INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA
Rob Affuso is an American musician, best known as the band Skid Row drummer from 1987 to 1998. After Skid Row split, he briefly played in a band called Ozone Monday with Dave Sabo, Rachel Bolan, and Scotti Hill. After that, he moved on to completely different things. Currently, Affuso leads his own entertainment company Soulsystem Orchestras Inc. in New York, and he’s also the drummer for the band Soulsystem. I met Rob in NYC at the end of October, and we discussed a variety of topics, including his current activities, past times with Skid Row, and the future and what it may include?
DIFFERENT DIRECTION AND SOULSYSTEM ORCHESTRA
Metal-Rules.com: Skid Row broke up in 1995, and since then, you have not been much in the headlines in the hard rock scene. So the obvious question is, what have you done since then?
Rob Affuso: I disappeared. “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: You’ve done it well, but why did you decide to disappear?
Rob Affuso: I didn’t feel like I have anything interesting or worthy to talk about, so I go on with my life and play music and just enjoy myself in life.
Metal-Rules.com: I have learned that after Skid Row, you created a successful career with Soulsystem Orchestra. When was the orchestra founded, and how would you describe your business and its musical style?
Rob Affuso: Soulsystem is a band I formed in 1997, actually in 1992; I formed it after the “Slave to the Grind” – tour, I think when I came home. Just because I like the music style where it was a bit horn section, it played a lot of the old R&B, soul, Motown type of funk music. I enjoyed the power of the… I enjoyed the big band sound or the horns, the multiple. I had four singers. Now we have between six to seven singers in the band, but it’s more along the lines of if you would think like Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & the Gang or The Temptations, that kind of music. But we also now do… We do the company performs, private events for large corporate events and very high-end successful weddings through the country in America, of course, we would come to Europe if you want us. If you can afford the bill, we will come. But that’s what I do. So, it’s my company, and it’s based in Times Square in New York City.
Metal-Rules.com: When you decided to quit your old career and focus on this, what was the final nail in the coffin to do that?
Rob Affuso: The thing was we had such an amazing ride, a journey with Skid Row. With the success and the 10 years together as the original band, I felt very wary of the music business at the time. When Skid Row broke up, I was very wary of the music. I distrusted. I did not trust the people at the record company. I did not want to be a part of that music; I mean, I did not want to be a part of that business. I decided that I wanted to have control over my own life; I felt that at the end of Skid Row, we did not have the control that the record companies had control, and they weren’t doing their jobs.
Metal-Rules.com: And the mid 90’s, it was really a difficult time for metal and hard rock bands overall because of changing trends, the grunge invasion, etc.
Rob Affuso: Right. Many factors are happening with the success and failure of many businesses, Skid Row was a rock and roll band, but at the same time, it’s also a business. So, when I saw the demise of Skid Row happening, I decided that I would never let someone else determine my professional thing. So, I decided particularly I was out of money, and everything was bad at the time. So I started Soulsystem Orchestras at that time, and I have been in charge of my own fate since then. I would love a tour with Skid Row, absolutely. I would love to get back together with them, that doesn’t seem to be something… that a few other guys want, so I’m not sure if it will happen.
Metal-Rules.com: I remember seeing Skid Row in Stockholm back in 1995, the “Subhuman Race” tour.
Rob Affuso: Yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: And I remember that even in the audience, it was easy to see something wrong with the band chemistry.
Rob Affuso: Yeah. The “Subhuman Race” -the tour was the start. I think we were pleased with the album and the songs musically. For me, as a drummer, I think that was one of my best albums. It was my best performance on any of our albums, I believe, as an artist. However, commercially that was where we felt the record company was not doing their job. I think there were a couple of songs on there that were very strong and not taken advantage of. We would then show up for concerts, and there would be no promotion for the concerts, so yes, we noticed things were starting to go wrong, and it was affecting us, yes. So, you and the audience was correct.
Metal-Rules.com: It wasn’t long after when the band split up, and later on, you had a band called Ozone Monday with Snake, Scotti, and Rachel. Would you tell us a little more about that band?
Rob Affuso: It was a very awkward time. I was not getting along with Sebastian, as were any of the others. He was very difficult at that time, and so sort of the guys, it was forced to call on the guys to make as a unit to decide to change singer, and I didn’t really want to be without Sebastian. I felt Sebastian was an integral part of Skid Row, as were Rachel and Snake, because they wrote a lot of the music. But I wasn’t convinced of the music and the music we were playing, and I wasn’t convinced that the lead singer (Shawn McCabe) was the right choice. Not that he was bad; I wasn’t convinced that he was the right singer. He was a good singer, I just don’t think he was right and to be honest, I lost my passion and my heart for the music, what we were doing. It began to show, and that’s when the band and I separated because I was no longer very interested in what we were doing at that point.
Metal-Rules.com: I know what you mean. If you don’t have that certain feeling in Rock n Roll, it won’t work.
Rob Affuso: Right. It’s very difficult; you can’t fake Rock N Roll.
THE OLD TIMES
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s go on to more positive things. Actually, the first time I saw the Skids live was in 1989 when the band was opening for Motley Crue in Helsinki.
Rob Affuso: With Motley Crue, yeah. That was the “Dr. Feelgood” tour.
Metal-Rules.com: That was before the first Skid Row album was even released.
Rob Affuso: Yes.
Metal-Rules.com: That was an amazing show, I remember.
Rob Affuso: Yes, yes. The Nurses weren’t so bad either, were they? “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: “Laughs,” right, they weren’t bad either. A few years later, you supported Guns ’N Roses in Finland, and then you did a headline tour with LA Guns supporting. Are you still in touch with those other bands?
Rob Affuso: Yes. Many of them I don’t see anymore, however at the time, yes. We are all good friends, and once in a while, we see each other, and we take a walk down memory lane, we say here. But I remember the one funny moment; we were on tour with Motley Crue and Tommy… I think they all were trying to go sober, stop drinking, and so I remember we were on the highway, and it was the Skid Row bus and the Motley Crue bus. I opened the window, and as a joke, I said, “We are going to pull over and have some milk and cookies; do you want to join us?” Tommy and Nikki got so pissed off; they wanted to beat the shit out of me. I think they just wanted to have a drink, but it was a joke. I was fooling around, but they got very angry with me. But that to me, it was a funny memory. And during the Guns N’ Roses -tour, I met my girlfriend with whom I was to be for many years. No longer. But I met one of my life’s loves, Sabrina, but the Guns ‘N Roses -tour man, so many great memories. We used to fly together on the private jets and have parties all the time, and every night after the show, actually Axl had its own little party room that we’d all join and Matt Sorum… Matt Sorum and I would go out after the show, go out to the clubs. We played drums with the bands, and we’d sit in. And then when we were out with Metallica, Lars would join, so the three of us would go out, and we just tear up the towns. We had so much fun, and I miss that a lot.
Metal-Rules.com: You also played on Duff McGagan’s solo album back then.
Rob Affuso: I think that the song was called “Fuck You”; it was the song’s name. I’m looking for that song, so if you have it, please send me. I don’t have it, and I can’t find it. It’s funny, yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: And you also played on Gilby Clarke’s solo album?
Rob Affuso: With Gilby, yeah. We did… I did the Rolling Stones song, “Dead Flowers.” I used to be a lot in touch with Gilby, and I’m in touch with everybody but not that much anymore. So, maybe during holidays we see and say “Happy holiday, old friend” “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: Everybody gets older.
Rob Affuso: That’s right, yeah. People get older, move on with life, and get busy doing other things. I have very great fond memories of all those people and those times, which was another part of my life. So, now it’s about still having fun, living healthy but not too healthy “Laughs,” and making the best of my life, and doing what I can to help people when I can.
THE CURRENT VERSION OF SKID ROW
Metal-Rules.com: Of course, one of those things that people would like to know is your current relationship with your old bandmates of Skid Row. But let’s start this way, how do you like the current version of Skid Row… Is it Skid Row anymore, in your opinion?
Rob Affuso: It’s Skid Row. I think it’s Skid Row because Rachel and Snake own the name, and Scotti is there. So, there are three faces of Skid Row. I think Johnny Solinger has a very different style and a very different sound than Skid Row was and is a very different person. And there is a whole very different chemistry there. So, but I do like some of the new music.
Metal-Rules.com: Have you seen the current version live?
Rob Affuso: I saw them live when Johnny first came many years ago. Maybe it was 10 years ago? I don’t know how long they have been together. I know they’ve changed a few drummers; they have been through a few drummers. But the style of the drummer, the style of the vocalist. That brings a lot to a band; each individual brings a lot to a band. So, when you change two individuals, you change the chemistry of the band. I’m not going to say it’s for the better or for, the worse, but it’s changed.
Metal-Rules.com: That was one political answer. “Laughs”
Rob Affuso: Political answer. Or a political dance? “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: How about Sebastian Bach then. How do you like his current music and activities?
Rob Affuso: Same thing. I think in all points, I think the sum of all the parts are greater than the individual parts for all of us. I don’t think anyone in Skid Row was a real virtuoso at their instrument. I think we all were very good, and we were amazing and great as a unit, and I still believe that to this day. Sebastian keeps pushing on, and I think I would love the opportunity to do it one more time with Sebastian and me and the three original members of Skid Row. I think it would be a phenomenal moment, at least for me. I miss it. I miss that a lot.
Metal-Rules.com: But you have discussed it, about getting back together with them, right?
Rob Affuso: Well, I have talked with Rachel. I have talked to Sebastian. I have talked with Scotti, and I have talked to Snake. At the time, Rachel never said ever again.
Metal-Rules.com: Why do the original three members seem to hate Sebastian that much?
Rob Affuso: Well, I don’t hate Sebastian.
Metal-Rules.com: But Rachel, for example?
Rob Affuso: They’re two individuals. So, they have their issues. I think that’s a question better asked for them, but you don’t… Sebastian said once to me, we were having a fight, and he said, “I don’t need to be your best fucking friend. I don’t need to go have fucking pizza with you, and I just need to fucking rock with you.”
Metal-Rules.com: Right, and in fact, there are many examples of non-expected reunions in the music world like Black Sabbath with Ozzy. It was never going to happen, but it still happened. And it didn’t happen because they love each other too much… “Laughs.”
Rob Affuso: Right. I think it needs to be about more than just money. Being in Skid Row was a very important part of my life as a person and musician. At the time, I was in Skid Row for 10 years at 32. That was more than a third of my life; I was part of Skid Row. So, it is still a very important part of who I was and who I am, although I continue to change. For me, a re-union would be very special, and it would be about friendship, and it would be about old friends. Because that’s what it was to me.
Metal-Rules.com: Right. But like you said earlier, you kind of lost interest and motivation for playing hard rock/metal at one point, but you would do it again now?
Rob Affuso: Absolutely, yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: Why haven’t you joined any other bands, if nothing else, just for a tour. You must have gotten some good offers over the years?
Rob Affuso: You know, I have been asked to do a few summer tours for the stadiums, they will remain nameless, and one of them was Sebastian.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. I’m not surprised about that.
Rob Affuso: That was two or three years ago, and at that time, I had an operation; I have new hips. My hips went bad; too many girls “Laughs.” Too much drumming. So I had an operation, but now I’m back and fine. So, I will see you, maybe next summer I hope. It will be nice.
Metal-Rules.com: With whom…. “Laughs”
Rob Affuso: I don’t know, will see. See what we can do; I love to do it. It would be nice to do it with Skid Row.
Metal-Rules.com: But Rachel will say “No” anyway, so I doubt it. I don’t know how the band is doing financially nowadays, but I think you are probably doing better than the other Skid Row guys?
Rob Affuso: I think so? The Soulsystem band travels; most of the time, we travel for corporate events. So, we travel to Puerto Rico or Maui, or the Bahamas. So, we go to very nice destinations, and we play fun music; we get paid well, and then we just lay on the beach. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, nice life.
Rob Affuso: It would be better… I don’t know if it’s going to be better, but someday maybe it will happen. Who knows.
THE LAST WORDS
Metal-Rules.com: It seems that the ongoing trend in the States is that many 80’s bands/artists relocate to Las Vegas where they’re performing their old hits night after night, and they are in a way “acting” as themselves in the ’80s. What do you think about that?
Rob Affuso: I don’t like it, but… Well, let me say this. If your band can play five nights in a row in Las Vegas and fill the theatre, you obviously have some impact on your career. And I think that it’s a great business opportunity for these musicians, you can play… A lot of us are now in our mid-40s and early 50s, some 60s and 65. So, being able to do that, staying in one place for a week, and having your family there, I think it’s a great opportunity, but I also think it’s an opportunity that’s been earned because of your past success. I don’t think if you did not have a big success in the past you can’t do that.
Metal-Rules.com: KISS is doing Las Vegas next week.
Rob Affuso: They will be fine. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: The last question… You already told us about your plans, but could you choose where you would like to be in one year from now?
Rob Affuso: One year from now I… I honestly will have a very good life. I am not extremely wealthy, and I’m not poor; I’m very happy with my status. And to me, that’s the key in life, is to find where you can be comfortable in life. So, right now, I’m very comfortable. I love the music I play, and I have a great relationship. My business is fun. I love making my business more successful and bigger, just like a rock band but different. I hope to be doing just what I’m doing and maybe just coming back from a Skid Row tour.