Legendary rockers SKID ROW helped define the sound of rock’ n’ roll’s most decadent decades. Equipped with an arsenal of iconic tracks from “18 and Life,” “I Remember You,” “Slave To The Grind’ and beyond, they have continuously rocked crowds around the globe for nearly four decades. A testament to their hard work and tireless dedication, the songwriting partnership forged between founding members Rachel Bolan and Dave “Snake” Sabo back in the mid-80s continues to flourish. As a result, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the most significant years in the band’s rich history. Skid Row recently announced the forthcoming release of the highly anticipated new studio album, ‘The Gang’s All Here,’ on October 14th via earMUSIC. In this exciting new chapter, the band teamed with world-renowned, Grammy Award-winning producer and long-time Skid Row fan Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Alice In Chains, Halestorm, Evanescence). Furthermore, Skid Row recently reinvigorated its already stacked lineup for an epic return to their classic sound with the addition of Swedish Idol winner and former H.E.A.T lead singer, Erik Grönwall, as the band’s charismatic new frontman.
The album’s recently released titular single, “The Gang’s All Here,” is already making waves. The track showcases the band’s intense musical prowess, exploding with bombastic energy leaving the listener hungering for more. It is the logical next-generation leap of the band’s trademark sound. A finely tuned musical powerhouse, the boys in Skid Row continue to defy the odds. Most importantly, they are fearless in taking creative risks — all in the name of rock’ n’ roll!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with bassist/songwriter Rachel Bolan to discuss all things Skid Row! Along the way, Rachel sheds light on the making of the band’s forthcoming album, ‘The Gang’s All Here” and the undeniable creative impact of producer Nick Raskulinecz and Erik Grönwall.
The history of Skid Row has been well documented through the years. You guys put in years of hard work before skyrocketing to the top of the charts and establishing your own unique place in rock history with a slew of incredible songs. Was it difficult for you to find your creative balance once you had achieved the success and notoriety you’d been working toward?
Yeah! It’s weird. I always say, “You have your whole life to write your first record.” However, once we had the success that we did and the non-stop touring, we kinda grew up on the road. Well, we got older/I guess we didn’t really grow up! [laughs] A lot of life got in between that first record and the making of the second record. So, we got a little older and had a lot of different life experiences. We definitely felt the pressure of having to live up to what we did on that first record and the success that came from it. We felt pressure, without a doubt, and we probably took more time than we should have to get around to that second record. That was back in the day when you would get a letter in the mail from the label saying, “Shit or get off the pot, buddy!” [laughs]
It’s hard to believe, but you are four decades into your career. That’s something you can’t achieve without true dedication. So how did that work ethic and creative drive end up in your DNA?
I don’t know, man. Creating is my favorite thing to do. Songwriting is absolutely my favorite thing to do creatively, but I do all kinds of stuff. I might even see something around the house, and I will think, “I wonder if I can make an end table out of that pile of wood over there?” I have always loved creating. I think it’s really in my genes. My dad was the same way and my uncle, his brother, was the same way. A lot of people on my mom’s side of the family were artists as well. For instance, my dad built the house I grew up in. He designed and built it! It was just what I was always around, I guess. I’m sorta wired that way. Sometimes you create something really cool, and it connects with people, and sometimes you create something that is just a pile of garbage. You never want to hear it or see it again, but you have to keep doing it to create!
I’m sure you’ve just about seen it all throughout your career. What lessons did you learn early as an artist/businessman that continue to resonate?
I learned to ask a lot of questions right off the bat thanks to guidance from people like Jon Bon Jovi, telling me to never be afraid to ask someone a question. That’s kinda how I learned, ya know. I didn’t know much about the music business before Skid Row. Snake [Sabo] did, which was a big help seeing that we are songwriting and business partners. I learned a lot from him and Jon. I learned from asking questions and keeping my mouth shut when I should keep it closed. I’m still learning because the music industry has changed vastly since we originally got signed. It’s crazy! I always tell people the same thing that Jon told me. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask a lot of them!”
As a fan of the band, it’s inspiring to see your dedication to this band. You’ve been ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. For example, you were doing EP releases long before it was commonplace.
We’re not a band that shies away from taking a chance. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it does. Whether it works in a big way or a small way, you learn from it either way. It’s like, “Okay, now if we do this again, let’s change a few things here.” The EPs, for instance, felt good at the time. We have been under scrutiny a lot here and there. So, now we’re like, “If we are going to take any chances, now is the time! Let’s just do what we want, when we want, and just go from there. We’ll see if it works. If it works, we’re geniuses! If it doesn’t, we are idiots!” [laughs]
You’ve weathered plenty of storms along the way. However, 2022 is the start of an exciting new era for the band in many ways. Tell me how the ball got rolling for the new album, ‘The Gang’s All Here.’
We’d been working on the album for a long while. At one point, it felt like we were kind of rushing it. I know that sounds ridiculous, being that we’ve been working on it for so many years, but things just didn’t feel right. So, we went back in and wrote more songs and tore some songs apart. That brings us to about a year and a half to two years ago. Enter Nick Raskulinecz! That changed a lot of stuff for us for the better. First of all, being such a huge rock producer, Nick has produced many bands that I like and admire. He said, “Let’s do a Skid Row record.” He went through the songs and said, “This one’s cool. This one sucks. I like this part. I like that. I don’t like that.” It was hardcore producing. It was refreshing in a way, and you have to put your ego aside. He was a fan and grew up listening to Skid Row. When a band is around as long as we are, you often stray so far from your roots and base. You don’t even realize it’s happening because it’s a very gradual process. For a fan and someone who listens to your music, they can tell the difference right away. Nick brought us back to that place. There was one line that he kept saying to us, “It sounds like you guys are afraid to be Skid Row. Be more Skid Row.” That was such a powerful thing to say. As a band and as songwriters especially, we put all of our trust in Nick. Not even a little bit. We put ALL OF OUR TRUST in him because we knew what he was talking about. Everything he said to us was right. If he said, “This doesn’t sound like a Skid Row song. It sounds like you’re chasing something.” I would sit there and play it, and then I would leave the studio. At first, your ego takes one to the ribs, but you’ve gotta let all that crap go, and we did!
We completely put our trust in Nick and what has come out of it is so great and something we are really proud of. The response to the first single, “The Gang’s All Here,” is exactly what Nick said it would be. We’ve been hearing, “You guys sound like Skid Row…” or “This reminds me of when I bought the first couple Skid Row records.” Everything Nick said has come to fruition. The response we have been getting is really big, especially for a band that has been around as long as we have. Everything just kinda happened at once. It was taking a long time to do the record, but the singer change just came in, and the album release is getting closer by the day. That was a fun conversation to have with the label while we were in the middle of recording! [laughs] Things happen, but they knew Erk’s history, and they loved him, personally and musically. That made things easier on that end, and now seeing the reaction from fans and naysayers alike! It’s really changed the game for all of us!
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for the record?
It started the way that it usually does. Snake and I do the bulk of the songwriting, but it’s never truly a Skid Row song until it gets into the room with all of us. The biggest difference with this album is that some of these songs have been around for a few years. They get cemented in your head. Then Nick came in and changed a bunch of stuff and really shook the whole thing up. That was the most significant difference from a songwriting standpoint, meaning how involved Nick got with restructuring the songs. He really tore them down to the foundation and began building them back up. I can’t say enough good things about that guy! He is an undeniable creative force! [laughs] He isn’t afraid to say, “Try this. I know you can play better than that. Think like you were thinking on such and such a song!” I’m like, “Geez, Nick! That was 40 years ago!” [laughs] But it worked! He got us there. Being a successful producer is 50% producing and 50% being a therapist for each personality in the band! [laughs] You really have to work and get inside of their heads, and he did! He did! I can’t even put into words how excited we are about this!
What does Erik Grönwall bring to the table as a frontman and collaborator? His enthusiasm is palpable, and I’m sure it’s had as big of an impact on the band as it has on the fans.
Simply put, Erik brought himself, and that’s what we kept telling him we wanted. I’ll give you a little backstory on Erik. His old band had toured with Skid Row in 2019. I remember hearing him from the dressing room and thinking, “Wow, this dude has pipes!” I went out and watched a couple of shows from the monitor board. We probably said two words to each other the whole tour because they were always leaving as we were going on stage, so there were just quick hellos being exchanged. He always stuck in my head, and I was a fan of his voice. When all of this kinda happened, Erik was under the gun. We said, “Yeah, we’re supposed to deliver this album by such and such a date.” He was like, “What?!!” [laughs] We sent him a couple of things and said, “Okay, see if you like it. If you don’t, that’s cool! If you do, that’d be even cooler! It’d sure be cooler if you do!” [laughs] We did, and within 24 hours, he sent us two songs back, just a first pass. We were absolutely blown away!
We were like, “Couple questions! What do you think of the songs?” He said, “I absolutely love them. It reminds me of being a kid and listening to Skid Row.” You have to think, he was two years old when our first record came out! He was a huge of the band growing up. Our other question was, “Would you want to be the new singer for Skid Row?” This was on a Zoom call. He turned his head to the side and hesitated. I was like, “Oh, maaaaaaan.” He goes, “Wait a minute. Yes. Yes, of course!” [laughs] It worked out really great for us! Like you said, he brings enthusiasm, but he is also a very creative guy. We said, “Do your thing on the record, man. We will give you the basic melody and what we are thinking. Just dig into the lyrics and own it.” That’s precisely what he did! It’s almost like we wrote the songs with him in mind.
He understood the whole point of view in the lyrics. Ya know, it’s almost as if he is acting out the song vocally. I don’t mean that he is just going through the motions. He’s visualizing what is going on in the song and just putting it out there. It’s pretty amazing. Then, with our old songs, it’s almost effortless for him. He just goes out there, he sings, and he never stops moving! I remember Scotti [Hill] looking at me, and he goes, “I gotta start working out to keep up with this guy!” [laughs] So, it’s been pretty seamless, and it’s a blast! It really is a blast to go out and see the positive response we are getting and how into Erik our fanbase is. The guy has had a lot of his own success in Sweden and being on ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ as one of the apostles with Alice Cooper. I think NBC is a pretty big network, right?! [laughs] He has his own celebrity, which is really cool. As far as a dude, we feel like we’ve known him a really, really long time. We are all very like-minded, and he is very creative. We’re like, “Okay, this record is done, and the singles are starting to come out. Let’s start writing the next record!” And we’ve never been like that! The big difference is that we now have another creative person who plays guitar and has a ton of great ideas. The future is looking pretty damn good for Skid Row!
You mentioned the lyrical content of the album. It’s been a wild few years all the way around. What is Skid Row’s worldview at this very unique point in time?
Yeah, ya know, there is a little commentary in one or two songs regarding the state of things. However, we are trying to keep things light. We are still that band with that rebellious spirit. We’re still not yelling at kids to get off our lawn if you know what I mean! We aren’t doing that. I don’t know how we still have teen angst in us since our teens were so long ago but it’s still there! We wanted to make a record, partly due to Nick, of kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll songs. That’s why there are no ballads on the record. There is a slower song, but there are no ballads, although we did have a few written. Nick was like, “Let’s just go out there and make a kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll record!” That’s what I feel that we did. We talk about some of the same stuff that we used to. There is a song called “When The Lights Come On,” that’s about hanging out in the village in New York with our friends and staying up way too late. There is lots of stuff that is way more light-hearted, but we do touch on a few things happening in the world.
You’ve been a true source of inspiration in my life, and you continue to touch so many people through your music. So what is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
I think that if the point of not giving up isn’t proved by us and what is happening for us right now, I don’t know what is. That’s the takeaway. If you are passionate about something and you feel it, you have to keep going for it. We stopped for a bit, but in our hearts, we never once said, “We’re just gonna let Skid Row fizzle out and move onto something else.” If you are that passionate about it and is something deep within you that has become part of your life to the point where all you do is think about it, then pursue it! Don’t give up on it. There will undoubtedly be times when it will be extremely hard, but don’t give up on things. That’s the biggest lesson you can take from me.
Thanks so much for your time today, Rachel. One thing is certain; it’s a great time to be a Skid Row fan!
Thanks, Jason! We really appreciate that!
SKID ROW is slated to release their highly anticipated new studio album, ‘The Gang’s All Here,’ on October 14th via EarMusic. Visit the official website of Skid Row at www.skidrow.com and connect with them online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
CATCH SKID ROW ON TOUR IN 2022!
4/30 —Ashland, KY — Paramount Arts Center
5/6/ —Tulsa, OK — Osage Casino
5/7/ —Dodge City, KS — United Wireless Arena
5/08 —Columbia, MD — M3 Rock Festival
5/20 —Pompano Beach, FL — Pompano Beach Amp
5/21 —Albertville, AL — Sand Mountain Amp
5/22 —Grantville, PA — Hollywood Casino
5/26 —Morton , MN — Jackpot Junction
5/28 —Decatur, IL — Devon Amo
5/29 —Coleman, MO — Coleman Veterans Memorial Park
6/2 —Huber Heights, OH — Rose Music Center
6/3 —Cincinnati, OH — Hard Rock Casino
6/4 —Gary, IN — Hard Rock Casino
6/16 —Burlington, ON — Spencer Smith Park
6/18 —Lampe, MO — Black Mountain Amp
6/24 —Milwaukee, MO — Summerfest
6/25 —Aurora, IL — RiverEdge Park
7/20 —Orange County, CA — Pacific Amp
7/22 —Tucson, AZ — Casino Del Sol
7/23 —Las Vegas, NV — Sunset Station
7/24 —Temecula, CA — Pechanga
7/25 —Paso Robles, CA — California Mid State Fair
7/28 —Windsor, ON — Ceasars Casino
7/29 —Tiffen, OH — Ritz Theatre
7/30 —Terre Haute, IN — The Mill Amp
9/9 —Robinsonville, MS — Horseshoe Casino
9/15 —Lynn, MA — Lynn Auditorium
9/17 —Salamaca, NY — Senica Casino
9/23 —Reno, NV — Silver Legacy
10/8 —Shelton , WA — Little Creed Casino
10/11 —Perry, GA — Georgia National Fair
10/13 —Kingston, NY — Ulster PAC
10/14 —Bethlehem, PA — Wild Creek Casino
10/15 —Uncasville, CT — Mohegan Sun Casino
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