By Ashley Zimmerman
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I've been singing 'We are the youth gone wild' for 20 years, man... I'm fuckin' 40!" Sebastian Bach exclaims over the phone before telling me to hold on a second. There are some voices in the background, then some shuffling sounds, and then he's back. "Sorry, dude; I'm getting my hair cut right now. I figured it was time for a new haircut, although I just had one... in 1987!"
Bach lets out a hearty laugh, and just a few minutes into the conversation from a hair salon in NYC, it's clear that he's as gregarious and exuberant a guy as you'd expect. Whether a new 'do is in order is hard to say, but most of his fans would agree that more new music from Bach is a must.
Until this past fall, the last solo platter he'd offered was 1999's Bring 'Em Bach Alive! which came three years after his acrimonious split with Skid Row, the band that first rocketed him to fame in the late '80s. In recent years, Bach's become known more for his stage and screen work than his music. The Canadian-born, New Jersey-residing singer has had recurring parts on Gilmore Girls and Trailer Park Boys, done several musicals (including Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde and a traveling production of Jesus Christ Superstar), and been featured on the reality shows Supergroup, Celebrity Rap Superstar, and, of course, I Married... Sebastian Bach.
But last November, he finally released his long-awaited new album, Angel Down. Lean, heavy, loud, rock-solid, and tender in spots (befitting a guy who perfected the art of the power ballad with "I Remember You"), Bach's second solo album stands alongside Skid Row's 1991's Slave to the Grind as the finest record ever to bear Bach's signature shrieks and croons. As Angel demonstrates across its 14 tracks, Bach's voice is somehow getting better with age. "I'm hitting notes now that I never could hit when I was 19," he marvels. "I guess I can take some credit for maintaining my voice, but I was totally lucky that I was born with it."
But despite how good the songs are on Angel Down, Bach still has to contend with a sizable segment of music fans who only want to hear his old Skid Row material. Sure, they're glad he's still around, but reactions to the new record have been tepid.
"It is intimidating to put out something new, but I think that's because I'm in the heavy metal genre," Bach says. "Like, I'm a big fan of Neil Young, and a guy like him will put out a CD every eight months. Every eight months, I'm goin' down to the store to get his new release; a lot of people are. And I wish heavy metal fans could accept new music more readily like that, because, I mean, I know they love 'Youth Gone Wild,' I know it, and I love playing those songs, but it's like, some fans believe I'm only a thing from the past."
Certainly, the presence of one W. Axl Rose on three of Angel Down's tracks — "Stuck Inside," the particularly fiery "(Love Is) a Bitchslap," and a cover of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" — has enticed a lot of people to check out the album, if nothing else. Longtime friends (since Guns N' Roses took Skid Row out with them on their 1991 Use Your Illusion tour), Bach spent parts of 2006 and 2007 opening for the retooled GN'R around the globe.
Bach is thankful and still marvels at the fact that Rose came to the studio to sing on Angel Down, marking his first studio vocal performances to be released since 1999. "I just texted him, joking around that he should come sing on my record, and the next thing you know, he was there!" Bach says.
And because they've become such tight bros, Bach's now a de facto mouthpiece for Rose — media outlets continually pepper him with questions about the GN'R singer's doings and whereabouts, always hoping to get some inside information about the status of Chinese Democracy.
"It's become sort of a joke — Rolling Stone says, like, 'Sebastian Bach is Guns N' Roses' publicist' and stuff like that," Bach laughs. "I don't know why he is so nice to me or why he lets me into his world or why he sings three songs on my record, for fuck's sake!
"Axl is the most controversial lightning rod of a human being I've ever encountered in my life," he continues. "He's so big that it's hard to fathom. I've walked down the street with him, and he literally stops traffic. No humans can speak the way that they normally speak, to Axl Rose. I watch people — smart, successful people — stand in front of him and try to figure out what he wants them to say so he'll like them. People think they know who he is, but they really don't. He's a very sensitive guy, and a lot of times, I wish people would just shut the fuck up about him."
To some degree, Bach knows what that's like. He's had his own scrapes with the media and the law over the years, and by appearing on so-called "reality" shows, he certainly invites people to pass judgment on his life, even if they have it all wrong.