Another Riot Act.... Dave 'Snake' Sabo Speak's Out!!
New Jersey Metal act 'Skid Row' were once one of the biggest acts to come out of New Jersey in the late 80's/ early 90's with their debut album released 89 which saw the band hitting the charts and also MTV with their hit singles '18 & Life' and 'Youth gone Wild' given them success touring and playing with the likes of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. In 91 the band released 'Slave to the Grind', which saw the likes of the title track charting and with the album having more of an edge made their music heavier and more solid. In 95 the band released their last album with Sebastain Bach 'Subhuman Race', leaving the band's future uncertain.
This was soon recovered back in 2003 with the album 'Thickskin' with new front man Johnny Solinger and new drummer Phil Varone. The band set off on their next chapter and recorded 'Revolutions per Minute' with Dave Gara on drums, who was replaced by Rob Hammersmith. In 2015 Johnny was fired and his short time replacement was Tony Harnell (TNT) for live shows.
Skid Row would find their new singer in the form of ex 'Dragon Force', 'I am I' singer ZP Theart in which they band are solid and stronger than ever. I managed to catch up with guitarist Dave 'Snake'Sabo when the band visited my home city of Hull only a few weeks ago. here is what he had to say to the following questions.
OK Snake great to finally meet you, welcome to hull or as Venom would say 'Welcome to hell'!! I'm going to ask you some warm up questions as this is the 1st interview I have done with the band. Firstly I'd like to ask you what guitarist inspired you to play the guitar? Also is there any members of your family who play instruments?
(laughing) "You go to love Venom and Cronos man!! I was inspirited by anyone who had a guitar, the thing that got me into music was the fact that I went to see Kiss when I was 13yrs old and it was at Madison Square Garden's in New York on December 16th in 1977. It changed my live forever, I thought I was just going to see a concert and I walked out there a completely changed person. I knew back then that i needed to do something about it in music and I had no idea what it would be.
So I picked up the guitar a year later and one of my brothers, one of 4 had purchased a shitty acoustic guitar which was about a $30 guitar and he played it for a couple of weeks and I thought it was my opportunity to out do my brother, so I picked it up and I loved it. There was a distinct connection there, so both Paul and Ace from Kiss are huge influences and been the youngest of 5 boys there was always music in our house. Everything from Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, to Black Sabbath and Humble Pie, Zeppelin so there were a lot of influences and Mototown music too.
After Kiss I discovered Areosmith, Iron Maiden was a massive influence on me and also Judas Priest too. Later on Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, and Michael Schenker, I have been watching some of his stuff from the recent tour on You Tube and his playing is effortless. I was also a big fan of The Scorpions too with Uli Jon Roth. I was also influenced by song writers & singers, and I am not a singer but I like the way the singer do there harmonies with the guitar work is awesome and it played a big roll on how I developed as a guitar player, and the band Accept were good at that, Wolf Hoffman is a big influences on me too.
All the N.W.O.B.H.M. played a big part on my up bring and influences, bands like Angel Witch."
How do you feel about poor Glenn Tipton's health? I know he is helping the band out when he can on tour, it's really sad to see such a great musician suffer this way.
"Yes it is sad, I am happy that he has come out to play some songs on the tour with Saxon when his health allows him too, he is a great inspiration to me."
So what was the 1st band you formed, was you in high school?
"Yes I had high school bands, I had covers bands too. I started to write music as soon as I picked up the guitar. The successions of all bands all led to the formation of Skid Row and I had auditioned for 'Cinderella' in 85 and they brought me back 3 times and Jeff LaBar came back 3 times also and Tom went with Jeff, and I will never forget that it was the worst/ best thing that happened to me. I love their music and there cool people and after that I said I would never audition for another band again, it was time for me to do my own thing.
After that I met Rachel in a music store and the 2 of us talked and we tried to write some songs together and we hit it off as friends very quickly. We knew then that we had something going for us, so that is were Skid Row pretty much started from and we found the musicians that ended up on the 1st record."
Did you ever have any problems with the band name what with Gary Moore having a band under the same name?
"No actually we didn't have any problems, we didn't know anything about that and when it was brought to our attention we had our legal people contact Gary Moore's people and we bought the right's from them."
How many demos did the band record prior to the release of the debut album?
"I think we had written like 20 songs and we went into the studio to record 19 songs in 2 days and we never used all the songs on the records in later years. I think the thing that happens is, they weren't good enough to make it the 1st time around so why would they be good enough now? I am not sure if that holds the truth. It was also about recording in the 'here & now', it is more natural to us and we have just started to write a song from a riff that I have had for over 20 yrs it's just a small little riff that will turn into a song. Scotty would also say 'You gotta use that riff man', so Rachel and myself would start writing at his place a few months back and we ended up use that riff."
Looking back at the debut album from 89 what songs stand out for you ad why?
"Well I think the obvious ones are 'Youth gone Wild', was a statement from 5 young kids that had connected and we hoped our music would connect with the fans . We never thought it would connect with people around the world, I think our egos didn't allow us to believe that it would be possible and all of a sudden it was. So to have that communication through your music with people around the world was an incredible thing to me. Same the with '18 & Life', but a whole record is all very special to me and to accomplish and to make the record was something special and for a major label too, it was a dream from when you were a kid.
Our label back then Atlantic were good to us, I can't complain at all. They allowed us to be us and they allowed us to do that we wanted to do with freedom and trust within the bands music. I remember our A&R guy Jason Flom who had lots of success and he told me he loved the bands music and why would he want to change us, it was all there."
Atlantic Records dropped all their bands Over Kill, Testament, you guys and more bands.
"Yes they did, they changed their staff and shit happens, it was the nature of the music business and I wasn't upset to be honest. Why be somewhere if you are not wanted? I didn't want anybody to do me any favours I wanted to be with a label that believes in us. They were great for as long as it lasted."
I noticed that each album you did for that label got heavier and heavier, you listen to 'Slave to the Grind', which had some elements of Pantera in it and then you listen too 'Subhuman Race', it had elements of Biohazard, which doesn't surprise me considering you had Even and Bobby appear on that record.
"Wow thanks for the compliment Jason, Biohazard that's so cool!! There good friends of ours especially Danny and I remember when we played 'Slave to the Grind' to Jason Flom he said he loved it and he also said we may loose some of our fans because of the heaviness. We didn't even know who Pantera were, Scotty had discovered and turned us on to Pantera after our album had come out and he suggested that we should have them support us.
So we did and we got along great with those guys. We toured with them for 7 months, and Phil is a great friend of mine, I managed 'Down' for a while (Ed: I'm a big Trouble fan), god I love Trouble, great band. Jason said we would loose fans because we don't have that 'I Remember You' element but this is a great album. I think that Rachel and I just sat down and started to write the record the music was very natural, it wasn't pre-planned we just went with the flow.
We had a lot of life from the debut to the time we started writing the 2nd album, you are talking about a group of people who had never been outside of their home town and all of a sudden you have circle the world numerous times. We witness different cultures, and you get to see the shit side of the business with greed and and treated as a commodity, that was a harsh awakening for the band. The album 'Slave to the Grind' is a great album and it's about you're heart and spirit."
So how do you compare each 1st 3 albums as a progression?
"I think it was all down the the state of mind of the band at that time, I think we our last record with the original line up there is discord in that record and it was a place where the band were at that point, we were at odds with each other. We were going through turmoil and I think it showed in that record. (Ed: Do you think that the production on that record suffered?)
Well we worked with Bob Rock on that record and he had a vision of his own in what he saw us been at that time. There is a lot about that record that I really like and there is some that I don't like, and it is who we were at that time, (Ed: it had that New York/ New Jersey vibe) Well thank you I take that as a compliment, we were a band that were following apart at the particular time and I think that record shows just that."
How did you feel when it all collapsed within the band?
"You know what is really interesting was that there is a saying that 'Adversity builds character' and I disagree with that, I think 'Adversity relieves character' and I think it relieved everybody's character with the good and bad. We were raised in an environment where you don't take anything for granted, you are not owed anything in life, you should be humbled by it. So in the end it was great to have success but it depends on how you process that in your own spirit. It is about moving forward and it was taught and changing of the guard within the music business and our music tastes had changed, that is life. Rachel, Scotty and myself stayed together because we are friends."
What happened to Rob Affuso?
"We are still friends with him, he stills plays drums and he has some other things going on and we meet up from time to time and we stay in contact, I guess he didn't want to go the same way the other 3 of us wanted to go so he left the band."
I just want to set the record straight, there are rumors of you getting back together with Sebastian, will it ever happen and do you think you will becomes friends once again?
"I don't think we will become friends again, as for the reunion it won't happen. It has been so long ago now he has moved on and we have moved on and I wish him all the best. This right now in my concern with the band been Skid Row!!"
After Seb left the band you must of had a few auditions for his replacement, anybody I Know?
"Actually we didn't get a real lot of auditions, we put the word out and in 99 we decided that we wanted to start doing this band again. We had stepped away from it for a few years and it wasn't a case of us drifting off or anything, we started to talk about it and we missed playing some of these songs.
The 3 of us had a side thing which was more of a 'Cheap Trick' style band called 'Ozone Monday' and we never record an album but we did some shows and we played with Motley Crue and Kiss in the New York area and it was fun to do and it was a great release of of internal pressure. I think after that we all sat down and said we should reform Skid Row and we realized that we wanted to do it with some different people, but there wasn't that many auditions.
We found out about Johnny through a friend and we flow him from Texas to New Jersey and it worked out really well and he sang his arse off and it worked out great and he ended up been in the band longer than Sebastian for 14 yrs. In the end it didn't work out between him and us and I haven't spoken to him in a while. I was never really that close to him and I liked him don't get me wrong but as time goes on and you get older and your personal life changes your band life will change as well.
We all thought that we needed to make a change as it wasn't working out and it was like it was out of the thin blue air kind of thing, we all saw it coming, both Rachel, Scotty and myself talked about it and we realized that it wasn't getting any better, so we said thank you and it was time to move on.
We then had a disastrous run with Tony Harnell from TNT, it was really strange because we had known him for a very long time and get on very well but we had never worked together and it just didn't work out in the end. He has a great voice and the way he worked and the way we worked just didn't connect. Not to say that one is better than the other, but this is our thing."
So you later on found former 'Dragon Force' & 'I Am I' singer ZP Theart, how did that come about?
"Well he played some shows with us when he was in 'I Am I' 4yrs ago but I am not familiar with 'Dragon Force' music and I did some research on him and his bands, great voice and he turned out to be a really nice guy and his old band 'I am I' were more like a British metal band like Maiden & Priest, so Rachel had become really good friends with them and had kept in contact with them and when things fell apart with Tony we just called ZP.
So we flew him over to the states and talk about a guy who was more prepared and did his work and put in the time and he knew our stuff better than we did. He knew like 20 songs already and we said let's do 5 songs. He wanted to do more and he use to warm up to our songs when he was in 'Dragon Force', so that was a big plus for us and he is a very positive person really helped us out. We knew we had the right man for the job. When you get older it is taught to let people into your band, but with ZP just came natural and lots of positive vibes."
I guess you have new songs wrote for the next album as it's been a while since the last release?
"Oh yes we do have new songs wrote, we have been touring like crazy and we have about 6-7 songs that will defiantly be on the next record. Michael Wagner will produce it and it will be so amazing. (Ed: How will it differ from the previous albums?) Other than having a different voice which does change things and we are who we are and so Rachel and myself get in a room and start jamming and it is going to sound like Skid Row for sure. I listen to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest every day so there will be some influences like that in our music. Next album album is going to be the 3rd part to 'United world Rebellion', it is a trilogy and it will be the final thing."
Is Megaforce/ UDR releasing the next album?
"No they won't be, we have several offers on the table which is great for us so we are not making a discussion right now."
Didn't you play 'Hard Rock Hell' the other night, how was it and how's the tour going in general so far?
"It was fucking amazing man!! It was the 2nd time we had played that festival. The Quire Boys were great and Spike is a good old friend of mine and they remind me of a working mans version of 'The Stones'. We are coming back to play the 'Stone Deaf' festival here in the UK with Anvil. This is the longest tour we have done in some time now here in the UK, you never know if they will be a hit or a miss show but the responce has been awesome."
Well thanks Snake for the interview, best of luck with the tours and the new album. Do you have anything you would like to say to your fans reading this?
"Yes thank you for the support, our fans are great. Come see us life and get ready for the new album later on. Thank you for the interview Jason.
Thanks to Snake (great guys) and Toad for the interview.