We have never met Sebastian Bach in real life, but we imagine he is someone we won’t want to mess with. After all, the tattooed Canadian rock star and former frontman of ’80s heavy metal band Skid Row is 1.9m-tall with crazy energy even at 49, and an intimidating perma-scowl.
But he surprises us by being very, very nice. When we ring him up in the US for a phone interview ahead of his upcoming concert in Singapore, his distinctively excited voice float down the line. “Hello, this is Sebastian speaking!” he chirps. In fact, unlike some reticent stars we have interviewed, he sounds like he wants to chat with us.
“[‘80s Japanese heavy metal band] Loudness is opening my show. I first knew them way back in 1983. They have a song that was really big called ‘Crazy Nights’, and at their concerts the Japanese fans started chanting ‘N.Z.A! N.Z.A!’. When Loudness was asked about it in an interview, they said they didn’t know what it meant, but it just sounded cool,” he guffaws, clapping his hands gleefully.
If Sebastian is tired, he is showing no sign of it, despite having been on the road for the past few months for his Bach On Tour 2017. After having done the UK leg, he will be here on Oct 18.
8 DAYS: You are performing in Singapore for the first time. What have you heard about us?
SEBASTIAN BACH: I have only been in Singapore for a layover, though I can’t remember when that was. In America we grew up with the impression that you would be caned if you chewed gum in Singapore. So I’m gonna be very good when I get there. I won’t even chew gum!
After being in the business for three decades, what is your secret to bringing down the house?
There is a bunch of big hits in my set that people love to hear during live concerts, and they sing along to it. I’ve the good fortune of doing songs that you guys have listened to for a long, long time, like [Skid Row’s] ‘18 and Live’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Slave to the Grind’.
What’s the craziest rock star thing that has ever happened to you?
The other night I went to my friend, [English guitarist and artist] Billy Morrison’s art show. One of his friends was Ozzy Osbourne, and I totally look up to Ozzy. My wife and I hung out with him and his wife Sharon. I think it is an incredible thing that I get to meet one of the heroes from my childhood.
You have named your recent autobiography after what is arguably your most famous Skid Row hit, ‘18 and Live’. What were you like at 18?
Wow, that is a good question. When I was 18 I had just been on tour a little bit for the first time in America and I had just joined Skid Row then. I was 19 when I recorded ‘18 and Live’, which is why the song sounded so authentic. And ‘Youth Gone Wild’ too. We really were youth gone wild (laughs). But I would tell my 18-year-old self, don’t get married too young. I did when I was 23, and it was a big mistake. I should have waited till I was older.
You started your music career during a time where there were no such thing as Spotify and YouTube. How did technology change how you make music?
Before technology, [making music] was an art form. Unless you were Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones, there was no way an average person could record anything in their house.
But it is too easy for anyone to record something now. You can just do it in your living room. People can record something that is not very good and fix it up in their laptop to make it sound right. But it still sucks at the end of the day (laughs).
YouTube is cool, but artistes should have more control over what’s on there. When you take a video down, it somehow comes back up the next day. The sound quality there is not good. But the good thing about YouTube is that someone in, say, Singapore can go to my channel and check out my music. It’s kind of like my personal TV channel.
So no autotune for you then?
No… I don’t like the sound of autotune. It doesn’t sound like a [human] voice. It’s too electronic. Before there were pro tools, all the bands, like Black Sabbath, made the sound come out of their bodies. I listen to ’70s rock exclusively. I have a real passion for collecting records, so I can’t wait to come to Singapore. Do you still have record stores over there? I would love to find the first Kiss record and make all my friends in America jealous!
You have been appearing on TV shows since the early 2000s. Would you ever do a reality show like The Osbournes?
I would. In fact, I have already done something like that — [American cable network VH1’s 2006 reality series] SuperGroup [which put five hard rock and heavy metal musicians together in a house to form a band and make music].
You were also on Gilmore Girls. It’s not a show people would usually associate you with. How did that gig come about?
I did Broadway productions like Jekyll & Hyde and Jesus Christ Superstar. The Gilmore Girls [producers] were looking for a rocker [for the show’s band Hep Alien], so they called [my record label] Atlantic Records. And the Atlantic people said, “Sebastian did Broadway.” Which must mean something, ’cos on stage you have to get things right in one shot, which [is good experience for TV]. Well, I’ve a bunch of new fans from Gilmore Girls (laughs). I have girls and their mums come up to me in the mall ’cos they watched the show.
You even impersonated Lady Gaga on TV, voiced an episode of Spongebob Squarepants and sang Johnny Bravo’s theme song. What other roles would you like to do?
I have been asked to do [reality dancing competition] Dancing With The Stars a couple of times but — rockers don’t dance! I could give it a shot, but I hope I don’t have to. I would love to act in a Marvel Comics movie or TV series. I have been a real big fan of them since I was a little boy. All those Marvel movies have ’70s rock in them, like Black Sabbath’s song ‘Iron Man’ which was in Iron Man. I would make a good Thor!
You don’t even have to wear a blonde Thor wig.
That’s right, that’s right (guffaws). I have only ever cut my hair once, back in 2000 when I was doing Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway. The [hairstylist] cut my hair to shoulder length. But fans would come to the stage door after the show and they had posters of me with hair that came down to my belt buckle. I was like, “Oh my God, what am I doing? I gotta have long hair!” It took me 17 years to grow it back again.
People consider you a rock idol. Do your three kids think you are cool?
(Hesitantly) Yes, they think I’m cool... But my son got into rap and for a while he didn’t think I was cool. I really hope it was just a phase! When the Notorious B.I.G [biopic, Notorious] came out, I went to see it with my son and his friends. They stood at the back and I sat by myself at the front ’cos they wouldn’t sit with me. That was when I knew I wasn’t cool (guffaws).
Catch Sebastian Bach on Oct 18, Kallang Theatre, 8pm. Tix from Sistic. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is on Netflix.