Skid Row is back with their second record featuring vocalist Johnny Solinger and their first since 2003's Thickskin. The record, Revolutions Per Minute, sounds fresh and the band isn't immediately identifiable from its "Youth Gone Wild" days. The constant, however, is the high level of songwriting from bassist Rachel Bolan, and guitarists Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill. The material is not as anthem-y but all the songs are well crafted and delivered with a sincerity of a band in it for the long haul, not just the grand slam. This time out, though, sports a couple of left turns. "You Lie" is a country-rock song that wouldn't sound out of place on a Hank Williams III record or the Rebel Meets Rebel CD. "When God Can't Wait" is like a Slade song, that you might hear in a British pub somewhere.
I spoke to Rachel Bolan this week as the band was gearing up for the record's release. As a long-time Skids fan, it was terrific to talk to one of the band's founders to get the latest news. Here's what he had to say:
antiMUSIC: It's been a few years since the last record. What's been going on since the end of the "Thickskin" tour?
Rachel: Well, we've been doing a lot over the past couple of years. A couple of circumstances came up like Snake's mom passing away and Snake's carpel tunnel. That kind of delayed us putting the record out. Everything happens for a reason so here we are in 2006 we have a new record that we're all really proud of and goes off in a bunch of different directions which we love. That was the whole idea.
antiMUSIC: What can you tell us about your new record?
Rachel: Well it's not your mama's Skid Row record that's for damn sure. (laughs) The title Revolutions per Minute speaks loudly. It just a...there's no ballads. And anything we wrote...if it was quality, it went on the record. And we go in a bunch of different directions. It's cool man. It's not what you would expect out of us. I mean it's us. It's still got the Skid Row stamp on it and there's stuff that's traditionally Skid Row. We have a few songs that sound like, you know, a skinhead would put it on, and pump his fists to and yell: "oi". And then we have stuff that you know maybe a guy riding a horse with a punk rock chick on the back of his saddle would listen to. (laughs) Once you hear it, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.
antiMUSIC: It's still got that same Skid Row spirit.
Rachel: Absolutely. We had a lot of fun doing it and all the interviews I've been doing, people that have heard it, were saying it sounds like a very young, young record, which is really cool. God knows we're not that young anymore but we still have the spirit in us.
antiMUSIC: I imagine that skinhead element comes from your direction?
Rachel: Well you know, it's a song called, "When God Can't Wait". You know, I shouldn't really say skinhead because that kind of paints a violent light over things, but you know, it's just one of those punk rock songs that makes you want to break something. Scotty came up with the music and he said "I don't know if you're going to dig this, but here, check this out." And we had gone to Dallas just to write some songs, and I loved it. And then, you know, I wrote some lyrics to it and we kept tweaking it here and there and brought it to the guys and everyone loved it so, um, it's cool. It's really, really cool.
antiMUSIC: What are some of the songs that you're most excited about?
Rachel: For the first time in a long time, we did a cover and we covered the song "Strength", by The Alarm and it came out really cool. We weren't sure...you know, when we were talking about doing covers we were like, let's do something from the eighties. And then we were thinking a lot of metal songs and stuff and
we all decided, no let's do something that no one would expect us to do. So we did that. And it actually came out really, really cool.
antiMUSIC: Did Johnny contribute to the writing process much this time around?
Rachel: Well, I wrote most of the stuff. I mean there was a song that Scotty and I wrote and then, I think a song that Snake and I wrote. And then the cover. But I wrote most of the stuff myself. But I mean, honestly, it's not a Skid Row song until everyone puts their feel into it. It's always been that way, you know. and you know, I could write all the songs in the world for this band but the fact is , if it doesn't have Johnny's feel vocally, it's not going to be a Skid Row song, you know. The same with Scotty and Snake and then Dave. You know writing is important but it's really a Skid Row song once everyone puts their feeling into it.
antiMUSIC: Any significance to the record title "Revolutions per Minute"?
Rachel: Yeah, I mean, obviously, it's a term for speed. The more Revolutions per Minute, the faster you go, which kind of sums up where we're going with this record. But also, a revolution being an abrupt change, and a forced change, it just sounds a lot different from the stuff we've done before so it kinda tied into each other real quick, without even knowing it.
antiMUSIC: You've gone back to Michael Wagener who did the production and who did the first two Skids records. What was it about Michael that made you choose him? Where was it recorded?
Rachel: We recorded it at his studio called Wire World, right outside Nashville, Tennessee. Michael and I stayed really close since "Lay it to the Ground", so he's like a brother to me. We'd been talking about, let's do another record together. We'd been talking about it for a while. So we just, you know, we both had the opportunity to do it, and you know we played him some of the demos, and he said, oh my god, this is going to be so much fun. And we told him, we don't want to do any ballads. We're not worried about radio. We're not worried about who to impress. Anything like that. And his quote, which is typical Michael, he goes: "So you just want to have fun then, right?" Laughs. I'm like: "Absof***inglutely. Laughs. That's what we want to do."
antiMUSIC: You're on SPV now. Any particular reason you signed with them?
Rachel: We did a European deal with them on the last record. And they did a great job. So we tried doing it on our own label and it was cool, but it was a lot of work, you know, it was all in house, and it was a lot of work. And when we gave them the option to pick it up around the world and they liked the idea, to have it all under one roof. So we really liked working with that label. There's a lot of good people at that label, a lot of hard worker and they understand us. And that's the best part of the whole thing; they understand what we're trying to achieve. And they understand the band, and they're behind the music so, it was a no-brainer.
antiMUSIC: What changes, if any, did Dave Gara bring to the band?
Rachel: He makes us laugh a lot. (laughs) He has his own style of playing obviously, but I mean he's a good dude. You know, with every band, you get bummed out, things don't always go your way, but the guy's always upbeat so it's good to have someone like that in the band.
antiMUSIC: Most of the band's songs are co-written by you and Snake. How does the actual process work? Do you each have ideas that you collaborate on or does one do lyrics and the other melody or what?
Rachel: When we write, for instance the song that Scotty and I wrote, "When God Can't Wait", like I say, we got together in Dallas just to get away from everything. We got in the hotel room and he's like: I got this idea. We just went from that.
Snake and I, same thing. We'll play stuff to each other, or song title, or hey, I've got an idea for a story, for a song, and just, you know, things just start coming out. But it's never like any kind of regimented process, you know what I mean. It's not like it's going though…it's not a cookie cutter thing, where it's like, okay this is where we write songs, and we do it like this all the time, and that's that. It just kind of comes out. We could be in a car and, hey, I've got a great idea for a song. Next time we're together I'll play it for you. And we'll get together maybe two days later, or two months, and we'll screw around with it.
antiMUSIC: The last time I saw you was on the KISS tour. Were you nervous breaking in a new front man on a tour of that size or do you believe in Baptism by Fire? I guess it's no different than you guys going out on the Bon Jovi tour on the first record?
Rachel: I totally believe…that seemed to be the phrase of the year, you know. baptize by fire. Johnny was in the band for, I don't know, four weeks, five weeks something like that, and we went out with KISS. And you know what, if you're going to do it, you might as well do it big (laughs).
antiMUSIC: Go big or go home.
Rachel: Yeah, Exactly. He stepped up and he did it. And on that tour, it was the first time, what paper was it, I think it was the LA Times or something, it was the first time we ever got a good live review. They said then, quote: Johnny Salinger stepped up to bat and hit a home run." And so we were like, ok, finally. They like us here. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: I guess it's no different than you guys on your first tour going out with Bon Jovi. You're used to the pressure.
Rachel: Yeah, you know what? Pressure's good. I mean we work best under pressure for sure.
antiMUSIC: Was it kind of fun to sit back and watch how Johnny handled things now that he was in a band that had such a high-profile, with you having been through all that previously?
Rachel: Yeah, you know what...it was fun to watch him go through what we went through years before and he handled it like a champ, you know? And sometimes we'd be like, man. Sometime there would be a couple of questions here and there, like "I don't know, what does this person expect, and what does that person expect". And it's like: you know what dude, just go out there and be yourself, go out there and kick ass and sing, and you'll do fine.
antiMUSIC: So what's new with the Quazimotors? (Jonathan Callicutt - guitar, lead vocals, Rachel Bolan - bass, lead vocals, Dave Gara - drums, backing vocals)
Rachel: They're on the back burner because it's all Skid Row land. (laughs) I'm in Skid Row land full force.
antiMUSIC: What's the latest with your Motor Sports company? Were you racing much this summer?
Rachel: Haven't been able to race in a while. I'm building a methanol burning go-cart that I've been putting together for a while but honestly with Skid Row I've been so damn busy I haven't had a chance to really get out there. I've had a couple of go cart races that came up but I wasn't around that weekend, but I really do miss it though.
antiMUSIC: The album comes out in mid-October. What are your plans…hitting the road right away?
Rachel: It comes out Oct. 24 and I think the first show is going to be Oct 31 and as plans go right now it's Kings X and Nashville Pussy opening for us. Yeah, the first leg is going to be six weeks in the US. We're going to take a Christmas break, take January off. Go back out in Feb. and probably by spring-time head over to Europe and we've got some stuff in Australia and Japan as well.
antiMUSIC: That's all the questions I have for you, Rachel. Anything else you want to tell me about the record or the band that I didn't ask?
Rachel: We've got some cools sponsors on board. We got Gibson Guitars and actually a go-cart company called Andretti Indoor Carting, that's really into Skid Row backing us so everything's cool. Other than that, I think we covered it.
antiMUSIC: Man, it was a real pleasure getting to speak with you. Thanks for this and all the best with the new record.
Rachel: Thanks brother. I appreciate it man. Okay dude. See ya.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Rachel Bolan for doing this interview.