Youth Gone Wild, I Remember You, 18 And Life; what powerfully written and performed songs from a debut album that was released 25 years ago this year by Skid Row. David “The Snake” Sabo and Rachel Bolan met 28 years ago as mere young men at the age of 20 and 21. This multi-platinum American rock band from Toms River, New Jersey originally contained band members Dave “The Snake” Sabo (guitar), Rachel Bolan (bass), Scotti Hill (guitar), Rob Affuso (drums), and Sebastian Bach (vocals). As of 1999, vocals are carried by Johnny Solinger with Robert Hammersmith on drums since 2010. Just in the first ten years of their career, Skid Row had sold 20 million albums worldwide and had become a well-known name for hard pounding rock with extreme vocals.
On a crisp fresh day just outside of East Troy, Wisconsin, Snake Sabo seems a bit sleepy as he says hello. “I’m doing really well, my brain isn’t working properly yet as I’ve not had any coffee so I’m dragging a bit.” As the guys rest during their afternoon, they are always ready and pumped for each and every show. “Our entire day basically consists of everything that leads up to the show. The show is the most important thing and that’s the reason we are out here; to bring our music to people who are thankfully still want to hear it. The fact that we are able to still go out and do this every day is completely amazing. I don’t know how other bands feel, but we don’t take anything for granted. We are really extremely conscious to the fact that this is a privilege and not a birthright. To be able to play music for a living is such a gift and I don’t believe that gets lost in any of us ever. We are so humbled by the fact that people will pay money to buy a ticket to come see us play. That’s such a great feeling to know you have connected with people in a way to lay money out. What an amazing compliment so that’s why it’s important for us to go out and perform at the highest level every night,” exclaims Sabo.
The band is currently on tour in America after being across the pond in Europe and Japan. “Touring is extremely important as well to us since it is what we do for a living and we honor it as a gift. We’ve been to Australia and New Zealand as well. Rachel and I met 28 years ago and started this band and it’s something to behold that we are still together after all this time.” Remembering the past years, Sabo reflects on memories and feelings of which he is sure is felt by all young teens, male or female. “It’s so difficult to comprehend. Again, when we began writing this last EP, we had conversations among ourselves to get to the root of why we started doing this in the first place. It’s one of those things where you go back to where you were a 16 year old kid and what meant the world to you; which was picking up a guitar and standing in front of a mirror and pretending to be Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads. This was the only way we knew how to express ourselves. Be it we were socially awkward or we didn’t know how to release our emotions about things that were affecting us as teenagers. Things that were affecting us then may seem trivial now as adults but as a 16 year old kid it’s life and death man; it’s just so impactful. One of the things we realized is that the problems or the issues we struggle with and face now in this stage of adulthood is vastly different but that impact is still the same. The feeling is still the same inside as what that 16 year old kid was feeling. Our release was music; it was our pressure valve that we could open and music made it all make sense and we realized that is still the case today. So basically the essence of what we are is still that 16 or 18 year old kid that uses music as a prime form of expression in our lives. When we got back to that, when we stripped away the layers of the daily life struggles to get to the essence, a light switch went on, the valve opened and it just flowed. Everyone was very much on the same page throughout the entire process from the moment we sat down to start writing to mastering the record. This EP was by far the most fun I have ever had making a Skid Row record. We got back to the basics. We shut off the cell phones, grabbed a bunch of beers, got in the room with a couple of guitars and just started talking and jamming and throwing things out to each other. It was such an amazing experience to do that with the guy that’s your best friend.”
When Skid Row began 28 years ago in New Jersey, they played all around the area and into New York, priding themselves on their stage presence and their ability to capture the audience with their energy. “We built our reputation on playing live. We’ve always been the underdog throughout the history of the band. Even starting out in the clubs in New Jersey and even so going out on tour with the all the tours we did, we were always known as the underdog for a myriad of reasons. We took really kindly to that and it inspired us and it continues to inspire us. We built our reputation upon our live shows and with that we’ve maintained a level for ourselves that people can rely on and know they are going to see a great show. For me personally it would be the same thing. This is my vehicle, this is my outlet. I was asked not to long ago if I was ever going to do a solo record and I was like ‘WHY? Why would I do that? I have Skid Row!’ I can’t imagine writing a record without writing it with Rachel. It just doesn’t compute with me. I mean who knows? It may happen somewhere down the line, but it’s not something I am pursuing for sure.” Sabo and Bolan are just a year apart in age and have known each other more than half their lives. “Writing songs with Rachel and getting to express them with Skid Row is extremely satisfying. What keeps us going is the fact of wanting to create better music; it’s what we do and it’s why we keep going. I want to become a better guitar player every day. Do you know I sit down with my guitar every single day of my life because I want to be a better player, but also because I love the feeling that it brings me. It’s so wonderful to be able to have that after all this time. Gosh I began playing guitar 35 years ago. Most people lie about their age…not me man, I’m proud of my age and my accomplishment. It’s a testament to my life. If I weren’t a musician, I seriously do not know what I would have done with my life. Maybe something to do in sports, like a pro wrestling manager,” he says laughing. “No, I would have to go back to music, it would always be music.” As he has spent the past almost three decades with his best friend and band, Sabo states what he feels he will be doing the next decade or two. “20 years from now I will still be the same idiot I am now with just a few more miles under my wheels and hopefully wiser. My life is filled with laughter. I’m a really lucky guy and laugh my ass off every day. I have amazing friends, an amazing family and I’m so really lucky to get the things I wanted out of life and even get some things I didn’t even know I wanted and to be blessed with. I’m here for the long haul! I really thought I would be gone a long time ago, but by some miracle I’m still here and I have committed myself into living in the here and now.”
To date, the band has released five full length albums, an EP, a compilation album and a live album. When Screamer and Sabo began discussing the word ‘album’ it opened an entire time capsule for both. The lateral cut discs have been around since the late 1800’s, but what we knew as the album was a piece of black vinyl inside a cardboard jacket. If you were lucky enough to purchase a live or double album, the jacket would open up with a phenomenal poster or photo montage and even better, the lyrics so you wouldn’t be guessing as you sang along. The plethora of information included on the album jacket not to mention the artwork on the cover was something the yesterday generation looked forward to almost as much as the black vinyl inside. “I still purchase vinyl as much as I can. It’s an experience all in itself and there’s an entire generation of people that wouldn’t even understand that experience, but that’s just the way life goes. The smell and the anticipation of when it came out, but for me I still cherish those memories. In fact I just bought a bunch of vinyl when we were in Italy and brought them home and will continue to do so. I’m still thankful that we have a delivery system to deliver music to people in some way shape or form. The only thing is I don’t know if music means as much to the general public as it once did and that’s a bummer to me. Music has been the fabric of my life. I grew up in a house that was filled with music and it was great to be a witness to that; to me it was the greatest education in the world. I feel bad that it’s not as important to the people as it once was. Music directed our lives; it was the soundtrack to everything that we did. Often times it’s awesome to hear a song you’ve not heard in a while and it transports you back to another place and time. That’s irreplaceable and I just don’t know if it’s that impactful now. I’m not saying there isn’t great music out there; there is and always will be great music because there are great artists. I just don’t think it means as much as it used to,” he says with a hint of disappointment.
Part two of the trilogy titled Rise of the Damnation Army will be released on August 5. Sabo exclaims he along with Bolan and the rest of the band about being over the top pleased. “We are proud of everything we’ve done. I am very proud of every piece of music we’ve ever touched. It’s humbling and awe inspiring when we get the positive reviews. I still get such a thrill when we make a connection with people with what we create. That’s another thing about being in the here and now. We didn’t sit down to write all three EP’s at the same time. We have broken it down to write and record part one and now again for part two and will do the same when we do part three. We want to keep it fresh, exciting and raw and I believe that’s exactly what we’ve done. As for touring, we’re heading back to Europe for a big music festival in Poland on July 31st; sort of a Polish Woodstock if you will…about 450,000 people. We’ve been rehearsing and it feels really good and hopefully people will respond in kind to it.” The band will return to the US to tour on the trilogy throughout the rest of 2014 and into April or May of next year. Fans have not heard any of the new tracks as of yet, so Poland will get the first taste of the new music that is raw, gut busting rock you would only expect from Skid Row. The band has toured the world many times over the past 28 years, Sabo states his appreciation for the fans and for his favorite city to play in. “We are going to tour until we can’t stand up anymore. It’s what we do; it’s our life! It means the world to us and it’s first and foremost to create music and I’m thankful we still have people who want to still hear us and see us play. I love going back to New York City, it is my most favorite place in the world. We’ve been so lucky to see this awesome world many, many times, but you just cannot match the electricity and energy of New York. But then again I’m biased as I grew up 45 minutes outside of New York City; nothing compares.”
Closing out a wonderful afternoon with Snake Sabo, we found him to be even more connected to his music and his belief of self and what he would offer any rising artist. “Regardless of what people may tell you, always remain true to your inner self. Don’t sit there and listen to those that say you have to write this way or for this genre, you have to write for yourself. In the end if you’re a top 40 song writer, then that rules. Don’t do it unless it’s what you’re doing for you. If you’re true to yourself, then you will never be disingenuous to your art. If it always remains pure from your spirit, your heart and soul then everything else is left up to the universe and there’s nothing more you can do. For me I find that way more gratifying and if people connect with it then people are connecting with something that’s the true essence of your soul and your spirit. That’s the greatest pay off in the world and I cannot imagine doing it any other way to be quite honest. I also think the thing with music, is you have to love it and have a respect for it. If you are doing it strictly to make money, then so be it. That’s a completely different way of thinking that I’m not accustomed to. I believe you need to love this be at your absolute best and everything else will follow.”