John Parks of Legendary Rock Interviews spoke with Skid Row’s guitarist Dave “The Snake” Sabo about Sebastian Bach, co-writing songs with Rachel Bolan, choosing not to open for KISS and the status of their next album. Portions of the interview appear below.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for talking to us Snake. Your name came up a few times in the Sebastian interview we just ran and in the interest of fairness we wanted to get ahold of you to give you a chance to respond.
Dave Snake Sabo: First of all thank you John for your patience and diligence in getting this done. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do it sooner. Had I simply been the desk jockey Sebastian described me as I probably would have been able to get back to you way more quickly (laughs). One of the first things I noticed in his interview with you was that it was clear he has NO IDEA what it is that I do (laughs). He talks about me being a manager and not really a touring act. Then he follows it up by saying he’s not saying that to be a dick (laughs) but that’s kind of a “dick” thing to say. So, I found a lot of what he said to be humorous and ridiculous at the same time to talk shit about my career. His words kind of diminish what I’ve been working so hard at doing these last 6 years in my work. Having said that, I am a GUITAR PLAYER first and foremost and always have been. Skid Row is my band and I read stuff like that and it dawns on me how much Sebastian doesn’t know me or know anything about me even after all these years. That’s fine, it’s not like we’ve made an effort to sit there and follow each other’s careers since the split but still….to put down what I do as a manager and say I simply hook up things for Phil Anselmo is kind of demeaning. Rick Sales is his manager. Is that all Rick does is sit around and arrange interviews for Sebastian?? I doubt it, there’s a LOT that goes into being an artist manager and that usually falls on a publicist which is something Sebastian should know. At the end of the day his interview really just added a little humor to my day.
LRI: Do you have any personal insight as to how he viewed the breakup? It was mentioned that Sebastian didn’t like the material he was presented with?
DSS: I think we all have our own personal viewpoint or truth as far as what we perceive to be behind the breakup that happened all those years ago. I have a pretty good memory John and there’s some truth to what he said but in all honesty this is what I remember. I remember writing six songs and he can’t tell you what those six songs were because in all honesty to the best of my knowledge he never listened to them. Scott McGhee brought them down to his house and said “At least give these a listen” and Sebastian was so pissed off at us at the time and we were just so distant from each other that it just got really bad to the point of him not even LISTENING to the material. From what I was told he just threw the tape at Scott and said “I’m not singing that punk rock bullshit” because that’s just how Sebastian viewed Rachel. That reaction of not even bothering to listen to it was what set me in motion as far as thinking maybe it was just time to move on. The thing is, from the first album on, Rachel had ALWAYS brought that punk rock influence to the band, it was nothing new. It was always Rachel that turned the rest of us on to that stuff and had that Ramones or Pistols influence. Songs like Piece of Me or Bonehead never would have happened were it not for Rachel’s influence.
LRI: Why did things get so bad between Sebastian and the rest of you guys?
DSS: I think a lot of times what happens a lot times in these situations is that people’s idiosyncracies or characters can become masked or hidden when you are experiencing a certain degree of success. When that success starts to fade certain character issues will come out and rear their head be it in a positive way or a negative way.
LRI: You start seeing a different side of someone when you go from playing sold out arenas to sold out clubs.
DSS: Yeah and to be honest it never really bothered me John. I’ve said this a hundred times in interviews so it’s really no news flash, it never really bothered me. I can’t say I was TOTALLY unaffected by it but not to the degree that it affected Sebastian. It really, really affected him when that happened at least from my vantage point. It angered him and he tended to act out and create personal issues with the band at that point. The way he treated Rob was particularly awful at that time and I think a lot of it had to do with us being very cognizant of our waning popularity. Sebastian, for some reason, just took that whole thing very, very personally. I think we all did but I know that I never looked at any of our success or acclaim as a BIRTHRIGHT or that the world owed me it, I understand that level of fame does not last forever. I looked at every bit of it as an absolute gift and still do to this day, including talking to you. To be able to still be involved in this very tough business is AMAZING and I am very, very grateful. I think it is a blessing that all five of the original members of Skid Row are still in the business even though some of the band are doing their own thing. I never got into this to be a “rock star.” I wanted to be a guitar player and write songs and the fact that I am still able to do that is incredible. To be able to write songs that people enjoy or relate to is amazing. I truly am thankful to be able to play to any sized audience and accomplish what we continue to do.
LRI: Do you question him saying that you and Rachel wanted to control every aspect of the songwriting and that was part of what led him to frustration?
DSS: That is so untrue. If that were true then Sebastian’s name would not be on any of the album credits for Subhuman Race or any of the other things he got credit for including Slave To The Grind. The thing is, to the best of my knowledge Sebastian really didn’t write all that much when he was in the band. We always, always operated on the premise that the best idea wins regardless of who writes it. It’s true that over the course of the band Rachel and I had built the ability to be able to write well together. I can’t really put a finger on why it happened, it just happened. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry write a lot and the other guys write as well but just not as much as that combo. Rachel and I have a certain thing and have always interacted very, very well with one another and those songs are result of that relationship built over time. It NOT that Sebastian and the other guys didn’t attempt to write as much as that they didn’t write as MUCH. Some of what they wrote was very, very good and some of it wasn’t. I’ve always been able to write the best with Rachel and that ended up being a lot of the material the band was built upon. We were always open to other guys in the band writing though because we always wanted Skid Row to be about the band and the band member’s input and writing.
LRI: Sebastian seemed to think your reliance on you and Rachel’s material was your downfall and you were opposed to outside writers or other people’s ideas.
DSS: I don’t remember ever voicing any public opinion about not wanting outside writers although to be honest I might have. It’s not to say that I was opposed to using outside songwriters or controlling it all but just that I thought, maybe not rightfully so, but I thought that given what we had done with the first two records that we were CAPABLE of writing all of our own material. What I didn’t take into consideration was the fact that our relationships to each other was growing toxic. Like I said, I was very adamant that we were able to and capable of writing our own stuff whether that’s true or not is another story. It’s not to say that Rachel and I thought everything we did was gold as Bas says because we were always open to writing with other people if for no other reason than continue to grow and learn. We never thought we couldn’t learn from other writers. We would write all the time with bands we were out on the road with. We wrote on the Aerosmith tour, we worked with Paul Stanley writing for the Revenge album and obviously working with guys like Richie and Jon. We were not at ALL against the idea of learning through collaboration. Maybe this is my ego talking but it’s just that I definitely wanted to keep as much of Skid Row’s writing “in-house” as possible.
LRI: What about the issue between he and Rachel over the opportunity to open for the KISS reunion? I could sort of relate to his frustration because I’m an insane KISS fan.
DSS: Well, I can’t speak for Rachel but I was embarrassed by the idea of the idea of us going up there and faking it as if there were no issues in the band at that point. The idea of pretending it was all good or going through the motions in front of a massive audience in my home state was not cool. To be clear, it was not an offer of the whole tour it was the one show in New Jersey at the Meadowlands. I could not go up on the stage and make-believe that all was good and we were a gang. Trust me, it broke my heart, that was a lifelong dream of mine and it was something I had to weigh morally within my heart. It was nothing deliberately done to hurt Sebastian and I personally went back and forth over and over again about whether or not to do it but it came down to the fact that I couldn’t lie. I couldn’t go up there and fake it. The whole thing made me really sick to my stomach for two reasons. First of all, because I felt that way and secondly because we weren’t going to do the show. Of course we were honored to be asked to open for KISS reunited, it was an amazing opportunity. The reason Skid Row did the KISS tour in 2000 was because we were a BAND again and we were able to take advantage of that great opportunity not because I was working for Doc as Sebastian said (laughs). I didn’t start working with McGhee Management until the past 6 years.
LRI: When we talked to producer Michael Wagener he mentioned that of all the bands he’s ever worked with Skid Row was by far his favorite. That’s pretty amazing.
DSS: That is pretty amazing. I read that interview you did too and it’s just so humbling. It’s really, really humbling that a guy of his stature and with his accomplishments would say something like that about US. His resume and reputation speaks for itself and I don’t even know what to say when I read something like that. All I can say is that my favorite time making a record was the time I spent working with Michael so the feeling is quite mutual. I love the guy dearly as do my bandmates.
LRI: How close are you to recording and releasing [your new album]?
DSS: You know what John, I don’t know. We’ve written and completed a bunch of songs, we have like twelve songs but the thing is, they’re not all great. So, we’re weeding them out and wading through it because it’s really important that we make a GREAT album. We don’t wanna just put something out because it’s been a while, we’re going to keep working and I really don’t have a concrete answer as far as how much longer we’re going to take. We’re kind of in a rush because we are busy and have tour dates so we wanna get something out there but at the same time we’re not in a rush because we’re not about to put something out that’s half ass. I know the fans want to hear something new from us and it’s been a while but at the same time we respect them enough to not just rush something out there. I would really like to have something out by the end of the year. We have at least 5 that will definitely make it and then about six other ones that we will continue to keep working on. You can’t just write ten songs and throw it out there. That more than anything is what’s WRONG with the music business. There’s just too many people who have shipped records with one or two good songs on it and the rest of it is filler. They’re just putting something out to meet a quota and that sucks. The one thing I am pretty proud of is that throughout the history of Skid Row it’s never been about just putting something out to meet a deadline. We certainly had pressure on the second and third records but we never settled or compromised, at least not that I’m aware of. I know I never did.
Read Dave “The Snake” Sabo’s entire interview with Legendary Rock Interviews by clicking here.