An Evening with Sebastian Bach doesn’t mean candles and serenity. The rocker, whose extensive U.S. tour kicked off tonight (April 27) in Jacksonville, FL and ends June 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah, is changing up the set he says he’s performed for years. While the press release says it’s “an intimate acoustic set followed by a full electric live show,” the boisterous singer says there will be no acoustic set; it’s just stripped down. Bach follows the tour with his memoir, 18 and Life on Skid Row, due out June 28 on Dey Street Books.
Bach talked to Billboard about his new live set, the arduous and emotional task of writing his autobiography, his friend Axl Rose’s decision to reunite with Slash and Guns N’ Roses, and how perplexed he is that Donald Trump, a presidential candidate, drops the F-bomb.
You are doing two sets for “An Evening With…” Have you done that before?
No, no. My true fans that have followed for decades now know that I open with the same song and pretty much done the same set for maybe 25 years now. Not exactly the same, but there’s like five or six so-called hit songs that I’ve got in my catalogue that everybody knows I’m going to do. And then there’s the song “Slave to the Grind,” which if you try to replace that as an opener, it obliterates any other songs [laughs]. It’s just such a strong opening tune. So what that leaves me with is I’ve pretty much done a very similar set, but so have a lot of my favorite bands, like Kiss does the same kind of set. Lots of bands have a certain specific number of their repertoire that they have to do every night.
But the industry has changed so much in that when I started out in music, it was all about making a new record and then going out on tours supporting that new record, and then going off the road and then coming up with another new record. I only got to do that three times exactly. That’s what it was a long time ago. Now if you’re lucky — this isn’t a bad thing, but the way the music industry is now is pretty much non-stop touring, like all the time. Like I don’t ever stop really. I will stop for a couple of weeks at the most, but I’m still lucky that I’m always playing shows. So I look at my schedule and thank my lucky stars I have around 40 gigs. It’s just in the USA. Holy shit, dude, you’re going to go to 40 shows, like that’s a lot. That’s a lot of cities. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to go do 40 shows of the same set that I’ve done for 25 years.
Is it starting with an acoustic set?
No, it’s not an acoustic set. It’s so confusing, Jesus Christ. It’s not an acoustic set. It’s just a more stripped down set.
Got it. The press release actually uses the word acoustic.
There will be acoustic guitars, but there will also be drums as well.
Your autobiography will be coming out in June. Have you found it to be a bigger undertaking than you ever imagined it to be?
Yes. Without a doubt.
Do you have a good memory or are you a good archivist?
I have a great memory, but I have to have complete silence and it takes me all day, every day, to write something that I’m proud of. It’s an extremely solitary process. I’m just alone staring at the computer screen [laughs] for 12 hours in a row. It’s fucking miserable sitting there for that long. But that’s what writing a book is. That’s what it is to me. I could have somebody else do it, but I don’t want to read somebody else’s account of my life.
Anyone that’s interviewed you knows you’re a great storyteller. Do you find it different just talking to someone and telling a story as opposed to organizing your thoughts to type it out?
Well, that is kind of what the book ended up being… the stories that I would tell the people late at night over a couple bottles of wine, or whatever, that make people go, “No way! Oh my god! No fucking way!’ [laughs]”. And I have tons of those stories [laughs]. But also, the whole book, there is a beginning to it and an end to it. So, it’s not just that. There’s a story of just my life and where I was born and how I made it in the band Skid Row, being from Canada, from Cavan [township of Peterborough, Ontario], not Toronto, from Cavan, C-A-V-A-N.. People don’t understand, this book is most like Shakey by Neil Young than any other book. I can’t think of another book that starts out in Omemee. That is where I grew up. I grew up in Cavan and I would ride my bicycle over to Omemee and go to the same bridge that there’s a picture of Neil Young in the ‘40s standing under. I fucking stood under that same fucking bridge. Like what’s up with that bridge? [laughs]
You also come from a very close family. I’m sure they’ve all been archiving stuff from way back when as well. Has that been helpful with photos and posters and articles and things like that?
My dad was an art teacher and a photography teacher as well and when he passed away in 2002, I, being the oldest son, inherited pretty most of his photos and stuff from my childhood and it was painful — it’s not something you go down and stare at because it’s very emotional and painful, looking at yourself through your own father’s eyes. Seeing all this stuff is nuts. My favorite photos in the book are the day that I went to see Kiss in 1979 at Maple Leaf Gardens. I tell the story that my parents had divorced in Peterborough when I was 10 and then I didn’t see my dad for a long time with my mom. I would go back and forth. And then when Kiss came on August 4 of ‘79, he came back to my family and reunited with my mom and took me and my sister to the Kiss concert. It’s almost hard to even talk about. But he had pictures from that day, our outing, they capture 1970s rock and roll fandom.
Nobody’s ever seen these shots, pictures of Kiss too, of Gene because we’re in the front row. Nobody’s ever seen these. And me, he captured my excitement, at 11. And those are in the book. Then the pictures captured the time, like big time. It’s not like a bunch of Polaroids of little kids. It’s artistic, unbelievable photos just in and of themselves, as art, and nobody has ever seen these, nobody in the world because I couldn’t look at ‘em [laughs]. They’re too heavy. It’s too powerful. But then there’s the task of doing a book. So I have all those archives. I went through them all and there’s just so much in this book because this is the very, very first-ever Skid Row book. I know in the future there will be more books on the band Skid Row, but when I go to Barnes & Noble, there’s zero. There’s none. And every other band has a hundred books, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith; every band has 10, 15 books. There’s none on Skid Row. So this is the first one, so I’m going to pack it full of as much info as I can because you only get one chance to make a first impression [laughs].
After your tour, will you head back out to do a book tour?
That’s what they say. My stand on that is like, do a storytelling thing with a visual component with old videos and I have all the mastered tapes from the Oh Say Can You Scream Skid Row DVD, Roadkill and all that. And I could show video that’s never been seen. I’m excited about doing some sort of presentation with songs and stuff like that. That would be cool.
Are you going to be part of the Gilmore Girls revival? [He played guitarist Gil of the band Hep Alien in the popular series]
That would be amazing if it happened. All I can say is that reunions of any kind are exciting to think about and they happen so much for the fans. And fans dig reunions. So maybe the reunion of Hep Alien is on the horizon.
Speaking of, you toured a lot with Axl Rose opening for recent Guns N’ Roses incarnations. Did the reunion with Slash surprise you?
Yes. Yes, it did. But I always thought that if you can go through my interviews and bullshit, all of the animosity from Axl towards Slash or anybody else in Guns N’ Roses, he would hang out and we would drink a lot of booze and talk about bullshit, this and that, but at the end of every single night going into the early morning or late afternoon [laughs], he would always say, “But Bas, never say never.” He would always end the night with a “but you never can tell, you know, maybe someday.” One part of me was surprised and the other part was not surprised.
I can’t let you off the phone without asking you about Mr. Donald Trump since you’re a Canadian living in the USA and you always speak your mind and he speaks his. What do you think of his chances of getting in the White House and everything he’s been saying? He’s dropped the f-word and referred to his penis.
It’s ridiculous but it’s like—I don’t even know [laughs]. I was not expecting that question, so I have to regroup. I’ve been known to swear onstage. And when I go on stage in front of a packed drunken throng of rock and rollers, and I go, “Come on, f— this, let’s fucking do it,” but I’m not running for President talking like that. When he gets on stage and says ‘f—ing shit and f—er and f—,” I’m like, I can’t. This is coming from me! I’m like, are you really serious? I don’t speak like that when I’m sitting around with my mom and my aunt. Like I don’t say F. I can’t. When I was on Broadway playing Jesus, I wasn’t out there saying, “We’re going to f— this place up, man?” [laughs] Like there’s a time and a place for everything. I don’t think a guy running for President that says the F-bomb and curses and swears like a sailor, I don’t think he has the temperament to be in control of the nuclear bomb. Like I wouldn’t give that guy to say, “We’re going to f— these f—ers up.” I wouldn’t say, “Let’s put him in charge of national security,” right? [laughs]. I think you need more the even keel temperament for a job like that. And, you know, say what you want about Obama but watching him leave and then watching the clowns that can replace him is just truly sad. That is a sad situation.