It’s not unheard of for musicians to occasionally branch out into other, often similar or related fields. Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan is already known to broaden his horizons with extracurricular activities; since co-founding the band in New Jersey in 1986, Bolan has kept himself busy with hobbies both in and out of music, being involved in everything from side projects, to competing in high performance car races. Bolan’s most recent venture in the soap business (appropriately titled Dirty Rocker Soap) might not be the most obvious of choices to some, but makes sense when considering the amount of miles musicians like Bolan average a year in travel time. I was recently able to catch up with Bolan regarding said foray into the world of hygienics, as well as take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the many highlights of his tenure with Skid Row.
Before we got in to any serious talk regarding music or soap, and knowing Bolan originally hails from the same state as yours truly (New Jersey), I was curious what ties he still had to the Garden State, if any. He informs me; “I moved out of New Jersey in 2000, then lived to Atlanta for maybe 14 years before coming to Nashville a little over 5 years ago. All my friends were moving out here, and there’s really no music scene in Atlanta so to speak, so I came here.” I was also wondering if his parent’s house in Tom’s River, NJ, where the band spent their earliest days rehearsing, was still standing. He tells me; “That house is still there! The road’s a lot wider, so the front yard’s a lot more narrow and closer to the street than it was when I was a kid, but it’s still there.” He also notes that he does still have plenty of friends and family residing in the NJ/PA areas to this day as well.
Regarding just how he got things going with Dirty Rocker, he says; “It was about a year and a half ago now that I basically came up with the concept. Every band seems to be putting out their own hot sauce or coffee these days, so it was an idea that kind of culminated with another necessity. With traveling so much, you come across a lot of hotels that just have mass-produced soap that just doesn’t feel good, and already being prone to skin irritations, I thought, ‘let me try making my own soap.’ No one in rock music has ever put out a soap before to my knowledge, so I just took it from there. I have a friend who actually makes soap, and she gave me the lessons on what to do and what not to do. With her help, I was able to start selling soap, and it’s the craziest thing because it just kind of took off! (laughs). The response has been overwhelming though, and it still is.”
As far as how his new venture has been effected so far by the pandemic, Bolan informs me; “The timing has been completely coincidental – no one could have seen everything coming that has so far this year. But now I have time to dedicate to it, along with writing and all that stuff. But it just happened very organically, and now here we are talking about it.” Bolan also shares his personal preferences with me; “I’m a big fan of the Lemongrass Green, Mother Earth, and Lavendorwood. I like all the other ones too, but those are my top three, and they seem to be the ones I go through quickest online.” I also wanted to know if the other guys in Skid Row had tried Dirty Rocker yet, to which he tells me; “It’s funny that you mention that, because just yesterday I was thinking, ‘man, I got to send some out to these guys!’ (laughs) I haven’t seen them in awhile, but yeah, I’ll send them some soon for sure.”
The current Skid Row lineup with former DragonForce vocalist ZP Theart has been intact for just over four years now. I asked Bolan what it’s been like since having Theart enter the fold, and he states; “ZP’s band I Am I came out on the road with Skid Row at one point, and our friendship just grew stronger from that. Then when it was time for us to find a new singer, we called him. He came in, and it was just effortless for him. He had been listening to us since he was a kid; when we put out the first record, he was just 12 or 13! But he came in and just knocked it out of the park, and here we are nearly five years later. He’s a great frontman, great singer, and overall just a really great dude.”
Having been continually (and meticulously) working on a biography of Skid Row for the past two-plus years, I was already well versed on the band’s history prior to our interview (and judging by his reactions, Bolan was even impressed by my knowledge a time or two throughout). Still, there were some fuzzy details about the band’s formation, including the original lineup (which often incorrectly lists a former school mate of Bolan’s as the original drummer) that I wanted to clarify. I started by revisiting how Bolan and co-founder/guitarist Dave “The Snake” Sabo had met while the latter was working at the Garden State Music Center in the mid-80s. He explains; “Scotti (Hill, Skid Row guitarist) and I had a band before Skid Row that we were thinking of disbanding. At the same time I had just met Snake – and there was a point where all three of us worked at that store (Garden State Music Center) at the same time, which was just freaking chaos all the time! (laughs). I realized I had actually met Snake years before when he mentioned he lived in Sayerville and was previously in a band called Steel Fortune. We got to talking, and he told me he needed a bass player for this new band he had. He already had Matt (Fallon, also ex-Steel Fortune, as well as Anthrax) on vocals, Jim (Yuhas) on guitar, and Charlie (Mills) on drums – those were all Snake’s ‘crew.’ And then once Scotti came in and we shifted some people around (eventually adding drummer Rob Affuso and vocalist Sebastian Bach to complete the band’s ‘classic’ lineup), it started taking on a new life and ended up working out really well, obviously” (laughs). As soon as Snake and I started writing songs together, it just turned in to dropping everything, and focusing on Skid Row.”
I also inquired if he remembered just what that first song the band ever composed together was. He points out; “It was a song called ‘Telephone.” I remember the riff and chorus, and I know there’s a demo of it on cassette around in a box somewhere that I’ve got to find!” Skid Row have obviously produced many great songs since those early days, and hits like “I Remember You” and “Youth Gone Wild” will always remain staples in their set lists. But I wanted to know if there were any possible obscure tracks Bolan would ever consider resurrecting, such as the forgotten “Walk Like A Stranger” off of their original 1986 demo. His reaction; “I haven’t even heard or thought about that song in years! (laughs) Our buddy’s in Trixter actually did a really good cover of it a few years back. We have brought back “Forever” from that first demo a couple of times recently though, and it seems to have gone over well.”
And as far as how the band is holding up with all of the uncertainties of today’s world, Bolan proclaims; “Everyone’s keeping it together. We’re still making music, or at least sending each other ideas. It’s a new way of doing things that we’re totally not used to, but I think everyone’s kind of going through that no matter what line of work they’re in. But whenever everything ‘rights’ itself and we all go back to ‘normal life,’ I think everyone’s going to be a lot stronger for it.” While on the subject, I saw this as a good chance to ask if there might be some new music materializing soon. He replied; “I’m hoping so. If we don’t get the songs out all at once, maybe we’ll release just a song or two or something. But yeah, we’re hoping to have something out (if not the whole thing) in the not-too-distant future…and I can confidently say it shouldn’t be too much longer.”