Skid Row – A Return To The Grind
Interviewed By Keith McDonald in July 2000
Skid Row literally exploded onto the scene when they went from the local clubs right into a major arena tour with Bon Jovi. With the help of the hits 18 and Life, I Remember You and the anthem Youth Gone Wild, Skid Row, made up of bassist Rachel Bolan, guitarists Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill, drummer Rob Affuso and singer Sebastian “Bas” Bach, ruled the MTV airwaves and went on to sell more than 12 million albums worldwide. After internal problems within caused the band to part ways, the new millennium has seen Skid Row reunite for the KISS Farewell Tour. But they have added new parts to the puzzle including new vocalist Johnny Solinger and drummer Charlie Mills. I had the chance to speak to Dave who filled me in the tour and new vibe they now have.
Speaking about their tour with KISS, Dave notes that “it?s been such a blessing. On a personal level they?re my favorite band” and that “I get to tour with them on their last tour ever. It just freaks me out. On a band level it?s been amazing because it enables us to expose us to an amazing amount of people. When you?ve got a new member or two in the band, one of which is a singer, you need to expose yourself to as many people as possible” which can allow you “to convert the nay-sayers.” As for any disbeliveers Dave says “so far we?ve been fortunate” and that “there have been a lot of converts. We didn?t come out with the attitude that we?re Skid Row look at what we?ve done, we came out with we?re starting over and we gotta bust our asses every night. We can?t rely on the past” adding that of their set “we got thirty minutes and we make the most of (it)”. They haven?t been showcasing new material at the shows because “we haven?t had the chance. We just got a new drummer, Phil Varone from Saigon Kick, in the band.” Getting to learn “the KISS set plus the club set we?re doing on off days” isn?t easy. The band does “an hour and forty minutes in the clubs doing twenty or twenty-one songs.” Even with their hectic schedule they do “have about four or five new songs”.
There was no clear reason why Skid Row broke up in the first place. “It was a million and one things” explains Dave. “But what it came down to was that I could not and would not get along with Sebastian anymore” that they would “butt heads on everything. He showed no respect to the people who worked with or for him.” The reason we stopped doing it was it was so frustrating” that it “wasn?t worth it. For all the things that was wrong with the band I?ll take full responsibility for” because “I let it happen” that “maybe I could keep the band alive for another year”. The new incarnation of Skid Row has a brand new voice that is the hardest part of a band to replace. Dave explained how Johnny came into Skid Row. “We were contemplating doing Skid Row again” but that “we knew we?d never be able to do it with the original members. It just couldn?t happen. Me, Scotti and Rachel have always remained close and are the core of the band. All of a sudden K-Rock (in NY) started playing 18 And Life” which is “a station that plays Korn and Limp Bizkit.” Realizing there was no hope of reuniting with Sebastian “we figured we wanted to do this with another singer and drummer” while they “auditioned a couple people” for the vacant singer position. “Then through the Internet a fan e-mailed Rachel “recommending Johnny and provided Rachel with his website address that featured “streaming audio and video. I was so skeptical” but he soon realized Johnny “was really good. We flew him up in January for three days and got along great . He went home” while that band “knew he had the gig” yet decided not to tell him.
The members of Skid Row had a project right after the band broke up called Ozone Monday. Dave explains that “It reached a point where it couldn?t go on any further” and that it “was born out of the frustration of the last few years of Skid Row. We wouldn?t call it Skid Row, even though we had every right to, because it was so far removed from (it) and we weren?t playing any Skid Row music that it would be a cheap way to get people interested in the band.” They “never released a CD” even though “Columbia was on the verge of signing it. At the end of the day they said we?re not going to do it” at which time Dave “decided it was time to move on”. But they will release a new Skid Row studio album “in the summer of next year. Right now there?s a great vibe with the band”. Their record label, Atlantic, “said deliver us a great record” while “that?s all we want to do. They saw the band live in New Jersey and liked what they saw” and that “it?s basically what the new music is going to sound like.” As for the direction the music is heading in Dave adds that “I think we?re at a point that maybe simple is better. As Rachel would say high RPM, low IQ. We take great pride in our lyrics” while they “don?t want to write anything that brings people down. We want to write shit that makes you feel good, music that makes you want to drive fast, drink beers and pick up chicks.” It?s also a great time for hard rock as it has steadily made a comeback. “I think that happened was the lines between genres of music now aren?t so distinct” as Dave sees “kids wearing Korn And Limp Bizkit shirts coming to see Skid Row, Ted Nugent and KISS.”
Skid Row has come a long way since their early days playing local clubs in New Jersey. They even had a singer before Bas. “We realized (the original singer) was not dedicated to the cause at all. He would decide when and if he would show up at rehearsals” and that Dave told him “I got an idea?don?t” which led to their search for a new lead throat. “We got hooked up with Sebastian through Mark Weiss” the photographer. They were able to land their record deal and a major tour through Dave?s childhood friend Jon Bon Jovi. Despite their falling out years ago, Dave speaks to Jon “all the time. All that shit is behind us” and that “we realized life is too short. We were best friends before we did business together” and that when they did “we didn?t talk to each other for a couple of years. I said let?s not do business together and stay friends” while it?s “so much better now”.
As for Sebastian, Dave does not speak to him anymore. “I have no reason to” and that he “is a part of my past that I?m very proud of but I learned a lot. His life and my life are probably better off because of it.” He also has not heard Sebastian?s new live album. “What?s the point. It?s songs I?ve written” and that to him “it?s Sebastian in a Skid Row cover band.” Even though Dave thinks it?s “ridiculous” he hopes he “sells a million records” because “I?ll make a lot of money.” He also doesn?t see the original members of Skid Row getting back together. “I have no desire to” and that “my life is so different since we called it a day. There are certain things I can?t do anymore. I can?t be subservient to someone?s ego.” But Dave is looking towards the future with his new bandmates. “The future is now. I look at everything as the right here and now perspective. Further on down the line” Dave sees “another Skid Row record and touring” to promote it. “This has been a re-birth for us” and that “we?re starting over” which “makes you work so much harder.” Hopefully things work out well.