An Interview with Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo and ZP Theart of Skid Row
By Victoria Holdsworth
Clambering aboard probably one of the most metal tour buses in the country right now, I sat down with the oldest and newest members of New Jersey legends, Skid Row.
Founding member Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo, alongside newcomer and ex Dragonforce front man, ZP Theart made me feel very welcome and relaxed, and I was struck by how quiet and unassuming the animated new lead singer really is.
Snake and ZP, I just wanted to kick things off with a huge thank you for giving up some of your time for me this evening. I really cannot remember a time throughout my adolescence and adulthood, which Skid Row has not been a part of.
DS: That’s great to hear! Thank you so much. It’s very sweet of you to say that.
We are pretty much approaching the mid-way point of your tour dates, any stand out moments thus far? And what are the best and worst parts of touring?
DS: Well! We haven’t been here in such a long time, so I think it’s all really exciting. It’s our first time playing here with ZP, so it’s been extremely positive, everyone is really in a great mind-set. The spirits have been high and everyone gets along really well, and that’s really important obviously, ya know? You’re trapped in a bus every day, and you want to like the people that you’re laying next to. We have been really fortunate like that, with this reincarnation of the band, for the last year and a half, or whatever.
I think the thing for me personally, is being able to get out and still play in front of people, and play music that you helped to create, throughout the course of the history of the band. To have people respond to it and to be able to look at you, and singing those words back, and be moved in some way by what you are doing, it is very humbling. I can honestly say that, when I was a younger man, helping to put the band together with Rachel, I did not think that we would be doing this in 2018. It’s amazing to be able to continue and go out and play music around the world.
So…. a long winded answer to your question, but the very first show that we had was cancelled, because of the snow in Dublin, but the next night in Belfast could have been a disaster, but it was absolutely amazing! It’s one of those things where every night is pretty fucking awesome, to be quite honest, regardless of where we are playing, simply because of the mind-set of the bend, and from being in such a great place that, we want to be here, we want to be doing what we are doing.
As much as it pains me to say it, because we are all getting on a bit now, it’s been 32 years since you formed the band.
DS: Ha! It doesn’t pain me! You’re not getting old man! We will wear it as a badge of honour! We have had this band, longer than half my life! That’s pretty fucking cool.
“There is just an electricity”
I remember when you guys first came out, I must have been around 7-years-old, I used to listen to pirate radio shows for the latest rock music coming from America, and you guys just blew me away.
DS: We were playing in Seattle, at the Tacoma dome that year with Bon Jovi.
What would you say have been your main achievements collectively and as individuals? Anything you would have done differently?
DS: That’s an interesting question. I think there are things that I would rather have done different on a personal level, but then again if you sat there having made those changes, then you may not have ended up here right now, so for me the answer is no. Where we are right now is a pretty incredible place. As a band, as a collective, it is the best we have felt in such a long time, which is why we wanted to go out on the road and play, because we are all excited about the future, and the music that we are creating, and hopefully the people will be interested in it as well. I guess that remains to be seen, but for us there is just an electricity that’s been infused within this band, since ZP joined us, and it is palpable, and I think it is important to recognise that.
We’ve only done like four shows so far on this run, and I think people have been very tuned in to the fact, that things are different, and a certain energy that we have now amongst the five of us, and it hadn’t existed in quite some time, and that is largely due to him. [Snake nods to ZP, who smiles graciously and nods back]
“Breathes new life”
So how did it come about that you were able to get ZP?
ZP: [laughs] Trust me, you don’t wanna know that!
DS: ZP has got his own history as well, and we were familiar with his singing abilities from his previous bands, and one of those bands had done some dates with us in the UK several years back, and Rachel became friendly with him, and they kept in contact with one another. We all, Scotti, Rob and myself all admired his abilities, so when the opportunity arose, when we were looking for a new singer, Rachel called him up and he was straight on the plane and came over. I think the thing that was most impressive to me, was that he didn’t just come in and do three songs and half ass it. He came in and he knew like 15 or 16 songs, probably more, and he knew more than we did [laughs] to be honest with you, so having that, someone who is showing such enthusiasm and that ambition, makes you check yourself. It was like, finally someone is coming in and stepping up and…
ZP: Kicking your ass! [laughs]
DS: [laughs] Yeah but that’s what’s important! It makes you listen, when someone breathes new life into a situation it’s a gift. It isn’t something that happens to a lot of people sometimes, so you get to see things in a whole new light, and be much more appreciative than maybe you had been in the past. So for me, I see this whole chapter that we’re in the midst of right now, through a different set of eyes, than I would have ten, fifteen years ago.
“Headlining my first festival is great”
So Sebastian is always going to be the elephant in the room, however you always state it would be conceited to not talk about him in a band context. I recently read his autobiography and just wondered if you had?
DS: In all honesty it’s not even a concern. My priority is here and now. I chose a long time ago personally, that I don’t want any negativity in my life. I’m not gonna surround myself with it, and I’m not gonna be a part of it. You make choices in life, and that is one that I made and I have held true to that pretty good. I think everybody has. I don’t wish anybody any ill will, because everyone needs to make a living, they have families and stuff like that, and I hope everybody can provide for them, but what I’m concerned about is about my family, my music family and my family at home. That’s it! There are a lot of other books out there that I should be reading first. [laughs] So you read it? What did ya think?
Snake, put it this way. It is a day of my life that I will never get back.
You’re headlining a brand new festival, ‘Stonedeaf’ this year. Are you excited just to headline or nervous because it’s a debut event?
DS: How do you feel ZP?
ZP: Well it’s exciting. At the end of the day, a show is a show. Headlining my first festival is great. Hopefully, when I get up there, everyone has already been warmed up, so I can step in and really open up the taps, so yeah! It’s in Newark right? I never knew there was a place called Newark in the UK. [laughs]
“Should be fun!”
It’s a nice place. I have been to a few music gigs there over the years.
ZP: It sounds more upmarket than the Jersey one.
It can be a little snobby I suppose, just like anywhere can be.
ZP: It’s near Nottingham right? Isn’t that where Robin Hood is from?
Yeah, they have a racecourse there, so there is a horse and hounds vibe about the place.
ZP: Looking forward to it, it should be fun!
So, I interviewed Huey Morgan last week, from The Fun Lovin’ Criminals, and he thinks that you dudes are crazy!
DS: Oh my god! That’s really awesome.
ZP: That is really fucking cool.
He was giving me some great tips on places to go and things to see. I told him I was going to Jersey, he said I shouldn’t unless the cops were chasing me. Have you been in The Secret Stash, because that’s the only reason I’m going, because of Kevin Smith, and The Sopranos, Skid Row, and Bon Jovi of course.
DS: Redbank in Jersey is cool. I used to live right near there. I used to live ten minutes away from Kevin Smith growing up. I hope he’s feeling okay. That was scary man! ZP, do you know who Kevin Smith is?
ZP: Jay and Silent Bob dude? Oh yeah!
DS: Well he’s from our neck of the woods. The comic book shop is pretty cool. I think he still has a house in Jersey near the river as well as his place in the Hollywood Hills, which is funny, because in Jersey he lived ten minutes away from me, and then when I lived in L.A I live ten minutes away from him, maybe even about ten seconds away from me, and we’ve never met! ZP, the dude just had a massive heart attack mid-way through doing some stand up shows.
ZP: That is just insane!
DS: Please, from one Jersey boy to another, I want to send him my love and my best, and I am a huge fan.
You should be on Comic Book Men.
DS: Man that would be so cool, I would love that! Jersey representing! We need to be on there, so we should tell him that.
“He did his homework”
Just going back to band members, and in particular, your new lead singer ZP. You have had a few others in the line-up before now, so have you settled with ZP, does he get the gig permanently? And how hard is it to replace a singer that had been with you for quite a number of years?
DS: It’s just going back to what I touched on before, that he just came in and he knew the songs inside out, and he was inspired and it wasn’t just a guy standing up in front of a microphone, singing lyrics. He really did his work! He did his homework and he knew what those words meant, and d’ya know what else he did too, and still does? He respects the history of the band, and where all those songs came from, and how they are supposed to be sung, and stuff like that, so when you show respect like that, for this history of what you do, it really meant a lot to me. He came in and was never once like, this is all about me now. It has remained about ‘us’ and that’s the way it should be. He is really a team player, so when he is up there singing, he is singing as the front man for Skid Row, which he is a part of, not, my name is ZP and these guys are Skid Row. It’s the way it’s supposed to be, and I think him being such a team player, really speaks volumes to where his heart and character lies. In this day and age, we are very much in a me, me, me, society, and with us, it has never been like that. I think that ZP came in and there was a comfort there that he had, singing those songs, ‘cause he had been doing his homework.
ZP: To be honest, I had been singing most of those songs for the best part of twenty years anyway! [laughs]
DS: So now he gets to do it full time. [laughs]
And may I just say, that you are a lot prettier than Sebastian.
DS: Yes! [laughs]
ZP:[laughs] Thank you!
DS: I love the fact that we are going to get to do new music with this dude.
Snake, you have composed and performed music for various films, Still Life and The Prophecy come to mind. How different is it to produce music for a project like that, as opposed to producing music with the band?
DS: When you are creating music for Skid Row, when I am creating with Rachel or the guys, whatever, it’s the most personal thing that you can be involved in. It’s for you; it’s a very selfish act, which it should be. You should always be writing for yourselves. You should never be doing that stuff collectively for TV or radio shows. You should be writing for yourselves, as honestly as you possibly can, keeping your spirit, your integrity intact. That is always the most important thing, writing for Skid Row, because it’s deep.
Writing for the soundtrack stuff, and I’ve only done a couple of things, nothing major, is very enjoyable, but it is weird that there is not like that personal attachment to it, because you are doing it for someone else. You are helping someone else realise their vision, whether it’s a director or whoever you happen to be working for on that particular project, so to go in there and to start with it’s exciting. You’re sat there going, shit man, I’m getting paid to be sat here doing something to help him have the picture that’s in his brain, come to fruition finally. That is really cool, and you think that hopefully I’ll be able to get there, and when you do get there, the payoff is really incredible, but then you have to let it go, and it’s gone! Its someone else’s baby, whereas the music that you personally create is always yours and yours forever. That’s it! No one can take it away from you.
Finally, you still work with Bob Rock and Doc McGhee who have remained loyal to you over the years. What do you think their magic formula is when working with guys like yourself?
DS: Ooof! Tough question! The magic formula? I really don’t know. I think that what just happens, is that when people are born of a certain way, where they are brought up blue collar, and are working class, they have a great work ethic and a respect for the people around them, and they respect the shit that they do for a living, whatever it may be, and you also have a respect for your surroundings. You know what the work that you do actually means, and you are grateful for what you have been able to be part of. I just hope that I can continue to be that way. It isn’t hard to be around guys like that, because we work really hard, we are appreciative of what we were able to do with them, and we still appreciate the people that work with us. They sacrifice their days to help us chase our dreams, and that’s really crazy, and important. We recognise that. Maybe that’s what it is, although I wouldn’t say it is easy working with us, [laughs] I’m a dick! [laughs] but a loveable one!
ZP: Yeah, he really is a loveable dick! [laughs].