Sebastian Bach Says ‘Tape Bands’ Will Never Beat ‘Real Musicians’
Sebastian Bach has his work cut out for him on his ongoing Slave to the Grind 30th-anniversary tour. The chart-topping sophomore LP from his former band, Skid Row, is full of skyscraping vocal runs and ear-piercing screams — no small feat to replicate onstage every night. But the 53-year-old singer tells UCR that’s always been the case.
"I'm interpreting it for me now, but there was never a time in my life that I could have walked up and done that record in just one shot," Bach says. "That album is a studio creation that is us pushing ourselves to the maximum. And I never had a problem doing stuff in the studio that might be impossible to do live, because to me, making a record is not the same as doing a show. Like Pink Floyd's The Wall or [the Beatles'] Sgt. Pepper's - I mean, those are amazing records. The Beatles never came out and did Sgt. Pepper's with all the sound and all this stuff. They made a record, and then they went and did a show. It's two different things. But I'm trying my hardest to do it the best I can."
Recording Slave to the Grind was an immense challenge for Bach, even as a wiry 22-year-old with superhuman pipes and an appetite for controversy. He blew his voice out while recording the blistering, melodic screams on album closer "Wasted Time" and had to take a couple weeks off from singing. "I was trying to push my voice as hard as I could, but sometimes you can push it too hard, and this record is a great example of that," he says.
These days, Bach says, in-ear monitors make it easier to perform such demanding songs without cranking his stage mix to deafening levels. "I have it at a comfortable volume, because when I'm looking at three months of shows, I'm not going to hurt my ears," he adds. "I'm not going to sacrifice my hearing for rock 'n' roll, no matter how much I love rock. Sometimes it is too loud, and sometimes you are too old."
Listen to Skid Row's 'Wasted Time'
As more of his own rock 'n' roll heroes from the ‘60s and ‘70s throw in the towel, Bach is keenly aware that he and his hard-rock peers, such as Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue, are becoming the genre's elder statesmen. "I see all the time our bands are leaving us," Bach says. "You know, David Lee Roth's retiring, and Kiss say they're gonna be done by next year. So I do feel a responsibility, to the fans and to rock 'n' roll, to have respect for the stage."
For Bach, that means keeping his show 100 percent live — no backing tracks allowed. "I don't see a lot of bands coming up that are going to replace [the classic rock stars]," he says, "because too many of them rely on tapes, and that's not gonna last the test of time. There's gonna be a time when those tape bands are gonna have to do it for real, and people are gonna go, 'This is a fucking joke.' And I just know that real musicians hit your heart way more hard than guys miming to a tape.”
There's no shortcut to musical mastery, Bach stresses. Those "real musicians" simply had to put in the work. "Neil Peart and Eddie Van Halen, they weren't locked in their bedroom playing video games for 12 hours a day," he says. "That shit didn't exist. They were locked in a room with their instruments."
On that note, Bach is off to do the same thing.
"I'm going down to the bus and I'm gonna sing for an hour and a half, and it's a day off," he says. "But I know how to do this, and my voice sounds better the more I sing properly, and I don't really take days off. I'll go do scales, and I'll just keep the throat goin' and keep the rock rollin'."
Watch UCR's Complete Interview With Sebastian Bach