Sebastian Bach goes from super star to
By Naughty Mickie
When I heard that ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach was going to be taking on the lead role in "Jesus Christ Superstar" I was intrigued. And when I learned that the national tour was going to begin at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts in La Mirada, California, I was, well, jazzed. It's only down the freeway and I know what an exceptional performer Bach is, so I of course jumped at the chance to speak with him. We were given only 15 short minutes, but as you will see, I made the best of my time.
It's early and Bach bubbles on the phone. Before I can even start off I question, I have to comment on his remarkable energy.
"I've been singing all morning, so my voice goes up a couple notches when I do that,'' Bach says.
"So, what is the difference between being in a band and being on Broadway?" I begin.
"What's the difference between doing a band and Broadway?" Bach repeats. "Well, to me, there's really not much. Like to me there's really only two kinds of music. good and bad. I like all kinds of different music and if something's good and I can put my heart into it and totally believe in it and then you know it affects me emotionally, then I consider it good music. And if I listen to it and it just goes right by me, then I've just proven it's not for me. For me, music is like emotion and how musicians express themselves through their music. So to me, 'I Remember You' or 'Eighteen and Life' is really not that different than 'This is the Moment' from 'Jekyll and Hyde' or 'Gethsemane' from 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' They're all very beautiful ballads and vocally, I totally approach them exactly the same. If you like the screams in the 'Slave to the Grind' record, you will definitely dig 'Jesus Christ Superstar' because I'm screaming bloody murder.'' Bach laughs, "My own bloody murder at the end of the play. I'm not giving anything away, I think everybody knows the story, right?''
I take a moment to offer Bach my condolences on the loss of his father, post modern artist David Bierk.
"Oh man, it's so weird,'' Bach says and thanks me.
I ask him about his childhood.
"I was named after John Sebastian of the Loving Spoonful," Bach recounts. "My dad took art classes up in Berkeley, California in the mid-'60s from Michael McClure, who taught him English, who was one of Jim Morrison's big influences, the poet Michael McClure and that was one of my dad's teachers actually. What day the Loving Spoonful played in the Bay area and my dad went and met John Sebastian and they sat on a hill and had a big conversation and everything. That's why my dad named me after him, because he was one of his heroes. And then my dog's name was Lennon, growing up, after John Lennon and my sister's name is Dylan, after Bob Dylan. All I heard growing up was the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep and anything that was rock, and Creem, in the late '60s and early '70s, that was what was on in my house all the time, so it was very much a musical childhood, yeah.''
"When did you start singing?" I query.
"I was about eight years old and my buddy told me that you could get paid to sing in the church choir at All Saint's Anglican Church. And I was like, 'What? You can get paid to sing? Man, that is wild,'" Bach says. "I was eight years old, I rode my bike down there and I auditioned for the sopranos, not the TV show, and I actually became the lead soprano in the choir and that's where I first fell in love with singing. Like Christmas mass, I can remember the snow falling outside and singing 'Gloria in Excelsius Deo,' the whole place is packed, singing the high voice falsetto stuff, I remember falling totally in love with singing. So now, when I'm doing 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' it reminds me very much of when I was a little boy in church singing because it was kind of the same feeling, as far as singing.''
We discuss the wonderful acoustics in most churches.
"Well, there's very little amplification on Broadway as well," Bach offers. "We're playing bigger places in 'Jesus Christ Superstar' than Broadway, but it's still not supposed to sound amplified. There are in fact little microphones, but those are only for the back row, it's not supposed to sound like through mikes like a concert, it's supposed to be just into the air.''
I ask Bach about his hobbies and he ends up telling me about how much work he does.
"I've done a lot. I've had my own TV show on VH1 for five months called 'Forever Wild' and I've been self-managed since the end of Skid Row. I was managed by Doc McGee for ten years and after that, I decided to just do things myself, so there's a lot of business to do, like today, I have five interviews in a row. I do my own Web site, sebastianbach.com. There's lot to do.''
"For fun, I mean, like do like to read or?" I encourage.
"I read all the time. For fun? Well, you see, for me, music and rock and roll and singing, that is fun. And doing my Web site. All that stuff is fun for me. I'm a workaholic, but what I do I don't consider work. For fun, I like to go downhill skiing, back when it used to snow in this country,'' Bach laughs. "But it doesn't fucking snow anymore, it's so unbelievable. I go cross country running, I do kung fu, Shaolin kung fu, three times a week. I don't know if I consider that fun," he chuckles again. "I've got two boys that I hang out with, I collect comic books with them. That's pretty fun. Play frisbee, do little dad things."
Bach has two young sons.
"London and Paris, that's their names," Bach tells me. "Actually London's name is London Siddharta Halford Bierk. I named him after Herman Hess and Rob Halford.''
I know that Bach moved from his childhood home in Canada to New Jersey when he joined Skid Row, so I confirm that is still calling the U.S. his home.
"Yeah, I've been here since '87. I'm moving to La Mirada, California on Tuesday for a month. You've got to show me a good time. You'd better alert the rock and roll troops because I don't know one person in La Mirada, California." Bach goes on, "I told Tommy Lee all about this and he was like, 'Dude, I used to hang out in La Mirada.' He knows all about it. I'm like, 'Dude, I'm doing 'Jesus Christ.''' And he goes, 'Are you going to do it?' I go, 'Fuck yeah!' He goes, 'Fuck yeah!' He couldn't believe that was my reaction to doing Jesus Christ.''
"Do you have any interest in going into film or back into a band?" I ask.
"I get asked that question about film all the time," Bach responds. "I don't even really look at doing Broadway, I look at the role and whether I can relate to the role. If it was like 'Jekyll and Hyde' the movie, absolutely, or 'Jesus Christ Superstar' the movie, yes, absolutely. But I don't really look at the medium as much as the message. To me, it's kind of different obviously, but what excites me is the emotion behind what I'm doing, like singing for my dad who recently died. He's my God. And when I'm up there and I'm singing to heaven, I'm going to be singing to him, so I won't have to reach very far for the emotions. To me, I can present my fans with a good vocal performance because to me it's all about emotion and I won't have to reach far.''
Being a vocalist myself, who has to hold a day job as well, I ask Bach what he would for a living if he didn't sing.
"I can't even answer that. There's no answer to that because that's my life. That's my confidence, that's my paycheck, that puts a roof over my children's heads, it's my hobby and my obsession. That's like saying what would you do if you got castrated,'' Bach laughs. "I can't think like that you know.''
Bach takes very good care of his instrument.
"I warm up, that's number one," Bach explains. "I've taken Italian opera training since. I don't take it anymore because I recorded lessons and I just use those because it's like scales, Italian opera scales. And I do those before every time I sing and that is the number one thing that gives me my power and my range-- 100 percent the warm up. And basically I don't strain my voice, I don't force it. It's like a violin, you have to let the voice be the voice and trust in the voice and not yell or strain it. Because if you're straining it, then you're hurting it and if you're hurting it, you're losing your range and you could get nodes. I've been doing this since I was eight years old and never once had nodes, knock on wood. And I've sang a lot. So luckily,'' Bach chuckles. "You have to do it properly and you have to drink a lot of water and you can't drink hard booze or do drugs. I can't drink or do anything before I sing. I know a lot of rock and roll singers will have a couple beers, I can't do that. I just don't care as much, whatever, you know. To sing properly I have to give it 100 percent of myself.''
"Do you currently study with a vocal coach?" I query.
"No because I know how to do it. Once you find what to do-- I can only sing so high.'' Bach giggles, "I've gotta sing higher! No. If I run into a problem, I know who to call, but thank the Lord I've had no problems up to this point.''
The clock is ticking and we have time for only one more question, so I ask Bach if there's anything he would like to tell me and his fans.
"Sure. Just please visit my Web site, sebastianbach.com and where you can get tickets for 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' ticketmaster.com and please come to the show. We're going to have a 30 piece orchestra and Carl Anderson plays Judas, who is the original guy in the movie. I'm just so excited to present Southern California with a full Broadway production. I've done it in New York twice now and for me to bring a full Broadway show to Southern California, I can guarantee my fans will dig it and I know there's a lot of them out there because I've played there many times and it's always been a blast. So I'm looking forward to giving you guys a whole new side of me and the full Broadway show right in your face." Bach pauses for dramatic effect, "Don't miss it.''
Find out more about Bach's life and when he is bringing "Jesus Christ Superstar" to your town at www.sebastianbach.com
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