By: Robert Cavuoto
As the story goes, Ratt helped pioneer Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Strip sound and scene. After an 11 year wait, the band returned in April of 2010 sounding fired up and better than ever with Infestation, a heavy, riff driven CD reminiscent of their early days as a band. Ratt was able to reinvent their sound by rediscovering their strengths, shuttling listeners to a time when metal ruled the earth and real musicians wore spandex and make-up.
Fast-forward to 2011. Stephen Pearcy posted on his Twitter pager that Ratt would be taking a hiatus to straighten out some “business issues”. Fans should only assume that this was due to a rift in the band stemming from a tell-all book by one of their own, drummer Bobby Boltzer at the onset of the CD release and tour.
Back in the headlines, Stephen Pearcy is preparing to release a solo CD entitled Sucker Punch, due out in the fall with a tour to coincide dubbed Metal in America.
Robert Cavuoto of Guitar International was able to sit with Stephen while while he took a break from his recording duties to discuss this solo project, set the record straight on the nature of the hiatus and the future of Ratt.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about your new CD Sucker Punch, one of the sample songs, “Too Much Is Never Enough” sounded like it was from Ratt’s EP. What can the fans expect?
Stephen Pearcy: Well, it’s probably one of the first records that I’m actually doing all the guitars on. Most people don’t really know me as a guitar player, even as a writer, but those songs came from somewhere. The Ratt EP was literally all of my songs from the Mickey Ratt days, with the exception of “You Think You’re Tough,” which Robbin and I had penned together. That’s the song that ended up getting us signed.
I’ve been a guitar player for years, it’s just overlooked. I’m doing the solos on both of the sample singles. I’m currently the label, but Roadrunner has an option on it. Whether they pick it up is irrelevant, because it will be heard. What I wanted to do this time, since I was writing so many songs, is for my fans to hear the process. Not just give them a basic track, but to give them a rough version. Feedback has been good.
Depending on how the record is picked up, my manager and I have talked about a whole other approach to releasing a record that nobody has ever done before.
Robert: I think you’re on the cutting edge. I speak with a lot of artists who are releasing singles every month to keep the fans interested and excited, then at a certain point release the full album. For example, Steve Stevens told me that he and Billy plan to release three songs every quarter and the put then bundle the CD with a shirt.
Stephen Pearcy: That means I’ll be giving a guitar away with my CD! [Laughing]. But that’s it exactly, depending on who picks it up. I do want it to have a tangible home, distribute in the old format (on CD). Selling records is not gonna change overnight.
Robert: I don’t recall you playing guitar on stage with Ratt, did you ever do that?
Stephen Pearcy: Yeah, we did it in Ratt in ’97 until I took a tumble offstage. But I played half the set on guitar. Warren was the only guitar player at the time. It really isn’t what Ratt is about. In my solo band I go out and play guitar. Everyone is always surprised when I play. I’m a like Joe Perry, Jimmy Page – kind of a sloppy solo guy and I love it that way. I have my own sound, which sometimes I can’t get out of my players. Warren has let me play guitar, basic rhythm tracks, on some Ratt songs, particularly on Collage there’s a lot of my guitar.
Robert: Will you be playing guitar in you solo band for the Metal in America Tour?
Stephen Pearcy: Not right now. It’s such a shock for people. They tend to judge you immediately. It’s such a mind fuck for them. “Wow, what does he think, he’s a guitar player now?” Well, yeah, I am. In Mickey Ratt, since ’77, that’s what I did. I played rhythm guitar as a Paul Stanley-like guy. When I saw Van Halen I said, “Look, this ain’t happenin’. I’ve gotta be a singer.”
Robert: Is the CD completed or is it still in development? When do you think it will be released?
Stephen Pearcy: I actually was just talking to my co-producer/engineer this morning about going back into the studio. I have to go in and record three or four more new songs.
The thing is, I’m always writing. I have yet to work with Eric Farentino, who is my main guitarist in the band. He’s got some amazing ideas which we have yet to record. Out of the 12 or 13 songs that I’ve written, one in particular is truly phenomenal – if I say so myself. I’ve been working on it every day for months.
That’s where we might just have to go with the approach like Stevens and Billy. My plan is different, but I might have to go that route just for the fact that I have so many good songs. Hopefully we can get it out by the time Metal in America dates come around, Weekend Warrior, or the full tour.
Robert: Is that August or September?
Stephen Pearcy: Probably September. I figured I might as well start getting some of this stuff out now so people can know that I wasn’t just talkin’ outta my ass.
Robert: Are you going to save any of these songs for a new Ratt album?
Stephen Pearcy: This is so ironic. I haven’t spoken to Warren in quite awhile. We had a break and I ran into him in a store the other day and we actually talked about getting together and starting the writing process. I told him I’d been writing Ratt music, which is totally different than my solo stuff.
I’ll tell you right now, you hit the nail on the head. Some of this stuff is early Ratt-like stuff that I’m writing, and it’s a shame because it could be used for Ratt, but Warren’s a total riff kind of guy. He’s got plenty of stuff. He told me he’s been writing, so when it goes down he and I will have plenty of songs. We even have some unfinished songs that were never used on Infestation. We’ll be very prepared.
Robert: Do you have any demos from back in the day that never really got released that you could incorporate into Ratt? That would be pretty cool.
Stephen Pearcy: Yeah, but I have a plan for that stuff, like the real first Ratt live DVD I want to put out. I’ve got the biggest collection of bootlegged DVDs of Ratt music ever on the planet, every format. We have some unreleased songs, I’m not gonna tell people where to get it or what they are, but they’re out there and I’ll include them.
The thing is finding out who really threw down those riffs. Back in the day we would just go in a room and jam and somebody could be playing bass. Somebody else could be playing guitar. We’ll throw in some of those early tunes, never before heard. It’s weird that they’re out there. I think somebody lifted them from Robbin or the studios. You know how it happens. Some engineer says, “Fuck those guys. I’m gonna take this and one day it’s gonna be worth something.” [Laughing] “They’re all loaded. Fuck those guys.” And we probably were too!
Robert: That’s why you didn’t notice the tape was missing! [Laughing]
Stephen Pearcy: I don’t know. We have more of a lock and key system compared to what we had years ago. [Laughs]
Robert: How does being a solo artist compare with being in Ratt?
Stephen Pearcy: The pros are that I can do what I want, when I want and how I want, which is cool. But everything I write anyway is gonna be compared to Ratt because I sing it, write it and play it. It’s not like I try to go outside the park with the stuff. I have before with Arcade and with Al Pitrelli in Vertex. That was extreme. That was like insane industrial shit. I can get off on it.
With Ratt, it pretty much has to take on its element and its own thing, so people get it. People want Ratt to sound like Ratt.
It’s the same when you do a live show, fortunately with Infestation, 90% hit the mark, like with “Eat Me Up Alive” and the other songs, people were like, “Wow, that’s Ratt.” You also have to give them what they want. They want to go “Round and Round” then to “Lay It Down”.
Robert: Do you think the desire to do solo projects comes out of the slowness of Ratt to put out CDs?
Stephen Pearcy: Yeah, and unfinished business these days. Look, bottom line, I’m happy with the legacy if it were to end now. We were rewarded very, very well in the past, but we never really finished. We can’t blame it all on ourselves. We were just trying to be the people we were and the players and musicians we were. We never followed trends. We never cared about being press darlings. We never cared about Playmates we were bangin’ in the day. We never utilized all that stuff and never went to jail, or that you knew about. [Laughs]
I was telling somebody the other day… 10-11 years to do Infestation–We’ll get this next one out, and we’ll hit the mark. Warren is right. We almost got there. It’s true.
Robert: Ratt is on hiatus due to taking care of some “business stuff”. Can we assume that “business stuff” has all been taken care of?
Stephen Pearcy: We’re just projecting that it should be by 2012. I mean, it should have been this year. If this all happens or something arises and he wants to start writing next month, I’ll be available. That’s the way it works. It should be a priority, but sometimes if things aren’t in their proper alignment, there’s no way we can be ready. All I know is we’re both getting antsy. That’s usually what brings us back together anyway, regardless of foolishness, lawsuits and all this other crap. That is over and done. It’s time to be musicians and friends again.
Robert: Have you and Bobby Blotzer resolved your issues from the fall-out from his book?
Stephen Pearcy: Yeah, until my book gets released [Laughing]. Life’s a bitch, you know. I’ve got to tell you, the thing that bothered me wasn’t the foolishness of the things said in the book, which were far from the truth. It was how he released it the day the tour started and the record came out. It was like this whole thing that kind of pissed us off. That’s neither here nor there. We’re dysfunctional, but we’re not the most dysfunctional rock band out there. I don’t give a shit.
Robert: I actually thought you did more to promote his book than he did.
Stephen Pearcy: [Laughing] That’s why I hate talking about it. It’s not like it a bestseller. If it were, then I’d have to step up. But there was no reason to. It is what it is. If that’s his form of therapy, per se, so be it.
Robert: What are the chances of ever getting Juan back in the band? I know that a lot of long-time fans would like to see that happen.
Stephen Pearcy: The bottom line: the band is never gonna be what it once was. We can only do the best we can to present that same music that you want to hear. Even if he were to come back, it probably still wouldn’t be the same. So what’s the better course? The bass player that we have now who’s been there much longer than Juan was ever in the band. Probably twice as long as Juan was in the band, he’s been there, so it’s an interesting Catch-22. It would be great. Me, I’m all for that kind of thing. The more of the original gang, the better. But we don’t know. I don’t know. Who knows?
Check out our interview with former RATT bassist Juan Croucier
Robert: You have Top Fuel Records, your own label. Nowadays with so many labels going under, why open up your own label?
Stephen Pearcy: First of all, I did it in ’95, and that was around the time Arcade was happening. I saw everything changing. I saw the non-interest in the ‘90s of our kind of music. Everybody thought it was just gonna go away and disappear, but lo and behold, that never happened because music is music. Our audiences are too big, too wide. Now their kids are coming to our shows.
I just saw things going down that I wanted more control over. I could pay my own bill and not get charged for unnecessary things, and things they wouldn’t do for us. They’d give hundreds of thousands of your records away. How do you account for them? You don’t. At least when I do my own thing, release my own stuff, I know where it’s going. It’s accountable. They give me money. I make the record and do what I want with it.
Robert: Is the Metal in America tour just you, or are you touring with a bunch of bands?
Stephen Pearcy: It depends. It’s a tough market out there right now, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll definitely pick up bands from either that city or we’ll bring a couple of people out with us. We’re still working on it.
Robert: You also talked about your book. How’s that coming along? I know that last I read about you, you were just drafting stuff up. Is it anything more formal?
Stephen Pearcy: I’m still working on it. I have to meet with the other writer, and we’ll take it from there. There was never a rush to do that in the first place, because when I release it, all hell’s breaking loose. It’s coming from me. I created that monster and I’m sure as hell gonna throw down, tell it like it is and be brutally honest. By no means is my book an attack. It’s a whole different aspect. It would be a cross between a Keith Richards and Steven Tyler kind of book, with a little Ratt ‘n’ Roll in there. It’s got to have substance; it can’t be the pussy/party/paycheck story.