“We were a bunch of twenty-four year old kids full of piss n’ vinegar playing to eighty thousand people what did they expect?”

skid row Skid Row   An interview with Dave Sabo
One of the best things about doing this is the times you get to sit and chat to people who were a huge inspiration on you growing up. Today was one of those occasions as I found myself sat in a dressing room discussing twenty five years of Skid Row with guitarist Dave Sabo.

Planet Loud – Twenty five years has passed since the first Skid Row album so who is the Skid Row audience today?
Skid Row (Dave) – It runs the gamet from the people who grew up coming to our shows and they’re turning their kids onto us so we’ll see them as well. I think because of that, in certain areas, we’re getting a younger audience that you wouldn’t expect to be into Skid Row and it amazes me. I’ll look out and see the usual suspects and that’s fuckin’ cool then, all of a sudden, I’ll see a 21 year old kid in a Slayer shirt and that’s really something.

Planet Loud – What do you put that down to?
Skid Row (Dave) – Loyalty, man. Especially here in the UK and Europe, fans are very loyal. I look at a band like Saxon for example who can keep touring and putting out records because their fans are loyal and they stick by you. Unfortunately, it’s not that way in the States, we’re very much a fast food nation – we have to have it right now then move on. This was one of the reasons we wanted to do a bunch of EP’s rather than a full album so we always have material coming out in six month increments so we can keep everyone’s attention. The days of releasing a fourteen-song record and touring it are long gone.

Planet Loud – A large percentage of your audience will want to hear a certain era of the band’s material. Is it hard to get the balance right?
Skid Row (Dave) – Of course they will but I don’t think it’s difficult getting that balance right. A lot of bands either do the classics and nothing else or shy away from it. We’re really proud of our history. We’ve been a band for twenty-seven years and been releasing records for twenty-four. We’re proud of all of it – every incarnation of the band has had something to say and you’ve got to stand behind that. I’m really proud of all those songs.

Planet Loud – It must be a good feeling to know that people still want to hear those songs?
Skid Row (Dave) – You know, it bums me out when I hear people saying they hate playing a certain song because they’ve been playing it for thirty years. It amazes me that songs we wrote all that time ago are songs that people have taken as their own. It humbles me. Going back to your previous question though, one of the things about this band is that we love playing live even if we have been the underdogs at time so I don’t think it’s difficult to please everybody because we give it all to ‘em!

Planet Loud – Looking back to when the album came out and your first UK show at the Milton Keynes Bowl, it seems like you went from nothing to magazine cover stars overnight…
Skid Row (Dave) – It was really weird for us because we’d never been anywhere then, all of a sudden, to be on a tour bus on the biggest tour of the United States that year with Bon Jovi was insane. Then, to go to Russia, that was insane, especially for a guy from New Jersey to experience that. After that was the Motley Crue tour and it went from there.

Planet Loud – Playing to seventy-five thousand people in Russia, the Bon Jovi tour, the Motley Crue tour. How much of a headfuck was that?
Skid Row (Dave) – Honestly, not much of one because I’ve always been fairly grounded because of my upbringing. I never viewed anything as if I was owed it, I always viewed it as a gift and was always very thankful for what I’ve achieved.

Planet Loud – But to go from being a band in someone’s garage in New Jersey to that….
Skid Row (Dave) – Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting and, at times, overwhelming but never at point…. actually, here’s something for you. Even to this day, I do question whether I deserved it. I see bands out there who have worked as hard as we have who, for one reason or another, haven’t been able to attain what we’ve attained whereas, there are bands out there who’ve achieved a lot more and I hold no animosity towards those bands either. I’m thankful for what I achieved.

Planet Loud – Would you agree that timing had a big part in your success as every song on your debut album was perfect for that era?
Skid Row (Dave) – Absolutely. It’s weird because you really can’t tell what is going to happen. I’ve seen bands put out material and expect it to do really well and it hasn’t and they can’t figure out why. We put the record out and just couldn’t believe the opportunities we were getting to take the music we had written out to some of these places. You can’t predict that sort of thing. Sales are just numbers though, the thing for me is when you travel to a place and you see somebody sing that song back at you, I get choked up every night seeing that. It means that I was part of something that has affected somebody on an emotional level.

Planet Loud – Another helping hand came in the form of your good friend Jon Bon Jovi who championed the band from day one…
Skid Row (Dave) – God, yeah. Me and Jon have been good friends now for almost thirty-eight years but that was one of the hurdles we had to overcome. Here’s the good thing about Jon – he’s one of my best friends but he wouldn’t do anything for you unless he believed in you and believed you were ready. He wouldn’t say turn your band on to Doc Mcghee now if it sucked because it makes him look bad. When the time was right and we’d been working and working and we’d got feedback from Jon and Ritchie and other people, we started playing and we could all feel this was something special so he put us onto Doc.

Planet Loud – You mentioned the hurdle you had to overcome?
Skid Row (Dave) – Yeah, when we got that first tour, we had to overcome the fact that a lot of people thought we were only there because we were a fabricated band by Jon. They saw me and Jon and the whole brothers in arms thing and some people saw it as nepotism at its highest which, in turn, made us work all that much harder. Then, when those people saw us live, that’s when they started to get it.

Planet Loud – Did that attitude towards the band direct you because the second record seemed to be a bit of a ‘fuck-you’ to everybody?
Skid Row (Dave) – It was and it was important for us to make that record. That is my favourite record and it was important for us in so many different ways. The fact that it shocked a lot of people and we also lost a lot of people because of it – the screaming sixteen year old girls disappeared but I know that we gained a lot of respect amongst our peers and it opened a whole load of new doors for us – like having Pantera on tour with us, having Soundgarden on tour with us. That wouldn’t have happened if we’d not made that record.

Planet Loud – That era of the band was also quite controversial and that seemed to follow you every where you went…
Skid Row (Dave) – Always! Ha! I loved that. The thing is that is what rock n’ roll is all about. You’re playing in front of 80,000 people because of what you believe in. So, for Brent Council to be stupid enough to give us a letter saying we can’t play Get The Fuck Out, what did they think was going to happen? We were a bunch of twenty-four year old kids full of piss n’ vinegar playing to eighty thousand people did they expect us to go ‘duhhh, okay’? The best thing is that, sure, we may have been banned from Wembley for life but we’re part of Wembley history and people are still talking about it this day. The way we dealt with it and the way we went about it was the ultimate fuck-you I think.

Planet Loud – You went mainstream at that point because the daily papers described you as “vile rock stars” and “the most disgusting band on the planet”…
Skid Row (Dave) – Ha, isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

Planet Loud – It didn’t look any less controversial on the home video that came out… Are there any regrets?
Skid Row (Dave) – Ha, there are plenty of home videos that never came out trust me. I have no regrets because I’m here, I’m where I want to be. The fact that we’re now in 2013 and I’m playing sold-out shows is, fuck, it’s huge.

Planet Loud – How different is the vibe in the band now to back in the day when you were, as you put it, twenty-four year old guys full of piss n’ vinegar?
Skid Row (Dave) – You get older, things change a little bit but the essence of what we’re about now is still the same essence as to why we started the band to begin with. I’m still that sixteen year old kid that stands in front of a mirror with a guitar wanting to be Ace Frehley or Randy Rhoads. One of the things me and Rachel still always ask each other when we write a record is “you know why you started doing this band? Can you remember that?” – getting rid of the money and the cars and all that, what was the common denominator that made us want to do this? It was a desire to make music.

Planet Loud – Those priorities are very different now though…
Skid Row (Dave) – Oh sure but we still have to deal with daily bullshit like we did when we were sixteen year olds but back then it was “why won’t that chick fuck me?” or “why is he a better guitar player than me?” or “why can’t I be in a good band?” – those things are just as crucial to you at that point as the modern stuff is to you at this point. What got us through all that was the fuckin’ desire and that unrelenting passion to be a songwriter in a band making music you love and that’s what it is now.

Planet Loud – What advice would you give the young version of you?
Skid Row (Dave) – Nuthin’! I made so many mistakes but you have to make those mistakes. Maybe the one thing I would have told myself would be not to worry so much. Go out and, you’re being afforded an opportunity to see the world, take that in. I didn’t that in as I was so worried about the business and that side of it but that proved invaluable too as I now manage bands so, had I not been like that, maybe I wouldn’t be doing that today as well but, my advice would be to go out and really see the world.

Planet Loud – You can still do that now though…
Skid Row (Dave) – You know, I manage the band Down and I go out with them as much as I can on the road and one of the things that I love is that Pepper Keenan gets up at 8am, even if he’s been up until 4am, like nothing has happened and goes out and really explores whatever city he is in. I absolutely love that about him. I didn’t do that.

Planet Loud – Looking ahead then, what are your plans for 2014?
Skid Row (Dave) – To release another EP then we’ll be back over here in the Summer. It’ll be a really busy year for us.

Planet Loud – Final question. The debut album came out twenty-five years ago – anything special planned?
Skid Row (Dave) – You know, I haven’t even thought about it. We’re constantly asked about a reunion and have been since the twentieth anniversary and the offers have been phenomenal but, for me, I don’t know, at this point I don’t have an interest in it. Again, it’s not like I have any hatred for it or anything like that, I’m where I’m at right now and it feels really good.

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