SEBASTIAN BACH – Not Done Kicking & Screaming
- by Matt Coe
- Posted on 15-11-2011
If you lived through the 80’s and watched the hard rock explosion worldwide, you would know Sebastian Bach and the mark made on the scene through his records in Skid Row. Multi-platinum status, top 10 singles, sold out tours- through the late 80’s and early 90’s, they influenced a generation with their street smart sound.
Since leaving the group in the mid 90’s, Sebastian has not been idle in or around the entertainment field. He’s made appearances starring in Broadway plays, had a regular role on the hit television series The Gilmore Girls and also been on a number of reality television shows. His latest album "Kicking & Screaming" finds Sebastian’s voice in prime form, and I think he has the goods to show everyone that he’s not resting on his laurels anytime soon.
I found the man to be very personable and engaging as we tackled a number of topics in our brief chat. Read onward to find out more about what’s going on in his cranium these days…
The first week of Soundscan numbers reveal sales along the same lines as your last studio album "Angel Down"- approximately 6,600 sold in the United States. It seems like Frontiers Records has done an excellent job in terms of pre-promotion and knowledge on both sides of the globe- how does it feel to be on a solid record label in these download driven digital times?
"I can’t even tell you how great it feels. My album is number 68 on the Billboard magazine top 200, I haven’t been that high up in the charts since 1995, which is 16 years ago. It’s like the Bob Seger song, "Rock And Roll Never Forgets". I couldn’t be happier, to come back on the charts after 16 years, it’s outrageous. For once I am at a loss for words, I’m blown away. Maybe my next record could be a top 20 record, who knows? It’s conceivable, and I’m going to put out another record sooner rather than later. It looks like my dream to establish myself as a solo artist away from my old band is starting to come true in some ways, so that’s very positive for my life."
Tell us a little bit about the making of the new album "Kicking & Screaming"- how long did the songwriting process take between Nick and yourself and how was the recording process with you, Nick and Bobby?
"The first song we actually came up with was ‘Tunnel Vision’ which I wrote with John 5 from Rob Zombie’s band. Then I got Nick in the band about 2 years ago, and he came in and crushed me with ideas. I can’t give him enough credit, it’s as much his record as it is mine. He’s very much like my Keith Richards or Randy Rhoads when he came in with Ozzy. Nick has revitalized my sound. I don’t think Ozzy would have had the career he had without Randy Rhoads. Randy was so incredible and original- and everything that I write with Nick sounds very fresh and original. He’s a great songwriting, a great guitar player, he looks really cool- he’s like the total package. I’m very lucky to have found him. Bobby is the best drummer in the world, and I’m not just saying that because he’s in my band. He makes me step up my game 100% when I play with him, he’s a consummate professional and he’s such a great guy. He’s great to be on the road with, very level-headed. Our personalities compliment each other- I’m wild and out of control sometimes, Nick is kind of shy and dipping his toes into the water of rock and Bobby has been doing this longer than me- so we have good personalities that fit together good."
A song like "My Own Worst Enemy" just roars off the album instantly with some of the heaviest riffing and your singing as high as you ever have before. Where have you succeeded in maintaining your range and strength in your voice where other hard rock singers have waned?
"Yeah! There’s a technique of scale, warming up called Bel Canto, an Italian method of warming up your voice that goes back to hundreds of years ago and it’s a way to get your voice strength strong. I’ve been doing it so long and I know my voice and how to get it to do crazy shit! I know a lot about singing, I’ve done four Broadway shows, I’ve sang rock and roll my whole life- and I was in my church choir as a little boy. It’s like a muscle, if you don’t exercise you are going to get out of shape and your voice will go away. You have to sing properly- for an album I will be warming up my voice weeks ahead of time to get it to go to those places. Neil Peart of Rush had a great quote- ‘I try to make the impossible sound easy.’ That’s my approach with singing. I go as high and as loud as I can. One of the hardest parts on the record to sing is the chorus to "Kicking & Screaming". Nick had the melody and I had the words- I walked up to the mic to do it and couldn’t. I had to back off the mic and re-group to figure this out. I was singing the chorus really clean at first but it didn’t fit, it sounded wimpy. It turns out I needed to scream that as hard and as mean and brutal as I could. It took me a week to figure out how to approach it. I had to belt it out AC/DC style, that’s me singing like Brian Johnson a little bit. You have to make the music sound like the lyrics and I’m pretty good at doing that. People don’t realize how much effort goes in to creating this stuff. I beat myself up for two years making this, it’s a gigantic weight off my shoulders that people are digging this. I’m sleeping better, I’m happier- now I can do another one."
Was it also cathartic to write about the relationship issues lyrically than you and Nick have been going through on this record?
"Yes, you got that right. One of the most emotional visceral songs in all of rock is ‘Layla’ by Derek And The Dominos. The way Eric Clapton was singing about George Harrison’s wife, who he was in love with at the time, but he couldn’t have her. There’s so many songs on this album that are written to girls I’ve been with or am with, and Nick- we both went through breakups. There are so many people that are telling me they broke up with their chicks and they love my album (laughs). We’ve been through a lot with girls- it’s not all about that though, the title track is for my new girlfriend- she texted me some lyrics in Italian for ‘take me now’- so I put that in the song. You can only write what you feel- I’m good friends with this country artist John Rich and he told me to never be afraid to write what I feel, because there is always somebody out there feeling what you are feeling. If you write from the heart, it comes across when you listen back to it."
You have bonus tracks "Jumpin’ Off The Wagon" and "Ain’t There Yet" for the physical version of the album as well as iTunes- how difficult is it for you to choose which songs go where, because I would imagine you want all of your fans to receive all of the material you intend to put out?
"Good question. Very easy answer. ‘Jumpin’ Off The Wagon’ is a fully recorded, professionally recorded song that we did at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN. The song ‘Ain’t There Yet’ is actually just a demo. It’s a very good demo, it sounds good. I thought putting that song as an MP3 would be more suitable because of the quality in terms of it being a demo. Nobody talks about how MP3’s sound- when I am listening to an album on a home stereo I don’t want to listen to an MP3, I want to listen to an album, a CD, or WAV/ FLAK files. I had to explain this to my management too."
What do you think would surprise people to learn about Sebastian Bach the person outside of Sebastian Bach the musician, the Broadway performer, or actor?
"A lot of things. One of them would be how into the music and the studio I am. I’ve read interviews with singers that say they don’t like the studio and they just want to get on stage and perform, but I love being into the studio and creating a new CD. That goes back to my father being a painter in his studio and I love to shut out the world and get some sounds coming over the speakers. I was married for 18 years and I have a new girlfriend, but there are a lot of the times when you are on the road you are alone in a hotel room. When you are always traveling it’s hard to find a companion that will always come with you through all of the craziness, the jet lag, the time changes. After I do a show we party for a bit, then we go back to the hotel and shut the door. That’s where the temptation of partying with other people comes into play, because who wants to be alone out there. It’s like being in the circus- you set up the show, you pack it up, you travel to the next destination. I’m still looking for that girl who wants to come with me- I think I may have her but she doesn’t like the cold weather (laughs)… so I’m in trouble on the Canadian tour."
How would you describe the audience demographic that comes to a Sebastian Bach show- are you seeing parents with the children coming to the shows? Also, how would you describe the difference in audiences across Europe versus domestically and South America?
"Yes, basically kids like rock now. They’re into the style of rock, the hair, the leather, the looks and the lifestyle. So theyook at me as a guy that has been doing it for a long time now. I’ve been doing it so long that people know what I am about, the kids know that too. For a while Rock Band the video game was turning people onto things, now I think kids are actually getting into the music."
Younger bands like Asking Alexandria, Halestorm and even country star Carrie Underwood have put out Skid Row cover songs in recent years. How does it make you feel about the impact you’ve made on this new generation of musicians and their fans?
"It’s really amazing. Black Veil Brides is another band that is influenced by us. I just got offered to sing with Corey Taylor on his tour, a couple of shows. Aaron Lewis of Staind has done ‘I Remember You’ and ‘Wasted Time’ – it’s crazy. For some reason our songs have lasted the test of time, they get played on the radio and on VH1 Classic all the time. Zoe Kravitz, Lenny’s daughter- her new band was in Rolling Stone magazine and her song is ‘I Remember You’. It’s a total compliment."
Who would you say are your top vocal mentors or influences through the years?
"Rob Halford, Steve Perry of Journey, Jeff Buckley, Robin Zander, Elton John, that’s quite a few of them. Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio- those are probably my top vocal influences."
What’s the best piece of advice you received from either your family or other fellow musicians through the years that you’ve applied to your life?
"That’s a heavy question. Alice Cooper told me- he was talking about guys screwing around on their girlfriends or wives- he told me he couldn’t believe people would jeopardize things for an orgasm. I listened to him talk and he’s totally right. I am applying this now with my new girl. Most guys don’t think like that."
What does the touring schedule look like in support of this record?
"We have 10-15 dates in America in November, possibly open for another big band in the states before Christmas- and then go to Europe in January and February."
Has your view on music changed in your 40’s compared to your early years?
"Yes, when I was a kid my favorite bands were like Motley Crue and stuff like that- but now my favorite artist would be Neil Young. For one reason only, the body of his work. What he has left for his career is staggering- if you are a Neil Young fan you have to go to the store every 6-8 months to get all the live shows, sessions, etc. It blows me away- that’s inspiring to me, more than any other reunion tour. If it means new music, it’s cool. I’m impressed with a guy who never stops in his tenacity, so prolific and when I was a kid I didn’t like him. There’s something haunting about his melodies."