’t have the time to listen to any reasons why he couldn’t do it. I had a job to do [laughs].

« Nobody wants a shy, embarrassed Sebastian Bach, they want an excited, fun, happy Sebastian. »

How do you manage to always keep your music consistent even when systematically changing a musician as important as the guitar player?

Because I am… How do I answer this question?! Okay, oh my God… [sigh and then pause] I have to love what I put my name on, and I cannot understate that statement. That is so me. And that goes back to the first Skid Row record, okay? When I sang “18 And Life” in the studio, I loved it with all my heart. “I Remember You”, I sang that with a 100 percent of my heart and my soul. Nobody in the world, including any of my old band members can tell me what I love and what I don’t love, there is nothing that I ever put out back then, that I didn’t really loved. So when you say: “How do you make your music consistent”, that’s how. I make it for me [laughs], that’s what it is! I wanna be able to grab your collar, shake you and say: “Oh my God, you gotta fucking hear this, man!” That excitement that I get is on every Skid Row album and every Sebastian Bach solo record I did. That’s how I keep it consistent. I don’t kid myself. I make sure that I really love it, and then I can do interviews about it, I can play it on stage… Nobody can take that feeling away from me, I know that feeling. The real feeling.

Actually, weren’t there any song at the time of Skid Row where somebody tried to make you sing a song that you actually didn’t love?

Yes! Yes, that’s a great question. I can remember first joining the band, when I heard “18 And Life”, I said: “Well, that’s done, that’s a keeper, there’s nothing wrong with that [laughs], that song’s finished, next! [laughs] That’s a good one, good job guys!” Then another song would come that I wasn’t digging so much, and I would say: “Okay, be a good guy, it’s not all bad, but go to the microphone and try to sing it…” I can remember that Michael Wagner was with us at the rehearsal, I tried to sing in the first verse, and then my mouth just closed! [Laughs] I felt embarrassed and shy because I didn’t like it, and I was like: “What am I doing?!” [Laughs] So that didn’t work, because part of the reason people relate to me as a singer is that you can feel what I’m feeling. Nobody wants a shy, embarrassed Sebastian Bach, they want an excited, fun, happy Sebastian. Nobody likes the other Sebastian [laughs].

Actually, what did they do with that song? Did they use it later or did they just trash it?

No, that’s the beauty of the band, it’s just like any band. Any band that’s good has tension in it, like the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Möltey Crüe or Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row was no different. The end result of all five of us loving something is “18 And Life”. You can argue or deny the result of that, but the process of getting to that is sometimes not so much fun [laughs]. Nothing good comes easy!

Devin Bronson is best known for working with pop rock artists such as Avril Lavigne and Pink. Which is surprising, because he sounds really heavy on Give ‘Em Hell! Do you think that your band has allowed him to fully open up and blossom as a guitar player?

Yes, he also works closely with drummer Isaac Carpenter from Loaded. Isaac Carpenter is the co-writer on one song in Give ‘Em Hell called “All My Friends Are Dead”. Here’s one thing about playing with me and Bobby Jarzombek and Bob Marlette: you have to be a good musician. As far as Marlette may say: “Hey, try this”, you have to be good enough to execute an idea right on the spot. I worked with guys who are not to that level, they had to go practice some part and then come back… We’re way beyond that, at this point [laughs]. So David is good enough to work with Bob in the studio, and really, he makes incredible guitar parts. And also Steve Stevens is on three songs, and that’s unbelievable. He’s always been one of my favorite guitar players. Great guitar record, for sure.

Like you said, the album features Duff McKagan, Steve Stevens and John 5. How did they end up participating to this album?

I worked with Duff and Steve in a supergroup in Australia where we actually played a show opening for Aerosmith and Van Halen at the same show [laughs]! It was amazing! And I just said to Duff: “Hey man, I’m working on a new record, do you wanna collaborate?”, and he went: “Baz, can I do it dirty?”, and that was hilarious. It’s great to work with Duff again, I’m such a fan of his, I worked on one of his solo record called Believe In Me back in 93, and here we are in 2014 doing another collaboration! He’s also in two of the videos, “Temptation” and “All My Friends Are Dead”. It’s so great for the fans, to have me and him in a video together. It’s awesome. I’m very happy about that.

You’re speaking about the supergroup you had with Duff McKagan. Didn’t you want to go further with that?

Well that was just a cover band. That was a band that just does covers of other bands. You can only go so far with a cover band. This is a new album of brand new songs, which is something completely different.

Yes, but didn’t you want to make original songs with them?

Well, wanting to and actually doing it is another completely different thing [laughs]. Sure I want to, but here I actually did.

You have a song on the album called “Rock N Roll Is A Vicious Game”. How much vicious has rock’n’roll been to you, actually?

Rock’n’roll itself has been the best thing to me. It’s other things in my personal life which haven’t been so wonderful. But that song is maybe a little message for some of the younger guys I meet in the business that seem to have a big sense of entitlement when they play in a rock band… The real rockers of the world, people like Lemmy, Joan Jett or me, we understand that you have to give everything to rock’n’roll and then maybe someday somebody will dig what you do, but nobody owes you anything. It’s a case of giving what you got and even then, it’s still a vicious game. So you just have to live it all on stage, and that’s a message for the younger guys burning out to rock’n’roll.

« My job, for the rest of my life, will be to walk on a stage, step up to the mic, and sing the song “18 And Life”. »

You also have a song called “All My Friends Are Dead”, so is that actually the case? [Laughs]

[Laughs] Well that’s just kind of a funny thing, the title, although the song is very heavy. You know, just two days ago we lost Dave Brockie, the singer of Gwar, he was one of my friends and he’s dead. I was in a Gwar movie (note: Skulhedface), I played the role of a rockstar, it’s a stretch [laughs], so… Every day or every week, one of my friends dies. It’s also a term for people who are still alive but are no longer in your life, we were once friends, then it turns you’re dead to me… That could have to do with the title as well.

Your live setlists are filled with a majority of Skid Row songs. If we look at your latest setlists there are like only five of your solo songs. Now that you have an acclaimed solo career that you’re obviously proud of, don’t you want to put forward a little bit more of your solo songs?

Yes I do. But that’s simply a case of my set time. I understand what you’re saying, and I agree with you, but when somebody tells me that I have 40 minutes on a stage in front of 60,000 people at Hellfest in France, and I don’t speak French, I’m gonna do anything I can to relate to the crowd. And you can’t deny the power of songs like “I Remember You”, “18 And life”, “Youth Gone Wild” or “Monkey Business”. And that’s almost 40 minutes [laughs]! So I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not the only guy in the music industry that plays his hits during the show. It has more to do with the fans than with me. I’m trying to give a good show, so if I have a longer set, a headline set, then I can do more songs that aren’t well-known hits. I don’t know what to tell you. That’s something for the fans more than me.

In November 2012, you posted a photo of yourself in the studio on Facebook, mentioning that you were recording a “top secret project that will revolutionize popular music as we know it”. That was a big statement! [Laughs]

[Laughs] That was a joke, that’s all a joke! Sometimes I like to have fun and to have a sense of humor on Twitter, but I have to be careful because one time, it was April Fools’ day here in America, I don’t know if you have it there, but on April Fools’ day you play tricks, and my girlfriend typed on my Twitter: “Oh yeah, we’re getting the band back together”. And Fox News, FOX NEWS, FOX… NEWS on TV said: “Get your hairspray, it’s time for the 80s’, Skid Row’s back!” [laughs]. I was just fucking around, I didn’t even say what band, I could have been talking about my high school band! I was just messing around on April Fools’ day, and Fox News made a story of it. Sometimes I have to be careful about what I say on Twitter, for sure [laughs]…

You called Twitter the “new rock magazine” and you seemed amazed that your Twitter feed was a source of ‘news’ for every rock news outlet around the world. Do you see this as a drift or a pervert effect from the social networks and Internet?

Yeah, because when I was a kid I used to get Rock Scene magazine and Circus, and you know, that’s how I found out about my favorite band. Now, on my Facebook page I have about 800,000 people, so every single thing I put up there is seen by almost a million people who dig me [laughs]! That’s not bad, that’s kinda cool, and that’s what I mean by Twitter being the new rock magazine. That’s the way people get their rock’n’roll these days.

On another topic: how was it to play a dead rock star in season 6 of Californication, just laying down in a coffin?

It was an easy role to play! It wasn’t hard! [Laughs]

How did you end up with that quite singular cameo?

I’ve done a ton of TV and I’m known for being in TV stuff… I did several scenes in a show called Gilmore Girls, so I’m known for that. I do tons of TV, that’s nothing. I did other TV shows as well. I just shot a TV show for ABC Television called Sing Your Face Off that’s coming out in America in June. That’s a whole series, like 8 episodes, with John Lovett and Carmen Electra and all these people… So in the industry, in television, when they need a rockstar dead or alive, they call Sebastian Bach! [Laughs]

Did you actually get to know David Duchovny?

Yes, he’s very cool, a very nice guy.

Do you know if he has actually a little bit of the rock’n’roll personality and music tastes of his Hank Moody character?

David Duchovny 100% loves rock’n’roll. He loves it, he’s really into it. We talked about rock’n’roll, we talked about relationships, our girlfriends, marriages, we had a great day together. He’s a very nice guy. I could text him right now and tell him how nice he is if I wanted to [laughs].

What are his favorite bands, then?

He was talking about playing guitar, taking lessons and playing a lot of 70s’ rock, that’s what we were talking about as far as I can remember.

There was a kind of polemic at the end of last year about you saying that you once auditioned for Motley Crüe and they wanted you to join the band, and Nikki Sixx denied that. What was that all about? Why would Nikki Sixx not acknowledge that if it’s true?

Actually, somebody posted a YouTube interview with him and he told MTV that I was rehearsing with them… The point is that Vince Neil is the singer of Möltey Crüe and he always will be. There’s no singer for Mötley Crüe other than Vince Neil. I’m a huge Mötley Crüe fan… I’m writing a book right now and anything I have to say about that will be in the book, but I love Mötley Crüe and I love Vince Neil’s voice, there’s no other voice for the band.

« If somebody wants to play the music while I sing it, that’s fine with me. […] Here’s the dick, here’s the pussy, let’s go, what’s the problem? » [Laughs]

Then why didn’t you join in if they actually offered you the job?

I just completed the record Slave To The Grind and had it in my pocket, and that’s all I wanna say about it, because the last thing I want is to get in a war with Mötley Crüe when they’re my favorite band. That’s all… I’m writing a book and anything else I’ll say about it will be in the book. I love Mötley Crüe! Put that in the article [laughs].

So like you said, you have a book coming up. What can we expect? Is it going to feature any never before heard stories?

Absolutely, of course it is. I’m not gonna print stuff that you already now! It’s gonna be a combination of my writings about what’s happened in my life, pictures… Pretty much every rockstar has a book out except me, and the people want my book, so here it comes! It’s coming soon.

Do you know when it’ll be released?

I don’t know when. As soon as I finish it, that’s when! [laughs] HarperCollins wants it right now, I’m the one who decides when it’ll be done.

Your ex-colleagues from Skid Row are always very reluctant to talk about you, whereas you always seem to be quite open to speak about Skid Row. How can you explain this difference?

That’s really not true! What happens is that if I say two words, or five words, they get blown-up into the biggest headline in every website and every rock thing in the planet. The whole Mötley Crüe thing was me answering a fan on Twitter, and it became a gigantic story. Me, the other day, talking about the 25th anniversary of my first record became this huge story. I might have said two sentences about that, but what I say gets printed way more than what they say [laughs], that’s what it really is! I don’t talk about it any more than they do. It’s just that people print what I say more than what they say. And usually I’m talking about myself, I’m talking about records that I made that sold millions of copies. Of course I make albums for a living, I’m not gonna not talk about the biggest ones I’ve ever made, how silly would that be! [laughs] Am I supposed to ignore 20 millions sales? I mean that’s insane! That’s completely fucking nuts!

You’ve often said that you’d make some reunion shows with Skid Row any day just to please the fans and get the money that would come with it. But do you think this makes any sense if, personality wise, you guys just don’t go along at all together?

My job, for the rest of my life, will be to walk on a stage, step up to the mic, and sing the song “18 And Life”. This is what I do for a living. If somebody else is on bass, that’s fine with me, that’s okay. If you play bass, go ahead! [Laughs] I’m gonna be singing it with my voice for the rest of my life. If somebody wants to play the music while I sing it, that’s fine with me. It’s not a big problem. What’s the fucking problem? What is the Rammstein song? “You’ve got a dick, I’ve got a pussy, what’s the fucking problem?” [Laughs] Like what’s the deal? Here’s the dick, here’s the pussy, let’s go, what’s the problem? [Laughs]

[Laughs] So you’re saying you don’t need to have an especially good relationship with your colleagues on stage?

No I don’t, I don’t at all. There are many bands in the world that hate each other’s guts, that walk on the stage, and play the fucking song. I can give you a thousand bands that fucking hate each other! They get in the bus, they go to the gig, and they play the show! Very few bands have a good relationship. That’s not a rock band [laughs]. It’s not about Kumbaya and being buddy-buddy, it’s about playing music. I don’t even have to know you to play “I Remember You”, I don’t even have to know your name. If you can play it, I can sing it, let’s go!

So are you saying that all these bands that look friendly with each others are hypocrites?

No! Do you think that every band surrounding us is best friends? That’s hilarious! That’s just not the way it is. If you have a business, you’re not necessarily best friends with everybody at work. You go to work and you get the job done. There’s nothing hypocritical about being successful.

Interview conducted on March, 25th 2014 by Spaceman.
Question and Introduction : Spaceman.
Transcription : Chloé.

Album Give ‘Em Hell, out since April, 22nd 2014 via Frontiers Records.



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