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SEBASTIAN BACH – Giving ’Em Hell
Anthony Morgan
April 2014

Sebastian Bach

Rob Zombie / erstwhile Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 co-authored the number ‘TunnelVision’ with heavy metal vocalist Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row), a track which would ultimately surface on Bach’s September 2011 outing Kicking & Screaming. The pair would collaborate once more, the resultant effort appearing on April 2014 opus Give ’Em Hell – Bach’s third solo studio proper overall.

“The first songs that I got for Give ’Em Hell were from John 5 and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol),” Sebastian divulges. “They just sent me some musical ideas, and I wrote to them. Everybody really seemed to like ‘TunnelVision’, so me and John 5 collaborated again. He’s just incredible. The song we came up with is called ‘Temptation’, and we just did a video for it with Duff McKagan (ex-Guns N’ Roses / Velvet Revolver) on the bass. As far as the writing process though, that was the first four songs. Then I was playing in Sydney, Australia with Duff on the bass. We were sitting on the bus, and I said ‘Hey man. Do you wanna collaborate on some tunes for my new record?’ He goes ‘What kind of tunes?’, and I just said ‘Rude.’ That’s all I said (laughs). He goes ‘Baz, I can do dirty.’ That’s what he said (laughs). We laughed, and he became involved – he hooked me up with Devin Bronson. I am extremely happy with the record; it sounds very good to me. I’m very happy with it.”

Penning material for Give ’Em Hell was a more collaborative affair. “I still wrote a lot of songs on Kicking & Screaming, such as the song ‘Kicking And Screaming’ – that was mine,” the singer notes. “But yeah, this was more collaborative, just because my guitar player last time had so many great songs that I really liked. If I like a song, I don’t see any reason to change it. When I first heard ‘18 And Life’ (from Skid Row’s January 1989 self-titled debut), I was like ‘Okay, well that’s done. Next’ (laughs).”

Guitar parts for each respective track were recorded by their respective composers. “I let whoever wrote it play on their own song, like Duff McKagan,” Sebastian cites. “The song that he wrote called ‘Harmony’, he even plays guitar on and bass. If a guy writes the song, then he’s on it. Steve Stevens is on all of his three songs, John 5 plays guitar on his songs, and Devin Bronson plays on the Devin Bronson songs. We also have a guy named Jeff George, who is in Danny (Worsnop, vocalist) from Asking Alexandria’s band. He plays the little noodly part in the first song, ‘Hell Inside My Head’. He’s on there too, but that’s the only song that he’s on.”

In crafting platters, the frontman aims towards a specific objective. “My only goal when I make a record is to make something that I want to listen to myself over and over and over again,” he explains. “I figure that if I feel that way, then possibly somebody else might as well. All of my records except for one I feel that way about, so I’m very black and white about what comes out on the final record. ‘Do I like this? Is this exciting? Is this interesting to me?’ This whole album is very interesting for me to listen to, myself. That’s my only goal. The first Skid Row record has sold around 10 million copies worldwide since it came out, so obviously I have to compare anything I do to that, because that’s what people know me for. When I’m long dead and gone this music will still be around, so that’s not an easy task. I mean, a song like ‘I Remember You’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’ touched a whole generation on planet earth, so following things like that up is hard, but it’s fun. It’s a fun thing to try and make happen.”

1998’s The Last Hard Men – by the group of the same name – is the only Bach-related album to fall short of that aforementioned goal. “It has some good music on it, but you can’t compare it to my other releases,” Sebastian reflects. “It’s just a more experimental record, recorded at a weird time (laughs).”

Originally issued in January 1989, Skid Row’s self-titled debut effort celebrated its 25th anniversary in January 2014. Sadly, the occasion wasn’t marked by a re-release. “I’m not in the band,” the lyricist stresses. “You’d have to ask those guys. They’re on their own path (laughs). I think we’re the only band in the world that would not commemorate something like that. I can’t think of another band that would just ignore 20 million sales throughout their career, like just try to kind of pretend that it never happened. Nobody will ever forget those albums, so I don’t know why. I just have no idea what to say to you (laughs). It is a shame, though. It is a shame, yes.”

Nonetheless, previously unreleased material could augment potential reissues of early Skid Row outings. “There’s lots and lots of stuff – lots of stuff, yes – but I’m not in that band, so I don’t know how to really answer that,” Sebastian chuckles.

Give ’Em Hell and predecessor Kicking & Screaming share certain traits. “It has a little bit of the same production and mastering sound, because Bob Marlette was my producer on both records, and he does an incredible job,” the composer acknowledges. “He’s very helpful in two specific ways. Number one, he’s a great songwriter himself. If we have a good verse or something, or a good chorus, he’s more than capable of sitting down and writing like a band member, which is great. The other area that he helps out immensely in is sometimes when I’m writing melody lines and sing on top of music, they come to me right away. As soon as I hear it, I hear something in my head. Other times though, it takes me a while to figure out whether I’m gonna sing it as high as I can, or low, or clean, or dirty, or right in the middle as far as like what range of my voice to use, and so he’s great at bouncing ideas off. I can try different vocal approaches, and he sits there. Between us both, we seem to come up with interesting melody lines and harmonies. He was a piano player; he played with Al Stewart way back when (laughs), so he’s a musical himself.

“Tom Baker mastered the record; those two guys together are the best in the business as far as I’m concerned – as far as production and mastering goes – I plan on continuing to work with those guys in the future. As an audio file, it’s really great for me to listen to. As far as recording goes, I feel like it sounds the best of any of my records, just because of the production. When I go through my phone on a long plane flight, I usually end up listening to music from the 70s, like the Eagles or Steely Dan, or I don’t know. Whatever – Boston. Just the sound of the production, the sound of the vocals, the sound of the guitars, the drums, and the separation of the instruments. It’s not a harsh, digital sounding record, really. It’s more of a warm, classic sound to me, to my ears.”

By comparison, Kicking & Screaming was recorded under different circumstances. “I had a guitar player at the time who brought in about 20 songs, and I liked a lot of them,” Sebastian recalls. “That album was like half done, just because the songs were completed. This album was more of the 70s style recording process, of like when I read things like ‘Oh yeah, we did the first Black Sabbath record in three days,’ or whatever it is (laughs). This was more like collaborating, and meeting a deadline. I think it has a sense of urgency and energy and heaviness that Kicking & Screaming didn’t have. When I write more on my records – like Angel Down (November 2007) or Slave To The Grind (June 1991) – when you see my name in the credits, it’s gonna be a more metal album because metal comes naturally to me.”

And as well, Give ’Em Hell’s lyrics were written under different circumstances. “The lyrics for this album came about in a different way than previous records, because I was under such a deadline,” the vocalist discloses. “In the past, I would not even acknowledge a deadline. I would be like ‘It’s done when it’s done,’ but the reason that I did meet this deadline is because we’re almost getting to the point here where CDs maybe won’t exist that much longer (laughs). I’m like ‘I get to make a new CD?’ It just seems like I’m very fortunate and lucky to be able to do that. I’m still into it, so that’s why I was excited to make a deadline, to hurry up and get this CD out before CDs no longer exist (laughs).”

Sebastian Bach

The record features a cover interpretation of ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Is A Vicious Game’, originally by Canadian rock ensemble April Wine and included on March 1978’s First Glance. “I think at the end of the day, I probably will be known for my ballad singing,” Sebastian considers. “People like my rock ’n’ roll screams and everything, and I love that too, but my big hit songs have been ballads, so I’m always looking or listening for a song that would be good to sing like that. I’ve known that April Wine song since I was a kid and I love it, so it seemed like a good choice.

“I hope that I did it justice. I hope that Myles Goodwyn – the singer of April Wine – likes it. I hope that the band likes it. When I listen to it, it reminds me kind of like when Guns N’ Roses did ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ by Bob Dylan (on September 1991’s Use Your Illusion II) – how they changed it, and made it their own. It kind of feels like I did the same thing, but it still stays faithful to the original in most respects.”

How freshly penned material weighs against the legacy of previously recorded output is a subject many artists ponder. “Yeah, but there are a lot of examples in music of musicians that spend their lives making records that are all good records,” the singer contends. “I’m really solidifying my catalogue with Give ’Em Hell, which is another top notch album in my estimation. As far as my legacy goes, look at a guy like Tony Iommi (guitars), who was in his mid-60s with cancer. He just put out Black Sabbath’s 13 though (June 2013), and he’s on tour right now as we speak (laughs). There are guys like that that are just busy being themselves – making music and playing shows – and that is their legacy, and I would hope to some day be in that kind of category.”

Cover artwork duties for Give ’Em Hell fell to Richard Villa. “He’s very closely associated with the Black Veil Brides; he does all of their album covers, their movie concepts, and their artwork in general,” Sebastian informs. “Andy (Biersack, lead vocals) from the Black Veil Brides hooked me up with him, and so he did the cover for Kicking & Screaming. I really liked that, and now he did Give ’Em Hell too. Album art is something that not a lot of people put a lot of thought or effort into any more. It seems like every cover that I’ve seen that comes out is just a headshot of the guy with a picture and a logo, but I’m into imagery. It kind of reminds me of Bark At The Moon (Ozzy Osbourne, November 1983) meets Highway To Hell (AC/DC, July 1979) (laughs). That’s what it looks like.”

Give ’Em Hell was released on March 26th, 2014 via Avalon Records. The album was issued on April 18th in Europe and subsequently on the 22nd in North America, all through Frontiers Music Srl.

Interview published in April 2014.