Interview with Sebastian Bach – The original voice of Skid Row
Ottawa, Ontario – Sebastian Bach, the original voice of Skid Row, is on his Home away from Home Tour. He is looking forward to playing Ottawa on Wednesday, June 27th at Barrymore’s. According to Bach, you can feel the music history when you’re at Barrymore’s.
“It’s great to be back in Canada. The show in Vancouver was sold out at The Commodore which is a legendary venue I never played before now, which is kind of crazy. I’ve played a lot of places, but I never played the Commodore. The last time I was there, was when I was living in Vancouver, and Skid Row recorded the Subhuman Race record, our last studio record, and we lived there for 3 months and use to go to The Commodore. The last time I went, was back in 1994. I went to see The Pretenders and ended up hanging with Chrissie Hynde in the dressing room drinking wine, and it was a great night. It’s a venue that I’ve always wanted to play. It’s kind of like Barrymore’s in Ottawa. I only played there one time, the last time we played Ottawa. It was an incredible show, so I’m very excited to come back there. I like Barrymore’s, you can feel the history of Ottawa when you’re in there, and it’s great,” Bach replied.
With shows coming up in Ottawa, Kingston, and Montreal, Sebastian Bach laments that there isn’t anywhere to play in Toronto anymore.
“In Toronto, we use to have a lot of places when I was starting out like The Gasworks and Larry’s Hideaway. For me, it’s very sad what’s happening in Toronto. There are no places at all that still exist where I hung out at and used to go. They’ve been torn down and replaced with condominiums. Toronto has lost all of its iconic places that I can think of, that I could go to when I was there. Ottawa still has Barrymore’s, and I think it’s cool. I think cities need to hold on more to their iconic places instead of tearing them down for another condo. I think that it takes the personality away from the City. I don’t know where I’d go in Toronto to hang out. Maybe Harvey’s, that might be the number one place, I can’t think of anywhere else,” Bach added with a chuckle.
Like many Canadian musicians, Sebastian Bach only achieved international success when he moved away from Canada.
“The Canadian Music Industry is as Alex Lifeson said in the Rush documentary, it’s more like an outpost. The record companies are run in Los Angeles and New York. They are not run in Toronto; it’s like an outpost for the record companies. They don’t have any power to make you big internationally. I never wanted to be big in just one country; I wanted to be big in every country. I see this reaction, oh you’re from Toronto so you can’t be that good. I don’t know what it is about Toronto, because that doesn’t happen in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, or Regina – only in Toronto. When I was watching the Rush movie and Alex was saying similar things, I was like wow. But hey, let ‘s rock Ottawa,” Bach reiterated.
Sebastian Bach achieved international success becoming the vocalist of Skid Row. He remembers his first stadium show vividly.
“That’s a good question, the very first time was in Dallas, Texas at Reunion Arena. It was the first time I played an arena show. I walked out there and shut my eyes because I couldn’t believe this was happening. My technique was to shut my eyes and sing. That’s what I did. I think I opened my eyes for the second arena show we did. Totally true, I remember doing that,” Bach disclosed.
Eventually, a young Sebastian Bach’s confidence grew, and when Skid Row opened for Bon Jovi in Chicago, it was the first time he felt like he was a good front man.
“The Bon Jovi show in Chicago was the first time I felt that I was a good front man and somebody who could command 20,000 people. It was after the second or third song, I said everyone get up, and put my hand up towards the crowd, and the whole arena stood up. I turn around to the guys in Skid Row, and said did you see that? It felt incredible. A boy from Peterborough to make it to that point commanding 20,000 people. I remember that feeling,” Bach reminisced.
It was Jon Bon Jovi’s parents that saw Sebastian Bach play a wedding in Toronto, and that eventually lead the Skid Row gig. He met Jon Bon Jovi again by chance when he was in England touring with Guns N’ Roses.
“Jon Bon Jovi’s parents did help me. The last time I saw Jon Bon Jovi was in London, England when I was on tour with Guns N’ Roses. Axl and I were in the Mandarin hotel, and the waitress says do you know who’s in the corner over there? Who, I ask, and she says Bon Jovi. He was at the same restaurant, so I stood up. I hadn’t seen him in so long, so I walk over to him. He had a look on his face like are you going to be a dick or are you going to be nice. He stood up, and we hugged each other. He came over to our table. It was Jon, Axl, and I. We drank red wine, had a great dinner, and a great time. It was just us three,” Bach recollected.
“He gave me his cell phone number. When I did a TV show called Celebrity Duets on NBC, I was supposed to sing the song “18 and Life” with the comedian Hal Sparks. On the show was Smokey Robinson and Roberta Flack, both unbelievable singers. I remember hanging out with Smokey Robinson. The producers go you can’t sing “18 and Life” because the Skid Row guys did not give clearance for me to sing it on the show. I texted Jon Bon Jovi, because I don’t speak to those guys. I text Jon I am about to sing on NBC TV, and those guys didn’t clear it, can you help me out? He texts me, good to hear from you and stuff. 20 minutes later the song was cleared. Jon co-owns the publishing on that song. I texted him because I wasn’t allowed to sing it, and 20 minutes later it was fine. Thank you, Jon, for allowing me to sing my own tune,” Bach exclaimed.
In addition to Celebrity Duets, Sebastian Bach has been on television many times before including an episode of Saturday Night Live with special guests Nirvana.
“We were guest when Nirvana was on the show, that’s pretty crazy. There is this skit we did with Adam Sandler and Chris Farley (god rest his soul). We didn’t hang out with Nirvana that night, but I have hung out with Dave Grohl many times, and he’s a true rock and roller. Taylor Hawkins, the drummer of the Foo Fighters, I’m kind of in a band with him called Chevy Metal. It’s his side project, and I do shows with him. He’s such a metalhead. He came to my birthday at my house when I turned 50, we played albums all night, and he’s a great guy – just an awesome dude,” Bach replied.
Acting on SNL was foreshadowing of what Sebastian Bach would do next. He made the jump from rock and roll to Broadway.
“The guy who signed Skid Row, his name is Jason Flom, the one who just put out Greta Van Fleet, and he is a powerful music guy. Atlantic Records was our label, and Atlantic Records also put out the Jekyll and Hyde Theatre soundtrack for their theatre division. The writer of Jekyll and Hyde came to Jason and said I want a rock star to play Jekyll and Hyde, and Jason said I have the guy and called me. I couldn’t believe they were thinking of me for that. Jason said the way you sing reminds me of Doctor Jekyll, and Monkey Business is Mr. Hyde. Are they serious? They were very serious. I went in and sang for the producers of the show. We did one of the main songs of the show and did it in the key that it’s written in for Broadway. Then the guy who was playing the piano said why don’t we try the same song and raise it by three keys. So, I sang the same song a lot higher then it had ever been sung before. The Broadway people, when I did that, couldn’t believe that. Heavy metal singing is different than Broadway singing. Obviously, it’s higher up, higher in range. Metal is more tenor, while Broadway is more baritone for the lead singers. So, they changed the key of the songs for me so that I could wail, and it was great. It was a highlight of my life and career. I wrote a book called “18 and Life on Skid Row” in bookstores now, and I write all about that experience,” Bach explains.
Sebastian Bach also appeared in a Broadway production of The Rocky Horror Show as Riff Raff. After several shows on Broadway, Sebastian Bach appeared in television and movies including Trailer Park Boys, Gilmore Girls, SpongeBob SquarePants, Robot Chicken, Californication, and Rock of Ages.
“I get noticed in public by different age groups for different things. Just recently when I was in Vancouver, I was walking down the street and a group of ten-year-old boys, go oh my god, are you on the Trailer Park Boys? I said yes, and they said we love you man. They were freaking out. I said you guys must love rock and roll, and they said no, we’re into hip-hop. They go, we love you on that show dude. So, they took pictures. These were kids that had no idea about Skid Row or anything to do with that. Gilmore Girls was a whole other demographic too then heavy metal rock and roll. I am lucky to do that, and I’m lucky to be busy. I’ve done voice acting on SpongeBob SquarePants and Robot Chicken. On SpongeBob SquarePants I was Triton. My daughter loved that,” Bach mused.
Sebastian Bach wrote an autobiography titled “18 and Life on Skid Row”. One excerpt from his rock memoir describes opening for Aerosmith: “To my shock, horror, and amazement, my face is not covered in tomato juice. My face is completely covered in my own blood. In front of 20,000 people. Opening up for my heroes, Aerosmith”. He uses humour in his storytelling, and he attributes that in part to growing up in Canada watching SCTV.
“As far as humour goes, I’m a very big fan. I’m a collector of SCTV, and anyone from Canada knows what that is. Growing up in Peterborough and Toronto I worshipped SCTV. I watched it religiously every chance that I got in my life, it’s my favorite show. So, I have a lot of SCTV humour in me. As far as the book goes, all I tried to do was make something that was entertaining to read. My method for writing the book, once I figured out how to do it. How do you do it, do you sit down with pen and paper and write 450 pages? That’s crazy; there must be an easier way to do it. My wife Suzanne got me a Macbook laptop. The speech to text dictation is so advanced now; I figured out the best way for me to do it. I tell a story into my laptop and have it be text. Then I would go back and torture myself to make that text entertaining to read. The highlight of the book is when I go to see KISS as a little kid in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens with my mom and dad, and when I read that part, it gets me so emotional that I cry when I read it. When I experience that level of emotion, I know I’m done. If I feel that strong reading something, I know I’m on to something good. I spent four years writing it,” Bach noted.
Sebastian Bach grew up reading comic books, and it’s a passion that he shared with his son when he lived in Red Bank, New Jersey. He would visit Kevin Smith’s first comic book store with his son.
“I used to go to Kevin Smith’s comic shop when it was in its first location. I used to ride my bike there with my son on the back of my bike, and we would go to his store and spend hours there. I bought Iron Man #1 at Kevin Smith’s first comic store for ten bucks. This was in the 90s, a long time ago. It had a sign that said: Here is Iron Man #1, it can be yours. It was like they were making fun of it, that’s the impression I got. Only ten bucks? I’ll buy that, no problem. It’s worth a lot more than ten bucks now. Thank you, Kevin Smith. I talked to Jay all the time; I was buddies with him. I don’t live in Jersey anymore, I lost my home in a hurricane, and live in California now,” Bach recollects.
Sebastian Bach still tours and records albums. He feels fortunate enough to have started in the music industry before streaming. With Skid Row he sold over 20 million records, and Slave To The Grind was the first hard rock album to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200.
“I feel fortunate enough to have started in the music industry before the Internet. We were one of the last bands to have platinum records, that doesn’t happen anymore. Skid Row was one of the last bands to sell millions of albums before the Internet took that away from everyone. I’m so happy I got to experience that. Fans had a vested interest in buying a record and owning it as a part of their collection for their whole lives and listened to it all the time. I think that means something to people. I’m a record collector. I don’t know about Ottawa, but in L.A. there are so many record stores, and I think a lot of people are getting back into it. The records I’ve made are a part of everyone’s collections,” Bach said.
Sebastian Bach has recorded three solo albums after Skid Row, and a fourth one will be complete once he stops touring.
“I’m on the road doing a hundred cities before Christmas. I’m totally booked doing concerts, and I think that’s because the live concert experience is the one thing you can’t get on the internet. It’s a thing where you go out with your friends, having a good night out, sing your songs that you love, and get to see a show. I’ve been doing it all my life. I am working on a new record, but I can’t make the record while I’m on tour. Make up your mind, do you want a record or a show? I can’t do both,” Bach replied with a smile.
“I am working on a new record with guitarist John 5, and Steve Stevens from Billy Idol has a song on there. We are working hard on it, and I can tell you I have exciting business developing on the record front. It looks like I’ll have the best shot of having a big record as a solo performer with what’s happening behind the scenes. I can’t tell you exactly what it is yet, but the next record, I’m going to have a really good opportunity,” Bach added.
For the upcoming Ottawa show, it will be a different setlist than last time.
“I like to change the set lists. Some bands like to do the same set every single night. I find that to be boring. I like to go to the venue at sound check, feel it out, and see what kind of vibe it is. The last time we played Ottawa was crazy. It was out of control. I think I will give you some crazy out of control music,” Bach concluded.
See Sebastian Bach with special guests The Standstills, and Inire on Wednesday, June 27th at Barrymore’s Music Hall located at 323 Bank Street in Ottawa. Doors open at 8 pm, the event is 19+, and general admission tickets are $40. Tickets are available online at Ticket Scene, or at Vertigo Records, Compact Music, and The Odds and Sods Shoppe. VIP Meet and Greet tickets are available online too.