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When I was in high school, I had the walls of my room covered with posters and magazine pages from my favorite bands. No one got more space on those walls than my favorite band, Ratt. When “Out Of The Cellar” came out I was simply blown away. Lead singer, Stephen Pearcy was charismatic. The essence of coolness. All of the girls wanted Pearcy and all of the guys wanted to trade places with him because of that fact. Fast forward to 2017. 33 years have passed since “Out Of The Cellar” came out. After sitting down to interview my teenage rock idol, I can say that Stephen Pearcy is still the essence of coolness.
Stephen has a new solo album called “Smash” that’s coming out on January 27th. It’s a great record that any fan of Ratt or Stephen’s solo work will absolutely want to pick up. We had a chance to talk about the new record, the music biz and of course all things Ratt!
XS ROCK: I can’t say enough good things about your new “Smash” record. It’s an incredible album. Most of your solo albums have been released under your own record label of Top Fuel Records. This one is being released through Frontiers Music. What drove that decision?
Stephen: Thanks! It’s still Top Fuel Records. I licensed it to Frontiers Music. I wanted it to have a foundation so that I could do other things. In this day and age, I think everyone is trying to kickstart what should be the entertainment and record business. It was important. When they came to me, I said Okay. I like them. They have some great bands on their label like Whitesnake, Journey, you name it. It’s a good thing. I have great distribution with “Smash”.
XS ROCK: So you’re new solo album is quite diverse. I hear some Zeppelin influences, of course Ratt, Aerosmith and just quite a few unique sounds going on. Was that by design, to create an album with a variety of styles or did that just naturally occur during the writing and recording process?
Stephen: Well, you know, Zeppelin has been an influence, it just kind of happens. Erik Ferentinos, my guitar player and I co-wrote most of the material. We went through so many songs. We’d be writing one song and starting to actually record, I’d say no. Scrap it. This is better. And what’s interesting, is with the first song “I Can’t Take It”, which set the standard with Beau Hill mixing and mastering. And the first song we tracked “Shut Down Baby” was the first and second vocal tracks and we kept them. Things just kind of fell into place. I went with the ebb and flow of things. We deliberately created diversity in the material on Smash. There’s a definite beginning, middle and end. It was a thought out thing to have some fun tracks like “Lollipop” in there. Although, most of the record is pretty intense.
XS ROCK: The guys that you recorded with on this album are all superb musicians that have been around the scene for years. How does working with your solo band differ from recording as Ratt?
Stephen: Ratt is a formula that we kind of move into. But, with my solo records I can really do and try anything. Which is what I try to do with any of the stuff outside of Ratt. Vicious Delite, which I consider a punk record. An angry one at that. You know Beau Hill mixed and mastered that, but it still didn’t make it a Ratt record. That being said, I can do a lot more and try different things that I couldn’t necessarily do in Ratt.
XS ROCK: So I suppose there’s sort of an expectation from fans of what a Ratt album should sound like?
Stephen: Yeah, and we don’t try to throw a wrench into that. But I will say that when we start recording new material, which Warren (DeMartini) and I are demoing songs now, We’re going to be trying to create the best thing we’ve ever done. You never know when it’s going to be your last. We’ve taken time off now and we’ve taken a year or two or whatever off, which we can. It’s frustrating to those who don’t write or anything, but to us, it’s what’s necessary to keep us interested and to make things special, so to speak.
XS ROCK: What are your inspirations for lyrics? Personal experience, pure fictional story telling or a little of both?
Stephen: It’s all of the above. On Smash, there’s “Jamie”, which is about a fictitious person. But, I wanted it to be an association with any two people that they could relate to. There’s a song in there that I wrote for my daughter. And then there’s some interstellar, underworld, trippy stuff in there. I am actually trying to say something on this record with the lyrics. It’s not fantasy, but it’s reality that no one pays attention too. I touched on a lot of things that are not expected. You know, I could do anything and I sound like I sound and people will go, Oh, it’s that guy from Ratt. Which is a blessing and a curse. ha ha ha
XS ROCK: What are your favorite songs off of the new album? Why?
Stephen: Wow! I like a lot of them. I can’t favorite any of them. I’m going to do as many as possible live. I love “Ten Miles Wide”. I think my guitar player was channeling Robbin (Crosby) writing that one. I like them all. They all mean their own thing to me.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current hard rock music scene? Are there any new bands out there that you really like?
Stephen: Yeah. My daughter has turned me on to some new bands. Like Sleeping With Sirens. There’s some good new bands out there. And of course, I’m still a fan of bands that I grew up with. That’ll never go away. That’s why our audiences are still fans of Ratt. You grow up with it, you like it and it stays with you. There’s some really good stuff out there. I’m amazed at all of the female players that have come up lately. There’s a lot going on, the door’s open. Everything’s been done, so now it’s who’s going to do something different? People’s attention span is so short. With guys like us and what we grew up with, it wasn’t like that. You listened to the whole record, not just a couple of singles. That’s why you don’t have platinum albums these days. That used to be something that you worked for. It is what is now. The whole medium is different. What can you do? You either adapt, lead follow or get the hell out of the way, you know.
XS ROCK: At this point in your life what do you consider your greatest achievement?
Stephen: That first gold and platinum record and being able to headline places that you’d never think you would. Like Madison Square Garden or the L.A. forum. I mean I saw Zeppelin there. I remember headlining Madison Square Garden and seeing “The Song Remains The Same” and driving up that tunnel and stuff. I remember being in a car with Robbin (Crosby) and thinking it’s kind of like Zeppelin, huh? But we were like, not really…ha ha ha.
XS ROCK: So were you kind of star struck to be in those same places as bands that you had watched?
Stephen: Well, of course. A friend of mine took a photo of the wall at the forum and we’re on it with all of these greats. And it’s like wow, I think we’ve done something that’s meant a lot to people. And being able to do that is a privilege. And to get a chance to meet and play with some of these people. I never thought I’d be on stage singing with Rob Halford or meeting Robert Plant, it’s just mind boggling. It’s not something that you abuse or mock or let alone have someone else take credit for what we’ve done. You know what I’m sayin’?
XS ROCK: It looks like you have quite a tour itinerary coming up, alternating between solo concerts and Ratt tour dates.
Stephen: The Ratt stuff will come later, we’re still getting the dust settled with everything. But Smash is pretty much important right now and I’m going to get out there and shake it up. I’ve got some good shows coming up so we’ll see what happens.
XS ROCK: So, How is life on tour these days compared to say the first three Ratt tours?
Stephen: It’s a very sober environment. ha ha ha. That’s all I can say. I pretty much put on the hardware, get out there and play and then get the hell out of dodge. That’s the only way you stay out of trouble. ha ha ha.
XS ROCK: Back in the sunset strip days, competition was fierce among bands and fans alike. You were friends with the guys in Motley Crue, but were there any bands that Ratt especially were competitive with or vice versa?
Stephen: No. We didn’t give a shit about anybody. We knew what we were about. And we didn’t care who thought they were the top dog. We ended up being friends with Roxx Regime, which ended up being Stryper. You had W.A.S.P.. You had early Quiet Riot and of course Van Halen. They started it all and I was fortunate enough to meet them before their first record came out. So, you know I think Van Halen created all that and when the 80’s thing came around there was only a handful of bands that were pretty much running the strip back then. Once we all got our stripes and moved on, then this avalanche of the next this or that happened. But to be honest with you, we didn’t give a shit who was out there. We were there to do our own thing, Our competition was ourselves. We wanted to find our niche, do it well and have a good time. Seek and Destroy. That was our motto.
XS ROCK: Speaking of Ratt, Infestation was such a great album. But afterwards things began to fall apart. Give me a brief overview of the timeline of events that occurred from then to where you are now with the new Ratt lineup without Bobby Blotzer.
Stephen: Hmmm, I wonder why things fell apart? When you don’t have all parts of band working together it just doesn’t work. I’m not here to point fingers. I could care less. I know what I do. We went into that after having time off and tried to get things back into perspective and something wasn’t working. I’m not out there to beat a dead horse. If you’re fighting yourself, you’re never going to get anywhere. We’ve been around too long to not do things right. It can throw other people into a bad place and then you forget the reality of what’s really going on.
XS ROCK: So this wasn’t just a one time huge fight, it was over time?
Stephen: Well, that’s what makes this so much more of a sobering situation for me. I’ve been through this many times. I’ve been there and done that many times over. I don’t need this. Why put yourself through that. Things have to be in good working order so to speak.
XS ROCK: Bobby Blotzer recently stated that you, along with Warren DeMartini, Juan Croucier and Carlos Cavazo might perform or record, but you won’t be doing it under the Ratt name. Can you confirm or deny this? Are there still a lot of legal issues to iron out?
Stephen: Me? I can do whatever I please. I do respect what a judge or jury says for a final outcome. I don’t go out there and try to convince somebody that what’s been happening isn’t actually happening. It’s not the Hitler method of tell them enough and they’ll believe it. We know what we’re doing. We’re doing things properly. And that’s it. We’re not out to bash anybody. We’re not trying to convince people of anything. They know who’s who and who does what. I’m not going to say someone’s Warren De Martini when they’re not. Our audience is not stupid. Our fans have been with us. They’re smart people. They believe in it. And they’re backing the right thing.
XS ROCK: What do you think about Blotzer giving a platinum record to his touring band members that never played on the original album?
Stephen: That’s the scariest thing that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s so disrespectful to the fans. And I don’t want to dwell on this whole trip by any means. Our fans want the right thing to happen. Life is short. You can go out there and do your own thing but don’t tell people it’s something else. It’s destroying the true integrity of what we’ve created. It’s a whole new world and the dust is settling as far as the Ratt trip.
XS ROCK: When do you think we’ll hear newly recorded material from Ratt?
Stephen: We want this to be the best record that we’ve ever done. We got close with “Infestation”. “Smash” turned out to be a good record because I took my time on it. It’s not that I didn’t take the other solo records seriously, It’s all frame of mind and how you are at that moment. And it takes a lot of elements. I think we’re in a good place. I think later in the year, I hope.
XS ROCK: Thanks Stephen for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with XS ROCK. Good luck with the new album and upcoming tour….and of course we’re all looking forward to seeing Ratt on tour and hearing a new Ratt album.
Stephen: No, Thank you! It’s been my pleasure!
Official Stephen Pearcy Website