Sebastian Bach, “I do what I do for better or for worse. The things that people like about me are the things that people don’t like about me. I’m very polarizing.”
Sebastian Bach has a new record coming out (Give ‘Em Hell – Frontiers Records) and to these ears, it’s the best thing he’s been a part of since the first Skid Row. Yes, I stand behind that. All the trademark Baz elements are at play here, the soaring voice, the down & dirty snarl and some great heavy rock.
The difference this time out, I would argue, is that the entire record is steaming. Not just a couple of great songs and the rest merely good. I don’t press “next” on my listening device for any of the songs since they’re all top notch. From the wickedly alluring single “Temptation” to the abrasive “Hell Inside My Head”, Baz is at the top of his game right now and his glorious voice remains a very deadly weapon.
I was lucky to spend a fun half-hour with Mr. Bach recently to talk about the new record. Here is what he had to say:
antiMusic: I really liked your previous records, but this one I absolutely love start to finish, every single song. And to my ears, it’s my favourite one, really since the first Skid Row album. Every single song
Sebastian: Well, you just made my day, man. You just made my day, for sure.
antiMusic: Am I wrong, but it seems to me that, according to the updates I saw on the net, the writing process for this record happened a lot quicker than some of your previous records. Is that right?
Sebastian: Actually, no. The quickest record, writing-wise, I ever did was Kicking & Screaming because I had a guitar player that had brought in, like 20 tunes, and I liked so many of them, so it was like already done kinda. But this album, I was more in control of the writing process, because I had like nothing. So I just asked my friends to collaborate with me and my friends happened to be Duff McKagan, Steve Stevens and John 5. I did a song on the last record with John 5 called “Tunnel Vision” and the first single of the new record, “Temptation”, is another John 5 musical piece that I wrote lyrics and melody to. He’s like the top guy out there for metal guitar right now and I’m so lucky to have him on this record. And Duff McKagan, you know, is my friend and I’ve been a fan of his forever. And Steve Stevens, ever since I was a little kid and I’m so lucky to be able to do this, with guys I’m a fan of, you know?
antiMusic: How did you first link up with John 5?
Sebastian: Through my producer, Bob Marlette. But actually, if you want to know the truth, how I first linked up with John 5, here’s a piece of trivia for the Skid Row fans out there: John 5 is in the video “Piece Of Me”, by Skid Row. (laughs)
Sebastian: Going way back, if you remember on that video there is a part of the video where a guy with blond hair comes on stage and I push him into the crowd…
Sebastian: That’s John 5!
antiMusic: That’s crazy.
Sebastian: (laughs) Before he made up his persona John 5, he told me he waited in line because he’d read in Screamer Magazine that Skid Row was shooting a video. So he waited in line with all the fans because he loves Skid Row and he got to the front and got in the video. That was before there was a John 5. It’s John Lowery but that’s the FIRST time I ever hooked up with John 5. (laughs)
antiMusic: That’s really crazy.
Sebastian: (laughs) Bet you weren’t expecting that answer.
antiMusic: Yeah, really. Well it’s a marriage made in heaven. You guys have got a natural style together. How did the actual writing process work with all you three?
Sebastian: Well every one of us is different. John 5 goes to me, “Sebastian I would LOVE to hear your voice on the radio again with a new song.” That’s what he tells me all the time. And I would love that too. (laughs) But he just gives me these riffs that are killer. The same with Duff and Steve Stevens. They just give me this music that’s incredible. I’m very lucky. I’m VERY lucky to play with the best in the business.
antiMusic: Absolutely. Well, I’m sure it’s mutual. Like I say, everything on there is awesome but I think my favourite two are: “Temptation” and “All My Friends are Dead”.
Sebastian: That’s wild. That’s awesome.
antiMusic: Tell us about “Temptation” and after the video I had to give my computer monitor a cold shower as it was panting pretty hard….
antiMusic: So thanks for that man.
Sebastian: Well, I can tell you this right now: having that old rock and songs like “Monkey Business”, slow, grooving, metal songs get me excited in all sorts of ways. And if it’s done right, rock ‘n roll should be like making love. And I’m not just saying that. That’s from the middle of KISS Alive, when you open up the f**king gatefold sleeve and you read the liner notes from the band members and Ace Frehley says, “Rock ‘n Roll is like making love. If you’re good…
antiMusic: (together) …you get off every time. Yeah.
Sebastian: I can’t believe I just remembered that. I don’t think I looked at the middle of KISS Alive in maybe 20 years, but those words made an impression on me. And a song like “Temptation” sounds like sex to me and, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m very lucky. I have a beautiful girl named Minnie that I’m in love with that called her friends and got her friends in the video and cast the video and made the video what it is. And it’s very “tempting” this video. (laughs)
But I just try to make art that is great and I want to watch video over and over and I want to listen to this song over and over. And that’s what I try to make. I try to make….like I mean, “I Remember You”, you’ll be listening to forever, for all time. People will be listening to that song. I try to make music that stands up to that. And it’s not easy, but I will never get tired of watching the video for “Temptation”. (laughs)
antiMusic: Nor will millions of others….
Sebastian: There will never come a day where I say “nah, I don’t feel like watching that.” (laughs)
antiMusic: Who were you thinking of in “All My Friends Are Dead”, or is that just a good lyrical idea?
Sebastian: Well the term is funny. I just saw it on a T-shirt and I just thought it was funny…but we’re all getting older and it seems that everyday I lose a friend. Last week I lost a friend named Dave Brockie, better known as Oderus Urungus of Gwar. He cast me in the Gwar movie, Skulhedface and I went down to Richmond, Virginia and I lived with Gwar for a couple of days and shot their movie and got to know him and he’s dead. So, a lot of my friends are dead. And before that, Jeff Hanneman,…it just keeps going on down the line.
You can also refer to a relationship that’s dead. “You’re dead to me”, it’s actually a song title I’ve had, “Dead to Me”, but I just blew it because I told you. (laughs) So it can mean that to. But I gotta say in the middle part of that song, we go a little crazy, musically, it’s like a freestyle heavy metal jam in the middle section. And I unleashed one of my favourite screams erupt out of my throat, in the middle of that song. And I love capturing the pipes on the new record cuz I ain’t getting any younger. When I hear my voice like that, at the full roar, like a lion, I’m like, “damn this is great that I’m capturing this on a record in 2014.” I’m like, cool, I can’t believe that’s me.
antiMusic: “Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game” is a pretty faithful cover. What made you want to take an April Wine song?
Sebastian: That’s kind of a commentary on an old man like me who’s been doing this for decades now, on some of the younger dudes I work with that to me, seem to have a big sense of entitlement as far as like, it’s almost like, they think that if they’re in a rock band someone’s going to hand them the keys to a Ferarri. And it just doesn’t work like that. You have to give everything you’ve got, your whole life to…
Sebastian: (laughs) No, no, I’m really not specifically throwing anybody under the bus, or ripping anybody apart or putting anyone down. I’m saying from my perspective, I never felt anyone owed me anything. I always, always felt so lucky to play rock n roll, from the bottom of my heart. I would PAY to do this. I NEED it to survive. I’m not looking for a way to get out of it. (laughs) I want to f**king rock and it’s astonishing to me that some people underestimate the amount of heart and soul that you have to give to have a total stranger relate to what you’re doing.
Maybe I learned that from my dad who was an artist, who just gave everything he had to what he did. And his art, you can feel it when you see it. And when you listen to the record, Give ‘Em Hell, you can feel that I LOVE what I do and I really, really do. So that’s what that song is about for me.
antiMusic: “Push Away” finds you really pushing your voice to amazing heights. Did you experiment with different notes or keys on the chorus for that one or did it come out just the way you had it?
Sebastian: That’s an interesting question. Some times when I’m figuring out a song, the melody will come to me right away and some times it will take me a long time to figure out whether I should go as high as I can or low or in the middle or clean or dirty. And Bob Marlette, the producer, really helps me out with that. To be honest with you, that song, “Push Away”, I looked at Bob Marlette, right when we were starting it, and I go, “Dude, let’s make this art. Let’s make this “Child In Time”, by Deep Purple. (laughs) And Bob looked at me and he goes, “I get you. Yeah, dude I get it.” You know how “Child in Time” has Ian Gillan screaming high notes? Well I said, I want a Sebastian song, like my “Child in Time.”
I kind of was aiming for that with “Push Away”. And again, just to capture my voice doing that, while it still can. Hopefully it always will be able to, but it’s great to get people to put that into your phone and you can listen to it. I think it’s the highest note I ever hit. I think we could sit down at the piano and hit the keys, but I don’t think there’s a point in going any higher than that. (laughs) That’s pretty much all I’ve got, folks. (laughs)
antiMusic: When I first heard that I was thinking, good luck with that one live, dude.
Sebastian: Well, the weird thing is, those super high notes are not really that hard for me live. Sometimes if I get sick or if I blow my pipes out, the mid will be more challenging. But the super high notes, knock on wood, I can pretty much always—I don’t want to jinx myself—but if anything every goes on my voice, it’s usually the mid part. The high ones are pretty reliable.
antiMusic: “Had Enough” is a strong slower-tempo song in the vein of “I Remember You”. You’ve always managed to strike a great balance between the pulverizing material and the more ear-friendly. Do you always ensure to include a song like that on each record or do songs just come to you without you looking for a particular style?
Sebastian: Well you know we could talk about heavy metal all we want but let me give everybody a tip out there: if you can go to a karaoke bar and sing, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, you’re going to get laid that night. (laughs)
Sebastian: People respond so much to this high tenor range of Steve Perry and Sebastian Bach of “I Remember You”. We’re talking a counter tenor, high range of male voice that chicks f**king dig, (laughs). Whoever the dude is at karaoke who stumbles up to the mike and nails the high notes in “Don’t Stop Believing”, he’s the king of karaoke that night. I’ve done it myself. If you can nail it, people can’t even believe that it comes out of your mouth. I’ve been doing this for years and so that range of “Had Enough” is right in that range. I love that sound too. It’s a rare range of a male voice that is not easy to find on very many CDs. I look for singers like that and I can’t find hardly any singers that do that. It’s a rare thing. So I’m very fortunate to have studied the awesome pipes of Steve Perry my whole life and I can sing Journey really well. (laughs)
antiMusic: No doubt. It might sound silly to say this since it’s obviously your record but even though you’ve worked with different people on every solo record you’ve made, it all still really seems like Sebastian. The songs may take chances here and there but even though you’re writing with the likes of Roy Z, John 5, Steve Stevens to name a few, there’s still this huge vibe of you that sits over each record. Do you agree and if so to what do you owe that to?
Sebastian: Absolutely but the white elephant in the room, you’re holding yourself back from saying Skid Row because there’s this misconception that I don’t write or something…what a f**king crock of sh*t. I do what I do for better or for worse. The things that people like about me are the things that people don’t like about me. I’m very polarizing.
The reason my old band is not together is exactly what you just said, and some people don’t want to…I believe that any good band has tension in it, from the Rolling Stones to Aerosmith, to Van Halen to Motley Crue. I don’t believe that all these guys are best friends and get along and hang out all the time. I believe that good music is created with some sort of tension. And when you say that all my records have that feeling to them, that’s true from Kicking and Screaming, to Slave to the Grind, to the first Skid Row album, to Give ‘Em Hell…
But the flip side of that is that if I don’t feel something then I get put into the position of hurting people’s feeling and making them not like me. But I can’t sing a song that I don’t feel in my heart. That’s the curse of a great album as far as, you know, why don’t you work with this guy? Why aren’t you in this band? Or why aren’t you guys together. I have to be the bad guy sometimes and say, “this sucks”. (laughs) Then people say, “Oh, his ego is out of control. He’s got Lead Singer’s Disease.” I just can’t sing a song I don’t dig. I just can’t do it. But on the other side, when I do dig a song, people relate to my feeling, it’s a visceral feeling and people seem to feel what I feel when I sing it. So there’s good and bad with that.
antiMusic: This record is still obviously a brand new baby just born but have you had the chance to road test any of these songs live yet?
Sebastian: No, it’s brand new. In fact when we shot the “Temptation” video it was funny because I’m standing there and they yell ‘Go!” and I didn’t know what to do. (laughs) I go stop, stop. And I had to rearrange the speaker, and sh*t, and it was just funny. They put the camera on me and they go “GO!” And I just stood there and laughed and said, “I’ve never done this song.” But then I just got into it. I looked to my left and saw Duff McKagan and I go, “Holy sh*t, I’m doing a video with the guy who wrote “Welcome to The Jungle.” Let’s f**king rock.” (laughs)
antiMusic: What are the plans for working this record cuz I presume you’re going to be hitting the road soon?
Sebastian: Yeah, I’ve got like 50 or 60 shows coming up which in my book constitutes a real rock ‘n roll tour. So I’m going to go get in shape and get ready, get my passport and fly it up the flagpole and see who salutes.
antiMusic: Yeah, David Lee.
Sebastian: Yeah, that’s David Lee Roth. (laughs) You’ve got it.
antiMusic: OK, that’s all the questions I have for you Sebastian. Is there anything else about the record that you want to mention that I didn’t ask you?
Sebastian: I just want to thank you so much for enjoying it and giving it a chance. I tried my hardest to make something that all of you would dig and everybody I’m talking to is digging the record. And that lets me sleep well at night. I feel like I did a good job. I just want you to put it in your phone and crank it up and enjoy it. That’s all the payment and thanks I need. That’s it. That’s all. Just enjoy it.
Preorder the album here.
Give ‘Em Sludge