Q&A: Sebastian Bach is Back in the Bay

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We all know the series Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But how many of you know about Keeping Up with the Sebastians? The new show is ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach’s recent entry into reality TV (or in this case Youtube) and one that stems from a realization that if anyone should do a reality show it’s him. “I rock ‘n’ Roll. And I don’t see any rock ‘n’ roll on Youtube like my show,” he said. “I mean as far as like going through the gig and going backstage and stuff like that.”

We wanted to learn more about this latest endeavor, but especially about his upcoming show at the Bottom of the Hill, so we checked in with the legendary heavy metal singer direct from his house in Los Angeles, a place that he currently calls home. We talked about his Home Away from Home tour, what he thinks of performing in the Bay Area (he has family ties here), and why he thinks there’s still so much love for the 80s/90s hard rock era.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Sebastian. I was huge Skid Row fan growing up, so it’s really an honor.
Right on man. Yeah, I used to love that band.

Me too. And I have to say that after you left it was never the same.
Yeah, well, it is what it is.

On a more positive note, I’m really diggin’ Keeping up with the Sebastians. I was wondering on that last episode though, what happened to the drum hut? Because that place you guys were playing in looked wayyyy bigger than the hut?
(laughter) Well, you’ll just have to tune in to the next episode I suppose. You know, I basically made that because one day I was on Twitter and I read a tweet from somebody who was a “Youtuber” and his tweet said: “I can’t believe how Hollywood treats You Tubers as second class (as compared to real actors).” And I was wondering “What is a Youtuber?” because I didn’t know anyone that was. And then someone explained to me that people follow other people’s lives on Youtube. So I go, “Well my life’s more exciting than this f*cking guy, I’ll tell you that!” (laughter) I rock ‘n’ roll. And I don’t see any rock ‘n’ roll on Youtube like my show. I mean as far as like going through the gig and going backstage and stuff like that.

And another thing is that a lot of these websites — well basically like Blabbermouth— every time I do a show, by the time I wake up the next morning like at 7 or 8, the whole show’s on Youtube. And it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad; if it’s sh*tty or whatever. People put up whatever footage taken from a fan that’s holding up a phone. And it really bugs me because I want to go to sleep and I’ll see all this footage. I mean I’ll post sh*t up there too but it’s not this mad dash to post sh*t all the time. You can take your time.

And what I like about me doing those shows is that it has context. Those other things are just nonsensical bullsh*t footage. When we do it, it’s like we’re building a drum room and rehearsing to do a show, and we’re trying to write tunes. And the fact that I can film things in 4K HD and then upload a 45-minute video, that is crazy to me. I’m an old-school dude and that blows my mind that you can make a whole show like that on Youtube.

So, my next thing is that we’re gonna go on the road and I’m gonna be making these shows while I’m on the road. Those will be hilarious because being on the road is crazy. My guitarist Brent Woods knows all about Pro Tools. He’s gonna take these videos and set them to the sound of the gigs and he’s gonna make it sound good. It’s unbelievable the power that this gives the artist.

Sebastian Bach

I totally agree. And when I think back to the videos you guys made with Skid Row like “Oh Say Can You Scream,” it was the footage in between the shows that I liked the most. Those candid moments between the gigs. Those used to really crack me up.
And when I read the comments on Keeping up with the Sebastians, people love it. The humor and the vibe of it. Cuz I made those f*cking videos too! I’m not trying to toot my own horn and put the other guys down, but I filmed 90 percent of Oh Say Can You Scream on my camera. Because I’ve always been a fan of photography and stuff. And you know, we’d go through and make those, but that’s me filming them.

And so talking about touring, you’ve got one coming up. What can you tell us about that?
It’s called the Home Away from Home Tour and the reason I call it that … well, there are a couple of reasons actually. One of the reasons is that I’m about to do in the neighborhood of 100 shows in different cities across America. I haven’t even announced the full tour yet. It’s gonna be crazy. So the reason why I called it that is because I have to make my new home the road. And the fans have to come on out and make it the home for us because we’re gonna be gone from our homes for such a long time.

What’s the hardest thing about being on the road for so long like that?
Sleep deprivation. Like I read a recent interview with Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and the dude was asking him “How come you’re stopping touring?” And he went into detail about what touring really is. And it’s all about getting to the next city every single night. And when you get there it’s like early in the morning. And you get to your hotel room and you park. And the sun’s up. And you can’t sleep. And you do everything you can to sleep.

But Toni Iommi says you get to a point where you don’t want to always be alone by yourself in a hotel room not being able to sleep. And right after you got a gig that night and you’re so f*cked up. That’s the hardest thing. A normal human being like me right now, I got to bed in my own bed at night, every night. (laughter) So yeah, for a 100 cities I won’t be doing that. You know that’s nothing when you’re in your 20s. When you’re in your 50s or Toni Iommi is in his 70s, you want to go to sleep and wake up normally. But you know I’m a lot younger than Toni Iommi so I should just shut the f*ck up! (laughter)

What’s the show like this time around?
The music industry seems to have changed in the respect that there is so much touring now. When I started in the 80s it was evenly split between recording records, writing songs and touring. Now the appetite for shows is so big because it’s the one thing you cannot get on the Internet. I’m an old-school singer and I’m the only one that goes out there with no background tapes. I don’t even know how to do that stuff. You’re getting an old-school show with me.

Well, you still sound amazing. And I’m sure when you first wrote those songs you weren’t thinking you’d be singing them for the rest of your life because the range on those is crazy at times.
I can assure you that I have no problem hitting those notes. But the thing that people don’t get is that there’s a difference between making a record and doing a live show. When I was a kid one of my biggest heroes was David Lee Roth. And his shows didn’t sound anything like the Van Halen record because he was doing f*ckin’ cartwheels and jumps and all this stuff.

But we didn’t care. I mean when I’m the studio making a record I’m trying things that are extremely challenging vocally that I can’t really do unless I’m standing still. You know that’s allowed in the world. You know when people say “He doesn’t sound like the record all the time.” By that kind of logic, I’m supposed to physically be able to sing 16 of songs in a row exactly like the record the first shot. That’s completely ridiculous. (laughter)

I’m sure you’ll be playing songs off of Skid Row’s first two albums, but are you planning on performing anything off of Subhuman Race?
We’ve been doing “Breaking Down.” To me, it relates to the political climate today. It really feels like we’re breaking down. That song has an immediate attraction to people. Plus when I’m doing this many gigs I have to do the mellow singing as well as the heavy metal screaming. There are all sorts of reasons why I do different songs. One song that I would really like to bring back this year is “My Enemy.” It’s got this really low heavy singing.

What about “Beat Yourself Blind”? That’s always been one of my favorites.
Well, let me be honest about that song. I like that song a lot. But I like the verses a lot more than the choruses because on that song it just sounds like we couldn’t think of a chorus. What I was thinking of doing is maybe a medley of tunes. We’ve done that a little bit before. Maybe we’ll do a medley. I love the verse of that tune.

You’re coming up to San Francisco soon for a show at the Bottom of the Hill. When was the last time you played here? It feels like it’s been forever.
The last time I played San Francisco was with Royal Machine. It was a big secret show. I cannot remember where it was though. The time before that, I was opening for Guns N’ Roses at the Warfield for two nights in 2006. I think. That was a great couple of nights. I was hanging with Axl in a hotel in San Francisco. But that’s a whole other interview! (laughter)

I also have a lot of family history in San Francisco. My dad grew up in Arcada, Calif. and my grandma taught English at Pleasanthill Intermediate for 45 years. And, this one always blows people away … my aunt, JoAnne Benjamin was mayor of Los Gatos for like eight years in the early 90s. And I was conceived in my dad’s aunt’s house in Orinda. So that’s where it all started for me! (laughter)

Getting back to Skid Row and the heyday of the 80s and 90s metal music scene. Why do you think there’s still an audience for it? And what do you think it was about that scene that it was so big and touched so many people’s lives?
I think the reason why there’s still so much interest for it is that those times happened before the Internet and we all live in a time now where 90% of us are staring at our phones. Back then we related to each other without phones in our hands and it was a different way of living. I mean I can’t even explain to a kid how different that was.

When we used to play in a club when I was a teenager in a band in the ’80s there would be more people standing outside the club, like in the street hanging out partying, smoking, like it was that crazy. You couldn’t walk down Sunset Boulevard in 1987 because it was so packed. You couldn’t even walk. People just had a killer look, cool hair, everybody was getting laid. It was a more innocent time. And without social media people would just look at things through rose-colored lenses, because there was no negative internet sh*t. It’s frozen in our minds as the last decade before the internet really changed how we live and get into music and how we get into relationships even.

What kind of advice would give a band starting out today? I know you have a son who’s a drummer. Does he want to be a musician too and follow in your footsteps?
He is actually. He lives with me here in California. I have a couple of drummers that I play with. Bobby Jarzombek lives in Texas so I can’t rehearse with him whenever I feel like it. I have another drummer Andy Sanesi from Missing Persons but he can’t rehearse all the time either. So my son has been rehearsing with me. He’s like one gig away from playing with me live.

That’s gotta be awesome being able to play music with your kid.
For me it is. I get to rehearse whenever I feel like it. (laughter) I’m like let’s go. Right now. Garage. I’ll see you there.

And he has to listen cuz you’re the dad.
Either that or if he doesn’t play with me he gets sent to bed with no dinner. (laughter)

Let’s talk about your book. You came out with a biography of your life in Skid Row recently. What was that experience like?
I spent four years writing that and putting it together. And it’s now in five languages, which really blows my mind. English, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish, Swedish, then some other ones that I can’t think of right now. But to have my whole biography translated into other languages and to have people in other countries read it, that’s just unbelievable. I can’t wait to go to Italy now and think “I’m an author.” How did that happen?

You’ve also done some Broadway and TV with the Gilmore Girls. Any plans to do more of that or are you just focusing on the music thing right now?
Right now I’m focusing on touring and there are some exciting developments in the recording area. I’m really trying to do a new record. And so I’m not even thinking about television right now. Except for maybe Keeping Up with the Sebastians — the greatest show in history!

Sebastian Bach plays the Bottom of the Hill w/ The Standstills and The Butlers // Sunday, June 10, 2018 // 7:30 PM doors — music at 8:30 PM// ••• 21 AND OVER // $25 in advance / $30 at the door

Photo courtesy of the RSE Group

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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