January 16, 2017 Interview – Stephen Pearcy of Ratt
Rock-n-Roll life can be a turbulent journey filled with soaring highs and endless pitfalls. Through it all, one thing has to remain a constant, it should be all about the music. A motto Ratt founder Stephen Pearcy has stuck with, the vocalist still has a burning fire to rock forty plus years into his career. Attaining massive commercial success with ’80s Heavy Metal leaders Ratt, from multi-platinum success, to playing arenas, to break-ups and reunions, Pearcy has survived a wild ride. Now wiser and seasoned, Pearcy remains active with the conjuring of his latest solo record, Smash. Back for more and ready to go, recently we caught up with the singer to talk the early days of Ratt, the work behind Smash, the future of Ratt, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll now for the better part of four decades. In that time, you attained massive success as the lead voice of multi-Platinum selling band Ratt, toured the world, and so much more. First, tell us, what has this incredible journey been like?
Stephen Pearcy – It has been good, bad, and ugly. Success is success. You kind of know you made it when things start falling apart 10 years later (laughs). I am still here and that means a lot.
CrypticRock.com – Understandably, it must be like a roller coaster ride. There has to be a wide range of emotions through everything.
Stephen Pearcy – Yes, and it is music business. People seem to leave the business part out of it in some respect. You leave certain things up to someone else to do it for you, and you learn they are not really qualified people to do it. It seems par the course to go through certain things. The reason I got into this was not for many things, it was to play music. In the beginning, that was all I wanted to do, then getting paid and everything else that came with it was just a plus.
CrypticRock.com – Right, music has always come first. You actually have a love for wanting to perform music when you are a little more mature.
Stephen Pearcy – Yea, I kind of just fell into music by accident. I got taken down by something to get into music, but that was in my mid to late teens. I would listen to music and everything, but I never had a reason or care to want to say, “Hey, I want to play guitar and sing. I am going to work my hardest and make it.” That was the furthest thing from my mind. You could say it was a little late, but I don’t know if there is a certain age to accomplish something in this field. I was around 21-22 when Out of The Cellar came out.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you were very young when Ratt rose to superstardom with 1984’s Out of the Cellar, going into 1985’s Invasion of Your Privacy, and 1986’s Dancing Undercover. It was really a fantastic time for the band commercially. Looking back, in hindsight, what do you think the key to Ratt’s success was?
Stephen Pearcy – I brought Mickey Ratt up here in 1980, in 1982 members came and left, I made a commitment to myself that I was going for it. I really liked the struggling days. The success was great and all that, playing huge places, but something about the struggle days was just….dangerous, exciting, unpredictable, new, refreshing, and it was a weird thing. It was quite interesting though to say the least. When we started, we took no prisoners, we said we are going to do this, went out, set out to do it, and we did it.
CrypticRock.com – It all worked out, Ratt was massively successful. In regards to the early days, sometimes when there is a bit of unknown, it is a little more exciting. There is a feeling of going for it, and having no idea what is going to happen.
Stephen Pearcy – Yes, and the whole brigade and street thing. Rock-n-Roll wasn’t new, but the element that we were involved was new, it was different. Doors were opened again by Van Halen first. Then there was a scene that was going on in 1981 with the British invasion again. It was an interesting time to say the least and we were a part of it, that was what was interesting. It was Mötley Crüe, Ratt, W.A.S.P., Stryper, Great White, and Quiet Riot. There were so many bands on the tail end of the late ’70s, even though there were a bunch of bands out, there were just a handful of us who took this thing about we are going to do this, do it our way, and we don’t care.
CrypticRock.com – It was an extremely exciting time for Rock-n-Roll. Beyond Ratt, you have also worked with Arcade in the ’90s and then released a string of solo albums in the 2000s. Now, you are set to release your first solo record in eight years with Smash.
Stephen Pearcy – Yea, you are right, it is my fourth solo record and it has been some time. It has been a while, it was due, and properly due with the whole scenario of what I was going through. I was writing constantly and the volcano had to crack, something had to give.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Smash will be out on Janurary 27th. It is a great collection of new songs that really seemed to have been put together quite well. What was the writing and recording process of this new album?
Stephen Pearcy – It initially started out dressed as another idea that I had; four songs, four EPs. I titled it something out and we were on the road, recording, and I then just took a left move. I got approached by someone and they said, “We like these songs, would you be interested?” I told them, “Yes,” but my problem is we have so many songs. Even at that time, when I was being entertained to do a record, because I usually just do my own record, don’t leave it to anyone, and just do it myself, this time I thought I would consider it. Things were right, we just kind of scrubbed everything and started from scratch again because we had so many songs.
We even started writing all these new songs. My guitar player, Erik Ferentinos, every time he came up with an idea, I would say, “That’s the new one.” He felt, “My god man, make up your mind.” I would tell him, “No, that’s it.” We would do shows, get the live vibe, get in the studio, and so on. It took about a year off and on. We were neutering songs and they were growing. Things were evolving with the songs such as heavy changes, subjects, and soberness. Everything in life in general and recording of this record is the strangest thing. We finally finished it and gave them 13 songs, came up with an idea that amply titled. We put a lot into it, definitely, and we worked very hard on it.
CrypticRock.com – It is extremely apparent when listening to the album. Another aspect of this album, which is quite endearing, is the production quality. It has the same textures as classic Ratt records while the songs sound fresh and modern.
Stephen Pearcy – Yes, I can’t get away from what I learned in the schematic and analog kind of feel, even though we use digital recording processes. The way we did record was anyway man or form. At the end of the day, we went over everything with a fine tooth comb. Every song got the same attention, which usually doesn’t happen. You have 3-5 months in the studio, you are graced to sit there as long as you want. We did and it was the same process, we had plenty of time to take our time. We gave every song the proper attention, that is why I think it came out this way.
CrypticRock.com –Well, as stated, it absolutely shows. You have worked with the same group of guys for some time. How would you describe the chemistry you share with this group of guys?
Stephen Pearcy – They have been as Ratt members in the early days such as Matt Thorr. Greg D’Angelo (drummer), I have also known forever. Erik, my right-hand man/co-writer on most of these songs, if not all, has been playing in my solo band for around 15 years. Our chemistry in writing is just amazing. He can write a song any day and any minute. He has the tendency to kind of channel a perspective of Robbin Crosby’s playing. He is so familiar because we play the Ratt music I have done. We have a very tight situation here.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear you have such a strong band working with you. You will be out on the road touring in support of this new album. Picking a set list must always be a challenge considering the impressive back catalogue you have to work with. What can fans expect to hear on this run?
Stephen Pearcy – They are going to hear a lot more solo stuff. Usually, until this record was going, we had to get these songs out live. You can hear Arcade, some good Ratt songs, without a doubt Smash songs, and a lot of ass-whipping. We like to go out there and have fun, it is a lean, mean machine to take no prisoners. That is the same approach I have always had to get out there on the frontline and make it happen.
CrypticRock.com – Completely agreed. Anyone who has seen a Ratt or Stephen Pearcy solo show know you give it your all night in and night out. A lot of bands can mail it in, but you really do seem to care to provide audiences with a great Rock show.
Stephen Pearcy – Thank you, I appreciate that. To me, I come from the old school. You ad lib, some people don’t like it, but that is where I come from. You have to mix things up every night, otherwise you have nothing new.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you have to mix it up, otherwise it would get pretty boring. With Ratt, you actually returned back in 2010 with a fantastic album, entitled Infestation. It has been some time now, is it safe to say the ship has sailed on with Ratt, or is the door still open for the future?
Stephen Pearcy- Myself, Juan, Warren, and Carlos have some festivals lined up. Warren and I have been in the studio demoing stuff; it’s not over until we say it’s over.
CrypticRock.com –That is wonderful news. Ratt still provokes a lot of excitement with people after all these years. There is still quite an energy surrounding the Ratt fanbase.
Stephen Pearcy – Yea, and there has been a wrench thrown in there, but the dust settled, time to make good, and to give people what they really expected. Fortunately, we are around to do it. That is a major thing to be able to say, “Hey, we have been around 35 years off and on.” That is the way to do it, you cannot hang 24/7 for 30-40 years, that is just not going to happen. I like writing and playing different kinds of music, I have other interests, and things happen.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. You need to mix it up and explore different styles as well.
Stephen Pearcy – Yea, and it is refreshing. It will be a Smash, Ratt & Roll 2017. We are getting ready to lock down a pretty intense video for “Ten Miles Wide.” We will see how that goes.
CrypticRock.com – That will be something to look out for. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Stephen Pearcy – I think Robbin was more into that stuff. My Sci-Fi is the reality; the underworld, the above world. That is what is interesting about Smash, the topics, and songs. It is not political, but there are so moments that chit-chatters about our friends the aliens. There are some different kind of topics in there making yourself aware of what is out there, around, and what is happening. It is a really different record, there is a lot into it.