Stephen Pearcy: The Ratt Kingpin Returns

Stephen Pearcy (center) and Ratt circa 2010.

The infamous rodent rockers from the Sunset Strip are back. Twenty-six years after Out Of The Cellar became a multi-platinum monster hit and made them rock superstars, original Ratt members Stephen Pearcy (vocals), guitarist Warren DeMartini (guitars) and Bobby Blotzer (drums), along with long-time bassist Robbie Crane and guitarist/ex-Quiet Riot member Carlos Cavazo, just released one of the strongest musical statements of their career, Infestation. It’s their first new album in 11 years, and despite hitting middle age, the band has not lost its edge and produced something that represents different aspects of their career, from their party hearty heyday through to their modern maturity.

Prior to the release of their new album, ADD caught up with Pearcy — who describes himself as a “professional screamer” — to discuss their latest platter, musical philosophies, late Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby and the life lessons he has learned. For more from Pearcy, read my Ratt feature in the recent Aquarian Weekly.

You have said that producer Michael Baskette felt you could do another album like Out Of The Cellar, and he pushed you guys to play to those strengths.
Not only was he the producer, but he was a fan, so he knew we wanted to hear. That was a big plus because all we can do is say, “Here’s our stuff.” He put his two cents in, and I co-wrote one song with him. He has great ideas. For the vocals, Michael and I used the same schematic but more simplified. We didn’t have nine of me out there, we had three of me, which gives me my sound, and I sang straight through on a lot of stuff. Michael was great. A lot of that session was as real as it gets. We worked hard on it for months and months and months. I’d put this up against Cellar any day.

You now have Carlos Cavazo in the band, and Robbie Crane has been in the band for a while. How did the band’s chemistry work out this time?
Really good. First of all, Robert has been in the band longer than Juan [Croucier] now — 13 or 14 years, I think — and we’ve known Carlos for so long, it’s like he’s been in the band forever. He brought that element of a real guitar player back, playing the flying Vs, and he was perfect for the course. And the first two songs he brought, “Best Of Me” and “Eat Me Up Alive” were the first lead tracks. I knew that I was going to rip into that thing, so he brought some good stuff to the table.

Pearcy and guitarist Warren DeMartini performing at Sweden Rock 2008.
(Photo credit: Appelmos.)

Could it be argued that what distinguishes a lot of rock bands is the quality and tone of the singer?
Sure. When I do solo stuff — and granted I write a lot of Ratt music and lyrics — it’s immediately identifiable, and that’s a great thing. That’s something that the new bands rarely have, where you can listen to something and go “that’s so-and-so” because they know the identity of the band through the singer’s voice. Usually it’s the case, “There’s that band that sounds like…”

At the same time, Ratt has always possessed a very distinct guitar sound.
Robbin set the standard for our two-guitar sound. I did more writing for the band in the early days. Nothing has really changed, but we’re giving everybody more of an opportunity to write. If it’s a good song, it’s a good song. As long as it comes from the band, that’s what stands out. That’s why this record turned out the way it did, because we wrote it. The producer did what he was supposed to do, put his two cents in, but we there are no real outside writers. I’ve worked with brilliant writers, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. The record turned out the way it did because we did it, and that’s something I’m very happy about.

Infestation showcases numerous contrasts: “Best Of Me” has that super melodic, Invasion of Your Privacy-style, whereas “Eat Me Up Alive” and “Lost Weekend” are more like early Ratt songs. And on “Lost Weekend” you could’ve had big vocal choruses, but you didn’t, and it sounds like you’re purposely limiting your vocal range to get a certain sound. It’s catchy yet not overtly melodic.
There’s another thing I’ve gotten into — and I do it live, and sometimes it trips people out — where it doesn’t sound like [what’s] on the record. I’m trying something different so I can into it and enjoy what I’m doing. If you want to hear the song the way it’s done, listen to the record, but if you want to hear me do it and enjoy myself doing it, come on down. I come from the old school of Plant, Tyler and Bloom [from Blue Oyster Cult].  These bands got away with trying different stuff, especially Plant. One reason why such a big fan of Zeppelin is because of [Robert] Plant. He did so many things outside of the box, yet at the same time he sang what he was supposed to sing. [Steven] Tyler would do it with words, but Plant would really sing different stuff, and that’s what really got me into having a good time doing it. it pisses my band off sometimes, but I don’t need to prove I hit that note. I already hit it. The same thing with [Rob] Halford. He steps outside the box quite a bit, too. I love it. That’s where I come from, especially over the last few years I’m doing different things were I can step out. The same thing happened with that song [“Lost Weekend”]. I tried different things.

Obviously you have to weigh the fans expectations against what you want to do. Last year you toured and played all of Out Of The Cellar. What kind of response have you been getting to the new album?
There’s been a great response. It’s been amazing. The same with the video. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Our audience is such a wide range of people these days, from 10 years old to 50 years old, so you give ’em what you’ve got. We were never a band to give you anything more than what we had. If there’s anything else, read it in the headlines.

The lyrics on Infestation range from sleazy Ratt N’ Roll to more romantic concepts. What inspired them?
“Best Of Me” is a good-as-it-gets kind of thing. “Eat Me Up Alive” is stop your whining and bitching and moaning; then again, I want some of that. “Garden Of Eden” is about heroin. I was in a weird place doing this record. I was personally out of control in a lot of situations. “Take Me Home” is a song I wrote for my daughter. “Garden Of Eden” was written about a smackdown during the record.

There are lot of people who “grow up” and get out of the music that they grew up listening to, or they treat it as a nostalgia thing. I still love the music I grew up listening to and will always listen to it. What about you?
You never lose the love for the music or what made you feel that way. Or gave you that good thing or that bad thing or that smell or that taste. It never, ever goes away. I could be kicking back on a porch years from now and still thrown down Sin After Sin or heavy-duty Priest.

Ratt once again looms over the Sunset Strip.
(Photo © 2010 by Valerie A. Ciliento.)

Are your apologetic at all for anything that happened in the past?
Oh no, not at all. I was the last of the Mohicans to go down. I didn’t get married until my daughter was [around] five. She’s 14 now. I was thoroughly enjoying whatever I was handed and enjoyed our scene. You learn from it. You can’t take any of that back. Some of it’s foolish, and some of it’s good, bad and ugly, but everybody has it. If there’s a person out there that can think otherwise it’s very hypocritical because everybody has all those angles in their lives. Then you put yourself out in this business, and that’s what you get. You can’t be in rock ‘n roll and claim to be a saint. That’s just not the way it is. If the Internet was around back then, holy shit…

People are bringing their kids shows now. Is it funny to be perceived as a family band in a way?
Not really. I wouldn’t want them to see what still goes down now and then, but we watch our own. My kid comes to our shows all the time. I bring her out on stage. One time we were kicking a ball around on stage in Irvine during a gig. This is what we do and can share it. I never thought I would ever see that day in my life, but it’s good. We do see a lot of young kids with their parents, and it’s incredible. Nowadays that’s how they’re going to find out about us. It’s like back in the Seventies, word-of-mouth.

Ratt back in the Eighties with the late Robbin Crosby (center).

How has being a dad changed your life?
I’m no saint, but I certainly got my shit together. I did that when Robin went down personally. All of us have walked that line. You figure it out eventually.

What are your best recollections of Robbin Crosby from the Eighties?
Robbin was a real guy. He lived and breathed what he was doing, Ratt music. He was committed. I used to play rhythm guitar, but once he joined I decided to just sing. Robbin was a real, true rock ‘n’ roller. He was the real deal in every way, and that’s what made “Round And Round” and what created his demise. Like our old manager said, it’s a dangerous occupation. I think it was back in the day, and that’s what a lot of the newer bands don’t understand and probably never will. It’s not the same out there anymore. Everybody was just full tilt in, that’s the way it was.

Are you still living the same lifestyle today? What lessons did you learn from past?
Well, a lot of mistakes… [chuckles] Everything’s in moderation. I am not a fake person. I live and breathe what I am, and when I go out there to sing and present myself, I can’t change or fake it. I can moderate. I never know what I’ll get every night. Sometimes I can go out there and think, “Why am I even here?” I’ve learned to appreciate being out there [on stage], but I haven’t changed some things because there’s no reason for me to. I believe in what I’m doing, and if I were to fake it people would know. I also wouldn’t be a puppet for anybody either and think I have to do things that I used to because I’d have to because it’s entertainment or because it’s the way it was. I don’t think any of us believe that anymore. We get out there and try to do the best we can.

Pearcy and DeMartini at the Ratt record release party on April 20, 2010.
(Photo © 2010 by Valerie A. Ciliento.)

You played the entire Out Of The Cellar album during last year’s summer tour. Isn’t it surreal to think that it came out over 25 years ago?
Yeah, it is, because I didn’t think I would survive. Rest in peace, Robbin, he did not. I left the band [in 1992] because I thought it was crazy and we were going to kill ourselves because we had been on the road for 6 or 7 years straight, playing nonstop arenas and doing too much of this and too much of that and all being separated from family and friends. And the fact we were able to get our shit together and hang out 25 years later is crazy in itself.

Doesn’t Bobby have a book coming out called Tales Of A Ratt?
Oh God, yeah. That’s his thing. I was doing literally something that was ready to come out last year before I got back together with the band, Ratt Tales, and I’m glad he didn’t because there’s actually a happy ending and no ending right now. So I’ll wait for Ratt Tales. Bobby has something to say. Who knows what it is, but he’s going to say it.

Out Of The Cellar: The album that started it all.

Did he consult all the guys while writing his book?
We were sent some things, and we gave our opinions, but all in all it’s his words. He’s going to be responsible solely for anything from it — good, bad or ugly. He represents himself how he represents himself. [laughs] No comment. Everybody and their mother is doing a tell-all book, so I’m glad I didn’t right now. I have been trying to get Ratt Tales together for quite a bit, but I’m not in a big rush to [finish it] because the journey isn’t over. It’s not just about the three Ps [Pussy, Party, Paycheck] or the life of Ratt, it’s more involved. It mentions a lot of things that Ratt was involved in that people forget. People should never whine and moan about success to any degree, and I think a lot of things have really changed in our occupation, so to speak. It is a business, but it’s still this thing you do to make you happy, that fulfills you and you want to turn out to other people. And they might give you something for it – drugs, sex, money, I don’t know – but to bitch about what we do in music is just profound. I’ve learned quite a bit, but I regret nothing.

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.