By: Robert Cavuoto
As the story goes, Ratt back in the ’80s helped pioneer Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Strip sound and scene.
Architects of glam metal along side of Motley Crue, WASP, Dokken and Quiet Riot, Ratt created their own brand of sleazy melodic heavy metal best described as “Ratt & Roll”.
Ratt like many hard rock bands in the 80’s were staples on MTV with such hits in heavy rotation like “Round and Round”, “Your in Love”, “Way Cool Junior”, and “Wanted Man”.
In 1984 they released their debut LP, Out Of The Cellar and through-out the mid-to-late 80s released a barrage of commercial hard rock LPs including Invasion of Your Privacy, Dancing Undercover, and Reach for the Sky.
Stephen Pearcy, lead singer of Ratt, has penned a tell-all-book, Sex, Drugs Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock, about his experiences with Ratt and doesn’t spare any of the naughty details along the way.
Deeper than the sex and drugs, his book is really about the friendship of his late friend, guitarist, and co-founder of Ratt, Robbin “King” Crosby, and the trials and trappings of young two guys looking to start a successful band.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Stephen to talk about his new book and reminisce of when metal ruled the earth and real musicians wore eyeliner like a badge of honor.
Robert Cavuoto: I really enjoyed your book. I felt as if I was reliving the ’80s all over again. Why was now the time to come out with this book?
Stephen Pearcy: I wanted to actually do a book four years ago and then our drummer [Bobby Blotzer] decided to put one out. That was all fine and dandy, but it made me want to do even more.
Robert: Besides the sex and the drugs, I really thought the underlying story was the friendship you and guitarist, Robbin Crosby had. How important was it for you to share that story?
Stephen Pearcy: You’re right, the sex and the drugs were totally irrelevant to the real people. When I first met Robbin in the ‘70s, in San Diego, I knew right away back then that one day we were going to be jamming together. We always talked about it. It eventually happened and he was literally such an important part of the band. I had to let people know how important he was, not just as a friend, but creating Ratt.
Robert: What I liked was that it was positive reflections you put on him and not dwell on his demise with drugs. As a fan of the band since the’80s, I thought it was well-deserved, kudos to you for putting it out there.
Stephen Pearcy: Thank you. He’s still well-respected and everybody thinks about the guy constantly like he’s still around. And when I do things with Ratt, I always keep him in mind, “What would Robbin think? What would Robbin do?” He was my right-hand man. I don’t know how important anybody else in the band thinks they were, and there’re good people. The reality is that Robbin was a big part of Ratt.
Robert: The thing that had me scratching my head was how messed up you and he were yet were able to write, perform, and pursue a record deal. I would image that would be a tough feat even straight.
Stephen Pearcy: We’re not the only band in history who were dysfunctional. It was just normal. It’s just how we lived. Some of us had bigger vices than others. You eventually grow through it or grow out of it. It’s just how we lived. If I wasn’t in music, I don’t know if I would have gotten involved in so many vices, but as I was growing up. Eventually and hopefully, you get your shit together and you grow up. And that’s what happens.
Robert: You guys wrote some amazing songs. Did you feel you wrote better songs under the influence or straight?
Stephen Pearcy: [laughter] When we did Ratt’s last record, Infestation, I was not in a good place. When the record was done, I went and took care of some of my vices and cleaned up. I listened to the record and I went, “Wow, how did this happen?” I don’t write music thinking, “Oh, I gotta be messed up.” Because, when I did get sober, the first song I ever rerecorded was “Round and Round.” It didn’t sound better or worse, than the original. Sometimes people think, “Oh, you got to have a little buzz on in order to feel it, get it, do it and that’s not true. You can still do what you do in music without being intoxicated.
Robert: Was there a period of time with the band that really resonates with you?
Stephen Pearcy: The positive was definitely doing the self-titled EP or Out of the Cellar, because we waited so long to get them recorded. We were actually one of the last bands in LA and when it happened. We were like, “Well, thank God, it’s about time.” We didn’t even give it much thought. We looked at each other, and said were on the same label as The Stones, let’s go. To me that was definitely a high point. Any band who has success over 10 years, are the luckiest people on the planet. We never thought it would last a year, let alone as long as it did.
The low point would have to be around Detonator, We wanted to do that record and Robbin was unfortunately having some really rough times, chemically. He wasn’t really a part of the record. Warren had to come in and redo a bunch of his stuff. Then we did the tour but times were changing and the band was blaming things on each other.
Robert: I liked the fact that there was self-realization that you were difficult at times. You didn’t blame everyone or point fingers at others during the bad times.
Stephen Pearcy: There was no reason to do that because, unfortunately, our drummer bad rapped his own band in his book, not knowing the consequences. I didn’t need to bash my guys, whether I’m in or out of the band. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s one thing to be an asshole here and there; it’s just part of what goes down when you’re in this career.
This has got to be the weirdest occupation you could ever have. [laughter] You get paid to play and do what you like. You can see the world, and everything is thrown at you. I never got into this for adulation, let alone did I ever think I would even be in this game. It’s like, if you can’t talk to your own faults, your own demons, you’ve got to live with that.
Robert: I define you and Bobby Blotzer as “frienemies.” How do you get past it all?
Stephen Pearcy: He’s like a brother. It’s like having four brothers from other mothers. Some of us get along and some of us don’t get along, but you make it work. We get through it in our own way. There’s an old expression we have, “Bob is Bob.” [laughter]. There’s no reason to even talk about it. You fight with your brother sometimes and you say things you don’t mean, but I don’t want to say things that are nobody’s business.
Robert: I know we talked about the importance of getting the record deal, but what was the big break that lead you to the deal?
Stephen Pearcy: It was when we were the house band at the Whiskey which got us the gig opening up for Saxon. Then everything just started snowballing. Bands like ZZ Top asked us to open arena shows for them. That was probably our big break right there.
Robert: Back in the ‘80s the LA Metal and Glam scene was in its infancy. Who did you guys use as your mentor, or was there a band that you used as the blueprint for Ratt?
Stephen Pearcy: Nobody. I think that was probably the best thing that we could have ever done. We didn’t see anybody as competition. We didn’t look at any other bands to be like them. We just wanted to be our own.
When we finally found our image and how we wanted to present ourselves, I think we came into our own and just let the music do its thing. We always kept that in our heads, to let our music do the talking out here.
We each liked our own band and we were fans of our own bands. But no, we really never really looked at anybody like that. I wanted us to be big rock; per se, like Van Halen or Led Zeppelin. Rob was a big fan of Z.Z. Top, Anthrax, and Priest. We were pretty a big melting pot.
Robert: Is there a song that really defines Ratt?
Stephen Pearcy: I would say “Round and Round,” definitely. The way that song came about was when Warren, Robbin and I where at Ratt Mansion West recording on a two track. It was just another song until Beau Hill [producer] heard us playing it live and said, “Wait a minute, what is this song here?”
Robert: Give me an example of one of Ratt’s worst gigs.
Stephen Pearcy: Oh, God, there’s way too many of those. An amp will come unplugged or one time Juan swung his bass around and it literally flew off his body. Bobby’s monitors being so loud that Warren just walks offstage. Or a worst scenario would be me falling offstage and the show’s over. Shattering a kneecap or Warren falling offstage and you just make sure he’s OK, and he gets back onstage and you continue the show.
Robert: Juan Croucier [bass] is back in the band. I know that he turned down a reunion several times in the last 10 – 12 years. What was the thing that hooked him with this time around?
Stephen Pearcy: That’s a tough one. We had been talking for some time and God bless our bass player, Robbie Crane, even he was going, “You guys gotta get back together.” You know I think when we all started talking; we kind of put the business aside of who’s going to own this or that. And we tried to decide if we’re ever going to do anything again, this would be the chance to do it for our legacy and ourselves. The final lap.
Warren and I approached Juan and we were like, “Oh, come on. Let’s just make this happen. Let’s just go out there and do it.” I gotta tell you the first show we did was brilliant. It was like it always was back in the day.
I’m looking forward to writing with him again. You gotta figure, Juan and I wrote “You’re in Love,” “Lack of Communication” and all these other great songs. That was Ratt. The four of us all wrote so much music together.
Robert: Tell us a little bit about the new CD. Have you guys started writing anything yet?
Stephen Pearcy: Oh, God. Warren and I started writing about a year-and-a-half ago, or so. We’ve got into it and we were totally going for it and then we had to do shows. Something always interrupts us.
Warren and I wanted to approach the new record for Ratt a little differently. We wanted to go back to basics. We wanted to literally make it like the EP or Out of the Cellar or something. We’re taking our time.
Juan came by my house not too long ago and played me some stuff. I was so excited. I’m like, “There’s some hit songs here.” And these are ours.
There’s nobody in the way, there’s no producer yet, and we’re writing these things that are just amazing. I’m real excited about getting started. And another thing, we’re right back at Atlantic Records again. Roadrunner is with Atlantic Records now, so it’s like we’re right back where we started.
Robert: Even Juan’s background vocals add so much to the songs. Any time frame set for the release?
Stephen Pearcy: I’d like to get this thing out before the end of the year. I wish that we could really knuckle it down. I think we’re looking toward August or September to get started.