Skid Row Interview with Snake
28th October, 2014
Interview by Caitlin Smith
Photos by Inty Malcolm
Whether you know the name for the urban street down in LA, or the tumulus rock back that came swaggering out of the late 80s, everyone has heard the name somewhere. While both may be still ageing thoroughly disgracefully, there’s something about them both that remains timeless.
With hits like Slave to the Grind and Youth gone Wild Skid Row’s music is still speaking as much to generations today as it did to people over 20 years ago now, and with new music constantly on the horizon for the band, it seems there’s no stopping them there.
We sit down with guitarist and original member Snake for a chat about the new EP and what it’s like to be a member of one of the biggest and most influential bands in rock over the years.
Skid row have been around 28 years now, so what have been some of the highlights of your career?
The fact I can still get up and play music for a living on a daily basis, the fact that people are still interested in seeing us. They allow us to do this so to me, I’m humbled on a daily basis if I’m quite honest.
We’ve played everywhere in the world and even this last year there’s been some amazing places that we’ve never played before, festivals and whatnot that we were asked to be a part of. It just blows my mind that after touring for 25 years there’s still some things that we’re getting asked to do that we’ve never been able to do before.
Everything from playing the Marquee when we first came to London in 89 and then Hammersmith Odeon after that. That was great, we had a Steve Harris and Lemmy jam. Iron Maiden is one of my favourite bands of all time so that was a dream come true for me. Playing Wembley stadium with Guns and Roses, playing Russia. I mean, I could go on and on…
Do you guys actually make money from Skid Row or do you have other jobs?
Oh no, I manage bands but I do that because I love it. Skid Row has treated us very well.
So obviously there’s been a lot of changes over the 28 years, how have the dynamics and aims of the band changed since then?
We all get along! We all get along and we all love being on stage with each other. We’re able to not only tolerate each other on the road but also actually enjoy riding on a bus going to different cities, playing the different shows, and experiencing different cultures together. We genuinely like each other, and after all this time that says quite a bit.
Everyone has families and outside lives and whatnot but yet somehow we figured out a way that we can still get together and make music and perform and do it and enjoy it. That’s the most important thing.
We stopped for a little while because we didn’t enjoy the way it was going so we decided we wanted to get a couple of other people in the band to make it fun again for us and its gotta be fun or else you’re doing it for reasons that we never intended to do.
Trust me, I’m not allergic to money, nobody is, but I have to love what I do. I have to its just the way my mind works so if you’re on a stage and you’re not getting along with that person for a very long period of time and its not enjoyable then why do it you know. I’ve never done anything I’ve disliked.
What was the scene like when you started out with Skid Row?
It was all over the place as it is everywhere. Everything changed every 5 or 10 years and it was very wide open. It was rebellious but it was also, it seemed very positive but it was also gratuitous as well. It seemed like there was a lot of greed in the underbelly of everything and that I didn’t particularly like but from a musical standpoint there was so much good stuff that was going on.
We released our first record in 1989 and right around that same time we had Guns and Roses a couple of years earlier, that certainly opened up a door for us. Then we had Metallicas and Anthrax and Slayer and Megadeth and then Pantera and then you also had the resurgence of Aerosmith and Motley Crue and the Bon Jovis of the world and we were able to partake in all that.
We were lucky that somehow we were able to one year be playing with Aerosmith and less than a year later be playing with Pantera and somehow we were able to navigate, so it was pretty wide open.
I also think, and I hate to say this, but I think that music meant more to people back then because today were being hit with so much information every minute of every day that we don’t have time to just chill out and listen to music the way we used to listen to it, you know put on a pair of headphones and spend an hour listening to a new record. We don’t have the luxury of time anymore.
Do you still follow hard rock and metal these days? What do you think of the current scene?
I think that metal has always been underground anyway, even when it was mainstream there was still an undercurrent. I mean the underground has always been the lifeblood.
I was a fan of Iron Maiden before anyone knew who they were, they were in with Judas Priest, Angelwitch and NWOBHM, to me it was all underground and I loved it so much. You owned it, you know. I still think that exists and it will always exist.
Whether its prevalent from a commercial standpoint, that doesn’t concern me. Its still there, there’s still bands making great music, old and new so I’m happy about that.
Tell us about the new EP. Is there a connection to Pt.1 or is it a separate entity?
I think there’s a common thread that runs through both the EPs. It would be disingenuous to sit there and pretend to be somebody else so we’ve always had this mentality of unity and community and standing up for yourself, realising your full potential and doing the right thing.
Our music however aggressive or whatever it may be, there’s always an underlying theme of positivity to it of realising your full potential. We’re affected by current events obviously, I think everybody is but we take those and we somehow decipher or navigate what’s going on around us and somehow bring it together and put it together through our music.
We do it in such a way that we’ve been doing it the same way for 28 years now so nothing is going to change.
You’ve more traditionally released as albums, why did you choose to make the last two releases EPs?
We felt that it was easier for the consumer whereas again we don’t have the luxury of time anymore and I wish we did but we don’t. I think that people just have so much going on in life right now that they don’t get the opportunity to sit there and open up a CD and read the liner notes like we used to so we didn’t want to inundate people with too much music.
We’d rather be able to give you know 30/35 minutes of music more frequently like every 8 months or whatever and hopefully people will wanting more.
By doing an EP it keeps the cost down so it’s cheaper for the consumer so it’s not clearing out their wallet.
For us from a writing standpoint it works great. Again we put out more music on a more frequent basis.
It’s been 7 years since Revolutions per Minute came out. Why was there such a long gap between releases?
We were lazy, we also we were touring quite a bit. There were some health issues in there also but nothing life threatening thank god, and then we realised that we just need to figure out what we wanted to say and how we wanted to say it.
Somehow we got back together and Rachel and I started writing and it seemed to feel really, really right. The idea of the EPs, we then started talking about that and that felt like the right thing to do in the climate of what music is today, the way music is being delivered, the way people are consuming it and stuff.
When we approached it from that angle and came with a gameplan around releasing 3 separate EPs but all kinda one thing it just felt right and things just started flowing. It also came down to figuring out why we do this in the first place, what’s the reason behind it.
It certainly isn’t money. That’s a great aftereffect of the work we put into it but that’s not the motivation, so what is the motivation? It comes back to being that 15 or 16 year old kid with a guitar wanting to be the guys from Iron Maiden or Van Halen or Rhandy Rhodes or whomever.
Tony Iommi. When you get back to the essence of that and music is your only true voice, it’s not sports, it’s not public speaking, it’s music, that’s our true voice and expression. Once you get back to that, realise that’s what we’re doing and realise how incredibly important it is.
It’s always been important but for some reason there was just this clarity that came back a few years back and then the whole creative process has just been incredible.
Rachel and I just seem to be in lockstep with one another so when we sit down and write the creativity is really prevalent. It just seems to flow. Not effortlessly but fairly close.
What can we expect next from Skid Row?
Another EP, probably in the middle of next year. We started writing in January a little bit but its either touring, EP, touring, EP.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
I am so grateful and humbled that I get to do this for a living, that I get to play music for a living. The only reason why is because of the audience, because the bottom line is people could have done anything, they could have gone down the street, but they decided to come and buy a ticket. To come see us play.
To me that is the most incredible gift that I could get so that’s why I’m thankful.