The up and down career of Skid Row is a microcosm of just about any successful 80's metal act. Hitting a peak with the 1991 sophomore effort Slave to the Grind, the band was quickly derailed by the grunge movement and ended up losing lead singer Sebastian Bach. Amazingly, the band reemerged in 1999 with Dallas' own Johnny Solinger as the vocalist and they seem to have been on the road ever since.
From a tour stop in Corona, California and in anticipation of Saturday's show at Trees, bassist Rachel Bolan spoke with DC9 about Skid Row's new EP, their lengthy career with and without Sebastian Bach and how he's never going to bury the hatchet with the former frontman.
DC9 at Night: How did you get the name Rachel?
Bolan: It's not my real first name. When I was first getting into bands, I wanted a cool stage name. I wanted to be like Alice Cooper. Eventually, when I was old enough, I legally changed my name to Rachel. It's always raised a few eyebrows. It's funny to hear people pronounce it when I give them a credit card or something. It's funny to this day. They ask me if I gave them the wrong ID or if I gave them some chic's credit card.
Does the band have a new EP coming out next month?
Yes, it's the 2nd of three. It's called Rise of the Damnation Army: United World Rebellion Chapter Two. It's coming out August 5th I believe in the States. We're stoked. We are really proud of the new tunes and the whole concept we are doing with the three EPs instead of doing one album.
What do you prefer about this format?
t keeps everything fresh and new. It keeps people interested and it's a fun way of doing things. We've never done anything like this before. Bringing back the idea of the EP is something we are really into. When someone first suggested it, we said, "Yes, let's do that." It's a lot less stressful. Instead of writing 30 songs and taking 10, you write 15 and take five.
If people want it as a whole album, they can simply download all the EPs.
Yes, once we get to the end, we are going to make special packaging and add a bunch of extras in. When it's all said and done, they can have three separate bodies of work or one big one. I really enjoy doing it this way.
The band's debut came out in 1989 and Slave to the Grind came out in 1991. Both were hugely successful and still draw fans to your music. What was it about those particular albums that brought such success?
Man, I wish I knew. I would bottle it and sell it. We came out at a time when the timing was perfect. We are very fortunate that we can still go out and tour. We've been around for 25 years and we can still make good music that people find relevant. Those albums defined a lot of stuff for us and for that generation of fans. It's amazing to be at an all-ages show and teenagers are singing along to songs from those first two records. They also like our new stuff, but those records transcended generations.
You were never tagged as a hair metal band. Avoiding that label would seem like a blessing.
We've been categorized as a lot of different things that we are not. What it comes down to is that we are American hard rock. People can call us whatever they want. They have fun at our shows and that's all we can ask for. That's what it is all about.
Did you start the band?
Yes, Snake [guitarist Dave Sabo] and I met and started Skid Row in 1986. To have something go on for this long, something I dreamed of doing, something that was a chance meeting at a music store is pretty cool.
Considering Dallas is Johnny Solinger's home town, does he put a lot of names on the guest list?
Yes, pretty much everyone in the place is from his guest list.
Johnny has sung for the band for almost 15 years. Do people still ask about [former singer] Sebastian Bach?
Yes, you'll get them occasionally from the purists, the people who can't deal with change. The majority love Johnny and they know he is all about Skid Row. When people bring it up, you have to kind of shrug your shoulders and say that it is really a dated question.
After all these years, is the hatchet buried with Sebastian?
No. He does his thing and we do ours. We don't speak and that's that.
What about the songs? Doesn't Sebastian as a solo act do a lot of the same songs you guys perform?
Sure, anybody can play those songs.
Did Johnny have any trouble adapting to the older material?
No, not at all. When he came to the audition, we were half way through the second song and we knew he was the guy. He came in so well prepared. We threw him a couple curve balls with a couple of deep tracks and he absolutely blew us away. And after 15 years, we are still having fun.
Did the fans initially give him a hard time?
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A couple here and there, but not really. The majority of Skid Row fans are very open-minded and they were cool with it. As long as they got to hear their favorite songs being sung the way Johnny does and they are down.
The band's fortunes began to decline around the time of the grunge movement. Kind of ironic that Nirvana was once named Skid Row.
I always thought that was ironic. Grunge put a lot of bands like us out of business. You just have to wait it out. We came back because people wanted to have fun again. There were some grunge bands that I liked, but it was such a different vibe and a different scene. People started to miss bands from our era. There was a certain nostalgia involved.