Bach: "Back in the
Saddle" with Angel Down
November 14 , 2007
Sebastian Bach is a man who needs no introduction. With more than two decades in the limelight, no one embodies the spirit of rock n' roll quite like him. This jack-of-all-trades has run the gamut from rock frontman, to Broadway actor to reality TV star and back again. Bach is now ready to return to his metal roots and unleash his latest project. Jason Price of Live-Metal.net recently sat down with Bach to talk about what lies in store for fans on Angel Down, the evolution of the album, the re-emergence of W. Axl Rose and the burdens of being an unofficial mouthpiece for Gun N' Roses.
Live-Metal.net: It has been eight years since your last solo release. How does it make you feel that this record is about to see the light of day?
Sebastian Bach: Well, it feels amazing! I gotta mention that I did put a record out in the year 2005 called Frameshift 2: The Absence of Empathy, which is a progressive metal album. So if you like Angel Down and Slave to the Grind, I think you would definitely dig a lot of the music on that record. The singer on Frameshift 1 was James LaBrie of Dream Theater. I sang on the whole record and co-wrote a lot of the music on it, so check that out. Angel Down is more of what you would expect from me and what I expect of myself, which is ass kickin' rock n' roll! I am really happy with the songs, the playing, the production, the artwork and, oh yeah, I have a guest star on the album, too! [laughs]
Yeah, I think I might have heard a little something about that!
Yeah, I have Mr. Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses singing three songs on the record with me, so it is a very historic album. All of us have been waiting for some new Axl and new Baz, and we have them both on the same record!
How long has this record been in the works?
I spent seven years writing the record. The first song was written in the year 2000, right after I was done with Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway. I wrote "Falling Into You," which is the last song on the record, with Desmond Child. Then I went through many, many different band members over the course of the years. I had many different guitar players and musicians in my solo band, so each one of them had something to offer and it basically took me seven years to assemble 14 songs that I feel is an album. That is why it took that long.
What was the biggest challenge in making the record?
Getting the record deal that I got. I got signed by EMI to my own label, through their subsidiary MRV. Jason Flom is the guy that I sent the CD to, that ended up getting the deal, he is the president of EMI. I have known him for 20 years. He signed me in Skid Row back in 1987. He didn't just automatically sign me because I am Sebastian Bach. I had to believe in myself up to the point that I ended up paying for the record out of my own pocket when the previous record company went out of business. So he didn't just sign me because of my hairdo or because of what I did in 1989, it's not about that. I dumped a CD on his desk in 2007 that blew his mind, and that is the record that you are hearing today. He was like, "OK, dude, now you're ready," ya know. He came through. That's how it happened.
How did you pick the guys that you would go into the studio with to record this release?
I played a show called the Bang Your Head Festival in Balingen, Germany, in 2004 and the opening band was Testament. Then I opened up for Iced Earth. In Testament was "Metal" Mike Chlasciak and Steve DiGiorgio, and in Iced Earth was Ralph Santolla and Bobby Jarzombek, so there is a lot of my band right there! After the show, we all got drunk and the drunker we got, the more these dudes were whispering into my ear, "Hey dude, who are these guys your playin' with!" [laughs] It was a "Here is my number, if you ever want a real fuckin' band!" kinda thing! [laughs] So they kinda schooled me, all these metal guys. One of my favorite albums of the '90s is Halford's Resurrection, so when Halford went back to Judas Priest, Bobby Jarzombek and "Metal" Mike were free, so that how I got them. I called them up. "Metal" Mike is from New Jersey, which is where I am from, so that is really cool.
And Bobby, well, no offense to any drummer that I have ever played with, but Bobby Jarzombek is by far the best drummer that I have ever played with, without a doubt. There is no comparison to how amazingly this fucking guy plays drums. Listen to the song "Stabbing Daggers." He just goes insane in this song! [laughs] He deserves to be up there with Neil Peart, Tommy Lee and fucking John Bonham! I am serious! He really is THAT good!
In your opinion, where does Angel Down stack up in comparison to your previous work?
Well, one thing that really surprises me about Angel Down is how young my voice sounds on certain songs. There is a song called "You Don't Understand" on which I really concentrated on singing really clean and pure. I have been beating the shit out of myself and my voice for 20 years, and there is no way that my voice should sound the way that it sounds on some of these songs, which is just surprising to me. I can only attribute it to theater and all the theater that I have done. That taught me a lot about singing. I can hear the theatrical influence in certain parts of the record.
You used artwork from your father, David Bierk, as the cover for Angel Down. The painting is titled "David Watching." How did you decide on this particular piece for the album cover?
Well, my dad was extremely prolific. There are thousands of images that he painted during his lifetime. So there is really a wealth of paintings that I could choose from. When I did Jesus Christ Superstar in 2002, that image really haunted me because it looked like it was him in heaven, made of rock, lifeless, looking down at Jesus in the painting, and I was playing the role of Jesus at the time. So to me it was like an image from beyond the grave. And then we have the song "Angel Down." I had already been thinking of using that as the title track because I always want the title track to be super fucking ballsy and heavy. And on that song, that is the heaviest riff I have heard in years. So when I thought of the title Angel Down, with the painting, it was meant to be. It totally fit together. Then, a lot of the lyrics on the record have a lot to do with the war, and I am sure any parent or family member or friend that has lost a soldier in this war knows what an "Angel Down" means. It is like saying "man overboard." It has a very military feel to it, which again is what a lot of the lyrics have to do with.
You had the painting tattooed on your arm by the legendary Kat Von D, what was that experience like for you?
That was great, man! Because a lot of my tattoos are really super old and Kat Von D has such a new style with the way she does tats. It is so fucking detailed and she has her own style that is very, very happening and cool. So that was really great to do that show. I loved how they played "Love is a Bitchslap" on LA Ink. A lot of the fans were like, "Dude, your fucking song sounds KILLER on the show!" I loved hearing it on the show. It was the first time that I had heard one of my new songs on a TV show and I freaked out. I was like, "Oh my God, I really do have a new record!" [laughs]
Do you have any plans for creating videos for any of the singles off of the new album?
Yes, absolutely! I was talking to my manager about this the other day. The problem with that right now is that we cannot decide what song to do. If I only had one choice, I would have to pick "By Your Side." My manager said that I am going to have more than one choice. So we will definitely do two videos at the least. So that was good news! Basically, radio right now is really reacting to "Back in the Saddle" a lot. So we can't decide whether to do that or "Love is a Bitchslap," which people are also freakin' out about. But then again there is "Stuck Inside" which is CRAZY! [laughs] So I don't know. We are still choosing right now, that is all I can say.
Can we expect to see you tour in the near future in support of Angel Down?
Yes! We are putting together tour plans as we speak. I don't have any concrete plans yet, but we are trying to put together a package with some other big bands! So we will be out there soon!
One of the biggest stories about this album is the re-emergence of W. Axl Rose. How did the collaboration come about?
I spent the better part of a year opening for Guns N' Roses all over the world. I know it sounds crazy and I keep trying to find new ways to tell this, but what happened is that I just asked him and he did it! [laughs]
That is all you really need!
Yeah! I texted him and he said, "Yeah." So he drove to the studio and sang all night. Then he came back two nights later to listen and get a CD of it. He is a human being and it is hard to realize that, even for me who is around him all the time, what a mythological icon of our times he has become to many people. I feel like my life has been blessed. To do a solo record and have him come and sing on it is any musician's dream. I can't even believe it and I can't thank him enough.
In many ways, especially in the "rock media," you have become a sort of "unofficial mouthpiece" for Guns N' Roses in the past few years.
Does this ever put you in a bad spot or become a bit of a burden?
Uh, yeah, actually it does. Actually, just yesterday. I do talk about him a lot and I don't know what to do. What, am I not supposed to talk about the best singer in the world who just happens to be my buddy? [laughs] It is kinda hard NOT to talk about it! I did an interview with a magazine last week where I went into detail about our collaboration and they condensed it into about three sentences, which wasn't cool. So, he [Axl] was asking me about it and I said, "I never said this." So maybe sometimes I should talk a little less about him, but it is hard. Number one, I am a fan and mumber two, he is a friend, and number three, he is on my record. So I just have to trust the writers not to twist my words and I don't have a bad word to say about him. It is not in my being. So I do have to be careful.
You have been in the public eye for a very long time and have a very well documented career. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Sebastian Bach?
There are a lot of misconceptions. You know, I don't like the word "80s" because it always makes me cringe. Or "hair band," I hate that word. I don't like being lumped in with a bunch of other bands that I have never even met, have never even played with and have nothing to do with, but somehow we are all in one big band together. That drives me nuts. The real fans know the difference between Skid Row and a lot of the bands that Skid Row gets billed with. The Skid Row of 2007 doesn't help matters at all by what they are doing. They are wrecking the name worse than can ever be wrecked. So they make my job harder when I am trying to do something cool and new, and they are just touring the world two out of five original members, playing with all the bands that we would never have toured with me in the band. So they make it hard. So I have to fight "80s hair band" all the time and I guess I don't make it any easier on myself when I have long blonde hair down to my asshole, but that's just too bad! [laughs] TOO BAD!
Being the jack-of-all-trades that you are, you have without a doubt lived quite an interesting life. Any plans to document your life and times in a book?
100 percent. That will definitely be coming. But ya know, it will take a long time because it will be good. It will be worth the wait!
I am sure it will be!
I want to put out more CDs, dude, before you see a book from me. Now that I have my own record label, I am gonna use it! That's my first passion. So I am gonna release albums before anything else.
Will you be doing anything special to celebrate the release of Angel Down on November 20, when it is released?
I do plan on going to my area stores and just making sure that it is there! [laughs] Hopefully, I don't have to yell at anybody on the phone at the end of the day! Really, at this point, I have worked so hard on it and listened to it so many times and I have approved it. It's amazing. But I still haven't seen the finished product yet! Hopefully, they didn't spell something wrong or fucking leave a song off or something! As long as it is like we approved it, it is amazing and it is everything that I want it to be. So really, all I can do then is just hope for the best! It's like I put a stamp on an envelope and put it in the mail, it's gone! It's out of my control! Once I say it's done, it's yours as much as it is mine. So I hope you like it!
The other thing I would like to say is, that if people really want to support rock n' roll, please go to the store and buy the CD. CD stores are going out of business to the point where it is getting really fucking scary to be a musician. You can download it, but you are gonna miss out on the full sound of the CD, which is way better than MP3 sound. You're gonna miss out on the artwork and the double-sided poster which is included in the packaging. And we all put a lot of work into making a package that you are not even going to know about if you just download an MP3. If anyone is thinking about the CD, please, go to the store and support rock n' roll, support record stores, support the CD industry, support my kids! [laughs] And BUY THE FUCKING CD! [laughs]
We all have to do that. When I want a new CD, I go to the store and buy it. That is the only way rock n' roll is gonna survive and every rock n' roller better know that! People talk about global warming, let's talk about "rock n' roll colding!" [laughs] I don't like seeing Tower Records going out of business and Best Buy and Wal-Mart cut down their CD space. Every rocker, go out and buy the CD to show the world that we want to rock!
Additional Photos by Greg Maki, Mike Tompkins, courtesy of Sebastian Bach.