To outsiders, most hard-rockers seem patterned after the same stereotypical images: swaggering, macho dudes living a life on the extremes--all parties, women and booze.
This notion does have basis in fact, solidified and distilled as the hard-rock torch has been passed from generation to generation--from the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin down through Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses.
It's the ultimate teen party music and there's a never-ending parade of new stars. This year's new heroes include Skid Row, Warrant and Winger. All three bands debuted this year with platinum-selling albums.
And there is an element of hard-rock tradition in each of the groups that, to outsiders, may leave them looking and sounding alike. But there are differences--nowhere more apparent than in the attitudes of the groups' lead singers.
Kip Winger of Winger, Jani Lane of Warrant and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row even disagree on whether it even matters commercially to act out the stereotypical rock-as-macho tradition.
Skid Row's lead singer is metal's new bad boy. "I'm no angel and I'm proud of it," he declares.
Though it was guitarist Dave (Snake) Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan who started the New York-area-based band two years ago and who remain its main creative forces, Bach is its major attraction. He's generally regarded as the chief reason Skid Row stands above the rest of the pack of newcomers--and probably the main reason its first album has sold over 2 million copies.
Bach is at one end of the heavy-metal extreme--the rude, crude, lewd party animal--the kind of guy who typifies metal for those who hate it. He's every parent's worst nightmare: the swaggering, untamed metal hero who's dedicated to decadence.
True to that form, Bach missed a scheduled interview for this article. Someone who works with the band shrugged and tried to explain that he was out partying.
At a rescheduled session, Bach, 21, was brimming with youthful energy and restlessness. "I'm like a racing car that's always in overdrive," he boasted. "I've got energy to burn and I know some fun ways to burn it up."
How about the metal stereotype? Does he consider himself a macho man?
"What does that mean, anyway?" he replied. "I'm a rugged guy who likes women and likes to have fun. If that's macho, that's me."
With his pretty looks and soft, almost feminine features, Bach may stretch the definition of macho.
"Yeah, they call me 'pretty boy,' " he said. "But I can't help the way I look. But I don't act like a pretty boy. I sure as hell don't act like a girl.
"I don't think I look like a girl. A lot of these heavy-metal people wear five layers of makeup. You might say those guys look like girls. They don't look so macho. I wear a little bit of eye liner and that's all."
He sarcastically explained the lure of the androgynous look that's popular in metal.
"Some of these guys, you can't tell whether they're women or men," he said. "Girls look at them and say: 'Damn, I wish I looked that good.' The guys look at the girls' reaction to that look and say: 'If I looked that good, I'd get all these chicks.' Chicks like guys who look like that. So there must be something to that look."
Bach, who is from Toronto, is a high-school dropout--and isn't ashamed to admit it.
"I didn't need school," explained the singer, whose first name really is Sebastian, though he keeps his true last name secret. "I knew what I wanted to do--rock 'n' roll. I got into rock 'n' roll so I could do what I wanted to do. Here I am at 21, with a double-platinum (2 million copies sold) album. So who was right?
"My parents didn't understand where I was coming from. My father said finish school or get out of the house. So I got out."
For a while, Bach proudly claims, he was something of a gigolo: "At 16, I had 30-year-old women turned on to me. I lived with various girls. One would kick me out, so I'd go live with another. Meanwhile, I was getting my music career together."
Bach, who admittedly doesn't take many aspects of life seriously, \o7 is\f7 dead serious about one thing: "Singing rock 'n' roll has always fascinated me and been a passion of mine," he said. "When I was 13, when other kids were playing stick ball, I'd be up in my room singing Judas Priest songs. When I was singing, I was on top of the world."
One of those fiery, all-out vocalists, Bach doesn't like singers who have "wimpy" styles. "I'm into singers who push their voices to the limit," he said. "I don't want to sing like that guy in INXS."
In a high soft voice, he mimicked Michael Hutchence singing "I Need You Tonight."
"Who needs that soft (junk)," Bach said derisively. "I like macho singing. You want to know what macho is? It's singers who go to the limit. That's macho."
Next to Bach, Warrant's lead singer and chief songwriter Jani Lane, 25, is mellow and low-key. While suggesting that he dabbles in the stereotypical metal life style, he insists it isn't a dominant factor in his life.