Sebastian Bach: ’18 And Life On Skid Row’ (Book)

Released on December 6, 2016 (Harper Collins)

Review by Tyson Briden:
One of the downfalls attributed to my affection for the ’80s/’90s hard rock/heavy metal genre, is always needing to know everything there is to know about the artists I love. Ever since Mötley Crüe‘s The Dirt was released in the early 2000s, autobiographies have been thrown at the music buying public in large doses. I find myself drawn to these such books. I am always intrigued about the behind the scenes information that we didn’t know. Out of all the books I’ve read in recent years the two that stand out to me the most are the Paul Stanley and Joe Perry autobiographies. They were well written, honest and gave me a great indication of the people behind the music. Sometimes in reading these autobiographies, the artists come across as being bitter and pointing fingers for their recent downfalls. Honestly, in reading these such stories, I find myself losing respect for the artist in some ways. I’m looking for a positive read that I can really get something out of. Bad talking former bandmates just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

My recent book was one that I found quite intriguing. I couldn’t wait to dive into it. It was Sebastian Bach’s 18 And Life On Skid Row.

Skid Row was a band that I discovered in the late ’80s, as most of us did. I first saw the band on Much Music when the video for “Youth Gone Wild” was in heavy rotation. I immediately went out and purchased Skid Row’s debut self-titled album. From that point, on my teenage years would be forever changed by this band, especially the lead singer, Sebastian Bach. For me, Bach had the looks, an amazing voice and a rock star attitude that I found very appealing. Bach was the perfect frontman for the ’80s genre. What astounded me the most about Bach was that he came from a town about half an hour from where I lived. Here was this rock star, playing in an American band, who had pretty much grown up in my backyard. Sweet!!!

For the next few years, Skid Row, was a band that my buddies and I would pay attention to with great admiration and passion. As I think back, I have to laugh because I had a huge crush on a girl in high school because of her love for the band. I would try and get her attention by loudly talking about the band and Bach especially as she would walk by me. Every day at lunch time, my friends and I would crank “Youth Gone Wild” in the hallway of our school, to only have a teacher come around the corner and politely ask us to turn it down. When she was gone, we’d turn it right back up. This was a daily occurrence to which as the days passed, her politeness seemed to wane somewhat. We were the “Youth Gone Wild” or so we thought. I recall a friend and I going to an all night dance at our high school where we would persuade the DJ to throw in Skid Row tunes occasionally throughout the night. When Skid Row would come on, we’d jump around and head bang like a bunch of wild animals. Those were the days!

As I started ready Bach’s book, it brought me back to those days in the late ’80s. As I read, I couldn’t help but think how much I had in common with this man. His love for hard rock and heavy metal was quite prevalent. There were references to many places I long remember — places that Bach frequented that are still around to this day that I drive by frequently. His love for bands that I love. His dedication to the music that seems in his eyes to have never died. The only difference between myself and Bach is that he lived it and I lived through it in magazines and videos. Of course, these are only similarities, I am sure our personalities are quite different, but in reading the book, I found myself relating to Bach so much. His stories brought a smile to my face when I think back to those days. I think most people that lived through the music back in those days will attest to the fact that things were just plain cooler. This was before Smart Phones, IPods, Digital Downloads, Netflix, etc. We really had to work for what we had in terms of music. I remember setting a timer on my VCR to record CBC’s Good Rockin Tonight to get the latest interview with Skid Row. Being young, I was in bed early, so not much chance of staying up to watch. In 2016, I can just go on YouTube the next day and the interview would most likely be there. Far too convenient and makes for less appreciation in my eyes.

Bach really lays it all out on the line in this memoir. It is obvious that he is an emotional human being who wears his heart on his sleeve. After all these years, he is still passionate about his music and his life. Everything he does, he gives 110% (being Canadian, we can all attest to this line being the typical hockey player interview). Without giving away too much, I find the countless stories of his dealings with other rock stars to be animated and sometimes stressful, which to me makes for a good read. He makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he scares the shit out of you. It is all there.

One of the biggest assets, this book possesses is that Bach wrote this himself — his words, his thoughts. There was no help from an outside writer. There may be times in the book when it jumps around a bit, but Bach always finds a way to come back to his original point. In the end, there is always a motive to what Bach is trying to convey to the reader. Bach’s overall talent is shown throughout. He fronted a major recording act in the ’80s, then on to Broadway where he received critical acclaim, TV acting and now a book writer. That to me is one well rounded, talented individual.

Overall, this book was a pleasure to read. To be honest, I couldn’t put it down. I will also add that not once did he put anyone down (except for one individual who was slagged and justifiably so), which to me is the recipe for a good autobiography. If you are a Sebastian Bach fan, you will love this book. If you aren’t a Bach fan… what are you waiting for? Go to your local book store, dive in and learn about one of Canada’s all time greatest vocalist’s in his own words. You won’t be disappointed.

Review by Ruben Mosqueda:
After years of talk of releasing his autobiography and a couple of [release] delays, former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach finally issued his memoir titled 18 And Life On Skid Row in December 2016. Not the most creative of titles I know; however when the book is 90% on Bach’s history in Skid Row, I can’t say I blame him for going the obvious. 

You must cut Bach a little bit of slack as the delays were as a result of his ‘hands on’ approach. He didn’t utilize a co-writer like most of his contemporaries and elected to tackle ‘his story’ on his own. The end result is a surprisingly fantastic read that has you devouring page after page from the story according to Bach. Unlike a lot of biographies or autobiographies, it’s not mandatory that you ‘know’ Bach’s past work or that you’re even a ‘fan’ for that matter because the entertainment value is there. Bach writes the book as if so he is having a conversation with you in the same room reminiscing about his tales [large and small] of rock ‘n’ roll. Dare I say that by the mid-way point of the book, Bach is a very likeable character.

As one that has followed Bach’s career albeit mostly during his tenure in Skid Row, I’ve always wanted to hear about what truly transpired during the Moscow Peace Festival [organized by then manager Doc McGhee], The Mötley Crüe tour [where Skid Row was asked to open], the follow up [tour] with Aerosmith [and their crew of ‘Aerocops’] and hanging out with Metallica. Bach writes about drinking with David Lee Roth and Axl Rose at The Whisky and being approached at their table by [Poison’s] Bret Michaels. What happened next, well, you’ll have to buy the book. Sure there’s tons of debauchery [of a sexual nature] within but as a rock ‘n’ roll fan; I really enjoyed the behind the scenes stuff involving some of the other acts that either Bach toured with or befriended.

Bach writes about his work in television, which has run the gambit from TV host to drama to reality television. He highlights being in the ‘Supergroup’ for the reality show on VH-1 that spawned [or forced] the band ‘Damnocracy.’ While not the best monikers, the band was loaded with talent — Ted Nugent (lead guitar), Anthrax‘s Scott Ian (guitar), Biohazard‘s Evan Seinfeld (on bass), Jason Bonham of Bonham, Airrace and Virginia Wolf to name a few (drums) and of course Sebastian Bach on lead vocals. The band didn’t go anywhere or even record an album but it was an interesting concept to say the least.

Time and time again on 18 And Life On Skid Row, Bach comes off as a genuine, relatable person as he points the finger at himself several times over, and owns up to his shortcomings. Often times, these shortcomings are fueled by the use of [hard] alcohol and cannabis. The stories are compelling and believable but it seems like one story in particular — ‘the bottle incident’ isn’t quite how I recall it when it was told by MTV, Metal Edge, Circus and RIP. I wasn’t there and Skid Row wasn’t exactly one of my favorite acts at the time but there seems to be some discrepancies there which you can read for yourself and decide.

Sebastian Bach was recently on Eddie Trunk’s Trunk Nation daily show on the Sirius Volume Channel during his press stops to promote the book. Bach made mention that he had purposely omitted Trunk’s name from the book because he was ‘upset’ at the radio personality as he [Bach] looked over Trunk’s book Essential Hard Rock And Heavy Metal and he didn’t see his solo efforts represented. After airing his grievances on air, Trunk corrected Bach on the premise of his books. Bach went on to state that after the first pressing, he would rectify this by including Trunk in future pressings. While this radio appearance isn’t feature in the book; I used it to point out that while Bach still might have bouts with L.S.D. [lead singer’s disease], he appears to be more accepting of the fact that when ‘he’s wrong — he’s wrong.’

In the end, 18 And Life On Skid Row is one of the better reads that has come out of a late ’80s artist. This memoir puts the Stephen Pearcy, Bobby Blotzer, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil books to shame. Highly recommended — I’ll leave it at that.

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Tyson Briden and Ruben Mosqueda for Sleaze Roxx, January 2017