(And the boathouse from The Amityville Horror?)
An Interview with Rachel Bolan of SKID ROW
Interview by Ray Van Horn, Jr. - November 2006
Finding a place in a scene in which you were one of the figureheads a generation ago is frustrating if you’re acclimated to the fame and the accolades, but nothing lasts forever, so they say. You just react and rebuild if you have the stones for it. Almost every hard rock and metal fan knows Skid Row for “Eighteen and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild” and “I Remember You,” sometimes forgetting in the process that this is a band that can amp and speed up if it wants to. Case in point
is the rapid-fire title track from "Slave to the Grind." Internal combustion divided Skid Row after their underappreciated
"Subhuman Race" album, yet the eventual parting with former lead singer Sebastian Bach is already a footnote when you consider that Johnny Sollinger has helmed this band for seven years, The Skid Row of today is all about personal convictions and having sheer fun in what they’re doing. On their recent
"Revolutions Per Minute," Skid Row enjoys themselves for perhaps the first time in quite some time. With the varied shades of rock, punk, metal and even country(!) on
"Revolutions," it’s probably safe to assume that Skid Row is in a happier mindframe and their place in today’s metal scene is valid as a result.
RoughEdge.com: One of things I’ve always wanted to say to you guys is how grossly underrated I think
"Subhuman Race" is. I pimp this album a lot to my friends and readers and even though it’s obvious a lot of anger was prevalent in Skid Row at the time of
"Subhuman Race," the results were still really loud and killer!
Rachel Bolan: That’s cool. I think most of the people that bought that one tend to agree with you! (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) Take us to that point in time. I don’t imagine it was a fun time in the band, judging how pissed-off that album sounded.
Rachel Bolan: Well, the album didn’t really come out the way I had envisioned it to come out either, but like you say, things were awful internally, just falling apart at that point. I didn’t want to be there and I don’t think anyone really wanted to be. We worked with a producer we’d never worked with and genius as Bob (Rock) is, it was kind of hard to save the Titanic at that point.
RoughEdge.com: Let’s go back even further to Tom’s River, New Jersey as the band got started. I’ve been in that area twice since my friends have family there. One thing I always thought was cool was that the boathouse from the original Amityville Horror is there at the inlet…
Rachel Bolan: That’s right.
RoughEdge.com: There’s a real interesting vibe to that town. How was it for you guys as you were putting together a band that would make metal history?
Rachel Bolan: You know, I was actually the only one from Tom’s River. Snake (Sabo) worked down there; I met him at the music store, and I met Scotti (Hill) because he was in a band prior to Skid Row. He was kind of transplanted from Cold Spring, New York. It was pretty cool, though there wasn’t really anything there. It was just a typical story of a band from a small town, you know? We just worked our asses off and played as much as possible. We were lucky enough and the right people heard it when they did. We’ve kind of put Tom’s River on the map since then. There’s been a bunch of people from Tom’s River that have done a lot; the guy that developed a lot of the New Jersey cell phone towers, the main chick from Coyote Ugly, the singer, she’s from Tom’s River. I never ran into her, though! Out of all those people who came out of Tom’s River, she’s the one I wanted to run into! (laughs) I’m still waiting, every time I visit my folks for Christmas, maybe I’ll see her!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) The first album was such an immediate success and "Slave to the Grind" was metal’s largest seller at the time it came out, but given what happened to the band later, do you feel like the whole thing happened too fast in retrospect?
Rachel Bolan: Back then, that’s kind of the way things did happen, you know? I don’t know what the actual guidelines are for happening too fast or anything, but it was all like watching it on TV, really. It wasn’t like I was even there. It took years of the band being apart to really sit back and absorb it and process the whole thing. I was much older then and I was like ‘Wow, man, we did a lot!’ I’ve been to a lot of places! Since then when I moved out of New Jersey because I made new friends down here in Atlanta, I always had stories and all my friends were like ‘Man, you need to write a book! There’s so many cool stories!’ I really did a lot in my life, you know? (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: Atlanta’s a pretty interesting city.
Rachel Bolan: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I’ve carved a cool little niche for myself down here, opening the studio and I work with a lot of cool bands. It’s a pretty cool town.
RoughEdge.com: Plus you’re also doing some racing down there, aren’t you?
Rachel Bolan: I haven’t recently because I’ve been so busy with the band, but yeah, I do race these things called Legends Cars and Thunder Roadsters and I race the occasional go-kart race. It’s fun, man. It’s a good outlet, a good way to blow off steam and I love the competition. The whole spirit of racing is really cool.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt has his top fuel thing going, and what really sticks in my mind is that metal musicians from the eighties have this sort of correlation between fast-paced music and fast-paced riding, you know what I mean?
Rachel Bolan: Yeah, the whole traveling circus thing kind of applies, because they’re in a different town every day, especially in the big leagues. They come in for a day and they’re outta there, having laid waste to the place! It’s very similar to what we do, except that I don’t have to worry about flipping on my lid when I walk onstage!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) If racing is your passion and music is your lifestyle, do you feel that your throttle is always set on go?
Rachel Bolan: I would say so, because if I sit idle for more than fifteen minutes, it seems like I’m starting a side project!
RoughEdge.com: When I think about how much the identity of Skid Row has changed after Sebastian (Bach) left, particularly when a metalhead’s guarantee to score was to have “I Remember You” playing, there’s an endearment factor to those years that I’m sure is interesting to revisit today onstage. How do you feel that era of Skid Row fits into everything today?
Rachel Bolan: You want to ask me this question about eight, nine, ten years ago when grunge put bands like us out of business, I would’ve said this stuff would’ve never see the light of day again. Somehow we came out of it—even with member changes—and we’re a cool band again. It’s a good feeling, because we’ll play shows and we’ll see our old fans we’ll see new fans, we’ll see kids of our old fans! (laughs) They’re pumping their fists in the air, they’re singing every lyric, and they’re singing new songs too, so it really is a new generation of Skid Row, and we’re one of the only bands from our time that really have a record deal at this point that could still go out and make new music.
RoughEdge.com: And the last thing I’ll touch on with Sebastian is that even though you guys have found yourselves again with "Thick Skin" and now "Revolutions Per Minute," the downtime spent as Ozone Monday following the ousting of Sebastian from Skid Row had to have been an interesting retrospective period for the rest of you guys. Put us there in that moment; what was on your minds, and do you feel that Sebastian’s reported antics kind of cheated Skid Row in any way?
Rachel Bolan: Just starting with the Ozone Monday thing, that was one of our outlets, you know what I mean? We weren’t calling Skid Row a different name; we weren’t doing any Skid Row songs. We were writing all-new songs with a different singer (Shawn McCabe), so that was just going as far from Skid Row as we could. Our old singer has done a lot of things that we don’t endorse and we’re not proud of, so we kind of have to sometimes have a stigma—I should say in the beginning when we reformed the band, there was a sort of stigma that came with Skid Row. Now everything’s good, you know? Johnny (Sollinger)’s been in the band for almost seven years now, which is longer than he (Sebastian Bach) was, and Johnny is his own man and he’s made these songs his own, and he’s made Skid Row his home. Everything has really come around in a good way.
RoughEdge.com: Let’s talk more about "Revolutions Per Minute." Obviously this isn’t your typical Skid Row album, but it is a lot of fun! It has different tempos and varying styles like “Disease,” “Nothing” and “Strength,” and then on the other end of the spectrum there’s “You Lie” and “When God Can’t Wait.” I like the no-rules attitude of this album.
Rachel Bolan: You hit the nail on the head; no rules. We threw convention aside. The only thing we planned is not to put any ballads on the record!
Rachel Bolan: That is absolutely the only thing that was on paper! (laughs) We’ve been around almost twenty years, let’s take bigger chances! Let’s make a rock record, and whatever comes to mind, if we like it and it sounds good when we demo it and it sounds real…that was the main thing. It has to be real and let’s have fun doing this. When we first called (Michael) Wagener and told him this, it was what I said to you, and we didn’t know how he was going to react! He was like ‘So you just want to have fun making music?’ (laughs)
Rachel Bolan: Exactly. That’s what we did. I’ve got to admit, though, when I wrote “You Lie,” I was a little bit nervous about bringing that one to the band! (laughs) I thought they were going to call the little white truck with the straightjacket and all that, you know? But we did it and they loved the energy at the end of the song, so it was pretty cool, man. We’re all really open-minded and so are our fans as well. It was a fun thing to do and I really like listening to this record, as stupid as that sounds! (laughs) I really like listening to it!
RoughEdge.com: Well, it sounds like humor is the antidote to the past with songs like “Shut Up Baby, I Love You,” “White Trash” and “Another Dick in the System,” which I really love and (laughs) it sounds like an ominous swipe! Honestly, though, this whole thing sounds like the most fun you guys have had since the B-Side Ourselves EP. Was "Revolutions Per Minute" therapeutic at all for you?
Rachel Bolan: I think so. The whole album is a different human reaction pretty much, whether it’s good, bad, enemies, friends, girlfriends, whatever, you know? I think it was therapeutic not only for me, but for the people I wrote the lyrics about and just the way we approached it, and the things we were pissed off about. So yeah, I think music in general for the songwriter is therapeutic. It was not only writing the songs, but also how we did it and having the fun we did in rehearsal and in the studio.
RoughEdge.com: Going back to “When God Can’t Wait,” I dug the Flogging Molly and Pogues-like feel to that song. It has an unchained bar rock feel to it, same as “White Trash” in a different, punkish kind of way. It seems to me that "Revolutions Per Minute" as a whole has found itself through the bar roots of Skid Row. Do you agree with that?
Rachel Bolan: You know what, the roots, yeah, absolutely. I guess the roots kind of come with that. I think we’ve grown as songwriters and I like the chances that we took like “When God Can’t Wait,” which Scotti and I wrote together—he came up with the music and the melody and we were just in a hotel room. He goes ‘What do you think of this?’ and I was like ‘It makes me want to drink a beer, I guess! We’d better write some lyrics to this!’ (laughs) That’s just how the whole record went.
RoughEdge.com: Having Johnny helm these past two albums for Skid Row, he’s even looser on this album than on "Thick Skin," I think. Do you feel he’s helped put some extra soul into this band?
Rachel Bolan: Oh, I think he put a lot of soul into this band, because he’s got that southern vibe to him and it’s in his voice. He’s got a very wide range; he can croon, he can scream, he can sing, clean, dirty, whatever you want, you know? The guy’s on it, so he really put a lot of soul into Skid Row and even with the old songs, he sings them the way I originally heard them in my head.
RoughEdge.com: Right on. You guys are going to kick the album off in New York, then you’ll be floating around the northeast with King’s X and Nashville Pussy on a few dates. With these bands opening up, talk about getting healthy in a hurry! Nashville Pussy is rowdy as hell, then King’s X…
Rachel Bolan: When I had the idea for this bill and this tour, I wanted something eclectic together and it all just fell into place because you have the southern punk of Nashville Pussy, you’ve got the prog soul metal from King’s X, and you have American hard rock and heavy metal with us. It’s like concerts used to be. The bands weren’t interchangeable, the songs weren’t interchangeable, and the members…it’s not like going to see three bands that sound exactly the same. If I wasn’t in the band, I’d buy a ticket on this tour for sure!
RoughEdge.com: For the casual fans who may be jaded about what Skid Row has to offer in 2006 versus the late eighties, what would you tell them about "Revolutions Per Minute" to spark their interest?
Rachel Bolan: You know what? I think the best is not to tell them anything. Sit ‘em down in front of a stereo, stick the CD in and crank it, and I think that would do all the talking!
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2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:08 -0400.