I’m trading hair-care secrets with Sebastian Bach. Or, more accurately, the former Skid Row frontman—now a 48-year-old solo artist, Gilmore Girls cast member, and author of a new memoir, 18 and Life on Skid Row—is telling me about hair. I’ve asked how he’s managed to keep his tousled golden mane so rock-perfect since the ’90s, which, coincidentally, is around the time I stopped hanging his poster on my bedroom wall.
“It’s like a lawn,” he tells me. “Just fucking leave it. Let it go. Do you ever see bums with short hair? No, they’ve all got kick-ass long fucking hair, lying in the street. Fucking let it be a bum.”
His wife, Suzanne, whom he married a little over a year ago, is sitting next to him. “We use keratin,” she says. Bach interjects, his voice both raspy and fulsome, ratcheting up in volume when he feels strongly about something: “If you must know the truth, at my age it’s necessary for me to have the Brazilian blowout.” He runs his fingers through his hair. “This is the Brazilian blowout, ladies.”
This interview has been a long time coming. I’d wanted to meet Sebastian Bach since I was a shy 12-year-old with a dad chaperone at a Skid Row concert in Huntsville, Alabama. Nearly 30 years later, I’m waiting at the Breslin to interview the dude from the poster I used to kiss before bed.
Then Bach strides in, an imposing figure with that mane of hair and tight red zipper-laden pants tucked into cowboy boots. I feel a palpitation in the region of my heart. In part, it’s recognition, as with a long-lost friend. He’s the sort of celebrity people reach out and talk to, reach out and touch. “Great show the other night!” says one woman, whom he promptly high-fives. (Sebastian Bach loves high-fives; I get at least two, and a fist-bump, in the span of the interview.) Even the maître d’, who had been politely annoyed at my insistence on a quiet table, melts at the sight of Bach, smiling genuinely as he shows us to a booth in the back.
I confess, I started to like Bach while reading his memoir. This is not because it contains elegant metaphorical language or deep introspections about the nature of humanity and/or rock ‘n’ roll. It’s choppy in parts and sometimes reads like it was dictated, which it was. “It was a fucking nightmare, because what it involves is countless hours just sitting behind your computer screen,” he says. “You got to have quiet. Everybody’s got to get out of your way. You’ve got to be a dick about it. That’s the only way I can remember those times.” His recall of the ’80s and ’90s is impressive, I tell him. Especially given ”all those substances and situations,” he adds. “I used to go to The Rainbow in L.A. and complete strangers would shake my hand and pass me a bindle of coke, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, thanks, man. Who are you?’” Now: “Obviously, I don’t do cocaine. I hate that shit.”
The memoir delivers what you’d expect from a hard-partying headbanger: drinking and drugs and debaucherous sex; cameos from Axl Rose, Vince Neil, Bon Jovi; bloody fights and a scene in which Bach’s nose is broken by a Hell’s Angel. It’s enjoyable and insidery and sometimes shocking. The emotion is what surprises me, the guilelessness. This book is full of earnest, sweet, and even occasionally dorky declarations, like “What would I say is the biggest lesson I learned in life? When you find true love, you better hold on to that.”
What I learn is: Sebastian Bach is not faking it. He’s a filter-free Instagram—what you see is what you get—and I suspect he’s always been this way, unhindered by the sense of shame or inhibitions so many of us walk around with daily. That made him an erratic, magnetic figure in his youth; now he’s thoughtful about music and life, and really goddamned psyched about continuing to be here.
“I’m very happy today,” he tells me. “I really got into this business because I love to make stuff. I live for that feeling.” Which is why a former rock idol would deign to do stints on Broadway, or play a long-in-the-tooth musician jamming with a bunch of teens on a popular TV show. He has no qualms shouting, “Hollaback Girl,” covered by his Gilmore Girls band, Hep Alien, to crowds of young fans and following it up with Skid Row’s “18 and Life”; they sing along to it all. When I tell him I’d noticed his book was already #1 in Heavy Metal Musician Biographies on Amazon, he yells, “Number one new release! Jesus criminy! Are you shitting me?”
Bach is aware of time—the time he’s had in the public’s eye, and the time he wishes to stay there. The time it takes to write a book—”I’ve spent four years on this, so it’s been a long process,” he says. And more than that, that all this time matters, that time is something we have to make the most of when we have it, because then it’s gone. “Way to go, dude,” he says when I ask what he’d tell his younger self. “You survived, number one, when some people cannot say that because they’re dead. You are still recording albums. You wrote a book. You did Broadway. Number one more than that, you got married to the love of your life and you found real happiness and someone to share all of this crazy stuff with.”
What’s really weird is I think I like this version of Sebastian Bach—who talks about how writing and doing interviews is “kind of like therapy, about my innermost thoughts and my most real truths about how I became what I became,” who has the hair of a young man but the face of one who has lived (he’s never had any work done, not even Botox, yet, he says)—more than I ever cared about the twentysomething hottie. It’s not just that I’m old now, too, or maybe it is. But Bach has gone from giving no fucks to giving as many fucks as possible. He’s traded cocaine and whiskey for weed and red wine (he likes how it feels on his throat after singing). I ask if he eats a lot of kale. He doesn’t. But he gets his ears checked regularly, and when his doctor told him to turn down the music or ten years from now he’d wish he had, Bach “immediately wept because it hit me, like, imagine a life without music. Nietzsche said, ‘A life without music would be a mistake.’ That’s good old Nietzsche. You rock, Nietzsche. I believe that.”
After our conversation, we head outside to take some pictures, and New Yorkers do the very non–New York thing of stopping and staring and asking questions, entranced by Bach and the way he’s completely hamming it up. He sees a pile of garbage and shouts, “What about one in front of this trash?” striking a pose with his thumbs up. Then he points to a window of bongs, ready for the next take. There’s sun streaming over the tops of Midtown’s office buildings, those discreetly visible rays of December light, and they strike the red-gold of his Brazilian blowout in a way that makes you think his hair is glowing from within.