Sebastian Bach is a big dude. You know how celebrities are always supposed to be smaller than you think? Jon Bon Jovi's about my height, and I'm 5'8". I met him in a restaurant in San Jose, Ca. a decade ago. Sebastian, the ex-Skid Row frontman, is huge. 6'3".
We're at 30 Rock, the NBC Universal mothership in New York, where he's just popped out of shooting a segment with Access Hollywood. He's kindly agreed to meet me after, in what feels like a giant closet, because it's quiet, and you know, I'm recording a podcast.
Here's a guy who joined a band in the mid-'80s, debut album went multi platinum, second album debuted at number one. He was the prettiest of the metal pretty boys, and he earned a bad-boy reputation, too.
But the most remarkable thing? He changed. Skid Row broke up after Sebastian booked them as an opening act for KISS, which the other band members thought was beneath them. And of course, after Sebastian himself attracted a lot of the wrong kind of controversy with his temper and his mouth. That didn't help.
But that was just the beginning of his story. Bach went on as a solo act, did some reality TV, and did four major turns on Broadway. He scored a recurring role on Gilmore Girls. Along the way, he picked up a few lessons he shared with me on Fortt Knox. Stream the full conversation below, and click here to subscribe to Fortt Knox on Apple's Podcast app & iTunes, Google Play, and more.
Be the Guy Who Signs the Checks
"One thing that I learned that made me enjoy money more is that in my band, I'm the guy who signs the checks," Bach told me. "My manager's over here going, 'You need a business manager!' but the thing is, when I sign the checks, I know where every dollar goes."
Back in the Skid Row days, he didn't sign the checks. And he didn't see much of the money, then or later. In his solo career, he decided to dive into the tedious stuff.
"I have one inspiration for that. His name is Chuck Berry. He goes to the gig in his station wagon with his briefcase. There's a band ready for him. He gets out, he gets paid before he plays. He steps out on the stage, does his show, gets his briefcase, gets back in the car and splits. He signs the checks and he gets paid. That would be my advice to any businessman."
Don't Do What's Expected of You
"One of the things I would have to remind people of over and over is, I really hate the term Hair Metal, or '80s Rock, or Spandex, or Lipstick .... See I don't know what they could be talking about," he says, chuckling and flipping back his still-long blond locks.
He's evoking his sense of humor, but underneath he's kind of serious. When he first auditioned for Skid Row, he says, he had to rewrite the melodies to some of the songs because to him they sounded too much like Bon Jovi. He's always had this aversion to being predicable.
That probably explains why he did Broadway before it was obviously cool.
"It's a long, tricky process for me to put my name on something, whether it's Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway, or Jesus Christ Superstar, or The Gilmore Girls, or Skid Row, or this book. There's an emotional connection that I have with my fans."
Bide Your Time
Even when people tell you it's over, it's not necessarily over. Bach split with Skid Row 20 years ago, but the impression he made on fans who are now grown up remains strong.
"I went to Elon Musk's house for a party. He's like, 'Sebastian Bach, I can't believe that you're here.' And I go, 'Dude, you're inventing, like, time travel. Like, I play in a band.' They wanted to hang out with the dude that plays rock 'n' roll. I was like, this is crazy. I want to hang out with the guy that invents the Hyperloop."