Headed to town for a show this Saturday at Cubby Bear North in Lincolnshire, I had the chance to chat with former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach in mid-February following a Chicago concert appearance. Taking place only days after the recent death of Whitney Houston, our conversation touched on topics like the state of rock radio, Sebastian’s long history performing in Chicago, his new album Kicking & Screaming and mortality…
Q. I was at the show at Cubby Bear Wrigley [in February] and that was a throwback rock show. Fights, flashing… You had to stop the show a few times. It got kind of crazy…
Sebastian Bach: It was a fun show… but there was a lot of fighting. I don’t know why. I thought it was a pretty small venue for me to be playing in. I think that’s probably why there was a lot of fighting. I think that was the smallest show I’ve ever done in Chicago in my thirty years of doing this, including Madame X. (chuckles) I don’t know what to say. It was fun. It was a great crowd. It was a good time… but a little too much fighting.
What’s it been like for you playing in Chicago? Any fond memories over the years?
SB: The best night ever I had in Chicago was the first time we opened for Bon Jovi at the Rosemont Horizon which was the first time ever that I got like twenty thousand people standing up on their feet. It was a very memorable moment. When I told everybody, “Get up off your ass!” I remember looking at the band going “Oh my God, I think this is working.” It was fun.
I really like the new album (Kicking & Screaming). There aren’t a lot of good, hard rock records coming out these days so I’ll tell you what strikes me first about your new album: to my ears, it sounds completely in the now… and I guess what I mean by that is that you managed to put out a good rock record in 2012 that doesn’t sound forced. It definitely doesn’t sound like you were making a concerted effort to change your style to fit with the times…
SB: I love the album. I’m so proud of it. Every time I listen to it, I’m very, very proud of the album. It would’ve been nice to have some more mainstream support for it like on radio and stuff like that but it’s just a weird landscape now, I guess. But when we play the new songs live, they fit in so good with the old songs. I’ve got to give credit to Nick Sterling on the guitar for coming in with all these great ideas.
Well I wanted to ask you about Nick. He really tears it up on this record. What was the writing process like between the two of you?
SB: Back then I was all set up at my house. I had a recording studio. And he would send me .wav files and the ones that I liked I would sing on. And I liked pretty much all of them. I really like the way he writes. There’s a song [called] “I’m Alive,” which is a ballad, that we’re gonna put out next. I would love to hear that on the radio sometime. I think it’s a great, beautiful song. The last song on the record, “Wishin,” is incredible. He’s just a great writer and a great player and I hope to make another record with him soon.
Until I started reading up a bit for this interview, I didn’t realize what an audiophile you are. This record sounds great. It’s so clear. You can hear every part. In this era where people depend on the internet to get their music, sometimes good sound becomes an afterthought. Can you tell me a bit about the recording process?
SB: A lot of people now actually mix their albums for the iPod’s little, tiny headphone buds that they give out and it’s just horrible sound. A lot of people mix for an mp3, which makes sense because that’s the way most people listen to music now, but mp3’s are small, little, compressed files. It’s not like when you play on your home stereo. You’d want to put on a CD because it has the full sound. But I don’t even know how many people listen to music on their home stereo anymore. I don’t even know if people still do that. I do (back when I had a home). But I think people listen to music in their cars and working out and on buses, on iPods and on computers. So I think people listen to music now differently than they used to.
For Angel Down in 2007, you had one of the biggest names in rock join you: Axl Rose. On this record, there’s really no cameos. Was that kind of a concerted effort to really establish your own voice and image with this record?
SB: No. I just… If Axl Rose wants to sing on your album, you’re kind of stupid to say “no.” I like to make music and CD’s that you want to listen to and Axl’s voice is just something I want to listen to. So I was very happy to have him on the record.
2011 was kind of a rough year for you… I feel like when I listen to Kicking & Screaming, you address that in the music. Was this kind of your way of dealing with everything and moving on? (Editor’s Note: In 2011, Bach divorced his longtime wife. Later, he lost his New Jersey home to Hurricane Irene).
SB: Well… what’s weird is the album was done before all that happened. When I was making the record, I was going through a divorce with my ex-wife of a very long time and we both made a lot of mistakes in that relationship which led to it growing up. And then I met a girl named Minnie Gupta who’s been my girlfriend for over a year now and I totally love this girl. So a lot of the lyrics are about finding new love and moving on with your life. But there’s a lot of lyrics that sound like they were written with the hurricane in mind. I don’t know how that works. But music has always been like that. If you sing about something and really mean it, it tends to come true in your normal life. So it’s been pretty crazy.
The last few tours that you did were primarily in the bigger stadiums and arenas with Guns N’ Roses. How does it feel to be back in the clubs now as a headlining act again?
SB: I don’t like playing clubs really. I like playing arenas because I’m 6’4.” Basically, it’s the sound that bothers me in clubs. It’s very hard to have really good sound in some of these smaller rooms where I’m on stage and standing five inches from the drum kit. It’s very hard to sing in those situations when you’re used to having great sound in the room and you can hear everything. So that’s very frustrating.
I don’t know what to say. Promoters are all about the reunion tour and the nostalgia and that’s the way they think. And for a guy like me, it’s frustrating to have to deal with that.
But that’s just the way it goes. At 6’4,” I feel like I’m too big for a club stage… in more ways than one. (chuckles)
Well, I can understand that frustration. You’re still putting out new music that you like so, aside from the obvious financial reasons, what would be the sense of living in the past with the reunion thing?
SB: Well the sense would be that I probably would not be playing a club!
I suppose that’s true…
SB: I don’t know why rock n’ roll is like that. But it’s very hard to fight it. I don’t know what to say.
I go see Foreigner with Journey and there’s not one member of Foreigner in the band. And they’re playing in front of twenty thousand people who don’t care who’s in the band. And it’s like, “Wow, that’s pretty shocking!” when you think about it.
Well, the only time I saw Skid Row they were opening for Ted Nugent and KISS, and obviously you were not a part of Skid Row at that point but people were still going crazy…
SB: It’s just weird. I don’t understand fan mentality sometimes. But all I can do is make the best music I can and that’s what I keep on intending to do for the rest of my life.
You remain in excellent voice… You’ve sang on Broadway… I’ve heard that your vocal preparations are pretty intense. What’s the typical night of a show like for you?
SB: I do these scales called Bel Canto tenor opera scales and they were taught to me by a guy named Don Lawrence in New York city and they really get my voice going. I’ve been doing them for twenty years. It’s an old scale technique that Tony Bennett uses and Frank Sinatra and Bon Jovi and Dee Snider and Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera and all these people use this technique. The voice is a muscle and if you treat it properly, you can sing better as the years go on.
Who are some of your favorite vocalists?
SB: Vocalists, I would have to say people like Jeff Buckley or Rob Halford. A frontman is a different kind of thing sometimes and I think as a frontman Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides who’s a great frontman.
The new Van Halen record A Different Kind of Truth is unbelievable. It’s such an incredible album. I’ve been listening to it the last couple days nonstop. It’s such a heavy, heavy, heavy record the way they’re playing… Alex and Eddie and Wolfgang… and then David Lee Roth on top is hilarious. Brilliant lyrics. Just great melodies. What a heavy album that is. I’d have to say, David Lee Roth is one of the greatest frontmen of all-time.
I saw on Facebook that you had some very heartfelt thoughts on the passing of Whitney Houston. What are your thoughts on that loss of person and voice?
SB: Well, I started my career kind of at the same time as her and had huge success around the same time as her, and was kind of at the same age as her a little bit (she was a little older than me). But I understand her life. “The highs and lows of rock n’ roll” as Dimebag [Darrell] used to say. I understand all that. And just, it’s the same old story: people don’t appreciate people when they’re here. They appreciate them when they’re gone. I could go down the list. You know, there’s not too many singers out there anymore. All the stars are dying. It’s very strange. Just [recently]… Michael Jackson, Jani Lane, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston… If you think of [four] people like that right away, it’s just really thinning the herd like quite a bit.
So I would just say maybe appreciate people while they’re here because when they’re gone, it’s too late.
*** This interview was conducted by Jim Ryan. To read more Chicago At Night coverage of Sebastian Bach, click HERE for a concert review of Sebastian Bach live at Cubby Bear Wrigleyville on February 8, 2012. ***
Live at Cubby Bear North in Lincolnshire
21661 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Show starts at 9PM
Doors open at 8PM
*** Click HERE to purchase tickets ***