Interview By Robert Cavuoto
As the story goes, Ratt back in the 80’s helped pioneer Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Strip’s sound and scene. Architects of glam metal along the side of Motley Crue, WASP, Dokken and Quiet Riot. Ratt created their own brand of sleazy melodic heavy metal best described as “Ratt & Roll” and their music was in heavy rotation on MTV with hits like, “Round and Round,” “You’re in Love,” “Way Cool Junior,” and “Wanted Man.”
After the release of Ratt’s 2010 CD; Infestation, Stephen Pearcy took a few years off from Ratt to focus on his fourth solo CD; Smash. The resulting CD rips with raw emotion, powerful guitar riffs, and incredible melodies from the first song to the last creating a diverse and dynamic CD.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen to talk about Smash and what went into its making as well as to better understand what the future holds for the reunited Ratt with guitarist Warren DeMartini and bassist Juan Croucier.
Robert Cavuoto: Back in 2011 when we spoke, you shared two songs off an EP called Sucker Punch. How did that EP evolve or morph into your new CD, Smash?
Stephen Pearcy: Good question. While I was writing and working on Sucker Punch, I was approached by Frontiers Music for a CD. I put the songs we had completed for Sucker Punch aside and went to the guys in the band and said, “We are going to do an entirely new record from scratch”; which isn’t uncommon for me. The 3 of 4 songs that we wrote for Sucker Punch are out there on iTunes. We completed “I Can’t Take it” which had to go on Smash for many reasons including it was mixed and mastered by Beau Hill. I tried to get him back for the full CD but he was busy. All I could do was to take his insight and guidance to apply to the new songs. I’ve produced before so that’s what I did.
Robert Cavuoto: How many songs did you record for this CD?
Stephen Pearcy: There were about 20 songs! My guitar player Erik Ferentinos and I both write. I also wrote the first song “I Can’t Take It” with Chris Hager; the other guitarist in my solo band and from Mickey Ratt. We had plenty of songs to choose from.
Robert Cavuoto: I really like Smash and thought it was more expansive and dynamic than any Ratt CD yet reminiscent of an early Ratt with a Zeppelin and Van Halen vibe. Was that the musical direction?
Stephen Pearcy: It was and the other bands you mention are influences of course. I got deliberate on a couple of them like “Shut Down Baby” and “What Do You Think” with the Zeppelin feel. We recorded “What Do You Think” acoustically like something off Zeppelin III which will be a bonus track on the Japanese CD. We tried a bunch of different things but what set the standard for the CD was “Shut Down Baby” as it was the first song we tracked and the first one I sang vocals on. It came so easily.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the CD’s flow as each song transitions nicely to the next with no filler?
Stephen Pearcy: I wanted the CD to have a beginning and an end. To ride through the songs and have it mean something by the time you get to “Summers End” which is the end of the trip. The subject matter of each song is very different; I was hitting on things that I never discussed. It’s not a concept record, it’s just rock record. I’m glad I put a lyric sheet in there so people can figure out what I’m singing about. It will be the last CD I include a lyric sheet as I’ve only don’t that twice.
Robert Cavuoto: My two favorite songs are “Ten Miles Wide” and “Dead Roses” because you sound so pissed off.
Stephen Pearcy: [laughing] Oh God, I am pissed off and I don’t even want to go there right now. I think people can figure out what I’m pissed off about and at whom. Anybody can take that song and direct it at someone they are mad at. That’s the process of this record. I want people to say; “That’s me” or “This is how I feel.” “Ten Miles Wide” is Erik being channeled by Robbin Crosby. That’s the only way I can describe it. Even Erik brought it up to me; I was like “You think?” [Laughing] It’s also going to be our next video and we’ll start shooting it soon to have in time for the release of the CD.
Robert Cavuoto: I thought your voice sounded great. How has sobriety affected your singing?
Stephen Pearcy: Personally I’m in a different place now. I’ve done great records on the floor and great records with other people on the floor. Now I’m standing up and I want to stand up and stay there [laughing]. I was in a good place for this record as I took a few years off from Ratt. There was a lot of good work that went on this record as I just didn’t want to throw stuff out there.
Also, the songs don’t come across as being compressed. I went into the studio knowing how people listen to music. When you listen to it in a car, on a home stereo, or through headphones, it will sound great. To get the best out of the CD I want you to turn it to 12 or 15; to hell with just 11.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the timing of Ratt’s reunion and the release of your solo CD, was that planned?
Stephen Pearcy: It just happened, they are two different beasts. Somethings just happen like Warren and I sitting around trading licks. The next thing we are in the studio demoing a song. We plan on doing a Ratt record sometimes the later part of the year. I want to use the same values I did with Smash which was to go back to the first Ratt EP and Out of the Cellar. To let the songs have a lot of breathing room. That’s how it should work.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have any unreleased Ratt demos from the early 80s that you would ever consider releasing or revisiting for a new Ratt CD?
Stephen Pearcy: As a matter of fact I do. Warren and I have songs that were written that didn’t see the light of day and they will. They are great songs. I love that stuff and don’t care what the quality is. Some are on 2 and 4 track recordings. I’ve recorded in every format possible since I got a guitar and started writing in 1978. It’s great to see how we’ve come along and for fans learn about these early songs.
Robert Cavuoto: Ratt had a two record deal with Roadrunner Records, with the first one being Infestation. Is the deal for the second CD still on the table?
Stephen Pearcy: I don’t believe it is due to the current circumstances. You will see a Ratt record eventually from us. I don’t know where it will find its home. We might just do it ourselves.
Robert Cavuoto: Is there a sense of relief of not having to work with Bobby Blotzer or is it more of a disappointment that you were unable to work through the legal issues?
Stephen Pearcy: With any successful band there is always crazy stuff going on. That’s how you know you are successful [laughing]. I’m relieved as we are all relieved. I don’t want to go there. If you have someone who didn’t write anything going out trying to rewrite history then they shouldn’t be out there playing our music. That was a little annoying and why we fought the fight.
Robert Cavuoto: Will you be regaining control of all the Ratt social media sites?
Stephen Pearcy: Things are in the process if someone creates something on their own that isn’t appropriate you need to go through all the legal procedures of having it removed.
Robert Cavuoto: I have to believe you have another book in you just from the past few years of issues alone.
Stephen Pearcy: Interesting that you bring that up. I am working on it and hope to start putting it together at the end of this year. It will entail people, places, and things that I’ve never mentioned; like meeting Henry Kissinger and Charlton Heston. There is so much to talk about it would have taken 10 books to write just one year so there is a lot to figure out what makes the cut.
Robert Cavuoto: You have a string of solo dates; I was wondering is it more lucrative to play headlining shows in clubs and theaters rather than opening for larger bands?
Stephen Pearcy: In my case, I don’t go out there if I don’t need to. You will see that I only do two or three shows a month. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m headlining, co-headlining, or whatever. I do what I feel like that makes the most impact. I have a motto; I’ll play in front of 10, 100, 1000 or 10,000 people, it’s all the same. If someone will pay, I’ll play. It’s not all about the pay, though; you are out there for a reason. I want to go out there to have a great time. I’m not going to bullshit people and say it’s an “intimate venue.” I can give a shit less. I’ve done every type of show since day one. I just consider it going out to do battle.