We aren’t talking about any regular band out there. We aren’t talking about any underground band. This is Skid Row. Guys that sold millions albums, when selling million albums still was an artistic success meter. I’ve the honor to interview Dave “Snake” Sabo, founding member (with Bolan) of this iconic, great, important band. I had the fear to deal with a rockstar, with all the virtues (artistic) and vices (personal). But know what? I felt like spending time with a mate. A guy that, during the interview, I almost asked him “Hey, let’s go to have a beer nearby after the gig?”. Expecting him saying “Ok, let’s go!”. His being genuine, humble, honest, so true, amazed me. In a emotional way I feel I am doing the best interview of my life, the one that leaves me a sign: as a man, as a human being… as a rock enthusiast. Really, it sounds like I am bragging, but I feel like I spent half a hour with a friend, with whom I talked about one of the things I -We- love the most: MUSIC. (Versione Italiana)
We walk from the venue to the tour bus. Some small talk about the place and weather, and we get into the comfortable vehicle. A crew guy is watching TV and he goes away to let us talk. Not before serving himself a drink… Snake looks great, in top shape, relaxed and happy. So we start it….
MH: Thank you for the time
S: Thank you!
MH: This is the third gig in a row in Italy. I would like to know how it went, because I saw in Poland you had a massive crowd?
S: Yeah! The weather is been absolutely great. But we have to move to a theater indoor because… we should have played outside, but a storm came through…
MH: In Milan, was it? (two nights before)
S: No yesterday, in Pisa. It came through and blew the roof off, so it would have been very dangerous to play… luckily instead of canceling we were able to go a small theatre, so we kind of played a semi acoustic show for everybody, and it was great, it was so much fun. So we were able to take lemon and made lemonade, you know…
MH: Well and the crowd… was it good in the two gig you had?
S: The crowd was great, it have been fantastic last night and the night before as well. I love their passion and their loyalty.
MH: Well, it’s deep into your music. It’s known you said that doing 3 EP in a row. In one interview you said you don’t want to give one disc and then two years of silence, but you want to feed the people…
MH: And with the second out I’d like to know how this idea is, how it worked outside
S: It seems to be working. It works for us as a band. It has to start there. It works in the sense that it is still all very new and exciting, so when we go and record the stuff everything is very new, and we continuously flow music like you said, and I hope -we hope- that people is wanting more, but for us it keeps our creativity at a very high level, and mixed things are so much more fun, not much pressure, keeps the costs down…
MH: That’s a good point…
S: Yeah, all that stuff is really important, and it’s a lot of fun to do this way. It’s something different for us and we have been doing things as far as recording to a certain level for so long, so this is so new and different that is exciting.
MH: Yes, there are a lot of bands doing Eps but just an EP. You are on the three plan! About the two chapters together, one and two, I reviewed both, liked both but and I felt that One sounded more immediate, like catchy if you want… the second one needed few spins more to get deeper, to get inside of me you know, so I would like to know your opinion about the two EP…
S: They are both… there is a common thread that runs through both, they are not vastly different, but obviously there are some differences. The second EP, this EP, was the most fun for me to make of every record I’ve been part of with Skid Row. More fun than the first one. More fun than “Slave To The Grind”, more fun than “Thickskin”, you know, up to now it is a big thing. It really is, really was and hopefully want to continue that for the third one. We had such a great experience and the fact that it just seems to me, if I can look at that objectively, it seems like it maintain the immediacy, the urgency and the energy… it’s very much in the moment, much like “here and now”. So I think that when we did the first EP we learned about ourselves, what we were attempting to do, and as we started recording this one we had all higher and louder view of the process. So this one was a lot smoother and just more focused, I guess I can say.
MH: Well few questions about your career… well, how was the whole ride? You are around since the glam rock age it’s 30 years or about, and you are still rocking around. So how is it? Your career with Skid Row.
S: I think that for us, one thing we are really well aware of this, is how fortunate we are. To play music for a living. It really comes back down to us. In all honesty I …whatever… I think about .. “I feel like shit”, “this and that”, but “I can play music for a living!”. You get to go on stage and play guitar, play songs, and be a part of something that I created. Go on stage with guys that I really like it, you know, they are my friends. We have seen the world together. Yesterday early afternoon we all went to see the leaning tower of Pisa, we’ve never seen it before…
MH: …Yes! I saw your picture on Facebook!
S: yeah, but the thing that is amazing is that I know Rachel for 28 years and I know Scotty for 27 years, Johnny 15 years…the fact is all five of us can get together, go out as buddies to go check out something new we never seen before…
MH: Maybe things you wouldn’t see if you had a regular job.
S: Exactly! It’s amazing! So we are all really aware of that. I don’t know for other bands out there, hope they are, but we certainly are, we really are, it really comes down to the fact that the people who come see us, and appreciate us, and buy our tickets. To come and see us. They can do anything else but they buy the tickets and come to see us play. That is heavy man, that is like “Wow, what a compliment!” you know. We do it, it’s a privilege, it’s not a birth right, it’s not something like that. We are old. It’s a privilege man! We attempt to be sure that we understand how great for we to do that. They allow us to play music for a living. That is fucking crazy!
MH: It’s really good for us to know that guys like you are there on stage, with the same passion we have, you know!! Well, about the history of rock… well, hard rock sound, including the glam, which you somehow belonged to,….
… was killed by grunge. So we had all the amazing look, the spandex, the heels, the backcombed hair back then. And then there was a guy with cheap jacket killing you all. But nowadays that thing is dead and hard rock is back. Especially from Sweden that is producing a lot of the new hair metal and hard rock bands. So what do you think these news guys out there?
S: I applaud anyone and everyone who can create and play music for a living. And I applaud them. It’s a wonderful thing to to be able to do and I wish everybody can be successful out of it. I love the fact that there is still people who are passionate about music as we were, and are, to take the time and say “Ok man, let’s put a band together and jam in a garage, let’s play all these small little places because we love it.”. That is amazing, I am proud to be a part of a community of people that do music for a living.
MH: Anyway Skid Row wasn’t really a glam metal band.
S: well, we never wore spandex, really!
MH: Indeed, you were more street, more real, you songs never were the “boys getting girls-let’s get high”-thing, typical of, say, Motley Crue sound. You always sang about real life and you were even heavier compared to the others! How is this evolution from the start in Skid Row nowadays?
S: One thing that has always been true about our band is that we remained true to ourselves. We never followed trends or anything like that, we were like the way we just feel. It’s never like “oh, that band is doing that now, we need to do that”. It was never like that.
MH: That is the key!
S: Of course! We’ve been this genuine to ourselves and the audience, if we said we did in any other way. You got to be true to yourself first, and when that happens it is what it is. People may love it or hate it, but at least it is real.
MH: Well, one question that you probably have heard a lot of times. I try to change it a little: The core of the band (You, Bolan & Hill) have been always there. Johnny has been in the band 1,5 times Sebastian Bach.
S: Yeah! Yeah!
MH: But people still talks about Bach and Skid Row. It’s kinda like wanting Paul Di’Anno back in Iron Maiden!
S: Right! (laughs)
MH: I can’t understand it. Do you have any explanation for this thing?
S: It doesn’t concern me, doesn’t concern me. Whomever is worried about that, I guess, ones lives in the past. That’s fine. You know? That doesn’t make any difference to me. Whilst to inform all that we are happy, which we are, and we are enjoying what we do, which we do… and we are creating music that is genuine and it’s not sitting down and going ok: “A chord – D chord – G Chord, desire, fire….”
(he speaks -almost sings- them in tune)
(In that moment Dafne of Rockshock.it walks at my shoulders exiting the bus, from upper floor, with Bolan -after their interview. Bolan tells Sabo: “Sing it to everybody”, and Snake goes “Sure, I do!”)
S: So I think the fact is that we always remained true to ourselves, true to the name of the band, and the integrity of the band. Whatever anybody else thinks about that it doesn’t bother, it doesn’t concern me. There’s always gonna be haters.
MH: My full esteem for that! Anyway it’s known you play live few old hits. Bach does the same, I’ve seen him live. Which one is the original? I mean, the original singer with a cover band, or the original band with a singer singing the old hits. And mostly I would like to know (he is not here but…) if Johnny is happy singing the old hits or is just part of the business.
S: no no, he would be in full alliance, there’s no doubt about this. When he came in to do audition for the band 15 years ago, he obviously knew the history of the band, so he took a stance and owned it, treating song with respect but “I also want to make it my own as much as possible”, which is exactly what he’s done. He never wanted to be a clown, or anything else, he is always been on his own, and he is our own frontman. That being said, it is fine anybody else playing those songs, anybody can go out and play them, I don’t care, you know, to me… Rachel and I started this band in 1986, now it’s 2014… and we wrote those songs, they are ours, and anybody can go out and sing them, and I hope they sing them great, and do the song its justice, but they will always be our songs.
MH: Being old too, I belong to the old school. I loved the old Skid Row but as a music enthusiast I liked you all the time, even with line up changes, I always followed you. It’s part of my once teen age if you want. But what about the nowadays teenagers? I mean, the public here, some it is of our age, some could be our sons. So what’s the relationship with the new fans, the young ones, the guys we were back then.
S: We have profound respect for the audience. Again, they afford us the opportunity to do this for a living. So we are well aware every night we go out….
MH: well, I really meant the young fans
S: I mean, we treat all the same. We just care our music to connect to them to some emotional level, that is an amazing thing. For me I was turned on to music -when I was growing up- by my older brothers, so it’s great to see that there’s something that still goes on where the older brother and older sister are turning the younger siblings on, or that mom and dad are turning on their daughters or some others. I love that. That’s what I like to discover.
MH: happens to me whenever I go to see Motörhead live…
S: Here we go!
MH: Back then in the 80s, early 90s, if you were the right band with the right look, and the right songs, you could do a great album and to go gold, platinum and suddenly become rich.
S: Yeah! (laughs)
MH: Today? Well, it doesn’t look like this anymore, unless you are a very very very pop artist. How about living doing your music? How hard is this compared to the 90s, when you went out with first and second album.
S: We build a reputation of playing live. We were always certain underdogs. So we had to go out and prove ourselves every night and we still feel the same way today that we’re not underdogs. Back in the days from a strictly financial sense, you made most of your money from record sales and you tour to help sell the records. Today you make more money on touring and Tshirt and things like that…
MH: Is it more real maybe?
S: Yeah, it’s everything has gone a 180 degrees, it’s completely upside down compared to what it used to be. But I think because we worked so hard, all through our career that we are still able to come out an release records. Obviously we are not gonna sell 7 millions records…
S:but you know that’s reality. Of course I would love to, you know, but I don’t lament it and I think that again … I was risen in a certain way where you’ve to be thankful for the good of live that comes your way. And you also prepare yourself for the… you prepare yourself the best as you can for all the ups and downs, and remain thankful and appreciate.
MH: What would you suggest to a new band? They paid for some gig, they paid to record a CD… would you have these 3 advice to follow to go and hope to end up living with your music.
S: One thing is created by the social media today, and internet in general. You have access to the world at your fingertips. How you use that it is really determinant on how far or not far you are going to go, as far as recognition and visibility. I think it’s really important for people to be … especially new emerging band to be very very pro active with their careers, in every aspect, and maintain a control of it, and not give that control over to other people who may do damage to your name, your songs, whatever, your merchandise… whatever.
MH: You’ve to be like a company…
S: You really have to be. You have to be… you have to invest in yourself. And maintain the control as much as possible, because it’s really really hard out there for any artist, any musician. We are old so I wish to believe that if you follow yourself, your heart, and your gut … as much of your brain, but your gut… if you follow that I think would lead down the path you’re supposed to be going. But at the end of the day it’s all up to the individual to take turn of one’s own situation. Don’t expect the others to do that for you.
MH: I think this is the best suggestion for a new band out there.
S: (he sticks to this topic, with passion) You got to be on top of everything. You got to be on top of your social media. You got to be on top… Song quality is a prime importance, I think it so many times people allow their music to be good but not great! I think it’s really important to put that extra work and we were fortunate enough to have people around us that would sit there and be super honest with us and go “it’s good but it’s not great” – “almost great” – “ok, now it’s great!”. And those opinions forced us to get better at what we do and forced us to be
better song writers and forced us to be better performers. I am not so sure that such people exists out there anymore, and I am not so sure that without those people we would have become as good a we are. So I think for today’s emerging artists you just really have to push yourself at every level, especially in the song writing… I mean, you just cannot settle, you’ve to be really honest with yourself. You have to make this song not good, but great, undeniable be bullet proof!
MH: Writing books looks like a trend nowadays. Even Motley Crue did a book. Is it possible to have a Skid Row book? I know Rachel was about thinking of it…
S: I don’t know. I am sure… that for me … right now.. I am not really interested in it. I would love to read Rachel’s book when he is done with it, because you know he’s got a great command of words, he is a great lyricist, so you know I look forward to that. We talked together about a book many many times and I pushed him to do it, but me personally I don’t wanna do one… my book would be more… a comedy, it would be one of those puppet book! One of those you open and pops up with our new faces.
(we both laugh for this)
MH: Anyway if you would do a book, what could be the title? I mean the title you wish to be the title for Skid Row book!
S: Skid Row book? Oh, I don’t know…
MH: Whatever comes into your mind…
(he thinks few seconds)
S: “I would see Skid Row… and all that I got is this shitty book”?
(we both laugh for this)
MH: Few stupid questions in the end: it’s part of your job, but aren’t you tired after almost 30 years to do interview with guys like me, asking the same questions asked all the time?
MH: Or do you enjoy it?
S: The answer is both. It’s is Yes and Yes. It’s like sure, I mean, you know, I’ve to sit and talk about myself and my band, wow, how hard is that…
MH: oh no… another interview…!!!
S: But it is cool… it’s like the fact…
MH: It’s part of the game…
S: It would be… sure, I may be tired, or hangover, or whatever… but all I’ve to do is go. You should be worried when nobody wants to talk to you. And that’s when there is a problem. So put it in the perspective, it’s so obvious.
MH: well so just know I drove few hundreds kilometers to interview you tonight
S: Ah, goddamn, I should be able to walk 30 feets to come to talk to you then! (laughs)
MH: Let’s close: About the cover art. I never really understood what this thing is. Is it a rebel? A cop? On first one there was one, now two, with the cane … what is that?
S: I think it is a good representation of an impersonal…
MH: because I see it has a radio, so I thought it may be a cop…
S: It can be taken…. well the good thing about it is that it has you questioning which is cool. Wondering what it is. I got to give it all to on to credit to Rachel, it is his concept idea, so there was an art director on this record and it was him. On both EP, and the third one as well. To me it’s basically the uprising it is the rebellion and that maybe it symbolize the resistance, or it can symbolize that…
MH: Kinda like a superhero…
S: It can symbolize the frontline, the strong will if you want, you know. Who knows!
MH: Ok, to me I will then never know what it is…
S: That’s good! I like that!
MH: well the final question. When is the chapter three coming? When do you plan it?
S: we don’t even know. It all depends of how long well be on touring for this. We might start writing in December when we got some time off before christmas holidays. Rachel and I just talked about it today. So we’ll gather together for like a week in December…
MH: So, it may come by mid next year?
S: Yeah. Yeah. Probably. I will want to think we might go on the studio in April, maybe, but it all depends again how this EP is received and how much we can tour.
MH: Sure, the feedback. So: the MOST important question! Where the hell will you fit the third guy, the rebel, on the cover? Because there’s no more room left!
(Snake laughs loud)
MH: Because the first one was in the center, now they are side by side, but on the third one?
S: That’s a good …. (Laughs loud) … I don’t know!
MH: When I bought the CD I was looking at the cover… and was like “Where is the third going to be? On the back? No!”
S: You know what? That is a good question…
MH: Cuz it gives you the feeling to expect for the third one…
S: Yeah! If that’s the biggest problem we’ll have with the next EP, that’s great! (laughs out loud) I don’t know! We will see!
MH: I’ll see next year maybe!
MH: Well. Thank you for your time
MH: It was a great opportunity for me…
S: Oh Thank you! I appreciate that!
MH: …as a fan of Skid Row since the beginning. Close this the way you want with a message to METALHEAD.IT and your fans in Italy reading this.
S: To “Metalhead dot Italy” and all our fans in Italy, we couldn’t be more thankful for the support over the last 25 years, since when we came over in 1990 with Motley Crue…the Italian fans have been passionate and loyal, and it’s very important that we maintain that. Without them we cannot do this, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!