Voice of Legends: Sebastian Bach!
Oh jeez, really? How do you even start? It’s Sebastian Bach. As in Skid Row Sebastian Bach! As in some of the greatest ballads in rock history Sebastian Bach! It’s the guy whose music I blasted loud enough to drive the whole neighbourhood insane when I was growing up. It’s the music that was there for me and spoke to me during some tough times. After a long and successful career as frontman for Skid Row Bach went on to do a lot of things: television, Broadway and of course, a lot more music. With Skid Row Bach he was responsible for three legendary albums and as a solo artist, he’s got another three under his belt, the latest of which is the awe-inspiring Give ‘Em Hell! I realize I’m leaving out the live albums and the compilation album but we’ve only got so much space and you could write a novel about this man’s work. Give ‘Em Hell! was released in 2014, it received positive reviews and deservedly so. It featured top dog musicians like Duff McKagan, Devin Bronson, Bobby Jarzombek, and guest musicians John 5 and Steve Stevens. The amount of passion and talent which was put in this album really shows. It bursts at the seams, a truly worthy addition to the Sebastian Bach legacy.
What is amazing is Bach himself on stage, swinging the mic by its chord in a wide circle while banging his head like some kind of Nordic berserker. He never misses a step, never loses the audience’s attention, he keeps the adrenalin flowing, sends shockwaves of it through the crowd. He’s witty and charismatic and a blast to talk to. I’ve done quite a few interviews with stars by now but I’ve never laughed as hard as I did chatting with Bach. You can tell he’s in a league of his own, a part of a rock’n’roll tradition we may never really see the likes of again.
Andy (HMA): Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Congratulations on the release of your new album. It’s a real pleasure for me to be sitting here talking to you because I’ve been a fan of your music since I was thirteen.
Sebastian Bach: Yeah, thank you. Wow.
Andy (HMA): If you had told me at twelve that one day I’d be sitting across from the man himself I’d have laughed.
Sebastian Bach: Well you got a great fucking taste! [High fives me] Thank you, dude, I appreciate it.
Andy (HMA): Let’s talk about Give ‘Em Hell. I loved the album and I always feel that you commit a lot of emotion to the music you make.
Sebastian Bach: Yeah I can’t put it out until I feel it with my heart.
Andy (HMA): Tell me a bit about composing, writing the lyrics and recording the album.
Sebastian Bach: Well, y’know…. [Laughs] Some people have asked me how all my records sound the same quality-wise but I change guitar players every fucking record. Listen, there’s a method to my madness. I get the job done. If you listen to Slave to the Grind next to Give ‘Em Hell! you’re gonna hear…. If you listen to the first three Skid Row albums and then you listen to Angel Down, Kicking & Screaming and Give ‘Em Hell! those albums all fit together. I don’t think my old band can say that. I don’t think what they’ve done without me sounds the same quality as what they did with me. I am very demanding and that can be a pain in the ass but the results are all of those CDs which I just said and I refuse to put something out that is not as good as it can be. I have to fight people for that and make people mad at me all the time. People will get pissed off because I’ll miss a deadline or shoot off an angry email, all these little things that make me go ‘WHAT THE FUCK!?’ And then they go ‘This guy is an asshole!’ I’m not a fucking asshole. I want it to be the best it can be and if you don’t want to be on that page with me then you’re not going to like me but people like my drummer Bobby, we’ve been together ten years, we’ve never gotten into an argument. Duff McKagan, John 5, Steve Stevens, we all work together very well. We have a common goal. When my old band likes to say ‘He’s got a huge ego’ or something…. I don’t really think that’s accurate, I think that what they think is a good band now and what I think is a good band are two different things. So that’s all I can say.
Andy (HMA): I felt the sound was new but still carried that trademark Sebastian Bach vibe. I’m sorry if I’m making assumptions but I always think of you like a rock traditionalist. You like the distorted guitars and the hard-hitting drums, the larger-than-life vocals. You don’t go for modern pop-rock stuff. Would you say that’s true?
Sebastian Bach: Yes, I am. In a way, though I also think that ‘I Remember You’ is pop. I don’t know, maybe it isn’t…. To my ears it is. I don’t have any rules. Okay, on the new album there’s ‘Rock’n’Roll is a Vicious Game’ which is April Wine, it’s got a harmonica and shit but that’s not like super-duper heavy metal. My only rule is: I want to make music that I want to listen to. I want to make something that sounds interesting to me that I want to hear again and again, and again, and again. That’s how I know that I’m done. Like if I listen to a song and I go ‘Fuck, I gotta press play again’, that’s how I know it’s good. If I’m like ‘Big deal’ then I need to work a little harder. [Laughs]
Andy (HMA): Why did you choose Give ‘Em Hell as the title of this album?
Sebastian Bach: I will answer that. I’m a big comic book fan. To me ‘give ‘em hell’ is just something I’d see on the cover of Marvel comics like Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. ‘Get in there! Give ‘em hell!’ That’s something that a dad says to his kid before he goes out to bat: ‘Give ‘em hell, boy!’ That’s how I feel when I go out on stage. I’m going out there I’m gonna fucking give ‘em hell. When I told that to the artist who did the album cover he goes: ‘I’m just gonna put you in Hell’. I go: ‘Okay fine, it’s heavy metal’. [Laughs]
Andy (HMA): At the beginning of the All My Friends Are Dead music video there’s dedication. I found that to be very moving. Can you please tell me a bit about the emotional journey behind writing the song?
Sebastian Bach: Those people at the beginning of the video are just people I’ve lost. Those are just personal friends, not famous people or anything. Just people I really knew and the song is just a commentary of what it’s like as we get older. Life is precious, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m still alive so maybe I’m not gonna drink alcohol like I used to, maybe I’m gonna try and be healthy so I can keep doing this in my sixties like Steven Tyler or Gene Simmons.
Andy (HMA): And Temptation is another one of my favourite tracks. Is the song a nod to the old days of rock excess?
Sebastian Bach: Yes, absolutely. It’s also sex. That song is all about sex.
Andy (HMA): I noticed the very voluptuous girls you put in the music video.
Sebastian Bach: [Laughing and clapping] Chicks dig singers, man. [Laughs]
Andy (HMA): Kudos for that.
Sebastian Bach: [Laughs] I’m an old dude and I get these young Playboy Playmates [Laughs] That was funny. I like the video too; I think it came out quite well.
Andy (HMA): Oh it was very good. I had to watch it a couple of times….for research.
Sebastian Bach: [Laughs] See, what did I say? What was my one rule? You wanna watch it a couple of times. Once is not enough. It gets the fucking job done, bro! [High fives me, laughs] Gettin’ the job done! Sebastian Bach! You definitely want to watch that video more than once.
Andy (HMA): You’ve been doing a lot of interesting things. I’d like to briefly ask you about a few of them. You were Roastmaster for Corey Taylor and you were on the sixth season of Californication.
Sebastian Bach: Yeah, those are two things I did on television. Californication was an easy role; I played a dead guy so that was kind of simple. All the TV I’ve done stems from Broadway. When I did four Broadway shows…. When you do that television people are impressed. When you do Broadway you only get one shot to be good. Y’know if you mess up you can’t go ‘Hey let’s try again’. No, you do it perfectly the first fucking time. That’s what it is. To go from that to TV is fucking simple. If I mess up, I just do it again. Broadway, you have train your fucking mind to be excellent. [Laughs]
Andy (HMA): I’m glad you brought Broadway up. I think the most impressive thing for me is just that. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I think that’s a whole other level of artistic tradition! Can you share with us a little bit about that? How is it similar or different to playing a sold-out rock concert?
Sebastian Bach: Everything I ever got in my life is because of my voice. People can say that it was my looks. At the beginning with Skid Row, the pretty boy posters, know chicks love all that shit for sure but there were a lot of dudes that were pretty in 1988. That was the look. But not many guys had my set of pipes. [Laughs] So that’s the reason I’m still here, it’s not because I’m so pretty right now, it’s because my voice has a life of its own. What’s different about rock and theatre? Rock’n’roll, the object of it, is to make eye contact with every single person in the audience, to make them feel like you’re performing for them and we’re a rock community. When I used to go see Judas Priest, Rob Halford, I don’t know if he consciously did this or not, but he had this quality on stage of like welcoming all the metal throngs, and I felt like we were all brothers in fucking metal, and Halford was like…. I don’t even know if he meant to do it, he just made me feel that way so I try to do that too. I try to make everybody feel like it’s us against the world and you can come and rock out with our band, and forget about your troubles. That’s what music should be. An escape from the boring day to day bullshit of your life. So but in theatre, you can’t acknowledge any of the people. It’s the fourth wall, you’re telling a story so it’s not like I act and then go ‘Hey, let me hear you in the back!’ [Laughs] Completely different.
Andy (HMA): Do you enjoy taking the roles of different characters? Are there any you’ve turned down?
Sebastian Bach: Well I was offered a lot of roles on Broadway that I didn’t take. Like ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ that’s a kick-ass story Dr Jekyll gets the girl, Mr Hyde murders them. Like, that’s a cool plot. [Laughs] And ‘Rocky Horror’ I got to sing ‘Time Warp’ which is a really cool tune and so, that was a fun song. Then in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ that was a totally different experience which was not that much fun because the emotions that you go into are sad. It takes you to a sad place. Then I was offered to be the Dream Catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ who comes out with the chocolates and kills all these kids, right? But I couldn’t see myself going on my website and saying ‘Hey everybody, come and see me in the brand new production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. I couldn’t. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t rocking. So I don’t just take everything that people ask me to do. I pick and choose.
Andy (HMA): Well lastly, what’s the one thing about Sebastian Bach you want people to know and to remember?
Sebastian Bach: One thing to remember…. I’d just say that I gave it everything I fucking had. And I do. Everything I do I give 100%. That’s what I would want people to remember about me.
Andy (HMA): Thank you for your time, Sebastian.
Sebastian Bach: Thank you, dude. It was really nice talking to you.
Copyright 2014 © Interview with Andy Starz, Photos Alex Milazzo. Heavy Music Artwork.