Getting to talk to some of my favorite musicians never gets tiring but it does get even more exciting when its someone I idolized as a teen. Skid Row was a big part of my high school years and I had an entire wall dedicated to these guys. I even managed at times wore a fake nose to ear chain because of bassist Rachel Bolan. When my phone rang and a voice said, “Hey Don. Its Rachel from Skid Row” I immediately wanted to go back in time and tell my 16 year old self what was going on. Getting to talk to Rachel Bolan of Skid Row recently was beyond cool. Rachel was such a cool person and he took the time out to talk to me about the good ol’ days, his love of racing, the infamous nose chain and moving forward as they continue to create new music. This was a really fun interview for me and I hope y’all enjoy it just as much as I did!
Hello, this is Don.
Hey Don. Its Rachel from Skid Row.
Ok. First off let me just say this. If I would’ve received this phone call when I was 16, I would’ve either crapped my pants or said, “Hey man, quit f**kin’ with me!”
[laughs] Oh man that’s too much man. That’s really funny. [laughs]
Yeah, It’s really cool to speak with you. I’ve been a fan for many years and when I was in high school, I had an entire wall devoted to Skid Row. My dad saw that picture of you with the nose chain and I remember him saying, “Oh no. Don’t you get any ideas!”
[laughs] That’s awesome man.
You’re living in Atlanta now. How did the bassist from a New Jersey metal band end up living here?
I got divorced and I just need to get out of New Jersey. I’ve lived there my whole life. My family still lives up there so I go back quite a bit. At the time I was racing stock cars and go carts a lot and the plan was to actually move to Charlotte, NC because that’s where I race mainly. The band started touring more and more and I just needed to be near a bigger city. I came through Atlanta and knew somebody down here. I made a lot of new friends here and bought a house and I’ve been here just about 10 years now.
At what point did the music bug bite you and make you realize that was your calling in life?
At a really early age. I’m the fourth out of four kids and there was always music in my house. My older sister loved all the British bands. My brother was into the more bluesy rock and my sister Joanne was into folk rock. I always love listening to music so I would just stack 45’s on my parents record player and one by one they’d play. I’d stand at the top of the stairs like I was on stage and while there was nobody at the bottom of the stairs, I saw thousands and thousands of people. My parents bought me my first bass when I was about 11 and ever since I haven’t stopped doing it and never looked back.
You talked about also being into racing. How did that come to play a part in your life?
My brother turned me onto racing at a young age. I used to watch him drag race down the back roads when my parents weren’t around. I’d even sometimes be in the car with him and we would get killed if my parents found out about it [laughs]. He turned me onto drag racing and then onto stock car racing. When I went to my first race I thought, “Man, I really have to try this.” I started out in a couple of celebrity races and then eventually into legends racing and pro challenge racing. Now I own a go-kart and I race on oval tracks when I get the chance. I have a herniated disc because of this and now I can’t race for eight weeks [laughs].
Racing seems to go hand in hand with hard rock music. I know Stephen Pearcy is really into it as well. It seems like there’s a lot of parallels there with racing and playing hard rock/metal.
Yeah, you get the same feeling when you’re going around a track as you do when you step out onto a stage. You get the same adrenaline rush, the same feeling of confidence. It’s so much fun and it really is a lot of the same feelings.
So let’s go back to the beginning. I’ve heard so many stories that seem to vary about just how you guys got discovered. I know that Bon Jovi really gave you guys your big break but what’s the story behind that?
Snake (Dave Sabo; guitarist) and Jon (Bon Jovi) grew up together and Jon was a year head of him in high school. They were friends and at one point even played together for a short time. That didn’t work out but they stayed friends and made a pact saying that when one of them got signed, that person would help the other one out. Jon ended up making it huge and when Skid Row got together he endorsed it, brought it to a few people and here we are today.
In 1991 you guys released “Slave To The Grind” It was such a huge step from the debut. I couldn’t believe how much heavier and darker that album was. Where did it come from?
I think it was just time. It was four years pretty much between records and four years is a lot for a guy who was 23 and then was almost 30. You learn a lot especially if you get thrown into the stuff that happened to us. Everything happened so fast. I was never home, I barely ever saw my family and I was either in a bus or a plane all the time. All of the sudden you just have all this worldly experience and you start writing about different stuff. You’re a different person. “Slave To The Grind” just became a testimony of a different lifestyle and just seeing things from a different angle. There is some really dark stuff in there like “Psycho Love” and “Living On A Chain Gang.” There’s some editorial stuff there too like “Creepshow” that was all about Angie Bowie completely laying waste to David Bowie on all those talk shows. I’m a Bowie fan and I took it really personally and I’ve never met the guy [laughs]. There was just a lot of real life experiences that came out on that record.
My favorite song on that album is “Quicksand Jesus” and I definitely got some religious tension or bouts with faith. Where was that song coming from if I may ask?
You pretty much hit the nail on the head. I grew up in a Catholic family and so did Snake. You know that good old fashioned Catholic guilt. It’s just about keeping your beliefs during good times and bad times. It’s so easy to not be spiritual when things are going really good and then when they go bad you start relying on whatever god you pray to to get you out of it. It’s kind of saying that whatever it is you believe in, you should probably put in 100% all the time. We started writing it and war broke out in the middle east. The lyrics just started pouring out but we did not have a title for it. Snake and I used to do a lot of dirt bike riding and we knew we wanted “Jesus” in the title but we could never really settle on anything. There was a busted Jesus in Snakes mom’s flower garden. The garden was there right before we took off to go riding on the trail and every time it rained the Jesus sank. We called it “Quicksand Jesus” and what we would do is touch it for luck and then we would take off. If someone would wreck we’d say, “You forgot to touch Quicksand Jesus didn’t you?” One day, we just looked at each other and said, “That’s it! That’s the song title!” That song was a labor of love. Snake and I never had such a tug of war on certain parts and elements of songs as much as we did with that one. That one took us a long time to write. It’s cool that’s your favorite song because that’s my favorite Skid Row song that we ever did. I’m proud of it and I’m so glad we still do that one.
The Moscow Music Peace Festival is a piece of hard rock history. Do you remember any of it?
It was really strange. We went on during the day and we were kind of the underdogs. I think we went on 2nd which we didn’t think was fair but nobody ever thinks that stuff is fair. It was really weird because they didn’t know any bands except for Ozzy because Black Sabbath was so huge on the black market. Back then you couldn’t even buy albums unless it was by a Russian artist. After every song that every band played the crowd would chant, “OZZY! OZZY! OZZY!’ [laughs]. You don’t hear that on the show or the DVD because they cut that out. It was a cool experience and everyone was pretty hammered but not all the time. Everyone did their fair share of partying but it was weird because it was communist and you had the KGB following you around everywhere you would go. We went back for the first time since then last December so I guess 20-something years and Moscow is so different now. It’s basically like being in Manhattan. We had a great time and we hope to go back again. The peace festival was cool but it seems like such a blip in my memory at this point. I went in my attic the other day and was looking for some stuff and I came across the leather jacket that they gave each of us and I was like, “My God how gaudy is this?” [laughs] It’s good to have though.
The ‘92 “Slave To The Grind” tour was massive. Easily one of the best metal tours I have ever seen. At this point did you guys even realize that metal was heading into dark waters for a sudden demise?
When we went to Europe we were headlining and we had LA Guns and Love/Hate opening for us. Tracii Guns and I were pretty close and he goes, “Man, you’re into punk and I’m into punk and I got this cassette that I want to play you. What room are you in?” He came up to my room and we played it on the tape player and it was “Nevermind” by Nirvana. I was listening to it and not wanting to like it because I knew what was inevitable at that point. I said, “You know this is going to put us out of business right?” and he says, “No way.” I just said, “Man, this is the changing of the guard so appreciate everything you can from here on.” [laughs] Tracii says, “But these guys are punk” and I said, “No, this isn’t punk. They have punk roots but they’re not punk.” A couple of years later it was just over and done with pretty much. There was a lot of in fighting in the band anyways so it was about time.
Skid Row followed “Slave To The Grind” with “Subhuman Race” which I think is an awesome album. On this album I hear either a band that was experimenting and taking a chance or a band that is in complete turmoil. What was the case here?
It was complete turmoil all the time. Snake and I had a formula which was us writing and bringing songs into the band. All of the sudden that changed. Things just got completely muddled and thrown in a blender and by the time we agreed on a producer to use we went up to Vancouver to do it with Bob Rock and he changed it some more. Granted, he is a very talented man and I will never take that away from him but that record just went in such an opposite direction than I saw it going and I just wasn’t crazy about it. We do a couple of songs off that one in our show, the ones that stick out. It was really the beginning of the end. We did a small tour in the states, a small tour in Europe and then went to South America. That was it. We were done. After we came back from South America I remember us looking at each other and going in five different directions and getting in five different cars to go home.
The band had such awesome chemistry on stage with that line up. Was Sebastian just getting a bad case of lead singer’s disease or something that made him hard to deal with?
Absolutely. The reason why it was so hard to do it at the end was because we had been doing it for so many years. After a while it just wasn’t fun anymore.
Fans of the band have always stated their want for a Skid Row reunion with the Sebastian and Rob. Is this something that will ever happen?
I can’t see that happening and I think I can speak for Scotti (Hill; guitarist) and Snake that they couldn’t see it happening either.
You guys ended up picking Johnny Solinger to front the band when you reformed. He must be doing something right as he’s been in the band for over 10 years. How does working with him compare to your former singer?
It’s easy. Johnny is a very easy going guy. Snake and I are good at seeing other people’s strengths and while he contribute some things to some songs he just says, “Look, I’m the singer and you’re the songwriters. I’ll sing and you song write.” He’s got a great feel for stuff like that. A great skill for when we bring new stuff to him and he’ll say, “You know what? Can I try this to your melody?” and it’s never a tug of war. It’s like friends getting together and it’s great working with him. He’s got great pipes and he takes care of them. Once he gets off stage he likes to disappear because talking a lot kind of freaks him out but he’s a good guy. He’s a good person, a good dad and like you said, he’s been in the band 11 years so he’s got to be doing something right.
I find it really awesome that Skid Row is still putting out new music. Why do this as opposed to taking the “nostalgic” route and just milking your old songs?
We’re musicians, we’re songwriters and we’re creative people so to constantly do the old stuff and just the old stuff just wouldn’t be any fun. It would just get boring after a while. We write songs and we record them. We have a pile of them now that Snake and I wrote that we’ll demo when the guys are into to do the Wild Bill’s show so we’re just going to keep stockpiling them and when we’re ready we’ll put out another record.
So I’ll be honest, I didn’t pick up any of the newer Skid Row albums because I was holding on too tight to the nostalgic past. I ended picking up “Revolutions Per Minute” because of this interview and I absolutely loved it. You guys sound like you were having so much fun and the songs are inspired and full of life. Was this a common reaction to get from old Skid Row fans?
[laughs] A lot of old school Skid Row fans love “Thickskin” and absolutely hate “Revolutions Per Minute.” A lot of people don’t get it. If there was ever an experimental record we made it was that one. We just said, “You know, let’s not do ballads on this record.” We had a country song on the record. We just had fun. We got back together with Michael Wagner (producer) who’s always been a friend since the early days. We hadn’t done a record with him in years and it was blast. We just had fun doing it. We knew that people were either going to like it a lot or absolutely hate it and that’s been the reaction [laughs].
If you had to convince an old Skid Row fan like me why he/she should give the new music a try, what would you say?
I would say that if you’re a fan of the band then you’re a fan of the band. I didn’t turn my back on AC/DC when Brian Johnson started singing. I didn’t turn my back on when Bruce Dickinson started singing. I could go on an on with Judas Priest, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, bands like that who had a bunch of different singers. If you love a band you have to at least give it a shot. You can’t just sit there and say, “This guy is not in the band any more so they suck.” You can’t say you’re a true fan of a band when you do that. That’s just how I feel.
If you had to pick 5 Skid Row songs you never get tire of playing what would they be?
Hm. Quicksand Jesus, New Generation, Piece of Me, Disease and Youth Gone Wild.
Youth Gone Wild is your big hit. You’ve probably always gotta play that one.
Johnny always says, “No matter how old you are or how old we are, we’ll always be the Youth Gone Wild.” [laughs]
Will the nose chain be making a comeback any time?
[laughs] Oh it has. I bust it out every now and then. The guys have been all over me about putting it back in at some point and I thought it was done, dead and over with. I was going through a box in my attic around the same time I came across the Moscow jacket and there was a nose chain that a fan had made for me that was pretty cool. The last time we played Rocklahoma I popped it in and when I came out with it on everyone was like, “No way!” [laughs] I break it out every now and then.
Did you ever think that this would be such an iconic thing for you?
It was an old punk rock thing that I always used to see people wearing. I just wanted to wear it and cross it over a bit. The record company wanted me to get rid of it because they thought it was too extreme for the demographic they were going for. I said, “Oh, Ok.” and just kept wearing it [laughs].
If you could be in a band with anyone dead or alive, who would be in it?
Man, I would love to jam with Dave Grohl. That dude is such an amazing drummer and an amazing talent. I’d love to do something with him.
If you could un-write any song in your career, what song would it be and why?
[laughs] Un write? “Here I Am.” [laughs] I don’t know what it is about that song but I just don’t like it. I’m sure there’s a couple more but that song in particular? Whew. [laughs]
What was it like the first time you saw yourself on MTV?
I’ve been asked this before and thinking about it, it’s cool seeing yourself on MTV. Having dreamed about it so long it just seemed natural that we were on there. Seeing myself on MTV was just like, “Here I am finally!” [laughs] I had a room with all the gold records on the wall that I just got used to seeing. It didn’t mean anything else to me. It could have been paint on the wall for all I knew. It wasn’t until we split up and we weren’t a band for a good four years that I got to sit at home and actually absorb all that we had accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Being that young I had so much confidence and failure was not an option for me. I was going to make it. In my head I had played out that scene of me standing on stage nine billion times looking out at a huge crowd cheering for the band I was in so failure was not an option for me.
Speaking of the videos, were they fun to make?
I absolutely dreaded it [laughs]. I hated it and it was just so tedious. I don’t like being in the studio either. Man, it’s just so tedious doing stuff over and over again. I’ll tell you what though, making the “Monkey Business” video was fun because I’m an animal lover and I got to hang out with monkeys all day, other than the monkeys that played in the video [laughs]. It was just a lot of fun. I think the Zimmerman brothers made that one. They were very fun to work with and very creative.
Rachel, you’ve had a great career. If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Yes. I’d probably stand my ground a little more on certain things but ya know what? I have absolutely no complaints and no regrets.
What can we look forward to from Skid Row in 2011?
We’ve been writing a lot and we’re hoping to get something out at the end of the year. Every time I say that it doesn’t happen though [laughs]. We’re going to release something this year whether its a full album or a couple of singles. We’re going to try to do things a bit different because the music industry is so different than when we first came out. We’re just going to play it by ear and take it as it goes and maybe we’ll pop up on a movie soundtrack or something.
Rachel, thanks so much for doing this. You really made this fan’s day.
No worries bro. I’m looking forward to the Wild Bills show (in Atlanta) and I hope to see you there. You take care dude and thanks again.
Fear Factory at the Masquerade
Fear Factory destroyed the Masquerade on September 4th with an amazing set. Fear Factory was one of the first bands to pioneer industrial metal. It was great to see them back in Atlanta after a long absence. Fear Factory is on tour promoting their new album Genexas, which lead singer Burton made sure we pronounced correctly (ha). Their show was great and I found myself singing along while I took pictures of the band. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact I could hardly SEE the band. Once again the Masquerade didn’t bother to turn up the stage lights for the bands. This of course makes it very hard to photograph. Nonetheless, I still really enjoyed watching this band play some of my favorite tunes live like Shock, Edgecrusher, Damaged, and Demanufacture!
2015 Rockstar Mayhem Fest
The 2015 Rockstar Mayhem Fest visited Atlanta on July 26th, with amazing bands like WhiteChapel, and Slayer!
When I walked into Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood it was like a ghost town. In past years, the Mayhem Fest is usually packed with people, but this year was different. The entrance I walked into had no venders, no food venders, and no people hanging out between band sets. I walked clear across to the other side of the venue to find a much smaller side stage than the previous years.
After seeing, maybe a 1000+ people watching the side stage bands, I knew the Rockstar Mayhem was coming to an end. Also, the beloved Metal Mulisha motorcycle stunt riders were not present at this year’s Mayhem Fest. As for the bands, some of them just were not for me, while a few were amazing to see perform. It was a sad sight to see the Rockstar Mayhem Fest scaled down to almost nothing, but I still had a good time taking pictures.
Enjoy the pictures for the last Rockstar Mayhem Fest. Hopefully, some brave soul will pick up the torch and revive the festival!
Victory Records Stage
Check out pics from the Main Stage on the next page!
Friday @120 Marietta: Metal Invasion
Pathfinder Promotions and 120 Tavern and Music Hall Present MARIETTA METAL INVASION a night of Hard-hitting, in-your-face heavy Metal
Pathfinder Promotions and 120 Tavern and Music Hall Present “Marietta Metal Invasion,” a night of hard-hitting, in-your-face Heavy Metal from Atlanta’s Rigorism with their special guests Paladin, and on tour out of Florida: Sons Of Ragnar and Lacerate!
Rigorism formed in 2012 setting out to make music that doesn’t have a million genres, Metal is what is written, played and the adrenaline at a live show is definitely a must see. Strong vocals, powerful riffs, odd syncopated bass and drums make up RIGORISM \m/
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