Joining skid row is not something most people aspire to do. But in the case of rock drummer Rob Hammersmith, it has been one of the best career moves he’s ever made. Formerly of Wednesday 13′s glam punk band Gunfire 76 and one-time Atlanta act Rockets to Ruin, Hammersmith joined ’80s/’90s metal band Skid Row two years ago following the departure of Dave Gara. Having previously opened for the band with Rockets to Ruin (whose 2006 Love Drugs Rebellion EP was produced by Skid Row’s Rachel Bolan), Hammersmith likely never expected to eventually join one of the bands he grew up listening to. Since then, Hammersmith has been pounding away on “Youth Gone Wild,” “Monkey Business” and other songs that influenced him as a musician, while sharing the stage with some of his other favorite acts (Skid Row was even part of last year’s KISS Kruise). With a new album in the works and a summer tour that starts this Friday, Hammersmith talks to Wrestling with Pop Culture about the new music, tour and the surreality of being a member of Skid Row.
You were in a few other bands previously, but how did you end up in Skid Row?
You know, I’ve kind of lost track. I played in several Atlanta bands. I played in a band called Union Drag for a while, I played with Eliott James and the Snakes for a long time, then I played with Wednesday 13 for a little while in a project called Gunfire 76. That was between Rockets to Ruin and Skid Row, so I went out and did some touring with him over the course of about a year. At that time, Wednesday was in the process of going back and doing another Murderdolls record, so I came home from the Gunfire 76 tour and didn’t have a gig and didn’t really know what I was going to do at the time. Having known Rachel and the guys in Skid Row for a while – Skid Row actually took Rockets to Ruin out on a handful of dates when they put out Revolutions Per Minute in 2006 – it just kind of worked out. I came home, didn’t have a gig, they needed a drummer and I got a phone call. So it worked out well for me.
I understand Skid Row is working on a new album, which will be the first one since you joined the band a couple of years ago. What can you tell me about the new music and your involvement in the creative process?
We do have some new songs. We’ve done some recording, although we haven’t done anything past the demo phase. But we are working on new music and we’re taking our time with it. We’re making an effort to do it in a way that we feel comfortable with, so we’re not rushing to do it, we’re not up against any deadlines, and it’s a good place to be. We can take our time and we’ve got a really busy summer with shows, so that’s going to be our focus over the summer. When we have days off here and there we’ll continue to work on the songs, but as far as having a release date or target date, we don’t at this point.
I noticed you have a lot of tour dates scheduled over the next few months. Will you playing any of the new stuff on this tour?
It looks like we might try to do a couple of the new songs as early as the Wild Bill’s show, which is the second date of the tour. Wild Bill’s is a great gig for us. We’re typically not bound by time constraints or anything like that. A lot of the shows that we do, the time slot might not be quite as flexible as it is in other situations. So that’s a good opportunity for us to go out and play maybe one or two of the songs we’d really like to get out there in front of people. I think there’s a real good chance that people will be hearing some new songs this summer.
Who else will be playing with Skid Row this summer?
Bigfoot has been around for a few years now and Rachel worked with them in the studio a couple of years ago. They’re great friends of ours, a great band and we always like playing shows with those guys. The other band on that bill is The Dreaded Marco and those guys have been around for about two years now. A lot of people know Mike Froedge from Open Sky Studio and his several other bands. But they’ve been doing really well over the last year or so, so we’re excited to be playing with those guys. But those bands are only playing with us at the Wild Bill show.
We’re doing a handful of shows with the guys in Warrant, which is a band we play with quite a bit. We did a handful of shows with those guys last summer and the bill works really well because the crowd seems to really respond to both bands. So we’ll do a handful of shows with those guys and L.A. Guns (Phil Lewis and Steve Riley’s version) is another band we’ll be doing shows with this summer and, again, that’s a bill that seems to work really well. But in between that we just do what makes sense for us. We’ll do a lot of shows with local openers, depending on what region we’re in. The summer’s good for us, though. We’ve got shows with Shinedown, a show with Kid Rock, a show with Papa Roach, so it’s going to be a good summer. Each weekend or each run of shows we do is going to be slightly different from the last, which will be fun.
For someone who grew up listening to Skid Row and all the other bands you just mentioned, what is it like to go from being a fan of those bands to playing in one of them and sharing the stage with the other ones?
It’s definitely a surreal feeling and I still have those moments where I just sit back and take it all in. It’s usually right at the beginning of “Youth Gone Wild” in the set when I get a chance to take a deep breath, look around and take it all in. It’s a really cool feeling and I’m just really grateful for the opportunities I’ve had that have led me here. Words kind of fail me when I get to this point in the interview. It’s just a really cool feeling, the guys have been great to me and, as you said, I’ve always been a fan of the music. With as much history as this band has, there’s a lot of guys they could have called. And when they call your number, that’s not something to take lightly. I have a good time with it and, as you said, I get to go out and play with these other bands I grew up listening to, so that’s always a lot of fun for me.
For more information, go to www.skidrow.com.
Wrestling with Pop Culture has free tickets to see Skid Row, Bigfoot and The Dreaded Marco at Wild Bill’s on June 9. Comment below with your favorite Skid Row song for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the show. Winners will be chosen at noon on June 8.