In the late 80’s/early 90’s, when Skid Row was dominating the charts and touring the world with Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, and Pantera, many fans wished they could get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the debauchery and mayhem that goes on during a big rock tour.
Well, they can finally stop wishing, as Sebastian Bach is about to provide that glimpse. Skid Row’s energetic former frontman is set to release his memoir, 18 and Life on Skid Row, on June 28.
Filled with tales from the singer’s career and private life, the book is also crammed with never-before-seen photos from Bach’s personal collection.
The memoir details Bach’s ascent to rock superstardom at an early age while fronting Skid Row during metal’s commercial zenith, and follows his sojourn into performing in Broadway musicals and acting on the hit TV series The Gilmore Girls.
Though he grew up in The Bahamas and Canada, Bach became one of New Jersey’s favorite adopted son’s during Skid Row’s heyday. Yet after his Garden State home was condemned following massive flooding from Hurricane Irene, Bach moved out to California, where he currently resides. He reports that the sunny West Coast weather is good for his mood.
To prepare for the release of his book, Bach has embarked on a lengthy U.S. tour, which sees him testing out a different format for his set. Bach begins each show with a set of acoustic tunes, then returns to the stage to unleash a barrage of full-on rock favorites.
I caught up with Bach via phone during one of his off-days on the road. The frontman discussed why he’s no longer singing at sound checks, the reason he’s turning his music down recently, and his desire to showcase his vocals on this tour. He also shed some light on the upcoming memoir.
How’s the tour going so far?
It couldn’t be better. I’ve arranged the songs in such a way that I can sing the songs more easily, and we can sing more of them. Basically, for the past 30 years, we’ve had this routine where I show up at the venue at like 4 or 5 in the afternoon and play about five songs for nobody, so the sound guy can get the equipment right. And I always said to myself, “What the fuck am I doing this for?” It doesn’t seem to make any sense. If I’m singing, someone should be there to witness it. It’s also too hard on the voice to do that. I’m doing 30 shows in America. To show up in the middle of the afternoon and do a mini-show for nobody doesn’t help me have a better show at 10 o’clock that night. So, I’m basically going out there and warming up in front of the fans during the first few songs of the acoustic set.
Also, I went to the doctor to get my ears checked, as everybody should. If you don’t take care of your ears, there’s not much rock and roll to be had. My doctor said, “Sebastian, your ears are fine right now, but if you don’t start turning it down, 10 years from now, you’re going to wish that you did.” And when he told me that, I was like, “Oh my god.” I’ve been playing metal my whole life, since I was 13. So, I don’t crank my iPod anymore when I go running. I don’t crank my music like I used to. I don’t want to hear someone say someday, “We’re replacing you with Axl Rose for the remaining ten dates.” (Laughs)
Since I’ve turned music down, I hear more in the music. I’m hearing stuff in songs that I didn’t hear before when I was listening at a billion decibels. That also goes into why I’m doing mellower tunes in the beginning of the show, and warming up to the real heavier stuff.
Basically, my show now is all about singing, more about the vocals, then in the past. Because in the past, I was this really angry guy who wanted to kick everyone’s ass, but I don’t feel like that right now. I’m not going to pretend to be some 21-year-old angry dude when I’m not. It’s not what I’m feeling right now. I’m married, I’m a happy guy. I love to sing. When I was on Broadway, I always used to wish I could sing like that in a rock and roll show, because on Broadway the focus is on the singing. And that’s what we’re doing now. We’re coming out and doing five or six warm-up tunes, then we come back and do all fucking rock, and people are loving it.
Does it put more pressure on you to sound your best, because there is greater focus on your vocals?
No. I know that would make sense, but it’s exactly the opposite. When I got locked into that set I did for decades, opening with “Slave to the Grind” — that’s one of the angriest, most energetic tunes ever. It’s more pressure on me to put myself in that head space. I used to drink so much coffee in an effort to get up for that song. I’d be out of breath for the next tune. It’s not the way to start a show. We still do “Slave to the Grind,” but we don’t come out of the gate with it. By the time we do it, I’m so fucking ready for it. It’s made for me so much less pressure, because I don’t feel like I still have to be that same guy from 1991. Now I like to come onstage more cool, calm and collected. It’s very pleasurable for me to do it this way, and it’s fun.
The big news with you is your book that’s coming out soon. The book has been described as “lurid tales of excess and debauchery,” which sounds pretty intriguing. What was your goal in writing the memoir?
My number one goal was to make it interesting to read. I’ve read every rock bio there is, and some are really well-written and some are hilariously bad. First and foremost, I wanted it to be interesting. I wanted to make it impactful to read. The publisher loves my writing, which is really cool. And there’s just a shitload of pictures.
So, fans can look forward to reading stories from the road, and all that good stuff? You toured with some amazing bands from that era.
Yeah, I cover all the tours, except I realized after I turned the book in, for some reason I forgot the fucking Van Halen tour. Skid Row opened up the entire Balance tour in 1995, and you know it’s a rock and roll book when you forgot a tour with Van Halen! I was like, “How the fuck can I forget that?” (Laughs)
I would say the book is not really a “tell all,” but a “tell some.” I don’t tell the most decadent stuff that I could have. If I were to tell all the stuff that really happened, it would be like a porno book; it wouldn’t even be about music. I didn’t put everything in there, but I did put a lot in there.
What was it like going through some of those old photos? I’m sure the fans will love to see some of that stuff.
What you’ll see is stuff that is mine, because you have to pay this outrageous amount of money for every picture [from other sources]. There’s a part in the book where I talk about us debuting at number one on the Billboard chart, and I wanted to get a picture of the chart, but Billboard wanted $3,000 for the picture. So, no chart! (Laughs)
What is in there are my photos—stuff that I took myself, and pictures that my dad took. He was an art teacher and used to take really artistic photos of me. There’s a lot of pictures that capture when I was a really little kid in the 1970’s. Then there are lots of Skid Row pictures that I took that go along with the stories.
How do you think your former Skid Row bandmates will react to the book?
This is the first Skid Row book, there’s no other that exists, so it’s interesting because of that. My purpose is not to put anybody down or hurt anybody or anything like that. All I can say is, if they like my book, great. And if they don’t, they can write their own book. There’s nothing really mean that I can think of in there, because I don’t have any animosity towards any other guys in Skid Row right now.
Are you still in contact with any of them at this point?
No. I’m in contact with my manager, Rick Sales, and he handles the business and anything to do with them goes through him. I’m not in contact with them right now.
How difficult is it to share personal stories about yourself? Was there any part of the memoir that was difficult to write?
Yeah, there’s a lot of heart in there. To sum up the book, I would say that the theme of it is that rock stars are also human beings too. Some of the difficult stories that I tell are of my heroes that didn’t act in a way that I would expect my hero to act. And also me maybe being your hero, when you read the book, maybe there’s something about me that is more human than you all know.
You’ve been living in California for several years now. Do you ever miss New Jersey?
I miss my kids, that’s for sure. That’s very hard to deal with. I love New Jersey, but there’s something about the weather, when you’re inside for so many months, I get really fucking seasonal affective disorder sad. It’s kind of a cliché, but it’s tough to be sad in California when every day is 75 degrees and sunny. The world can get you down, but you can just go outside and it’s just beautiful. I also feel like it’s a little bit of a healthier, more fitness-oriented lifestyle out there for me.
But I have incredibly great memories of New Jersey, and my memories are so great, that it’s hard for me to even be there now, because my life there doesn’t exist anymore because of that hurricane. I don’t have that life anymore, but my memories will always remain.
Sebastian Bach will perform at BB King Blues Club in New York City on May 18, Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia on May 19, and Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on May 20. Bach’s memoir, 18 And Life on Skid Row, will be published on June 28 by Harper Collins. For more information, go to sebastianbach.com.