Interview Credit: Anna Zurek
Live Photos Credit: © Adrian Hextall
GM: What was the inspiration behind your album’s title “Give ‘Em Hell?”
SB: It is an old comic book term. Like Marvel Comics, like ‘get in there, give ‘em hell!’. It is like ‘go get ‘em, go give it your all, go kick some ass, go give ‘em hell!’. I do not know if it is a term here in England but that is an American kind of ‘go get ‘em, give it everything you got’. (laughs) Like.. it is something a dad says to his son before he goes out to bat in a baseball game like ‘go give ‘em hell, boy’. That is also what I feel like when going on stage. I am like ‘okay dude, get out there and give ‘em hell’.
So it is like a fun, lighthearted term but then the artist who painted the cover goes ‘Give ‘Em Hell aha’ and I go ‘yeah!’ and I said ‘it is like.. you know it is fun…’ ‘I am just gonna put you in hell’ And I go ‘aaalright!’ (laughs) It is heavy metal and I was under a deadline, so I go ‘okay put me in fucking hell’ and so that is the cover. Then someone is like ‘I do not want you in [hell]… You do not worship the devil’ I go ‘I do not…everybody settle the fuck down. It is a painting. I do not have horns in my head.’ To me it looks like ‘Bark At The Moon’ or Kiss’ ‘Destroyer’ or ‘Highway to Hell’ with Angus with the little devil. It is just… I am not trying to scare anybody. It is just imagery.
I try to make every record I do fit with the other records that I did, yet have its own completely identifiable character. You know what I am saying? I do not want it to sound the same as the other records I did but I want it to fit. Like if you are listening on your phone and the headphones to ‘Slave To The Grind’, I would like you to be able to put on ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ after that and enjoy it in the same way. That is my purpose.
Like bands like Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath ‘13’. Tony Iommi has cancer, Ozzy Osbourne is in his mid-60s but that album is a Black Sabbath album. And that is… I am fortunate enough to be born with this throat and I sound the same as I did when I was 19. It makes no fucking sense. It should not be like this. But, knock on wood, I am just lucky. Like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith still sounds amazing and he is in his mid-60s. So I will be doing the same thing. I WILL be. I am lucky… I am fortunate that I can scream and sing the way I do, so you know maybe I will get some gray hair around the edges and maybe I will not look like I am 19 but for some reason my voice is like… nobody told me that! (laughs) My voice has a life of its own and always has. Just lucky.
GM: So what would you say is the main difference between the tracks on your new album ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ and older ones on e.g. ‘Kicking & Screaming’?
SB: Well ‘Kicking & Screaming’ was written a lot by a guy called Nick Sterling. This kid that was in my band, that I was very impressed by him at the time. But it did not work out between me and him in the long run which is really unfortunate but I am a… I do not know what the right word is… I get the job done. I. Get. The. JOB. Done. No matter who is in my band. I do not put out a record that, if I do not feel like it is a 100%, that it can be it, then it does not come out. So some people say ‘well you have to work with them’. No. Because my job has been with me for 10 years, we do not get in arguments. You know, Duff McKagan, I get along great with him. He plays on half the record. Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band plays on three songs. John 5 is on the first single ‘Temptation’. But these guys love to work with me. If you do not want to be the best you can be, then I am hard to work with. Like if you just want to put something out to get paid, I am not your guy. I want it to sound like the best it can sound and I will not rest until it sounds that way to me.
GM: That is great and rare nowadays, especially with younger musicians.
SB: I know what you are saying. The difference between a singer like me or Ozzy or Steven Tyler. When I started out, you could not be a lead singer unless you had your own sound that was all your own. Let me explain that. Ozzy Osbourne – nobody sounds like that. Jon Bon Jovi – you know his voice. Steven Tyler – nobody sounds like that. Vince Neil – nobody sounds like that. Rob Halford – nobody sounds like that. Sebastian Bach… I had my own sound. I do not sound like Axl Rose. All of us are identifiable in our vocals and immediately when you hear me sing or talk you know that is Sebastian Bach. Same with all the stars of when we were kids. These days, what you just said, I do not think that anybody tries in bands now coming up. I do not hear any lead vocalist that is coming with his own new, brand new, unique sound. Like none. Zero. If there are some, tell me! (laughs)
GM: I will throw Chester Bennington at you.
SB: But that is not new. He is great! But Linkin Park has been around for a long time. I mean, when I pick up Kerrang and all these bands in there, I have never heard of any of them. I think the reason is because they are not unique, that is the word I am looking for, unique. If there are some singers, just tell me because I collect this shit. (laughs) So I am always looking for a great singer. The last amazing singer I have ever heard was Jeff Buckley. I do not know if you know who that is but if you want to hear the most astonishing vocals, get the Jeff Buckley album ‘Grace’. It is just… I cannot believe this guy’s voice. I cannot believe this is like from the mid-90s and all that time I have not heard a vocalist [like that]. Maybe I am missing somebody, I do not know. What a shame.
GM: Where do you usually get your inspiration from for songs and lyrics? How do you create songs within the band?
SB: Well, you know, each song is different and each album is different but my goal is to make some music that I want to listen to over and over and over and over again because, lord knows, the first Skid Row album, people have been playing that album for 25 years and they always will. Nobody gets sick of it. So that is my goal. I want to make a record that you can listen to the rest of your life. You know and that is kind of a major accomplishment. I mean, I do not even know if I am accomplishing it. To me, I am. You know those things only come to light over the course of time. So to my ears ‘Kicking & Screaming’ and ‘Angel Down‘, they sound really good, so that is all I can do. I did not know when we were making the first Skid Row album that anybody would like that. You do not know that when you are making it. You are like jamming and ‘We Are The Youth Gone Wild’ – oh that is cool! And then the whole fucking planet fucking freaks out! You do not know that while you are doing it.
GM: So you do not have a gut feeling?
SB: Well yeah but it is the same feeling I have when I make ‘Give ‘Em Hell’. It is the same gut feeling, you know. What you are putting out has a life of its own and it goes into the world. People check it out and you cannot really control what happens. Once it is out, it is like putting a fucking stamp on a letter and putting it in the mailbox, you know. That is what it is like. It is like ‘okaaayyy we are done, sending this off’. Then whatever happens to that is beyond anybody’s control. But I do know one thing. If I get hit by a truck and I am no longer here, ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ will sell a lot. (laughs)
GM: Which song on ‘Give Em Hell’ is closest to your heart and why?
SB: Well I do not really want to explain it. It is all about sex, the whole song is. And also alcohol. It is about drinking, booze and fucking! (laughs) Got to write about what you know. I do not drink anymore and I am in love with a girl very deeply that I really want to marry and stuff but I still have to work on that. The song ‘Temptation’ is about being tempted by things. (laughs)
GM: Nice way of explaining it!
SB: I do not really want to explain it. You have to listen to it yourself.
GM: So, on the new album ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ is one of my favourite songs.
SB: I love that, too, yeah.
GM: It is a great tune and I was just wondering what the meaning and story behind it is?
SB: Well it is not meant to be taken literally. It is like… funny. I bought this t-shirt with a baby dinosaur and he is going like this (makes a sad face) and it says ‘All my friends are dead.’ I thought it was so funny. I was walking around the grocery store and this old lady, just fucking in front of me, she stopped, she starts laughing her head off. I go ‘What?’. She goes ‘Your shirt! It is ridiculous!’ (laughs) It is like ‘All my friends are dead.’’ and I was like, okay, that creates a reaction in people. So I just thought it was funny.
But it is also a commentary. Also on ‘Temptation’. There is a lyrical theme to the whole record and, you know, when I have friends that die from drinking or drugs, that is an inspiration for me to not drink and to not do drugs and I do not drink anymore. So, one of the reasons I do not drink is because ‘All My Friends Are Dead’. (laughs) Not all of them!
We are the left behind, condemned to prophesize eternal rest and peace. It is about having friends that died and we are still alive – what does that mean? To me that means I want to take care of myself and be healthy and do this for as long as I possibly can. So that is what it is all about.
GM: Last question, what is the biggest lesson you have learnt in the music business and life so far?
SB: The biggest lesson I ever learnt in life? Do not get married. (laughs)
GM: And in the music business?
SB: Just go with that last answer because no lesson is heavier than that. (laughs) It is like ‘What the fuck did I do that for, Jesus!’ (laughs)