Interview with Stephen Pearcy - The Year of the Ratt
Stephen Pearcy – The Year of The Ratt Interview
By Barb Fara
Musicincider.com was given the opportunity to speak to the lead vocalist Stephen Pearcy of Ratt. It was a wonderful conversation between Stephen and I. We talked about the late Robin Crosby and if he could build a memorial for Robin Crosby – if you want to know what it would look like, read the rest of the interview. Also, this is very important for all you young bands, read this interview. Pearcy is accepting demo tapes for his new label – yes, a record label that actually listens to you! So read on, my little minions.
MI: What is your birthday, baby?
SP: July 3
MI: You have released 3 solo albums: Social Intercourse, Stripped/Fueler, and Under My Skin, which is your new one. What would you say the difference is between all three albums?
SP: Wow, interesting because a lot of the music from Under My Skin was developed over about 8 months and I made a conscious effort of playing a lot of guitars and solos because a lot of people don’t know that I do write and I do play guitar first and foremost, so I was having a kick with that.
MI: So you were having fun…
SP: Yeah, and the songs, you know, I reverted back to Ratt era 82-83, and anything I do is going to be Ratt associated, so…whatever, hahaha.
MI: So let’s talk about Ratt. What were the three reasons why Ratt broke up and now you guys are getting back together to put out a new album!
SP: Well, we pretty much got back together last year, last summer for that Poison thing. Then, uh, we pretty much decided to put out another best of and make a new record. That’s the plan. But it wasn’t a break up so much as an implosion. It came from the inside, not the outside.
MI: I notice on your new CD that you wrote a beautiful tribute song to Robin. What inspired you to write the song?
SP: Um, well, he was probably on my mind, pretty much during that time, for who knows what reason. Maybe he was saying “hey, we got this great song, let’s write it.” So I did. That song again, took a long time because I would take the basic tracks home from the studio and come back to my place and you know try to bring things on harmonies and guitar solos for the choruses – so I was pretty much thinking about what he would do. It took a while. I LOVE that song, by the way. We play it live.
MI: Are you planning at some time to open a foundation for Robin?
SP: You know what, the thing is that there are a few people who have tried that or said they would, and you don’t know where things go – where, when, why, and I would just as soon develop and make people aware that he was here instead of taking advantage of something – even though it’s beneficial – I mean, those are politics right there and I tend to not bring that into our audience.
MI: As a founding member of Ratt, do you see yourself writing a book like Nikki Sixx has done?
SP: I’ve been trying to get one out there for a few years – it is called “Ratt Tales” and it will probably come out next year sometime and I’m so glad I didn’t rush to get it published before the reunion because we actually have closure and that’s the band getting back together and a new record. 2009 is the anniversary of Ratt, 25 years, and actually this year is the Year of The Ratt.
MI: The reason I am asking you about Robin is because many musicians have passed and have been forgotten over time – Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jim Morrison, you name it, no body remembers anybody. If you could create a memorial for Robin, what would it look like?
SP: The memorial would be his King V, his flying V. It would say “Done It. Been there. Raped and Pillaged. (laughs) No, I have to tell you, he was quite an entity and a big important part of RATT. He was the first one I brought into the fold back in the day and our songs were structured and written as Lorne and I are going to be writing on the new record. Going back to basics just for the fact that we want to and we can.
MI: How did you end up with the great Katherine “Catwoman” Aquaviva?
SP: Oh, we’ve been buddies since the Atlantic Ratt days, through the 80’s and Lenn, the record company label head over there at Airline brought her up and I was like, “This is great.” Kathy has been a great publicist forever. She’s great.
MI: What made you decide to put out a third solo album?
SP: Well, I actually wanted to do a Ratt record but this record we didn’t get to it and our points weren’t connecting and the way Ratt rolls is really interesting. We don’t want the commotion in the ocean, but it’s got to be there, and we just keep things to ourselves until we think it’s time to present but uh, it wasn’t, so I decided to just finish up all these songs that I had been writing. I am constantly writing; I have a record company called Top Fuel Records – we have our own store and I’m developing bands. It’s so hard for new bands and I also creating a few years ago a touring entity and the first CD comes out hopefully the end of this year called “Metal In America Part One” and it’s 20 unsigned bands on each CD. So the label is doing good things: writing songs for ESPN2 and indie films and stuff; we’re developing slowly and we’ll see what happens. I’m constantly writing and co-writing with my solo band, developing projects and I love doing these writing things. I just sang on this heavy metal Christmas thing that is coming out and it’s insane – the songs don’t even sound like Christmas songs. So I’m constantly doing something and writing is just what I do, I mean, I’m a guitar player first and when I sing, it’s like I tell my daughter – “I’m going to go yell at these people.” Because to me, I went in to an audition to be a guitar player for a band and became a singer. Under My Skin is maybe my frustration going “I CAN PLAY GUITAR, GODDAMN IT!” (laughs)
MI: What song are you singing on the Christmas album?
SP: I did “Grandma Got Ran over By a Raindeer.” You know who’s on this record? You’ve got Ronnie, Jeff Tate, Tony Iommi, I mean it’s incredible the lineup they’ve got on here. Billy Givens, the guy from Foo Fighters – the drummer, you’ve got Lemmy. It’s intense, they don’t sound like Christmas songs. The song I heard from Dio and Tony Iommi sounds like a new Heaven and Hell label song – you wouldn’t know! Mine’s a little more obvious but there’s a few of them on there that will just blow your mind.
MI: Who’s putting it out?
SP: I don’t know the specifics of it, but I did it with Bob Coulic and Wendy Dio, what’s there company? Um..oh, I forget off the top of my head, but I’ll remember in a minute.
MI: Are you planning to release any new videos off the new album?
SP: Yes. I had a meeting with someone the other day and there’s going to be a couple of things going on because the Donna’s – I did a remake with them of Round And Round and it’s sooo good. I’ve jammed with them and I’m thinking about bringing them – you know we’re going to do a video for that for sure and then the next single, we’ll do a video for. I’ll be doing some solo shows just to get out there and instigate things before we start working on the Ratt record.
MI: How did you get the Donna’s involved?
SP: I’m just a fan of girl groups. I heard they were doing our song live and it’s been a while since some rock guy met up with an all girl rock band per say Ozzy and Lita. So I gave them a ring and they were saying that they were fans and they come and see us and I brought them in when the whole band was in the studio and it was amazing.
MI: I bet they kissed the ground you walked on.
SP: They’re great. The lead guitarist…the vocals…it was phenomenal how Brett just sang to a T. It was crazy, we did it in one day.
MI: How has the tour been going?
SP: The Ratt tour’s been going good. We’ve just been doing foreign territories – Japan, Australia, Sweden, festivals there and in the US like Rocklahoma and I did the Texasfest with my solo band and we just finished this huge gig with the Scorpions in Chicago. So we’re just doing one-offs and preparing for the next thing which is going back in the cellar and doing a new Ratt record.
MI: Is it true there was a twister out there at Rocklahoma?
SP: Yeah, there was. I think it was the last day when Queensryche was about to go on, it kind of touched down on the small stage. Crazy.
MI: Do you think that Myspace has helped in any way with any musicians?
SP: Oh, yeah. It’s made overnight hits out of some people who would have never been signed. The medium is so different. The big major labels weren’t really prepared for this internet business and hence you only have a few motherhead labels out there and the indies like me and everybody else is out there establishing their entity. I think it’s amazing. It’s better than Napster. (laughs) You can see it, it’s like the recreation of MTV or anything TV, you know?
MI: I heard that Journey found their new lead singer off of Myspace.
SP: They did, yeah. The guy from Malaysia or something like that.
MI: You have many fans here in Atlanta. When you start your US tour do you have plans to stop in Atlanta, my dear?
SP: Oh, I hope so. I have a hardcore audience out there in Atlanta.
MI: Tell me a little more about Top Fuel Entertainment.
SP: It’s called Top Fuel World now, it started with Top Fuel Records which I started in 1995 and we just do things independently from DVDs to CDs to compilations to reintroducing my bands Arcade, Vicious Delight, Vertex and new bands and artists and it’s a young, developing label that I have fun with. I sponsor Top Fuel dragsters and funnycars and we are currently working on a deal and we had a great Ratt dragster deal with it and I pretty much utilize it as an autoracing market and the rock and roll market and that’s my two interest and away we go!
MI: Do you race?
SP: I sponsor. I don’t race, don’t drive.
MI: Can unsigned young bands send demos to your label and if so, where can they send them?
SP: Yes, they can. They can go online to Top Fuel Record’s Myspace, which we have the Metal In America thing on there to present where to send and we do listen to everything, believe it or not. It takes months, sometimes, but we do get to it. The bands will be surprised if they’re not signed already that they will be on the 20 CD compilations that’s been a Top Fuel project that’s been in the works for years. Without the new talent, I mean, come on. The 90’s didn’t offer too much as far as I’m concerned because there were no solos, there was no entertainment. So it all went to Country. Country became 80’s rock and roll, so I think the resurgence of what we were part of, regardless of whether we liked it, was this 80’s thing which was booming. I mean, my 12 year old daughter and her friends know who we are first and forehand before the Jonas Brothers, you know? (laughs) So it’s great to see our audience bring the demographics. We’re in those guitar games, and it’s such a cool thing to present, you know, this is what we did.
MI: Off of Under My Skin, what would you say is your favorite track?
SP: I like a bunch of them, but probably Under My Skin for the fact that I literally just went in the studio one day and said I want to write a song from nothing – just walk in there and write it, and I did. I never titled a record or CD after a title of a song, since day one with Ratt, I’ve never done it. So that was probably my best song, just doing it from ground zero.
MI: If you were not a musician, what would you be doing right now?
SP: I would be racing cars.
MI: What are your feelings on the legalization of marijuana?
SP: It’s good for glaucoma. (laughs)
MI: If there was a movie made of your life, who would you want to play you and what would the theme song be?
SP: Uh, Live and Let Die…and who I would want to play me…uh…who knows, I don’t know…um…They’d have to have dark hair and this and that, somebody from….who knows….like Criss Angel.
MI: When you go on tour right now, who are your openers?
SP: You know, it depends. We really don’t, we have yet to sit and talk about the schematics of what we’re going to present headlining our own tour next year so uh we’ll take it…
MI: And that will be with the solo tour and the Ratt tour…
SP: No, it will be the Ratt tour. The solo record was released a few weeks ago and that will be work through the year and in the meantime we still got some one-offs with Ratt and I’ll go out and do solo shows and then it’s studio bound for the Ratt record.
MI: For the new Ratt album, are you going to be using the same line-up or will you be using some new musicians?
SP: You know it depends. I mean, Corabi is uh, going to do his own solo stuff which is amazing and he could be throwing in songs. I’ll sure have my hands full, Warren will have his hands full and we’ll just…Bob, I’m sure, will have an idea and Robbie Crane will have ideas and we’ll just throw them in the pit and see what happens. Once Warren and I have established what kind of format or approach for the music is going to be.
MI: Now, we know you did the producing, mixing and engineering for Under My Skin, but how did you get Matt Thorne involved?
SP: Uh, Matt’s been actually was a bass player for an early version of Ratt and we’ve known him every since and he’s an amazing engineer – he’s got gold albums out of that studio and I’ve found it to be my place for Top Fuel Records for quite some time. I just do my stuff there and he plays bass on a lot of my records and on Under My Skin, he’s amazing. He’s a great engineer and we just go to town. We know each others music like…it’s crazy. We just walk in and take care of business, like Under My Skin. When I record, I have a whole different scenario, it’s like, get in there and do what you’re doing and cause that’s probably the best you’re gonna do at that time.
MI: Was this album recorded on the east coast or the west coast?
SP: West coast. Burbank.
MI: Who did the photography on the CD, it is fantastic.
SP: That was Neil Slowzower, he did the cover stuff – and my daughter actually, Jewell Pearcy took the picture of me on the inside.
MI: No kidding.
SP: Nice picture for a 12 year old, huh?
MI: What made you decide to become a singer?
SP: Um, like I say, I went to my first audition back in ’77 for a band and brought my guitar and they said, “Well, we’ve already got a guitar player. Can you sing?” and I just said, “Yeah, I guess.” And I became a singer. Then I became a singer and guitar player and uh, started the procedure of Mickey Ratt, which turned into Ratt and now we’re back in the cellar…
MI: You’re married, correct?
MI: Okay, so we don’t have to pimp you out as the most gorgeous man in rock and roll…
SP: Nope, been there, done that, you know?
MI: Out of your history with Ratt up till now, what would you say is your favorite tour you’ve ever been on?
SP: Oh, definitely the first tour we did in ’84 because we were opening up for anybody and everybody and we were playing gigs with REM and people who were still trying to establish their thing. We played in front of ZZ and Billy Squire and it was all new…we were just pirates looking to rape and pillage.
MI: How is the new album getting airplay?
SP: Well, uh, we’ll see. What airplay, you know? Uh, it’s all satellites and I’m sure somebody will pick on it eventually. If not, that’s why there’s Myspace, that’s why there’s websites – where most business is done.
MI: How did the death of Dimebag Darryl affect you?
SP: Um, big time, man. Losing any of our friends in music, our genre or any. Respected – because he was a good friend of ours. Big supporter of Ratt, big supporter of my solo shows – he’d come out and jam with us and it kind of put people on their defense – which is where they should be because it is a colorful, entertaining, dangerous occupation.
MI: Are you more watchful now since Dime’s death?
SP: Well, sure, but I don’t think it’s because of that, it’s just because of the element that everybody is so available to everybody. You can’t help that, it’s like, all we do is make friends internationally. That’s our motto.
MI: How did 9/11 affect you?
SP: Oh, that’s politics, I don’t get into that.
MI: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
SP: Every day.
MI: Give me an example, darling.
SP: No, I don’t, no. I couldn’t answer that one. (laughs)
MI: What was it like to work with KRS-ONE?
SP: Um, I didn’t get to meet him, but they did a good number on Round and Round, you know? But to have one of the foremost rap guys period in history…the association was good, why not?
MI: You know how they have the rock and roll camps for the kids – do you ever see yourself being on that?
SP: No, but I can see myself on something I am hopefully going to introduce next year, which is Stephen Pearcy’s Rock Star Seminar.
MI: What are we going to be doing there?
SP: Um, you’re going to learn everything you want to know about everything you need to know and uh, it’s an interesting thing once it gets introduced. Right now we’re just kind of introducing as Stephen Pearcy’s Rock Star Seminar so people can just kinda get an introduction.
MI: Alice Cooper has created a foundation called the Rock out in Phoenix to keep kids off the streets and everything else like that. Do you see yourself doing something like that for the kids?
SP: I try to do as much as I can for the youth; hence, I have a child. Once you have a child you start thinking these other things that are important to them. If something came up, like the autism thing I just did a thing for, and might further that, um, for VH1. But I’ve got a plan; it’s interesting you say that, in development for charity, so we’ll see how that goes.
MI: What would you warn any young band that is just entering the music industry?
SP: Ooh, watch out for themselves, because you can be your own worst enemy. Don’t give everything away, because it’s yours, and you find that out with success – how much everybody else has of your stuff, so to speak – and if you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t get in it at all because it’s an up and down thing, and the minute you think you’re out, you’re in again – the minute you think you’re in, you’re out and you know…you’d be blessed to have huge success, but with huge success comes something bad so, go for it.
MI: Do you think vinyl should come back into the business?
SP: I think that is, it’s almost like 2 inch tape from the studio – and I still use 2 inch tape in the studio if I can for drums and bass because of how it sounds, you know I mean, it’s shortcuts with the digital and that’s all great, but the reality is that there’s nothing like tape, so there’s really nothing like vinyl and plus it was a whole element of surprise – you open up the album and you get the CD and trippy shit and that kind of stuff.
MI: If you could have lunch with any three people, living or dead, who would it be and why?
SP: Um, hmm, maybe um, Bill Gates, just to know where he’s, we’re headed in technology and uh, number two would be, uh, I would have liked to have met Hendrix, just to trip out with the dude. Third, I don’t know, maybe like some great historian.
MI: Can you name me three vocalist that have influenced you as a singer?
SP: Oh god, easy. That would be Robert Plant first, then it would be…my influences in a nutshell are Eric Bloom, Tyler, Plant and Rob Halford.
MI: And who influenced your guitar playing?
SP: Oh, guitar playing? Paige, god, Buck Dharma, uh, jeez, let’s see, and Sweet. I love the band Sweet. You know, Ed Van Halen, early Ed. I’m more of a Duane Allman, uh…
MI: More mellow…
SP: No, not mellow, just constructive soloing. You know, less is more.
MI: Tell me about your clothing line.
SP: Top Fuel Wear? Well, jesus, it’s amazing trying to find the right people for that. Its record company swag and jerseys and we’ll be opening a new line here soon, Top Fuel Wear and it revolves around the racing so it’s race car meets rock and roll.
MI: Who’s doing the clothing design?
SP: Uh, several people. I have a great artist from Seattle, Jim Coch. I have Joe at Right Rock Sportswear, myself and I do art directing and so, you know, it’s all good. There’s good designs from the past, present and future.
MI: Many musicians like Dave Mustaine, Charlie Benante from Anthrax and others are releasing coffees from Legends Cup Coffee. Do you see yourself coming out with a coffee with your name on it?
SP: No, but I’ll be involved hopefully with a new energy drink that’s coming out next year and uh, maybe that will bring out a Top Fuel drink from me.
MI: Do you have a message for your fans of Ratt and your solo career?
SP: Well, uh, it’s only rock and roll? We call it Ratt and Roll. Me, I mean, I past, present, future you know Pearcy or Ratt fans, it’s all just a great trip and I still have a great time yelling at ya, and be that as it may, what comes around goes around, and be prepared for some new Ratt music and some solo stuff will be out there that I’ll be dabbling in and so come out and have a good time.
MI: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could bring two books, two cds, two people and a bottle of booze, what would you bring?
SP: Would have to be some kind of health drink actually to drink, hence, and Ill bring the wife, the kid, I’ll bring one of my kid’s favorite CDs, I’ll bring Zepplin Two – no, maybe I’ll bring Physical Graffiti, and I don’t know, Disturbed.
MI: Who is your favorite author?
SP: I like the guy who writes the Bond books. Um, that would be lame if I forgot him. Well there’s two of them now, since he passed. But he actually signed a book for me – anyway, look it up. His daughter handles everything now. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is Ian Flemming]
MI: When you were younger, what did your parents think of your career?
SP: Oh, they didn’t think, but they supported what I was doing, because I would be making noise in every room in that house and have keg parties and do anything to get that music out there and played – and it worked because you know, now from my parent’s house that live on this hill in San Diego, you can look down and there’s a sports arena and I was able to say, hey, I played there. Or instead of going there to see Led Zepplin or somebody else, I played there. That was actually cool.
MI: If you were God for a week, what would you change, baby?
SP: I would change negative thoughts and manners for the lovely planet earth. Where you don’t even have any, just trip around, all happy.
MI: If you could be a superhero, who would you be?
SP: I’ll be the Rattman.
MI: What is your favorite movie of all time?
SP: That’s a good one. I would have to say, besides any Bond, Spinal Tap.
MI: The dates for your solo tour are coming out next month, right? And the Ratt tour dates are coming out after the album comes out, right?
SP: Yeah, Ratt will tour and do our own thing with the record.
MI: So when you start the solo tour you’ll be doing dates in Europe and then coming to the US?
SP: No, I’ll be staying in the US, I’m going to work on the Northwest.
MI: What are the websites where your fans can find out about you and your label, dear?
MI: What is your favorite quote of all time, Stephen?
SP: What comes around, goes around.
MI: Okay, baby, and we are done and set to go!
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