Rachel Bolan: Unplugged, On Fire, and Racing Cars
I love a lot of things about Rachel Bolan, the Skid Row bass player. He races cars. He has a kick ass singing voice. He is a transplant to the Atlanta area. He is sexy, opinionated, smart and a gentleman-but he still is punk rock. Check out his side project-Prunella Scales. Check out Rachel Bolan Motor Sports at The Atlanta Motor Speedway. What a multi-talented sexy motherfucker! Here is what he had to say:
MI: What is your birthday?
Rachel: February 9th, 1964.
MI: Tell us something you think we should know about the other guys in the band.
Rachel: It’s more of a family than it’s ever been. Outside of the band I can count on any of these four guys to have my back at any given time. If I needed someone to help me move or if I was in trouble, I can really count on those guys. Everyone has his or her own quirk, but we get along so good now, it’s great. Everyone respects each other’s talent and creativity, it makes Skid Row a really cool place to be.
MI: That’s cool. Tell me the story about how Skid Row got together this time.
Rachel: Snake, Scotti, and myself missed playing the old songs. We got a lot of e-mails asking when we were going to put out a new record and if we were ever going to tour. We got together and after as miserable as it got we were thinking, “We know the source of the problem, let’s correct it, and let’s go and do this.” It’s our band and it’s our songs, let’s go out and do this again. We started looking for a lead singer and we found Johnny completely by chance. I e-mailed a friend of mine from Boston and asked her if there were any singers in that area that would be worth checking out and she didn’t know of any, but she had a friend that lived in Dallas, Texas, and he had a friend who happened to be Johnny. She said, “Here’s a web site address, check it out and maybe it will work out”, and it did. He had video and audio on his web site, I listened to it, and immediately called the other two guys and said that we have got to have this guy come up and audition. He was so prepared and so confident and a nice guy to boot, so the first and second song we were completely blown away, he was the guy.
MI: How did a nice punk boy like you get into car racing?
Rachel: I’m the adrenaline junkie. My older brother was always a motor head and always took me to a small track in New Jersey called Wall Stadium to watch stock car racing there and he would take me to Raceway Park to the drag races. Even when I was a little kid I would be the flag guy for when he would drag race his friends down the street. It was a “don’t tell mom and dad” type of thing. So he got me into that at an early age, watching racing and the little bit that there was on TV. I always loved doing that and I got into a couple, quote-unquote, celebrity races and did really well and found it to be exciting. This March I went out and got myself a Legends car, it’s really fun. It’s a lot like going out on stage, except that out on stage you’re not passing other people at a hundred miles per hour.
MI: Have you been racing since you move to Atlanta?
Rachel: Yes. I actually started this in March and I raced a lot up in Charlotte and Hickory, North Carolina. I’ve raced at the small track at Atlanta Motor Speedway and then at Lanier I raced, just a couple of weeks ago. We had a break and I raced at Lanier and got two top tens, so I was pretty happy with myself.
MI: Tell me the story of how you became a musician.
Rachel: It’s just in me, you know? As a little kid there was always music around the house. I’m the fourth out of four kids. My sister, Loraine, loved the Beatles. My brother Ritchie listened to The Doors and Hendrix. My sister Joanne listened to Seals and Croft, Melanie, and all that kind of stuff. I just got turned on to all different types of music by then and I ended up liking Punk Rock and Kiss and anything that was shocking, first and foremost. I’d play my Partridge Family plastic guitar on top of the bed and all that kind of crap and everything that goes with it in the mirror. It’s just something that I think when you’re a musician, or even a writer or a painter, it’s just in you and you really don’t have a choice on the matter.
MI: If you weren’t a musician or a racecar driver, what do you think you would be doing right now with your life?
Rachel: All my jobs seemed to be in the construction line. My dad was a builder and he did carpentry, he still does. He can’t get away from it. He’s been retired for years but he just doesn’t know it. That’s where I get my work ethic. That would be the most natural guess, not that I would want to do that, but I may be in the ad industry doing graphics. I love doing that. I do all the ads and the print ads for the band and I did the new CD booklet. I’d probably end up there because I really, really enjoy that.
MI: What’s your favorite track on Thickskin and why?
Rachel: That’s a tough one. If I had to pick one it would be ‘New Generation’ just because the title itself stands for where we’re at as a band. It is a new generation and I love the aggression of the song.
MI: What is the most fucked up thing you’ve seen on tour?
Rachel: I couldn’t sleep one night and I was on the bus so I was just sitting in the back lounge. We were crossing over into, I believe from Oregon into Washington and it was real early in the morning and I had the shades open in the back lounge. I was looking at the landscape and the sun was just coming up. I felt the bus slow down and I saw the reflection of police lights on cars going the other way. As we were getting closer I looked and I see pieces of a motorcycle. Then I see blood on the median wall, and what had happened was the guy must have been doing a hundred on his bike and got a blowout, it was everywhere. That was the most screwed up thing I had ever seen. On a funny note, we were in Maine and it was about three o’clock in the morning and we just stopped to refuel the bus. Being the insomniac that I am, I’m on the bus awake and I see something out of the corner of my eye to the right and I look out and there’s a full grown male moose looking directly in at me. It was the funniest thing because I was about 8 feet in the air and he was looking directly in the bus at me, I was like “Oh my God, what the hell is that?”
MI: Have you ever inhaled?
Rachel: Who hasn’t?
MI: What’s your opinion on legalizing pot, or any other drug for that matter?
Rachel: I don’t think it would be a good idea. Just for the simple reason that there would be no way to control it. That would cause more problems than to just keep liquor legal. I think they’ve been rethinking that for all these years, like, “Why did we lift prohibition?” you know? I don’t think it should be legalized, any kind of illegal substance. I’ve had friends killed by drunk drivers, I’ve had friends killed because of drugs, or got into trouble because of drugs. Legalizing it isn’t solving any problems. I think it would be actually creating more, and I’m sure there’s about a million hippies that would disagree with me and we know that you can make paper out of hemp and make clothes out of hemp, but legalizing having people drunk and stoned driving cars is not a good thing.
MI: Whom would you compare your vocals and your bass playing style to?
Rachel: I think Graham Maby, who is the bass player for Joe Jackson on ‘Look sharp’ and the earlier albums. I think his influence is in my bass playing more than anything. There are bits and pieces of Paul McCartney, Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, but mainly Graham Maby. Vocal style, I don’t really see myself as having a style, but if I had to pick one out it would probably be towards a Vader type of thing, without as much wrath.
MI: Can you spitfire Gene Simmons?
Rachel: No, I can’t, but I do want to learn. I’m willing to learn.
MI: Who do you think the greatest rock star of all time is?
Rachel: The rock star would probably be Keith Richards. As far as a front man it has to be Paul Stanley. The guy knows all the right things to say. When we toured with Kiss I was watching that guy, he could command the crows better than any singer or front man I’ve ever seen. Bowie was a great rock star too. As far as a musician, there’s way too many to list.
MI: Who do you think the five greatest bass players of all time are?
Rachel: Graham Maby, Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, Dennis Dunaway, and Gene Simmons.
MI: We all know you have another band called Prunella Scales, tell us what’s going on with that project.
Rachel: Right now it’s in a holding pattern cause I’m all about Skid Row. Once I have some time I’ll probably do another record with it.
MI: Tell me a joke, any kind of joke.
Rachel: I don’t know any jokes. I think that’s the joke in itself is that I really don’t know any jokes. I am a funny guy though.
MI: What in the world made you decide to move to Atlanta?
Rachel: My girlfriend. I met my girlfriend and she was from Atlanta. Scotti and Phil lived down to Florida and my girlfriend lived in Atlanta. I was like, “You know what? I can live wherever I want” because I’m away all the time anyway.
MI: How do you like Atlanta so far?
Rachel: I think it’s cool. I can’t deal with the traffic; the traffic drives me absolutely crazy. The only place I know that is worse is L.A. It’s just the fact that it’s not because of congestion, it’s because of some idiot that tried to take the six lane exit when he’s only half a block away and then wrecks. That’s the worst thing about it, but it’s a pretty cool town all in all.
MI: Do you believe in psychics or the paranormal and have you ever had an experience like that?
Rachel: I used to believe a lot more than I do now because my family has a lot of sixth sense of some sort. I don’t get too crazy into it, but I do believe in fate like when you pick up the phone at the same time as a friend that was going call you picks up the phone, I mean that’s more than just coincidence.
MI: If you were God for a week, what would you change?
Rachel: Just a week, huh? I would change people’s defensive way of thinking for sure. I would definitely like to change how the almighty dollar rules our lives. Like when you’re out in the country and you’re driving and you see a billboard for cigarettes, I’m like “Is that really necessary?” People just need to understand each other and their cultures a little better and be a little more accepting. I think everything would go a lot smoother.
MI: Tell us what you think about the state of the country, and tell us what you think about George W.
Rachel: I guess it’s sort of like a legacy in college, you get accepted into the fraternity because your dad was in it a while ago. I think as a President he’s doing a terrible job. I know he had to do something about the attacks on 9-11, but there’s just a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense. As far as the state of the country I think we are still a strong country and we’re still a super power, which is great, and it is the best country to live in without a doubt. The way we pulled together is really comforting, but it’s a shame it takes a tragedy to do that. I think once things start balancing out, the economy and what’s going on over in Iraq, our state of thinking will be better. I wish people wouldn’t buy into this sensationalizing when they watch CNN, which is a shame because they take a big problem and make it gigantic and they take a small problem and make it big. The state of the country will definitely change. Everything keeps coming around.
MI: Do you think George W. will be re-elected?
Rachel: I really hope not. I honestly don’t think the guy knows what he’s doing. I don’t think he realizes the responsibility that lies in front of him and what comes along with the responsibility as being the President of the United States. People bag on Clinton for whatever he did but the guy got along with other world leaders and the guy had our economy rocking. I’m sure Republicans will freak out when hearing this, but why does that always happen when Republicans come into office? If I had to pick a party I would probably be a Democrat, but I don’t believe in everything they do either.
MI: Where were you when 9-11 happened and how did it affect you?
Rachel: I was in New Jersey selling my house. I could see the World Trade Center from the top of my street. I wasn’t living in the house at the time since it was being sold, but I was staying at a friend’s house in New Jersey. I was supposed to fly the next day to Atlanta. Every morning I turn on the Weather Channel or ESPN to get caught up and I was flicking through and it said “Second plane hits building”, I was like “what is this?” I thought it was old footage of when that small plane hit the building years ago. I was just in awe. My friend came running downstairs and the first thing I said to him was that the buildings were going to fall. The next day I went up to my house and I was standing at the end of the street and I just remember seeing black stain. First the smoke coming up from where the towers stood and then the stain just going off and curving around the sky so you couldn’t see it anymore. It still affects me. Phil, our drummer, lost a cousin in the Trade Center. I almost lost a really good friend of mine who was just getting off the path train. He works on Wall Street and they weren’t letting people out of the building, so he just bum rushed his way out. He saw horrors that were going on. He tells me stories about what he saw and it sounds so surreal, but it definitely affected me. I got to see Ground Zero for the first time about two months ago when we played Jones Beach with Poison. We had to drive into the city to do press and we came out right at Ground Zero and the five of us were in a van. It was totally silent. It went from complete silence to absolute rage within a matter of thirty seconds. We were so mad that we just wanted to kill people. I can’t believe that there are still people with bleeding hearts that think people shouldn’t be punished for something like this.
MI: If you could build a memorial for the victims, what would it be?
Rachel: I don’t know if there’s anything that could really do it justice. I think the best memorial would be Osama Bin Laden’s head on a stick, for one. A memorial, in a way, is cool because it’s a tribute, but in a weird way it’s also selfish. It’s a tribute to the person you lost and the people that were lost but who’s it really for? They’re gone already. I think the best way to make up for what happened is the build these towers twice as tall and paint them red, white, and blue.
MI: Tell us what you want people to know about you.
Rachel: I think people know just about everything. A lot of people take my seriousness as being an asshole. I’m a listener and I let things sink in before I form an opinion. Sometimes people are saying stuff to me and I may not give an answer right away so they take that as me being an asshole, “he’s stuck up, he doesn’t want to talk.” I even heard I was addicted to crystal meth because of that, but that’s a different story. I’m the kind of person that if I don’t really have anything important to say I don’t really say it. It’s not because I’m trying to avoid conversation, it’s just the type of guy I am.
MI: How has the music industry treated during your years in the business?
Rachel: In the beginning when we were on a major label and having all this success, we got treated great. Once the new regime came in, grunge or whatever, it was like we were wearing scarlet letters. The scarlet 80’s I like to call it. Even thought the band came out in 89, was an 80’s band. We had a lot of accomplishments. We sold millions of records, we were number one on billboard, and that’s all well and good, but I don’t expect people to come up and pat me on the back for old times. Just the disrespect we got from being from that era because of whatever we looked like back then. Now we’re getting more respect from our peers, which is a really good feeling. I went to an MTV birthday party a while ago and there was a newer band, they were like “we grew up listening to you.” I talked to Josie from Saliva and he was like “man, you guys were it, you were my favorite band.” He was quoting stuff from our home videos and he was cracking me up. To see people that were fans become our peers is really cool and to know that we may have influenced them in one way or another is a really good feeling. I remember when I first met Gene Simmons and told him that he was the reason I played bass, it felt like my life is complete now and he was just so cool about it. He goes “You know, some day some kid is going to tell you the same thing”, and sure as hell that happened. It was really cool.
MI: You guys started your own label. How does it feel to have your own label?
Rachel: It’s really cool. It’s a lot of extra hard work but it’s well worth it. That was plan A to do it that way. You don’t have to sign a major deal anymore. There are obviously financial benefits in doing it your self. It’s a slow build and we were prepared for that.
MI: Is the label going to be signing other little bands?
Rachel: We’re thinking about it. At this point right now we want it for us. We’re still getting our feet wet learning how to do this stuff. It’s a process and it’s picking up momentum as we go along.
MI: What do you think about labels suing people for the illegal music download, especially that 12 year old girl?
Rachel: That’s one of the downfalls of the Internet. You’re anonymous. I’m sure when the label decided they were going to sue whoever it was, they didn’t know how old she was. The anonymity you’re able to keep on the Internet is the thing that really bothers me about it. Being a musician and being the artist, I don’t agree with file sharing. If a band wants to give something away for free, that’s up to them. That’s what we did. We put a song on our web site to download for free. People don’t seem to realize it’s how we make our living.
MI: If you could be a comic book hero, which one would you be and why?
Rachel: I would probably be Lobo. He’s an intergalactic bounty hunter. He wanted to be so original that he killed everyone from his home planet so that he would be the only one.
MI: What’s your favorite movie?
Rachel: Repo Man.
MI: If you could make 3 wishes for Skid Row, what would those 3 wishes be?
Rachel: Another tour bus so that we could have more elbowroom. I want success for the band so that Phil and Johnny could see what it’s like. They haven’t had the success that we’ve had in the past. That would be the main one. I wish I could make that happen that those two guys were there from the very start. Last one would be to have my clothes washed more than once a month.
MI: Who would you like most to drop a bucket of flesh eating ants on?
Rachel: All the twerps on that Dell computer commercial. I hate that commercial.
MI: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could bring one person, one CD, one book, and one bottle of liquor, what would it be?
Rachel: Jaegermeister would be the liquor. CD would be Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. I’d bring the whole 24-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The person would probably be Jesus Christ because that would be pretty cool to talk to him.
MI: What would you like to see happen for Skid Row during the next five years?
Rachel: I would like to see this momentum keep going for any of the hold out nonbelievers to come over to the dark side and to keep making good music until we can’t make it anymore.
MI: What 3 people, living or dead, would you like to have lunch with most?
Rachel: David Bowie, Robert De Niro, and Albert Einstein. I love that picture of him with his tongue hanging out.
MI: Tell us the coolest tour you’ve ever been on.
Rachel: Aerosmith. They were so cool it was unbelievable. Actually, touring with Tesla was the most fun I’ve ever had on a tour in my career because we all became really good friends. We weren’t sure of each other when we first started out and then it was non-stop party. I hear from those guys quite a bit actually. That was the most fun I’ve ever had on tour, but the coolest tour was definitely Aerosmith.
MI: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Rachel: Aluminum siding. I did aluminum siding for a couple years. You know how cold it gets in the North East; it was just brutal doing that shit in the winter.
MI: What advice would you give the bands just starting out?
Rachel: Keep a close eye on what you’re doing. Even though it’s supposed to be fun, keep a close eye on the people that are working with you and working around you. A band knows what’s best for the band. Some guy in a suit may think he does, but he really doesn’t. They may know business better than you but that doesn’t mean to let them make all the decisions. Keep a close eye and ask a lot of questions. Most of all keep it fun. Keep the situation you’re in fun and creative.
MI: What band would like to see open for Skid Row?
Rachel: I like the Super Suckers and I like Sahara Hotnights. I think one of those bands would be a cool bill.
MI: Do you have a message for your fans?
Rachel: Thank you is the main message for all the true believers out there that have been with Skid Row since the beginning, all the new fans we’ve made over the years, and the people that have supported us from the beginning, and that have accepted Johnny and Phil. It’s really cool to see people singing the new songs and to see people turning their little brothers and sisters onto us. This is something I could go on forever.
MI: What’s your favorite quote of all time?
Rachel: It’s not my quote, but it’s out of the movie “A League Of Their Own”. Gina Davis says she’s quitting the team and Tom Hanks asks her why, and she says it’s too hard. He replies back that it’s supposed to be hard, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be doing it.
Thanks Rachel. You kick ass. I wish Skid Row has all of the success it fucking deserves in the world. I can’t wait to see you in concert soon.
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