You probably have a certain impression of Sebastian Bach, Rock Star. And while some of those impressions may have been correct at various times over his last quarter century in the public eye, the one thing that doesn’t get enough attention – if any – is that few of his peers share the pure love of the game that he has.
Yes, platinum albums look nice on the wall and on the bottom line, and packed stadiums around the world keep the cash registers ringing and the fans interested, but if you talk to the former frontman of Skid Row and current solo artist for any length of time, you get the impression that if he was doing this in front of five people in some dive in the middle of nowhere, he wouldn’t mind.
“I’ve always made my music for myself,” he said. “I am such a fan of hard rock and heavy metal and anybody that knows me as a person knows that about me. I really am a fan of the music, and I’ve been doing it for 25 years, so I don’t know what people expect at this point, but I’ve been doing this my whole life and I haven’t done anything else really.”
Yet unlike some of his contemporaries from when Skid Row was touring the world and selling albums by the boatload, Bach’s new material, especially the recently released Give ‘Em Hell, is as strong as what he was doing two decades ago, if not stronger. That’s an amazing feat, because when you listen to new tracks from some other artists who first made their bones in the 80s and 90s, it makes you want to say “Play the old stuff, please.” Give ‘Em Hell? That’s a record you want to hear in your headphones and live. Bach is understandably happy with it and the reaction it’s received so far, and if there are comparisons to his work with his old band, he gets it.
“I always have to watch what I say in interviews because it comes out crazy sometimes (Laughs), so I have to be careful with my words,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, my albums sound more like Skid Row than Skid Row albums sound like Skid Row. And that will probably get me in trouble and I am so used to being in trouble, but that is not me bragging or me putting anybody down. That is me listening with my ears and telling the truth. If that makes me an egomaniac or something, I don’t know what to tell anybody. If you knew me, you’d know that I’m not trying to brag or anything; I’m just listening as a rock fan. This is what I do and this is what I always will do. I love the music too much to give anything less than a hundred percent. It’s cost me relationships, it’s cost me a lot of things in my life, but when I put on Give ‘Em Hell and I press ‘play,’ I love it. I love it with all of my heart, and that’s an amazing feeling that’s worth more than anything to me.”
And while having folks like Duff McKagan, Steve Stevens, and John 5 on the record certainly add to the proceedings, it’s the 46-year-old Bach’s voice that still steals the show.
“For some reason I have a voice that does not sound like it’s aging at all, which is really crazy,” he said. “Why does it sound like that now? I don’t understand. It’s like a magical thing. There are a lot of singers like that. Like Ozzy Osbourne. On the new Black Sabbath album, 13, he sounds exactly like Ozzy, and I am happy to say that I have the same kind of throat and I think I’ll always just sound like this. I’ve done so many albums now that I think if I was going to start losing that sound, it would have already started to happen a couple years ago, so I feel pretty lucky.”
So what has made Give ‘Em Hell the tour de force it is? Maybe it’s because Bach was not only on a recording deadline, but he hit it as well.
“This album was unique for me because I was under a deadline,” he said. “I’ve never acknowledged deadlines before in my career. (Laughs) Nobody could ever tell me in the past that I have to meet a deadline for music, but the reason I acknowledged this deadline and met it, was because when I go to Best Buy now, I go to the CD section, which I usually can’t find because it’s so tiny, and there are two aisles of CDs and my CD is in there. I go ‘my God, I can’t believe that I’m literally one of the last human beings in the world that puts out CDs.’ Somebody is trying to force me to do what I love to do more than anything, and I’m gonna do it.”
The result is what he feels is a modern take on a 70s way of making music.
“I always liked 70s albums, and you read stories like Black Sabbath recorded their first album in four days on an eight-track,” he said. “Kiss would sometimes come out with two records a year, and it was a different time. I think Give ‘Em Hell has this urgency and electricity to it, kind of in the way some old 70s records have. I didn’t over think everything and tinker with it and tweak it endlessly. It’s just kick ass rock and roll, which is the best kind of music.”
And maybe that’s the secret to Bach’s longevity, staying true to the music he’s loved his whole life. He doesn’t disagree, but when talking about the topic, he brings up another rock icon who he believes has been misunderstood.
“People talk about Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley being businessmen and that they’re just concerned with money,” said Bach of the recently inducted Hall of Famers. “I’m a huge Kiss freak, and I was in a band in South America called Rock ‘N’ Roll Allstars with Gene on the bass, and I saw a side of Gene Simmons that I had never really experienced firsthand. I brought a big ghetto blaster like I do to all my gigs and I play music before the show and after the show when we’re just hanging out. And Gene came over, in the middle of the afternoon, and he scrolled through all my songs on my phone. He put on “Magic” by Pilot and we started harmonizing and singing and playing air guitar, and Gene knew every little inflection and was having so much fun. He was so into listening to songs on the iPod and being a fun guy and he’s still doing it. Those guys get talked about for the merchandise and stuff, but I know for a fact that Gene Simmons is a real fan of music. I’ve seen it.”
So is Sebastian Bach. I’ve seen it.
Sebastian Bach plays the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in NYC on Thursday, April 24. For tickets, click here