International Man of Rock
15 September 2006
Words by Daniel Hedger
From Skid Row to Broadway, Sebastian Bach is rock and roll through and through. He takes the no rules attitude to every aspect of life, defying critics to pigeonhole him. While best known for his work with Skid Row, who had a great amount of success in the late 80s and early 90s, Bach likes to change things up. In fact, looking over Bach's resume and past accomplishments, the image of the old fashioned all-round entertainer comes to mind. Rock bands, music theatre, TV (both of the dramatic and reality genres) and now solo work are all part and parcel of the Sebastian Bach experience. When I caught up with Baz he had just spent some time in Canada working on a comedy show.
"I just got back from Nova Scotia where I shot three episodes of this show, the Trailer Park Boys," he explains wth a laugh. "Yeah, smoking dope and fuckin'...it's the funniest show I've ever seen. I shot three episodes of Trailer Park Boys. I'm a guest on the show...I'm season seven. It's a funny show dude, it's really really funny. It's on in Australia right, Trailer Park Boys? So you'll be watching me smoke a bunch of bud on TV. So that's gonna be really cool...but it's not as cool as coming to Australia. That's what we're doin' in September. Incredible...the first time since 1993."
On the eve of his first solo tour of Australia, Bach is obviously chomping at the bit to get down here. This will be his first solo tour of the land Down Under since leaving Skid Row in 1996. This might faze some artists, but not Sebatian Bach. "Well I always do the same thing, you know?" he says. "When I'm singing 18 and Life I don't do it different depending on who's behind me. I sing it the way it is on the record, that's me doing it on the record. But I am very fortunate to have some of the best players in all of metal with me. I have two guys from Rob Halford's band - Metal Mike Chlasciak on guitar and Bobby Jarzombek on drums, who are just the top of the line as far as players go. So I get to do songs like Slave to the Grind and they sound more current now with these guys playing them, their sounds and everything...it's really cool to update some of those old songs too, you know? We do new songs as well."
The songs won't be updated with a DJ scratching or an orchestra either. It's straight down the line rock and roll with some of the best players around.
"I was just saying, no disrespect against Rob Affuso from Skid Row on the drums - or Snake Sabo - but they're just not..those guys don't play like Metal Mike and Bobby Jarzombek. I hate to fuckin' tell it like it is," Bach says with a laugh. "But it's just different...it's more aggressive is what it is. And I love what Rob did on the Skid Row albums, he was really great in the studio but live Bobby is by far the best drummer I've ever fuckin' played with. So, yep, you know it dude, your website's called Metal Forge, right? So you know that Resurrection album."
The album he's referring to is Rob Halford big comeback album, 2000's Resurrection, where Bach first heard the amazing power combo of Metal Mike and Jarzombek.
"When he went back with Priest I said to myself, 'I wonder what the fuck those guys are doing right now'," he explains. "So, I'm bringing 'em to Australia. And they love it too, it's a great match-up. We just did the whole European Guns N' Roses tour. It was insane, you couldn't get a ticket! Two nights at Wembley, it was just wall-to-wall people...you couldn't even get a ticket, completely sold out."
In fact, Bach's Guns N' Roses experience even included the man filling in some songs.
"Yes I did and that was the most surreal experience of my life," he says, "'Cause, Axl just had like a low blood-sugar thing happening and it happens to everybody. So they just ran up to me - the management and the road crew guys - and they go 'Baz! Finish the set!'. I go 'Finish the set?! What the fuck, finish the set?'. So I run out there, I do Night Train with Izzy Stradlin and the rest of the guys. And it was insane, I thought I was done: I walk off the stage; I thought I was finished and then they go 'Paradise City, dude'. I go 'Jesus Christ!' And there's so many words in that, it's like, 'Rags to riches or so they say, you gotta..."
Bach breaks out into song here and I'm reminded how powerful the man's voice is. He has a captivating and charismatic demeanour which is only heightened when he tells a story with such interest.
"And there's so many words in that; and I know the melody just like everybody but to nail those fuckin' words, it's like...thank God for tele-prompters," he continues. " 'Cause I just sang it and I read it at the same time and I think I did pretty good but it was like being thrust right into the fire, you know. And then I turn around and there's like midgets dancing all around me waving British flags. And then at the end I jump up in the air and when I hit the fuckin' stage all these bombs go off like boooom! And I'm like, 'Goddamn!' So that was really cool. Yeah, it was heavy, dude. It was the best tour I've been on since the Use Your Illusion tour. I've played a lot of gigs with Axl, I'm very fortunate."
It's this intensity and charisma that Bach will be bringing to Australia. And what can we expect?
"Well, all the hits.," Bach says. "You know, 18 and Life, of course, Monkey Business and all that...and then some new songs too. We just recorded a new record called Angel Down which will be coming out in January, with Roy Z producing. And it was gonna come out in October but what happened was, my record company Spitfire just got bought by a bigger record company called Artemis Records. And so they have decided, what with the restructuring of the whole brand new label ...and I have a brand new manager too, Rick Sales, who also manages Slayer. He manages Slayer and meI love saying that. And also Bullet for My Valentine, he's got like three bands. So I've only had one other manager; well actually two: my wife managed me and she did an incredible job and she did the best job she could have done, for sure, but now it's just gotten so fuckin' big we need a guy like Rick Sales to take over and everything, you know. Very excited about that, it's shaping up to be a huge year 2007, definitely."
A huge year of the rock and roll lifestyle, it seems. However, despite still being a hard-rocking metal sex symbol, Bach assures us Axl Rose is still more of a partier than he is.
"I mean Axl throws these parties that would make Sodom and Gommorrah blush. He's like Caligula! He throws these incredible parties. In New York he did four shows at Hammerstein ballroom and threw these giant parties every night and everybody from Sean Penn to Lenny Kravitz to... I mean, you name it, they were there, just everybody famous just comes to see him play. It's just a lot of fun, you know. Axl definitely knows how to throw a fuckin' party, that's for sure."
The Australian tour of 2006 should bring back some good memories for Bach.
"The last time I played there was Eastern Creek and Calder Park: Rose Tattoo, Skid Row, Guns 'n' Roses; it was a hundred-thousand people each show. And those two shows in Australia were some of my best memories ever of touring with Skid Row. Also we headlined in Australia in 1990 and we did Adelaide and Brisbane and Melbourne and fuckin' Sydney and I think another city too, that might have been it...but we also did Auckland, New Zealand too. But we had a great time touring down there so I look forward to coming back for sure."
Especially interesting is that he's a big fan of Melbourne heroes Rose Tattoo, recently inducted into the ARIA Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bach is genuinely happy for them and expresses delight when he hears this news.
"Well, they certainly deserve it. They're one of my favourite all-time bands: Rock and Roll Outlaw and We Can't Be Beaten and Scarred for Life, fuckin'..that's the real deal right there, boy. That's one of my favourite bands ever. I love AC/DC so much but personally I listened to Rose Tattoo more when I was growing up."
"They weren't big, but I liked them. I mean, I was a serious metalhead when I was a kid, like a little kid, I was just into metal dude. I used to listen to Anvil and Exciter and Venom and that's what I listened to. And of course, Kiss and Van Halen and all that too but I really liked...Tank from fuckin' England and Rose Tattoo and there's a bunch of Canadian metal too - Razor, that's what I liked. I remember when I was buying album and I bought Kill 'Em All by Metallica - at the time Anvil was actually bigger than Metallica and I was like 'Who are these fuckin' guys?' - and I took it home and I was like 'Oh my God'. I couldn't believe that album - Seek and Destroy and Hit the Lights and all that stuff. So, Rose Tattoo is one of the really cool, hard, hard bands from the late 70s-early 80s."
"I mean, it's real rock and roll. I mean, there's no tapes going on or you know, like....I even collect Rose Tattoo bootlegs, dude. I've got bootlegged videos and shit from them. Like Live at Horden Pavillion. I buy all that stuff. Yeah, and just the attitude of Angry Anderson, I really dig it. And great songs, man. Really, really great songs. Really great. Scarred for Life - (starts singing) ''Been knocked around/I've had a hell of a life/I was scarred/Scarred for life!' Fuckin...they're great songs, man."
Growing up, Sebastian Bach's vocal style was influenced by the masters, which is a pretty damn good pedigree.
"The guy that made me want to sing was Halford," he explains. "I remember my friend had Unleashed in the East and he brought it over to my house and I was listening to Kiss and Van Halen then, and he goes 'Listen to this' and I heard the scream on the live version of Victim of Changes and I didn't believe that that was a voice. I said, 'That's a guitar, right?' and he goes 'Dude, that's his voice' and I go 'Shut the fuck up! That's not his voice doing that!' I thought it was an effect or something. I was like 12 years old, you know. How can that be a voice? It sounds like a machine, you know."
"But I was the lead singer in my church choir when I was a little boy, like lead soprano. I had a pretty high voice too but I was singing in church. But then when I heard that I go, 'Oh my God, man; that's the most incredible fuckin' thing I've ever heard.' That made me want to sing, it was that album. And I put my Mom through many torturous, tortuous hours of trying to sing like that when I of course could not. And I remember... 'Turn that fuckin' shit down!', you know? Kicking the door and everything."
However, his mother endured all the practice and it certainly paid off. Bach learned to develop his own style of rock singing that melded traditional metal with classic rock.
"Well, you know, when you're 12 or 13 there's no way you can sing like Rob Halford. That's a man singing that, not a kid," he laughs. "It took me years to develop my own style and right around when we got Skid Row going, and doing the first album and I really found my own style and own sound of sounding. And it's so funny 'cause now so many bands sound the same, you know, like that whole Nickelback kind of sound. Nothing against them, but when I was starting out in rock and roll it was crucial to have your own sound. Like Sebastian Bach doesn't sound like Vince Neil, doesn't sound like Rob Halford...we all sound...you can tell who we are. We have identifiable voices. Steve Tyler and Ozzy Osbourne...each one you can tell. And then when Layne Staley came out everybody copied him - Eddie Vedder and all these guys. Like Scott Weiland, they all just did that low kinda...to me, Layne Staley, with Alice in Chains, really invented...was the first guy to come along with that really deep, resonant tone of singing. And I don't think he got the credit, that's why I say that in interviews 'cause I don't think people give him the proper credit for that."
Speaking of proper credit, it would be remiss of any interview to not mention Bach's formidable resume in the theatrical world. Starring in the Broadway productions of Jekyll and Hyde (where he took over the lead from David Hasselhoff), Jesus Christ Superstar and The Rocky Horror Show, Bach has trod the boards in a discipline that many in rock and roll could not handle. However, he admits he's still a wild man at heart.
"Jesus Christ Superstar ended on a somewhat bad note because I was a little too rock and roll for that," he explains with a laugh. "It was great for five months but that sixth month was fuckin' brutal. But that's what happens when you go on the road for that long anyway. You just get crazy. Like, just fathom that: eight shows a week for six months. Just fathom that, dude. Two shows on Saturday, two shows on Sunday. Monday you've got lobby-call in the hotel at 9am, you fly all day to the next city, check into your hotel and it's already dark, like 8 o'clock or whatever, you put the bags in your fuckin' room, go to bed, boom: Tuesday. And you play every night: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, two on Saturday, two on Sunday. We didn't stop that for six months.. I was fuckin' out of my mind as far as pushing myself mentally and physically, you know, as hard as I could. It was the hardest work I ever did."
The theatrical world takes a different kind of attitude and professionalism to rock and roll, which Bach is all too aware of.
"You know, rock and roll... if the ticket says 8 o'clock and the show starts at 9.30 nobody fuckin' cares," he says. "And if you don't wanna sing the verse or the chorus? 'Hey, let me hear you do it man!'. You don't do that on Broadway: you sing it - you have to. So, it's definitely different. Plus, I love doing Broadway but you're not in control really of Broadway 'cause you've got so many people; like that wrote it, producers that produced it... And the great thing I love about my solo band is that I'm in fuckin' control and it's like if there's a decision to be made, I have a meeting with myself, I consult myself and usually I tend to agree with me. So it makes things a lot easier. So, that's really fun."
Of course, Bach has not fallen out of love with the theatre. In fact, he has been known to throw in rock versions of some of his music-theatre songs into his live set.
"Um, I actually did - that's a good, great question - I did include...I have in the past, I don't currently have any of those songs in my set but I have done rock and roll versions of Confrontation," he says, referencing the final showstopping number in Jekyll and Hyde. When I suggest that another song from that show, Alive, would also make a good addition, he is impressed that I know the song and treats me to an impromptu performance of its verse. "Yeah man, you know it! (launches into song) 'Animals trapped behind bars in the zoo/Need to run rampant and free!/Predators live by the prey they pursue/This time the predator's me! Lost like a raging desire/Fills my whole soul with its curse'...dude, it's totally metal. Like, I don't have any rules. I feel sorry for people that have fuckin' rules. To me, rules are meant to be broken. To me, being a heavy metal singer doing Broadway just plain kicks fuckin' ass. Like, it's cool because people have a stereotype of heavy metal guys as stupid or lazy or they can't show up on time or whatever it is and I just like to prove people wrong, that's what I like doing. That's fuckin' fun to do."
Another of Sebastian Bach's showbiz endeavours was the Vh1 reality show Supergroup' which put the singer together with Ted Nugent, Evan Seinfeld, Jason Bonham and Scott Ian to live and work as a band. However, the band was shortlived.
"No, it's not going anymore," Bach explains. "The show was number 1 rated show on VH1 during the summer. It's currently airing in England, Canada...uh, it just finished airing in Mexico, Chile, Argentina..it's worldwide show, so it's pretty cool. I hope it gets on in Australia. It should be. Maybe after I come down there and tour...I hope so. Because it's been on pretty much everywhere else. It's a crazy show, it really is. But it's...they...you don't know when you're doing those reality shows what they're gonna show in the final thing. Like, there's one segment of five minutes of me looking for my in-ear monitors 'cause the band's rehearsing and I'm just trying to get to fuckin' rehearsal, you know? And I'm like 'Where's my fuckin' in-ears?' I couldn't find them, you know? And they don't show any of the rehearsal when I actually find them and put 'em on. But it's five minutes of me walking around the house, slamming doors, looking for my things like I'm a fuckin' bad guy 'cause I fuckin' lost my fuckin' in-ear monitors and I just wanna go rehearse. 'That's horrible! Oh my god!'. You never know what they're gonna show. But it's cool, you know; you sign up for these things and that's what they are: reality show's a fuckin' reality show. So, there's a lot of people getting drunk on it, getting in fights, fuckin' killer...great TV. "
The Supergroup experience might not have soured his love of rock and roll but it did curb Bach's tolerance for reality TV, as evidenced by his opinion on another 'supergroup' show, Fox's Rockstar: Supernova.
"I watched that once and that just wasn't for me, that show," he says. "To me, that seems like karaoke or something. Like when somebody gets up and sings somebody else's song and...you gotta write your own shit, you know what I'm saying? I mean, I don't know...I only watched it once but I was pretty burnt out on rock and roll reality shows at that point.. But it was 'Super' in the name: Supergroup, Supernova..Superthis, Superthat, fuckin' Superman, fuckin' Superman Returns. Super, Super, Super! I'd had enough of it."
It's good to see that Sebastian Bach hasn't lost any of his humour or charisma after all these years. The man is as engaging and entertaining as he ever was and these qualities are coming to a stage near you soon. His schedule is hectic but it's all for the love of performing.
"We come to Beijing, China on ..right before Australia, Melbourne of course...Sydney...then we go to Brazil and we have a...we actually have a tentative English headline tour in December booked but we are waiting to find out if we are going to be opening for Guns n' Roses in America. There's not been any announcements made that they are touring but if they do I would love to tour in America with Guns n Roses like we did in Europe. So if that happens, that would be great and if not, we'll go fuckin' headline and put out the record and come back in 2007. Got a new manager...I think I just said that. Yeah, so...I've only have two other managers: my wife and Doc McGee. So, with the new label , the new manager...it's shaping up to be a great 2007 for Sebastian Bach."
Indeed it is.
Sebastian Bach please Selinas in Sydney on September 14 and The Palace in Melbourne on September 15. For more information on Sebastian Bach, check out www.sebastianbach.com.