IT'S HARD TO THINK of a bigger character in music than Sebastian Bach. The former Skid Row singer—whose voice defied subtlety on records like the band's 1989 debut and 1991's forever-great Slave to the Grind—has kept the rock alive on a number of equally raucous solo releases. Bach has stretched out over the years, too, appearing in productions of Jekyll & Hyde and Jesus Christ Superstar, and on television shows like Gilmore Girls and Trailer Park Boys.
But, as the Portland Mercury found out, Bach will always feel the fucking metal. We caught up with him to talk about rock moves, what he'd be doing if it weren't for music, and being happy after all these years.
MERCURY: One thing I've noticed is that even people who might not be into your music still seem to like you.
SEBASTIAN BACH: [Laughs] I don't take this too seriously. When I got into rock 'n' roll I never thought I would make it, because I thought that only gods could be rock stars, like AC/DC and Van Halen. And so I do everything kind of with a smile, like, "I can't believe this is happening." And I think people feel that, that I'm a real fan of rock 'n' roll. It's not a business to me... it's an adventure.
You do come across more like a fan.
Heavy metal/hard rock is something I feel in my blood, and it makes me move around, and fuckin' jump—it gets me fired up! I think it goes back to when I was a little kid. Me and my friends, our favorite thing to do was to get tennis rackets and put on whatever's popular at the time—Boston, Cheap Trick, of course, KISS—and we would do jumps off the bed and fucking do all these rock moves. And that's what I do for a living! [Laughs] I still play a mean tennis racket.
You said there was a point you didn't think you'd make it in music. What do you think you'd have ended up doing?
Well, the short answer would be that I'd open up a place like Newbury Comics in Boston. Like a record store—vinyl, turntables, comic books, magazines, posters, bongs, fucking vapes, liquid THC. A store like that! [Laughs] That's like my favorite kind of shop in the world. I can go to Amoeba here in Hollywood, and spend literally three hours in that motherfucker. I can just go up and down album racks looking at albums... I feel sorry for people that don't even know what that's all about. It's like an escape into another world.
You're calling this tour "The 18 and Live Tour." Is there anything to that?
Yeah, because people are hungry for the nostalgia of that song. And my old band, if they don't wanna fuckin' give the people what they want, then I will [laughs]. There's your headline!
Slave to the Grind is one of the great metal records of the last 25 years. Skid Row was a little heavier than many bands in that time, but Slave to the Grind was such a 180 from your first record. What brought that on?
I just think it's the difference between being 20 and being 24. When I listen to a song like "Sweet Little Sister" off that first Skid Row album, that was us trying to be as heavy as we could. But I was a little kid; I was a baby. I didn't have the muscles in my throat at 19 or 20 that I did when I was 24. And we were very pissed off at certain people who saw us as a ballad band because of the success of "I Remember You." And everybody's like, "Pretty boy! You're so pretty!" And it was like, "Well, fuck you, motherfuckers!"
You've done so many different projects in theater and television, but none of that seems to change who you are.
Well, I appreciate you saying that. I used to really pick and choose what I did, then I got divorced and had to pay alimony. Sometimes now I'll do stuff that I might not have before I had to do all this stuff [laughs].
Can I do a quick rapid-fire with you?
Jesus Christ Superstar.
Carl Anderson. And my other comment would be it's more fun to play the bad guy.
Gilmore Girls! Good friends. A very fun, positive experience. And a great memory in my life. I like working with people who are fun to be around, and try their hardest to do something interesting, and not just the first idea to come into their head. Last night I played with Steve Jones and Duff McKagen, and Duff got up there and did a Porter Wagoner song. Who would've thought that? But it was interesting, and not just the obvious choice.
The Last Hard Men.
Ahh, Jimmy Chamberlin. The most powerful man in the world. Jimmy Flemion was an amazing guitar player, probably still is, and I miss that guy.
I interviewed Kelley Deal recently and she had nice things to say about you.
Well, that's wild! That's cool. That was a very odd thing to do, but it was interesting.
Opening for Guns N' Roses on the Use Your Illusion tour.
The Use Your Illusion tour was the height of excess. We had the MGM Grand plane, which was a 737, like a tour bus in the air. There were 70 people on the crew for the tour, and that plane sat like 300. Like, who flies around in empty planes [laughs]? Pretty crazy... I mean I can talk to you for a long time about that.
So, after 30 years in music, which do you appreciate more: How you've grown as a musician, or how you've grown as a person?
Definitely how much I've grown as a person. Because I realize what's important in life, and that's family and love. And when I say that, it sounds mushy or whatever, but it's true. I know it's not rock 'n' roll, but it should be [laughs]. Well, John Lennon wasn't afraid to say that he was in love, and as a kid my father put him at the height of respect in my family. I always thought it was cool when my heroes were happy. So hopefully my fans are happy when I'm happy.
Well, you always seem happy.