Skid Row: Pretty Bad Boys
If you think, you stink.”
That, according to lead singer Sebastian Bach, is the motto that Skid Row tries to live by. But even though heavy metal is not a genre noted for heavy thinking, there’s no shortage of interesting information one can learn from the boys in this band. In fact, Skid Row’s ferociously powerful opening sets for Guns n’ Roses this summer were veritable heavy-metal seminars, full of useful information for the young, headbanging mind.
Consider, for example, some of the hard-rockin’ tidbits one could have picked up during the band’s show at the Pacific Amphitheater, in Costa Mesa, California, in late July:
There, Bach explained that the song “Psycho Love,” from Slave to the Grind, the group’s latest album, is about “something I fuckin’ love to do – tying people up and saying, ‘Tie me up, tie me down, whip me, suck me, fuck me!’ ” Of course, the man who actually wrote the song, bassist and chief songwriter Rachel Bolan – the guy with the girl’s name and the nose chain, for those not in the know – offers a slightly different interpretation. For him, the song is about a prostitute who likes to kill her johns before servicing them.
Bach – a man who looks and sounds as though he has been genetically engineered to be the ultimate hard-rock frontman – is also very concerned about foreign affairs. He made no bones about his hatred of “fuckin’ war,” in the abstract, and “Saddam Fuckin’ Insane,” in particular. But world affairs wasn’t the only subject he explored; during an audience-participation segment, there was also a little applied math, as Bach led the crowd in a chant of “One, two, fuck you!”
You could also come to understand that Skid Row is a group that’s not above criticism, both from itself and others. In introducing the controversial groupie-bashing number “Get the Fuck Out,” Bach said: “This is a song about someone like me. Someone who comes over to your house and ends up fuckin’ puking on your carpet and pissing on your dog. You know the type: Instant Asshole – just add alcohol.” The song itself is an over-the-top piece of insensitive songwriting, featuring the deathless lines “Well I puke, I stink, bitch get me a drink/’Cause I’m paying for the room/I ain’t buying you breakfast/So keep your mouth busy and wrap your lips/All around my attitude.”
And should you want to know more about their attitude, you can gain valuable insight into the manner in which the members of Skid Row like to spend their free time. Throughout the show, Bach warmly acknowledged those in the audience who were smoking “some motherfuckin’ nature.” And as he left the stage, he said, “I’m gonna go backstage, light up a big fuckin‘ doobie, drink a Jack and Coke and watch some fuckin‘ Guns n’ Roses.” And damned if that is not exactly what he did.
What ultimately separates Skid Row from some of the competition – the worthless hair bands and other hard-rock poseurs – is that this is a band that’s exactly what it seems to be. In a world where other rockers rush offstage to an emergency board meeting with their accountants, Skid Row is the real deal, a band of surprisingly sweet and sincere twentysomething guys who could hardly be happier with their chosen line of work.
“I’ve always said that the only difference between us and our fans is the stage,” says guitarist Dave “the Snake” Sabo.
“We’re pretty much the same punks that we always were,” adds Bolan.
So if someone in Skid Row says that he’s going to get fucked up backstage, by all means believe him. Not that anyone in the band wants to encourage you to do the same. “I only advocate drug use for me and my band, dude,” says Bach, before breaking into his howling laugh and offering one of his trademark violent hand slaps.
Call it definitive proof of the Theory of Hard-Rock Relativity: While the members of Guns n’ Roses were busy making all the headlines this summer, their similarly rowdy tour mates in Skid Row were coming off like angels by comparison. And they were selling lots of albums along the way – more than 1.5 million copies of Slave to the Grind thus far.
With its new album, Skid Row has become a band of hard-rock heroes worth taking seriously. Heavier and more ambitious than the band’s quadruple-platinum 1989 debut effort, Skid Row, the new album entered the Billboard chart at Number One, a remarkable feat for a solid piece of grunge rock that makes few concessions to the power-ballad-hungry market-place of the early Nineties. The album confidently establishes Skid Row as more than just another slick metal act like Poison or Winger – a false impression that the more user-friendly debut may have helped to create. The second time around, Skid Row has served up a wonderfully rude announcement that this is a band that’s in it for the long run.
“For us, it’s not just that we want to sell another four million records,” says Sabo. “What we want to do is stay around awhile, like Aerosmith. We’d trade some sales for some respect, because we’re serious about the music.”
“We’d like to be like one of the incredibly cool bands we grew up on, whether it was the Sex Pistols or Kiss,” says Bolan. “We’d like to be great, you know?”