By Patrick Prince
You may know Sebastian Bach from his years with the metal outfit Skid Row, or any of his solo efforts that followed (including his latest release, “Give ‘Em Hell” on Frontiers Records). Perhaps you discovered him front and center in theatre roles for “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Maybe you spotted him on “Gilmore Girls” in his recurring role as Hep Alien’s guitarist, Gil. Most recently, Bach has been found on the ABC TV show “Sing Your Face Off,” during which he took on weekly challenges and changed his voice, stage presence and appearance to portray artists Adam Levine, Freddie Mercury, Willie Nelson and Lady Gaga. (He also teamed up with Jon Lovitz to portray LMFAO.)
But of all the things you know about Sebastian Bach, the one that will strike closest to home is his devastation over losing portions of his cherished music collection when Hurricane Irene destroyed his Red Bank, N.J., home three years ago.
“It’s not an easy subject for me to talk about,” Bach admits.
The house — which once had been featured on MTV’s “Cribs” — flooded, and its foundation crumbled, taking a big chunk of his lifetime collection of music memorabilia, vinyl records, CDs, and expensive audio system.
“I didn’t rebuild my house yet,” he continues. “I’m still dealing with FEMA and stuff. The basement of the house was filled with many rock ’n’ roll collectibles. But the most expensive stuff was on the upper floors, so I didn’t lose a lot of that. A lot of stuff is still in storage in Jersey. I had no choice but to start over. That’s the way it goes.”
It was sheer luck that most of the memorabilia of Skid Row, the multi-platinum band Bach fronted for nearly 10 years, had survived. It happened to be stored in the right place.
“I had all the T-shirts up in the attic, so they were still dry. I have every one ever made. And posters from the concerts; they were all up in the attic. All the first-generation videos from our home video releases of ‘Oh Say Can You Scream’ and ‘Road Kill.’ I still have all those. Lots of Pantera footage. Lots of Dimebag Darrell onstage on the Skid Row tour for ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ which has never been released. [But] I had a whole room of magazines in the basement, a full wall of every one that Skid Row was ever in. That all got destroyed under water.”
Bach’s favorite piece of memorabilia also survived, which is fortunate, as it would’ve been irreplaceable.
“I have a KISS “Alive” that my dad gave me on Christmas when I was 10 or 11. And it got signed by Gene Simmons, ‘To Sebastian, All the Best.’ That’s No. 1. I still have it. It got wet during the hurricane, and I got it out and got it dry.”
“Somebody will have it on eBay some day,” he laughs.
Why vinyl records rule Bach’s world
Over a lifetime of collecting, odds are good that you’ll probably lose at least a few pieces along the line. Bach has been there and done that.
“The first one that pops into my brain is an Ozzy Osbourne picture disc. It came out when I was, like, 12, and a bunch of my friends stole that from me. And I know who’s got it now. The last time I saw it was at buddy Curtis’ house. I’m 46 now, and I want to get my Ozzy picture disc back! It still bugs me! I’m like ‘F**king Curtis. My friend Curtis stole my f**king Ozzy picture disc! It’s bullsh*t!”
“You can’t have that discussion about an MP3, can you?” he adds. “You can’t say, 30 years later: ‘F**king Curtis stole my MP3!’ But a picture disc? Well, them’s fightin’ words!”
Although Bach has other things to deal with before he can start replenishing his record collection, he looks forward to the time he can enjoy music on vinyl again.
“I love the feeling of it. And you got an amplifier and big speakers, and you don’t want to listen to a little MP3 file through your big home sound system. One funny thing though. When I first got back into vinyl — after years of not listening to vinyl — I forgot you had to walk over after Side One and change it back to the other side. You’re walking around the house, and you hear that “pa-too, pa-too,” and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah’ I gotta go [lift the needle].’ But the sound is so great, and I love the 180-gram vinyl. I have released my last three records on 180-gram vinyl — on colored vinyl with gatefold sleeves, where the pictures look cool. It’s pretty neat that that’s taken off again. It’s awesome. I know vinyl; you can depend on it.”
Remembering that first vinyl record ever bought
“It’s kind of a convoluted story,” Bach says. “When I tell this story, I don’t know if it’s boring, but this is the truth. Where I grew up in Canada, there was a record chain called Sam the Record Man, and later I found out that this record chain, in the ’70s, would make records that were cover versions of real songs by real artists but by some studio musicians, and then release the record without listing the artist that did them. Evidently, this happened a lot, but I read about it after this chain of stores closed. I always wondered, because the very first album I bought when I was 7 or 8 years old did not have the artists’ names on it. The album was “Convoy.” Remember “Convoy” by C.W. McCall? Now it said “Convoy” on the front with trucks, and it was a compilation of songs that were on the radio at the time, but it did not list who these songs were by. And a song on Side One of this album was a song called “Rock and Roll All Nite.” It did not say who that song was by.
And my friends at school and I started seeing ‘KISS,’ and I thought they were the most disgusting and gross thing I had ever seen. I would see Gene Simmons spitting blood, and I would say to my friends ‘How can you listen to that?! What is this?! This is disgusting, this guy spitting blood.’ And my buddy goes, ‘Really? Have you ever heard this?’ And I go ‘No. I wouldn’t listen to that.’ Now, I had been listening to this ‘Convoy’ record, and my favorite song without question was this song “Rock And Roll All Nite;” it was the greatest song I had ever heard. Little did I know it wasn’t even KISS I was listening to at the time! So I went to my buddy’s house, and he said ‘I’m gonna play you KISS.’ And I was laughing. He got out KISS “Live!” and put the needle down on that song and goes ‘Listen to this,’ and put on “Rock and Roll All Nite.” There was my favorite song, and my mind was blown. I go, ‘This song is by this band?!’ I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that the picture of Gene Simmons spitting blood was the singer singing “I wanna rock and roll all nite.” That was the first instance where my mind was blown by rock ‘n’ roll. And I’ve been partying every day ever since,” he laughs.
Realizing his LPs might be someone else’s first record
“In America,” he says, “We were literally one of the last bands to achieve multi-platinum status at the end of the music industry. I think “Slave to the Grind” could have been the last metal album that debuted at No. 1 and sold millions of copies. Maybe there’s one or two after that, but not many. In some countries, we were the very first band to ever go platinum. I’m talking about China. I have played in the solo band in Beijing. I sell out 12,000-seat arenas by myself, where the army comes out, the whole city comes out and I’m like ‘What the f**k?’ And all the promoters tell me in Beijing, rock ’n’ roll did not exist in China until like the month the first Skid Row album came out. And literally in China, we were like the first-ever band to them. They didn’t have The Beatles. They didn’t have KISS. The music industry in China started around like 1989 to 1990, as far as manufacturing CDs and selling them. So every country is different, and in Beijing, China, I’m like Howlin’ Wolf or something.
The artist he collects the most
Though Bach is a heavy metal vocalist by trade his taste in music is very eclectic. It would be hard for him to pinpoint which artist he collects the most.
“Well, there’s the answer I feel I’m supposed to say, being Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, heavy metal guy, and then there’s the real answer,” he says. “But I’m sparing no details because of Goldmine, and that’s what I love about Goldmine — all the details. The answer is, I listen to music for different reasons and different purposes. When I was on Broadway as “Jekyll & Hyde,” in the New York Times, the review said that the thing about Sebastian is that he’s visceral, a visceral performer on stage. What he is feeling on the stage, the audience feels. And that is f**king true. If I’m in a good mood, and I’m in a happy, energetic, positive mood onstage, the whole crowd has a big smile on their faces. If I’m in a rotten f**king mood, then it’s rotten.”
He pauses for a moment and collects his thoughts.
“Anyways, what was your question? OK, I just pulled a David Lee Roth,” he laughs. “I was going somewhere with that. Oh, yeah. When they call me a visceral performer, the reason is music hits me extremely hard, almost physically. Like in my gut. I feel it so deeply. So I listen to different music at different times of day and different things that I’m doing. If I’m getting ready to go onstage, I’ll listen to some bad-ass metal like Hell Yeah or Hatebreed — something really heavy that wants me to destroy atoms when I walk out there. Driving to the next town, when I get on the bus, after screaming for an hour and a half, and my neck hurts and my back hurts and I’m sore and I’ve got many hours on the bus to the next city, out comes The Allman Brothers. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Dreams” — this music is made for bus rides. It’s incredible. A lot of ’70s tunes on these long bus rides. You can’t really beat a day off when you have to drive all day and you’re looking out the window at the mountains and sun and clouds and you’re on the tour bus in Colorado or British Columbia, you’re not gonna beat “Carefree Highway” by Gordon Lightfoot. You’re just not gonna beat it. You’re gonna put something on like that and it’s a dream come true. On a plane flight, I can scroll through my phone as much as I want, but on a six-hour flight that I don’t want to be on, I’m gonna listen to something like Steely Dan, where the production on my Sony studio headphones is so lush and perfect and great-sounding that it takes me away from sitting on a plane for a long time. When I’m having dinner with the girl I love, Minnie Gupta, I’m gonna put on Frank Sinatra. I’m not gonna put on Hatebreed. So I collect all kinds of music.”
On collecting and collaborating with other artists
“There are a couple stories that will make your readers want to throw a rock at me,” Bach admits. “I recorded a song with Alex Lifeson at his house called “Promise” when he was working on his first solo album. He had invited me over his house. I stayed overnight. We had a great time. We had wine and recorded; it was an amazing night. I’ll never forget it. So I get home the next week, and Alex Lifeson sends me a gold first Rush album autographed to me, underneath the plastic, ‘To Sebastian, thanks for a great night. My head still hurts. Alex Lifeson.’ People who see that lose it.”
“And one time,” he continues, “I’m sitting at home in Jersey and a friend who is working in a studio in New York City [that is] recording David Lee Roth. So he calls me and says, ‘Dude, David Lee Roth is in the studio right now!’ So what I did is roll a joint of the best weed I had. I rolled up a big hooter, and I wrote on it in pen, “Dave Rules. I love Dave. Rock ’n’ Roll. DLR Forever,” all this s**t. And I gave it to my buddy to give to Dave. And I wrote a note ‘Hey Dave, you’re amazing. Enjoy this. All the best, Sebastian.’ So he gives it to Dave while recording and Dave goes, ‘Oh my God! Stop the session! And he lights this thing up and loves it, and he ordered the studio guys to get him markers and a big sketch pad and goes ‘This is for Sebastian.’ He did a picture, freehand, of Mickey Mouse with lightning bolts coming out of his head, wearing boxing gloves, and a thought balloon coming out of his mouth, saying ‘Hey Bas. Thanks for thinking of us. The album’s almost done. Hope to see you soon. Your buddy, David Lee Roth.’ I have it framed, hanging up, in perfect condition. It’s so amazing. Like a signed painting, to me, from David Lee Roth. That is one of my most cherished memorabilia pieces for sure.”