By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
A youth crisis is upon us. Our children are in peril, their minds atrophying like lunchmeat in the sun. Only one man has the solution. "The sad state of the fuckin' nation, dude," observes ex-Skid Row screamer Sebastian Bach, "is that the kids have never seen bands like Mötley Crüe or Skid Row or Guns n' Roses."
Can a catastrophe of this magnitude be averted? Glam-metal survivor Bach (performing in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, April 25) has a solo career gaining steam, and he may well have the attitude -- if not the musical vision -- single-handedly to make the world safe for spandex again.
Born Sebastian Bierk in the Bahamas in April 1968, Bach is the epitome of the flamboyant lead singer-type found throughout the bumper crop of butt rockers from the 1980s. With his sculpted cheekbones and supermodel tresses, he was easily the most photogenic of the lot. Skid Row's place in the pantheon once seemed secure alongside Poison, Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and other dim-bulb wig farmers, but as the '90s gave way to the Great Flannel Invasion, hard rock suffered heavy casualties. The majority of these hair bands disappeared. The rest re-formed on a miniature scale to start from scratch, playing small clubs before clambering back to the amphitheater circuit. Bach has, too -- and he's damn proud of it.
"Radio and media are always a little bit behind what's really going on in the street," he says. "Meanwhile, I'm on a stage in front of 40,000 people while their goofy fuckin' bullshit new grunge band of the week is playing some club for 20 kids. The only person talking about the shows I do is me! But that's OK, I can talk enough!"
Calling from a tour stop in Michigan, Bach's always ready to talk about himself. After languishing during the second half of the '90s, he's opted for a flashy vehicle in which to come back. Sebastian Bach & Friends includes guitarist Jimmy Flemion from Wisconsin's legendary underground troupe the Frogs; guitarist Richie Scarlet, best known for work with Kiss' Ace Frehley; drummer Mark "BamBam" McConnell, who played in Bach's first band, Madam X; and a bassist "known only as Larry." Despite the new members, the bandleader insists audiences should expect the same Bach-analia of old.
"It's pretty much hard rock, straight-up-the-fuckin'-line hard rock," he boasts. "'Cause that's what I do best. And that's what it's going to be. People will really enjoy it, and when you see the band, it's an exciting, visual band -- we totally look like future-glam from the year 2000." Whether that vision's in line with today's musical milieu is of little concern to him.
"I really think it's in the air for rock 'n' roll to make a mainstream comeback. Hard rock will never go away, no matter how many people try to kill it, because it's an actual physical thing that you need. A lot of people say, 'It's not the right time.' I got one fuckin' life, man, and I'll make the time."
Skid Row's time passed in a flash. The band's 1989 self-titled debut, immediately following Bon Jovi and the zenith of hair metal, racked up four million sales. Two massively melodic anthems ("Youth Gone Wild" and "18 and Life") sent the album to No. 6 on the Billboard charts and landed Bach's mug on the cover of Rolling Stone. The horrific "I Remember You" still defines -- for better or worse -- precisely what a power ballad is.
The second Skid Row album, 1991's Slave to the Grind, entered the charts at No. 1, but its stripped-down, punk-metal affectations didn't have the same resonance with audiences and ended up selling fewer than a million units.
But Skid Row began to show signs of stress even before success slipped away. A 1989 show in Springfield, Missouri, turned nasty when Bach was pegged in the head with a beer bottle. Bleeding and angry, he hurled the bottle back into the crowd, hitting an innocent teenager in the face and sending her to the hospital. Less than apologetic in that incident's aftermath, Bach -- on probation at the time -- was then featured in a magazine wearing a Tshirt with the phrase "AIDS Kills Fags Dead," drawing a shitstorm of bad press his way.
"It sounds like I'm taking some more shit for it right now!" he grumbles. "A Tshirt that I wore backstage at a concert when I was 19 years old is somehow worthy of talking about. All I can say is, if everybody had a microscope on them at 19 years old, we'd all be getting in a lot of shit. That's how old I was when that went down." This technicality may be lost in the fog as well -- Bach's birth date would have made him at least 21 at the time.
With that Skid Row started skidding, hitting small clubs and Holiday Inns on the way down instead of the arenas and suites waiting for them on the way up. Although MTV rotated the band's videos heavily at first, the network quickly turned fickle on glam-metal in general and Skid Row in particular. Bach -- sounding slightly stoned -- can recall the sensation, if not every detail.