Calling from Monterrey, Mexico through Skype, Dave “The Snake” Sabo, guitarist for Skid Row, is as busy as ever.
Formed in 1986 by Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan, the heavy metal group still has fans all over the world, though they'll be back in the States soon and rocking Penn's Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe) on Friday, May 31 with Saliva and L.A. Guns, so The Weekender asked about the big hair days, finding a new singer, and writing a “Rebellion.”
THE WEEKENDER: What are the fans like in Mexico?
DAVE SABO: The last time we were here was three years ago, and the fans are crazy, man. They're crazy. I don't know whether it's a lack of bands touring through here; I'm not sure. I don't think that's the case, but whatever the case is, they're just very vocal, very excitable, and they really appreciate the fact we come down here and play. They really are appreciative, and that's not saying that isn't the case in a lot of places in the United States, it just seems like down here it's kind of over the top.
W: What was your first meeting with Rachel like, and how did that lead into the formation of Skid Row?
DS: He was in another band, and I had a band as well, and I was like, “This guy's a rock star,” man… He walked into the music store (where I was working) and had this – I forget what color – I want to say it was a pink leather jacket or something, I don't know, and this funky beret on, long ass hair. He just looked like a rock star, so I was like, “Hey, I've got to get to know this guy.”
I was never shy about networking myself… At the time, I had been networking a lot in New York City and had built up some good, strong friendships with people who were in the music business, so of course I inflated all that to make it sound like I was the next U2 or something, and so he came up and started jamming with the band I had. We got along really well, and it became pretty evident that if we were going to do this, we were going to have to get rid of pretty much everybody that I was playing with. But that's where the core of it started, and we realized that we worked really well together as songwriters, so we were going to do this thing together.
W: And you stuck together. What do you think it is about your music that sticks with people?
DS: In all honesty, man, one of the greatest feelings I ever get is playing in front of a crowd and seeing them sing back our lyrics to us, and that is so humbling. It's such a great compliment because if you really think about it, it's like, “I was a part of something that touched that person and that person and that person so much so that they know the lyrics and the melodies to these songs as well as I do.” That is something else. I don't know if other songwriters and artists take that s—t for granted, but I'll tell you what, man – we don't. There's moments when it's just chilling.
W: When you guys split from singer Sebastian Bach in '96, what made you want to keep going?
DS: (Guitarist) Scotti (Hill), Rachel, and I did another side project thing – it was really the only thing we were doing at the time. We did it for a couple years. It was really a lot of fun and it was completely different than Skid Row. We were still playing music together, and we were rediscovering our friendships with one another because, truth be told, we had become distant as friends because there was just so much chaos and turmoil within our band amongst the five of us and also while shooting into the people that worked with us as well, business folks. It got to the point where it was the opposite of fun.
Sometime in 1999, we realized that we missed playing those songs. We didn't miss the stress, the aggravation; we just missed playing those songs. It had been a less than acrimonious split, to say the least, with us and Sebastian, and then (drummer) Rob (Affuso)… We found (singer) Johnny (Solinger) relatively fast, and he came in and he wasn't attempting to be Sebastian. He was himself. He did great respect to the songs and was able to hit the notes and all that stuff. He definitely was his own and is his own individual, and that's what we were looking for.
It felt fun again. And to be honest with you, in the last 14 years that Johnny's been in the band, I've got to say, there's been very few arguments.
W: What made you split your record “United World Rebellion” into three parts, starting with “Chapter One,” released last month?
DS: Because it's EPs, you take a lot of the pressure off of yourself knowing that you write five, six songs or whatever, or maybe you write 10 and choose the best five or six, whatever you do… Writing songs has always been difficult for me. Some people are just absolutely prolific; they write all the time, everywhere… Once you get in that groove, that window gets wider and wider and things start flying in and flying out.
You're keeping the recording costs down, so you're keeping the cost down for the consumer. It's kind of a win-win all across the board. It's also a way for us to release the EP, tour on it for a few months, go in, write the next one, release that one, tour on it for a little while. It's kind of a cool way of doing it. It breaks up the monotony.
W: Is this a concept album?
DS: I don't know if it's necessarily a concept album, but we've always had this underlying theme that really the band has been based upon – strength in numbers through individuality and community and just doing the right thing, man. Just living your life the right way, living to the fullest and doing good by people and standing up for yourself – those are general themes.
I wouldn't say that there's a concept, per say, but all the songs will have some sort of thread that runs all through them. And the reason why is we haven't written chapter two or chapter three yet. We did that on purpose because, you know what, things change in six months, especially in this world. Influences are going to change, things like that. What might have been cool to me six months ago might not feel good to me now.
Hopefully it keeps it fresh, and I think that we've rediscovered what inspires us and what influences us from a music standpoint. Going back and listening to all those old records again… For me, it inspires me now. It reaches that kid inside of me again.