The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world






JULY 2014


Of all the Hard Rock bands to emerge out of the late eighties in my mind there are only a handful that had everything – the songs, the live show and the attitude. Skid Row was foremost amongst them and to this day I still think that their first album is right up there with the best Hard Rock debuts ever.  I’d always wanted to catch up with Snake as to me it was the songs he and Rachel Bolan wrote that made the band what they were. The best thing about Skid Row of course is that they still deliver ‘live’ and with the second of three new EP’s just landed they sound like they are in the form of their lives. I told myself this time I wasn’t going to mention the ‘S’ word…   

Mark: Hi, Snake, it’s Mark from The Rockpit in Australia.

Snake: Hi, bud, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Mark: We love the new EP, we’ve had chance to listen to it now for a couple of weeks, it’s out at the start of August in Europe, and it’s the second in a series of EP’s that seems to have a theme running through it. Can you tell us a little bit about that theme?

Snake: It’s one of those things when we initially came up with the idea, of doing it this way, it was because the way that music is being delivered these days is completely different than what we grew up on and what we’d done as a band for the last 25 years. It’s a new world out there and you kind of have to adjust, we felt that given the sort of fashion, mentality in society these days, we are bombarded with information from every angle, and it’s information overload, and it’s really difficult to navigate through all the white noise that’s out there! So, we just thought if we sat there and put together a bunch of EP’s, split over the course of two years, 5,6,7, songs on each one, it doesn’t bombard the listener, and make them feel they have to dedicate a whole hour out of their day to listen to the whole record. It hits you in thirty minutes, and hopefully leaves you wanting more! We thought that would be the best way to get the attention of the consumer, and hopefully satisfy the desire for Skid Row music, but not overwhelming anybody. Also this way we can put out more products more frequently, than we have so instead of waiting two or three years, for a CD or record, we can put stuff out every eight months or whatever! It made sense to us on so many levels, there was a lot less pressure to create the music, and also you’re not touring for two years at a time, you’re out there for six to eight months supporting it, and then come back for another EP etc. It’s exciting in the sense that it forces you to stay in the moment, you’re not spending months at a time sitting in a studio, and you’re there for a couple of weeks, so everything is fun, fresh and exciting! I think it doesn’t lose any of its intensity at all. It’s kind of the general theme of what the band was predicated on in the beginning, we’ve always been pretty much under dogs from the beginning, as individuals growing up and as members of a band, and so that sense of urgency has always run strong, throughout the fabric of what this band has been over the course of nearly 28 years! So, I think there’s always been a strong sense of individuality that comes across in the music, but also community, strength in numbers, and also just doing the right thing. You know it’s tough in this world, out there, a lot of young people are overwhelmed by what we’ve become as a society, and I think that you have to find your voice, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have a platform to express that, and so that’s one of the themes that runs through our music constantly, find your voice and express it, and be true to that! It has served us very, very well, it appears that’s the way we’ve lived our lives and it works.

Mark: It is working really well, and the EP is fantastic, I think I prefer this one slightly to the first one.

Snake: I do too! For a number of reasons, for me, most importantly, out of everything we’ve ever done as a band, this was the most fun we’ve had making a record! It was a blast, man, we all seemed to be locked in with one another, everyone got along really well, and we are all very much dedicated to the whole process of creating something really special to us. We’ve been very selfish, in that we create our records for ourselves, first, you have to do that or it’s not genuine, it’s not pure, it’s got to be something that sits there and gets you excited and happy, as not only a song writer, but as a listener as well. That’s what we’ve always done, and we continue to do that, we are always on the same page throughout the whole process, it was a great position to be in, and it was awesome!

Mark: It certainly seems like you are a happy band these days, everyone seems to be getting on so well, and to see you guys playing out there, live, so much, it really rubs off on the audiences and the crowds.

Snake: Yeah, and its genuine, you can’t fake that stuff, it’s impossible! I think we’re the closest we’ve been as a band for a long time. I think one of the thing that has really come to the forefront of our consciousness, is that everyone really appreciates the fact that, and we are humbled by the fact that we are able to do this for a living, and able to make music for a living and that does not get lost on us any way what so ever! I get up every day, and to be honest with you, it’s very much part of my consciousness, no matter if it’s a shitty day or whatever, I still get to go up on stage and make music for a living. It’s a pretty incredible thing, I think a lot of people don’t recognise that in us, and certainly with us it is an amazing gift, what we do is not a birthright, it’s a privilege, and we treat it with that respect. To know that people are making a conscious effort to go out and buy a ticket to come and see the band is pretty awesome, and that’s our mindset when we go out on stage, that we have a responsibility to that audience to perform to the best of our abilities, I kid you not, it is really humbling.

Mark: That’s great. The EP itself, there is some wonderful songs on there. The overwhelming vibe that we get from it, is that it has that classic Skid Row sound, it’s the sound of the first two albums, songs like “We are the Damned”, and “Give it the Gun” has a slightly more Aerosmith feel to it.

Snake: Oh, I love that you said that!! Thank you, that’s a great compliment!! When we started working on the record, Rachel and I always get together and have a conversation, about life, we’ve known each other for twenty eight years now, and we probably know each other better, than we know anybody else in our lives, and that’s including family members, we talk every day, and hang out every day. So, we sat down to write this, and just started talking about things that were important to us and one of the first things we said was “why do we do this?” What propelled us in the first place to do this? And it forced us in to going back to being that 15/16 year old kid, stood in front of the mirror, pretending to be Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons or Joe Perry or whoever, and that was our form of expression. We were socially awkward, we didn’t fit in to a certain group of people and we didn’t know how to express ourselves, and all of a sudden music came along, and we found our voice, and we found the release valve, and the light switch went on. So, we got back to that, and you realise that, and while things that you may experience at a young age, or in your teens, they may seem mundane now, being an adult, but the impact of them is still the same. At 16, some of those problems mean the world, they can be potentially soul crushing, and earth shattering, even though you may look back and go, oh, my god, but at that point in your life they are, they’re impactful, so music was the way to express ourselves and release our inner emotions, and realise that it’s the same thing today. I mean the problems may be different, but the impact is still the same, you peel back the layers of life and you get back to that bare essence again. It’s like a light switch went on and the gates opened, and we kept that same space throughout the writing and the recording of the EP, and I think that’s carried in to the whole touring process, we have a really , really good grasp of how fortunate we are to be able to do this.

Mark: So, hence, the cover versions that are appearing on there as bonus tracks as well? Presumably they are the bands that really meant that much to you guys when you were growing up, like Queen, Aerosmith, Judas Priest on the previous EP, is that fair to say?

Snake: Yeah, absolutely! That was the hardest part of doing the EP, finding those couple of songs to cover, because we didn’t really argue over the songs that we were writing, but the whole back and forth was a bit frustrating for everybody because we just couldn’t figure out which two songs we were going to do! Everybody has their favourite song, so it’s difficult sometimes, but after trial and error, we finally got there, and I love both of them. Not that I don’t love the two on the first EP, they’re a reflection of who we are and what influences us, and what has influenced us, and I know we did them with tremendous respect, and I hope that comes across.

Mark: Yeah, they came out brilliantly. “Psychotherapy” has long been a staple of your set, I think every time I’ve seen you, you’ve played that song, and it was very sad when we lost Tommy a couple of weeks ago.

Snake: Yeah, it sucks man! The last original member and I know it had a very big impact on Rachel. They were all so young, and that’s the thing that really gets to me, so young, and it amazes me that you have guys like Keith Richards, who’s about 7000 years old and still kicking it!!

Mark: That’s right! It was a sad day. You are out on tour a lot this year as well, I think you’re out with Saxon in Europe and the UK, and of course you had the tour down here earlier in the year, with Ugly Kid Joe and Dead City Ruins.

Snake: Yeah, great guys, both bands.

Mark: I was surprised you didn’t really know the guys from Ugly Kid Joe, from back in the day, but it worked really well. Are we likely to see you back here any time soon? And also, after the European festivals, what are the plans?
Snake: We had such a great time in Australia, and we got a chance to go to New Zealand as well, which was great as we hadn’t done that for so long, and to play seven shows down there was great. Both those bands are fantastic as well, so for us, we want to get back there as soon as possible. The one down side with doing it this way, is that with the EP’s you can’t really tour the whole world with each EP cycle, it’s logistically impossible! So, I think what we are going to do is, in January we are going to start writing again at some point, because we are pretty much booked up for the rest of the year, so we’ll start getting some writing done after the holiday. And then we’ll be touring until we feel the EP has run its course, it feels old to us now, if that makes sense, but it doesn’t come out till the first week in August! Basically, if we want to go by the plan we’ve had, we should have another one out in April or May. Hopefully everything will work out, we’ll be able to go where we want to go and have time to write the next one as well.

Mark: We got a lot of internet questions from fans about any unfulfilled musical ambitions that you might have, and a couple of questions from us, were will there ever be an autobiography from you, if that was something you’d ever considered, or if you’d ever considered a solo album?

Snake: No, I never thought about a solo record or anything like that, to me, I get to express myself completely through Skid Row. I can’t imagine writing a record of songs, without writing it with Rachel, it doesn’t compute with me at all! This fulfils all my creative ambitions and needs writing with Skid Row. As far as a biography goes, or anything like that, my biography would be like the equivalent of “Mad” magazine!! It would be like sixteen pages of pictures and dumb stories!! Trust me; I don’t have enough faith in my own importance to put out a book!

Mark: I love those answers, they’re great! But, I think you might be on to something there, I’d certainly buy that magazine!!  If you could have composed with anyone living, or dead, who would it have been? Who’s your biggest influence as a guitarist or a songwriter?

Snake: There have been quite a few people I would have loved to have worked with both living and dead. I would love to be able to sit down, and obviously anyone would love to write with one of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. But, I would love to sit down with The Beatles when they were doing the” Magical Mystery Tour” and The Rolling Stones, when they did “Exile on Main Street”. I would also like to write with Steven and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, when they were doing “Rocks” or U2 when they were doing “The Joshua Tree”, so things like that. It’s so weird, I say all those things but I guess it’ll never happen, so I don’t have to worry about it!! There are so many great songwriters out there, young and old, and I’m a music fan, first and foremost. I listen to great songs so I can learn something from them; so often I go home at 4am, and I’ll be on You Tube, dissecting songs, and learning the chord progressions and stuff, and hopefully stealing them and incorporating them in to a Skid Row song!!

Mark: It’s funny you should mention those names, as we asked fans how much Skid Row meant to them, and someone came back, and in one single sentence said, “Jagger, Richards, Tyler, Perry, Sabo, Bolan!!”

Snake: Oh, my, gosh, that’s the greatest! That’s crazy!! Wow, I am completely taken aback by that!

Mark: Yeah, I love that thought, it means a lot to a lot of people out there, especially those early Skid Row albums, and to me this new material is right up there with it.

Snake: Thanks, man that really means a lot. We’re proud of everything we’ve done throughout the whole course of the existence of the band; it’s what’s brought us to this point, 28 years later. But, there’s a certain pride that you get when you create something new, and that’s important, we started out like that, we write together, we work and we write and we make sure that it fits what we hear in our brains, and we rework it so that’s it’s as good as it can possibly be. It has to pass the litmus test for us personally, and once it gets there its then up to the rest of the world to decide, at least then we feel that we’ve done everything possible to make that song as great as it can possibly be!

Mark: I have one final question for you. What is the meaning of life?

Snake: Sitting in a chair in the front of a tour bus, in the middle of somewhere like Kansas or Missouri, talking to Mark Diggins in Australia about the new Skid Row record!! For me, that’s the meaning of life right now! It’s gonna change as soon as I hang up with you though!!

Mark: No worries, that’s so cool! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today. I think I must get a prize too, for doing an interview without mentioning a certain person!!!

Snake:  [laughs] I appreciate your time, thanks a lot; hopefully we’ll see you back down there again soon.

Mark: Take care man, have a great tour.



Snake spoke to Mark Diggins July 16 2014





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