SKID ROW - Demons For Hire

May 2, 2013, 4 years ago

By Aaron Small

feature skid row

SKID ROW's Rachel Bolan called while on tour in Manchester, England and before we could even begin to discuss his band’s new five-song EP, United World Rebellion Chapter One, the bassist exclaimed, “There’s an abandoned building behind ours that’s on fire right now. I just took some photos (one of which can be seen below); I got chased out of there, I was getting too close to it. I’m a frustrated fireman; I’ve always wanted to be one my whole life. My clothes actually smell like smoke.”

Rachel is the chief lyricist in Skid Row, with a little help from guitarist Dave Snake Sabo, and the first song on United World Rebellion Chapter One, ‘Kings Of Demolition’, begins with a very prominent phrase: ‘We’ve got the bullet and the Bible we defend it with.’ What a way to start! “Thanks man. When I write lyrics, I try not to tell people what’s going on in my head because I like it when people paint their own pictures. I write a lot in metaphor, but it does seem to make a statement right off the bat and I’m really glad to hear you say that, I appreciate it.” Then the song goes on to say, ‘Praise God for the ammunition.’ That could incite a riot or create a debate; it’s capable of so many outcomes. “Yeah, we’re not holding anything back. We want to make an impact; we want people to take notice. Sometimes I try to lay back a little bit with the lyrics, but not on this one.” But Rachel ruins the fun by telling us, ‘There’s no such thing as zombies or an alien apocalypse.’ “That’s the one I figure is going to get people the most,” chuckles Bolan. “They’re going to challenge me on it and I can do nothing but laugh. I’ve actually got people on Facebook saying they don’t like that, it’s bullshit.”

‘Get Up’ is another powerful song. Based solely on the title, it doesn’t seem very strong, but when you listen to the music and lyrics, it’s beyond bold: ‘Give me a bomb and I’ll drop it myself.’ Talk about taking matters into your own hands. “That’s what we’re saying. It’s a song about not being appreciated enough for whoever it is or whatever situation. I know what I wrote it about, but it could be for anyone. Sometimes you could just do too much for people and get nothing in return, that’s kind of where that line comes from.” Bolan conjures vivid images with his words: ‘You drag dead bodies through your piss-laden streets.’ Not exactly a Christmas card. “No, no, (laughs). Like I said, we wanted to make an impression and we want people to take notice, so we’re not going to curtail any of it.”

The artwork adorning United World Rebellion Chapter One doesn’t seem like Skid Row; it looks political and military in nature, somewhat similar to the Judge Dredd image ANTHRAX used for ‘I Am The Law’. “When we came up with the whole idea of United World Rebellion, that cover is just showing – we call him the Storm Trooper – it just kind of represents the establishment so to speak. Standing up for your rights is the whole angle of United World Rebellion. There are sectors that are popping up all over like United World Rebellion Helsinki, and United World Rebellion New York, and it’s bringing all these people together; it’s a pretty cool thing. Everyone’s getting the message; it’s all about the spirit of rock ‘n roll and standing up for what you believe in.”

While fans the world over are ecstatic about having new Skid Row music, they are equally as curious as to why seven years lapsed between the last album, Revolutions Per Minute (released in 2006) and United World Rebellion Chapter One. It’s not like the band disappeared as they’ve been touring both sides of the Atlantic, and their online presence has always been intact, but the gap between CDs is undeniable. “Yeah, that happens with us,” admits Rachel. “We always take at least four years between records, I don’t know. I wish I could explain it. We’ve been on the road since Johnny (Solinger, vocalist) joined the band, for the better part of 13 years. We managed to squeeze out a couple records but it’s just one of those things man; when it feels right it happens. There were times when we were all busy doing outside stuff, which kind of interfered. But for the most part, we toured so much that we had to actually sit back and go okay, we have to take six months off. Or at least four months off to write and record; we can’t keep playing and playing ‘cause recording is going to get further and further away. So that’s why it took so long.”

United World Rebellion Chapter One is the first in a series of Skid Row EPs. “There’s going to be three of them over the next 18 months, so it’ll actually be a little longer than a full-length (album). The whole idea is to keep a constant flow of music out there and stay on the road; it’s all we really know how to do anyway,” laughs Bolan. So Chapters Two and Three are in the pipeline, but recording hasn’t actually begun yet. “Haven’t started recording, but we started writing,” confirms Rachel. “It’s turning out cool, and the good thing about doing it this way is it’s all going to be cohesive. Our heads are at the same place pretty much now as to where we were at the first chapter. We’re hoping to do these in six month intervals, so it should be October sometime when we’re putting out the second one; it all depends on how long we’re out on the road.” Two years from now, an all-encompassing United World Rebellion box set with bonus tracks and extra material would be killer. “I like the way you think man.”

Guitarist Snake Sabo also works for McGhee Entertainment and manages DOWN, who are doing a series of four EPs, whereas Skid Row is doing a set of three. Did that play a part in the decision to go the EP route? “It’s funny, I had brought up the idea and Snake said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing with Down.’ We used to be with McGhee, but we’re not anymore; but I had no idea that’s what Down was doing. I think it’s going to work out good. I mean, we come from the day of recording 12 songs; that may be antiquated at this point, who knows? But doing it this way from a songwriter’s standpoint, it’s so much less pressure. Instead of putting out 12 songs… you can’t have all your songs be as good as the next. Where if you take a long time to work on five, you can get damn close and I’m super proud of this EP. There are a couple of songs on there that we rewrote three or four times; but we had that luxury.”

Bolan reveals why Skid Row chose to self-produce United World Rebellion Chapter One as opposed to bringing in an outsider. “It just felt like the right time to do it. We worked so hard on these songs and we knew our vision; we didn’t really want to bring someone in from the outside. We wanted a really good engineer, and we had three. That’s not to say that we won’t use a producer on the next one or the third one, but at this point it felt right.”

This EP marks a couple of firsts for Skid Row; it’s the first recorded output with drummer Rob Hammersmith, who played in WEDNESDAY 13’s GUNFIRE 76. “I tell ya what; Rob’s style fits Skid Row so perfectly! When he walked in the door, he was so unbelievably prepared. I knew Rob for a while before that; I produced one of his bands called ROCKETS TO RUIN, and he did a lot of studio work on projects I was involved in. When he came in and started playing, coming from a bass player’s standpoint, rocking out with the guy was just effortless. His enthusiasm and work ethic… the guy lives and breathes drums; he’s amazing. He’s great to play with, aside from being one of the funniest humans on earth. It’s always fun having him around.”

United World Rebellion Chapter One is also the first release for Skid Row on Megaforce Records. “How ‘bout that huh? When we met with them and told them what we wanted to do with the EPs, they loved the idea; but it all came down to listening to the music. So we gave them the demos, and shortly thereafter they said, ‘Let’s do this!’ We were stoked! It’s a good place for us to be.”

This EP has a wonderful blend of the old classic Skid Row, and the modern, current Skid Row. ‘This Is Killing Me’ is certainly reminiscent of ‘I Remember You’; a huge hit in its day. “As clichéd as this is going to sound; we really did find our roots again. It was kind of a conscious effort to do that, because on our last record Revolutions Per Minute we got experimental, every band has to do that at some point in their career – for good, for bad, whatever. But we really sat there and before we started writing, Snake and I talked about it; what bands did we listen to before there was a Skid Row? Of course: AEROSMITH, KISS, AC/DC, RAMONES, SEX PISTOLS. We had to remember what it was like writing when we were 22 years old (Rachel is now 47). Most bands forget after a while, we were kind of straying away from being the band that we were. We were closer to it on Thickskin, but it’s now 2013. We were far away from Slave To The Grind, so we made an effort, we cleared our brains. Put away the cellphone, put away the laptop, and let’s write what comes out of us. Let’s not think of anything except Skid Row.”

That thought pattern may have led to the beginning of ‘Stitches’ sounding very similar to the way ‘New Generation’ from Thickskin starts. “Well… ‘New Generation’ isn’t actually a riff, but it does have that kind of swing to it for sure, without a doubt. But I’m playing in a different key and not just chucking away on the E, I’m playing a riff along with the guitars, but I can see the similarities for sure.”

United World Rebellion Chapter One is the third release with Johnny Solinger, and he’s been cemented as the singer for well over a decade now. But it was rather unnerving that a month before the new Skid Row EP was released, he issued a solo country single, ‘Rock & Roll Cowboy Man’. Is Johnny going to pull a BRET MICHAELS and focus on his own career rather than POISON’s, or is he completely dedicated to Skid Row? “Yeah, that was a topic of discussion for sure. It wasn’t so much him as it was his record label, or whoever’s putting it out. We were worried about the perception of that, but the fact of the matter is, Johnny’s 110% about Skid Row and the country music thing is secondary.”

Prior to the completion of United World Rebellion Chapter One, Rachel participated in a really cool outside endeavour, which didn’t alarm fans because they knew it was just temporary studio work; he recorded all the bass parts for STONE SOUR’s House Of Gold & Bones Parts 1 and 2. “That was a great experience! I got that call from Corey (Taylor, Stone Sour vocalist) and it was a little unexpected. We had briefly spoken at a festival in North Carolina; Rob and I drove to it. We weren’t going there specifically to meet them (Stone Sour). I wanted to see HALESTORM ‘cause they did a cover of ‘Slave To The Grind’. So we went and just kind of bumped into Corey in catering and chatted for five minutes. He had to go and get ready for the show, nice to meet you, blah, blah, blah. Couple of months later, the phone rings, and he asks if I’d be interested in playing on the new Stone Sour record. I was like, when and where? How many songs? He said, ‘23 in about two and a half weeks.’ Alright, let me go warm my amp up, send me the demos as quick as possible."

"So he sent me the demos and I learned them. I tell ya what man, it was awfully intense; I’m not going to lie. Their riffs are huge and they riff a lot; they make it work. I think it made me a stronger bass player because it made me think outside of what Skid Row does. The fact that they had the faith in me to come up and do it felt really good; being accepted by your peers, who are kind of in a different genre, definitely a different demographic. It was a great experience and David Bottrill (TOOL, PETER GABRIEL, GODSMACK, KID ROCK, SMASHING PUMPKINS), who produced the record… I’m walking into a studio with a guy that won three Grammys. I didn’t know how that was going to go. I’m very New Jersey and very blunt; he was very cool and extremely talented. This guy had the vision beyond vision, and it all gelled great. I went in, did my parts and the guys were really happy. They actually asked me to do the tour with them. But because of Skid Row being ready to do the record; we were in the midst of writing it. I couldn’t take the time off ‘cause they needed me to commit for two years. But I talk to Corey all the time and they’re having a great time out there; hopefully I’ll get to see them down the road. They thanked me on the album and Corey said some really cool stuff, other than being nice guys, they’re some talented motherfuckers!”

Returning to Skid Row, a lyric video for 'Kings Of Demolition' has been issued. Will that song receive a proper video the way '18 And Life' and 'Monkey Business' did, or is that just ancient history? “You know what, I’m hoping that we do and that the funds are there to do it, because I’d really like to do something; even if we shoot it ourselves, I’d really like to put something out there.”

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