SKID ROW's SNAKE And RACHEL Talk Business Side Of Music: 'We Didn't Want To Just Be The Dumb Guitar Player In The Corner'

February 24, 2024

In a new interview with Forbes, SKID ROW guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan discussed the band's general approach to the business side of music.

"One of the things that I think we both prided ourselves on is that we didn't want to just be the dumb guitar player in the corner," Sabo said. "We wanted to be on top of SKID ROW and everything that goes on. And we always had this idea that we always wanted to surround ourselves with people who were better and smarter than us — so we were always learning and always applying it to our partnership in SKID ROW.

"When we were negotiating a new deal with Atlantic Records, and we were sitting in with Doug Morris who was the president of the label at the time and wielded a ton of power, we were able to go in there and were both able to sit there and understand these conversations. We understood the terminology. Now, you can understand the terminology, [but] that doesn't always protect you from knowing what's right and what's wrong. That just comes through experience."

Bolan added: "We always ask questions. Are we the best businessmen in rock and roll? Not by far. Are we better than a lot? Yes. Better because we ask questions. The main thing I tell people or bands is know your worth. And that got passed down to us from people like [KISS's] Gene Simmons… And the BON JOVI guys. Know what you're worth and know what your brand means. When you're 23, you're trying to get your head around it. 'Brand? We're a band not a brand!' But you are a brand.

"I like to think that the thing that we're doing right the most is that we have never motherf—ed anybody — anybody," he continued. "We have been above board, transparent and absolutely honest with everybody that we've come in contact with and done business with. That's the way everyone should do business. Unfortunately, not a lot of people do. But that's the way Snake and I have always done business."

Back in 2022, Bolan and Sabo were asked by The Telegraph writer Ian Winwood whether Ian was "in the company of wealth." According to Winwood, both men answered, without hesitation, with the word "yeah." Millionaires, Ian wondered. "Yeah," they said. And how about multimillionaires? "Yes," was the response from Bolan, while Sabo said: "Almost."

Rachel added: "There's a very popular American DJ, who will remain nameless, who talked shit about us on his show saying that we all live in tents. And I'm, like, well, then I've got two very nice tents."

Bolan previously touched upon people's misconceptions about SKID ROW's financial status in July 2022 in an interview with Fistful Of Metal magazine. Asked if it is still viable to make a living as a musician these days. Rachel responded: "People have this misconception that everyone in the band is broke, and we're not. We had some massive songs, which I guess they forgot about, and we sold nearly 23 million records [laughs], so we're not broke by any means. I heard some woman say, 'Oh, they live in tents', and I'm, like, 'Okay. I've got a couple of tents, one in Jersey and one down in Atlantic City, and they're nice tents, y'know?'

"We never had to go back to day jobs; the albums keep selling, and we make good money on the road," he explained. "That's another misconception that we play for peanuts; it's a lot of peanuts. [Laughs] Don't slip on the fucking shells."

Back in 2015, Sebastian Bach told Rodney Holder of Australia's Music Business Facts that only three of the members of SKID ROW's classic lineup were part of the band's record deal with Atlantic: Bach, Bolan and Sabo. "And so, those agreements are done before you go into the studio," the singer said. "You have entertainment lawyers that speak to each other about what's happening and then you sign everything and then you go do it. And the ironic thing is, I haven't been in a room with Rachel Bolan in [more than] 20 years, but we are still in a business relationship together. We have the same accountant, and I get statements and we get… It's very strange, 'cause we are close together in a business sense — still, and forever — but I don't even have any relationship with the guy. So it's very strange and weird."

Asked if he "did okay" financially as a member of SKID ROW, Sebastian said: "We all did okay. When you sell 20 million records, everybody does okay. I mean, that's how many albums we sold and videos, singles… But, you know, we signed a publishing deal with [Jon] Bon Jovi's company, which gave him an extremely large cut of the first album. And when that happened, none of us realized it, really, and we were very bitter when we found that out. But our next record debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, so quit your fucking whining. [Laughs] It's, like, I look back… He took us on tour… Nobody thought we'd make it. There was a million bands. We could have been BANG TANGO or TIGERTAILZ or… We could have been… There's a billion bands. We could have been BABYLON A.D. … Anyway, so, the fact that we were one of the bands that did make it was like a needle in the haystack. So for Bon Jovi to put us on the road in front of his crowd every night, that's how we made it. So he deserved to get paid for that. He could have taken any other band. So we re-did all those deals after the first album — for 'Slave To The Grind' and 'Subhuman Race' and the best-of album. We re-did all those."

Regarding whether he sees himself as a businessman, Bach told Music Business Facts: "Definitely. I am the president of Get Off My Bach Productions, and I am the boss in my band. I have a crew, I have a guitar tech, drum tech, soundman, tour manager, monitor man, band members… So, yes, I am a businessman. It depends on what interview I'm doing, you know, how I'm gonna answer that, as I said before. But, of course I am… Here's one thing that I should tell you: I sign my own checks. If this is a business article about business, here's something I'll tell you: you be the person that signs your checks. And that took me years to figure out. I had, in SKID ROW, accountants that sometimes I didn't even really know that would handle all the money and sign my checks for me. And you know what? That's not cool. I would say one of the greatest feelings I have is I'm the guy that signs my checks for my company — nobody else has that power, and people have tried to get it. And I'm, like, 'No, I'm the guy that signs checks for Sebastian Bach.' And so that would be a piece of advice that I would say would be good to keep."

Bach fronted SKID ROW until 1996, when he was fired. Instead of throwing in the towel, the remaining members took a hiatus and went on to play briefly in a band called OZONE MONDAY. In 1999, SKID ROW reformed and, after a bit of shuffling over the years, featured a lineup consisting of Bolan, guitarists Sabo and Scotti Hill, alongside drummer Rob Hammersmith and singer Johnny Solinger. SKID ROW fired Solinger over the phone in April 2015, a few hours before announcing ex-TNT vocalist Tony Harnell as his replacement. Eight months later, Harnell exited the band and was replaced by South African-born, British-based singer ZP Theart, who previously fronted DRAGONFORCE, TANK and I AM I. Theart was fired from SKID ROW in February 2022 and was replaced by Erik Grönwall, who was previously a member of the Swedish hard rock band H.E.A.T.

SKID ROW's latest album, "The Gang's All Here", was released in October 2022 via earMUSIC.

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