Sebastian Bach has fought hard to shake off his Skid Row past. It’s not that he’s dismissive or unappreciative of it – far from it, in fact – but he still bears the scars of being ejected from the band in the mid-’90s, and has worked hard to establish his identity outside of the band.
That identity has included Broadway (Jekyll & Hyde), a reality TV supergroup with Ted Nugent and Scott Ian, The Last Hard Men with The Breeders’ Kelley Deal and Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, and even a run as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show. Bach’s first solo album of all new material, Angel Down, was a heavy, hard-hitting, solid rockfest, but his new album Kicking and Screaming really finds him coming into his own as a solo artist. Along for the ride is Les Paul-slinging guitarist Nick Sterling, who contributes mature-beyond-his-years songwriting and some pretty darn impressive guitar work.
Amid a string of personal setbacks including divorce, the loss of his home in Hurricane Irene and the passing of his father, Bach is throwing everything he’s got into the new album and its associated live shows.
“It’s the only light in my life,” Bach says. “Just to give you an idea of my life today, I’ve got a new house here in New Jersey for me, my daughter and my son. I have my daughter at school at 9 in the morning then I go to my old house and clean out the garbage and the muck and try to salvage what I can from my whole last 20 years of living. There’s black mold everywhere and I’ve got to wear a mask and gloves. It’s just really disgusting. Then I go on a seven-mile run because that’s something I can’t let go of. I listen to my record when I’m running and it just makes me smile. It makes me so happy that that exists, and I thank God it exists, because if I was recording this record when I lost my home I wouldn’t have been able to finish properly. It’s almost like, OK, take my home, take everything I’ve got, but my album’s done and you can’t take that away.”
Kicking and Screaming has an impressively modern feel, and it’s about as far from a throwback to the lighter pop-metal sound of Skid Row’s debut as you’re likely to find, in both attitude and sonics. This is a 2011 album, not a 1989 one.
“Sebastian Bach recording a record in 2011, all of the technology has changed,” Bach says. “I can’t help but sound modern to an outsider’s ears. You guys have been listening to Skid Row albums like Slave to the Grind for 21 years, and those albums were recorded back when if we wanted to dub in a part, we literally had to take a razor blade and cut the tape, take another tape and, with Scotch tape, tape it in to the tape! That’s how those albums were made! There was no such thing as Pro Tools or quantizing the drum beat. There was nothing like that.”
So with that in mind, Bach describes Kicking and Screaming as “A guy like me who’s used to recording the old way – which is really singing the notes, there’s no Auto-Tune with Sebastian Bach. That’s really me singing. But this is 2011 so it’s my voice, which is a classic sound, with the modern production.”
Ultimately what led Back to hire guitarist Sterling for his dream gig was an advertisement for an amplifier in a guitar magazine.
“I looked at the picture and Nick Sterling looked like my little brother or something like that,” Bach says. “I had never heard of him so I went to his website. The riff for one of the songs on the record, called ‘Dance on Your Grave,’ came blasting out of his website and with me I either like something or I don’t. And I really, really love the way Nick writes. So I got ahold of him and said, ‘Hey, you wanna join my band and go on the road with Guns N’ Roses in stadiums and arenas in South America?’ He was like 19 years old and he said ‘Yeah! Sure!’ So that was really cool.”
Bach has already taken Sterling around the world a handful of times, and is as impressed with his guitarist’s stage presence as he is with his technical and songwriting skills – high praise indeed for a guitarist who has to follow the inimitable Mike Chlasciak as Bach’s guitar alter ego.
“He’s incredible, and I think he's going to have a really big year,” Bach says.
Kicking and Screaming will be released on September 27 via Frontiers.