Pussycats in leather: Skid Row land in Auckland

February 7, 2023
7 mins read

Vulgar and abusive on stage, wild metal animals Skid Row purr in the presence of tabby-tamer GARY STEEL in this 1990 interview.

(Blast From The Arse Productions brings you this 1990 interview originally published in RTR Countdown magazine).

Watch out when Skid Row is in town! That was the fearsome reputation of the new metal rebels from New Jersey USA when they swaggered into Auckland to raise hell at the Logan Campbell Centre… and to meet RTR COUNTDOWN.


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I’m more than slightly nervous as I approach the Rose Park Motel. The warning is: Skid Row do not like dumb questions. I’ve brought along a heavy-duty, bulletproof tape recorder just in case… but I needn’t have worried, really, as I sit down with Dave ‘the Snake’ Sabo and Rachel Bolan.

What we have here is a couple of leatherbound pussycats. Hell, they even drank iced water. What next? The news that they have Coco-Pops and Ribena for breakfast? Let’s find out!

Gary – Are you really the wildest, party-mad band in town?

Rachel – We don’t party any more than any other band. Maybe more than [Christian metal band] Stryper, chortle-chortle. I party because it’s the only thing to do. I don’t do drugs and I could never see me putting partying over playing.

Dave – If you feel like doing it then do it. As long as you can play to the best of your ability that’s the most important thing. When we were practising in the garage we didn’t sit there and get wasted and then rehearse. We’d rehearse and then if we wanted to go out for a beer we would do it or get a little bit loaded or whatever. But music always, always, always has to come first. When something is put in front of that, that’s when everything else goes on the downswing. Whatever happens after a show happens. We just kick back and have a good time.

Rachel – We didn’t get into the business to get laid.

Gary – Aww come on!

Dave – Fuck that! That’s bullshit! I got into music to play guitar in a rock’n’roll band, and play the songs we wanted to play, because I was obsessed and I am obsessed.

Rachel – If you take up guitar to pick up chicks, then maybe you should get plastic surgery instead.

Dave – But this is our first year on the road… we want to live it up and do everything we can and get away with whatever we can!

Rachel and Sebastian

Gary – You say you love life on the road. Doesn’t living out of a suitcase make you kinda crazy?

Rachel – If you want to do something your whole life, once you start to do it you start to overdose on it. We were home for a month and I was climbing the wall. Every morning I wake up I thought when’s checkout time? We’re just having the time of our lives.

Dave – We’ve been really lucky with the bands we’ve been able to play with too… hanging out with people that you admire and respect. Sitting in the dressing room and talking to the guys from Motley Crue and Aerosmith. I’ve been buying the records for so many years. Man, this is cool!

Gary – Can you bring us up to date on Sebastian’s problems? There was the bottle-throwing incident where a young girl got hurt, and the anti-gay AIDS t-shirt incident.

Rachel – Most of this stuff was blown out of proportion.

Dave – We can’t really speak about it right now because it hasn’t been settled, but… it’s just a shame that somebody decided on a dare to try to hit the lead singer of a band with a bottle, and accomplished that. It sucks. We’re not targets up there, y’know, we’re in a band.

Rachel – And as far as the AIDS shirt he had on… it was just a shirt someone gave to him. He threw it on, somebody took a picture, and it got in a magazine. All our lives people were putting us down for being what we were, so we’re not going to make fun of a certain group of people. Gays or ethnic groups or whatever, we’re not going to put them down for being what they are because we’d be hypocrites.

Gary – You’ve said you’re angry young men and Dave wears a Sid Vicious t-shirt. Are you anti-authority?

Rachel – We don’t wear Sex Pistols t-shirts because they were angry so we’re angry too. They knew what they were angry about. If we get pissed off about something it’s for a good reason. Our whole lives we were being put down by teachers and stuff like that, constantly at school. I went through hell, y’know? It’s not anti-authority. It’s anti-people who want to change what you want to do. If you want to do something bad enough like, for instance, be in a band, and they try and change your mind about it because they don’t like it, that’s bullshit. We’re not telling you to kill your teachers or punch a cop in the face, or yell at your parents because they’re authority figures.

Dave – It’s just such a weird thing that people put such limitations on other people and themselves. Who are you to tell me that I can’t do this with my life? Only one in a million people actually make it (in the music business)? So what! I’m a gambling man.

Rachel describes Skid Row live as “vulgar, abusive, loud and angry.” He’s absolutely right! After subjecting myself to their album – a mainstream metal monstrosity which sounds as contrives as a can of baked beans to these ears – the Skid Row show was devastating. Live, Skid Row is the hottest thing going, encapsulating everything that’s wild and immediate about rock’n’roll.

The crowd are jam-packed like so many fresh fish, wriggling for their lives in a trawler’s net. Girls are screaming and fainting at the Logan Campbell Centre. Sebastian Bach’s onstage, and we can’t take our eyes off him.

No offence to the other guys in the band, but next to Sebastian, they muster up as much combined charisma as a squashed hedgehog. That’s not to downplay their importance, however: they do, after all, supply the songs and the storm!

Sebastian is that rare beast: a young man with the x-factor. All eyes follow his every move. This tall, skinny and sometimes awkward youth quickly strips down to his laced-up tight leather trousers for a series of hilarious but effective choreographed headbanging exercises that will keep his chiropractors busy in years to come!

Most metal bands look like they’re trying to shake out their dandruff when they go into headbanging mode, but Sebastian manages a miracle by turning one of rock’s more ridiculous traditions into some kind of fertility rite. And don’t the young girls know it!

Sebastian just can’t stop moving, and even between songs, he’s pacing around, gabbling about whatever comes into his head: about the right to rock! Hey, don’t let those three-piece suit pencil-necked geeks stop you and your mates from growing your hair, drinking and smoking mother nature and listening to rock’n’roll, y’hear? Hear some guys smashed down the doors to get in tonight. Yeah! I did the same thing to get into concerts! I’ve got friends here tonight!

Sebastian isn’t a responsible guy. He’s a parents’ nightmare, but a juvenile delinquent’s dream, and that’s what gives him that special edge.

The show is also different than any other you’re likely to see because of the setlist. With only an album’s worth of songs to play, they have to fill up the rest of the evening with cover versions. This shows quite clearly where Skid Row is coming from: there’s stuff by Aerosmith, Kiss, and more surprisingly, The Ramones and the Sex Pistols. Another special treat is a new, unrecorded number called ‘Get The Fuck Out’, a real stomper, and a long, half-acoustic version of ‘I Remember You, a classic Bic-Flick burn-your-fingers song.

What separates Skid Row from the rest of the noise-brat pack? They’re young, they love rock’n’roll and they’re still fans themselves. They are a new generation of rebels without a cause, but they have got a contract, and a few million fans.

I came, I saw, I laughed, I left. My ears screamed. And I felt privileged.


Is Skid Row heavy metal?

Rachel says it depends who he’s talking to at the time, chortle, chortle. “Compared to New Kids On The Block we’re heavy metal. Next to a band like Slayer we’re pop! Who cares! We’re American rock’n’roll, call us what you want!”

When is the second Skid Row album coming out?

“We’ve started writing some songs for it but we haven’t really gotten into it full tilt yet.” In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Why does Rachel have a nose bracelet? Sorry, I forgot to ask.

Did they party up hard in NZ?

They got “shit-faced” with the record company staff until 7am one morning, and 4am the next morning. Apart from that, the most exciting recreational diversion was their bungy jumping debut.

Why is Sebastian turning bright red? And why are the other band members laughing their faces off? It’s the Sounds record signing, and Sebastian has been wildly kissing every female face in sight, and shaking boys’ hands, when – oops! He’s just accidentally kissed a pretty male! Nice to know that BOYS drive Skid Row CRAZY with DESIRE!

Notes: Memory is a funny thing. I remember many things from the late ’80s and early ’90s when I was busy editing NZ’s most popular music magazine, RTR Countdown, but I have no recollection whatsoever of ever interviewing Skid Row or even seeing the concert I raved about in this piece. I was having to try my hardest to be interested in bands that normally I wouldn’t have crossed the road for, and I guess that explains the disconnection! A couple of  years later, Steve Braunias (who was my staff writer at the time) wrote a much better piece on the group when they made a return visit. But still, there’s some good quotes in the above piece, and it’s rare to catch a band when they’re still fresh enough to be on their first international tour and thoroughly enjoying life on the road. 

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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