SKID ROW’s sNAKE sABO Talks About Their New EP Rise of the Damnation Army, Radio, and More…
SKID ROW: Questions with sNAKE sABO by Mark Capuano
Band: SKID ROW
Guitarist: sNAKE sABO
Label: Megaforce Records
Origin: New Jersey
SKID ROW consists of Johnny Solinger (Lead Singer), Rachel Bolan (Bass), Snake Sabo (Guitar), Scotti Hill (Guitar), and Rob Hammersmith (Drums).
Prepare The United World Rebellion: Chapter 2
Tracks: 1. We Are The Damned 2. Give It The Gun 3. Catch Your Fall 4. Damnation Army 5. Zero Day Bonus Tracks: 6. Sheer Heart Attack 7. Rats in the Cellar
1. When I first heard “We Are The Damned”, it gave me that same feeling and created that same emotion in me that I felt the first time I heard “Monkey Business”. I instantly knew it was great! What has the band done different musically (if any) to get back to the classic core Skid Row “Slave to the Grind” while maintaining the integrity of today’s music?
WOW!! Thanks so much!! That’s an amazing compliment!! In all honesty we didn’t necessarily do anything different. Our writing process has always been pretty much the same over the last 28 years. Its really simple, we get in a room with a couple of guitars, shut off the phones, crack open a couple beers and have at it. You would think that with all the technology availed to us in this day and age that we might have a bit more “modern” approach. But this is what works for Rachel and me. Our writing always starts out with a conversation about what’s going on in our lives, in our heads, and that conversation drives us to what we write about. With this EP we both gravitated to the subject of why we do this in the first place. And that conversation led us to the essence and spirit of the band and ourselves. Essentially, at the end of the day, we are still those 14 or 15-year-old kids standing in front of a mirror with the guitar slung down to our knees, pretending to be, and hoping someday we could be, Ace Frehley or Randy Rhoads or Joe Perry or a million other iconic musicians! That is our soul. Our problems and issues that deeply affected us back then are obviously very different than those that affect us today but, the impact that those issues and problems have on us are very much the same. Back in the day we may have been loners or outcasts or socially inept. And we were in search of a way to express ourselves. Somehow we found our way through music. Creating music was and is the great liberator. It allowed us a pure form of expression that we hadn’t known until then. And all these years later it still remains the greatest and purest form of expression in our lives. Once we got there everything seemed to roll almost effortlessly. Its like the windows were opened and the doors were kicked in and this creativity came forth that we hadn’t experienced in some time. And therein lies the integrity. It was a genuine process that dictated itself and was an awakening of sorts.
2. So it seems Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter One was released in 2013 but somehow didn’t have quite the impact Chapter Two appears to be having in 2014. Chapter One has strong material: Kings of Demolition, Let’s Go, This is Killing Me, Get Up, and Stiches comparable to the tracks on Chapter Two maintaining that classic sound. What would you say the difference maker is?
I don’t know if I have an answer for that. At the end of the day the audience is gonna determine the outcome. It’s out of our hands. All we can do is make sure that we do everything in our power to create the best possible music that we are capable of at that particular time. One thing that stands out with this EP for me personally is that this is the most fun I’ve ever had making a Skid Row record. It was such an awe-inspiring experience for me. From start to finish it just felt like we were all in lock-step with one another and we all just really had a blast as a band and as a group of friends. And, to me, after having been a part of this thing since Rachel and I started it 28 years ago, it has been an unbelievably humbling experience. That we still are afforded the opportunity to do this after all this time is an absolute privilege and one that we are all acutely aware of.
3. So this new album actually only has 5 tracks on it as did Chapter 1, with two bonus tracks. I like the concept and the idea and rather then hypothesize all the various different reasons why you chose to only have 5 tracks per album; I figured I would simply ask what was the motivation and reasoning behind this decision?
The music business is a completely different animal than it was when we first started making records. Everything about it has changed; the way we create it, the way we listen to it, purchase it, deliver it and so on and so forth. Rather than lament what it once was we chose to adapt to the reality of what it is right now.
The majority of the record buying public doesn’t have the luxury of time the way we once did. Most of us work two jobs and have a family and are doing everything we can to stay above water. People in general just don’t have an hour to sit down and invest in listening to a new record. We are in an age of instant gratification. And there is so much information being thrown at us from every angle every minute of every day that it’s almost like we have forced ADHD. And, I hate to say this, but it seems that music just isn’t as important to the world as it once was. And I don’t mean just the consumer but the people creating it, the people playing it, the people selling it etc. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone that I mentioned but it feels like it does apply to the majority. And it definitely does not apply to us.
Aside from our families music is thee most important thing to us. But I feel that we are in the minority.
With all of these factors weighing in we wanted to come up with a way to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for everyone. So we simplified everything. Instead of working on 25-30 songs in order to agree on 15 for a full length (then touring on it for 16-22 months then going into a coma for 3) we decided to work on 8-10 songs in order to come up with 7. By doing this, it takes so much pressure off of the band. It allows us to be more creative in a shorter period of time. Now we only spend 2 weeks in the studio as opposed to 2+ months. We don’t get burnt out and it keeps everything fresh and raw. There’s a sense of immediacy, of urgency in the songs. And its fun! Plus it keeps costs down so we can sell it for essentially half the price of a full-length as well as (hopefully) giving the audience just enough music that leaves them wanting more. Then we deliver 7 more songs 8-12 months later and tour on those songs. This way we have a somewhat steady flow of music but not so much that it’s overwhelming to the audience and it won’t break their bank account to purchase it.
4. Johnny Solinger certainly had some tough shoes to fill, but seems to have handled it quite well. Normally when a great band with a great singer part ways that is the end. Usually people identify so much with the singer that anything else won’t do. Van Halen pulled it off with Sammy, but that was a completely different style and almost completely different sounding band. You guys pulled it off while keeping the same core sound intact. How has this impacted (if any) your writing new material and staying true to the classic Skid Row sound?
The great thing about Johnny is that he never looked at it like he was attempting to fill someone else’s shoes. He came in wearing his own. And that’s not being disrespectful to anyone. It’s just that Johnny always has had his own identity. He always treated the songs that were written before he came into the band with great respect. He’s always wanted and continues to perform those songs as if they were his own while maintaining the original spirit and soul of the song. He’s always been keenly aware of doing all Skid Row songs justice. That’s one of the reasons it was so easy to have Johnny join the band. He wasn’t trying to be someone else. He’s always been his own man. As far as writing new material we still do things the same way as we always have done. Having Johnny in the band doesn’t put any restrictions on us as writers because he has such a wide range and that allows us to write pretty much anything without worrying if he’ll be able to pull it off. It’s a great luxury to have.
5. Speaking of old singers, how are relations between Skid Row and Sebastian these days?
To be honest, there really isn’t any relationship. It’s been 18 years since we last worked together and very little communication since then. I personally wish him well. But my focus is completely on Skid Row in the here and now.
6. And I guess while we are on the subject of singers, with everything that you guys have been through over the last decade, how are your personal relations with Jon Bon Jovi these days?
Our relationship is great!! We’ve been best buds since I was 10 years old. We’re from the same neighborhood in Sayreville, NJ, 3 streets away from each other so you never lose that connection. We’ll always be tight no matter what. We’re family. I know that we’ll always be there for each other. Life may take people down different paths but there is such a long history there that when we talk or see each other its as if time has stood still. We still break each other’s balls and laugh like idiots the same way we did when we were kids. I’m grateful and thankful for that!
Listen To SKID ROW’s New Release “We Are The Damned”
7. The first thing that comes to mind is “Youth Gone Wild”. But what does Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion mean and stand for? How did it come to be?
The concept was/is Rachel’s. It is basically the essence and the soul of what this band was built on and where “Youth Gone Wild” was born. We’ve always been underdogs throughout our entire lives both as individuals and collectively as a band. This sort of disposition always fueled and pushed us because we always felt that we needed to prove the naysayers wrong. And it still exists within us today. It’s always been about standing up for yourself, making sure your voice is heard and just doing the right thing. We’ve always found strength in numbers with the band members and with the audience. We’re very aware that we’re not 22 years old anymore but the mindset and motivation is still the same and that spirit runs through these EP’s. When we started writing these songs we wanted to get to the core of why we do this in the first place. And the reasons why we started playing music, started a band and started writing songs was what I had said earlier, that we felt awkward and maybe we were socially inept. We were uncomfortable and we didn’t know how to communicate what was going on inside of us. Then all of a sudden we discovered music and everything changed. We found a way to express ourselves, to reveal our truths in the most liberating way possible. To speak in a way that conveyed our emotions and our feelings in the purest way we knew how. And all this time later it still remains the same. That basic raw power that only music can give you. It’s absolutely humbling and I am still amazed that, no matter how jaded I may or may not be, music is still the most powerful form of self-expression in my life.
8. Skid Row really had a big impact back in the day when MTV was actually playing music videos and the Internet was all but non-existent. But now that MTV rarely plays music and the Internet is the fastest growing form of media dissemination how do you feel this has and will influence the future success of Skid Row? I see you have a page on ReverbNation. Has this helped gain new exposure and fans? Has it helped expand your reach?
I think we are still in the infancy stage of utilizing the Internet and social media to promote, distribute and monetize music. Right now it’s chaos, which is a good thing because order comes through chaos. I love the possibilities that the Internet and social media present to artists. Everyone is searching for a better mousetrap and the tools are right at our feet. I think it’s exciting. The old music business model is dead and it won’t be coming back. So this forces us to think broadly and differently and hopefully reach a destination that works. Right now we are in an era of white noise in that there is so much information coming at us from every angle imaginable that its very difficult to wade through everything that is being put out into the universe. It all takes up space. I believe services like ReverbNation and such are great as in they provide a destination where people can discover music. I think any destinations like these, as long as they take the time to build trust with the listening and viewing audience, are invaluable to artists on every level. I certainly believe that these sites help maintain your visibility, which is part and parcel to expanding your reach.
9. What is your opinion on Rock Radio today? Does Radio still help to expand your reach the way it used to or do you find Internet having a bigger impact?
I believe radio in general has become safe and somewhat predictable. And that is the music business in general. But I get it. These are tough times. Most people are so fearful of losing their jobs that no one wants to upset the status quo. But, the great thing is that it is starting to change. I know that there are PD’s, MD’s and even interns (whom are the future) that are using their voices and their creativity to change the current paradigm. And it’s happening in other formats too. Bobby Bones in the Country format is changing the rules and challenging the old guard. I love that!! Right now it seems that the only format that sells records in big #’s is Top-40 and Country. But, that is changing as well. Again, I don’t lament the past. The truth is rock radio still helps expand your reach and influences sales but not as much as it once did. I don’t think the Internet has a bigger impact but it enhances your reach and visibility. I was raised on Rock radio in NJ/NY. It was an amazing education! And I still believe in rock radio. It’s a format that will never go away. It may change its shape but it will never cease to exist. And I’m thankful for that.
10. Do you still listen to Radio today and if so, what are some of your favorite stations around the country?
I absolutely still listen to radio! I always will. And I’m a fan of both terrestrial radio as well as satellite. I live in NY now, where radio is alive and well! I listen to everything from rock (current and classic), alternative, classic R&B (Motown, etc.) and college to Sports Talk Radio and NPR. Some of my favorite stations are WRAT 95.9 in Long Branch, NJ, 94.3 The Shark in Smithtown, Long Island, Q104.3 in NYC, WBAB 102.3 in Babylon, Long Island, 105.5 WDHA in Dover, NJ, 101.1 WCBS in NYC and of course 89.5 WSOU from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. From the talk radio side of things I listen to WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM, ESPN radio 98.7 FM as well as WNYC 93.9 FM.
On satellite I listen to The Boneyard-38, Hair Nation-39 (Keith Roth is an old friend), Underground Garage-21 (Little Steven is a legend), Deep Tracks-27, Lithium-34, Octane-37, Liquid Metal-40, Soul Town-49, Raw Dog Comedy-99 and Howard Stern-100/101 to name a few.