Metal Edge, October 1991
A smash success in their first ride around the rock block, the Youth Gone Wild of Skid Row take a harder, more balls to the wall turn on Slave to the Grind with exhilarating results. Sophomore slump? Not this band. This record will be crankin’ up everywhere this summer as Sebastian Bach, Rachel Bolan, Dave “Snake” Sabo, Scotti Hill, and Rob Affuso tour with Guns N’ Roses. Metal Edge talked to Bas at the band’s management office (where he played us six killer tracks) and spoke to Rachel and Snake on the phone as they began rehearsing for the road.
Sebastian Bach: I’m gonna spare you the usual, “We’ve really matured as people and we’ve really grown up, the songwriting is so much more mature crap. The day I become mature is the day I get out of what I am doing because there’s no room for maturity in this business. The Heavy Metal 101 Rock Interview, second record; “We’ve really grown up, we bonded together on the road. We got so much better.”’ We have not. If anything, we’ve digressed. If people thought we were 19 on the last record, we’re pushing eight or nine on this one.
Rachel Bolan: We definitely haven’t matured at al. Our songs might have matured, but as people we definitely haven’t. I’m buying more video games for my Sega than ever.
Dave “Snake Sabo: I don’t know if it’s maturity, but the songwriting has taken a different direction, tackled different subjects. We looked at things from a different perspective.
How else would you compare the two albums?
Bolan: It’s a little bit heavier, a little bit drier, and as far as songwriting, the band was more involved. On the first record, Snake and I wrote everything before we even met half of these guys. I’m really happy with the way the stuff turned out. There’s some pretty weird stuff on this record.
Bach: “Monkey Business” is like a kick in the teeth, lots of screams. “Quicksand Jesus” shows it’s possible to have ballads that aren’t about breaking your fingernail. There are no commercial midtempo rock songs. Anybody that calls this a pop metal record, I’m gonna jam my boot up their ass. This is not pop metal, it’s heavy fuckin’ metal. I think all these themes of ballads like lost love or broken hearts is really tired. “I Remember You” is just about as sweet as they come, and I love singing like that, don’t get me wrong. But I have no desire to rehash it again.
Sabo: I think the music is a lot more aggressive. When we did the first record that was what we wanted to do at that time. It’s three years later now. In no way would we have been able to make Slave to the Grind as our first record ‘cause we weren’t there yet. Our first record was born out of where we were at that particular time in our lives. We hadn’t done anything except play clubs and write songs. I was 23 when we recorded the first record. Now I’m 26. The second record is a natural progression. We wanted to stretch out a little more. It’s just the place where we are at this point. Who’s to say where it’s gonna go or what the songs two or three years from now are gonna be like>
Was recording easier the second time around?
Bach: Yeah, I always had studio experience, though. When I was younger I did beer commercials. The quicker you’d do them, the more in demand you were, so I’d try to be real quick. The production is very raw. We wanted the most energy we could get. Making a record is like every emotion you can think of. It’s a challenge. I really look forward to making records. I don’t think of it as work. The studio and the road. I like them about equal because both are challenging. I don’t have any special techniques. I go in there on time, do the song, and get the fuck out. And I have fun doing it. I did five songs in Florida, then I sang for a few days in L.A. I practice like six hours a day. I just scream. It’s like a muscle. The more you work out the stronger it gets. I can scream a lot higher and louder. I didn’t do a lot of partying when I was making the record. I didn’t go absolutely crazy until the mix. [Producer] Michae Wagener kept saying, “Don’t worry, you can party for a year when it’s done.” If you can’t keep it together when you’re making the record, you’re fucked.
Did you like recording in Ft. Lauderdale?
Bach: I had a great time. The weather was perfect. I worked out at the gym every day.
Bolan: The store owners were pissed because the kids were starting to paint on the walls and the windows, lots of graffiti. New River was cool. It was out of the way but not too far from where we were staying, and ten minutes from the beach. It was very comfortable. We went in to make the loudest record we could. After doing my bass tracks my ears were ringing for days. I thought the pressure would be at an all-time high because it’s our second record and we only had a certain amount of time to get it out. But it was a lot more relaxed this time for some reason. We just felt so comfortable there. We went in and we did it.
Spring break was going on, weren’t there distractions?
Bolan: No, except when a cool band would be playing at the Button South and you’d go out till six in the morning and have to get up at ten. I saw Lynch Mob, and some cool local bands, almost every one of them covered “Piece of Me.”
Did the songwriting come easily this time?
Sabo: “Quicksand Jesus,” that one took so long to write, it was a labor of love. There was a lot of disagreeing between me and Rachel on that one. I had the opening riff and he came up with some pretty wild lyrics, and we started figuring out melody lines, but I wasn’t copping the right vibe for it. He had a picture of what it was going to be like but I couldn’t see it. I really couldn’t contribute and I felt bad for Rachel because he ally frustrated. But he had a definite version of the song. We sat there in his room in complete silence for eight hours. I’ pretty, but that’s the was me and Rachel always work. But it drives Bas nuts. With Bas, it’s more of a spur of the moment thing. He’s got this endless stream, and when it does reach and end, that’s it for the day. With Rachel, we can sit there and work on a song for 13, 14 hours. We worked on “Chain Gang” from noon till two in the morning and finished 1/3 of the song.
In comparison, were any songs finished quickly?
Sabo: “Get the Fuck Out,” Rachel wrote a set of lyrics and all of a sudden I came up with the riff. 99% of it was done in like an hour, right before went to Australia. We finished it during a sound check and played it there. That doesn’t happen too often with us. I have a lot of envy and admiration for people who can just spit out songs, like Prince. But Metallica, I was talking to Lars and he’s like, “We write the stuff for the record and then we’re done.” We kind of work the same fashion. We complete ideas over the course of touring, maybe write a couple of things on the road but 99% of it is when we get home and start writing. We always seem to come up with two to four songs at the last minute. On the last record we wrote “Here I Am” and “Big Guns” two weeks before we went into the studio. This time we did “Quicksand Jesus,” “Threat,” “Riot Act,” and “In a Darkened Room”. I’m really proud that we were able to do that. We were writing with Bas a lot this year. He had an awful lot to contribute and not only in the songwriting department. Weather Bas writes a song or not he always makes it his own. All of us would argue a lot at rehearsals it was a totally conscious effort not to make anything sound like the first record. We had a definite idea of what we wanted to do. We wanted people to listen to this record and be physically tired. It beats the shit out of you – that’s what we wanted. A lot of it comes from touring and seeing how we got off on certain songs we were playing and how the people got off on them.
Bach: I wrote “Waster Time.” I brought the lyrics and the melody to the band. “Mudkicker” with Scotti and Rachel. “Slave to the Grind” I sang the riff and Rachel came up with the lyrics.
Rachel, how do you come up with lyrics? Do you agonize over them or do they come easily to you?
Bolan: Both. The lyrics to “Monkey Business” kind of popped out of my mouth. I was thinking about wannabes and people who jump on bandwagons, that’s pretty much what the song is about. This song I wrote most of the lyrics; others Sanke and I did, like “The Threat.” We’ll explain to each other what we’re trying to get across and we’ll go from there. “Psycho Love,” I saw a piece on the news about this hooker who was killing these dudes to steal their money. She put sleeping powder in their drinks and sometimes it would stall their hearts and kill them. I wrote about it but took it one step further, and she waited until they were dead to have sex with them. I went the horror movie route. “Quicksand Jesus,” that song, I think out of the whole record I am really close to. At the time the war was going on and I was going, “How can people have faith in God? But if they don’t they’re fucked, they gotta have faith in something to get through all this.” That’s pretty much what it’s about.
Bach: Rachel has a really colorful was of writing lyrics. “Monkey Business,” he wrote that about poseurs, trying to be in funk-rock bands because it’s the new bandwagon to jump on. But to me it is about heroin. You can interpret it any way you want. “Wasted Time” is about heroin addiction how fucked up it is. I’ve seen that drug destroy quite a few people. That was really from my heart. But Rachel and Snake know what I do the best. “The Threat”: “I’ve been convicted without reason, tarred and feathered like a piper on a killing spree” – that’s just me, it’s great. “Mudkicker” is about this landlady I had who said this neighbor I had was living like an animal having parties every night, painting the walls with demons – total shit. I hate being reprimanded for something I didn’t do. It goes, “I ain’t the child of your disgrace, quit kicking sand in my face… we stand accused but you lie, varicose-veined finger with a prejudiced evil in mind, the young get stronger, free, living fast, but you‘re a sapsucker, you ain’t gonna last.” “Quicksand Jesus” is about trying to not lose faith when the world is so fucked up.
Which is your favorite?
Bach: “Slave to the Grind.” “Monkey Business” is a close second, but I love every single song or it wouldn’t be on there. “Creepshow,” I really like a lot. It’s about late afternoon TV, Angela Bowie going on Geraldo and talking about how she caught Mick Jagger blowing her husband.
Have you written with anyone outside the band?
Bolan: I did some stuff with Alice Cooper but it’s not on his record. I will be doing some writing with Taime Down. We couldn’t get together before I left L.A. So we’re going to try to do it through the mail. I’m still working with the Flu, they’re looking for a new dinger, so if there are any punk singers out there looking for a gig they should get in touch with my office. They’re going crazy. I know the feeling – we looked for nine months.
Sabo: Every so often I’ll be watching MTV and think, “I’d love to write with that person.” I’d love to write something with the guys from Guns. I’d like to write with anybody who could make me better as a songwriter, teach me new things. I have an insatiable thirst for more input, to get new ideas, to be more well-rounded.
Since the songs are pretty heavy, you may have some resistance at radio.
Bolan: We really don’t care. We didn’t make it with the intention of getting on the radio. We didn’t care on the first one. It just happened.
Bach: I hope we’re not on the radio. I’d rather play my music for people who dig it. We didn’t think of AM radio when we made this record. If you do, you lose sight of why you got in this. The big house, the platinum all over the walls, that’s all superficial stuff. I love that shit, but you get bored of it real quick. I’ve rebelled against what I strove for because if you’re complacent you lose the fire. That’s what it says on Japanese right on my arm, fire.
You’re touring with Guns N’ Roses, great bill.
Bach: We’re confirmed for the first leg. About 2 ½ months. We’re doing six nights at the L.A. Forum at the end.
Sabo: I want to go out and raise as much hell as possible. It’s going to be mayhem, no doubt about it, because the music dictates it. You can’t play songs like “Slave to the Grind” sitting on a barstool.
Bolan: It’s going to be crazy – the Guns and Skid Row together. I’m sure lots of people thought it would never happen. Like a fire in a weapons factory. They’re giving us full lights and full P.A. We’re gonna do 45, 50 minutes.
What’s on the set?
Bolan: Of the new stuff, we’ll do “Monkey Business” for sure, probably “The Threat.” People are familiar with “Get the Fuck Out.” If they didn’t see it live they probably have a bootleg. I can’t wait to do “Quicksand Jesus” live.
But you’ll still do “I Remember You.”
Sabo: Sure. We’ve always been a band with different sides. We don’t want to play all new stuff and have people sitting there going “duh,” the new stuff we’re doing is very energetic so if they don’t know it they’ll still get off on the vibe.
Bach: We’ll give them a lot more than they came for.
I hear you may tour with Metallica after GN’R.
Bolan: Could be. We’d love to make it happen. We’ll be out with Guns for a few months, then we’ll go to Japan, Europe around August, but it’s all tentative. Then we’ll hopefully come back and headline the States if everything goes well. If not, we’ll open. We’re not in any big rush to headline because it is only our second record and we don’t want to jump the gun. But if we can headline we’re not going to complain about it!
Sabo: If we get the chance to tour with Metallica we’d jump at it. I hug out with Lars in L.A. and we went to Vegas and had a blast. I love that guy.
You’ve led charmed lives as far as touring goes – Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, GN’R. How much of a factor is the lucky break in success? Often, given two bands with equal talent, the one with the right breaks makes it and the less lucky one disappears.
Sabo: I think the only thing you can do is live every day like it’s you last, make everything happen that you possibly can on your end and other people’s ends, too. You can’t compromise. The band has to have their own law and you gotta fight for it. Right or wrong, at least you did it on your own terms. I’d rather be able to blame us for something than someone else. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of luck involved, but luck doesn’t happen if there aren’t the goods underneath it all. It’s a very fickle business. People’s perceptions and likes and dislikes are ever changing. You can’t try to be the flavor of the month. You gotta be yourselves. Don’t follow trends, set them. Your belief has gotta be 100%, through and through.
What goals will be set now?
Sabo: One thing is for the band to last forever and to make the best music we know how. I always set goals that are a bit out of reach so I can keep striving for them. I’m always going forward. I want to keep getting better at being able to express what I have inside. As a guitar player I want to keep progressing. I always practice, have to have a guitar nearby.
Bach: To wake up tomorrow and be better than I was today.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
Bach: Realize my influence. Had no idea, now I know when I say something, people do it, and that’s heavy. I’m not going to change my behavior. I just ain’t gonna talk about it, that’s the difference.
What’s the status on the bottle incident. Is it resolved?
Bach: Yeah. I still haven’t talked to her and I’d still love to. I paid the guy that threw the bottle at my head that I kicked in the head $30,000. Another example of our justice system. It’s like the whole Rodney King thing. It used to be innocent until proven guilty. But hey, I’m so fuckin’ happy to being doing this. Each year I’m gonna play harder, sing better, and just get more fuckin’ insane. The key to it is focusing on what’s more important to you. Music and family are important to me. My son is important to me.
Okay, Bas, can you explain why you haven’t publicly acknowledged your son Paris Francis’ existence until now?
Bach: I was told, “You can’t tell anybody you have a son. People will think you’re the Mr. Rogers of rock.” I go, “Are you serious?” So I had to live a lie. It would tear me in half. Now I see all the bullshit and the façade of the music industry that treats listeners like cattle, insults their intelligence. I can make my own decisions and I’m not gonna hide something that I’m so proud of. I had my son on the road and I had to have him go in another entrance to the hotel to avoid people seeing me with him. I got in some serious fights with some people about that. I hate that, trying to put one over on the public. I’m not gonna be some fake guy – this is me. I play music and I have a son.
So what can you tell us about him?
Bach: He’s 3, he was born on April 4, 1988. He plays drums, he digs the drums. I hope to get him to come sing “Youth Gone Wild” with me on a couple of dates. He always says, “Let me hear that song ‘Wasted Time.’” I remember that night we played Baltimore, April 3, it was my birthday and Maria went into labor. I flew up to Toronto and he was there.
Do you want more kids?
Bach: Not right now, it’s too crazy. I feel bad enough about being away now. I think you have a responsibility when you have you have a child. People say kids can’t have kids, but I did. I love him, I love the music, and you can do both.
Any plans to marry Maria?
Bach: No, she’d like to but I’m too young, I’m 23. But when I do I’m not gonna hide it from everybody and live a lie.
Would you want Paris to be a musician?
Bach: I don’t care. I just want him to be happy. He can do whatever he wants to do, be an accountant and I’ll back him 100%. Life is too short to live somebody else’s life. People freak out when their kids say they want to be in bands. I remember what that’s like. Initially my parents freaked out. But then they backed me.
Your dad designed the album cover.
Bach: Yeah. Now he goes, “Can I get some tickets?”
Your first record was very successful. Does it matter to you if this one tops it?
Bach: I hope it doesn’t. I just hope it does good enough that we can make another one. We made a record that makes me want to break shit and that’s exactly why I got in this business. There’s nothing on this record that all five of us don’t believe in 100%. I wanted a record that I could thrash things to, and that’s what we got.