Interview: Sebastian Bach talks ’18 & Life’ and debunks all Skid Row reunion rumors

Vanyaland has already earmarked Sebastian Bach’s memoir, 18 and Life on Skid Row, as one of the must-have gifts of the season. But we wanted to go straight to the source for some more boozy, drug-fueled details, either confirming or refuting all the crazy shit we’ve heard about dating back to the height of the glam rock era. Last week, we connected with Bach by phone, who checked in while on a whirlwind book and media tour across the country; the frontman was as affable and excitable as he talked about the myriad of subjects he addresses in the tome.

18 and Life on Skid Row provides a roller-coaster account of incidents, often aided by alcohol and cocaine. It’s a bit disjointed at times, and Bach gets dates wrong on occasion, but it’s still a highly entertaining take on his debaucherous time with hair metal standouts Skid Row, and then his unlikely second act as a Broadway actor and reality television star. The obligatory sex, drugs, and rock and roll are all accounted for (in spades), but there’s also an almost tender series of reflections on Bach’s relationship with his father, the late post-modernist painter David Bierk.

There are moments of bewilderment, like when he gets word that Paul Stanley of Kiss, whom Bach beat out for the part in Jekyll & Hyde, left midway through one of his theatre performances. And when another one of his musical idols, Ted Nugent, goes on a racist tirade on the set of the VH-1 reality show Supergroup, it’s Bach who steps into the role of unlikely hero to the African-American crew by walking out and going to the producer, refusing to continue working with the Nuge.

Discussing those topics along with debunking the rumored Skid Row reunion, Bach manages to be a fascinating personality, one who is unabashedly, enthusiastically comfortable with himself.

Michael Christopher: When you started writing this book, what did you want to do to make yours different from all the other rock star memoirs out there?

Sebastian Bach: I wasn’t necessarily out to make it different,I just wanted to make it good, and I wanted it to be a book that you could read and think it was a good, well-written book, irregardless of  whether you’re a Skid Row fan or not. A lot of the reviews start off saying exactly that. It’s a good book. And maybe I haven’t said this in an interview yet, but taking calls and talking about my second book [laughs]. It’s amazing [laughs].

What was it like revisiting a lot of those stories; what sort of memories did it bring up?

Well, it made me change my setlist. Writing about all these times made think about the records that came out; most notably the first Skid Row record. I’m always out on tour, so I was thinking about them songs and I’ve added songs into the set that I haven’t done in years like “Sweet Little Sister” and “Rattlesnake Shake” and “Quicksand Jesus,” “Breakin’ Down.” Writing about those albums and tours made me reminisce for those songs.

Casual fans might be peripherally aware of your father, how he did the album art for Slave to the Grind and [Bach’s solo LP] Angel Down, but the book really gives an in-depth look at just how important he was to you. Not only in the photos, but the parallels, most strikingly with relation to the characters you played in Jekyll & Hyde and Jesus Christ Superstar.

[Laughs] Yeah… it is nuts. It’s nuts! I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know what to say. All I can tell you is when I got all those good reviews for Jekyll & Hyde in the Village Voice, New York Times — all gave me great reviews — they called me a great actor, but what they didn’t know is that I wasn’t acting at all. There was no part of that show where I was pretending; I meant every moment. When the plot is, Dr. Jekyll is trying to save his dying father, and my father is dying of leukemia and bone marrow cancer, and then the actor who plays my father is named David, which is my father’s name — and I know that’s a common name — but how can you not get into it? When my Dad was sitting in the front row watching it? He’s literally feet away from me watching me, in a play, trying to save my dying father. It’s just crazy. It’s ridiculous. I was not acting. There was no part of that show, in any way, that I was acting.

What a head trip that must’ve been.

Well, it’s all been a head trip. There’s been a lot of head trips along the way.

I’ve interviewed people that I’m a huge fan of, and sometimes — and it’s extremely rare — they pull an attitude or act like a dick, I mean, maybe they are having a bad day, but it taints my opinion of them a little bit. You talk in the book about how bummed you were that Paul Stanley didn’t stick around when he came to see Jekyll & Hyde and in fact left mid-performance. Did that do anything to dim your love of Kiss?

No… I won’t let anyone take my love of Kiss away from me, not even — anybody — at all [laughs]. I flipped a switch in my head when I was a little kid… I love that, it’s my favorite kind of thing, I collect it. I was just sad because I’m the biggest fan and I just wanted to tell him how much I respected him and looked up to him and all that. But I really think this book, at the end of the day, one of the things about it, it’s like a love letter to Kiss. I was really inspired when I saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Tom Morello’s speech where he inducted Kiss and the way that speech hit me, I was like, electrified and in tears like when I was a kid because he really captured the excitement of that feeling. I said, “Oh my God… I have got to fucking write down and put into words my side of that,” because I was a freak [laughs]. And I know I did, because every time I read that, it’s always emotional and very hard for me to read — there’s a bunch of parts of the book that are like that — that’s how I knew I was done the book.

Have you gotten any negative blow-back from people; I mean, that Ted Nugent section is just brutal. It’s honest — but it’s brutal.

Well, Ted can say whatever he wants in life; he has no filter on what he says. He’s not the only one like that — I could say what I want to say. The only blow-back I’ve gotten is from Eddie Trunk [laughs].

Is it because you didn’t mention him by name? [Trunk is referred to as “the DJ” while the story is told of how Bach got Axl Rose on the air for what became a legendary radio interview in 2006.]

I actually did mention him by name in a version that somehow didn’t get in the final version. There’s a lot of files, PDFs, but, you know, this book is about a long time ago. A lot of the stories are decades old, I’m not mad at anybody… I’m not mad about getting doused in freezing cold ice milk on the Bon Jovi tour in 2016. These stories are old, and  they’re all dated, they say when they happened, so it’s really from another time.

This book’s release has been really high profile, and of course it’s got people talking about the topic of a Skid Row reunion. My question about that, which I haven’t seen asked, is, obviously there is some resentment or anger from certain members preventing it from happening. Would it matter to you if the reunion did happen, but it wasn’t based out of burying the hatchet, but because various managers were able to work it out? I mean, the fans win either way, but personally, would you rather you be on great terms rather than five separate dressing rooms?

I can’t answer that. All I can say is in recent days, when I said before that the managers [of Bach and Skid Row] “are talking,” I have to say now that the managers “were talking” [laughs]. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!  Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah. It’s kind of actually… I don’t know really why, but it’s taken a turn in the other direction unfortunately. You can bust the bad news to everybody. I’m really so busy, that it’s beyond comprehension. I would love to do that, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate to tackle. So whatever happens, happens, but it’s not even up to me whatsoever at all — it has nothing to do with me — it’s just me [laughs].

There’s already talk about a second book. Now, some things in the book were left out, for instance you being considered as a replacement singer for both Mötley Crüe and Van Halen. And I know it’s way too early to have even thought about it, but do you think there’s a second book in you?

I know for a fact there’s a second book in me. I could’ve kept going on this one, I could’ve made this one longer, but they cut me off because it’s already pretty fucking long [laughs]. I like to write — I really like it, and I enjoy it. I enjoy making stuff, but the next thing I make will be a record, a vinyl record.That’s the next thing that I’m gonna make. But after that, yes, I’ll do a book, because they want me to and I enjoy it.

How daunting was it for you to go in and write this book by yourself? So many other rock memoirs are written with ghostwriters and co-writers. You sat down and did this by yourself.

[The publisher] wanted me, initially, to have a ghostwriter, they even gave me names of guys and I said, “I’m not doing that. I don’t wanna read some stranger’s account of my life.” I skipped a grade at a private school. [laughs] I did! So I can put two sentences together. Also, I’ve read every rock bio there is, even ones by artists that I don’t even listen to. I love rock and roll biographies. So I knew what I had to do, but I just didn’t know it was gonna take four years, but that’s how long it took. But it feels great to hold it in my hand, because it’s all done. Plus, it’s got a full-color foldout poster, like SuperTeen [laughs]. It’s so great — that’s killer. I go, “Can we have a full-color foldout poster?” They go, “Yes!”

You just mentioned, and you’ve said this in a bunch of interviews, how you are a fan of rock and roll biographies and memoirs. Is there anyone out there who you’re waiting to put one out?

Yeah, Eddie Van Halen would be good. I would love to read that. I would like to read Eddie Van Halen’s book as much as I would like to see the new [former W.A.S.P. guitarist] Chris Holmes reality show [laughs]; that sounds like a good show to me. To go with his new record Shitting Bricks — that’s a good title [laughs]. That was the title when I saw it on the internet that caught my eye. His record’s called Shitting Bricks? I said, “Damn, I got my work cut out for me, topping that one.” I like that, very catchy [laughs].

Finally, are you ever going to do anything with the name Savage Animal?

You’d be surprised at how many people love that. Even Scott Ian, who — I don’t know what’s up with him — he even came out and goes, “You know what dude? Savage Animal was by far the best name [laughs]. People like that, and everybody gets a chuckle out of it. And it does roll off the tongue…Savage Animal!! Savage Animal!! It’s unreal how good that name is — you know? It’s a fuckin’ good name. It’s a lot better than “Godwar” — are you fucking kidding me? That’s an awful name.

’18 and Life on Skid Row’ by Sebastian Bach is out now via Harper Collins.