SEBASTIAN BACH – Give ‘Em Hell and Then Some!

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SBpic14There are many iconic faces in rock n’ roll though some not so pretty; but they rocked and ruled regardless.  Take Geddy Lee for instance, the man is a legend and at the time Rush was big, there was no internet and barely MTV so his music was heard first before it was seen.  It wasn’t until August 1981 that MTV revolutionized everything about music including how good you looked and the band looked on the tube. Comments swirled about what a great singer and musician, but definitely a face for radio when MTV actually played music videos.

Enter the 1990’s and MTV is at its peak in the metal world.  Riki Rachtman was hosting Headbanger’s Ball and MTV was playing I Remember You by a band with a lead singer so larger than life and absolutely beautiful; if he had failed as a singer, he still would have made a fortune being one of those pretty boys on the Calvin Klein billboards.  Heavy metal chicks and not so heavy metal chicks had his poster hanging on their walls and the front rows of most sold out arena shows were women screaming his name.  laughs though he feels a little differently about the subject when asked on an unseasonably warm March afternoon in Los Angeles.  “It’s all about my voice,” says Bach. “My whole life has been about my voice and I’m kind of like this human being that supports this voice.  Now you can say my hair or the way I look but nobody would have looked at me or talked about my hairdo if I didn’t have that voice; I don’t think–maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think so.”

“All these old pictures,” laughs Bach, “when I post an old picture on Instagram, it gets like fuckin’ 10,000 likes; it’s insane and anytime I want to announce something and I want a bunch of hits, I’ll just put up one of those pin-ups from 1990 and the whole fuckin’ internet shuts down it’s insane; it’s crazy but my rebuttal to that comment would be, that there were a lot of pretty boys in the metal scene during those times and I think that what separated me from all of them was my voice; I think…maybe I’m wrong but I think that’s what made me sell twenty million records.  They still play I Remember You on the radio and VH1 Classic like every single day.  I’ll get into the car here in L.A., and JACK-FM plays it all the time so you can’t really get away from it–no matter how hard you try!”

SB_give_em_hell_20x20His newest release, Give ‘Em Hell, out April 22nd in the U.S., is the follow-up to 2011’s Kicking & Screaming and was once again produced by Bob Marlette (Rob Zombie, Black Sabbath and Shinedown).  Bach has a special place in his heart for Bob as he explains their relationship.  “My favorite thing that he brings,” states Bach, “is that he helps me with my melody lines a lot because sometimes I don’t know whether to sing really low or really high, really clean or really dirty; some singers have a very limited vocal range to work with and I have a huge vocal range that I can pick from and having Bob there helps me figure out my melody lines.”

“Bob Marlette calls me ‘Mr. Poopie Pants’,” snickers Bach before breaking into a hearty chuckle.  “Bob’s says, ‘Oh look out here he comes, Mr. Poopie Pants’ because I’m like, ‘This sucks this is bullshit this is never goin’ to fuckin happen this is fuckin’ horrible, it’s fuckin’ awful!’ and then I’m like, ‘Hey this fuckin’ sounds great; it’s incredible we’re going to fuckin’ blow the world away!’ and Bob’s laughing and I’m looking at him and asking, ‘What are you laughing at?’ and he says, ‘Sebastian you amuse me.’  I don’t know what it is about me but there is a method to my madness.”

Give ‘Em Hell is a mix of emotions and songs that do not follow each other or a formula so to speak and Bach makes it very clear that as much as journalists try to crawl inside his brain and dissect how he creates his music and signature sound, there is no compass.  “There is no direction ever,” states Bach with a little frustration in his voice.  “I try to explain this in interviews; pretty much every interview.  Okay, imagine you go into a room; a studio with absolutely nothing; like nothing,” he laughs and clears his throat as he continues, “absolutely nothing and then a couple of months later or how ever long it takes, the object of why you’re there is to come out with something you’re so proud of, you want to put your name on it, do interviews about it and tell everyone about it you know, how much you love it and stand beside it for the rest of your life.  There are no rules or formula on how to achieve that goal.  The only goal there is, is to make something worth listening to.  Now I don’t know how other musicians do it but all I know is that I love all my records that I’ve put out and I don’t have any other plan other than to kick your ass as hard as fuckin’ possible; that’s the only goal or direction that I’m trying to achieve; R-O-C-K.”

IMG_5200Bach has led a life many have had the nerve to either complain about or “kvell” over yet it’s a life truly lived and the friends he keeps can vouch for that; they’ve mostly all been down similar roads at this stage of the game but none the less, they’re still in the game.  For this album, Give ‘Em Hell, Bach enlisted his buddies to help get this record made and though everyone keeps referring to them as ‘special guests’ on the LP, they’re not.  “They’re not special guests; they’re the guys in the band,” states Bach.  “Duff plays bass on the first four songs; I guess that’s a 1/3rd of the record and he wrote the song, Harmony; Steve Stevens is on three songs and Devin Bronson is pretty much on all the songs.  We just shot three videos two days ago with Duff playing bass and the song Temptation with Will Hunt, from Evanescence, on drums in the video [not on the record] and then Duff plays guitar in the video, All My Friends Are Dead and Taking Back TomorrowTaking Back Tomorrow is more of a lyric video.  I don’t even know what that is; a lyric video I mean what the fuck is that but they kind of explained it to me so when I heard they wanted a video with the lyrics in it I thought, ‘That’s weird’.  I’m a big comic book fan so I had the idea of text balloons like a Spiderman comic; with me singing but having the lyrics like a comic book.  The fans can look out for those three videos coming their way soon.”

“It’s confusing but I was under a deadline for this record,” Bach explains with a laugh, “and I want to thank my record company because when you asked me about how all these musicians came together I just called all my buddies and said, ‘Hey man, I’ve gotta make a record now; do you wanna rock with me?’”  Bach realizes the silliness of the statement and breaks into laughter, “You wanna rock with me? That’s funny.  Anyway, it just so happens that my friends are Duff, Steve Stevens and John 5!  I’m like the luckiest singer around–that I can see, because I got all these incredible dudes on my album and I’m a fan of all of them; I’m a fuckin’ fan of Steve Stevens and I’m totally a fan of John 5 and Duff so it’s a lot of fun for me to make a record where I’m a huge fan of all the guys that are on it.  Making a record for me is at first a miserable experience,” says Bach with a little chuckle, “because I’m convinced that I’m not gonna impress myself and I’m not gonna release it until I love it so I’ll have the record company saying, ‘You owe us this by this date’ and I’m arguing with the world saying, ‘Fuck You’ because if it sucks it’s not coming out so leave me the fuck alone and then as I work on it for months and months, like I worked on Give ‘Em Hell for at least a year.  All of a sudden I start to hear what I need to hear coming out of the speakers and what I know the fans are expecting.  Then, I become like the happiest guy in the world like excited and I want everybody to hear it.”

SEBASTIAN BACH ks COVERBach has always had very artistic and graphic artwork on his albums; including the artwork on the cover of Give ‘Em Hell, with Bach sporting horns and that devilish look.  “I’m not the devil,” laughs Bach.  Okay, if you say so…  “The title of the record, Give ‘Em Hell, is like a really fun phrase,” continues Bach.  “I remember it from like old war comics from when I was a kid, you know like the saying, ‘Give ’em hell! Go in there and give ’em hell’ but the cover of Kicking and Screaming was the Goddess, Kali Ma,” says a now more philosophical Bach, “dragging me into hell and the cover of this one, is that… well, I’m in Hell.”  He laughs sarcastically and continues, “It’s basically like a metaphor of what I’ve been through; incredibly life changing experiences that I’ve been through in my personal life that are biblical like hurricanes, losing children, family and your home and stuff that I don’t really want to make the interview about but some of the situations I find myself in, I feel like that dude on the album cover but it’s more like when I did the Jekyll and Hyde play on Broadway.  There was lots of imagery where I looked like Mr. Hyde; kind of like the album cover.  It’s just theatricality and fun.  I still like album covers and packaging and I know nobody really gives a shit about album covers anymore but I do and to me it looks like the way the music sounds.”

Though the art of the LP; (Long Play), or 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl record has gone by the wayside a long time ago, album art has always been part of the packaging and what people remember when they hear the music among other memories triggered.  The first one that comes to mind for Bach is Ted Nugent, “Weekend Warriors man,” says Bach.  “His guitar is a gun firing off bullets; that painting is so fuckin’ cool I love that!  It’s just an amazing album cover.  Other album covers that I love are Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over from KISS, now that’s an amazing album cover.  And it’s like music; like when you asked if there was a direction but I don’t know what I like until I like it.”

Sebastian Bach color pubicity #2 photo credit Clay Patrick McBrideBach has always been one to take many different directions in his career and in 2000 he began acting and made his Broadway debut with the title role in Jekyll & Hyde in April 2000.  He was only contracted for a short time but he received very good reviews.  He also appeared as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show in 2001 and has had numerous and recurring television appearances on different shows running in prime time.  There will never be a time when he’s not making music but the acting bug bit him and he’s good at it.  “I’ve actually been talking to theater people for a while now,” Bach says with excitement in his voice, “and I’ve been really close to being back in that theater world but it just hasn’t quite worked out for some reason or another but there’s been a lot of talk about that lately.  I think what separates me from other rock n’ roll front men is my voice; it’s an amazing instrument and I’m not saying that out of ego or trying to brag, I’m saying that when I listen to I Remember You, or Monkey Business, Give ‘Em Hell or Kicking and Screaming, I can’t believe that’s my voice I say to myself, ‘That’s me?  I can’t fuckin’ believe it’s me.’  So when you ask me about Broadway, it’s just another example of this voice that I have that has a life of its own; I just kind of have to show up and let my voice do its thing and come prepared with my pipes ready to go and that’s pretty much the skills that pays the bills.”

IMG_5242And pay the bills he does; singer/recording artist, actor, funny kinda guy and human being.  If you’ve never liked him but have never spoken to him, one short conversation will have you smiling and agreeing with him.  As we have read throughout this story, Bach battles his demons whether it’s home field advantage or on their turf.  He’s been dragged to hell and he’s there giving them hell and those of us who know our own personal hell and have returned can agree it’s some kind of wild ride.  So what would he do before cashing in his chips if he could?  Bach’s laughter is contagious; his voice husky and light as he ponders what he’d do if he had to mark something off his bucket list.  “My ultimate dream would to be like Willie Nelson,” says Bach in a peaceful low tone.  “In the way that I would just love to get in the bus, in Los Angeles and go on the road again and play every single town in America, just without thinking about it.  A guy in my position, always gets, ‘When are you going to get back with the old band?’ and these lucrative offers but when you say a bucket list, it would be my dream, just to be able to tour in the way it’s offered to me like it’s a reunion tour just for myself.”

“I can do that in Europe,” states Bach as his voice becomes stronger and louder with conviction.  “I can play like thirty shows across Europe; some of the biggest shows but in America it’s weird.  I don’t know what the fuck happened to the touring industry in the United States and I’m not the only one to say this, I just heard James Hetfield say the same thing.  I don’t know what the fuck it is in America but it’s a weird scene.  It’s not easy to tour in America anymore and I don’t know why that is but I’ll see you in Europe.”

“When we were Skid Row,” explains Bach, “we’d get on the bus and we would roll across America and play every city in America without thinking about it; that’s just the way it was and I miss that!  When you say a bucket list, I fuckin’ love that; that’s who I am.  I don’t know what it is about America but I just got my tour schedule and it’s like forty shows in Europe and I’m like, ‘Why can’t I fuckin’ do that in America?’  It’s frustrating and I’m not getting any younger so let’s go U.S.A., but what’s even more frustrating is I can’t walk down the street in a town in America, without people recognizing me and exclaiming, ‘Oh my God ,’ and they flip the fuck out.”

IMG_7922What is it about America?  Why can’t these acts get the tour schedules they know exist?  Bach has an interesting point of view.  “My answer to you would be Live Nation.  It’s like a monopoly; that’s the only promoter in America; when I drive down the highway I’ll hear on the radio, ‘Saturday night, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Foghat,’ and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Who the fuck,’” Bach breaks into laughter, “Who’s the guy going to pay forty bucks to see Foghat?’ Who’s that person?  And every year it’s the same bands that tour and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Maybe it’s this Live Nation Company that just thinks about Foghat exclusively’.”  The laughter continues, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to answer that… but it’s fuckin’ weird.  All I do know is I got my bags packed and I will be spending my summer touring in France, Italy, Norway, England and Spain to name a few so we’ll catch you later U.S.A.”

Touring France, Italy, Norway, England and Spain sounds like a great way to spend the summer months so no one would question the smile on Bach’s face though he’d still like to do it all over again and again here in America.  After all, the blond Canadian has called the U.S. home for a long time now and as age will some day catch up with him, he would still hope to be doing the same thing.  “I would love to keep making music and playing,” says Bach.  “I think as the years go on, I’m definitely going to concentrate on moving around less on the stage, I don’t want to make anybody sad or anything but everything we do now is on YouTube so the fans come and they film from the front row, everything and then they upload it and it’s stupid; it’s so not ‘rock n’ roll’ to film the concert on your phone, upload it and then say, ‘Oh this doesn’t sound like the record’.  We don’t make records on the phone.  It’s rock n’ roll and it’s not meant to be dissected, analyzed and critiqued; it’s supposed to be fun but that’s the world we live in now so if you hit one bad note or don’t come in at the right time; it’s all up on YouTube and I think when you said, when I’m fifty or sixty what do I want, I’m just going to fuckin’ stand there and sing.”  He can’t hold a non emotional tone for long as he starts to snicker.  “I think as I get older I’m going to be less of a cheerleader and more of just a vocalist which is really what I see more of myself doing as the years go on.”

And the years do go on; he’s still considered a ‘pretty boy’ in many circles though his face is much more mature looking these days; in fact, he’s celebrating his 46th birthday on April 3rd, spending the summer abroad doing what he loves and as far as the rest of the world is concerned, the tall blond with the voice that echoes thunder is just about to Give ‘Em Hell.

Live Photos Credit: Ron Lyon

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