Interview by Robert Cavuoto
The Big Rock Summer Tour with Ratt, Tom Keifer, Slaughter, and Skid Row will be kicking off in June. It’s a celebration of each band’s 30+ year career and paying homage to their music. Every night of the tour will feature more party anthems and power ballads than fans could hope for, with the Rock & Roll caravan hitting more than two dozen North American cities starting June 3rd in Farmingville, NY and wrapping up on September 19th in Los Angeles, CA
For Ratt fans, Ratt n’Roll has always been about sticking to your guns. It’s about music laced with attitude, fuel-injected riffs, and memorable vocal melodies. Through-out their career, Ratt’s style has never wavered from that mantra of upholding the integrity of the music and their live performance. Fans of the band look for that constancy and Ratt always delivers! The new breed of Ratt are Stephen Peary [vocals], Juan Croucier [bass], Jordan Ziff [guitar], and Pete Holmes [drums].
I spoke with Juan Croucier about their summer tour, what lies on the horizon in terms of new music, and to gain some insight into Ratt’s legendary past!
Robert Cavuoto: I’m excited about the tour with Ratt, Tom Keifer, Slaughter, and Skid Row; it’s a tremendous idea to have four bands on a tour playing in large scale venues. How did it come about and what went into organizing it?
Juan Croucier: Ratt and Live Nation had been in talks of putting together a package tour like for a while. We just weren’t sure of the bands and some of the details. In working with Live Nation, we discussed which bands would complement each other. We now have three amazing bands with us, which makes this a great package. Our goal on this tour is to provide the best bang for your buck! With Ratt, we have short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals, so this is part of the natural evolution of the band.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you friends with the members of the other bands and have you ever toured with them?
Juan Croucier: Yeah, we know all the bands and what they have been up to. We also know a lot of the guys. We played with Tom before; he is a great artist who is doing well as his records speak for themselves. I’m not sure if we played any shows with Skid Row, maybe during some festivals.
Robert Cavuoto: In light of other tours being canceled, do you think your tour is far enough away not to be affected?
Juan Croucier: Hard to say, we have never been in this environment before. We can’t sit at home forever. At some point, we need to get on with life. Hopefully, we targeted the right point in time. Obviously, its touch and go; day-to-day, so we will see where we are at the end of this month. It’s when everyone agrees it’s safe and the time is right.
Robert Cavuoto: I think by the time the shows roll around, people will be excited to get out of their homes to attend concerts.
Juan Croucier: Inevitably, people will want to get back to a sense of normalcy. This thing has been a shocker and not to get into the political implications which I don’t like to get into; it’s been an extreme wake-up call. The world has been hyper globalized, where people all move around the world so quickly. Things that weren’t taken into consideration will now be taken into consideration. To put a positive spin on it, there will be good lessons that come out of this and a new sense of awareness on how fragile things can be if we don’t address the details. I’m hoping that people can go back to work and kids can get back to school; to get on with life sooner or later with minimum damage.
Robert Cavuoto: Guitarist Chris Sanderson left the band and quit the music business. I have to believe the lifestyle of a touring musician is tough and takes a special disposition to handle all the ups and downs. Tell me about some of the key attributes that you possess which enables you to do this long term.
Juan Croucier: That’s a great question. I’m a very simple man and there are two very valuable things in my life. One is my family and the other is my music and everything that goes with it. I strive to balance the two as well as keep a healthy perspective on how the two interact. Touring is a lot of work and you have to be in good shape and have a good frame of mind. You have to be able to handle a lot of disappointments, like when they tell you your flight has been canceled, “Okay, next flight is in eight hours, is anybody hungry?” [Laughing] You have to make the best of it. Realizing all the tasks involved, it helps if you lower the bar, so when something goes wrong, it doesn’t ruin your day. We are out there to have a good time and perform for people, so they have a great time. We are here to provide a sense of escape from the day-to-day grind. It’s important for us to put on the very best show we can and do it consistently.
Robert Cavuoto: Have you been auditioning a replacement for Chris?
Juan Croucier: Right now, everything is on hold for obvious reasons. That’s the issue with the timing of everything. There is work that needs to be done, yet we are aware of the circumstances. On February 22nd, we played a show in Oklahoma where we elected to play it as a four-piece. It went really well. We changed a few minor things in the arrangements to facilitate one guitar vs. two. With Pete Holmes and Jordan Ziff the band is tight. At this point in time, we are just going to have to wait and see how things unfold. It’s not just about getting a good guitar player; there several other factors that come into consideration. Some important ones are that we all get along and have the same goals. Even though it seems like a simple task, it really isn’t. There are a lot of little details that you want to get right so you don’t end up having to address the issue again in the future.
Robert Cavuoto: On your social media sites, there was a photo of you and Stephen in the studio. What is brewing in the Ratt camp with new music?
Juan Croucier: That photo was taken back in January in my recording studio, which I’ve owned for decades. We were working on a new song. We had time before the start of the tour and had planned on working on new music. We intend to move forward with it again as soon as we get the green light to get closer with social distancing.
Robert Cavuoto: Are there plans to revisit older demos that the band created back in the 80s?
Juan Croucier: I have a pretty large backlog of music that I haven’t had time to lay into. I have songs that are in their infant stages, songs that I’ve demo’ed, and some which are just riff ideas. I have a lot of catching up to do. We had some ligation that occurred, which reset a lot of things. We intended to “right” the band, get it working again, and get out there. It changed our plans from what I thought I would have time to do. There are old ideas, new ideas, and all types of applicable material, but we need the time to sit down and go through it all. Ratt has a certain format and style that we adhere to, so not everything is going to work. We have to find the right songs that are going to fit. The fans know what to expect from us and we don’t want to disappoint them.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the impact of the Invasion of Your Privacy album as I have to believe it was the point the band started to realize major success?
Juan Croucier: With Out of the Cellar, we went out on tour with ZZ Top for six weeks. From there, we jumped on a tour with Ozzy and Motley Crue then we went out with Billy Squire. We were out on tour for 10 or 11 months straight! That put us in the arena environment and on our days off, we would headline clubs. So by the time Invasion came out, we went straight into arenas. It was a great time and talking about it feels like it was just yesterday [laughing], but really it was a long time ago. We had Bon Jovi opening and it was a really enjoyable time. With Invasion, we were aware of the sophomore jinx and wanted to cement what did on Out of the Cellar and let people know it wasn’t a fluke. That we could repeat the initial success and then some. You can debate whether Invasion excels over Out of the Cellar, but we were on a mission to put out the best music we could. Those days were different. You had rock radio stations, MTV, and record companies who were involved. It was a different world for rock music. I’m proud of what we did with Invasion. The funny thing about it, when you’re in a band working to reach a goal of getting out to the mass, you have a lot of time to prepare songs for your first record. The second record’s turnaround is a lot quicker [laughing]. We didn’t have the luxury of sitting around to think about songs; we just had to go for it.
Robert Cavuoto: Did you buy anything special to celebrate your success at the time?
Juan Croucier: At a certain point, we had our accounts tell us we should buy a house and move out of our apartment [laughing]. The thing about it was that we were so busy making a record, making videos, touring, coming home to write for a month or two, and then go back to do it all over again. Being home wasn’t something we focused on. I will tell you this, when we first got the Atlantic record deal, which was a major record deal, our accounts gave us our first American Express gold card. I took it and bought a 27″ color TV! [Laughing] I can still remember walking home from the store in Hollywood thinking, how great I had it; I could finally afford a color TV! I’m not one to go out and indulge in exotic sports cars and things like that. I’m pretty low key.
Robert Cavuoto: On March 27th, Ratt: The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 was released, how involved were you in that project?
Juan Croucier: We were aware of it and helped out as much as we could. The record company has the ability to release it. We were thinking about including some live concert audio, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to get a good live recording that wasn’t planned out in advance. When you are on tour and somebody says, “Hey guys, we are recording tomorrow’s show!” We were like, “Okay, good luck with that!” [Laughing] We were really focused on our live performance, which was the show. When you prepare for a live recording, you have to go in with a specific mindset. You can’t shift gears like that going from one show to the next. So the live audio quality wasn’t what we wanted. There was some other stuff they wanted to add like a demo, which sounded like a demo. We thought maybe we can do something with it in the future. It was nice to get out a box set with a collection of our songs. I hope it does well.
Robert Cavuoto: I was backstage at a Ratt show during Out of the Cellar and the scene backstage then was significantly different from when I saw the band backstage over the last few years. This time everyone was drinking water and soda. Tell me about that evolution?
Juan Croucier: Obviously, in the decade of the 80s, there was a lot of fun with bands socializing and partying. When you fast forward several decades, we want to perform as best as we can. We find if we focus on the show it reaps the best results. We don’t want alcohol or any substances to get in the way of that. I see a lot of my colleagues sharing how long they have been sober and that’s great! More power to them. Nothing should come between the fans and the show. I have to add, you think differently when you’re single, in your 20s, in a rock band, and living the dream. You don’t know how long the dream will last or if it will turn into a nightmare as it did for some. When that dream turns into a nightmare, it’s how quickly you can learn your lesson. It’s about pacing yourself and being consistent as it’s better for everyone. At this juncture, we have already done all that.
Robert Cavuoto: What were a few unforgettable career highlights for you?
Juan Croucier: There were a lot of good things that happened over time. The first thing that comes to mind is when we played Madison Square Garden. It was a high energy show and a very positive experience. We knew Led Zeppelin and The Who played there, so it was a dream for us to play there as well. I have to include playing the Forum in LA, with Bon Jovi. I saw Led Zeppelin there and so many other bands so when we played there, it was like we arrived! Another one was when we played Tokyo Dome and had a jam at the end with a bunch of different bands; that was quite a memorable moment. I think there is a video out there from it. Also, playing with bands who we admired growing up was another significant aspect.
Robert Cavuoto: Where were you the first time you heard a Ratt song on the radio as I have to believe that would be a memorable moment?
Juan Croucier: You’re right; that was a big moment. It occurred before things really kicked in. I was driving in my little pickup truck in my neighborhood of Redondo Beach, CA and I heard “You Think You’re Tough” on the radio. I was taken back and thought it was crazy that they would be playing our song [laughing]. It put a smile on my face and it wasn’t even from a complete album; it was off our EP. I was on my way to visit Don Dokken. It had to be right after I came back to Dokken as I was in both bands for a while. Like many other artists when you hear yourself on the radio, it’s a form of validation.
Robert Cavuoto: You have some great stories; have you ever considered writing a book?
Juan Croucier: Yeah, with all the free time I have now I should [laughing]. The music business is so unusual, and a lot of people from the 80s never thought it was going to end. We all know the turning point was when Grunge hit and Napster came out. Many of us turned around and questioned what just happened? The attribute that most successful groups possess is the ability to adapt. They have to be able to roll with the punches, embrace what is new, and accept it. Our thing has always been that we are a live band. It is different these days and you touched upon it earlier in one of your questions; you do not see the half-empty bottles of Jack Daniels in the backstage hallway [laughing]! We want to ensure the energy and enjoyment when we hit the stage is still there!