SEBASTIAN BACH - Setting The Standard For Craziness
April 24, 2014, a year ago
Sitting at the gate at JFK airport in New York, waiting to board a plane home to Los Angeles, SEBASTIAN BACH calls BraveWords to discuss his brand new album Give ‘Em Hell. “I hesitate to say this to people, but I guess I should admit it, this is the first album I’ve ever done in my life not drinking alcohol. I never did a record ever before sober. I guess that kind of ties me into not drinking anymore, because everybody’s telling me I sound the best I’ve ever sounded on this record. Everybody really digs it, and I dig it myself. There’s so many insane screams. When the first video for ‘Temptation’ came out, people just lost their minds over it. And we just put out a new one, a lyric video for ‘Taking Back Tomorrow’,” which looks like a comic book come to life. “That was my idea. They (the record label) said, ‘you need to do a lyric video.’ I said, what the hell is a lyric video? I don’t even know what that is, no idea. They said, ‘it’s a video that the lyrics go over.’ Any fan can do that at their house with their laptop. Why would we do that? So I said, let’s make it like a comic with the lyrics coming out of my mouth in a balloon, in panels and stuff. When I suggested that, the record company just laughed. But that’s how it came out, and it’s fun. I love making stuff. I love making new videos, new albums, album covers; I just enjoy it.”
‘Taking Back Tomorrow’ features an unexpected lyric: “I’m like Amanda Bynes, insane I cross the line.” Once his laughter subsides, Baz replies, “Hey man, Sebastian Bach is the original Amanda Bynes. I was Amanda Bynes in 1983 at The Gasworks (a popular Toronto rock bar). I’ve been setting the standard for craziness for decades now, and that’s no lie.” The song then takes a turn with another surprising line: “All I know in life is hatred, fear and strife.” After a deep breath comes the explanation, “That line is not to be taken literally. It’s not all I know in my life, it just refers to all the drama with my old band (SKID ROW) and stuff like that. I lost my house in the hurricane (Hurricane Irene in 2011); you know the whole sob story. I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my personal life, more than people really know. I remember when I was a kid and WILLIE NELSON – the IRS took his house away cause he owed taxes. They kicked him out of his home, took away all his Platinum Records; his friends had to buy up his possessions at auction and give them back to him. As a little kid I remember saying, why is all this happening to Willie? And now, insane things have happened to me in my life. Sometimes you don’t see things coming that are life-changing. If you look closely, when I sing the line, ‘I’ve lost everything I had’, in the back of me is video from the news of my own house being flooded. I’s pretty crazy that’s in the video.”
Looking at the lineup of guest musicians who contributed to Give ‘Em Hell makes one think of THE BEATLES’ song ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Reason being, bassist Duff McKagan (GUNS N’ ROSES), guitarists Steve Stevens (BILLY IDOL), John 5 (ROB ZOMBIE), and Devin Bronson (PINK), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (HALFORD) and producer Bob Marlette (ALICE COOPER) all lent a hand in creating this terrific album. “Well, all of my records have been kind of like that. I’m very good at getting the job done. When I set my mind to something, nine times out of ten I kill it. I don’t walk around telling you that I’m the world’s greatest songwriter; I write songs and I write lyrics and riffs and melodies. My biggest concern is not to prove to the world that I’m the best songwriter; my biggest concern is to have a great album – no matter what it takes. When you press play and listen to an album, that’s what lasts forever. Whatever I’ve got to do to kick your ass, I’m going to do it. That’s the way it’s always been. In my old band, a song like ’18 & Life’, I would hear that and say ok, that’s a good song. We’re done – next; some other songs, not so much. I know when it’s ready for other people to hear. I feel the excitement of rock ‘n roll and people seem to relate to it.”
In addition to Sebastian’s friends who played on Give ‘Em Hell, if you visit his Facebook page, you’ll see pictures of him with David Ellefson (MEGADETH), Frank Bello (ANTHRAX), Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY), Stephen Pearcy (RATT), and the list goes on. Yet the new album contains a song called ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ – what the hell? “Well I do have a lot of friends that are alive, but I do have a lot of friends who are dead. We actually did a video for that song too, that’s going to be coming out soon. I did a dedication at the beginning of the video to some of my friends that are dead. I started listing them and I almost ran out of room on the dedication panel: Mark ‘Bam Bam’ McConnell, Big Jim King – who if you watch the Road Kill Skid Row video, he’s the guy in the ‘Cold Gin’ PANTERA jam that I make stage dive – he was one of my best friends and he died. Dennis Flemion - I was in THE LAST HARD MEN with his brother Jimmy Flemion. Dave Brockie (Oderus Urungus) from GWAR, who cast me in the Gwar movie Skulhedface, he paid me to come down with my kids and ex-wife at the time. We all lived at the Gwar compound for a week as I played the role of Rock Star. Dave was totally hilarious and great; he’s dead. And Jeff Hanneman (of SLAYER), it just keeps going. A lot of my friends are dead.” An unfortunate truth, but it makes you appreciate the ones that are still alive even more. “That’s right. But it also reminds me of how precious music is, and the fact that here are we in 2014 and I’m putting out a brand new CD. Yet all these friends I had are no longer around; it’s a reminder of how short life is.”
This interview initiated with discussion of Sebastian’s sobriety, yet ‘Gun To A Knife Fight’ begins with the line, I drink like I’ve got something to prove. “And I fight like I’ve got nothing left to lose. Oh no, when I drink, I do drink like I’ve got something to prove,” cackles Bach. “What a great line that is, oh my God. You know, I think it’s time that I talk about some of the other people on the record that are not so well known. I collaborated with a lyricist named K.S. Anthony who is a friend of Minnie’s (Sebastian’s girlfriend). I was under a real deadline with this record, and I wanted to meet the deadline before CDs no longer exist. Every time I go on Brave Words it’s like the death of the album. ‘We’re only going to release EPs or singles from now on. We’re not going to ever make another record again.’ Fuck that! What a joke. Right now I’m sitting at the airport, I’m about to fly to LA – a six hour flight. When I get on the flight, I’m not going to scroll through my phone and say, oh I can’t wait to get into this EP. This is going to be an incredible 12 minutes. I want to listen to Moving Pictures or Farewell To Kings (both by RUSH). I want to hear a full album; this is what interests me. That’s what I listen to and that’s what I want to make.”
‘Gun To A Knife Fight’ is a metaphoric title as those words do not actually appear in the song. “Wow, I didn’t even notice that – oh my God! That’s a Steve Stevens song. When he first sent the music to me, it gave me the same feeling as ‘Mean Street’ by VAN HALEN, the first song off Fair Warning. It’s a really cool riff, like a gunslinger out in the streets. I don’t know how to describe music… that’s what it sounds like to me, like a gun. I always like to pick really cool titles. Even Rachel (Bolan, bassist) who does not like me at all, in Skid Row he’d always say ‘you’re the title guy, what would be a good title for this?’ I’m extremely proud of the title Give ‘Em Hell. Every time I say it, it’s everything that I want in an album. The way it sounds and what it means – fuckin’ go in there and give them hell! That is what I do on stage every time I walk up there. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t an album called that already, like really? Ok, I’ll take it.”
The surprise on Give ‘Em Hell is the cover of ‘Rock N Roll Is A Vicious Game’ by APRIL WINE. “Well, I think this is my first interview for the record based in Canada. Definitely, I did that song for Canada; and for myself – I love it. But I really think that the country of Canada would like to hear my version of ‘Rock N Roll Is A Vicious Game’ on the radio. It feels like a Canadian hit song. I wasn’t trying to get a hit; I’m always trying to find a good ballad to sing. It’s not really a ballad, but it has that sweeter vocal sound. I think any Canadian would love to hear an updated version of that Canadian classic. I can’t see how people wouldn’t freak out – April Wine 2014.”
That song was released in 1978 on the First Glance album. “I was ten, born in ’68. But my parents were very musical; they played music all the time around me. I went to see BOSTON with special guest SAMMY HAGAR at Maple Leaf Gardens (in Toronto) when I was ten with my Dad. I’ll never forget – ten years old – holding my Dad’s hand and Sammy Hagar comes out on stage. He goes, ‘Alright Toronto you motherfuckers. We’re gonna fucking blast this motherfucking’ – he just kept saying the f-word. I look up at my Dad and go, is he allowed to do that? My Dad starts laughing, and look at who I became right. I remember I couldn’t believe he was allowed to say those words in Maple Leaf Gardens. What a weird scene. But I want to thank Myles Goodwyn and the band April Wine; I hope that I did their song justice. I appreciate all their music; that’s not the only great song by them, there’s so many: ‘Oowatanite’, ‘All Over Town’, and my all-time favoutire April Wine song ‘I Like To Rock’. I would love to do a version of that one; it’s insanely cool.” Of note to collectors, the Japanese version of Give ‘Em Hell features an exclusive bonus track - an acoustic version of ‘Rock N Roll Is A Vicious Game’.
Straying from music, the topic of Sebastian’s forthcoming autobiography is brought to the forefront. “It’s really steaming ahead now. I’ve turned in 100 pages to Harper Collins; just the photos alone are sick. It’s coming, what can I tell you? It’s on the way. I just started reading Paul Stanley’s book (Face The Music: A Life Exposed), and it’s amazing. It’s so revealing, and it shows sides of Paul Stanley that I never really knew about. It’s very touching and very emotional; it has a lot of weight to it. Definitely recommend it. I didn’t realize how fucked up Paul’s childhood was, I never knew that. In all these years, Paul Stanley has been very private about his personal life. Every page in this book is stuff I didn’t know. It’s pretty impressive."
"I want my book to not be the standard drugs, drinking and sex the whole time. I mean, there’ll be a lot of that,” giggles Bach. “But when I read a book that’s just page after page after page of I got fucked up, then I got fucked up, then I was really fucked up. After page 70, I get bored. I just read LINDA RONSTADT’s book (Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir), and that was really about singing, like how she sings. That was amazing to me. I think there’s a little too much focus in the music business on personalities and gossip and drama and fights. I, myself would prefer to know more about the actual music. Anybody can be a drunk, anybody can be a bum; nobody can play the drums like Neil Peart (of Rush). That’s a special one of a kind thing, and that’s what’s interesting to me. I want my book to be inspirational and make you feel good, like Duff’s book (It’s So Easy – And Other Lies) is great. When you read it, it feels like you’re reading something heavy; not the lowest common denominator. Don’t dumb it down, I fuckin’ can’t stand that. Keep it truthful and real.” Are you looking at a 2015 release date? “Well the way I work, and the way my brain is, I get obsessed with projects. I spent over a year on Give ‘Em Hell. I focus to the point of driving myself cuckoo, and driving other people around me nuts. I’m not going to tell you how many times I mastered Give ‘Em Hell, how much money I had to spend needlessly on fucking around with this and that. In order to get to the point where I’m happy, it takes a lot of attention to detail.”