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Kerby's Exclusive Interview with Former Ratt Frontman Stephen Pearcy

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Sunday, July 2, 2006 @ 8:48 AM


"There was all this color and

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Once thereís been an infestation, itís hard to get rid of a Ratt.

Everyone knows that Hollywood was the place to be for rock band in the 80ís--especially ones who wore tight pants and donned copious amounts of hairspray. Thatís just a fact. People wanted it--girls wanted it--and luckily there were plenty of guys willing to provide their own special version of this good time rock and roll. Record execs were found scouring Sunset Blvd. in much the same way they would a decade later in Seattle. Motley Crue, Quiet Riot and Great White were just three of the successful bands that were signed during the hysteria--in some cases years before Ratt. It would be one thing if all of the groups signed before our favorite rocking rodents turned out to be multi-million unit sellers, but of course, that isnít the case. Plenty of labels had the chance to sign Stephen Pearcyís fledgling group yet passed on them in favor of other bands they felt showed more promise. Of course, this turned out to be bad business, but after the strength of their EP and some favorable press, Doug Morris from Atlantic finally took an interest in Ratt, and their major label debut, Out of the Cellar, went nuclear on the strength of their signature hit ďRound and Round.Ē I guess itís appropriate that years after VH-1made a cottage industry out of summarizing bandís careers in forty minutes that Ratt has finally achieved their day in the sun--albeit years after groups like Anthrax, Guns and Roses, Motley Crue all got the star treatment themselves. Some musicians might make this a point of contention, but as youíll see here, Pearcy simply concedes that recognition given this late is the best way to tell that something--in this case a bandís musical impact--has been achieved.

It would have been nearly impossible to predict that when Ratt first burst onto your television screen along with Milton Berle and a whole bunch of furry pests that they would end up being one of the best bands in the genre. Of course, Ratt would go on later to produce other discs--Invasion of Your Privacy, Dancing Undercover and Detonator that although never quite garnering the enthusiasm or sales of the their predecessor still contains music that holds up well today. Rattís enduring legacy proves just how important the movement was despite the huge critical backlash that occurred once the 90ís hit. Even though Ratt as we knew it is no longer making music together, they are still tightly associated with the label ďhair metalĒ. In their case, that isnít a knock--when one thinks of spandex and big hair, one shouldnít forget that besides damaging the ozone layer, 80ís rockers produced a ton of enduring music that was absolutely necessary for the movement to progress into the mainstream phenomenon that it became. Despite what anyone says Ratt was a huge portion of the best aspects of the genre--one of the few who didnít rely on releasing eight dozen power ballads to carve their niche--hell, for that alone they should be respected.

With Robin Crosby no longer with us and with the rest of the original group still not exactly on beer drinking terms, it would seem that there should be less speculation about this band getting together ďfor old times sakeĒ than there may be for many of the others out there. Although there is a certain sadness in that knowledge, Stephen keeps busy racing cars, developing bands on his Top Fuel label and continuing to perform (Pearcyís latest entitled Stripped was recently released). Regardless of what I or anyone elseís opinion may be of some of what Stephen has produced since his Ratt days, it is undeniably cool that an attempt at being creative is still being made by one of the seminal figures of the period. If it takes being on VH-1 to put a band back in the publicís conscience, then so be it. Letís hope we can all look forward to tributes to bands like Saxon, Queensryche or Helix in the future---sure beats specials on The Barenaked Ladies or The Bay City Rollers.

KNAC.COM: What insight did you gain, if any, from participating in the recent VH-1 Rocumentary on Ratt?

PEARCY: It was an awakening no matter how you want to see it. You know, to go back and relive and experience and acknowledge is one thing, but it is pretty interesting to say the least. Itís proper timing for it, and itís great that the Pantera special was on right after that.

KNAC.COM: Can you describe how you felt when you saw some of the excerpts of the interviews that were conducted with your old band mates? Iím sure you havenít seen some of them in years. Is it a little emotional or irritating or is it maybe even worse than that..?

PEARCY: Mmm, hmm. One hundred percent. Itís good, bad and ugly, but it canít be regrettable because it was fact--not fiction. Basically the whining and the bitchiní and the moaniní is just drama for the program. That was that era, you know? Thatís what it was. I know how I perceived it because I know these people better than anyone else. In the beginning, we understood that we would try to keep things to ourselves, and it workedÖ.for awhile.(laughs)

KNAC.COM: IĎm sure, but despite the best of intentions of any band, isnít it just inevitable? Someone will catch you at a weak moment andÖwho knows what you could say?

PEARCY: Yeah, youíre only human, but the legal battles are over. Most of us are even amicably associating, butÖthat doesnít mean anything. Itís unfinished business whether itís conquering a planet or calling it a day, you know? Iím way too busy to even think about it, but Behind the Music is a good call, and itís a good thing. We accomplished a lot, and it was an important time. There was all this color and danger and excitement present in the 80ís while the 90ís just gave you depression. Pardon the pun, but what goes around comes around in this business --itís a vicious cycle. To me, itís very healthy. Itís funny too that some bands who were just on the coattails of the movement back in the day probably have their videos played more now than they did then.

KNAC.COM: Itís kind of funny, and I know everyone wants to attribute the whole glam-metal, metal resurgence to a cycle, but donít you think that the specific reason your music and the music of other bands of the time is making a come back is because you guys simply played good time tunes? I know a lot of the musicians I talk to think that whole party vibe is what made the whole L.A.-80ís scene special. I mean, is grunge something you could see coming back just because it is the next movement that came chronologically?

PEARCY: No, and I know exactly where youíre going with that. (laughs) The reason being that the beginning of The Strip in L.A. was like The Doors in that movie twenty years before that. There were a few bands from that grunge era--donít get me wrong--who deserved accolades and success, but as an indie label guy for twelve years, I know a little about demographics, and no, I donít see it happening. The excitement wasnít there. There was too much depression and thought and so many politics that even they got pigeonholed into like ďhey, youíre from the 90ís? You must be bummed out and flannelled.Ē I donít know whatís the better.

KNAC.COM: I do. Are you kidding? Do you want to stereotyped as a manic depressive or a guy who sports hairspray, has a good time and gets chicks? That seems like a real easy decision--especially in retrospect.

PEARCY: Well, yeah, when you put it that way. (laughs) Itís still out there too. Wherever you leave the party door open, Iíll be the party director. It goes down. Nothing has changed that way. Everybodyís a little trippy, but it still goes down. Itís rock and roll. Thatís never going to change.

KNAC.COM: It is cool to hear you say that because for a long time musicians didnít want to cop to the party aspect because they felt that it would take away from their credibility.

PEARCY: Yeah, I have a saying that I also used back then that goes ď onstage whether it is a hundred people or a thousand or ten thousand--I donít care. Itís a fuckiní party. Iím just the entertainment.Ē I always felt that way. I actually played bigger gigs with my older band than I did with Ratt when it first began. When Robin and I joined, we knew we were going to be starting over, so when people ask me how it is not to be doing shows that large anymore, I just say, ďIíve been there. Iím doing the same thing I was doing before I did that.Ē We were playing huge venues in San Diego, but when I came to LA, I had to play in front of ten people just like I saw Van Halen do in 1979 which is what got me up here to begin with. I wanted to be a part of that--the music and the party.

KNAC.COM: How much different is it to play smaller gigs though once youíve seen the top of the mountain though? Was there some kind of Zen moment of clarity that you had, or what is it that allows you to have this perspective where you donĎt harbor a lot of negativity?

PEARCY: You learn inevitably that you either stay in this or you donít--some people were never intended for this business. For me, I just see it as something that doesnít consume me the way it used to because I have accomplished things I never thought I would. So right there, once I got my first gold or platinum record, I thought, ďIíve made it.Ē I didnít know it would go on for so many years or that I would enjoy it like I did either. That isnít to say it wasnít treacherous or dangerous at times either because it was.

KNAC.COM: So basically age and attaining your goals kind of allowed you the opportunity to see the situation as it is without all the baggage of ambition sort of altering your perspective?

PEARCY: Yeah, some people just have to hang on to that because they need the adulation though. They just need some of that--some of them actually even got into it for that. I canít point fingers--you have to be a little egotistical to be in music in the first place to get on stage and do your thing.

KNAC.COM: For a front man that factor doubles or triple, right?

PEARCY: For me, Iíve always had this thing where I donít think it was a cocky thing, but Iím not gonna be bothered if you hate me or liked me because Iím just doing what I do. It worked. (laughs) Iíve learned to just take it as it comes without being depressed or uptight. You also have to keep your shit together too. It doesnít help when youíre a mess. Iíve had to change my lifestyle quite a bit to be a healthier person or a family person. Donít get me wrong--Iím the same guy-- I didnít just put the costume on and pretend. No, that was twenty-four hours a day that we lived.

KNAC.COM: I asked Jack Russell something similar to this recently, and Iím not trying to be funny, but when you meet an elderly person, they tend to be one of two extremes. It seems like they are either really bitter as hell or they have like a joyful type of calm about them. It really seems that when dealing with guys who have been involved with metal, they invariable appear to be exactly the same way. What do you think the biggest factor is that separates the two? How can two careers appear to be almost identical yet one person is at peace while the other still curses Nirvana?

PEARCY: Thatís a good question. Mice and men, my friend. Thatís just it. You roll with the punches. Just because you won a battle or two doesnít mean youíre going to win the war. Here it is--I always took the business seriously. The truth is that we were always able to function in whatever our states were most of the time. It wasnít like we got into the business to party. We were already into it. The parties were just going to get bigger and more. We werenít thinking we were going to prove we were the biggest or most baddass band. It was just like we do this, and we dig music, so here we go. I can accept the ups and downs and arounds and rounds. Some people, like you say, they take it too seriously.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, and it continues to follow them through the rest of their lives. It is almost like this sense of entitlement where they go, ďI did this, therefore, I deserve to be treated like the ultimate rock star forever. The world owes me something.Ē

PEARCY: Nobody owes anybody anything. Youíre entertainment, man. Youíre bought---you just canít take this seriously. Any band I deal with now on my label independently we give them as much time as they need. Itís done when itís done when itís done. When you like it and you get off on it, just do what you do. There is no more nurturing or development most of the time in this business--the turnover is just so fast. Then again, Iíve got to say that some of the people who never saw the level of success that some of the others may have had should just be happy that they are seeing some recognition now because any accomplishment that lasts this long is a big deal. It was a great period. People want that music and they are going to get it one way or another. Itís the smart people who are taking advantage of that demand. You and I are going to be older dudes and are still gonna dig Zeppin, Priest and The Stones. That ainít gonna change.

KNAC.COM: It seems like there is always going to be a niche for good time music that just sounds good--despite what the critics say. I mean, who wants to hear a politically oriented album from 1991 that reminds you of the time you were strung out on heroin and almost slit your wrists?

PEARCY: Thatís what I mean. I write songs about what is around me. Itís not all ďhey, babyĒ--but the girly shitís good too. There are some topics I like to dwell on, but in the end, itís just music. A lot of people do or have taken it a little too seriously. Nowadays, it is a whole different planet, but there have to be parts of that time that people either want to relive or maybe they just werenít around or missed it the first time.

KNAC.COM: There are many in the mainstream media who have made a career lampooning this music while now championing The Darkness because they rock in an ďironicĒ way. My question is always, ďwhat do you have thatís better?Ē This music is still around and people still buy it. What is popular music producing right now that has any hope of being around in twenty years?

PEARCY: Whereís your substance? It better be in the songs. Although we wanted to have fun, that doesnít mean anything if you donít have the songs. The fact is, Ratt produced a lot of good music. Hey, whatís wrong with having a job that letís you get away withÖ.a lot? (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Even though the history of rock is relatively short, with the advent of mp3ís and decline in the attention span for most music fans, metal may prove to be the last genre that has a viable, long term commercial future, isnít it?

PEARCY: Sure, it isnít like I put my accomplishments up on a shelf though or anything. I am usually looking toward what comes next. I couldnít even tell you where my platinum albums are. I gave them away, but Iím in the books--part of history. As long as a person keeps in perspective that it was all in fun, youíll get more out if it because youíll get less depression or whatever freaks you out. You know, you go out on tour for a year and half and then wake up one morning and find yourself in a studio and then it seems like the next day youíre on tour again for another year. That, by itself, will take a toll on you, and if you make a huge deal out of every little thing, you wonít make it.

KNAC.COM: How hard was it to keep anything in perspective though when there were so many enablers out there feeding your ego and willing to fulfill basically any request you may have had at the time?

PEARCY: It did happen, and it happened quite a lot, but I think youíll find that people in any field who are successful have that same problem.

KNAC.COM: True, but how many of them are playing to twelve or fourteen thousand people at the age of twenty-two? You know, and then being given thousands and thousands of dollars while being told ďdonít spend it all. It wonít last forever.Ē What guy in his early twenties in that situation wouldnít think it would last forever?

PEARCY: There were only a few who actually knew what they were doing while most of the rest were in the back of the bus going ďheeey, man, I pissed this all away.Ē I was one of them actually.(laughs) Then again, I was doing my own trip and in rock and roll there is no night and day--it just is what it is.

KNAC.COM: There has to be that understanding that there is going to be some good with the bad. Iím sure that although ďRound and RoundĒ was completely huge, there is a danger with anything that gets that big.

PEARCY: Fortunately, we didnít tag ourselves that silly to have that large of a backlash. Our music was new and original, and we worked really hard doing it.

KNAC.COM: And in fairness, Ratt obviously had more than one song and more than one album of material.

PEARCY: Yeah, we werenít a one-off. There is never an end to anything either--at least I donít think there is. You actually see it on the Behind the Music, and you literally see where it starts to crack, but to me, they still didnít get the real storyÖ.and Iím not about to tell them. There are some things that are just our lives and out of respect for Robin and myself and everyone else that we donít need to go into. It shouldnít be about ďfuck that guy! And, oh yeah, heís a prick too. Next!Ē That was about as far as we needed to go while still respecting the situation. Thatís a hard thing too because in rock people tend to take things personally. That kind of animosity can be the death of anything. Itís like, letís put it behind us and move on. We did prove something back then, you know, Ratt was one of the last bands to get signed out of Hollywood at the time. Even though we were as good as we thought we were or as different as we thought we were, they grabbed everyone else who was more goofy or colorful first. We proved that given the opportunity, we could do it as well or better than those who came before.

KNAC.COM: How large of a sense of frustration was building within you guys while all of that was happening? Was there always this sense that good would triumph over evil anyway?

PEARCY: Iím glad Doug Morris was smart enough to go, ďgrab that!Ē Itís all fun though. I always look at it as a survival of the fittest or just survival. No one gets any extra bonus points or brownie buttons--hanging out in the business this long is lucky. Weíre all lucky--letís just keep playiní the tunes.


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