Heart of Steel: Interviews

Skid Row Interview with
Dave "The Snake" Sabo

Interview by Rick

Skid 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 band. 




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.



Can 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.



ThickSkin 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 new songs.

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 another.



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 your career?

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 that.



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.



I 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…

Alright man!

Take care……

Website : www.skidrow.com

Rachel Bolan Motorsports website

Metal-Rules.com Interview with Snake Sabo in 2000

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