banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW: DAVE “SNAKE” SABO of Skid Row, July 2014

| 16 July 2014 | Reply

Once in a great while, a rocker from your youth comes along anf offers you the opportunity to shoot the shit and talk about their latest release.  I was recently afforded that opportunity with “Snake.”  If you are familiar with my youth, you know exactly who I am refering to – Dave “Snake” Sabo of Skid Row.  It was a blast for me to sit and chat with Dave about Skid Row’s latest, him even talking about the latest piece of Ruin Porn near Detroit, and our love of Pine Knob…


Toddstar: Hello “Snake.”

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Hey Todd.

Toddstar: Hey, man, appreciate you taking time out for us today. We really appreciate you.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Not a problem. Thank you.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about the big news: new release from Skid Row, Rise of the Damnation Army. What can you tell us about this monster that’s going to drop here in just under a month?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: This is the continuation of what we started last year with Chapter One. It’s the second of three EPs that we’ll be releasing. This is a new way of doing things for us. Times change, and people’s attention spans are being challenged every day. We’re bombarded by information left and right … always, and more so now than ever. I think that we wanted to figure out a way that … we didn’t ask too much of out of the listening audience, really, just six or seven song and hope you enjoy it, and hope it leaves you wanting more which we will hopefully deliver six or eight months from now. We’re so situated to do it this way because it … everything, it cuts out on a process. It’s a lot cheaper to do, so therefore we can place it retail for a cheaper price so it doesn’t break the bank for everybody. It’s less pressure from a song-writing perspective, and you’re only in the studio for a couple weeks so you don’t get bored and pissy. You’re in and out. You go out and you basically tour for six or eight months, unlike what we used to do where you release a record and you’re touring on it for the better part of two years. I think that it works best for everybody. Very much it keeps us in the moment. We didn’t sit there and write 20 songs to spread out over three pieces. We write each EP right before we want to release it, and that keeps us very much in the moment and very much focused on the task at hand. It’s a lot more fun. It’s this process of making this last EP has been … to be honest with you, has been really the best experience I’ve had at making a Skid Row record in the 25 or whatever years we’ve been making records. From start to finish it was awesome. Rachel and I seemed to be on the same page from day one, and every moment of it was awesome. We worked really hard on it, but it was a pleasure to do. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like we were creating something really cool and something that we would both look back on go, “Man, this is really awesome. I like listening to this record. I’m proud of what we’ve done.” All those things wrapped up together … I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to do. Most records that we’ve made in the past, just about all of them, once we were done making them I’ve barely listened to them at all. That’s not because I didn’t like them or anything, I just was over and done with it and ready to move on. With this one I find myself checking it out more often than not, which is pretty cool.

Toddstar: I’ve been checking it out constantly since I received the stream of it. This thing kicks off killer with, “We are the Damned,” and it sets the tone. Then you guys threw in a couple bonus tracks at the end, a couple covers, cool covers, great take on “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Rats in the Cellar,” which is miles beyond the original in my opinion … just the way you guys attacked it. You guys really just went at it. You’ve got the band, the brothers, the three of you, yourself, Rachel and Scotty, who have been there from the beginning. Do you find that you guys are as hungry now as you were back in ’86, ’87, ’88?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I think in a different way … in a different way. Like you said, when Rachel and I started the band in ’86 we certainly had lofty ambitions, but to think that we’d still be doing this together 28 years later is just … it’s an incredible feeling. The same with Scotty as well. Our hunger was really pronounced back then, obviously. I think from an emotional standpoint, our hunger is still as intense, just in a different way. The desire to make great music is always the same. For better of for worse, whether you’ve liked our music or not liked our music, we’ve never half-assed it. We’ve never sat there and settled. We’ve always beat our brains in to write the best song that we’re capable of at that particular time. Sometimes it’s great songs and sometimes it’s not, that’s the way life is; but the intent behind it is always the same, which is we’re really focused and we don’t settle. We’ll sit there and write and rewrite and rewrite, and change until we both feel really comfortable with where it’s at, to the point that we’re like, “This is as good as it’s going to get.” We could sit there and go, “Okay, here, let’s just go A, G, D, A, G, D, A, G, D, and then first part we’ll just go to E. There we go; we got a song. It’s never like that. It’s got to mean something. It’s got to mean something strong, too, regardless of what this song subject is about. It’s got to be strong. It can’t be, again, half-assed. We wouldn’t be able to live with that, to be quite honest. That hunger remains. It’s inherent. Back then the hunger was, “Okay, we’ve got to form a great band, a band that I’d want to go see live.” You do that, and while we’re doing that we need to rehearse, practice, and write as many great songs as we possible can, and hopefully we can get a record. Those specific goals are obviously different now because it’s a different day and age, but the intensity of which we go after songwriting and which we go after our live shows and things like that, that hasn’t changed.

Toddstar: That’s good to know. Can’t wait to see you guys come back through Detroit.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Such a great city, man. Such a great rock and roll city. You guys have had so many problems, I feel terrible, but the heart of that city beats strong.

Toddstar: We love Skid Row, that’s for damn sure.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Thank you.

Toddstar: Getting back to Rise of the Damnation Army, like you said, it’s part 2 of a trilogy. What I liked about it was you guys didn’t take the Chapter One, that you came out last year and rehash the sound. You built on it, but it seems more aggressive. Is there something that took place for you guys in the last year that dialed up an intensity for you guys?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I think that what happened is that, when we start writing anything, Rach and I, we always have a discussion. Even though we talk to each other literally every day on the phone, or with each other every day, and it’s been that way for 28 years, we feel a need to talk, have a conversation, about our lives together and as individuals, and our families. These things often lead to … that’s the emotional soul of us as people, are those things that are most important to you which is your family and your friendships and those aspects of life. What we before we started writing this EP was we were like, “Man, what’s the essence of why we do this? We’ve been doing it for so long, the better part of our lives, our whole adult lives. Why do we do this? What’s the essence of why we do this? What’s the spirit and the soul of it?” We got back to discovering, rediscovering I should say, when you’re this 16-year-old kid life’s problems, they may seem mundane from an adult perspective now, but they still had the same intensity as real-life problems that we have in the year 2014. The problems may seem mundane in 1986, they still had such strong impact on us. There were these things that interrupted our lives, that they had such an effect on us that we had to deal, and by dealing with it was often through music. Our music was the great escape. Our music was how we expressed ourselves because we didn’t know how else to express ourselves in the purest way. Our speaking voices weren’t doing the trick. Isolating ourselves wasn’t doing the trick. It was music. It was music that the great healer and the great liberator. Getting back to that, all of a sudden it was like, “Holy shit, man. That’s who we are. We’re still those people. We’re still that 16-year-old kid who wants to stand in front of the mirror with a guitar and pretend to be Gene Simmons or Ace Frehley, or Steve Harris, or Randy Rhodes, or whomever. That essence of it still exists. Once we got that light-bulb effect, it was like, “Okay, now we’ve just got to strip everything else away, and that has got to be at the forefront.” You shut off your phone, you turn off the TV, you lock the doors, you get an acoustic guitar, and you get a bunch of beers. You just sit there with your buddy and start jamming. Sometimes stuff comes immediately; sometimes it takes a while. That’s the way it’s always been. The thing that was different about this is that we recognized … really, really, really recognized … where it all starts at, and then went back to that. Maybe that’s what you’re hearing. It’s … what a liberating experience. This record has been the most fun for me out of every record that we’ve done as a band. It was such a great pleasure to do. Oftentimes making a record can be so arduous in the negative way, but this we worked really hard at it. It was awe-inspiring in so many ways. Everybody was on it. Rachel and I especially were on the same page. We seemed to finish each other’s thoughts with everything, and very minor disagreements at best. The great thing about situations like that nowadays as compared to back in the day was that we’re able to trust in each other so much that, if someone had this undeniable gut feeling about something, regardless of what the other guy’s brain might be telling them, we’re going to go with that gut feeling. We’ll trust the soul of the individual more so that maybe the brain, at least when it comes to creativity. We are able to throw our egos aside. I’ll readily admit that, back in the day, there was many times where we would sit there as individuals and fight for something that we wrote because we wrote it. “I wrote it, so it’s got to be great. It is great, and don’t tell me it’s not;” whereas, now … it wasn’t great, and thankfully someone said it wasn’t great and pushed hard enough to make it better. We don’t go through those arguments anymore. We’re really respectful of each others’ abilities, and we also can leave our ego, for the most part, at the door for the betterment of us all.


Toddstar: Very cool. Let’s talk about you for a minute. You haven’t been doing this for three minutes. This has been something you’ve been doing damn near your whole life. When you guys are getting ready to take this out on the road and you’re going to play for the masses, but when you’re starting to plan out [inaudible 00:13:44], what’s the one or two things from home that you think to yourself, “I can’t leave home without?”

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Pictures of my family. When I’m home I’m smart enough to take pictures of the kids and my girl and the dog, and everything that makes my whole life so amazing that I don’t deserve it. Before we leave I have to get myself in a mindset. I always stress so hard before we go out on the road over really nothing. I literally have to be my own therapist and get myself into the proper frame of mind. I don’t really need reminding of the fact of how lucky we are, but when sometimes that gets shrouded a little bit by life in general, so basically just uncover everything and get back to the fact that we are so damned fortunate and lucky to be able to do this for a living night in and night out. As soon as I sit there and remind myself of that, all is good. All is good. We don’t look at what we do for a living as a birthright. We look at it as a privilege, and it’s an absolute privilege to be able to out and play in front of people, make music and play music for a living. I think a lot of people have forgotten how fortunate they are to be able to do this for a living, regardless of whatever scale you do it on. We don’t. We’re constantly reminded of it, of how lucky we are, by sheer fact that people actually went out and put their hard-earned money down to purchase a ticket to come see us play. They could have done anything. They could have done anything, and they decided to buy that ticket to come see our band. To me, that in and of itself simply is such a humbling act by strangers that it is the greatest compliment in the world. It is such a heavy thing to us that we are really aware of how much of a privilege it is to be able to play music for these people.

Toddstar: Anybody who’s known you, read about you, talked to you … I had a privilege years ago at Pine Knob in years past to speak with you.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Love Pine Knob.

Toddstar: Anybody who knows you knows that one of your biggest influences ever is Ace Frehley; but you’re quite a songwriter and craftsman where Ace was more of a guitar guy. Who really influenced you to want to be a good songwriter?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Oh, my gosh, man. It’s so funny. I used to say this, and it really is true. From a songwriting perspective, I was influenced so much more than the hotshot guitar players. I always wanted to, or aspired to be, like the hotshot guy and play faster and whatever than anybody. Obviously, I failed at that, but I think what was more pronounced for me was the art of songwriting. I think that really came into effect when I met Rachel because it’s one of those serendipitous things in life that you meet somebody that does things in areas better than you do, but you might have the ability to do certain things better than that person does, so combined there’s this wealth of creativity going around. As far as really influencing me from the get-go, it started out with guys like the great songwriting partners, whether it’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, but more so Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, the Van Halens, guys that had great abilities as instrumentalists but had just as great ability, if not more so, in writing a song. It was always the song that mattered to me more so than anything. You can play the greatest solo in the world, but if it’s not contained within a great song it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Luckily I learned that early on. I was a fan of great songs, and that came into the foreground because of my upbringing. I was raised … I’m the youngest of five boys, and there was constant music going around in my house. There is a 20-year differential between myself and my older brother, so just picture that, all the different types of music that encompassed in that 20-year span between the two of us. You had everything from Elvis to the Beach Boys to Motown to Hendrix, to Sabbath, to Procol Harum, Janis Joplin, Montrose, Humble Pie, Frampton, Springsteen … it was just … holy crap! My house was the greatest radio station in the world. I didn’t even know it was having a profound effect on me, because it taught me to love music for music’s sake, not because it’s as part of a genre or anything. I didn’t know anything about genres. I could love a Jackson Five song as much as I could love a Springsteen song or a Kiss song or a Judas Priest song. It’s just great music, it’s great music … so thankfully. There were no boundaries as far as what got played in my house. There’s just all such great music. It had such a wonderful impact upon my life.

Toddstar: Sounds like you went through my CD collection.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: It’s pretty interesting. Again, I remember vividly being such a young kid, preteen, and just this great music was always playing in my house. What a great house to grow up in, just with music and the joy of it. My mom’s singing Elvis Presley songs, and I’m hearing Brian Wilson’s Beach Boy songs. I didn’t know what writing a song was. I didn’t know anything. I just knew that, “Oh, my gosh, this is so great.” It wasn’t until I got older and got into playing music and writing that I went back and starting dissecting these great songs and going, “Oh, my gosh. These people are absolute geniuses.” Prince … all of these people are just geniuses.

Toddstar: Speaking of great songs or great albums, if there was one song or album in the history of time that you wish you could put your stamp on, what would it be?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: That changes from day to day, in all honesty. Today it might be Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Toddstar: Classic.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: That’s today. Tomorrow it might be Van Halen’s Fair Warning.

Toddstar: Fair enough. It changes for me all the time as well. Other than the newest release from Skid Row, what’s the last album or disc or MP3 or whatever you use …

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I still use albums and CDs.

Toddstar: … what the last thing you listened to besides your own stuff?

Dave “Snake” Sabo: The last thing I was listening to was this band called Rival Schools. It’s Walter Schreifels who was in another band, Quicksand. It’s his band, and they came out with a record. They just came out with a record last year as well, but the first record they came out with was 10 years ago, 11 years ago, and I still listen to it from front to back. That was literally the last thing I was listening to on the plane flight out here.

Toddstar: Cool. I know you’re busy. I’ve got one more for you, if you don’t mind.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Yeah, sure.

Toddstar: I’m going to make you open up and peel it back for a second, Dave “Snake” Sabo. At this day and age, with everything that has gone on in your lives … You’re a successful musician, you’re still putting disks, you’ve been doing this, like you said, for 28 years with one of your best friends; and life is good. You’ve got kids, you’ve got your girl at home, you’ve got your dog, and you’re going out on the road. For you, right now at this point in time, what is the meaning of life?


Dave “Snake” Sabo: I’m living it. To be wake up happy and go to sleep happy, and to be benevolent and humble.

Toddstar: Excellent. I wouldn’t have expected any less from you. Listen, Dave “Snake” Sabo, I really appreciate it. Forget journalism. I’m a fan first, loved Skid Row from day one. I love the fact that you’re still out there pounding it.

Dave “Snake” Sabo:    Thank you, brother. I really appreciate your time, and it was very cool of you to take the time to talk to me today. I appreciate it.

Toddstar: We’ll talk to you very soon again.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Are those people that bought the Silver Dome ever going to restore it, or are they going to leave it like it is?

Toddstar: Fuck, dude. Actually about a year ago they took the roof down because it got so damaged by weather.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Yeah, I saw it.

Toddstar: I’d love to see them do something with it. That’s where I saw my first concert; it was Kiss and Cheap Trick in ’79. That’s where I saw my very first concert.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I can’t believe that whole thing sold for $580,000.

Toddstar: I drove by it the other day with a buddy of mine, and we couldn’t believe … it doesn’t even look like the Silver Dome without the roof inflated.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I know. It’s terrible. Hopefully something great will come out of it, because that place was awesome.

Toddstar: You’ll never play the Silver Dome, but let’s get your ass back out to Pine Knob, well, they call it DTE Energy Music Theatre, but let’s …

Dave “Snake” Sabo: I know. It’s always Pine Knob to me, though.

Toddstar: Cool, Dave “Snake” Sabo. Hang tough, enjoy the road trip you’re getting ready to hit, and again, hopefully we’ll see you in Detroit real soon.

Dave “Snake” Sabo: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it, bud. Bye-bye.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad