Skid Row find strenght in dividing their work

We must admit that Skid Row show more discretion than their former vocalist, Sebastian Bach, who never hesitates to talk to the media (some would go as far as to call him a big mouth) and always has a million things going on. It doesn’t mean Skid Row are less worthy; for nigh on fifteen years now, they’ve been knocking about with Johnny Solinger behind the mike. And yet they’ve become rather scarce on the old continent, and their latest musical effort, Revolutions Per Minutes, is already seven years old. “We’ve lost track of time a bit, we hadn’t noticed”, explains a sheepish Rachel Bolan, the bassist of the band and one of the main composers along with Snake Sabo, in the following interview.

The band are aware that time flies and that the entertainment industry works just as fast nowadays – and they intend to put themselves up to date. Which is why they have decided, just like Down before them, to release a series of EPs rather than a complete album. The first one, United World Rebellion: Chapter One, came out a few weeks ago. Still proud and in stellar shape, Skid Row offer what they do best in terms of sleaze rock – whatever those who never accepted change might think, as Bolan points out.

A friendly and enthusiastic (except when it’s time to talk about his former singer) Rachel Bolan talks about all that below.

« We’ve been putting out music; we’ve been touring and going for fourteen years since we’ve reformed the band, so we have to be doing something right! (Laughs) »

Radio Metal: Your last album Revolutions Per Minute came out seven years ago, how comes it took the band such a long time making new music?

Rachel Bolan (bass): It’s funny and it’s silly as it sounds. We were touring so much at the time; a lot of people think that, because we hadn’t put out music in a while, we weren’t doing anything and that we were on hiatus! But we were touring constantly around the States… And honestly, we kind of lost track of time, we didn’t notice, we were like: “we didn’t put out music for quite a long time, it’s about six years at that point.” Thinking that we hadn’t started writing some stuff and messing around in rehearsals and that we really have to put out a new record! We made an effort to say okay, we have to stop touring and get into the studio and start demoing the stuff. And over a few months time, we got the record deal with Megaforce in the US and UDR in the rest of the world. And here we are now, with United World Rebellion: Chapter One!

Didn’t that hurt the band actually, the fact that you had let people forget a little bit about it?

Possibly, you know, it probably did, but not a lot. Skid Row fans are so loyal and their support is so unconditional that when we put this album out, it seemed that everyone was really, really happy about it, and they kind of forgave us for taking such a long time to do it! (laughs)

You’ve decided, instead of releasing a full album, to release series of EPs, like the band Down decided to do. The reason given for that is that they wanted to adapt to the evolution of the music industry in finding new things… Is it also your case?

Yeah, there are a few reasons. That’s definitely what we were thinking, I mean, we want to keep a constant flow of new music coming out and keep everything really fresh, because obviously, if we put out an album, we take long times between albums… (Laughs) We wanted to keep new music steadily being released and with that steadily touring. And also, the way the entertainment, all entertainment, is nowadays: we’re on the age of information overload. We’ve figured it would be very cool to make three small bodies of work in two years time, eighteen months. Right now, it’s been a really fun way of doing things and it seems very well accepted as a few other bands are doing the same. I really like doing it, it’s almost like coming back to the early 80’s, you know? A lot of the metal bands back then did this; they just put out EPs… A lot of the bands that were actually on Megaforce just put out EPs, so… It’s a fun way of doing things as a songwriter; it takes a lot of the pressure off, we don’t have everything written. Snake and I actually just started writing this week for Chapter Two, and we’re writing each chapter as we go along, so it’s really fresh. A lot of people tend to think that we have a pile of songs that we’re just ready to get out all times but… You know, it’s easier to write ten songs and pick five from them than to write twenty five and pick ten from them.

Do you think it’s a way to show a more regular activity, to be more present rather than releasing an album within two or three years?

Yeah. The presence is very important and it keeps the band creative, because we don’t all live in the same states like we used to: at one point four of us lived together. Two of us live in Atlanta, one of us lives in New York, one of us lives in Texas and another in Florida, so it takes a little more time to get together and everyone gets comfortable at home! So you know, seven years go by before you know between touring and going home, a lot of time passes! So doing it this way keeps the creative juices following and keeps it oncoming.

This new EP seems to go back to your roots, is it important for you to find yourselves again?

It was very important and it’s great to hear you say that because being around as long as Skid Row has… You know, our first album came out in 1989, that’s almost twenty five years ago I think, and we wrote it before that, we were kids when we wrote it… You grow and you have life experiences and you kind of drift from where you came from… And it’s just like I’m back to our hometown, you know, I go back to New Jersey and still have my old friends and still talk with New Jersey accent again after a week! (laughs) So when you really concentrate, you’ve dug deep and say OK, we were all 22 kids that wrote the first couple of records… And that excitement came back and we really took that perspective on the whole things… A lot of people say that, that it sounds like we’ve picked up from where we left off, on Slave To The Grind, or that we went back to our roots, which makes us feel very good.

« This new EP and the album Thickskin for that matter, I think I would put up against any Skid Row record. »

On this EP, there’s a cover song that comes from a band called Ezo which is an underground hard-rock Japanese band, so can you tell us more about this band?

Yeah, I forgot exactly the year, but they used to be called Flatbacker and they actually sang all in Japanese. Gene Simmons (Kiss) discovered them and produced their first album. And when we heard it, I don’t remember when it first came out, but everyone in the band was just blown away by how cool it was. We did not much about Japanese metal at the time, and then I dug a little further to find out that they were like a really heavy band before they were Ezo. Then came out the second album that was equally as good, and when we were just trying to settle on covers… You know, we covered “United” By Judas Priest which fits lyrically and the whole anthem feel to it just fits perfectly with what we were doing on United World Rebellion. And then Snake mentioned “Fire, Fire” by Ezo, and the groove to the song and the message behind the song… it felt very natural! I hope, if the band hears it, that they would be proud of us, because we really love that band!

I guess it was important for you to incite your fans to discover this band?

It was, when Snake mentioned them, when we were trying to think of a second cover, when he mentioned them, everybody was like: “Yeah! That would be a great song!” And we went into the studio; we didn’t record it with the other five songs, because when we were done with the other five, we had to go on the road, so went on the road for about a month. Then we went on the studio for four days, recorded both songs, mixed them, sent them right away to UDR music and they put it on the CD. Yeah, it was very cool doing that song, we had fun!

Like you said, you began to write new stuff for Chapter two, could you tell us more about the songs? Would those songs be in the same vein than these ones?

So far, what we’re coming up with, yes. It’s very much in the same vein. Anyone that knows Skid Row at first listen would be able to tell that it’s us.

You once said in an interview: “When we put the band back together, we needed to re-introduce Skid Row as relevant, without relying too much on past success”. Since you re-formed, did you find difficulties in establishing for what is today, without the shadow of the success you had in the past with Sebastian Bach on vocals?

Well, you know, there is always going to be purists that just refuse change… There are so many bands out there… I’ve read an interview with Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones: he’s been in that band almost as long as we’ve been alive, and he said that he would always be the new guitar player in The Rolling Stones, which is hilarious! (Laughs) But, I’m not comparing us to the Stones, but there’s going to be purists that are not going to like it no matter what, they’re just not going to. However, that being said, it wasn’t as tough or bad as I thought it was going to be. When we’ve put the band back together, literally within weeks we got asked to do the Kiss Tour, and originally we got asked to do three months of it, and it ended up for nine months! Because we’re being accepted very well. We’ve been putting out music; we’ve been touring and going for fourteen years since we’ve reformed the band, so we have to be doing something right! (Laughs)

Do you think you can do as well as you did with those past albums?

You know what? I don’t know! There are not many bands that can do as well, when we had the type of success that we had… But you never know, man! I mean, in our minds we’re always hungry, we’re always wanting to do better and we’re always proud of what we do.

Okay, but for example, let’s take the previous album or the last EP, do you think that they were as good as the first albums were?

This new EP and the album Thickskin for that matter, I think I would put up against any Skid Row record. The last album Revolutions Per Minute was purely experimental. At some point in every band’s career, I think they should do an experimental album, just don’t put any rules around yourself, and see what happens! No matter people liked it or hated it, we did it. And we had conviction about doing it and there was nothing we were not proud of, you know? We got it out of our system and I think sometimes when you do that, it does clear the path to find your roots again.

« Some people just don’t accept change and if it takes them fourteen years… Honestly if they don’t get it after fourteen years, it’s their loss! »

John (Solinger, singer) has been in the band for almost fourteen years, which is basically a longer than Sebastian Bach, and still some people don’t see him as the real lead singer of the band. Isn’t Johnny suffering from that situation?

At this point, he’s been in the band twice as long… No, it doesn’t affect him, we go out to prove ourselves every night, you know? Like I said, some people just don’t accept change and if it takes them fourteen years… Honestly if they don’t get it after fourteen years, it’s their loss! There’s plenty of Rock’n’Roll to go around for everyone.

Yes, but it’s a situation we can find a lot in hard rock and metal. People seem to be really obsessed by the original line-up. For example, some people think Kiss is not Kiss anymore since Ace (Frehley) and Peter (Criss) left the band or people that don’t listen to AC/DC anymore since Bon Scott is dead… Why do you think hard rock and metal fans are so obsessed about that?

You know what? I don’t know! It’s so funny that you say all that because I hear it all the time but it depends on the region you’re into. I think in UK and Europe, I see it for a fact that people are way more accepting the change than in America. We tour America all the time; we have a great time playing all sizes crowds… Sometimes people just get too locked into the original line-up. Like someone that wouldn’t listen to Back In Black because Bon Scott is not on there is sinful to me. Or not listening to one of the Maiden records because Paul Di’Anno is not on there. It’s sinful. And people just need to open their minds a little bit more, because I have listened to Deep Purple since I was a kid, and Black Sabbath, and there have been so many singers in both bands! Or in Rainbow! There have been so many singers… And if I had just said “OK, I’m only listening to this”, this way I would have missed out a lot of great music!

We had Sebastian Bach in an interview a few weeks ago, and he said, something that was funny actually: since he’s tired of getting asked the same thing over and over again, he said that he’d like to do just one or two shows with Skid Row, in order to make everyone shut up once and for all about that. So, what do you think of that?

You know, we’re happy doing what we do, I’m sick of getting the question and I’m sure that he is too. But you know, I’m not here to talk about him but to talk about new record, that’s where I’m at!

Last year, Sebastian Bach told us about a possibility of Skid Row reunion, and he told us that four out of five members were ready and there was only one guy who wasn’t. Was that true?

No, it wasn’t. Not by any means.

Is it important for you to make people understand that past is the past, and that there won’t be any reformation of any kind with Sebastian Bach?

It is not important to me at all, it’s not what I think about, what I think about is the here and now. And we’re going on tour, we’re putting out three EPs, and we’re very excited about that.

To close the subject, he also told us that his album sounds more like original Skid Row than the new Skid Row sounds, so what do you think of that?

I wouldn’t know, I don’t listen to his music. (Laughs)

Do you have a tour planned in Europe or in France, because we haven’t seen you for a long time in France?

Yeah, we’re hoping, we’re putting something together for later in the year and we hope to announce it very soon!

Interview conducted by phone on May 28th, 2013 by Metal’O Phil
Introduction: Spaceman
Transcription: Amphisbaena

Skid Row’s official website: skidrow.com

EP United Woorld Rebellion Chapter One out since May 24th, 2013 via Megaforce / UDR Music

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