© Dave Ling - December 2002 - previously published in CLASSIC ROCK magazine
It wasn’t the greeting that worried me. During the 13 years that I’ve been interviewing Sebastian Bach, there have been a variety of headlocks and bear hugs. Fortunately, today it’s just a super-firm handshake. Although in the past he’s spat huge globules of phlegm across the room to express disgust at certain subjects, and once even called to talk on a mobile phone whilst taking a piss, neither was I overly concerned about the former Skid Row frontman’s behaviour during our encounter.
My biggest reservation was how this particular conversation might conclude. Last time we spoke face-to-face, during a press tour for Skid Row’s 1995 album ‘Subhuman Race’, matters concluded prematurely after I stated the journalistic consensus that the album was considerably below par. “We’ll see who’s still doing this in ten years time,” raged Seb with a face like thunder, before booting the back of my chair, storming from the room and cancelling the rest of his interviews for the day.
That decade he referred to isn’t yet up, but thankfully we’re both still here. “What you said back then hurt so much because I considered a writer like you, who’d written a lot of our early press, to represent the British media,” confides Bach while preparing for Classic Rock’s photosession. “It was hard to take, dude.”
The Canadian had joined Skid Row after being spotted jamming at the wedding of photographer Mark Weiss, and a support spot on Bon Jovi’s ‘New Jersey’ tour gave the fledgling quintet their breakthrough.
Unfortunately, Bach’s dark side was soon revealed and he claimed to have “punched the shit out of Jon, decked him on his fat little ass” when a dispute about a contract Skid Row had signed with Bon Jovi’s Underground publishing company was leaked to the press.
Seb’s wildman credentials were further emphasised by a string of antics, some amusing and some irresponsible. He wiped his derriere on a copy of the Daily Star at Docklands Arena (his tackle flying free in the process) and incurred a lifetime ban at Wembley through playing the song ‘Get The Fuck Out’ when warned not to. Even more regrettably, however, he also wore a T-shirt embazoned with the slogan ‘Aids Kills Faggots’, and in front of MTV’s cameras threw a glass bottle back into a Massachsetts crowd after it had hit him on the head. A female 14-year-old required 125 stitches.
Finally, Skid Row’s patience snapped, and the relative failure of ‘Subhuman Race’ enabled them to dismiss Bach at the end of 1996. The last time he spoke to Classic Rock, in Issue 13, Sebastian claimed to have no idea why he’d been ‘let go’, adding ruefully: “I’ll never understand why we dropped the ball.” Now a solo artist, his 1999 album ‘Bring ‘Em Bach Alive’ has just been reissued, and Bach has a variety of projects on the go.
DL. You’re here for an appearance on the Never Mind The Buzzcocks, the BBC1 gameshow. Do you know much about British pop music?
SB. Ha ha… no. Well, Iron Maiden had a No 1 record, so that’s pop music, right?
DL. So how will you act when they inevitably take the piss, as they did to Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden?
SB. I’ve been on that show twice in America, but the American version flopped - hopefully that wasn’t my fault. I don’t know how a host on British gameshow could go after me… they’re the retarded ones for paying me $1,800 to come over for 45 minutes work. Dude, everyone says he’s gonna be horrible, but I’ll show him fuckin’ horrible! I can rewrite the fuckin’ level of horrible. I’ll give him a taste of horror.
“Someday maybe I can be as wild as Dionne fuckin’ Warwick. What fuckin’ bullshit”
DL. You recently posted an extremely touching tribute to your father, David Bierk, at your website. Which characteristics good or bad did you inherit from your parents?
SB. My dad was a painter who had shows all over the biggest galleries in New York. Elton John, Bon Jovi, Axl Rose and Gene Simmons all bought his paintings. He just let me know that nothing was impossible. My intensity, the way I talk, he made me realize that singing wasn’t a vocational choice, it was a life choice.
My only regret is that I’ve been on the road from the age of 13 to now, aged 34, and I missed out on so much family life. I never just got a bowl of popcorn, sat down with my dad and watched the TV. He told me on his deathbed, ‘Everybody in this world is too busy’. I’d say to readers of this magazine, if you’ve got somebody - whether it’s your brother, your mom or sister - just enjoy life with them for just a fuckin’ second, because I look back and God… [trails off].
DL. Since being kicked out of Skid Row in 1996 you’ve spread your wings into TV presenting and appearing in the Broadway versions of Jekyll & Hyde and The Rocky Horror Show.
SB. One of my idols, Geoff Tate [of Queensrÿche], keeps calling and asking how I got onto Broadway. The honest truth is that Broadway came to me. I never in a million years thought I’d have the braincells left to memorise the Jekyll & Hyde script. I shit you not, it’s like War And Peace. How it happened was that Jason Flom at Atlantic signed Skid Row in 1987, and Atlantic also has a theatre division. Jason called and said I had the meanest voice and the personality to do it, and believe me when I was Edward Hyde I became Edward Hyde. It was cool music, I swear, some of it’s like ‘Sad Wings Of Destiny’ [the 1976 Judas Priest album].
DL. When a woman in the first row handed you a rose, you bit the head off. Why did you do that?
SB. It was my way of saying, ‘I’m on Broadway, but I’m still Sebastian Bach’.
DL. By the time this article is printed, you will be on a year-long US tour playing the lead character in Jesus Christ Superstar.
SB. Andrew Lloyd Webber requested a stack of Skid Row CDs, and all my pictures, I swear to God. And he came back and said, ‘Hello, is Jesus Christ there?’, so he made the decision.
DL. Some might say that this is a role you’ve spent your life rehearsing for.
SB. [Sounding slightly hurt]: I must be a fucking moron. I never thought you would’ve said that, dude. Sometimes I’m so confused by other people’s perception of me.
DL. Well, they say that you’re an egomaniac.
SB. Dude, you have to be on of those to go on stage. What do you want to see, some fucking guy singing [in nerdy, apologetic voice]: ‘We are the youth gone wild’? If I didn’t have my ego I wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t think it’s misplaced though, I hope not. I wake up every day and hope I’m gonna have a great day, be the nicest guy ever. But if someone’s a dick to me, I’m gonna be a fuckin’ dick back to them.
DL. You’re an ass-kicking rock dude from the 80s that’s now playing Jesus. Could you imagine Axl or Vince Neil doing the same thing?
SB. Absolutely not, and that’s not a slight against them, Axl has already proved he can’t be on time. I love Axl Rose, but let me get this through everybody’s head: we’re talking eight shows a week for 42 weeks. That’s tough work.
“If someone’s a dick to me, I’m gonna be a fuckin’ dick back to them”
DL. Would you someday like to follow your old rival Jon Bon Jovi into the movies?
SB. I don’t differentiate ‘movies’ or ‘Broadway’, what I care about is presenting my fans with something that entertains. And if I’m entertained by it my fans will be, too. So if I got a great film role, yeah, cool.
DL. What do you think of Jon’s acting abilities? And would he work you him in an acting role if the part demanded it?
SB. I’ve never seen him really act. There was one movie where he was a pot dealer, and I saw a little bit of that, but he’s a very good actor because he doesn’t smoke pot! I did have acrimony towards Jon for years, but on my Forever Wild TV show I interviewed Tico Torres [Bon Jovi drummer], we played ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, had a brew at the bar and talked about the old days. All I was ever mad at Jon for was to let me have my own life. That was it. Please, I don’t need someone to hold my fucking hand.
“I’ve not changed my home phone number since 1989 - never make yourself too inaccessible.”
DL. We didn’t get to see your VH1 rock show Forever Wild before it was cancelled back in April. Care to tell us about it?
SB. It was kinda obscure, I got to go through the VH1 vaults and pick the videos. We had ‘You Really Got Me’ by Van Halen on the first show, and W.A.S.P.’s ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’… but it was my show!
DL. That explains why it ran for just five months.
SB. Yeah, but it was fun. I got to go to Ted Nugent’s 200-acre farm and shoot wild boar, and eat it, of course. I went car racing with Vince Neil and golfing with Tommy Lee. I was in the studio with Rob Halford while he was recording the song ‘Crucible’… waaaaaah! It was 16 episodes, which was twice as long as the [first series of] The Osbournes. Maybe a fifth of the people watched it, but it was a midnight rock show.
They offered me another show, at four in the afternoon, but they would be picking the videos and it was cheesy things like Quiet Riot, stuff to laugh at. I will not make fun of heavy metal, or patronize people.
DL. You then resurfaced on - of all things - the Learning Channel’s The New Sideshow, which was described as “a not-for-the-weak-of-heart documentary on today’s more outrageous carnival acts” that included human pincushion The Impaler. Do you do these unusual things to keep you in the public eye, or because you enjoy them?
Of course because I enjoy them… doh! Let me offer this piece of advice, I’ve not changed my home phone number since 1989. Never make yourself too inaccessible, it’s good for business when people know where you are. I wake up, press play and it’s, ‘Hey Sebastian, do you want to do this?”… next message, ‘Hey Sebastian, how about this?’
You just have to play the cards that are dealt you, it’s a very different world than it was. I’m in this to sing, so if I can get my voice heard in whatever fashion then that’s what I’ll do. Ozzy is the most famous he’s ever been, not because of his music but because of a fucking TV show. I’m not being flown over to England to sing, I’m being flown over to go on a gameshow. That is fucked. What you also have to consider is that the venues I’ll be playing Jesus Christ in are the same ones that Skid Row headlined for ‘Slave To The Grind’ tour… the Paramount in Seattle, the Fox in Atlanta. But instead of doing one show, I’m now doing eight shows in the same venue. So I’ve finally topped what I did in the past.
DL. C’mon, you must admit you’d rather be coming here to play rock music?
SB. I’ve just saw in your magazine that Alex Lifeson says no British promoter wants Rush. Hey, I’ve been asking British promoters since 1996 to come over and they just laugh! I’ve done two full American tours, 104 shows on the first tour, 90 shows on the second, a sold-out tour of Japan. I’m dying to play here, man, but the offers they give me are like… restaurants! Don’t you have to suck first? I’ve never played England and flopped - not fucking once! Thank God for the USA.
DL. You just mentioned The Osbournes. Can you imagine the footage MTV would have got if they’d followed you around in 1992?
SB. Ha ha ha, there wouldn’t have been a TV show made out of it. You couldn’t air it. But there seems to be a perception that as soon as we woke up and did drugs and drank, and that’s not true. I never did a show drunk - ever.
DL. Am I right in thinking you’ve cut out most of those antics?
SB. I hate that shit, I’ve not done a line [of coke] since 1993. I have no desire to. A part of me still has that personality when I get too sad, when my dad died I was drinking way too much, but just beer. Back in those days everybody was fucking doing it, you were the weirdo if you weren’t.
DL. You were recently involved in what was dramatically reported as “making terroristic threats” to a New Jersey bartender who refused to let you take your drink outside his club, then for having marijuana and rolling papers on you when you were arrested.
SB. I’d been shooting an episode of Forever Wild with Vince Neil, who’s always a bad influence on me; they talk about the bad boys of rock, I’m like Queen Elizabeth compared to Vince. But there’s a side of me that can get down and dirty. I was with Vince for a week down on south beach in Miami, waking up each morning and just getting ripped. When I got back to New Jersey, my chick was giving me shit on the phone because she wanted to party with Mötley Crüe. And I was like, ‘Babe, it’s my job, I get paid to party with the Crüe. This is how I feed our kids, so let me party with the Crüe, you stay home and everything’ll be fine’. And she was like, ‘Grrrrrrrrr’. So I go, ‘Fuck you, I’m not coming home’ and tell the limo driver to turn around because we’re going to Broadway.
I get a hotel suite and get VH1 to pay for it, order up fucking booze and some other things, and all my friends come over to party. I stayed there for like two days, until she called and was nice to me. It’s a two hour limo drive home and by then I’m so fuckin’ drunk, my chick gives me a little bit of shit. So I take a bunch of Molsons [beers] and walk to this bar, I never drive while drunk. I’ve been going to this bar for 12 years and all these chicks, dudes and businessmen are excited to see me, so then I’m holding court. This guy suggests we go outside and bust a joint, but the bartender says he’s gonna call the police if I take my beer - I told him to go ahead. He fucking rails me, punches me right in the fucking head and I freaked out, so I tackled him around the waist brought him into the one wall, stood on his neck and said, ‘I’ll fucking kill you, mutherfucker’. The whole bar was freaked out, but he threw the first punch. I had a couple of joints in my pocket, so I got busted for marijuana. And the next day’s headline was, ‘Sebastian Bach Busted For Drugs And Terroristic Threats’. Dionne Warwick was arrested for having seven marijuana cigarettes, and I had a joint… someday maybe I can be as wild as Dionne fuckin’ Warwick. What fuckin’ bullshit.
DL. If Skid Row came back to you - and I stress those four words - would you someday agree to rejoin them?
SB. It’d all depend on the music, that’s the only reason I joined them in the first place. But Rachel [Bolan, bass] and Snake [guitar] were the best fucking songwriters I ever fuckin’ met, and they just don’t do it anymore. Anyone can go on the internet and find out what happened between me and the guys, just download the Ozone Monday record [make with singer Sawn McCabe]. That was supposed to be the fourth Skid Row record. The reason I’m not singing on it is that it fucking sucks! I mean, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Ozone Monday? Well [chuckles maliciously]…
“Kids think that music is free. My 14-year-old son downloads Arch Enemy and Cradle of Filth songs and I’m the asshole dad who says, ‘Bands worked really hard on those’”
DL. Do you even have any interest in hearing ‘Thick Is The Skin’, the album they’ve made with your replacement, Johnny Sollinger?
SB. No. But what fucking year will it come out. Those guys have been saying, ‘We got a whole album done’. Well, let’s fuckin’ hear it. I’m giving you two fucking albums, I’m giving you three fucking musicals, five tours. I’ve got nothing to hide, dude. You may not even like ‘…Bach Alive’, but at least I’m delivering product.
DL. Why do you feel that the band made such a phenomenal early impact, from the Marquee to Hammersmith Odeon in a matter of months?
SB. Just the songs and the way we attacked our music. Revolver magazine recently said Skid Row was one of the best metal albums of all time because they played a song like ‘Youth Gone Wild’ like they were playing ‘Angel Of Death’ by Slayer.
Would they be so successful now? In the year 2002 kids think that music is free. My 14-year-old son spends all day downloading Arch Enemy and Cradle of Filth and I’m the asshole dad who has to say, ‘You shouldn’t be making those CDs, those bands worked really hard on those’. He looks at me like, ‘What the fuck is your problem?’
I get like emails that say, ‘Sebastian, I went to five shops looking for ‘Bring ‘Em Bach Alive’ and couldn’t find it, but I downloaded it and it fucking rocks, dude’. One the one hand I wanna go, ‘Thanks man’, and on the other hand I wanna hold my head in my hands, but everybody’s in that same situation.
DL. So you were in agreement with Lars Ulrich on the Napster issue?
SB. Oh, definitely. I even did this CD called ‘Bach To Basics’ because somebody told me to go onto Napster and when I saw what Sebastian Bach stuff was available I almost fuckin’ committed suicide. The whole The Last Hard Men CD was there, before I even fuckin’ played it for my friends. So I ripped my own CD off Napster and now I sell it on the web.
DL. The last time we were in a room together you lost your temper in a row over ‘Subhuman Race’. Can you now stand back a bit and understand why fans felt it wasn’t as good as the first two?
SB. Yeah, but how can a writer say what a record should sound like when they’re not even in the band? What I find humorous is that nobody liked that record, but 12 years later we’re still talking about that fucking record. When I hear ‘Subhuman Race’ now I hear more Bob Rock [producer], because he did the same thing as he did on Metallica’s ‘Load’. He changed things. I remember him saying, ‘Everybody knows you can scream, Sebastian’, and suggesting I sing like Scott Weiland [of Stone Temple Pilots]. Why don’t you just take a thoroughbred racehorse and hit him on the fuckin’ kneecap with a baseball bat? I do like that album, but it’s not a fun record. ‘Youth Gone Wild’ was fun.
DL. Let’s imagine you can go back in time and change three events in your life. If you don’t mind, I’d like to guess that they would be: a) signing away such a large percentage of your royalties to Jon Bon Jovi, b) the bottle-throwing incident and c), not having hit Jon harder. Am I right?
SB. Awww, I have more good memories of Bon Jovi than bad ones now. I’ve bashed Jon relentlessly in the past, but I don’t feel that way any more. When I think of those times when I was touring with Bon Jovi and living at his house for two weeks… okay, maybe the deal we signed wasn’t the most equitable of all time, but it’s possible that if we hadn’t, you might never have heard of me. And I respect his tenacity in an industry that devours its young and old alike.
So to answer your question… I did wear a really ridiculous T-shirt, and I can’t believe I’m bringing it up again, but it was really rotten, really stupid. And the bottle throwing thing, yeah, I’d change that. Then again, if somebody cracks you in the head with a bottle, what do you do? You ain’t thinking rationally. If somebody hit me with a bottle in the head again I’d probably knock the fuck right out of them.
DL. You even turned down Playgirl?
SB. Twice. I already get known for things other than my voice, like my hair or going to jail or whatever, and I want to be known as a singer. That means more to me than anything.
Apart from your Broadway activities, what’s the delay in following up ‘Bring ‘Em Bach Alive’?
Atlantic Records signed me in 1987 and they still have first right of refusal [on my work]. ‘Bring ‘Em Bach Alive’ has the Atlantic logo and the Spitfire logo because Atlantic technically owns Sebastian Bach, and they license to certain territories where Atlantic didn’t put it out - including Britain, because Mary Hooton, my great friend, fucking rejected the fucking record.
The next record will be done when it’s done. I want to deliver a product that’ll get the proper exposure; I don’t want it coming out three years later in one country than another. I’m doing it, but the fans have to realise how the internet has taken the wind out of the sails of the music industry. There’s always trepidation and anticipation about delivering a CD in this climate.
DL. How do you think you’ll feel aged 65 with 'Youth Gone Wild' tattooed on your arm?
SB. I’ll just get “I was the” tattooed on my bicep. Right up here, dude. I got that space reserved.
The official Sebastian Bach website
Larger than life and twice as unpredictable, Sebastian Bach has now been out of Skid Row since 23rd December, 1996, the day that co-founding guitarist Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo sacked him after receiving a torrent of hate in answerphone form. The parting of ways between singer and the New Jersey band had been a long time coming. Notorious for short-fuse temper as for chiseled cheekbones and multi-octave voice, Bach drove the group’s instrumentalists mental but was accommodated by the rest of Skid Row for as long as their patience would stand.
Post-Skids, Bach hasn’t exactly stuck to the traditional route. He acted in the musical versions of Jekyll & Hyde and Jesus Christ Superstar and went on to appear in various TV shows, though age and luvviedom have failed to mellow him. Sebastian recently completed a whirlwind tour of the UK and a new album – his first set of all-new solo material – is due next year. (17th December, 2004)
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