SKID ROW's DAVE 'SNAKE' SABO On Split With Singer ZP THEART: 'Things Were Just Going In Two Different Directions'
April 15, 2022
SKID ROW guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo says that ex-H.E.A.T. frontman Erik Grönwall was "the first and only" singer he and his bandmates contacted once it became clear that SKID ROW needed to make another vocalist change.
Grönwall recently joined SKID ROW as the replacement for ZP Theart, a former member of DRAGONFORCE, who hooked up with SKID ROW in 2016 following the departure of Tony Harnell (TNT, STARBREAKER).
SKID ROW played its first show with Grönwall on March 26 at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada as the support act on the rescheduled dates for SCORPIONS' "Sin City Nights" residency. SKID ROW's nine-song set included its new single, "The Gang's All Here", which was made available on March 25. The song is the title track of the band's upcoming album, which will arrive on October 14 via earMUSIC.
SKID ROW recorded "The Gang's All Here" in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Nick Raskulinecz, who has previously worked with FOO FIGHTERS, STONE SOUR, HALESTORM, EVANESCENCE, RUSH and ALICE IN CHAINS, among many others.
Sabo discussed Grönwall's addition to the band during an interview with Andy Hall of the Des Moines, Iowa radio station Lazer 103.3. Explaining that Erik has only been in SKID ROW for "a month and a half," Snake said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We had been working on the record for a little while with Nick Raskulinecz. We didn't let anybody hear anything; we didn't play any of the songs live. We just wanted to finish it before we previewed it for anybody. And in the midst of doing that, we got to a place with our old singer where things were just going in two different directions and it was undeniable that we were gonna have to make a change."
He continued: "We were very, very aware of Erik. Erik [and H.E.A.T.] had opened up for us in 2019 on a European tour that we did, so we were aware of how talented he was. And also we were made aware of his audition tape that he did for 'Swedish Idol', the Swedish version of 'American Idol'. And his audition tape was doing '18 And Life' and he did an amazing job. Obviously, it got all of our attention. And so he recently did another one, a newer version of '18 And Life', which caught our attention again. So when things came to pass, that we knew that we needed to make a change, he was the first and only person that we spoke with. We started getting him music immediately, and he started cutting vocals immediately."
Sabo added: "It happened extremely fast — so fast that we were able to put out the single just in time for this residency that we're doing with the SCORPIONS right now in Las Vegas. And we were able to keep all our timelines and everything intact. And, really, the stars could not have aligned any better for us to be able to pull it off the way that it has occurred."
Back in 2018, a couple of years after Theart first joined SKID ROW, bassist Rachel Bolan said that Theart had brought an "excitement" to the group that he and his bandmates hadn't had "for quite some time." Speaking to U.K.'s TotalRock Radio, Bolan stated about ZP: "He's a very talented singer and a great frontman. It's funny — when he first came over to the States to sing and we were just all getting together — 'cause him and I and Rob [Hammersmith, drums] had been friends for a few years at that point — but when he first came over to sing, it was so effortless. He's 10 years younger than us, and he kind of grew up listening to us. He's from South Africa, and him and his friends had to sneak and play our records, because they were deemed offensive [laughs], which is really funny."
The bassist continued: "Yeah, he came over and he was more than prepared and just blew us away. And then, when we toured for a year together and when it was official [that he was our new singer], our stock went up and everything started getting better and better. And he brought this excitement to the band that we haven't had for quite some time. And now we just can't wait to get out on stage every night. If we're off for a couple of days, its, like, 'Ahhh… When do we get back out there? It's so much fun.'"
Earlier this month, Grönwall spoke to Liz Berg of Smarts & Entertainment about what it's been like for him to join his favorite band and immediately start working on a new album, along with beginning to prepare for SKID ROW's Vegas residency. "It's insane," he said. "Surreal, definitely. I grew up listening to SKID ROW, and when I wanted to become a singer, I was trying to sing like [former SKID ROW singer] Sebastian Bach. And that's what I did. I did that at karaoke nights [back home in Sweden]. So it's just surreal, because I come into the band and I started to do a new album straight away. I don't just have to rehearse the old songs; I'm doing a new album. So it's my voice on that. It's surreal, and I'm so honored."
Bolan recently told Meltdown of Detroit's WRIF radio station about Grönwall's addition to the band: "Just the way he does things and his work ethic is one I've never seen other than the four of us that are already in the band. He just doesn't stop until he gets things absolutely right. Whether it's his version, what he thinks is right, or what we think is right, he works hard — he works hard. And you can see why he had the success he did overseas because he's a really, really hard-working singer that takes care of his instrument and that takes pride in his craft."
Rachel also reflected on SKID ROW's first live performance with Grönwall, saying: "Honestly, dude, from the minute he opened his mouth… His timing is impeccable. We knew it was gonna be cool. And each show has gotten even better, 'cause we're learning each other's rhythm on stage. When I walked away from that show, I said to Erik, I go, 'This was show one. I cannot wait for show one hundred. It's gonna be amazing.'"
Bolan previously talked about how Erik came to join SKID ROW during an appearance on the latest episode of SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation L.A. Invasion", recorded just hours before SKID ROW's first performance with the Swedish singer. "We toured together. H.E.A.T. was on tour with SKID ROW. What year was that? '18? And we'd hear him every night from the dressing room," he said. "And a couple of times, I was, like, 'Man, listen to this guy sing. He's phenomenal.' And then, I forget who told me, someone that was with us, 'Yeah, he won 'Idol' in Sweden.' And I was, like, 'Man, he's got pipes.' And I was listening. Then I went behind the monitor board a couple of times. And in my head, I'm, like, 'Wow! When SKID ROW has some downtime, I'm gonna get in touch with this dude and start a side project with him.' And obviously, that never happened. But as time went on and we got to the point to where we were with ZP and stuff, Erik was our first… I told Snake, I go, 'We've gotta check this guy out.' And along with Snake and the rest of the guys, and Nick, our producer, Nick Raskulinecz, were, like, 'He's the guy, man. Send him some songs.' So we sent him some songs that we were recording, just with a guide vocal on it, and it came back about 24 hours later, and we were, like, 'All right. He's the guy. Get him on a plane. Let's do this.'"
Grönwall sang on H.E.A.T.'s last four studio albums — "Address The Nation" (2012),"Tearing Down The Walls" (2014),"Into The Great Unknown" (2017) and "H.E.A.T II" (2020) — before exiting the group in October 2020.
Grönwall was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March 2021. A short time later, he wrote on his social media: "I am extremely privileged and grateful to live at a day and age where a disease like this is curable. There's been so much progress made in this field. My body is reacting well to the treatment but it's a long treatment and it's going to be the toughest challenge of my life so far, for me and my family."
Last September, Grönwall released his cover version of SKID ROW's "18 And Life" via all streaming platforms. At the time, he said about his version of the track: "This song was basically the starting point of my professional career as an artist. I performed this song during my 'Swedish Idol' audition back in 2009. 12 years later it's time to give this bad boy a try again. Here's my version of the SKID ROW song '18 And Life'."
In 2018, Grönwall debuted in the U.S. for 10 million viewers in NBC's live broadcast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's musical "Jesus Christ Superstar". Along with John Legend, Alice Cooper, Sara Bareilles and others, Erik played the key role of Simon Zealotes.
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