For Rachel Bolan, Skid Row has been a way of life since he and Dave "The Snake" Sabo were founding members of the band over two decades ago.
"It's been cool being around this long and still being able to do it," said Bolan, Skid Row's bassist, in a recent phone interview.
Formed in Tom's River, New Jersey, Skid Row has become a hard rock and metal institution, moving forward through many line-up changes, with Bolan and guitarist Sabo the only constant members.
"We always seem to survive," mentioned Bolan as Skid Row prepares for a visit to Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday night with special guest FireHouse.
This is Skid Row's second appearance at The Peak, as it previously performed with fellow metal rockers Slaughter a few years ago, noted Bolan.
The latest change to the roster is drummer Rob Hammersmith, who had played in Rockets to Ruin and Gunfire 76.
Earlier this year Hammersmith replaced Dave Gara on drums, and the move has worked out well, according to Bolan.
"Rob's been with us going on three months," Bolan related. "It was a quick change. He's an old friend of ours, and it's been like he's been in the band from the beginning. It was pretty seamless."
Since the release of its self-titled debut album in 1989, Skid Row has sold over 20 million albums. The band's most commercially successful period was during its first three albums, when Sebastian Bach was on lead vocals. The debut album included the hits "18 and Life", "I Remember You" and "Youth Gone Wild", which are still among Skid Row's signature songs.
In 1991, the band's sophomore effort, Slave to the Grind, was the first metal record to debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart in the SoundScan era, where sales through the scanning of albums at retail outlets determined chart position. It accomplished that trick 19 years ago this month.
By 1996 Bach was gone as frontman. Johnny Solinger, Skid Row's current lead vocalist, joined in 2000. His first album with the band was 2003's Thickskin.
"Johnny's still considered the new lead singer, but he's been with us twice as long as Sebastian was," noted Bolan.
The current line-up also still includes guitarist Scotti Hill.
Skid Row's last album was 2006's Revolutions Per Minute, but the band is working on new material. "Snake and I are still writing and we're hoping a new album will be out in 2011," suggested Bolan.
Skid Row still performs about 100 shows per year, but their touring habits have changed.
"We do fly dates, and we've been doing that for the past couple of years," explained Bolan. "We're bouncing all over the place. In the summer, we do a lot of festivals. We do one in Sweden and a couple in the States. We've also been going to play in Europe and Korea.
"Four years ago we played all the Air Force and Army Bases in Korea, and we had a real good time. It's nice to know how much you are appreciated there, and the feeling is mutual."
Fans can expect a Skid Row concert to cover all the bases as well.
"We mix it up and do something from each album," said Bolan. "We're lucky to be around long enough that we can pick from our best. Our demographic ranges from those in their 50's down to their teens."
When they are not working with Skid Row, Bolan and Sabo write music beds for cable sports network ESPN, and Bolan also writes music for the NHRA.
"I've been a racing fan since I was a kid," he admitted. "I'm composing racing music for the teams, and I've also had songs placed with the Tennessee Volunteers, and I'm writing a song for the Carolina Panthers now. It's cool to watch ESPN and hear my music."
Bolan is glad that Skid Row continues to be a crowd pleaser after all these years.
"Snake and I first met in 1986, and we don't take this for granted," he added. "When you look out and see people singing these songs, that's the payoff - to be still worth something in the public eye."
Skid Row and Firehouse will perform at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday, July 30. Doors open at 6 p.m. with showtime at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24 in advance and $29 the day of the show for general admission seating. Tickets are available online at www.ticketmaster.com and at Ticketmaster outlets including Boscov's and Gallery of Sound, as well as at the Penn's Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant. Call (866) 605-7325 for information.