The last time that I interviewed former Skid Row singer (and the only real Skid Row singer in my mind, for that matter), Sebastian Bach, it was 2011 and he was just releasing his last solo CD, Kicking And Screaming, which was an amazing rock album. Since that time, I had the opportunity to guitar tech for Bas and hang with his whole crew, when he opened a few dates for Guns N’ Roses in the area, which was an amazing experience in itself, but Bas has since relocated to the Left Coast after calling the Dirty Jerz home for many years. He also parted ways with guitarist and writing partner Nick Sterling, who at the time he spoke very highly of back then, but we know how that story goes.
Anyway, Bas is back with a brand new CD called Give ‘Em Hell, and I’m loving it! His vocals on this record really show that his voice has really stood the test of time and that he truly is one of the best singers in hard rock of all time. Just listen to the songs “Hell Inside My Head,” “All My Friends Are Dead,” “Temptation” and “Dominator.” I think you’ll get the hint. The best part of Give ‘Em Hell, though, is the lineup! Joining Sebastian on this record are guitarists John 5 from Rob Zombie, Steve Stevens from Billy Idol, and Devin Bronson from Pink and Avril Lavigne, bassist and another idol of mine Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, and longtime Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek. With a lineup like that, how can you not be excited to hear this record?
Give ‘Em Hell drops this week by way of Frontiers Records, and Sebastian Bach hits our shores live on April 24 at B.B. King Blues Club and April 25 at the Starland Ballroom. I got to catch up with Bas on the phone as he prepared to drop another new solo CD. Here’s what he had to say:
Dude! I’ve been listening to Give ‘Em Hell for the last few days religiously and you put out another killer solo record!
Well, that’s the idea (laughs). I worked really hard on that album for at least a year. It’s everything I could’ve hoped for and more. I don’t know how Bob Marlette and Tom Baker capture my voice the way they do, but I’m pretty sure this album has some of the craziest screams, highest notes that I’ve ever hit in my whole career, and that’s saying something.
Was it a no-brainer to work with Bob Marlette again after what he did with Kicking And Screaming?
Yeah! He helps me, well, like I said before, he captures the sound of my voice. I don’t know what button he’s pushing or fading or knobs or whatever it is, he just makes it sound like it can’t get any better. But also what he does is he helps me with my melody lines. Sometimes when a guy like Steve Stevens or John 5 or Duff McKagan gives me a song, sometimes the melody line comes to me really quick, but other times, I don’t know because of my voice, it has such a range to it. Sometimes, I don’t know whether to sing it super low and cool or super high and clean or really dirty in the middle. I can sing it in so many different ways. So, Bob helps me out with figuring out which part of my voice to use a lot of the time.
Like I said, I’ve been listening to Give ‘Em Hell for the last few days and I felt that you might’ve taken a different approach with this record in that it’s more laid back and more groove-oriented than Kicking And Screaming, but your voice is still Sebastian Bach. Did you purposely make this record a little bit more laid back?
You’re the first journalist to say that? Most journalists have told me that it’s a heavier record than Kicking And Screaming. I’m the guy who makes all of my records. So, I don’t really care (laughs) if one person thinks it’s heavier and the next person that I talk to thinks it’s more laid back. That has more to do with you than me, really.
You know, as a musician yourself, making music is like magic. You go into a room with absolutely nothing and after a couple months or however long it takes, the object is to come out of there with 12 brand new songs that nobody’s ever heard that is just as good as anything you ever did that you want to put your name on and want to do interviews about every day, all day, and go on the road and support it. It’s like, how do you get to the point when you know your album’s done? For me, it’s like when I want to run up to people and grab them by the collar and say, “Fuck! You gotta fuckin’ hear this! This is fuckin’ insane!” That’s how I know I’m done. And I love playing Give ‘Em Hell for people. They can’t believe it. They’re like, “This is a brand new record?” Some people told me it just sounds like a classic record, which is a great thing to say.
I love the fact that you have John 5, Steve Stevens, Duff McKagan and Devin Bronson playing on this record with you, but what happens when you hit the road? Because obviously these guys won’t be able to go on the road with you…
I’m playing Starland Ballroom and B.B. King’s in New York City in April, and I will have Will Hunt on drums from Evanescence, I’ll have Devin Bronson on guitar. He’s on most of Give ‘Em Hell. He was introduced to me by Duff McKagan who hooked us up together, and then Johnny Chromatic and Rob DeLuca on bass, who I’ve played with many times on the East Coast. It’s just the nature of touring these days. It’s hard to keep five guys together year in and year out.
My drummer, Bobby Jarzombek, who plays on Give ‘Em Hell, is my drummer for many years, but I have to share him with Fates Warning (laughs). But I always wanted to play with Will Hunt, who is just incredible, and we just shot three brand new videos. The first one is “Temptation,” and Duff McKagan is in the video, Will Hunt and Devin. Then we shot “All My Friends Are Dead” and Duff’s in that too. Then a lyric video for “Taking Back Tomorrow,” but we’re still playing in the video. I’m lucky that I can just call up guys like Will Hunt and say, “Hey, I need you,” and he’s like, “Yeah, no problem.” That’s fuckin’ awesome! I play with the best in the business. There’s just a lot of rock ‘n’ roll sharing going on.
Now, there’s some amazing guitar work on “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Push Away.” Will another guitarist be able to just come in and pull that stuff off live?
I’m not one of those musicians who goes, “Oh, you can’t do this in the studio because you’ll never be able to do it live.” I look at the studio as a different art than live. The studio, to me, is more about mental creativity, and being on the road and playing live is about physically surviving it (laughs). That’s the way it feels to me. The studio is about your mind and the road is about your body, physical. Maybe that’s just the way I approach what I do. That’s the way it feels to me. So, some musicians will say, “Oh, you’re doing it on your record, you’ll never be able to do that live.” I don’t really give a shit. I just want to make a great album. I don’t care. Like fuckin’ Def Leppard Pyromania, they take a “t” from one take and “h” from another and an “e” from another and it spells “The” (laughs). I look at making an album and live totally different.
Someone once asked The Edge about his guitar style and they asked, “Why do you use so much effects?” He goes, “That’s part of my sound. I love that! I play with the effects and I make the sounds with that.” The only limit in the studio to my sound is my imagination and whatever I dream up in my crazy head is what I want to hear come out of those speakers.
That being said, I felt that your lyrics on songs like “Temptation,” “Hell Inside My Head” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is A Vicious Game” were a little bit darker on this record.
That’s cool. That’s cool. I took a little bit of a different approach lyrically on this record. Like in Skid Row, especially, we would look at the lyrics like a different fuckin’ thing almost than the song, like make it a story or make it some incredible rhyme about some… Well, who knows what we were talking about in “Monkey Business,” but it sounded great (laughs).
But I was really under a deadline for Give ‘Em Hell. This was a 12-song album, so there was a lot to do. It wasn’t an EP or a single. Sometimes it would be my turn to go into the studio and sing and I would tell Bob Marlette, “I’m not finished, I’m not done, I’m not done with the words. I can’t come in.” And he would go, “Fuck that shit! Come the fuck in here!” Then I would yell, “But I’m not finished. I’m not done!” And he would go, “Just show up!” And I would go, “Okay! I’ll see you there.” Then I would see stuff about how the Rolling Stones would make records and a lot of it was just jamming in the studio figuring out riffs.
On some of the lyrics for Give ‘Em Hell were me just going up to the mic and not thinking about it, and fitting vowels or consonants or whatever with my mouth without thinking about it and then listening to it and then writing lyrics to that. That’s like the first time that I’ve really done that. And I think it’s cool because when I go back and listen to it, it all really makes sense. It really fits together, but then again, there’s a song like “Push Away,” where when I fall in love or I like something, sometimes it’s over the top, and I’m in love with this girl Minnie [Gupta] for three years now and sometimes she tells me that I love her so much that I push her away, and I was like, “Fuck that! That is fuckin’ crazy!”
So, I wrote this poem to her called “Push Away,” but I didn’t know… First of all, that sounds so ridiculous that I wrote a poem, but it’s true though. I just wrote some words trying to explain to her what the fuck goes on in my head and I didn’t even really think I was writing a song. I wrote that to her, and then I was listening to Steve Stevens’ music that he sent and I thought that this may fit. And it ended up being maybe the coolest lyrics on the record. It’s very theatrical and fuckin’ scary and spooky. There’s a lyric that says, “When I push you away, is when I need you the most.” That’s kind of a fucked up scene (laughs).
Is there a favorite song on Give ‘Em Hell?
When you ask that, one thing I gotta say is that I’m a real metalhead at heart. There’s this song on the record, “Gun To A Knife Fight,” the verses in the song, it’s a tune that Steve Stevens sent me, and I had all the nice parts of that song for many months. There’s two kinds of vocal sections of that song. I had all of the harmonic, gritty singing in that song from the first time that I heard it, but I couldn’t think of anything that was as heavy singing-wise that can fit over the verse riff for like a fuckin’ year! (Laughs) I just kept listening to it on my phone while I went running.
This is a perfect example at how Bob Marlette helped me. I found out the only way to match up with the coolness of that verse was to scream at the top of my lungs and as mean as I could like Brian Johnson of AC/DC-style, which is just over the top. Nothing pretty, but nice and it worked with that riff. “All right! I drink like I got something to prove and I fight like I got nothing left to lose!” I go, “Okay! That is fuckin’ heavy!” And now when I listen back to that part, the metalhead in me just laughs every time I listen to it because it’s cool and heavy and everything that I liked about the album Fair Warning from Van Halen, just cool and heavy music. I think I did it on that one. That’s not to say that’s my favorite song on the record, but that verse is as metal and cool as I’ve ever been. I also have to mention that if you were a fan of Steve Stevens in Billy Idol in his whole career, that song “Gun To A Knife Fight” is without a doubt the heaviest Steve Stevens song I’ve ever heard, unless there’s something I’m missing.
As you said before, you’ll be coming home to play B.B. King’s on April 24 and Starland Ballroom on April 25. Even though you’ve relocated to the West Coast, does it feel good to come home?
Does it feel good? It feels emotional and if you’re a singer, emotional is good. I can guarantee an emotional vocal performance when I’m in New Jersey for sure. It reminds me of my hometown where I was a little boy growing up, Peterborough, Canada, but after my dad died, it’s painful for me to go there because I have so many memories of every building and every street and everything about the town. Well, I have even more memories about New Jersey. It’s emotional for me and it’s difficult. I lost my home of 20 years, I’m still dealing with all of that and I’m not the only one. If anyone reading The Aquarian Weekly magazine lost their shit in the hurricane, I will sing for you personally in New Jersey and New York. You can come and listen to me and you can relate to this guy on the stage that night for sure.
The last time we spoke, you had just suffered this loss from Hurricane Irene. You lost a lot of valuable memorabilia. Were you able to recoup any of that stuff that you lost?
All of the stuff that was worth the most, I still have, but I had every fucking Skid Row magazine that there ever was. I had a whole room in the basement that was nothing but Skid Row magazines. I mean, from all over the world—Japan, Europe, Brazil and the United States. Nobody had the collection of Skid Row that Sebastian Bach fuckin’ had. I had everything there was to have and I lost most of that. I lost of a lot of KISS stuff, but not the super-expensive KISS stuff because I kept all of that on the top floors, luckily, but tons of that like pinball machine and a lot of Skid Row videos that I don’t think will ever be seen again, which is a super shame because I don’t see the point in me having all of this Skid Row stuff if Skid Row doesn’t want to put it out. I don’t get it.
I still have all the master tapes from Roadkill and Oh Say Can You Scream. I’m actually looking at those boxes right now here in Beverly Hills. I have the first generation tapes of all of that stuff, but there are no plans at all to ever release it ever, and it’s almost mind-blowing to me that the video for “18 And Life,” you cannot buy it on a DVD anywhere at all. I don’t think there is any other band in the world that had success like we had that doesn’t make it available to the fans that want it. I never heard of another band that has done that, but it’s totally out of my control.
Everyone keeps asking me if I think that you’ll do Broadway again, and I know Nikki Sixx is bringing Heroin Diaries to Broadway, you would be perfect for that role.
I don’t think Nikki digs me too much (laughs). But I would do Broadway again for sure. I’ve actually been very close very recently to be doing that again, but for one reason or another, it’s not worked out, but I think it’s not a question of “if” I do it again. It’s “when,” because I’m always getting approached by Broadway productions to get involved. So, I think some time it will definitely work out.
One last question before I let you go. I have to ask you since you’re a huge KISS fan, what are your thoughts about KISS not performing with the original lineup at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony a couple of weeks ago?
I know Gene Simmons as a man and I know Ace Frehley in my life too as a man and I understand why Gene doesn’t play with Ace. I don’t think the fans realize how different those two guys are. Not even to mention Paul Stanley. He’s different than the other two (laughs). I don’t think the fans realize how different those personalities are. So, I understand why it didn’t happen. It’s a fuckin’ drag though, the whole thing because number one, rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be fun and so far, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is not fun. It’s like a big bummer! (Laughs) Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be hilarious and fun and cool and a good time and it doesn’t seem anybody is having a good time there (laughs).
Sebastian Bach releases Give ‘Em Hell this week through Frontiers Records. Catch him live at B.B. King Blues Club on April 24 and the Starland Ballroom on April 25. For more info, log onto sebastianbach.com