Sebastian Bach first exploded onto the scene in the late eighties as the lead singer of Skid Row and wasted no time establishing himself as one of the best voices on the rock scene. Internal struggles tore that iconic band apart but Bach soldiered on as a solo artist. Now, with well over two decades in the limelight, it is clear that no one embodies the spirit of rock n’ roll quite like him. A testament to his musical legacy, he has gone on to sell in excess of 20 million records worldwide as lead singer with his former band and as a solo artist. Not to shabby for a Canadian kid living out his rock ‘n’ roll dreams! A jack-of-all-trades, this multi-faceted performer has run the gamut from rock frontman, to Broadway actor to reality TV star and back again. Like any great artist, Bach has had his fair share of ups and downs, struggles in an ever-changing music industry and even the occasional legal battle but as time marches on, he shows absolutely no signs of slowing down and he will be the first to tell you that he has no plans to fade quietly into the night! As a matter of fact, he plans to continue to “Give ‘Em Hell” for years to come!
His brand new album, “Give ‘Em Hell,” is easily his most ambitious project to date. Produced, mixed and recorded by Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath, Shinedown, Alice Cooper) and mastered by Tom Baker (Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Seether), and features writing and playing by very special friends and guest stars: Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver, Guns N’ Roses), John 5 (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie) and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol). Rounding up the lineup on the album are Devin Bronson on guitars and Bobby Jarzombek on drums. The album’s twelve tracks kick ass tracks capture the take no prisoners attitude and rock ‘n’ roll flair for which Sebastian Bach exudes with every once of his being. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this metal legend to discuss the challenges of bring “Give ‘Em Hell’ to life, the evolution of his songwriting process, the status of his forthcoming autobiography and much more!
You have been hard at work on your upcoming album, “Give ‘Em Hell” for the past several months. Did you have any particular goals or expectations for the record?
I just wanted to add to my catalog, that’s it. One of my favorite bands is Black Sabbath. I saw guys like Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi, who put out Black Sabbath’s “13,” go out on tour while Tony has cancer and they are in their seventies. They released a great metal album and it was really inspiring. That is all I ever wanted to do. That is all I have ever done and I will do that until the day I die! [laughs]
How did your approach to this record differ than your past releases? Did you have a different way of going about things this time around?
Yes. My approach this time was to meet the deadline! [laughs] I have never acknowledged a deadline in my career. I don’t read record contracts that I sign because nobody is going to tell me what to do. Let’s just assume a contract says “You are Sebastian. We are the record company. You make the record; we will put out the record.” What else could it say? But my management tells me, “Hey dude, this is what you signed…” For example, I did a live DVD called “ABachalypse Now.” I handed it in to the record company and then two weeks later they said, “You owe us a new record!” I was like “I just gave you a record! What the hell! What is this?” [laughs] My manager tells me, “Yeah, dude. You signed this eight years ago.” My first impulse was to say “Fuck this and fuck that!” Then I realized when I go to the store that it is hard to find CDs. They are going out of existence. They are still here but some would say, arguably, they are barely here. I said to myself, “Dude, some corporation is demanding that you rock and give them a CD!” [laughs] “That is my favorite thing ever to do, so I am just going to do it!” I spent a year driving myself cuckoo and came up with an album that I could not love anymore than I do. I myself, objectively as fan of music, love it! I totally love it! [laughs] That is a great feeling and the whole intention!
What about the title of this one? What does “Give ‘Em Hell” mean to you personally?
I am a comic book collector, my fans know that. It started when I was a little kid. That term, the saying itself, really appealed to me. I pictured the covers of ‘Sgt. Rock’ or ‘Enemy Ace’ that I used to buy, the war comics. “Give ‘Em Hell! Get in there, boy! Give ‘Em Hell!” That is kind of what I feel I do when I walk on stage. I feel like it is my mission to go in there and give ’em hell! [laughs] I also like titles that are fun to say! If anybody remembers the reality show I did with Ted Nugent, “Supergroup,” one of the most famous lines that everybody quotes to me is “Hey, Savage Animal, it rolls off the tongue!” I don’t know if you remember that but a lot of people love to say that to me in public! [laughs] I am happy to say that “Give ‘Em Hell” rolls off the tongue! [laughs] “Give ‘Em Hell” could have been the name of the Savage Animal record but since there is no such thing; I used it for Sebastian Bach! [laughs]
You have ton of talent on this record. What do you feel these artists brought to the table for this project?
I am so lucky and honored to play with the best guys in the business. Before I ask a guy like Duff McKagan, “Hey, man. Do you want to play on my record?” I kind of have to get my nerve up because if he says “No thanks!” That is going to bum me out, right? When I asked him, “Dude, how would you like to collaborate and write some songs and play bass on my record?” He asked “What kind of music?” I said “Rude! Just rude!” [laughs] He goes “Baz, I could do dirty!” [laughs] That is what he said! [laughs] We just started laughing and I was like “Oh my God! I am going to collaborate with Duff McKagan, one of my favorite rock ‘n’ rollers in my whole life!” I am a fan of his and I am a fan of Steve Stevens. I am definitely a fan of John 5! My God! When I saw John 5 on “That Metal Show,” my jaw hit the floor! This guy has re-invented electric guitar they same way Steve Stevens did when he came out in 1983 with his dive bomb, stun gun, whammy bar hijinks! I am just so lucky to work with great people like these. All I want to do is to make some great music that people want to listen to over and over again, like all of my other albums! Every time I listen to “Give ‘Em Hell,” I get really excited. It makes me want to go on long runs and be a superhero! [laughs]
What can you tell us about the process of bringing the songs on “Give ‘Em Hell” to life? Did you go it about it any differently than with you previous records?
Yes, actually. In order to meet the deadline for this album, I was forced to approach lyrics a little differently than I had in the past, especially with the work in Skid Row. I would spend an insane amount of time on two lines of a song like on “Monkey Business.” Those lyrics are so abstract. “Kangaroo lady with her bourbon in a pouch, Can’t afford the rental on a bamboo couch. Collecting back her favors ’cause her well is running dry, I know her act is terminal but she ain’t gonna die.” You can’t come up with those kinds of lyrics when looking at a deadline. That is like poetry you bring in; do you know what I am saying? It was just a different way of doing things from what I am used to. On “Give ‘Em Hell,” sometimes it would be my turn to sing and the night before I would rack my brain to think of words, just like on “Monkey Business” or whatever. I wouldn’t be able to finish the song I was supposed to start the next morning. The producer would say, “Are you on your way?” I would be really bummed out and say “No, dude. I am not done.” He would say, “Well, just come in anyway.” I said, “No. I’m not finished.” He said “Just show up.” And I go, “Why? I am not done.” He said “Just fuckin’ come in!” [laughs] I said, “Ok!” [laughs] I would trust him and just stand up and sing without any thought. That wasn’t the case with all of the songs but some of them. Some of the songs on this record came super easy but some of them took a long time for me to think of something that was going to be as cool as the music itself. I would step up to the mic and phonetically vocalize some parts. Bob [Marlette] and I would look at each other and say “That is really fuckin’ cool.” Then I would fit words to that instead of the other way around. I think it is a cool way to do it. When I watch old documentaries on The Rolling Stones, I find that is kind of the way they would do things. It is almost like jamming in a way; you are feeling the moment in the room and building from it. That was the biggest difference. I had not approached a record in that way before. When I listen back, all of the vowels and stuff like that really make sense and sound natural in the song. The entire album sounds like that!
Is there a particular place you find yourself looking for inspiration these days when it comes to you music? I know you have made the transition from the East Coast to the West Coast. Has that made an impact on you?
Yes! I am a huge fan of the 70s California rock sound of The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and stuff like that. The vocal harmonies on a song like “Temptation,” in the chorus, have more to do with The Eagles than Cannibal Corpse! [laughs] With the way I sing, I am not shouting or yelling. I am really singing as good as I can and the harmonies I choose are interesting to me as a singer. What I listen to mostly is 70s music from the California scene; stuff like “One of The Nights” and “Hotel California.” You will hear a lot of that in this record. You will hear a lot of great metal screams too because I can do that! [laughs] As I said, my intention was to create something that bears repeated listening. I always find that if I choose a clean vocal sound, it is so awesome to listen to. Sometimes it doesn’t fit, like on “Gun To A Knife Fight,” where I have to go balls out and crazy as I can. I think the clean tone of my singing is a special sound. I feel there is a special sound in my voice when I listen back.
I know you put a lot of emphasis on the production and mastering of your work.
Yeah. As a human being, not as a rock star, I am an insane fan of metal. I am the Eddie Trunk of being a guy in a band! [laughs] I know my metal! I am an audiophile! Put ‘Slave To The Grind’ on you and listen to it with your headphones and then listen to “Give ‘Em Hell’. I was like this in 1991! I love the sound of a kick ass guitar riff and a great drum sound. I love this stuff! You’d be hard pressed to find a dude who loves it more than me. Anyone who knows me will tell you this. I always get in trouble when I speak honestly in interviews but when you listen “Slave To The Grind,” that is me with Michael Wagner behind the board being metal heads. This is who I am and always will be! It has been over 25 years of this sound and I am not going to stop. I am not going to start sucking now! [laughs]
Obviously, you care about you music and what you are creating. You are also working on an autobiography. Clearly you are a bit introspective at points. Have you given thought to your legacy and what you hope it will be?
I think I am too busy to think about that too much. I have always kept my head down and rocked. Making an album is a very introspective, quiet, inward looking kind of thing. Then you put it out and the whole world climbs inside your head. There is a song on this album called “Hell Inside My Head.” When you put your headphones on and are listening to my singing and the lyrics; I am inside your head! It’s fuckin’ killer! It is almost like my own personal thoughts and then it takes on a whole life of its own. It is an incredible honor to make albums because they last forever. That is a great thing.
Where are you at in the process of creating your upcoming autobiography? What have the challenges been for you there?
The biggest challenge has just been time, really. They are asking for it and I told them I can’t do seven interviews a day and write a book at the same time! Everybody is mad and asking “Where is it?” I said, “I just can’t do five things at once!” [laughs] I just turned in a bunch of pages. The pictures alone are amazing! My scrapbooks are of the first Skid Row album, the Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Guns ‘N Roses tours and even Pantera’s first arena tour. These are the scrapbooks of my life! These pictures were taken on a disc camera back in 1987 and shit! [laughs] Just the pictures alone are crazy, let alone the actual craziness I am writing about! [laughs]
Sounds like you could have a coffee table book and an autobiography!
I definitely could! I could have a coffee table book of just the old pinups I did. People fuckin’ lose it when I put that shit on my Facebook page. Ya know, I am a KISS fan. When they post old KISS shots, I think “Man! This stuff is killer!” In the same way, a lot of people love the old Skid Row pictures.
You have seen and done it all. What is the best lesson that can be taken from the life and times of Sebastian Bach?
Make something that you love is the easiest answer. If you create something you truly love, no one can take it away from you. ‘Give ‘Em Hell” is something that will never leave. It will never walk out the door, it will last forever and nobody can fuck with it. I am like a rabid dog when it comes to being protective and proud of this album. That is how much I love it! That is my lesson to everybody; make something you can be protective like a rabid dog about! [laughs]
You have been very successful in all of your musical endeavors. Is there still musical ground you are anxious to cover?
All I want to be is like my heroes — RUSH, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, KISS, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. I just want to be myself, make my music and then I will be dead! [laughs] There is nothing else! I just want to keep doing this, to keep creating and I will! I am lucky! When I listen to this new album, I think “Man, you can do this forever.” If I was going to start sounding drastically different, it would have already have started happening. I am knocking on wood here but if I can make ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ in 2014, there is nothing holding me back from rockin’ forever! What a great line that is! [laughs]
What is next on the horizon for Sebastian Bach?
I have a new ABC Network primetime television series starting on May 31st at 9 PM. The show is called “Sing Your Face Off.” I will be Bach-ing your living room for eight weeks in a row, where you like it or not! [laughs]
Awesome, Baz! I look forward to it! The record is terrific and I can’t wait to spread the word! We look forward to catching you live show soon!
Nice! Thank you buddy, great talking to you again, Jason!
Be sure to visit Sebastian Bach’s official website at www.sebastianbach.com. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Reverbnation.com/sebastianbach. “Give ‘Em Hell” was released on April 22nd, 2014 via Frontiers Records. Learn more at www.frontiers.it.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.