Sebastian Bach Tells All, From Anvil To Axl


April 15, 2008

Sebastian Bach, whose latest album Angel Down was released last November, will spend this summer shrieking in ampitheatres across America as part of the annual hair-band tour headlined by Poison.

But wait, didn’t the ex-Skid Row singer once throw interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos out of his Broadway dressing room — when Bach was starring in Jekyll & Hyde — for bringing up the name of the band he’s going to open for?

“When you’re launching a show on Broadway there are so many interviews,” explains Bach in an interview this afternoon with Scrolling Eye. “I was doing at least 10 of them every day, people telling me how proud they were of me for pulling it off, the first guy to ever go from heavy metal to Broadway — not a touring production or dinner theatre, but actual Broadway.

“And I hear MuchMusic were coming to interview me — the same station where I once walked in to tell them I was joining a band called Madam X from Detroit, and they reported it that same day with a picture of me on the screen. So, this was an exciting reunion I was looking forward to.

“But then this guy George walks in, and he’s got the biggest black cloud over his fucking head. The first thing he asks me is how I feel about my old band playing with Poison? If this guy was going to come all the way there to be such a cock to me I had every right to kick him out of my room.

“I see he’s still putting on that attitude on his show [The Hour]– it makes me want to crawl through the television and punch him in the face.”

Plenty of mileage was gotten out of that MuchMusic interview, of course, falling in line with Bach’s transition from stage musicals — he later starred in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar — to video verite for VH1 and MTV: making-the-metal-band series SuperGroup, a special called I Married… Sebastian Bach and Celebrity Rap Superstar. There was also a recurring role on Gilmore Girls — the source of that well-circulated clip of him performing “Hollaback Girl.” But, although he’s been weaning himself off substances in line with his recent 40th birthday, Bach turned down a chance to appear on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.

Besides, there’s only so many reality freakshows one needs to appear on when you’ve got W. Axl Rose planted in your corner.

The current chapter in Bach’s rock career was actually initiated when the other original members of Guns N’ Roses called him in to audition for what became Velvet Revolver. The match didn’t work, leading Slash to lament the acrimony in his best-selling autobiography, even though they’ve patched things up since.

“He wrote something like, ‘Too bad Sebastian doesn’t like me anymore,'” says Bach. “It’s like, ‘Dude, when I try out for your band and you don’t pick me it’s not like I’m going to call you to hang out.’ After that, I was kinda ready to move on.”

The next suitor turned out to be Axl, preparing for the next leg of the never-ending tour overture to the release of Chinese Democracy — he invited Bach onstage to duet on “My Michelle” during warm-up shows in New York City.

“Next thing you know he was flying me around the world just to do this one song,” says Bach. “It was like Led Zeppelin territory, where I go all the way to Milan just to sing 25 words. But, from that point, I was hooked.”

Touring the interstates in a van, as Bach did in the late 1990s — when his musical associates included Kelley Deal of The Breeders, Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins, and Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs in the short-lived Last Hard Men — was no longer the ideal. Bach asked Rose if he could open for GN’R in arenas.

When it came to touring Canada in fall 2006, Bach had the idea of dragging the Trailer Park Boys along as a sideshow, and so he did.

“Then I see a review in the Toronto Sun that makes it sound like I’m the worst thing to ever happen in the history of music,” says Bach. “Meanwhile, the only reason Axl is even on the road is because he’s watching me on a monitor backstage every night giving him motivation to do it, too.”

Rose returned the favour by appearing on three tracks on Angel Down, whose 2007 release date — not to mention the fact that it’s not called Chinese Democracy — means it can’t be redeemed for a free can of Dr. Pepper. Media attention for the album has generally leaned on metal webzines and online radio outlets. And while Rolling Stone, whose cover Bach graced in 1991, gave it a not-entirely-dismissive review, the Peterborough native still hasn’t gotten his well-deserved star on the Canadian Walk of Fame.

Then again, if his metal heroes Anvil had to wait a decade or three to get from the beer-soaked Gasworks stage to a red-carpet Hot Docs festival debut of their documentary this Thursday, it could take a while.

Bach’s generally unrequited love affair with Toronto has a long history — while he’s lived in the same Redbank, NJ home since Skid Row’s peak, he spouts constant recall of Canadian culture high and low.

His father David Bierk, who died of cancer at age 58 in 2002, was a celebrated painter whose work David Watching — an appropriation of several evocative influences — was used as the cover art for Angel Down. Sebastian’s dad was born in Minnesota, but moved to Peterborough, where he produced landscape paintings while running that city’s Artspace, which drew many celebrated visitors.

“I remember when Christo came over for dinner one night,” recalls Bach. “And my father was making tacos for him — there weren’t too many other people in Peterborough who knew how to make Mexican food.”

Yet, despite the countercultural pedigree that influenced his kids, Sebastian’s dad had a conservative side — enrolling him in Lakefield College School. Many years later, he was none too impressed when his son showed up on the cover of High Times, even if it was good enough for Willie Nelson.

Broadway gave Bach a new level of legitimacy that his father got to see just before his passing, but the accolades never reached north.

“I was on tour with Jesus Christ Superstar, in all these big American cities, and realized that Frank Sinatra got it wrong in ‘New York, New York,'” says Bach. “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere — except Toronto.”

He attests to the influence of Anvil, though, recalling hours spent hanging out at the Record Peddler’s original location on Queen Street East, waiting for the UK metal mags to come in: “There’d be an interview with Lips from Anvil, and it would be 12 to 15 pages long — every single word meticulously documented.

“They put a premium on really good sound, too. Lips never put himself on a pedestal — he’d get fans smoking hash with the rest of the band.”

That era ended in 1993, with the closing of the original Gasworks club at Yonge near Wellesley, where Bach serenaded the wake with a set featuring Anvil tunes.

For a teenage Bach, who skipped a grade at Lakeview before dropping out to join the Toronto rock ‘n’ roll circus, this connection inspired him to follow his dream by age 14 after winning an audition to front a band called Kid Wikkid — in return, he promised his dad he’d take singing lessons — admitting that his 6’3″ height helped get him mistaken for much older.

During that time on the Toronto hairspray scene, Bach met wife Maria, and they’re still together — their 20-year-old son Paris is a drummer for two bands, another son London is 14, and their nine-month-old daughter Sebastiana Maria Chantal (“Tiana” for short) had her third name inspired by an old Goddo song.

“I never believed that having kids would tie me down to anything,” says Bach. “Plus, my parents divorced when I was around 10, and that must’ve flipped a switch in my head that I would never end up divorced myself.”

Bach’s next decade of action will take him through Australia and Scandinavia prior to joining Dokken on the Poison tour — which doesn’t have a Toronto date.

And how did Sebastian Bach spend the big four-oh on April 3? Back on Broadway, albeit in the audience — he went to see Andrea Martin in Young Frankenstein, satisfying his fix as an SCTV fanatic.

But, just like he has no answer about when Chinese Democracy is coming out, Bach isn’t into getting philosophical about the cultural paradigm he’s still part of.

“My dad woke up every day and painted a picture and that’s all he ever wanted to do,” says Bach. “I wake up in the morning and I rock.”

Courtesy of