SKID ROW – Flying The Flag Of A New Generation

August 1, 2014, 3 years ago

By Aaron Small

feature skid row hard rock

SKID ROW – Flying The Flag Of A New Generation

United World Rebellion Chapter One (released in 2013) and Chapter Two (due in August) both feature five original Skid Row songs and a pair of cover tunes. However on Chapter One, the covers (Judas Priest’s “United” and EZO’s “Fire Fire) were not included on the North American pressings. Thankfully the covers Skid Row recorded for Rise Of The Damnation Army: United World Rebellion Chapter Two (Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” and Aerosmith’s “Rats In The Cellar”) come as standard fare worldwide. “We wanted to make them available to everybody this time,” states bassist Rachel Bolan. Part of the reason Canadian and US fans were denied the covers last year was the gap in release dates; North American stores received CDs more than a month ahead of shops in Europe and The UK. Now in 2014, there’s only a day separating the release on either side of the Atlantic.

“I love Queen and when I played ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ for everyone (in the band) they were like, ‘Oh man, I forgot about this song; it’s so cool.’ That’s my favourite song off of News Of The World,” admits Rachel. “We jammed on it a few times and it felt like it could be one of our songs; so we went into the studio and cut it.”

Queen is currently touring with Adam Lambert (runner-up in season eight of American Idol) as their new vocalist in place of the late, great Freddie Mercury. “I’m sure it’s going to be great. I’m only bummed about the fact that they’re not coming to Atlanta where I live,” says Bolan. “I missed them with (previous replacement vocalist) Paul Rodgers, but I heard it was great. Adam Lambert has such a good voice. I’m really curious, and I’m happy that Queen’s playing again. Freddie Mercury will always be Freddie Mercury, but to me Queen was always a band; it wasn’t an individual guy.”

Skid Row knocks Aerosmith’s “Rats In The Cellar” out of the park. “That was another one where we just kind of plucked it out of thin air. I think Snake (Sabo, guitarist) had brought it up. When we were playing it we felt like kids. We watched old Aerosmith videos on YouTube to figure out what key they were actually doing it in; just little nuances they had. That guitar line, the solo towards the end – Snake played that in one take. He wanted to fix a couple parts and we all said, ‘uh-uh, no way, leave it.’ So he thought that was cool ‘cause it was the first time he ever did a solo in one take. He nailed it! It’s just so much fun playing covers.”

Aerosmith started their North American tour, with special guest Slash, the very day this Skid Row interview took place. Back in the early ‘90s, Skid Row opened for Slash’s former band Guns N’ Roses. As such, Rachel provides BraveWords with a Slash story. “He was always a really cool dude. I’ll never forget being at his house. There was a bunch of us; a few guys from Skid Row, a couple of Metallica guys, and of course Slash; I think Duff (McKagan) was there. This was back in the day when everyone was drinking hard and partying hard. Someone was making a run that I thought was for beer, so I pitched in a bunch of money for beer – and it ended up being not beer; it was something that I don’t partake in. I remember saying to Slash, I thought it was a booze run. He goes, ‘No, why? Did you pitch in and you don’t do this stuff?’ Yeah, exactly. So Slash says, ‘Hang on a second – everybody give me ten dollars to give back to Rachel.’ That’s my favourite Slash story,” giggles Bolan. “He took care of business. ‘Don’t worry, you don’t do it, you’re not paying for it.’ Next thing I know, I only kicked in $30 and I had $50. So again, ‘who gave ten bucks too much?’ He took care of it; it was great.”

Re-focusing on United World Rebellion, Chapter Two follows the same format as Chapter One; two heavy songs, a ballad, two more heavy songs. Intentional or just coincidence? “As we write, we don’t plan out let’s write a heavy song or let’s write a ballad. If something comes out… it just kind of happened that way. And it seemed like the flow of the first EP worked really well, so we just went with that. We actually had another couple ballads that were in the works at the time. ‘Catch Your Fall’ was our favourite out of the bunch, so we used the same running order ‘cause there’s so little time. It just felt right to us.”


Saying there’s “so little time” to work on the new EP is no exaggeration as Skid Row is constantly touring; jumping continents and criss-crossing time zones. “We started pre-production last December. Snake and I were writing pretty much every time we had a week off. The actual recording started in January (2014). We recorded it in Kennesaw, Georgia at Cock Of The Walk Studios with Jeff Tomei engineering. The studio is owned by Jesse Dupree of Jackyl; he’s an old buddy of ours. I live in Atlanta and so does our drummer Rob. I’ve got a rehearsal studio and demo room in my house, so we all just converged on my place to create and make music.”

Although Johnny Solinger is the singer for Skid Row, Rachel writes the majority of lyrics. Opening track “We Are The Damned” could mistakenly be construed as contradictive because it says: ‘We are the strong, We are the weak, We are the wolf, We are the lamb.’ However the portrayal is all-encompassing, meaning everyone is damned. “Yeah, people will pick you up just to let you down sometimes. It’s the freaks of nature - all the rockers, all the people that want to do stuff on their own, their way; that society doesn’t agree with.” Being politically correct has got so out of hand. As kids we were taught, your feelings might get hurt but suck it up and move on. Now no one can be offended. “I know, it’s crazy, it’s absolutely ridiculous how much things have changed. And with social media, people can sit behind their keyboards and say the meanest, most vile things to anyone that they want anonymously. That just sickens me. Every day I’m told just how much I suck.”

“Give It The Gun” is another attention grabbing song from Rise Of The Damnation Army. Firearms are always a hot topic, a controversial issue. And Rachel is a gun owner. “Yeah, I own a bunch of guns. But the song isn’t about guns. ‘Give It The Gun’ is a saying we always used in New Jersey when you wanted to speed away from something, you wanted to get out of there. Like gun it, hit the gas pedal. That’s more of what the song is about, getting out of a situation. But as far as the gun topic goes, I am a gun owner and I have a licence to carry, which I do legally wherever I’m allowed to. However, I understand all the concerns. I’m not a gun advocate to the point where… when a kid walks into school and shoots up a bunch of other kids. There’s responsible gun owners and there’s irresponsible gun owners. That goes for anything. There’s responsible drivers and there’s irresponsible drivers. It’s just the way things are and you don’t know who is responsible. All you can do is look within yourself – I’m not going to get offended by people trying to pass certain gun laws because I know I’m a responsible guy. If there’s nothing to worry about, people shouldn’t get up in arms about it – no pun intended. I have a lot of gun owner friends that are just freaking out – Obama this, Obama that. No one’s taking your gun out of your hand. You don’t have to go on a diatribe about how much our government is trying to tell you that you can’t do something, ‘cause they’re not. There’s good people and there’s bad people – that’s the unfortunate part of it.”







Back in June, Skid Row performed a rare acoustic show in Brochum, Germany. Unfortunately it wasn’t filmed. “We have video clips, but it wasn’t recorded. It was crazy ‘cause the place is really cool; we’ve played there before full electric. It’s a great town but a hurricane had gone through the night before. There was so many trees down that we could barely get the bus to the venue. It got even more intimate. We had about 100 people surrounding us and we were just playing stuff. Then at the end we broke out some amps, ‘cause there’s some Skid Row songs you just can’t pull off acoustically. But it’s really fun to do that, we do it on occasion. If it were up to me, I’d say let’s grab our guitars, a small drum set and go play a coffee house on a night off. We just love playing! It’s a fun thing to do and we’re going to start doing them more and more.”

When searching for Skid Row videos on YouTube, the obvious clips appear: “18 And Life”, “I Remember You”, but a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing” can also be found. That song is all guitarist Scotti Hill, yet he doesn’t do many interviews, leaving Rachel and Snake Sabo to be the face of the band. As such, Rachel flies Scotti’s flag up the pole. “I met him before I met anyone else. Scotti and I were in a band together before Skid Row. The first night we jammed, I was just like, Holy Crap! The stuff I heard coming out of his amp was unbelievable. Scotti’s one of those guys that just has that feel; the guitar is such an extension of himself. You could put him in a funk band and he’d be able to lay it down; he listens to everything and plays along with everything. In any situation, you know he’s going to shred it. With ‘Little Wing’, when he did that, I was just… oh my god! Every time I hear that song I get chills.”

Skid Row has played quite a few shows with Ugly Kid Joe recently; predominantly outside North America. Both bands were at the top of the charts in the early ‘90s but now, perhaps unfairly, are viewed as underdogs. “We had a lot of fun. We had never met those guys before, but when it was brought up to us, we said yeah, let’s do it. It’s two sides of the coin because they don’t party, and we party. Actually Klaus (Eichstadt, guitarist) was drinking a little bit. But it was his own choice; it’s not like he was trying not to drink. We ended up hitting it off really good. We did some more shows together in New Zealand and Australia, and they went really well. The tour we did together in Europe last year, we were at an 80% sellout. So here’s one for the old guys. It was a fun tour, no egos ever got in the way; it was really chill. The same thing with Buckcherry, we just did a European run with them; a co-headlining thing. We just had so much fun; those guys are all so cool.”

Buckcherry is currently running an online Singles Club through KickStarter. Fans pay $5 and on the first of each month they receive a digital download of a new cover song; the initial track was “Beast Of Burden” by The Rolling Stones. “I haven’t heard it, but I saw that online,” comments Bolan. “I think less and less people want physical product. These days dude, you have to keep reinventing the wheel, because it’s just such a different animal than when we got signed (in 1988). Back then it was still, save up your money, go to a record store and buy a record. Now it’s so different!”







Going back to when Skid Row got signed, Bon Jovi was an integral part of the early years of the band’s career. They’ve just released a super deluxe version of their New Jersey album featuring two CDs and one DVD. “The state of New Jersey was actually in the packaging,” jokes Bolan. “You know what, we’ve been trying to get our old videos out, but Atlantic (Records) just is not interested in it. We’ve approached them a few times, and they’re underwhelmed about the idea. But it is what it is. We’re so about the now. Maybe in the future – far, far away – we’ll do special packaging with the old stuff, but right now it’s all about what we’ve got going on at this point.”

Not to belittle the new release, Rise Of The Damnation Army: United World Rebellion Chapter Two, but because it’s been announced that this is a trilogy – when can fans expect Chapter Three? “Sometime in 2015, I’m sure of that. We’re touring so much, right until the beginning of December. We write it as we go along. We have some ideas, but there’s nothing finished. We like to keep it completely fresh and new. We don’t have anything just waiting. We like to capture the moment and not use songs that have been sitting around for a couple of years.”










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