interview by Michael McCarthy
Stephen Pearcy is famous for being the lead singer of the heavy metal band RATT, which has just reunited with plans to do some live dates and, hopefully, a new album. Aside from being the vocalist, Stephen is the one who named the band and founded it and was/is a key songwriter of most of their many hits. If you were alive during the ’80’s then chances are you were a fan of RATT. Unless you were one of those anti-heavy metal people, but the metal-heads certainly outnumbered the non-metal heads during that time and RATT were one of the biggest bands on the scene. Never mind that, on the planet. Catchy songs like “Round & Round” and “You’re in Love” made them a hit with pop fans as well as metal. During the past 15 years or so Ratt have broken up and reformed quite a few times, but Stephen has always kept busy. He released two albums with Arcade, a band he founded with Fred Coury of Cinderella just post Ratt, as well as albums under the names Vertex (his electronic/industrial record) and Vicious Delite (his punk record). On February 7th he will release his fourth solo album, Smash, which I honestly feel is one of the best records he’s ever done. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s on par with Ratt’s classic records. There’s a lot of diversity on it, but it’s very cohesive at the same time. Some of the sounds might surprise people, but I love the fact that has a lot of different styles going on. It would be boring if the songs were all the exact same flavor. At least that’s my take on it. We’ll see what fans and critics have to say. I hope you’ll check it out. A couple of the singles are already available on Spotify and other streaming services.
MM: Your new solo album, Smash, is on Frontiers. How did you hook up with them?
SP: Just a friend through the Atlantic days. Derrick Shulman, actually, and he heard my songs that I was going to actually do for another project called Sucker Punch and I said, well, sure, you want to listen, go ahead. And he did and he liked it and he said, you know, he knows I do my own thing on my own label, [he wanted to] hook us up with a label and I went, who? And he said Frontiers. I went, sure, let’s talk.
UPDATED: 1/27/17… Smash is out NOW. Check it out on Spotify:
MM: So, were any of the songs on the album written for Smash or were they all written for Sucker Punch?
SP: All of them – Yeah, I literally had to jump to another place. “I Can’t Take It” was pretty much recorded then I wanted to hook up with Beau Hill, Ratt’s producer, to see what we could do. And, sure enough, he mixed and mastered it and the song set the standard for Smash so to speak. We really got into it. I wanted Beau to do the whole record, actually, but it wasn’t possible. We ended up producing ourselves. That was the only song. Everything else we wrote from scratch. We wrote probably about somewhere around 25 songs. We wrote so many songs. It was just amazing. Every time I’d get a song from Erik Ferentinos, my lead guitar player, he would come up with something else. And we hadn’t even gotten to my material, which was ready to go. So, to say the least, it was like, woah, we have so many songs. What we literally wanted to do was make the best record possible. And so it was good that we had all these songs that we could delve into and pick and choose. So, it was actually a good thing in the end.
MM: How did the songwriting process work then? Did you and Erik write all the songs?
SP: Yes. Erik and wrote all the music. I co-wrote the first song with a friend of ours who used to be in the solo band, Chris Hager, and that was about it.
MM: I know you play some guitar. Did you play some guitar yourself when you were writing or did you stick to the lyrics and melodies and Erik wrote the riffs?
SP: I pretty much did all the lyrics and the melodies. Erik wrote some melodies, but he pretty much came up with the guitar stuff on this. He was just on a roll. So, I’d let him just have at it.
MM: From when to when was the album written?
SP: It was actually a long process. We actually started – I would say well over a year ago – and then we really got into it when I did the Frontiers deal and we spent a good few months in the studio just finishing up.
MM: Was Beau Hill hard to hunt down?
SP: Oh, no, Beau and I are in contact. I still admire his work and with Ratt we created our sound together. We created what became known as Ratt N’ Roll, so to speak.
MM: But he only produced one song?
SP: That was “I Can’t Take It.” See, I didn’t want to over do it. I didn’t want it to be, you know, totally Ratt sounding so to speak. Because Beau has a formula and when we do our thing it comes into play naturally. So, Matt Thorne and myself produced and Erik Ferentinos had a good hand in that. We’ve been around a while. We know what we’re doing, you know?
MM: It definitely came out fantastic. I think it’s your best solo album to date.
SP: Sure. I think we did something good.
MM: How long have you been working with each of the guys in your current solo band?
SP: Erik almost fourteen years or something like that. Since pretty much the beginning. Matt, he came in, I guess, about four years ago, three and a half with Greg D’Angelo.
MM: Is Greg the same Greg D’Angelo who was in White Lion?
MM: So, what are your plans to tour behind Smash?
SP: We start in early April and we go on tour until July and seeing that there’s some Ratt things on the horizon we will more or less compliment each other. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes.
MM: Do you mostly focus on solo material when you do your solo shows or do you do a lot of Ratt?
SP: Well, it’s inevitable I have to do Ratt. People expect it, so I play it. It depends. It could be Arcade. It could be a cover song. It could be whatever. But this time around we’re gonna do four songs from Smash, see how it goes.
MM: Are any of these U.S. tour dates or are you just going to play Europe for now?
SP: No, I think these are U.S. right now. Yeah. And the dates are posted on my site, Stephen-Pearcy.com.
MM: I was a little surprise when I went on Spotify and saw how many solo albums you had. I had three of them, but I didn’t realize there are as many as there are.
SP: Yeah, I have a tendency to – I mean, I wish the other ones had as much time as Smash, but, you know, I do them when I can do them and I just like playing music and recording.
MM: The press release for Smash said that it was your fourth solo album.
MM: But there were a lot more than that on there. Which are the three previous ones you’re counting?
SP: There’s Social Intercourse, Fueler and Under My Skin was the last one. Like I said I do like compilations and Arcade, for the best of, and I put another Before and Laughter out there because I’m finding such great stuff.
MM: Regarding Spotify, I interviewed Tracii Guns not too long ago and he said he’d received a check for like two dollars from them. But I know Ratt was more popular. Are you actually making a profit from them or are you getting screwed like so many other artists seem to be?
SP: Oh, no, my deal with them is actually pretty good. You know, I license the records, it’s there. It’s a great thing, you know? They’re backing it up 100%. Which is great they have a publicity department and they’re very supportive and it’s all good.
MM: It’s good to hear somebody’s happy with it. While streaming has becoming more popular, vinyl’s been making quite a comeback. What are your thoughts on that?
SP: Well, I’m releasing my record – Smash is gonna be available on vinyl.
SP: People are discovering how cool it actually is. It’s analog, you know? You can’t go wrong.
MM: I’m a vinyl junkie myself. Are you into vinyl at all?
SP: Yeah, sure. Collecting vinyl? Yeah, I have vinyl stuff, sure. Back in the day I was a fanatic about collecting. You know, Zeppelin bootlegs, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult.
MM: I’m about halfway through your autobiography and you mentioned the Zeppelin bootlegs in there. Do you still have all of those?
SP: You know what? Unfortunately, no. But, you know, if there’s a chance to grab something out there, believe me, I’d be on it.
MM: I’ve read a bit about Ratt reuniting. What can you tell us about that?
SP: Well, you know, we’ve waited until some dust had settled and with this fiasco that happened last year with misrepresentation with a former member it just got really terrible for the franchise, for our integrity and so, anyway, we’re letting the dust clear and it’s working. We’re back in the saddle so to speak.
MM: So, who’s participating in the reunion?
SP: It’s Warren [DeMartini], myself, Juan [Croucier], Carlos Cavazo and we’ll see who fills in the other slot soon enough.
MM: I keep reading about all of the lawsuits on sites like Blabbermouth. What is the status of things right now?
SP: Everything’s great. You know, we’re just doing our thing and we plan on trying to get a record out there sometime and we’ll see what happens.
MM: When will you start touring with Ratt?
SP: Well, we do our first show on the 11th of next month and we’ll play it out after that and see where it goes.
MM: Where’s the show on the 11th?
SP: It’s at a casino somewhere. [Editor’s note: It’s at Treasure Island Resort Casino, Welch, MN] I couldn’t tell ya. It’s posted on my site though. With everything else.
MM: You did an album called Mickey Ratt with George Lynch and Tracii Guns on some of the tracks. I was wondering –
SP: – That was just a compilation thing, you know? I just re-recorded some of the music and, you know, they did the guitar thing. I don’t like those projects. They tend to, at the end of the day, rip you off. You don’t account for anything. This one label in particular does a lot of those and it’s pretty, you know… But I do have real Mickey Ratt stuff out there. Everything that’s real and not a bootleg will say Top Fuel Records.
MM: When you did the Mickey Ratt compilation did the other guys sue you where it was Ratt with the same spelling?
SP: No, not at all because it was way before the fact and it was something I created. It’s mine. I’ve still got product and will continue to do so because I have so much archived music. But I want it to be good.
MM: I think about how bands like Motley Crue and Poison still have such huge followings and I can’t help wonder if Ratt would be that popular if you guys had stayed together this whole time. Do you feel that way?
SP: You know, I don’t worry about popularity. We’ve been there and done it. We had a great track record. We’re proud of what we did. And, obviously, it’s not over. So, we’ll see what happens. This is a new beginning.
MM: Are you looking to headline your own club shows or mid-sized venue shows or are you looking to get on a package tour?
SP: We’re gonna go out on our own and do things meticulously first, not overdo our welcome so to speak and then we’ll take it from there. If there’s some kind of tour out there that suits what we want to do with somebody else then we’ll entertain it. Like we did for the group. It’s like everything else has been so messed up and misdirected lately the last year we really wanted to concentrate on art. Take it slow and, you know, pretty much not blow everything out of proportion, blow things out there, rush. It’s gotta be important, you know?
MM: I usually only see used copies of the Ratt albums around these days and even those are pretty scarce. Are all of those albums out of print?
SP: No, I don’t believe so. Or they shouldn’t be, you know? No, they shouldn’t be so I don’t understand. Everything’s available. Let me tell you, the bootleggers, I don’t know how they get a hold of this stuff, so that drives me a little crazy. But, what can you do? They like ya, they like ya. They’re gonna find a way to get ya.
MM: I wanted to ask you about that Vertex album you did years ago. Was that intended to be your new band or just a one off thing?
SP: It was a one off thing with Al Pitrelli. It was amazing and brilliant. We had the opportunity to write. We knew it was what we wanted to do. That it was gonna be different. More of an industrial type thing and that’s as far as that goes. It was a great opportunity. Al and I just wrote like crazy. We took our time, you know? People really – the album was ahead of its time. It was then.
MM: It still sounds pretty modern today.
SP: Yeah, well, nobody really got it. They were like, oh, Ratt, what’s he trying to do? Well, I’m trying to do whatever I want to do. That’s how I viewed it. If I want to do something I’m just gonna do it. It’s about learning something in music, you know?
MM: How did you connect with Hiro, the guy who did the drums and programming on Vertex?
SP: He was associated with that Japanese label at that the time. They had everybody from rock guys, to Ice T to us. It was crazy. It was a good opportunity and we took it and the rest is history.
MM: Was Vicious Delite meant to be an album project only or did you tour with that project?
SP: Vicious Delite, that’s one of my favorite records. It was just meant to be a tongue in cheek kind of offering so to speak. We didn’t plan on touring it or having it be some kind of crazy record, you know? It’s more or less my punk album. On some of my solo records I do play guitar and sing. I do solos. It allows me that kind of a experimentation so to speak. It was just fun to do, you know?
MM: I found a Vicious Delite 2 on Spotify. Is that different mixes of the same songs or were they re:recorded?
SP: The Vicious Delite 2, actually, the whole [record] is remixed and mastered by Beau Hill. So, you know, like I say, I keep him in the loop. Just experiment and see what happens, you know? It’s just what we do, you know? There’s no question and answer theory. It’s just like hey, I’m doing this, let’s see what you do with it. It’s crazy because he did modernize it a bit.
MM: I thought the vocals sounded better on 2.
SP: Yeah, yeah. That’s Beau Hill, you know? What can I say? One sounds a little punkier and the other one is a little polished.
MM: You released an autobiography called Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock that was done in collaboration with a Sam Benjamin. How did that collaboration work?
SP: That was a whole different process. I’m about to do another one. That’s not per say a ghostwriter. It was a storytelling thing. It’s a little different. It’s not like a book. I have my friends talking and we recreate stories. We did what we could with it. Granted, it would take 100 books to write one year of Ratt out there back in the day. There was so much going on.
MM: What’s the second book gonna be like?
SP: The second book will be more about people and music and musicians and my history. I’ll throw some other stuff in there. It’ll be on another scale. It won’t be boring whatsoever. It will start from day one, Mickey Ratt, and even earlier, the bands I was in before that.
MM: Well, I’m reading the one you put out and I’m really enjoying it. I was wondering – when you had your teenage bike accident and you were hit by the car in the book you didn’t mention anything about physical therapy. Did the hospital teach you to walk again or did they send you home and leave you to figure it out?
SP: No, no, no, I had rods in my legs. I was literally the bionic man. I had to learn to walk again. It took time, probably two years. [I] went to a wheel chair and then crutches and then one crutch and then you go through the therapy of getting your muscles back and bending. That was grueling, let me tell ya. Truly breaking the bones and shattering and this and that, but I’ll tell ya, physical therapy, when you don’t move your muscles stay stiff, you’ve gotta get them back stretching. It’s painful, but if that didn’t happen I wouldn’t be here talking to you, making records, and have all these great people who like the music and thirty years plus down the line and still come back for more.
MM: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
SP: The first Black Sabbath record.
MM: What was the last album you bought and what format was it?
SP: It was a mismatch of music I would say and obviously it was done through iTunes. There are new bands that you wouldn’t expect then I went and got some old Priest I didn’t have. You know, I like different kinds of music. People would be surprised if they got in the car with me and listened to what I actually put on because I like diversity and there’s quite a lot of that in Smash for the first time. It’s very cohesive. It’s very diverse. I wasn’t bothered by who’s gonna think about what [music] or chords or doing some trippy stuff. Because that record lyrically is kind of involved. It’s not your race cars, girls and partying. A couple fun tunes in there, but for us it had to do with things that are pretty interesting. They aren’t all relationship stuff. It could be interstellar relationships, which is one song, it’s gonna be the video single, “Ten Miles Wide.” We shoot that this Sunday coming up.
MM: What are some artists people would be surprised by?
SP: You’d be surprised. Oh, God, off the top of my head, I can’t remember the names of some of these bands. I love the female lead singers who are out doing creative things. There’s rock, metal, you know? I love X Japan. I love some of those groups coming out of Japan. There are some great girl bands, Japanese bands, artists.
MM: I listen to a lot of that.
SP: It’s an ongoing process. There are so many bands out there these days. There’s a lot to consume, you know?
MM: If you could resurrect one musician from the dead, who would you bring back?
SP: Well, Robbin Crosby [Ed: Robin is the Ratt guitarist who passed away], of course. He was a very important part, as we all are, but he was a very important part of our direction. All of us wrote songs, Warren and myself, Juan and Robbin and it didn’t matter if it was a song I wrote by myself or with Warren or Juan, Robbin was always in the mix.
MM: One last question. When you used to check into hotels and you used a fake name, what name did you give?
SP: I still use him. I couldn’t tell ya. To this day, it’s still something that’s necessary. It’s a little more friendlier atmosphere, but there’s still crazy shit that goes on out there and I just try to stay as far away from it as possible.
Visit Stephen’s official site: https://www.stephen-pearcy.com
Stephen Pearcy — still tough!