» Rachel Bolan - Skid Row
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Interview conducted November 08 2014
Interview published November 21 2014

Skid Row was in Stockholm, Sweden, supporting its latest edition, Rise Of The Damnation Army - United World Rebellion Chapter Two. A couple of hours before the show as support act to the British heavy metallers Saxon, Metal Covenant hooked up for a few words with bassplayer and co-songwriter Rachel Bolan.

Tobbe: Okay. Let's talk about your latest installment, Chapter Two, which was released a couple of months ago. If you now look back at it, what's the biggest difference between Chapter One and Chapter Two?

Rachel: I think the biggest difference was, internally, with the first one, it took a while to retrace our steps, to find where those guys who wrote Slave To The Grind and the first Skid Row record were again, because there were like 25 years of life in between everything, you know. Once we got back to that and recorded the first chapter, the second chapter came a little easier. Snake [Dave Sabo, guitar] and I got together a lot more to write. The hardest part was really picking the cover songs, 'cause we were trying to pick stuff that fit in the theme of United World Rebellion as well as that hadn't been covered a thousand times by a thousand other bands. Johnny [Solinger, vocals] wanted to do Queen and then we ended up with Sheer Heart Attack and Snake was talking Aerosmith, so he picked Rats In The Cellar. It still kinda fits that dirty street trash theme of the whole United World Rebellion and that was fun to play and Tom Hamilton's [Aerosmith bassplayer] one of my biggest influences.

Tobbe: Your initial plan was to release 3 EPs during 12-18 months or something and that time has already passed by now.

Rachel: Yeah. We didn't expect to tour as much as we did off of each one, you know what I mean. In 2013 we played about a 100 shows. This year we're gonna be at about 103, 105, so January we're gonna get back at it and we'll have it out in 2015 for sure.

Tobbe: That's still a lot of touring. I mean, it's been more than 25 years since you first started the band and you're doing 100 shows each year as you said.

Rachel: Yeah, it's a lot. We haven't toured this much since back in the day, you know. We're very fortunate that we're one of the bands that are able to do it. We touched the nerve years ago and now we're coming around with transcending generations. We're coming around and playing for our fanbase's kids with younger brothers and sisters. We're lucky, we're very lucky and every night my foot steps on that stage, I think of how lucky we are.

Tobbe: When all 3 EPs are released, don't you think that most buyers will look at them as one outstretched album and listen to all 3 of them at one point?

Rachel: Well, I think it kinda is an outstretched album. Society and the musical climate have changed so much since we first came out and you could release a record and tour off that for 2 years. Now for a band like us, short blasts of music seem to keep people interested. You know, it's information overload these days, so we wanna keep a product out there and this way we can stay out on the road and do what we're here to do.

Tobbe: It seems to work out pretty fine, because there's been a lot of talk about your band in the recent years.

Rachel: Yeah, it has worked out that way. From a songwriter's standpoint, it's easier on us, because it's a lot easier to pick 5 songs out of 10 instead of picking 10 songs out of 30. And the production cost is lower, so we can sell it for lower, and in economic times it's a lot easier for a Skid Row fan to go and pay 6 bucks for an EP than to throw down 15 dollars for a whole album, so I think it works out. It's a win/win for everyone involved.

Tobbe: So who initially broke the idea about the 3 EPs?

Rachel: You know, I think one day, Snake and I were talking. We were just talking in general about when the last time we put out music was and at that point it was at 6 years. We were like "Oh, we've gotta do something.". We went to Denver and rented a couple of hotel rooms and we were writing there, just to kinda get away from people that we know and get away from the phone and the offices and all that stuff. We were walking to dinner and one of us mentioned, I think it might have been Snake. He said that the band Down, that he's managing, is putting out EPs and I said "That might be kinda cool for us as well." and he goes "Let's try it, let's try it.". And then we wrote a batch of songs for the first one and picked our favorite 5 and the 2 covers and did the same for the second one.

Tobbe: Like you said, it was like 7 years or something from your last record, Revolutions Per Minute and now you're really active again, so how will you keep this coming when the 3 EPs are done?

Rachel: We're not sure. We don't know whether we're gonna keep doing EPs or whether we go back to traditional full lengths. We're not sure, we don't think that far ahead.

Tobbe: It's a tough life for you right now. You know, like touring, recording, touring, recording.

Rachel: It's funny, I'm reading Paul Stanley's book right now and just the way they used to do it. Just being such a big Kiss fan as a kid, I didn't realize that in the first, I think 4 or 5 years, they put out like 7 or 8 records, because they were putting them out in 6 month intervals and I started thinking that Aerosmith did the same thing and all those band from the 70's. I was like "That is brutal, man.". To go out and tour, to come back and write and record and go back out on tour on your first record and when you're done, you think you're taking a breather and you release the second one in 6 months. I'm like "Wow, man. That's hardcore.".

Tobbe: But those are good albums most of them too. That's so impressive.

Rachel: Yeah, they were great, they were great.

Tobbe: So with all these new songs released. There's gonna be eventually like 20 of them, including the covers. Can we ever expect more new songs in the set, in favor of the older ones?

Rachel: We've been putting new stuff in our set since the first EP came out.

Tobbe: Yeah, but even more. Like split in half or something.

Rachel: Not tonight of course, 'cause it's not our show. Yeah, when we're doing our own show we've been sticking more and more in, you know, and played the songs that people expect to hear from our past. We also like going for some deep tracks. Something someone would never expect us to play. And we try to change the setup every night, so if people do come to 3 shows in a row, they're not seeing the same exact show, so we like to change it up.

Tobbe: Would you guys ever even consider to play a set in the future based on United World Rebellion? Like a United World Rebellion show?

Rachel: We've been tossing that idea around, but since we haven't even written any songs for the third chapter, we haven't really approached it. But we have talked about it. How it would be cool to put on some kind of production of it, because it does have a story behind it. A theme, not really a concept, but it has a theme behind it and I can see it built into something for sure.

Tobbe: The hardcore fans would probably love it, but I don't know if like regular people would like the idea.

Rachel: Yeah. Maybe something to bring to Vegas. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Yeah, totally. You guys are playing smaller clubs now or venues like 1000 seaters or 1500 seaters like tonight. Do you ever reflect or look back and are secretly longing for playing the bigger arenas again?

Rachel: Well, you know, we play everything. We just went through the UK before we hooked up with Saxon and we purposely went into markets, with the exception of London, that we've never been to in our career, like Nuneaton and Cambridge and small towns. It was one of the most fun things we've ever done, because people we're like "You guys are playing in my town? I could actually walk from my flat, to go see you, and then be back at my flat in time to go to work." and everyone freaked out and it was really successful. But we also, just this summer, headlined the Polish Woodstock, which was in front of over 500,000 people.

Tobbe: Or more…

Rachel: Or more, yeah. And then we did Wacken and Download, so we get our fix of the bigger stuff too, and then we played a bunch of festivals back home. It's crazy, also we find ourselves playing with a bunch of bands that came out more than 10 years after us, like bands like Stained and Deftones and stuff like that, Skillet, you know, and we did a show with Kid Rock. It's just really weird how everything is going. Now we're kinda filtering in as a cool band again, you know. It's a great feeling and when you go out and you're playing with these bands that came out after you, you see them all lining the side of the stage to watch the set, because your music meant something to them and it would be like us going to see Kiss or something. When music means something to someone, whether they're in a band or whether they come to a show or whatever it is, if you write something that hits a nerve with someone, that's a win right there. That's why you do it, that's just why you do it.

Tobbe: And I guess you guys get along great in the band too.

Rachel: Yeah, no one's suffocating anyone in their sleep so.

Tobbe: By the way, I'm not gonna ask anything about Sebastian [Bach, former lead singer], because I know everyone else do.

Rachel: Okay, I appreciate that.

Tobbe: But if you bring it up, well, I'm ready to go. Are there any goals left to achieve for Skid Row?

Rachel: Yeah, I think there really is. I thought that the year before when we went through Europe. It was us and Ugly Kid Joe and we're at 80 % sell out for all the venues. I was like "This is a realistic high point in our career" and the next thing I know, we got a call from our agent who's like "You're headlining a festival in Poland" and I'm like "Cool. We've never been to Poland. How many people?" and like I said "Half a million.". I'm like "Come on. How's it half a million people?" We got there and we got out on stage and we're all looking at each other just laughing our asses off, 'cause we couldn't believe the feeling. And it was the first time in our career that between every song they started chanting our name to the point where we had to wait because it was so loud. We had to wait, we couldn't hear sticks clicking, we couldn't hear anything. And then we hit that high point, so who knows what's gonna come next.

Tobbe: You've been working together with Snake for God knows how long.

Rachel: Almost 30 years.

Tobbe: But who's actually in charge when push comes to shove?

Rachel: You know what. To be completely honest, it's always been 50/50 and if someone feels very strongly about something and they state their case whether it's myself or Snake or anybody. It's like "Okay, If this guy's feeling this strong about something, there's gotta be something behind it" and we've always given each other that respect and that trust to go. "Okay. I'm thinking completely opposite, but I'm with you.". So we live by the sword and die by the sword right next to each other.

Tobbe: I was talking to Snake last year and he told me that you probably were the better songwriter of you and him.

Rachel: Yeah, he likes to say that, but it's one of those things where we know each other's strengths. It doesn't always mean lyrics and it doesn't always mean music. It means the situation and the type of song we're writing and if someone comes in with an idea and a vision, that person is gonna do the better part of it. Their emotions are coming out and it's just up to the other person to catch up and to grasp what they're saying. So he says that, but we both work equally as hard I think.

Tobbe: So when you're working on songs, how difficult is it, in terms of songwriting, to not reuse bits and pieces?

Rachel: You know, we used to worry about it a lot. "Oh no, that sounds remotely close to… whatever.". I'd look at my favorite bands, like Kiss and especially AC/DC and The Ramones and they didn't really worry about that too much. Like I read an interview with Angus Young and someone was saying "All 10 of your albums sound the same" and he was like "No, that's not true. We have 14 albums out. They all sound the same.", you know what I mean? It's just like it's gonna happen. When the style comes out, and the music, it's gonna happen. Unless it's something that just sounds so ridiculously close to it, then we don't even worry about it. Then we don't even fucking worry about it.

Tobbe: How about touring with a legendary band like Saxon?

Rachel: You know what? It's been really cool. It's a different crowd than what we're used to playing in front, which is good. You know what I mean, it's good. It's fun to have to go out and prove yourself, you know. Headlining shows are great, but when you have to go out and prove yourself and you have a great show, it's that much more rewarding, because we go up and there's a lot of people out there, just looking at us and we know that they're older than our crowd, and then we go out and before the end of the night their hands are in the air.

Tobbe: Which is the greater one, Slave To The Grind or your debut? You gotta pick one, you can't say that they're equally good.

Rachel: I mean, if I had to pick one, I'd probably pick the first one, because just the memories. I mean, we were kids when we wrote it and kids when we recorded it. So if I had to pick one, It'll probably be that. I love the heaviness and the grittiness and the direction we went in with Slave To The Grind, but if I had to pick one to listen to on a daily basis, it would be…the second chapter of United World Rebellion though. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Do you remember the song Forever? Why didn't that song make it to the first album, because it sounds like the first album and it's a good song?

Rachel: Yeah, it's a great song. I don't know. What it came down to was; we were told by the record company we're only getting paid on 10 songs. So there's actually 11 songs on that, one we weren't getting paid for. So it came down to; I forget what other song, but we took a vote and it was hard, because we each liked two songs for different reasons, but when it came down to, we just settled on…I forget what the other song was, but we just settled on not putting Forever on it. But it is a great song and that's Scotti Hill's [guitarist] baby. It's got him all over it, it's really good.

Tobbe: Yeah, you've gotta rehearse it now and play it live for me tonight. You have like two hours to go.

Rachel: We've been toying with the idea. I don't think on this tour would be good, but maybe for next time.

Tobbe: On a headlining show maybe?

Rachel: Yeah, just break it out, 'cause people ask about that song quite a bit, you know.

Tobbe: Where do you see Skid Row in 10 years? I know you don't look forward that long, but anyways.

Rachel: Right. I would like to think that we'd be doing more of the same. Still making new music for sure, because that's what we're about, you know. Sometimes it takes us a long time to put new music out, but we love songwriting. I'll be 60 by then, so I think I'll still have some energy to go out on stage.

See also: review of the gig the same night

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