Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan is in rock ‘n’ roll heaven. He and his band mates are opening for Kiss’ farewell tour.
It’s enough to take him back to his youth gone wild in New Jersey.
“I was a card-carrying member of the Kiss Army,” Bolan said recently. “I had my 8-by-10s of each guy and the 8-by-10 group shot. I had the patch and everything. I’m sure I still have them. I even have the comic books. I also have all the solo albums by each guy that came out the same day, with the posters inside. A friend of mine’s dad was a DJ and he got me a one-album thing where it had two songs from each solo record, it was just for a radio.
“I was telling (Kiss guitarist) Paul (Stanley) the other day – they were playing video clips when they were in the ’70s – music’s like a photograph in time, and you watch all this footage and it brings back the coolest memories. I tell them some stuff, how much they mean to me, but now that we know them better, I don’t want to bombard them. They probably get it all day long. I mean, Gene (Simmons) knows he’s the reason I picked up the bass. I’ve made that point clear.”
As one era comes to a close, another has surprisingly continued.
Four years ago, Bolan and guitarists Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill fully expected it to be the end of the line for Skid Row after flamboyant lead singer Sebastian Bach and drummer Rob Affuso departed. It seemed the group’s success – Top-10 hits “18 and Life” and “I Remember You”; an album (“Slave to the Grind”) that debuted at No. 1; an American Music Award for favorite new artist, heavy metal/hard rock – were a thing of the past.
Bolan wondered if it was time to move on.
“Things were in such bad shape at the time,” he said. “I always knew there’d be a Skid Row, but I didn’t know in what capacity. Snake and I weren’t ready to close the lid and put the dirt on top of the whole thing. We said, ‘Let’s do other stuff and see where it goes.’ Then it came full circle, we decided to put the band back together and look for a singer.”
After hiring Charlie Mills to replace Affuso, the band auditioned scores of singers. The very last one was Dallas native John Solinger.v “He was a friend of a friend,” Bolan said. “My friend said, ‘Check out this guy’s Web site.’ He had some audio and video stuff; I heard his voice and I called Snake and said, ‘I think I just found our new lead singer.’
“When he came up for the audition, I was sold pretty much halfway into the first song. You always know when a person walks through a door that they have that X-factor to get onstage and for people to listen to what he’s saying. You could just tell when he walked in. He sang his ass off.
“Then we let him stew down in Texas for like two weeks. We didn’t call him; we wanted to see how bad he wanted it. I’d get a call about every three days from him, saying ‘How’s things going?’ I’m like, ‘Things are great. The weather’s beautiful up here. Hey, I gotta go, I’ll call you back.’ Two weeks went by, and I called him. I said, ‘I got bad news, and I got good news.’ He said, ‘What’s the bad news?’ I said, ‘Dallas ain’t gonna make it to the Super Bowl.’ ‘What’s the good news?’ ‘You’ve got 20 songs to learn in a week.’ I sent him the set list; within that week, we got the Kiss tour, and I called him back and said, ‘The pressure just went up tenfold.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘We’re going out on tour with Kiss and (Ted) Nugent.’ He was freaking out.”
The rejuvenated Skid Row had less than two weeks to prepare for the massive Kiss farewell tour, but Bolan says they have never shied away from a challenge.
“This is like a brand new beginning for us,” he said. “It’s fun again to the point where we all actually eat dinner at the same restaurant. Everything’s new, and we get along great. We hang out with each other, we talk to each other constantly when we’re home.
“The addition of Johnny and Charlie, it’s really done the band a lot of good. It’s given us this new fuel. And now that we’re on the Kiss tour, it feels like a torch is being passed. My manager said that to me last night; he goes, ‘Look at this as the passing of a torch.’ I’m like, ‘I have no problem with that.’ ”
The true test is how fans react to the new faces in Skid Row. Bolan says he sees how quickly Solinger wins them over every night.
“In the Lubbock Times, I think, after we played Lubbock, they had put the tour on the front page,” Bolan said. “They said there was a nostalgic feel to Kiss and Ted Nugent, but Skid Row still had raw energy that gave them the edge back in the ’80s. That was a really good thing to hear because we do; we feel like a brand new band out of the box going out doing what we love to do. When that’s translated to people who are watching us, that psyches us up.
“You still have your small percentage of naysayers who want to see us fall flat on our asses, but that ain’t gonna happen. It’s their choice if they want to come along for the ride or not. We hope they do.”
After the end of the tour, Skid Row expects to go into the studio for the first time since the 1995 album “Subhuman Race.”
“Fans can expect that we’ll have pretty much the same mindset we’ve always had,” Bolan said. “We write songs that get us off, because we know it’ll get the Skid Row fan off. It’s going to be non-thinking rock ‘n’ roll, like we used to do. You’re not supposed to think when you’re listening to rock ‘n’ roll; it’s supposed to be fun. Big dumb rock is back. That’s what we’re all about. Low IQ, high RPM.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ on 8-track. I’m the fourth out of four kids and there was always music in the house. Obviously my brother was a big Rolling Stones fan so he took me to a record store and I ended up with ‘Sticky Fingers.’ I was probably 5 or 6. When I heard ‘Bitch,’ I thought I was going to get punished. I’m like, ‘Oh, my god, he keeps saying bitch. I better turn that song down.’ ”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Kiss. It was Dec. 22, 1978; Kiss with Piper, Billy Squier’s old band opening at the Philadelphia Spectrum. It was general admission. I went with a friend of mine and convinced my big sister to take us. It was freezing out. I remember my sister not being happy at all about the whole thing, then she came out of the show and she was a Kiss fan. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “Just the other day, I bought Blink-182’s ‘Enema of the State.’ I like them a lot. As far as the so-called new punk movement, Green Day and Blink-182 are the definitive standouts.”
BWF (before we forget): Skid Row’s a slave to the grind on the Web @ www.atlantic-records.com. … The Skid Row album discography – “Skid Row” (Atlantic, 1989); “Slave to the Grind” (1991); “B-Side Ourselves” (1992); “Subhuman Race” (1995); “40 Seasons – The Best of Skid Row” (1998).