by Jeff Niesel
Since leaving Skid Row, the New Jersey metal band he played with in the late ’80s and early ’90s, singer Sebastian Bach has had no trouble finding work. He successfully transitioned from grungy rock clubs to Broadway, starring in musicals such as Jeckyll and Hyde and Jesus Christ Superstar. Now, in the wake of last year’s Kicking & Screaming, he’s back on the road, playing clubs like Peabody’s, where he performs at 7 p.m. Tuesday. He recently phoned in from India, where he was vacationing with his fiancée, actress Minnie Gupta, to talk about his tour. Tickets to Tuesday’s show are $15 in advance, $18 day of show.
What are you doing in India?
I toured all over Europe and my last show was in Amsterdam. My fiancée and I spent a few days there and we met this king from India who is this huge rock ’n’ roll fan and he just flew us over here and is showing us the country. Rock ’n’ roll is universal and international and that never ceases to amaze me. Walking around, I see Iron Maiden shirts and Mr. Big shirts. Slash shirts. Metal rules.
Your latest album Kicking & Screaming was released to rave reviews last year but didn’t get played on terrestrial radio. What’s the root of the problem with radio and why don’t new rock records get airplay?
I can’t answer that but what frustrates me is a station like Hair Nation on Sirius/XM Radio that plays [Skid Row] two or three times a hour and that’s no exaggeration. Without Sebastian Bach, they would have one third less music to play. That station is built on me, so they fucking owe me. You build your fucking station off my high notes. Whose hair is it you’re fucking talking about it? It’s mine. They owe me that. They play my new stuff on Octane and Boneyard and Liquid Metal. I just think that’s funny. The station that’s Skid Row on the hour every hour won’t play my new album. When the album came out, we went to Sirius/XM to do interviews. But Hair Nation didn’t want to talk to me. I don’t fucking get it. How can I be on Opie and Anthony for an hour and talk about myself and make everybody laugh, but Hair Nation is playing “18 and Life” and “Youth Gone Wild,” but they don’t care what I have to say. It’s like, “What the fuck!” Take my shit off your station!
What’s the most important thing you learned from the ten years you spent with Skid Row?
Um, I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t think I was so much into learning at that point. We were a bunch of crazy dudes having a great time. You’re asking me to think about 1986 and 1996 so I don’t have a good answer. I can’t think of something that I learned back then. One thing I learned recently is that when you shave your armpits, don’t put on deodorant right away. That stings. I learned that the hard way.
Say Skid Row is inducted into the Rock Hall. Would you perform with the guys?
I don’t see how Skid Row could get into the Rock Hall when Kiss and Rush aren’t in the Rock Hall. If that happens, it’d be pretty wacky. I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and I was pleased because they had a set of Skid Row drumsticks in the building. I was very excited since they have four floors devoted to Laura Nyro. Once I got past the escalator, it was all Laura Nyro and the Hollies. When you’re competing against Laura Nyro, you know you’re in hallowed halls.
Do you think Axl made the right decision by not singing with GNR at the Inductions?
I just played with Duff [McKagan] and Matt Sorum with a band called the Rock n roll Allstars with Gene Simmons and Joe Elliott. I’m also friends with Axl, and I don’t want to piss off either side. When I stick up for Axl, Duff gets mad at me. When I stick up for Duff, Axl gets mad at me. It’s totally true. It seemed like Axl was getting railroaded into doing something he didn’t want to do. If you’re an artist, someone can’t tell you how to make your art. People are like, “Why did it take you so long to make a record?” Well, how many records did you make and are you going to go up to Picasso and say, “Hurry up and finish painting, godammit.” Music isn’t on a time limit. When it’s done, it’s done. Kicking & Screaming was easy for me to do because my guitarist Nick [Sterling] came in with all these ideas. It was easy because I liked all the music he presented. But the record company wants another record right now. It’s going to take a long time. You have to hear something that comes over the speakers and put your name on it for life. You’re going to have interviews about it for life and play it on stage. It’s a heavy thing, at least for me. I make sure I can’t make it any better before I’m done.
What drew you to the theater?
Singing. Before I was into rock ’n’ roll when I was little boy, I was the lead soprano in my church choir and I would put on a gown and rehearse Tuesdays and Thursdays when I was 8. I’ve always loved singing, and if you love singing, Broadway is the place for you. If you don’t love it, get the fuck off, Jeremy Piven.
What’s been your favorite role?
Jeckyll and Hyde, without a doubt. It was fun. Jesus Christ Superstar was not fun. They’re super mean to old JC in that play. They let him have it. If it was a good show, we’d all be crying afterward. But I just wanted to have fun. Jeckyll and Hyde was more fun. It was like a comic book. With Jesus Christ Superstar, you’d pull into town on a bus and see protestors that say Jesus is not a rock star. At one show, someone wanted to debate me on TV when I was in town. I said, “No. I’m not Jesus Christ. I’m just here playing this role. I’m not going to get into this religious discussion.” The director would say to me, “You’re Jesus.” I would say, “I’m not. I’m just this dude.” You show me a guy walking around thinking he’s Jesus Christ, and I’ll show you a real fucking asshole. One of the most classic reviews I’ve ever gotten in my life was in New Orleans. The first paragraph said, “Just the fact alone that Sebastian Bach is playing the role of Jesus could be the first true sign of the oncoming apocalypse.” That’s one for framing. The floods came shortly thereafter. I’m sorry.
Did you try out for Velvet Revolver?
Yeah, it wasn’t really a try out. It was during rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar, and they wanted me to sing for them, and we cut five songs in the studio. But Jesus Christ Superstar went on the road and they were paying me and Velvet Revolver was not. I don’t know why [the guys in Velvet Revolver] would pick a guy who shoots heroine to be in charge of everything.
How much cowbell did you play on Kicking & Screaming?
I am a cowbell aficionada. I wanted more cowbell on the record. I told the producer that it’s timeless. It’s so rock. That sound.
Who’s your favorite new rock band?
Yeah, I like Black Veil Brides. I think they’re amazing. I just played with Five Finger Death Punch and they are insanely cool and heavy. I like Hatebreed. I love the new Van Halen CD. A Different King of Truth is an incredible CD that sounds like it could have come out between Van Halen II and Women and Children First. I go running to that, and that one song “She’s the Woman” is so cool to me that I just laugh. I am running and just fucking laughing. When I was in South America, Gene Simmons played me one new song from the new Kiss album and just blew me away.
Are you on good terms or bad terms with Skid Row?
I’m not on any terms. We were offered two big reunion shows in Europe. One of the guys in the band didn’t want to do it. The other four of us were totally into doing it but that’s just the way it goes.
Have a good vacation in India.
Thanks. I will do my best not to get Delhi belly.