Mike Ragogna: Sebastian, I hear you’re going to Give ‘Em Hell. How are you giving ‘em hell this time around?
Sebastian Bach: Number one, I just love that title. Good titles are a dime a dozen in rock ‘n’ roll. Try to find a better name for a band than Skid Row. It’s like, “Wow, that’s such a good name.” It’s like Coca-Cola. Wow, this is crazy, I don’t know if I’ve changed that much in my life. Last night I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier and I totally loved the movie, and the term “Give ‘em hell” is like from old Marvel comics like Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace — that one was DC. “Give ‘em hell!” That’s what I feel like, the moment of a concert when the lights go black and I’m about to jump out there and go insane, right at that moment I hear Sgt. Rock and his howling commandos going “Give ‘em hell, boys!”
MR: Uh-oh. Do you have a love of comics as much as I do?
SB: Yeah, well I’ll tell you this, you are on the phone with somebody that is the proud owner of Amazing Fantasy issue number fifteen.
MR: Holy crap!
SB: Ooh-hoo-hoo, for the win! For the win! For the win!
MR: Okay, we have to talk about the album first and then we’re getting back to comics. You’ve got the album, the book, the video… What’s behind the proliferation?
SB: You know what’s wild? I read this a long time ago, an interview with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, and he said that when he first started out in rock ‘n’ roll he was so excited and flipped out and he thought it was all going to be taken away from him, and then he realized as the years went on he can choose when to rock. I learned this a long time ago, I choose when to rock and when I choose to rock, get out of the way.
MR: And when you choose to rock, a lot of people like to rock alongside. You have some pretty highfalutin’ guests on the album.
SB: Well, the word “guest” is used but I would say that guy can’t be a guest if he plays on like half the record, which Duff McKagan does. He’s not really a guest on this record, he’s really the bass player. But I’ve got Duff McKagan on most of the album on bass, he also plays guitar on a song that he wrote called “Harmony,” it’s just a beautifully heavy melodic tune. Then I’ve got John 5 on the first single, “Temptation.” He has reinvented electric guitar playing as we know it. And if that’s not enough I’ve got the legendary Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band who I’ve been a fan of since 1983, playing electric guitar, his “stun gun” sound that he’s known for, it’s so amazing. So I’m a very lucky guy, I played with these guys in a band that plays corporate events around the world, actually. I just said to Duff on the bus, “Dude, do you want to fucking collaborate on some music?” and he goes, “Hell yeah, what kind of music?” and I go, “Rude!” and he starts laughing and he goes, “‘Bas, I can do dirty.” And he sure can! He sure can. I’m a fan of all these guys. I’m a fan. I’m a total fan of all these guys that are on this album, so that is a great feeling for me. I can put on Give ‘Em Hell on the headphones and go for a run and I will run through a brick wall listening to this stuff.
MR: So you really gave ‘em hell this time out.
SB: I signed a record contract–that sounds like an ancient term, a record contract–but I signed this deal about eight years ago and when I sign a record deal I don’t read it. I assume that it just says, “Hey, you’re the band, we’re the label, you make the album, we’ll put it out.” What else could it say? Nobody’s going to tell me what to do or when to do it, it’s never worked like that in the past, but the difference with this record is that I had a deadline that was on the contract I signed years ago, and when I go into Best Buy nowadays, or Wal-Mart or Target and I say, “Hey, where’s the CD section?” they point me off in the corner in the Radioshack world with like wires and shit and there’s one little aisle with lunchboxes and a couple of CDs mixed in with blank CDrs. It’s like, “Wow! Slim pickings in the old CD section!” So then I have a company saying, “You owe us this CD” and I go, “How cool is that?” Every time I go on the Internet or Blabbermouth, I read bands explaining why they can only put out a single or they can only do an EP, “Times have changed,” and blah, blah, blah, and I’m like, you know what? When I get on the plane on a five-hour flight and I’m bored out of my mind and I want to listen to music, I don’t listen to an EP, I don’t listen to a single, I listen to Steely Dan Aja or Neil Young Harvest; I listen to albums, and I always will, and I think most of us always will! So I consider myself so lucky in 2014, here’s my brand new CD while CDs still exist. I’m like one of the last dudes making these things. [laughs]
MR: How does the modern delivery system take the art and soul of something like that and turn it into something three minutes long? You can’t do it.
SB: You talk about the modern delivery system. This album and also the last album I had really showed me one crucial thing about the business these days — you have to be so vigilant. Dave Grohl posted some article with the headline “The Biggest Part Of Being A Musician Is Saying No,” and I laughed when I read that because I am an expert at saying no. You talk about the modern-day delivery system, this album just showed me how incredibly tricky it is to get the actual sound of what we make in the studio. We spent a year, a year, a year! making this album, and when it’s done in the mastering studio it’s like Star Wars. It’s so incredibly mind-blowing the way it sounds, but then the night before my video’s about to premiere to the whole world the first time any of you will hear it I look at the file at like three in the morning and it’s like an MPEG video file that’s been emailed and uploaded and downloaded and put on a website and posted and podcasted and I don’t even know and the resolution is so crappy that I have to like email everybody and be a total prick and argue and explain everything and all I’m trying to do is get what I actually made to you, the fan. You only get one shot to make a first impression.
So luckily at like five in the morning I got the high-res blah blah blah emailed it and uploaded it and I made it happen, but if I was asleep or drunk or not on top of shit–the only one that makes that s**t happen is the artist these days. The modern-day delivery system wants to make it as quick and as convenient as possible. I would rather have a larger file that takes one more minute to download and sound better than something that doesn’t sound as good. I think the answer, really, is this PONO music player that Neil Young is coming out with that plays the highest resolution files in your pocket. I will be the first one to go buy that and I would love to have Give ‘Em Hell on there, that would be so great. But that’s a tricky thing, getting the highest quality sound to you, the fan, with all those crappy little earbuds that they give you with the phones. Hey, newsflash: United States Of America, throw those in the garbage!
MR: [laughs] So how did you come up with the material for this album? What inspired you and it?
SB: It’s always so hard to put into words the feelings… When you make a record you go into this room, the studio, with nothing, zero, on the first day, and then months later the object is to come out with something you feel proud of for the rest of your life and put your name on it and do interviews about it and put it up next to the other album you’ve already put out, so my intention is always the same, I just try to make something that you want to listen to over and over and over again. That’s it. It’s got to sound good, the performances have to be top notch, the songs have to be great. I’m a Rush fan, I love Rush, Black Sabbath… These guys are 70 years old, Tomy Iommi has cancer and he’s putting out Black Sabbath’s 13. [laughs] That kicks ass. I’m way younger than all of those guys, I’ve got a ton of albums in me. This has always been the plan for me. I know people love “18 And Life,” “I Remember You,” and “Monkey Business,” they love that because they have an emotional attachment from when they were in high school or whenever. So when you’re competing against people’s memories of their lives, this shit had better be good.
MR: You’re a great interview. I really love how up front you are about this stuff. What advice do you have for new artists?
SB: Make something that you love. That’s it. If you honestly love it yourself you win. You win. Because nobody can take that away from you, and that lasts forever. In my experience, if I really love the music that I make myself and I want to play it every single day and it’s like my favorite CD in my collection, the one I made, which Give ‘Em Hell.Give ‘Em Hell is my favorite CD. [laughs] I’m not just saying that. When I go on a seven mile run, which I do as much as I can, that is the f**king CD that I put on. My own CD. I’m not just saying that, it’s the one that gets me through the run. When you have that in your pocket and you want to shake people by the collar and say, “Hey, listen to this, man, I’m so proud of it,” that’s what I would say to younger musicians: make something that you just can’t wait for the whole world to hear. That’s the best feeling that you can have.
MR: Nice. Do you feel like you’ve taken that approach with all your solo material plus your Skid Row records?
SB: Yes I do, except for one exception: one CD called The Last Hard Men, which was an interesting experiment to see if the worlds of heavy metal and alternative could combine and the answer is no! They can not. [laughs] There is actually some good music on there, but that was not my best moment by any means.
MR: I’m think a lot of people also enjoyed it.
SB: The Last Hard Men?
MR: Yeah, as much s**t as you might have gotten, I think some people were looking at that as a nice swing of the bat.
SB: Well that’s cool! There’s a great ballad on there called “The Most Powerful Man In The World” written by Jimmy Flemion, it’s a beautiful song, but from my perspective, in that time period in my life, that was like 1996, I felt as a vocalist that it was very uncool to sing good. I thought that nobody wanted to hear the Sebastian Bach “I Remember You” style of vocals, and I was probably right, but I am meant to sing like that. I have this voice that’s a physical part of my throat and it’s a shame to not use it. When I really started to scream high again was when I was in the Broadway show Jesus Christ Superstar and I was forced to learn these Ted Neeley high screams in this play. I could do it, but it took me like a month to sing like that again because I didn’t think anybody liked that anymore around the mid nineties. But then when I did Jesus Christ Superstar I felt so awesome hitting these screams, people’s jaws would hit the floor. It took me like a month to get that range going again but once I get it going it’s ripping and I’m really proud to say on Give ‘Em Hell, there are some of my best recorded screams in my career and that’s saying something. There’s one scream in the middle of “All My Friends Are Dead” that is like this blood-curdling roar and I’m like, “Jesus Christ, I can not believe that’s coming out of my mouth.”
MR: [laughs] Do you have good memories with the Guns ‘N’ Roses tour?
SB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Probably my personal favorite memory of touring is the 2010 Guns ‘N’ Roses Sebastian Bach South American Tour. You know, when you go on tour and your album is number one on Billboard you kind of expect the whole city to come to every show, but then in 2010, twenty years later you don’t know what to expect. That tour that we did four years ago was so huge, it was like thirty, forty, fifty thousand a night, just Guns ‘N’ Roses and my solo band, I would walk on the stage and I can’t describe the feeling, twenty years later and bigger than ever. Axl has been extremely kind to me and now Duff has been extremely kind to me, so those guys are my friends for sure.
MR: Nice. Beautiful. What’s the future look like?
SB: Well right now the future for me is touring. I’m going to be touring all over the world, I’ve got about sixty shows coming up, which is a real rock ‘n’ roll tour, which is cool. I make CDs and I go on tour! That’s what I do.
MR: Sounds like a good life, buddy.
SB: Yeah, that’s right, man. As long as they’ve got the little section left at Best Buy. I’m also doing a book for HarperCollins and I have a TV show on ABC TV, the first time in my whole career that I’ve had a major network show–I was on The Gilmore Girls but that was on the CW, this is ABC, dude–and it’s called Sing Your Face Off. It’s eight episodes and I’m one of the starring contestants along with Jon Lovitz, Lisa Rinna, and also on the show are Carmen Electra, Tom Arnold, Richard Simmons, it’s a crazy piece of American culture coming your way on May 31st, 9 PM on ABC TV. Sing Your Face Off.
MR: I know I have to let you go, but I said we’d get back to this… What did you think about Captain America: Winter Soldier?
SB: I loved it! I loved it! I loved it! When the Marvel movies are done right, they’re almost physically hard for me to watch because I have collected comics since I was a little boy in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where I would buy, in 1975, the latest Captain America for 15 cents and all I had was my imagination, just like every other kid then. To be so immersed in that comic book world as a little boy in a snow bank in Canada, and then to be 46 years old and see it happen live in your face, not only that, but in IMAX 3D, it’s almost overwhelming to me. The Avengers is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen in my life, I’ve never seen a movie that beat the crap out of me with pure excellence, but you know what I would really love to see? The one thing that they have not done yet? I would love, I would love, I would love to see, like, okay, you know how they make grindhouse movies, like Quentin Tarantino makes seventies retro exploitation movies, you know what I’m saying, that look like ’74? Can you imagine a Ghost Rider movie that looked like Ghost Rider in ’74 with the black leather and the way that seventies movies looked? Can you imagine that shit? Like a movie that would almost look like Jack Kirby?
MR: [laughs] And all the square faces..
SB: Yeah! That kind of look! That specific silver age look. That’s the next thing they need to do, make a movie look like that. People would freak out.
MR: Yeah, they’ve got the Frank Miller look, but I would love the Jack Kirby approach.
SB: I’m dying for that! When I watch the Batman 60′s television show, can you imagine if some producer or director made a Marvel movie that was new technology but had that look? That’s what I want!!
MR: Hopefully, they’ll read this article and do it.
SB: That sounds like Give ‘Em Hell! You’ve got the classic voice of me, with new technology. And I appreciated the attention to detail in it; all the stuff that they’re talking about, you’ve really going to be on top of your Marvel game to know all the references and everything. They’re not dumbing it down.
MR: And I think Chris Evans nailed Captain America.
SB: Yeah, it’s great. My fiance saw Captain America hanging from a chandelier once, but that’s another interview…
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne