Skid Row Interview with
"The Snake" Sabo
Interview by Rick
Row exploded onto the metal scene in 1989 with their debut self-titled
album. After playing the world over and selling millions of CDs, Skid Row succumbed to internal conflict and disbanded in the mid
90s. Fast forward to 1999 and Skid Row resurfaced with a new
lineup and a new outlook on life. I recently had the opportunity to
speak with Snake Sabo about the past present and future of the
Skid Row has a new CD released called ThickSkin. I think the big
question on everyone's mind is how come it took 8 years to release
another Skid Row CD?
There are myriad of reasons to be quite honest. We took time off from
each other because we were very discouraged with the way the band sat at
the end of 96 when we finally decided that that version of the band was
over. So Rahel went on to do some stuff and had a band called PRUNELLA
SCALES, Scotti, Rachel and myself had a band called OZONE MONDAY, and we
needed to do those things because it really put what we really wanted to
do in perspective and that was to show us what we had created in the
past and what we were capable of creating in the future. When Rachel and
Scotti and I spoke we decided we were gonna put this thing back together
but we obviously needed to make some changes, one being the front man
position. We have been offered a lot of money to put the band back
together in its original form but we couldn't do that because there was
so much unhappiness going on and negative feelings that Rachel and I
decided that since we started the band we were going to do whatever it
took to enjoy it and the band in its previous state was a very very
dysfunctional situation. That bred a lot of contempt among each other so
we needed that break and in late 99 we started with the idea with
putting this thing back together, we did it once lets really enjoy this
because this is what we do, we don't do anything else. We went out with
the intention if screw the money and all that, lets just maintain our
integrity and uphold the legacy of the band and start anew in a sense.
We knew it was gonna be an uphill battle and it still is which is fine
because we have always been the underdogs but literally started touring
6 weeks after getting Johnny in the band with the KISS tour. That made
it very difficult to write a record cause we were on the road with the
Kiss tour playing 4 or 5 nights a week. We did write some of the music
there and what we did was start recording stuff here and there, mostly
demo stuff at my house, and then we kept writing on the road and kept
writing on breaks and compiled a bunch of songs that we were really
really proud of and went in and recorded the record once and went back
on tour, lived with the record for awhile and weren't happy with it so
we went back in and rerecorded about 60 percent of the record along with
some new songs and stuff like that. We basically cleaned house, we run
the whole ship on our own, we manage ourselves, we started our own
label, we secured all the licensing deals and distributions deals
throughout the world ourselves. We also hired people that believe in and
support this band so we are in a great space right now because we live
and die by our own word right now, we don't have to worry about someone
making a decision behind our backs that would affect our careers.
That seems to be a real trend today with bands taking control of
their own careers by managing themselves and starting their own labels.
For us it is great. We still have a following worldwide so we will be
touring the world over the next year and its great because the record
will be in every market and we will be in every market and its going to
be done on our own and that's such a great feeling of accomplishment
plus it makes us tighter as a band because we are all shareholders in
this thing and its just us. We feel very blessed and I have never felt
better about a situation because there was always other people making
decisions without us knowing who we would have call up and bitch them
out. There is none of that anymore because we hire people who believe in
the band and ultimately everything is down to us from the album artwork
down to the stage show, everything is us. There really is no greater
feeling than controlling your own destiny.
you give me an idea of what THICKSKIN sounds like? Heavier and faster
like SLAVE TO THE GRIND? Melodic like your first CD or did you try to
meld all the sounds together?
It wasn't a conscious thing we did. Whenever Rach and I sit down to
write a song we have a basic idea whether it's a riff, a lyric or a
subject matter and we just expound upon that. We then bring it to the
band and then the 5 of us create the sound. Ultimately its gonna be Skid
Row. You won't ever hear anyone scratching on one of our records because
that isn't us. Its been so long since the last record and if we haven't
grown as people and as songwriters then we have been living under a
rock. We all still keep our ear to the ground in regards to what's going
on out there and what we like and what we don't like but by the same
token we still have our main influences that we have had since we were
kids so its tough for me to tell you what the record sounds like. I
think you are gonna have to judge for yourself, but I will tell you one
thing man it's a really good sounding record and we are proud of it so
that's all we can really do. Ultimately songwriting and being a band is
a very selfish endeavor because you write for yourself and what gets you
off personally and then hope you connect with the people. Sometimes it
happens and sometimes it doesn't.
One of the songs on the new CD is called "I Remember You
Too". Is that a continuation of the story from "I Remember
You" from your debut CD?
Its hard to explain. Picture a puck rock version of "I Remember
You". The exact opposite of what the original was.
Does it ever upset you that Skid Row is often only remembered for
your ballads like "18 and Life" and "I Remember You"
instead of some of the other songs on your albums?
Not at all! People can pick and choose what they like. As long as we
can move people and strike an emotional chord with them I feel very
moved by that.
will be released on your own label Skid Row Records. Why did you go the
route of creating your own label instead of signing with on of the
bigger labels and will it be a full blown venture or just an avenue to
release your own music?
Probably given the ambition that Rachel and I have it will develop
into something bigger but at the moment our main concern is this record.
But somewhere down the line I can see it happening. .
Right now you are on the road with one of the better tours of the
summer with Poison and Vince Neil. How is the tour going so far and how
have you been treated by the other bands?
We've known Vince Neil for so long. We always park our busses next to
each other and hang out and stuff like that. It has just been great. The
Poison guys are wonderful guys and I have a tremendous amount of respect
for them. They're realists, they do exactly what they do, they put on a
great show and it's a really good time and they give the people what
they want and that's why the people come out in droves. We go on early
and by the second song the place is pretty much filled up and so I am
really proud of that. For us we are a bit of a heavier band than they
are but there are a lot of Skid Row fans who are Poison fans and vice
versa and I have no problem with that because if you can respect the
people and move them emotionally you have done what you set out to do.
Have you been playing any of the new material and how have the
audiences reacted so far?
Absolutely, it's been an amazing experience. A lot of people have
downloaded the single from the website so you don't often see people
singing the lyrics at the shows when you haven't released the record
yet. The response has been great.
What other songs from THICKSKIN have you been playing?
Um, "New Generation" and in our own shows we play 4 or 5
So has this tour given you the opportunity to do some of your own
shows on the side?
Yeah, the fans are attached to stuff from their own past but I think
if you present something new that stands up to that stuff that they are
psyched even more to get the new record.
Fans go to a Skid Row show to hear "Monkey Business",
"Slave to the Grind", "I Remember You", "Piece
of Me" etc. But its always great to hear new material as well and
I'm sure Johnny adds a whole new dimension to your show.
Without a doubt. I credit Phil and Johnny with lighting a fire under
our ass. It could have been very easy to get jaded and given how
miserable the experience became towards the end in 96 you have your
guard up and as soon as they came in the band that wall crashed down. #1
they are great guys first and foremost. This band for the first time
this last 3 years we hang out together every day, we go to dinner
together, we plan vacations together and that has never happened before
in this band. It is because we have mutual respect and love for one
Now that you guys are a little older do you still get up to
mischief when you are touring? I know that you haven't been on the road
too long but are there any interesting stories from this tour?
Every night is a story! We work real hard and we play real hard. We
have a bar that we bring with us that goes in our dressing room that the
Pantera guys were kind enough to give us a couple of years ago. We got
disco balls set up and strobe lights and tunes blasting and debauchery! That's
the way it should be its Rock n Roll!!
Johnny Solinger has been in the band for 3 years but to many
people he is still the new guy. How have the fans warmed up to him over
the last couple of tours?
They have warmed up to him without a doubt. Of course people will be
skeptical at first. But my only thing with that is at least keep an open
mind. 99% of the people out there are "this is awesome" and
"this guy is great". Many people have come up to me after the
shows and said they had reservations when they came to the show and now
we are gonna get your new record. We knew it was gonna take some time
but that's ok.
Johnny has released a couple of CD with his own band Solinger.
Were you a fan of his already or did you only hear his stuff after he
joined the band?
Well Rachel listened to it on Johnny's website and then he called me
and said "Dude, I think we got our guy." So I went to his
website and checked it out and me being skeptical and being jaded said
"Wow, maybe we do! " There are 2 types of people, the ones
that say they are gonna kick your ass and the ones who just do it.
Johnny is one of the ones who just does it.
In conjunction with the new CD you are also releasing a DVD called
UNDER THE SKIN: THE MAKING OF THICKSKIN. What can we expect from the DVD
in terms of content and when will it be available for purchase?
Basically what it is it's the growth of this band as it is now, the
creation of the songs and all our idiotic behavior, life on the road
etc. It will basically document the last couple of years of our lives
up to this point.
Was it distracting having a camera follow you around when you were
trying record the CD?
No, not at all. The guy who did it is like family to us.
So we are getting a whole sneak peek into the life of Skid Row?
Skid Row has released platinum selling albums and has toured the
world. Up to this point what would you say has been the high point of
Really, because I live in the moment, the completion of this record.
So far. Touring with Kiss was insane. New band together, new singer, new
drummer and playing in front of 20,000 every night and just going out
there and giving our all and it paid off so much because it converted a
lot of naysayers. That was a very proud moment for me but right now the
completion of this record and the fact that we did it all on our own
makes me very proud of everyone in the band because everyone has really
stepped up their game. Its all on our shoulders now and that's the way
it should be.
With every high point comes a low point. Do you have a point in
your career that you would consider the lowest point? The point where
you threw your guitar in a closet and didn't want to play music again?
I did that in 1996 when it all fell apart. That is exactly what I
did. I had forgotten the reason why I started doing this in the first
place. I had lost that innocence. I was not one of those guys that
started playing guitar to get laid that was not even a thought process.
I started playing guitar because I had no other way of expressing myself
and luckily I was blessed with this ability to express myself in music.
So what started out as a beautiful wonderful thing ended in such an
awful disastrous way that I lost a lot of faith in myself and the power
of music. Thanks to Rachel and Scotti and Johnny and Phil I immediately
got that back and as soon as they joined the band I remembered why I did
this. It was fun again and I was truly being able to express myself and
show a side of myself that I can't show any other way than through
music. Those guys gave me that back and I am eternally grateful for
I have always wondered. Where did the name Snake come from?
When I was 12 years old we used to hang out at the school up the
street from my house. I hung out with Jon Bon Jovi, he was a couple of
years older than me. We were hanging out, drinking a few beers and I had
got my first chest hair, this long ass thing that was disgusting. He was
like "Dude, get rid of that friggen thing, what is that?" I'm
like "I'm not getting rid of it, its my first chest hair
man!". Hes like "That's gross, its looks like a fucking
snake!" And sure enough, everyday that I didn't get rid of it Jon's
like "Whats up SNAKE?" (laughs)
And it just stuck..
Um hum.. It's the truth!!
How instrumental was Jon Bon Jovi in getting Skid Row started off
early in your career?
Very instrumental. He helped us out a great deal, he put us in
contact with the right people and he took us on that first tour. He took
an unknown band on the biggest tour that year so that tour in 89 was the
biggest and helped us.
Did you learn anything on that tour?
Tons. We learned how to play to large audience and how to communicate
to people and make the crowd a part of the show. That's what in concert
means, all together.
know you must have been asked this a million times but do you think
there will ever be a possibility that you would ever work with Sebastian
Bach again either in Skid Row or on an outside project considering the
animosity that was evident between the band and he after the split?
No, not at all. It's a shame but it is what it is. Too much shit has
occurred and I don't think it would work. By the same token I wish him
all the best in the world but I can't put myself in that position again
because it nearly killed me.
Skid Row is often wrongly lumped in with the 80s glam scene and I
don't understand it. How do you feel about being tagged as an 80s hair
band when the bulk of your releases were in the 90s?.
I don't understand it either. We made a very conscious effort,
especially in 91 by going out with bands like Pantera, Guns n' Roses and
Soundgarden, to get rid of that tag. But I guess if people are talking
it's ok. At least they don't go "Skid Who?"
Sorry to cut you short but I gotta go…
Website : www.skidrow.com
Bolan Motorsports website
Interview with Snake Sabo in 2000