Interview: Skid Row guitarist Dave 'The Snake' Sabo discusses the band's new EP release
After reforming in 1999, the 80s heavy metal rockers are set for series of UK shows debuting their new material
'Tomorrow call tour manager Toad and he will put you in touch with Snake.' It's the kind of email you only get when arranging an interview in the heady world of heavy metal. Of course the Snake in question is Dave 'The Snake' Sabo guitarist with hard rock titans Skid Row, one of the bands that reshaped the world of rock back in the 80s. Tracks like 'Youth Gone Wild', '18 and Life' and 'Slave to the Grind' epitomised the excess of the era as they toured the world with Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Van Halen and Aerosmith.
Lead singer Sebastian Bach left in 1996 and the band split. They reformed in 1999 recruiting new vocalist Johnny Solinger and have been gigging pretty much constantly ever since. The List caught up with Snake as Skid Row prepare to return to the UK.
How would you categorise your own music?
I think the essence of what we are is a raw, hard, rock band. We've more along the lines of a Guns N' Roses type vibe than Napalm Death, who I love – Barney's awesome – but we don't sound like them.
Why do you think that brand of hard rock and metal was so popular in the 80s?
It's one of those moments in history that all of a sudden there's an alignment of the stars and everything seems to be right. You have this influx of a certain type or genre of music that seems to capture the imagination of a large audience. Guns N’ Roses had certainly opened a lot of doors – so when we came out a few years later, that door had been kicked down and we were able to walk right through. After the five years where that sort of music was overwhelming, people wanted something fresh and new and that's what happened: along came Nirvana and bands like that. It was an amazing period of time but thankfully we didn't get caught up in the excesses that defined a lot of that time – we never did drugs or anything like that. We drank our beer and whisky but never to the point that it precluded us from playing a show. It's always been about the music and the show first. Being belligerent took a distant second place to being a good band.
Do you have a highlight from back then?
I'm so proud we started the band in 1986. Rachel [Bolan, bass] and I have been writing partners and best buds, brothers for 28 years and our bond is as strong, if not stronger, than ever before. So I'm thankful that for every hill and valley we've been through this band is still firing. Right off the top of my head, [I think] that our second album Slave to the Grind  debuted at number one in the United States. We worked really hard, paid attention to our audience and respected them every night. In return they respect you back. Then, 23 years later, our audience are so killer they've allowed us to continue to play music for a living.
Why did you split with original singer Sebastian Bach?
It's really simple – sometimes people just don't get along anymore, they don't see eye to eye. They want things their way and I mean that from all sides. I take responsibility for my role, but I felt personally, and I can't speak for anyone else, the time had come. I'm so proud of what we accomplished in the ten years we were together but I'm also proud of the years that came afterwards. We still go out and play songs from that era because we love those songs and the people love those songs. I have no ill will against anybody, I know how hard it is in this business.
How are relations with Sebastian these days?
Oh I don't have any. And that's ok. Life is really complicated so I tend to simplify it as much as possible. I don't want any stress or drama in my life so if my relationship with someone promotes that, I tend to move away from them and that's what happened back in the day.
What led to you to resurrecting the Skid Row name in 1999?
Scotti [Hill, guitar], Rachel and I were [still] playing in other bands together, it wasn't like we lost contact or shut ourselves off from each other. Rachel and I were hanging out at my house, jamming in my studio and we just started talking about the songs because it's always about the songs. We love these songs and thought, ‘we don't want to never play these songs again’ so we figured out a way to play the songs again. There's still an amazingly creative fire that burns inside of us. I'm a guitar player who writes songs and plays in a band, that's what I do. And I can't stop doing that.
Why did you feel it was time to record new material and why did you go for the EP format?
I'm stating the obvious but this business has changed so drastically. The way we indulge in music is completely different and free time is at an absolute minimum. At the moment everyone seems to be holding two or three jobs down and raising a family; it's no secret how bad the economy is. Taking all things into consideration and that our society now seems to be built around instant gratification combined with information overload, it's a barrage from every angle. There's so much white noise of out there, so we didn't want to put out a record of 15 songs where people would only have time to get through the first five or six. We figured give them 35 minutes of music and really concentrate on those songs, make them the best they can be and keep the price down. It also affords us the opportunity to have a steady stream of music coming out, whereas before you would release a record and the next one would take three to five years [to come out]. It's also a lot of fun for us too, there's so much less pressure on us as songwriters and you don't risk getting studio burnout, so you can really enjoy the process and hone in on those songs to make them the best you possibly can. The whole thing has breathed new life into the band. This new EP is the most fun I've ever had making a Skid Row record.
Looking forward to getting over to the UK for these live shows?
I have very fond memories throughout the years of being in that part of the world, and the passion that the audience have. The atmosphere is so positive so we always look forward to coming back.
Skid Row's latest EP Rise Of The Damnation Army - United World Rebellion: Chapter Two is available now; they play The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Mon 20 Oct.