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SEBASTIAN BACH – Running And Screaming
Anthony Morgan
April 2013

Sebastian Bach, live at Hellfest on June 16th, 2012

Vocalist Sebastian Bach – formerly of New Jersey-based metal outfit Skid Row – performed live at the Hellfest festival in Clisson, France on June 16th, 2012, fronting his very own solo endeavour. Sebastian’s performance that day was included on March 2013’s ABachalypse Now, a DVD / two-CD set collecting audio and video footage from across three separate shows recorded during the summer of 2012.

“There was beautiful weather, and it had an incredible turnout,” Sebastian recalls. “It was the first time that I had played France in over 15 years or something like that, so it was amazing to come back to France after all that time and have a stadium full of people ready to rock. There was a great, great turnout for the show.”

The ensemble’s August 2nd concert at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California was originally broadcast on AXS TV in the United States. “That one was the gig where Nick Sterling couldn’t play the show for business reasons,” the frontman notes. “He wouldn’t sign the release for the broadcast of that concert on television across the United States of America. Everybody signed the release so it could be on television but he refused to sign the release, so he wasn’t able to be a part of the broadcast.

“I had to scramble before the gig to get some guitar players. We got Jinxx from the Black Veil Brides, and Roy Z who produced my Angel Down (November 2007) record. That was a very difficult show to do, but the show must go on.”

Such comments suggest Nick Sterling wished to be paid more cash. “All I know is that he wouldn’t sign the release, and so I wasn’t able to have him be a part of it,” Sebastian responds.

A late March 2013 Facebook posting by the mainman acknowledged the fact that studio repairs were made to live audio recordings of the Hellfest and Club Nokia performances. “I was making a CD of those two shows,” he begins. “Any time there was a note that wasn’t pleasing to my ear, since it’s going on a CD for the rest of my life I’m going to make it sound as good as I can, so you can keep listening to this 20 years from now. I’m not making a record to compete with clips on YouTube. I’m making a record to compete with Kiss’ Alive! (September 1975), and Judas Priest’s Unleashed In The East (September 1979). There’s as much overdubbing on there as there is on Unleashed In The East, and Kiss’ Alive! There’s about that much overdubbing.

“I’m not trying to make something that competes with things that you see on YouTube. I’m trying to make something that bears repeated listenings, and the reason that you record a concert with 72 tracks is so that you can make those 72 tracks sound good. You don’t pull in a truck with 72-track recording equipment, and then not do anything with those tracks (laughs). There’s no point in recording the concert with 72 tracks if you don’t plan on mixing the tracks, and making them sound good. That’s the purpose of recording them with 72 tracks.”

Sebastian Bach

At both of the aforementioned live commitments, Sebastian proved he is a sprightly entertainer. “When I’ve done a show, it’s always the same situation,” he explains. “Everybody expects me to party, drink, carouse, and talk as loud as I can, but nobody can understand why I am fuckin’ beat to shit and exhausted. I can’t move after the show; I can’t breathe. It takes me at least an hour to get my breathing and my heart rate back to a normal rate after playing a gigantic show like Download, but people literally get mad at me if I don’t get drunk with them, talk really loud, and go out to clubs. I’m like ‘I don’t give a fuck about that shit. I am here to sing; I am here to put on a show.’ I put a lot of energy into the show, and once the show stops I’m pretty much exhausted (laughs).”

Musicians must maintain healthy fitness levels to produce. “I’m an avid runner,” the composer discloses. “I run as much as I can. If you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I am always running.”

Sebastian’s appearance at the Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium on June 24th, 2012 is included on ABachalypse Now’s DVD portion, but not on either of its two compact discs. “It was the earliest time I had ever been asked to go onstage,” he remembers. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I was quite frustrated at the prospect of having to go onstage at like noon or 1pm. It ended up being a really good show, though. When I was going through all of the footage to put on the DVD, that show stuck out because it was more musically accurate than some of the shows where I was running back and forth across the stage like a football player. I learnt a lot, and understand what it means to be a frontman. I couldn’t run around the stage, because it was raining.

“That’s actually my favourite show to watch, because there are no overdubs or repairs in the studio for that show. It’s a 100% live, and it’s really fun to watch. I learnt that as I get older, maybe I’m gonna stand still a little more on the stage when I sing, because to me it’s more powerful. The music means more to me than how the musician jumps around, or does a spin and a pirouette. The music is more impressive to me now than moving around a lot. That’s just my own personal tastes as a musician; as I get older, it’s more to do with the music than the stage moves or the antics onstage.”

The singer’s live set list draws upon material cut with Skid Row as well as material cut as a solo artist. “If I’m doing a show like Download (on June 10th, 2012) where I have 40 minutes, 40 minutes is about seven songs or maybe six songs,” he observes. “That isn’t really a lot, so if somebody tells me ‘Okay, Sebastian. You’re playing Download today; you get to play for 40 minutes. You get to play six songs,’ then you’re gonna hear ‘Youth Gone Wild’ (from January 1989’s Skid Row), ‘Monkey Business’ (from June 1991’s Slave To The Grind), ‘18 & Life’ (from Skid Row), ‘I Remember You’ (from Skid Row), ‘Slave To The Grind’ (from the album of the same name), and that’s pretty much it (laughs). There’s no time to do any other songs, when I only have six songs to play. If I play a headline show for two hours then I can do more songs, but I’m not gonna go onstage at Download and have the whole crowd that is there for Black Sabbath in front of my face… It was completely packed for my show.

“I’m not gonna take ‘I Remember You’ out of the set; that is the set, and that’s a really popular tune. I’m pretty much the only male human being in the world that can sing it in the key that it’s written in on the record, and I feel very blessed that I can still do that. When I say that I’m the only man in the world who can sing that song in the correct key, that isn’t a slight against anybody. It’s not an opinion of mine, but that’s a fact. It’s a simple statement of fact; no male can sing that the way I sing it. I’m talking about the actual note of the melody of the song, the way the song goes. I have not heard another male human being on the planet sing it the way it was written, and the way that it was sung on the first Skid Row album. The only other person I’ve heard do it is Carrie Underwood; she does it amazing, perfectly, but she’s a girl (laughs).

“If the public latches onto a solo song of mine in the same way that they latched onto ‘I Remember You’ though, then I’ll put that into the set. It’s not up to me what people wanna hear. I get paid to do a good concert, so I’m not gonna walk onstage and say ‘Hey… We just came up with this on the bus this afternoon. Fucking check it out everybody.’ I’m not gonna do that (laughs).”

Sebastian seemingly feels that other male vocalists lack the range to perform ‘I Remember You’ in its correct key. “I guess so, yeah,” he muses.

ABachalypse Now’s front cover consists of a live photograph shot by Katarina Benzova at the vocalist’s Hellfest date. “Everything you see in your hand is by design,” he underscores. “Katarina Benzova is Guns N’ Roses’ photographer, and we were opening for Guns N’ Roses at Hellfest. She is an incredible artist, and the pictures are beautiful. She really captured that day, with the clouds and the sky, and the motion. I just think of them as absolutely gorgeous photos, and Frontiers did a great job of making exactly what I wanted to make through the cropping and the placements, and what picture goes where. We’re also doing an 180 gram vinyl album of ABachalypse Now that’s gonna open up in a gatefold sleeve with gigantic, amazing covers, and that’s gonna be really cool.

“I miss album covers. If you go to the iTunes store, pretty much every single album cover is just a head shot of the artist with a logo on top, and that’s really boring to me. I’m very much into the artwork of everything; I think it’s a part of the package. I used to collect Metal Forces magazine back in 1983, so I’m coming from the same world that you guys are. I like records, I like big packaging, and I like posters (laughs). ABachalypse Now is gonna be on coloured vinyl with a gatefold sleeve, and I’m very excited about that.”

Although a fan of long-play records, Sebastian prefers compact discs to MP3 files. “I like WAV files,” he tells. “I like big files of music; I don’t want tiny, little, compressed files, and I also like to own a hard copy of the music that I’m purchasing. I don’t want to just have something in the cloud; I want to be able to hold it in my hand (laughs).”

Jeff George was publicly announced as the frontman’s new guitarist on September 28th, 2012. “I met him through Danny (Worsnop, vocals) from Asking Alexandria, because Jeff plays in Danny’s solo side project,” he reveals. “I met him, and he was really cool. He’s come into the band with a lot of great musical ideas, some kick ass riffs. We’re gonna make an amazing album together; that’s what I’m working on now. It’s in the same vein as the first Skid Row album, Slave To The Grind, Subhuman Race (March 1995), Bring ’Em Bach Alive (November 1999), Angel Down, Kicking & Screaming (September 2011), ABachalypse Now, and Forever Wild (June 2004). It’s in the same vein as all of those releases. It’s supposed to come out pretty soon; I have deadlines coming up. I’m working on it with Bob Marlette, the same producer who did Kicking & Screaming.

“Plus, I’m also working with John 5 from Rob Zombie’s band, who I co-wrote the song ‘TunnelVision’ with (from Kicking & Screaming). I met John 5 through Bob Marlette. John 5 is a huge Skid Row fan; John 5 was actually in the ‘Piece Of Me’ video from 1989 (and from Skid Row) before he was John 5. He’s in that video, where he jumps onstage and does a stage dive – that’s John 5. I’ve been working with John 5 since Kicking & Screaming, but he’s known me for over 20 years (laughs). I’m working with Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band too, who wants to make a real metal album, and Bobby Jarzombek on the drums. That’s who I’m working with right now on the new stuff, so that’ll be cool.”

Bassist Rob De Luca parted ways with Sebastian’s solo group because “he wanted more money,” Sebastian asserts.

Skid Row 1989 (l-r): Rob Affuso, Scotti Hill, Sebastian Bach (back row), Rachel
Bolan and Dave “The Snake” Sabo

A former touring bassist for metal group Stone Sour, Jason Christopher’s appointment surfaced on January 31st, 2013. “I met Jason Christopher through Corey Taylor of Slipknot (also of Stone Sour),” the mainman informs. “The first time I ever met Jason, I was standing there at the Rainbow and somebody was trying to pick-pocket my wallet out of the back pocket of my pants. My wallet was chained up to my belt loop, though. I turned around, and it was Jason trying to take my wallet (laughs). That’s the first time I ever met him. He had played in Stone Sour, and he was a great bass player.”

November 2007 full-length Angel Down was arguably a landmark opus for Sebastian. “It’s just as important as Slave To The Grind, and every record I have done,” he scrutinises. “I put all my energy and all my efforts into making as good an album as I can, and with every album that I make. I did the exact same thing as a singer on Angel Down as I did on the first Skid Row album. For me, there’s no difference other than the members of the band. I do the same thing with every album. The guys in Skid Row will tell you that I have a big ego and that I’m hard to work with, but I think the music that I put out speaks for itself and the music that they put out speaks for itself. I think that Kicking & Screaming… Any music fan would tell you that Kicking & Screaming and Angel Down are more along the lines of Slave To The Grind or the first Skid Row album than anything that they’ve put out without me. All you’ve gotta is listen to the music, and there’s no way you could come to any other conclusion (laughs).”

The songwriter has yet to listen to Skid Row’s April 2013 EP United World Rebellion: Chapter One. “I’ve seen the album cover on Blabbermouth, and I’ve read the title,” he shares. “There’s a reason I’m not in that band anymore (laughs). I’ll just be totally honest with you right now. I wouldn’t be part of an album called United World Rebellion: Chapter One. To me, that’s not a good title. It’s very not good (laughs). I don’t think it sounds good. I don’t think it means anything, so right there we would not be getting along. I wouldn’t put out an album with that title. You can say what you want about me; I just know what I like, and it’s not a great title.”

Interviewers frequently query Sebastian regarding Skid Row, a subject one would figure he finds tedious to discuss on such an everyday basis. “I agree to do interviews,” he ponders. “I get asked a question, and I answer the question. I don’t look at the music business or the entertainment business as being fed up with it. I consider myself very lucky to have sold 20 million records with the band Skid Row. There were three musicians signed to Atlantic Records as Skid Row – me and two other guys in the band. Not five guys, but three guys. I am one of them, so as a corporation and as a business I will always be a member of Skid Row. I am part owner of the corporation Skid Row, so I own part of the band. If I am a part of the corporation, I expect to be asked about it. It’s a business; I still get royalty cheques from Atlantic Records for Skid Row. The current singer does not, so I am probably more qualified to talk about Skid Row – given that I own part of it – than he is (laughs).”

An inevitable question is whether the singer would ever wish to reunite with Skid Row. “Do I want to?,” he questions. “Do I personally want to? No, I do not personally want to. Would I? Yes, I would. I don’t do everything just because I want to. Some things can be for other people, like the fans. I would do that for the fans. I’m in a rock band to make new music, and that’s why I am a singer. I don’t walk around, saying to myself ‘Oh, I wish I could do a bunch of songs from 20 years ago tonight.’

Sebastian Bach

“I walk around, working on new CDs, on new songs. In order for me to get excited or to want to do something, it would have to involve making something new that I’m proud of. Walking onstage and singing nothing but songs from 20 years ago is not something that makes me excited at all. It’s a job, a business. I would do it for the fans, because they want it. If we were to make a new record then that would be exciting to me, but I don’t think that creatively… What they think is a good record and what I think is a good record are two completely different things.”

Sebastian’s overall sound arguably possesses more traditional qualities than latter day musicians. “I think that my voice has a certain quality to it that is appealing when you listen to it,” he submits. “I’m able to sing very cleanly and very high (laughs), so I have a unique voice. Whenever I turn to my high, screaming range, people respond to that. I think it’s because not a lot of singers sing like that anymore. There are very few that I can think of, so I think it’s a style of singing that you don’t hear too much anymore.”

Once gentlemen of the vocalist’s ilk and generation eventually step aside altogether, whether fellow vocalists exist who will carry the torch left behind is a subject open to debate. “Vocally?,” he wonders. “I’m trying to think… Not vocally, no. I can’t think of anybody that’s trying to sing like that. The last amazing vocalist that I heard was Jeff Buckley in the 90s, who died. If you’re talking about vocals and singing, that guy was incredible. I don’t hear anybody screaming. Maybe there’s somebody that I’m not thinking of, but I don’t hear… The guy in Asking Alexandria – Danny – has an incredible voice, but it’s more the screamo kind of thing. I don’t really hear any singers who are doing both rock and ballads like I do. If they’re out there somebody turn me onto them, because I would love to hear some great singing from 2013.”

ABachalypse Now was released in Europe on March 22nd, 2013 and subsequently on the 26th in North America, all via Frontiers Music Srl.

Interview published in April 2013. All live photographs by Katarina Benzova.