Ratt's Stephen Pearcy
By Jay Oakley
Start us right off with Smash, the new album, tell us about it.
It's quite diverse, it took a long time. There's a lot of light and dark plus a lot of color in there and we pulled out all the stops on that thing.
With all the time you've been putting into the record along with all your other projects, as well as touring, did you have a hard time getting together with the guys to get the recording done? And, when you did get together did it go pretty smooth?
We started on it quite a long time ago and Beau Hill mixed and mastered one song. We tried to have him involved in the whole project but he was out of the country or something so we ended up producing ourselves, Matt (Thorn) and I and Eric (Ferentinos) on the outside there. We started writing a while ago as we were off and on the road and we had plenty of songs at the end except when we would go in to start recording all these newer songs, there were better songs I would like and I would have them changed and we'd be working on this now. But, it had to be cohesive in its own way and everything was just so meticulous down to how we mixed and mastered and actually recorded. We wanted to try different things and I think we achieved that. It was only until I hooked up with Frontiers (Records) that we really started getting the ball rolling and got aggressive like all day, every day.
It seems that Frontiers has definitely been taking an interest and working a lot with the artists of your genre. How has it been working with them and how do you feel you're being treated?
Good, very well. We're actually getting ready to shoot the video single for "Ten Miles Wide" next week to have it in time for the release. They gave me time, I needed more time and they gave it to me, which is good. My label Top Fuel Records licensed it to them and I liked who they had on their roster. All-in-all it worked out pretty well, it really did.
With everything you've got going on now, especially with getting back together with Warren (DeMartini) and Juan (Croucier) to reform Ratt, when are planning to get out on the road with your solo band to play some new songs and push the album for the fans? Do you have solo shows already set up?
For shows, we have shows set up already starting in February and they'll go into July and then whatever comes after Ratt, per say, we'll continue after that. We have a few shows on the books but we'll see what happens.
I wanted to ask you about your book. It's been while since your book came out, so how has it been from the time you released it up until now? From the times I've gotten to meet you and talk to you, you've always been a very straight shooter and very honest so where there ever any problems with anything you've written?
It's been good about the book. People tend to still like it. I probably wasn't in the most decent shape writing because I couldn't remember actually two or three years of that time so I had to have people come in and refresh my memory.
I heard recently that you have plans for a second book that you are either starting or releasing this year in 2017?
Yeah, later in the year I'm going to start a second book and hope to have it out soon enough, it's been a while. It won't necessarily be about the partying and some of the other aspects of the other one that was just entertainment factor but there's better things to talk about now.
What do you have lined up for this year? You have the new record and solo shows with Eric and Matt and Chris (Hager) and you have the work that you'll be doing with Ratt including M3. Do you have anything else going on? How's the year shaping up for Stephen Pearcy?
Actually, we hired back our old guitar player from my solo band and Arcade, Frankie Wilsey. So, he's back on guitar. Chris wasn't to involved in the studio sessions. He recorded one song and then he kind of disappeared to work on his other band. That was that and we've done shows since without him and I decided to bring back Frankie who was the original solo guitarist anyway and was working in Arcade, he's a perfect fit and he has the time so that takes care of that.
As far as other things to do, I still try to get my hands into sponsor race cars and just keep writing because there's a second record that we want to go through Roadrunners and then after that start writing the Ratt record, hopefully by the end of the year we get to it.
Getting back to the Smash record, what are your current goals for it? We know that the record industry has changed but what would you like it to achieve?
It depends because this record is quite involved. It all depends on where I'm at. I'm always reading and watching so it depends.
Taking a moment to touch on Ratt and getting back together with Warren, Carlos (Cavazo) and Juan, how has that been going so far? You talked about it, you have plans to record music so it has to be going well but in the big picture, how's it been getting back together with those guys?
It's great, it's like riding a bike. You never loose that element, we've been doing it way to long, I could probably take a year off every now and then. If we want to take time off, so be it. We take time off and regroup. That was the big mistake in the destruction of the band in the early 90s, '91-'92. We were always on the road, always in the studio, never had a break, we literally were fried and I knew it. So, I took us off the road and said, "This is crazy. We're going to kill ourselves." and inevitably it did take down one of our guys. Success breeds excess so it goes hand in hand. It's not just whoopty-doo 24/7. You can have fun out there but eventually if you don't recharge your batteries and think about what's really happening, whether it's successful or not, you will stumble and cracks will start revealing themselves and that's what happened. Then we got back together in 2007 and things still weren't right and that's not the fault of just us, any successful band has these problems. I guess that's when you know you're successful.
When it comes to playing with Ratt live will Greg (D'Angelo) be playing drums for you guys?
We haven't decided yet, it's up in the air. I'd like Greg to do the Ratt gig. The drummer we had sitting in for the old guy, we used for the Monsters Of Rock cruise but we haven't really decided yet. We're trying to wrap our heads around that and be careful about what we do because we want someone around for a long time, not just somebody who's going to come in and go back to another band. We want a real replacement.
You touched on him before when you were talking about the turmoils of Ratt in the early 2000s. Especially, when you look back at everyone we lost in 2016 I have to ask you about Robbin (Crosby.) I'd love you to talk a bit about what Robbin meant to you. A friend, a band mate, a person and maybe something that people don't know about him.
Robbin, pretty much, was my right-hand man in the creating of the band. I brought it up here to LA as Mickey Ratt, changed it to Ratt. My band imploded, his band imploded and he started jamming with my band Jake E. (Lee,) Matt (Thorr) and some other people at the time. Then, when my guys bailed Robbin was there and we both kinda went, "Let's start a band and we'll call it Ratt." We did, we started hiring people and some people stayed and some people left until we found the right lineup and the rest is history. He was very talented, he was the glue that kept us together, he was the one that everyone listened to when there was discrepancies, he was level-headed and he was my partner in crime. There wasn't anything that we didn't do together, we were constantly on this march together. We knew what we wanted to do, down to music, image, everything and we accomplished it.
Absolutely, I can only imagine the sadness and the state of mind that you had when you lost him. I assume it's just as you said, "Success brings excess." and it going hand-in-hand.
Yes but he saw the world and got to have the best life anyone could have.
Stephen, thank you and congratulations on the new record. We're all looking forward to see in you live with it and congratulations are also in order when it comes to Ratt. Can't wait to see you at M3 and thank you very much for taking the time to talk.
I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Stephen, thank you for taking a second to sit and talk for a little bit. How was your set?
Great, but to short. I'm used to playing an hour and a half or something or playing as long as they want to hear it. But, ya know what, it was OK because it was packed when we went out there and it looks a little thinner now. So, that tells me something good.
From talking to your guitarist Erik (Ferentinos) for a moment, he said that you guys, pretty much, just got in right before your set.
Yeah, half an hour.
Where were you last night?
We were in Toronto. Before that we Ottawa, Canada. I haven't been back there in a while but it was amazing. The first show had people still trying to get in and what else can you ask for? We're still doing it, I still like doing it a couple times a month, a few times and that's about it and see where the dust settles. Playing here, we've got a lot of friends, everybody's friends from way back in the day. Night Ranger and a bunch of people. Keri Kelli, was in my band for a while. In Ratt, actually, for a while and it's all good.
Do you like these festivals as opposed to an individual club thing because you can reconnect with people?
Well, it doesn't matter to me. I have a motto, "A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, it's all the same to me. It's a fucking party." I just get out there and yell and entertain and do whatever and just have a good time. I can play anywhere. We go where all bands fear to go and that's what people appreciate. People will be like, "There coming here?!" and it's like, "Sure, why not?" I still enjoy it, not out all the time but like I've said, I'm constantly in the studio and I'm trying to kick out my fourth solo record which is going to be about sixteen songs by the end of the day. It's going to be four EPs with four songs on each. Episode one, two, three, four and then when it's done we'll put it out on vinyl and CD.
Do you have a rough time frame for the first one?
It's done. It's on Top Fuel Records, iTunes or my website: stephen-pearcy.com. I'm working on some art for the first CD and we'll probably have it available for the next show. But, what's going on now is everybody gets it from the internet. That's why we record a certain way and I produce it a certain way. I've learned a lot from Beau Hill, he puts the magic dust on everything but now I tend to do it a certain way just because people crunch it and compress it and by the time you hear it, they're hearing it on their phone or something so there's no reason to get way carried away anymore. I mean, we're way back to basics and it's like hearing it live because we go from doing shows, to the studio, to shows, to the studio and right now, we're getting ready to kick out Episode two, which is four new songs.
It's very interesting because some of the songs are kind of Rattish on the first, Episode one and Beau Hill actually mastered, mixed the first single and there's a video for that and we have another video for one of the songs. "I Can't Take It" is the first single that Beau did, but its way diverse. I mean, the next one that comes out or wherever it's placed, it's crazy. There's a song that's like Pink Floyd, there's a song that's like right off Zeppelin 3 and the next batch of songs are just fucking straight up kicking your ass metal! So, I like trying different things.
Of course, everyone knows you as the voice of Ratt and everything so you've got the songs that people really want to hear. When your doing your shows, how do you decide if your going to perform a Ratt heavy set or if you're going to do a little 50/50 with solo work?
Ooh, God if we can find time to rehearse because everybody's constantly doing other things. I've had an independent label, Top Fuel Records, for some time now. Since '95 and we're all in-house stuff. I've been working with this rap chick and it's going to be way crazy when people hear this little girl, man. She's like this little, petite thing but she writes fucking amazing and I took her in. There's not to many things that turn me on out there. I know what it is when I hear it. It was like with Steven Adler, before they were signed, he brought the cassette over to my house and said, "Listen to this, this is our record." He always would say, "God, I wish I had a platinum record or a gold record." and after I heard it, I said, "Steve, you're going to be huge. This is fucking, obnoxious good." All the bands we picked to open up for us, they had something special and we called it out. It does good business.
It's very well documented with the 80s and Ratt being on top and everything you guys got done. I was always very curious about Ratt's history really from about 1999 to the current. From your time in Ratt to your time away and then returning. How do you look back at that time and your decision to go on alone?
Well, after Robbin (Crosby) passed away, I knew it was over. We could go out there and jack it for a while but without Robbin, to me because he was my right-hand man when I started the band, we did everything for that band. I just knew it was done. It was crushing, I was like, "Oh shit, we're done." and then I gave it a couple times, a couple records and did some good tours and shows after that but it just wasn't the same. Then things started, inside, falling apart and it's like, "Keep me the fuck out of that shit, you guys are in and we'll see where the dust settles." and that's it.
But, I still do festivals and big shows and I lone the intimacy of clubs like The Whisky, where we started out, and like this one in Ottawa that we just played. It was sold out but there was still people trying to get in. Four hundred people and that's brilliant because you're right there. I haven't seen people that close because always doing arenas every year for eight, nine, ten years it's great but with no breaks. Tour, record, tour, record, tour, record and thank God they all went platinum or we would have been working for nothing.
So, it had run its course. I just decided that I'm going to go do my own thing. I'd been doing my own thing since '95. I've done an industrial record with Al Pitrelli, Vertex. I've done Arcade with Fred Coury on Sony, so I can do anything I want and it's nice to have that kind of freedom. I can still write Ratt music because I wrote a lot of it but I love experimenting. If you don't learn other things you're not going to know what the future is because you can't be taking steps back. I can play this shit all day long, Ratt music, and eventually it's like, "Ya know, we've got to put some other shit in here." Some solo stuff and this and that, it's just finding time because somebody runs a studio, somebody's doing this, I'm doing this, so we're doing what we can.
One final question, Stephen because to be honest I really value your opinion on the matter. The music business is a business, it's the common phrase. Business, unfortunately has become bigger then the first word in that. It's not uncommon for bands to have two versions. Your band, however, to a certain degree actually has three now. How do you look at that? However you would like to discuss it, I would like to hear your take on what Juan's (Croucier) doing, as well as, of course, with your band and what Bobby's (Blotzer) doing with more of the straight-up band title.
Well, what I think is what the latter is doing is destroying and ripping off our integrity, I don't think that's going to last long. Juan, he just wants to go out and jam. He's got a studio and he records and it's good. Some of us still like what we do, not take advantage of it because of who we were or who people think we still are. My band is just as tight as any version of all of them. We're a different breed. I like younger, hungrier people. Chris (Hager) goes way back to Mickey Ratt in the 70s so we've know each other a while. I've known Erik for years. Greg D'Angelo, from White Lion, known them for years and years and years until eventually I said, "Hey man, you're a good drummer." I started writing with him and going to his studio and I said, "You need to play with me. Play in the band and see what's going on." and he's been such a major point in the band and our business. A lot of good things are happening and Matt (Thorne,) or bass player, he was in Mickey Ratt for a little bit and the beginning of Ratt.
Actually, Ratt didn't start out as the band that we know it or what it became in '83 and on. I had Jake E. Lee in Mickey Ratt and an early version of Ratt and plenty of other people. So, that's just me stretching the boundaries and trying to see what's going on out there and then looking in the mirror and going, "Oh, you again?" [Laughs] It's like, "No, Check this out!" and I've got these people now kicking your ass. We all think the same and have respect and we just look forward to playing and like I said, we go where bands fear, we do what bands fear. We don't shit a brick we go, "Whatever."
People who are still in the business and doing what they love doing, it's a major and it's keeping the vibe alive. All these other kiddie bands will never come close to what we accomplished. Our shit will never go away. There's no way in hell it'll ever go away, we're in the books. We know what we did, we know what we accomplished. We really don't care, we just push the envelope.
Stephen, thank you so much for taking some time.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it, brother.