Skid Row remembers
By Michelle Mills
Skid Row scored on the music scene in 1989 when their self-titled debut album achieved multi-platinum status. The group went on to prove that they were more than just another one hit wonder by becoming the first heavy metal band to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with their second effort, "Slave to the Grind" and then, grabbing the gold with "B-Sides Ourselves." But their 1995 "Subhuman Race" marked their demise.
It wasn't the music that caused Skid Row's rift, it was due to the band members' differences.
"Being in a band is like a marriage," explains co-founder bassist Rachel Bolan. "Things went bad and we were frustrated, so we went our separate ways."
Bolan couldn't keep still for long. After a brief break, he got back together with co-founder guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo and guitarist Scotti Hill. The threesome collected a new drummer, Charlie Mills, and proceeded to search for a frontman. Lead vocalist, Sebastian Bach, had embarked on a solo career and is currently starring in "Jekyll and Hyde" on Broadway. You would think that it would be a big step to fill the boots of such a superb singer as Bach, but the quest proved surprisingly effortless.
Bolan relates, "When we put the word out that we were looking for a new singer, I received an e-mail from a mutual friend of John (Solinger) and myself that said, 'Check this guy in Dallas out. I hear he's really good.'"
Bolan surfed the Web to Solinger's site and listened to some of the vocalist's tunes- the singer had power, a good range and some soul. Then Bolan told the band that they had the right man for the job.
Solinger traveled to New Jersey for a formal audition and after two weeks, Skid Row was touring, opening for KISS and making a few stops to headline their own performances.
"It's amazing opening for my favorite band," says Bolan of KISS. "It's great. We're having so much fun."
The fans have also stayed true to Skid Row and have opened their hearts to the new line-up.
"Johnny's been accepted by our hard-core fans," Bolan states. "We have a chemistry now that we never had before."
Unfortunately, their troubles were not over. Mills had to leave during the first leg of the tour due to some personal problems, but Skid Row just wouldn't throw in the towel. Bolan called on an old friend, Phil Varonge, to pound drums for the group. Another change meant more adjustments and more rehearsals, but it also meant more fun. The group spends a lot of free time together while out on the road.
"We can be watching a movie and I look around and everyone is there," says Bolan. "We hang out together. It's hilarity every day and Phil is the comedian."
The "family" feel of the band is great for keeping stress at bay.
"This is a bonehead business we're in," Bolan says. "It's weird dealing with a lot of different people. You have to learn to respect everyone's space."
Skid Row was formed in 1986 and Bolan attributes their quick rise to fame and continued staying power to their writing. Another boost was the dragging local New Jersey scene, spiked only by "cool punk and agro."
"There is honesty in our music," says Bolan. "Timing was a factor too, but we write about what comes out of our hearts."
Bolan's heart and soul are deeply rooted in music. Growing up, there was always music in his home. Bolan laughs when he admits that, when he was young, he used to stand on top of a table and pretend he was David Cassidy. Then he discovered KISS.
Inspired at age eleven, Bolan took up bass as his first step to stardom. He was planning to attend an art school after high school, but music proved the greater muse.
Bolan is married and has three cats and a Moluccan cockatoo. While on the road, he checks in with his wife every day and receives the "Daily Bird Report." And when Bolan finally comes home, the cockatoo, a species notorious for demanding affection, won't leave him alone.
As for the future of music, Bolan notes that the harder grooves are coming back, but entertainment is the key.
"First and foremost, people want to have fun," says Bolan. "Music lost that element for a while, it was depressing. The fans want more of a show. They want to see what they paid for; they pay a lot for tickets."
The Internet, Bolan thinks, has made it easier for musicians to get together, plus it is a good tool for exposure. He doesn't support sites like Napster, although "it has not affected us yet, I don't like it- it's not right."
For Skid Row fans, Bolan claims that the group will stick to their roots and says that he appreciates all the fans who have stayed with them. He enjoys seeing the old fans and delights in the new sea of faces at each concert.
"Some of the fans are under 18," remarks Bolan happily. "It's cool- they've been listening since they were six years old."
The future shines brightly for Skid Row who are back on top of things with new blood and the prestige of opening for KISS. Success is definitely within their reach. But most important, is the group's attitude.
"We have the same goals," Bolan states positively. "We're a real band. We want to make more records and write more music for as long as we can."
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