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"18 and Life...Again." Skid Row's Rachel Bolan Talks About His Band "Gone Wild"

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 @ 5:07 PM

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Jersey rock band Skid Row burst onto the heavy metal scene in 1989 with the song "Youth Gone Wild" followed by an even bigger hits, their power ballad, "I Remember You.", and "18 And Life". In a time when most bands were worried about their hair and make-up, Skid Row was all about the music.

In the early 90's, when the grunge movement started to take control of the music industry, the success that Skid Row experienced soon diminished. In 1996, upon the dismissal of singer Sebastian Bach, the members of Skid Row went their separate ways.

It wasn't until 2000 that the band found a new reason to take charge of their career with a new front man and drummer. Bassist Rachel Bolan got a call from a friend in Boston, to audition this new singer from Texas, Johnny Solinger. With only 3 months for rehearsals to open for Kiss on the "Kiss Farewell Tour," you could say the audition went very well.

In 2003, Skid Row released Thickskin to much critical acclaim. The fans started to accept the new line-up, as Skid Row began to write a new chapter in their, "Youth Gone Wild" career.

In 2006, Skid Row released, Revolutions Per Minute, an album Rachel Bolan said didnít need any ballads.

The following is my conversation with the Skid Row bassist, who was lounging at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

KNAC.COM: How did you want Revolutions Per Minute to be different from previous Skid Row albums, and not showcase the band as a nostalgia act?

BOLAN: The only thing we really set out to do is not to do any ballads. I mean we are well known for our ballads. It wasn't like we were pushing that side away. We just felt like going in and making an album that had a little more crunch to it, and a little different style. We wanted to do something unexpected. We went ahead and out our punk feel into things. We went into different directions, the song, "You Lie" almost ends up country hard core. We wanted to take chances. We never made a record like this. We didn't want to concentrate too long on any one style. We just got in a room and wrote songs and if we liked them we put them on the record. That was our whole philosophy.

KNAC.COM: That is a good attitude to have. In concert, I could really see your punk rock roots. Because you do, "I Remember You" as a ballad, then you rev up the song as a punk rock version. Was that your idea?

BOLAN: Yeah, that is fun to do. A lot of people got pissed off at that. But it is our song; we can do whatever we want with it. (Laughter)

KNAC.COM: Growing up were you a big Sex Pistols fan?

BOLAN: Yeah, I loved punk rock. I was the fourth out of four kids. So I got tuned on to a lot of music. I loved the English Invasion stuff. My brother was into Hendrix. My other sister was into a lot of folk rock like Melanie, James Taylor and Carly Simon. I got into all that, but also around that time when I really started listening to music, I got into Alice Cooper and Kiss. Then along came the punk movement. I loved the Sex Pistols and Dead Boys, and that really grasped me. I liked the attitude of it. I liked the fact that it was simple, but especially the Sex Pistols, I mean lyrically, they were making statements that people didnít even know they were making. You had kind of the tongue and cheek, kind of drug induced Dee Dee Ramone lyrics that was really cool to me as well.

KNAC.COM: When Skid Row first burst onto the metal scene in 1989, you had something to say, and were never afraid to make a statement. But, a lot of people considered you an 80ís hair metal band. Do you feel Skid Row was lumped into that category? I think you were so much more than that, don't you agree?

BOLAN: I do. People still call us an 80's hair band, which I mean; our album came out in the end of the 80's. Our big success really hit in the 90's. We are more than a hair band, but I don't care what people think, as long as they like our music. I mean, the message has changed over the years because we have seen so much more. We have gotten older, not grown up, (Laughter) but getting older. Things change, you kind of work off more life experience than general experience.

KNAC.COM: How did the grunge scene affect Skid Row?

BOLAN: Well it affected us the same as it affected the whole genre. It put us all out of business for a while. There were times that I even mentioned that I was in Skid Row; I got looked at like I had a scarlet letter around me. (Laughter) It was tough. My friends would always say this stuff is so going to come back. I was like, well I hope so. Because I really like going out and playing. It had us worried there for a while. But I mean, I think that happens to every genre. Now grunge is barely spoken of nowadays.

KNAC.COM: On "Revolutions per Minute" you worked with producer Michael Wagener again. You worked with him on the first and second Skid Row albums. What makes you guys click?

BOLAN: I kept in contact with Michael. We are really close. He worked with me on a couple of other projects I had. So we have always been close. We always said, we have to make another record together, and finally when our schedules were kind of in sync with each other, we were able to do it. We jumped at the chance. So we had a lot of fun. We always had fun with Michael, because he let's the band be the band. Usually in the studio, things get really tedious and boring. It never does with Michael. If he sees, one of us maybe having a tough time with the songs, he would say, " Well let's go outside because his studio was on the farm and we would take bowling pins and go shoot them with the shot gun. (Laughter) We would get some of the aggression out and clear your head. He really knows how to read us. He is definitely like a sixth member to this band.

KNAC.COM: Who did most of the songwriting on the new one?

BOLAN: I did the majority of it this time. Snake and I co-write a few songs. Scotti and I did a song together. We did an Alarm cover, "Stay."

KNAC.COM: How different was the vibe in the studio compared to the earlier days when Sebastian was still in the mix?

BOLAN: Well, there is a lot less stress. There is virtually no stress. Making records with Johnny is a blessing. The guy is so prepared. He goes in and goes at it a lot quicker, let's just put it that way. He knows what he has got to do. He has a really good sense of feel for stuff that we write. We really don't have to tell him all that much. He just goes out there, and in the booth and knocks it out. He loves working with Michael. The first time he ever worked with Michael, he heard how Michael is kind of hard on singers. I told him to be prepared; he wants the best performance that you got inside you. Michael was like, "Oh My God. I wish everyone would sing like this." He gets done so quickly, he knows what he wants.

KNAC.COM: Tell the fans how you meant Johnny Solinger, and what made you decide to make him your new singer?

BOLAN: When we put the band back together, we knew we were going to do it with a new singer. We reached out to friends, and asked do you have anyone that might want to audition. So we auditioned a few people. They were Ok, but not what we were looking for. Then a friend of mine in Boston called me and said you got to check out this guy's website. He is out of Dallas. So I went to the website, and immediately I thought this guy has pipes. He is cool looking. He looks like he fits in. I hope he is not a like an egomaniac. So I immediately called Snake, and said dude you got to check this guy out. We checked him, Scotti checked him out. I said let me send him a general email, and see if we can get him up. I didn't know, who was checking his email, and didn't want to piss off his band. So I said, " This is Rachel from Skid Row, I have a question for you." It took a while for him to get back to me, because he thought I was someone messing with him. So anyway, he finally got back to me, and I said, " Would you be interested in auditioning?" So he called me and we talked. He sounded like a great guy. He sounded confident, but not to confident where you are kind of put off by it. Like I am the best. We were very clear on what we wanted to accomplish it. He said send me a list of songs; I will come up as soon as you guys want me. We sent some standard stuff, some harder stuff, and then some obscure stuff and we wanted to see how hard, he worked on doing it. So a few weeks later, we pick him up at the airport, and walked straight into the rehearsal room and he blew us away. We were going to rehearse with him for a few days, so halfway through the second song, I kind of looked over at Snake and gave him the eye, and Snake is laughing because it sound so good. It sounds powerful. So we sat down with him and talked and auditioned him again the next day, and we knew that we wanted him, but we were debating on three other guys that were going to check outs. So we eventually just called Johnny and hey listen you got the gig. C'mon out, pack your bags and we will start writing and recording. In the time, it took to do that we got offered the Kiss tour. I was like OK. (Laughter) There is a change of plans. Call the other guys that we were going to audition and cancel their auditions. We asked Johnny, "We have the Kiss Tour, and we have to be ready in three weeks. Can you do it?" Johnny says, "Man I have been planning this my whole life." So we went out, and we did it. Johnny is a great guy. He knew what we were trying to accomplish. He was as hungry as we were to get out onstage. It has just been working out great. He has been in the band for seven years now.

KNAC.COM: What do you most remember about that tour?

BOLAN: We were supposed to be on the tour for three months. They kept extending it, so we were out with them for nine months. Getting to see Kiss about 100 times, actually I think it was more than that. I think we did about 120 shows with them. So I got to see them as many times as I wanted to see them as a kid. It was great. They treated us really good. Just to be able to walk around the hallway and have Paul Stanley ask us, "So what are you guys going to get into tonight?" It was very cool, becoming very good friends with them. It is something that I will cherish for sure.

KNAC.COM: You have worked with so many great musicians. Didn't you get to write some songs with Alice Cooper too?

BOLAN: I did. Years and years ago. When I still lived up in New Jersey. His lawyer got in touch with my lawyer, and asked me if I wanted to get together with Alice and write some stuff. He wanted to do some old school Alice Cooper. So we got together and we wrote a couple of really good songs. Unfortunately, they didn't get on the record. They kind of changed gears, where they wanted to go for a popular sound. Still to be able to say, that I sat in a room and worked with Alice Cooper and I can give me a call, when I am down there, or if he comes up here, and I can call him, and we can go out and see a show is a really cool thing.

KNAC.COM: Do you remember Skid Row's first tour, with Bon Jovi?

BOLAN: Yes, that was our first tour. We toured with Bon Jovi for a long time. It was eleven months or something like that. We went from Bon Jovi to Motley Crue in Europe, back to The States with Aerosmith. We were really fortunate to get to do all of that and meet all of those cool people.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about the early club days at L'Amours in The Bronx.

BOLAN. Yeah, I played L'Amours with a few bands. I played there with Skid Row a few times. That place was like my home away from home, when I was younger. I use to go up there all the time.

KNAC.COM: How important was the first album with Johnny - Thickskin? Did everything fall right into place in the recording studio?

BOLAN: It was very important. When we were writing for Thickskin, we wanted to make sure it was going to be quality. Whether it sold a million copies or a hundred copies, we wanted to make sure it was quality. That's is why it took sometime, with all the touring that we did in-between. No matter what, whether people didnít like the band or not, they couldn't dog us because our songwriting had slipped up. So that is what we did. We were really proud of that. On Revolutions per Minute it was the same thing, we just took a different angle. I said, let's just go out and write songs and just experiment and take chances and go in different directions. That is what we tried to do. Who knows what the next record is going to be?

KNAC.COM: I can remember seeing you perform songs from, Thickskin, and seeing Johnny for the first time. The band sounded really tight. It sounded kind of like the old Skid Row was back.

BOLAN: Yeah, we do what we do. No matter how old we get. We still want to go out, and put on the best show that we want to put on.

KNAC.COM: When Sebastian left in 1996, did you ever have any reservations about the band's future? Did you ever think about maybe pursuing racecar driving full time?

BOLAN: Just to clear things up, we fired Sebastian. When we put the band back together, he was never invited for it. So it was we not wanting to play with him. Not him not wanting to play with us. That being said, I knew I was going to land in music. That is in me. That is what I do. Of all the stuff, I do, that is kind of what I do best. As far as racing goes, that is what I do for a hobby. I do that for fun, and to relieve stress. I never thought that I wouldn't be doing something in music, whether it was just writing songs for people or producing. The older I get, I am like man, sometimes touring can really take it out on you. Then when I am not onstage for two months, it is like right now our last show that we did was like two weeks ago, I am climbing the walls. I am like; I got to get onstage again.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that metal and racecars have much in common?

BOLAN: It just seemed to work. The direction of the music, the fast and furious type of thing. We are all into cars in one way or another. Revolutions Per Minute is how many times and a unit of measure for a motor. Each song seemed like it was it's own little revolution in our career or in our heads. So it kind of made sense, if you really think about it. The term people can kind of relate to it. It is cool, and it seemed to fit. When I brought it up the guys were like, this kind of sounds what we are doing right here now. It worked out.

KNAC.COM: Is their going to be a new Skid Row DVD soon?

BOLAN: Yeah, we are hoping to get it out before the end of the summer. Like I said, I just got a rough cut. The director just dropped it off at my house. Some of it is live that we taped down here in Atlanta. There will be interviews and some stuff in the studio. It is going to be kind of a cornucopia of Skid Row.

KNAC.COM: Dave Gara replaced Phil Varone on drums. How is he working out?

BOLAN: Dave is going on his third year with the band. It has been great. Dave is a good guy. He lives here in Atlanta. He was one of the first people I met when I came down here to Atlanta. He was playing drums for Betty Blowtorch at the time. I saw him going back five years ago, and said, "Man this guy is a good drummer." We became friends, and we have been friends ever since.

KNAC.COM: Ever see the original Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso?

BOLAN: Yeah, we email back and forth. He is doing very well.

KNAC.COM: How is Snake doing? I heard, he was having difficulty with his hand?

BOLAN: At first they thought it was carpel tunnel. But it had to do with a degenerative disc in his spine. He fell a while back when we were on tour with Kiss and hurt his ankle. It is kind of collateral damage from spraining the angle and walking on it. Then he threw his back out of wack, so now he has a messed up disc. It is one of those things, where you never know if it is going to be good or bad. He wants to avoid the surgery, which I don't blame him. So sometimes his hand is good for a month at a time. We can go out and we can play, but sometimes it gets to the point where he can't really grasp the neck of the guitar. So we have our friend Kerri Kelli, who plays with Alice Cooper and sits in for Snake when he can't do it.

KNAC.COM: I know Snake was good friends with Dimebag Darrell, and Dime's Induction to the Rockwalk is May 17th. How were you influenced by Dime?

BOLAN: I was influenced by Dime the person. First of all the way he is with fans, is like no other person. Dime would get out of bed with a 104 fever to go take a picture with one of his fans. That should be the parameter that we all treat our fans. I have never seen anyone treat their fans better than Dime. As far as music, the guy was just a genius with what he did with the guitar. Any musician that doesn't realize that is just not listening. He was without a doubt one of the most creative people that I have ever met in my life. Whether it was on his guitar, or song writing, or him with his stupid ass video camera that would be in your face. You couldn't even take a piss without him shooting. (Laughter) Then he would ask you the questions. But that was what made Dime so special. He was one of those guys that would do anything for you. It is such a great loss to music to not have Dime around anymore. I am sure he was just scratching the surface with his talent. Just not to see where it would go from the point he got killed is horrible. It was a great loss, but we have his memory and music to listen to. That has to be enough. He was just a really, really special person. Pantera toured with us for a while with, Slaves to The Grind. It was our first major tour, which was awesome. They were there for most of the tour. Then we brought Soundgarden for three weeks. He would watch us everynight, and we would watch him every night. After that we stayed in touch a little bit, and went to see him play in Dallas. He was just such a great dude.

KNAC.COM: Skid Row has that same rapport with their fans. I will always remember the show at The Tweeter Center in Boston, right after the Station Fire in 2003. The band came out and Johnny said, "We would like to dedicate, íI Remember Youí to the victims of the fire. We will never forget them." That really meant a lot to the fans. It was a really hard year for the survivors, and it meant a lot to the fans for your support.

BOLAN: Really, that was awesome. I am glad you liked it. I looked down and saw a bunch of people crying and I was like, "Wow." I looked over at Johnny, and Johnny's eyes are all misting up. He was like, "Oh man." It impacted us a lot. Coming from the Northeast is one thing. But seeing that happen to fans of music is just a horrible thing. From a selfish standpoint, I lost two friends in the fire. One was a really big fan of the band, and then another one was friend who uses to work with Tesla. Coming from that standpoint it angered me. The shock of the musical community was unheard of. Johnny was the one who called me about it. He says turn on CNN. He was actually the one who called me about Dime too.

KNAC.COM: Now Skid Row is going to be playing the Sweden Rock Festival on June 8th.

BOLAN: Yes, they have three stages. One is going to be for Indie bands, the other one is rock and metal, and we are headlining that one, the third one I think Aerosmith is headlining that. What is cool, as soon as were are done playing, we get to run over to the other stage and watch Aerosmith play. (Laughter)

KNAC.COM: You are playing Rocklahoma on July 14th, too. It seems like 1987 all over again huh?

BOLAN: It is really cool. I have been speaking to the promoter. I want to let him know the reaction I have been getting. It is crazy; this thing is blown up so big. I have been getting emails from Israel and Turkey, U.K., Germany that are coming over to see this. They are expecting 25,000 to 50,000 people. It is going to be pretty amazing.

KNAC.COM: Now you also produce bands. Let's talk about the Luchagors.

BOLAN: They are a great band. They are out of Atlanta. They are local musicians. We have been mixing this record. We are going with the mastering next Monday. This girl that fronts the band is Amy Dumas. Anyone who is a professional wrestling fan, they would know her as Lita from the WWE. She is a big wrestling star in the Wrestling World. She is a big rock fan. Her and the guitar player Shane write the songs. It is fun to work with those guys. The are pop/punk/hard core. So hopefully they will be on some shows with us in the near future.

KNAC.COM: Rachel, is their anything else that you want to say about, Revolutions Per Minute ?

BOLAN: Just go out and buy yourself ten copies. I just want to thank all of our fans for sticking through all the years and constantly coming to the shows. It is a good thing to see all the friends that we know, and all the new faces, and younger people coming out to see us. It is pretty cool to still be around and most importantly be able to put out new music.

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