In conjunction with a recent Metal Hammer retrospective on SKID ROW‘s self-titled 1989 debut, guitarist Dave “Snake” Sabo spoke at length about the album with writer Clay Marshall. Some select “outtakes” from the interview appear below (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether, 30 years later, he’d change anything about the album:
Snake: “I think there’s been times throughout the existence of the record that yeah, I felt like that, but not anymore. I think right after the record was done, I was questioning everything, because that’s who I was at that particular time in my life — questioning everything, completely unsure of what I did, what we did, praying that someone would buy the record, not knowing if anybody would, wondering what we were going to do if it failed. All those things — I was so worrisome, not allowing myself at all to be mindful and to be living in the moment. I was just so worried — so nervous and worried and questioning everything. ‘I should’ve done this differently. I should’ve done that. This tone should have been that instead of that.’ I went through that several periods during the life of the record. I think it’s been a while now where I just look at it and I go, ‘No,’ because if you mess with one thing, you mess with the fate of that record. You change the whole balance of it in some way. There’s a butterfly effect. I look at it now, because I’m older and a slight bit wiser.”
On the abrasive, unexpected squeals in the guitar solo of hit power ballad “I Remember You”:
Snake: “I guess it’s a Jersey thing… It was so important just for us to be who we are, and to be who you are while at the same time figuring out who you are, it’s a tricky thing, but it’s exciting, because it’s about discovery, and those bits and pieces — those little things like that — that’s part of the essence of who we are as guitar players. While it certainly didn’t seem out of place for me — it made perfect sense, Scotti [Hill, guitar] having that in there; I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s who he is as a guitar player. That makes total sense’ — but the fact that it’s in the middle of this soaring ballad, that’s really interesting, and the fact is, it works because it’s honest. As people always say, guitar players, the solo should be an extension of the story that you’re attempting to tell of the song. It can’t just be a vehicle to go berserk over for the sake of showing your acrobatics as a guitar player. It’s got to enhance the song, for that part of the song — it’s kind of, ‘Okay, what are you saying here?’ That’s the beauty of Scotti‘s playing more so than mine — that he just captures a particular mood of the song and is able to extend it to another place and continue the story, and it works seamlessly between a vocal, his solo and then back into the vocal. He’s always been able to do that with what looks to me like relative ease, and I’ve always been really enamored with that part of his playing. That was one of the reasons why, when he jammed with us at the very beginning and he had said, ‘I’ll just play rhythm.’ I was like, ‘There’s no way. You can’t. You’re such a [good] guitar player. That would be a travesty. It would be criminal.’ He’s really adept at that, and somehow, the guitar isn’t being an extension of him. The solo becomes an extension of the melodies of the song, and he’s really good at that.”
On Rhino‘s recent 30th anniversary “deluxe” digital reissue of the album:
Snake: “I was really pissed, to be quite honest, that Rhino remastered it, because it shouldn’t have been remastered. I hate that. I hate when things are done, number one, without your permission. We didn’t have a say-so in that. That’s the record business — they own your masters; they can remaster it if they want. That’s the life you choose, and that’s one of the byproducts of signing a record deal — they get to own those masters for a minimum of 30 years. They’ve got them for 31, so they get to remaster it even though I don’t see the point of it. If you’re going to remaster it, then why don’t you remix it? Then why don’t you just do different parts, then? Everything has its point and its purpose of why that record has existed for 30 years. It’s had whatever impact it’s had on people because of the way that record is, so why would you remaster it? Does it sound better? I don’t know. To be honest, I haven’t even heard it. But for me, I don’t get it. You sit there and you’re celebrating 30 years of something that apparently to a lot of people has a profound impact on, and I’m so thankful of that, and proud and humbled by that. If you would have said to me 30 years ago that this would have been the case, I would have said, ‘You’re full of bullshit,’ because we were just hoping that we sold enough records to have an opportunity to make another record. I kid you not, man. Rachel [Bolan, bass] and I would talk and be like, ‘Man, I hope we get to do this again,’ not knowing what lies ahead. That was the beauty of that innocence. You’re like a newborn experiencing the wonderments of the world for the first time. We were experiencing that world for the very first time. Even though I had seen Jon‘s [Bon Jovi] success and I had been privy to all of that — watching him struggle, watching him put together a band, the songwriting process, the things that he deemed as failures. They didn’t have success — like, monumental success — until their third record, so watching him and the band struggle. ‘Richie [Sambora, guitar], what are we going to do?’ Knowing that that was what happened along that path, but that was happening to me directly. I wasn’t experiencing that as if it were my own, so when we were going through it as it was our own, wow — what a trip. Through that, you’re dealing with all the different personalities that come to the forefront as you travel down that road. It’s wild, man.”
On the band’s legacy:
Snake: “I embrace our history. I embrace what we’ve done. I embrace all of it, from beginning to now, because without any of it, we’re not here… I love going out and playing ’18 And Life’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’, because without those songs, we’re not playing — we’re not doing this. How can you turn your back on that? You have to embrace it. You have to embrace the history of it, regardless of where we all are as individuals separately and collectively. There’s no denying what we were able to do at that particular time in our lives, so I’m thankful for that, proud of all of it, and of everybody that took part in that — the five of us who played on the record and the songwriters and the management and the label and the press people and the BON JOVI guys and all of the bands that we were able to tour with thereafter. All of it. It always starts and ends with the music, and that’s what we’re celebrating here. I’m lucky — I’m really, really lucky, man. I get to celebrate it every single day, because I get to go out and play these songs that I helped create and still get to play and see people’s faces and how much it means to them. That’s the most amazing payoff in the world, that I get to sit there and see people’s faces light up and sing those lyrics back to us that we wrote however long ago, and had no idea whether they would touch one person, much less as many as they have. I’m blown away by it. Here’s another thing — here’s the craziest thing, too. To be able to be driving in a car, taking my kids to school in the morning, and one of those songs pops up on the radio. You’re sitting in the car with your kids, and you’re going, ‘Wow. What an unbelievable life I have.’ This isn’t a put-on, man; this is truth — I am absolutely humbled by it, and I have so many great, amazing memories of that period of time. Things turn out the way they turn out, but you cannot take away what existed, and what we’ve all been through together at that particular time. A lot of people that played in a part of that, I may not have spoken to in a long time or have seen, or don’t even know where some of them are, but [to] everybody that was involved that played some sort of role in it, I’m forever thankful.”
“Skid Row” was released on January 24, 1989 via Atlantic Records. Six years later, the album — which yielded the hit singles “18 And Life”, “Piece Of Me”, “Youth Gone Wild” and “I Remember You” — was certified quintuple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments in excess of five million copies in the United States.