Anyone my age, give or take a few years, can remember a time when Ratt was larger than life. Ratt was a band that put on huge ass arena shows and had hit after hit with songs like, “Wanted Man”, “Round & Round”, “Way Cool Jr.” and “Dance” just to name a few. Leading the Ratt pack was lead vocalist Stephen Pearcy. Pearcy had (and still has) one of the most distinct voices in hard rock and over 40 years later he’s still going strong.
I recently had the chance to talk with Stephen and he was such a great guy to talk with. We talked about his forthcoming album Smashed, his love and admiration of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant, and how it makes him feel to see Ratt’s influence on other bands. Enjoy the hell out of this one folks and remember… Ratt & Roll or Pay the Toll!
Stephen, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today.
No problem, Don.
Back in 1987, I won tickets to see you guys in Biloxi, MS with Queensryche and Lillian Axe opening. My mom had to take me so she’ll love that I talked to you today!
That’s great. That’s really cool. She has great taste [laughs].
Before we get started, I just have to ask you. What is one question you get asked so much that if you get asked it again you’re going to kick someone?
I really don’t get asked questions that I get tiresome of. There’s really no question that really bothers me honestly.
Last year you spoke very openly about your sobriety. How is that going for you these days?
I’m still sober. I’m just not one of those preacher characters because you’re just being hypocritical if you happen to lose it [laughs].
That’s awesome and congrats on your sobriety. That’s a pretty huge thing.
Thanks. Yeah, it takes a couple of stumbles here and there. My approach in anything that I do is that if I set out to do it, I eventually accomplish it no matter what. I get everything I want done eventually.
Since being sober, have you found yourself with some new found love and appreciation for music in general?
For me, it’s just made me sharper and possibly meaner [laughs]. I tend to go more underground than to hang out up here with the nonsense of what people think is so relevant.
Smash is about to come out this month and I have to say I totally enjoyed it. I loved the album. It sounds very current but at the same time classic.
Thank you. Yeah, a lot of Smash has to do with different perspectives. It’s by far a Ratt record. I do have a couple of songs that are tongue in cheek but the other songs, they’re not really predictable. It’s the 2nd record that I’ve put lyrics to in my life. I hate doing it but I’m glad I did it on this one because it really changed things for me.
I can only assume that being able to write the lyrics yourself will definitely make it more inner personal as opposed to the stereotypical “tongue in cheek” kind of thing.
Yeah, there’s a lot more involved here. You live and learn that there are other things to say. It doesn’t by far mean that I’ve lost my sense of humor in this music business [laughs]. It’s a whole new world for me and it’s just my take on things nowadays. Smash is a really relevant record in my career and in my lifetime.
When writing, do you have a way of saying, “This is a RATT song” and “This is a solo song”?
It depends. If I’m writing for Ratt, which Warren and I are dabbling in right now, you know what’s expected. Even the stuff that we’re demoing up now is quite different but it’s still Ratt. With me, I tend to like the heavier and brighter, the ebb and the flow of say the Zeppelin approach.
In a nutshell, when you’re writing for yourself, you feel less like to be forced to write within the confines of what would be done for Ratt. That must be a great release for you.
Oh yeah, 100%. That’s why I created Top Fuel Records in 1995 and my first release Vicious Delight. That should be a punk record [laughs]. It was just, to me, an angry, sexy, 2 minute-3 minute, wham bam thank you mam, and go fuck yourself by the way kind of record [laughs]. Of course it sounds like me but I can also change my delivery, my approach, and the subject matter to suit where I’m at. I tend to have a little more leeway to talk about things that some people might not understand or want to understand.
What was the defining moment for you when you knew you wanted to do this?
I didn’t set out to be a rock guy and sell millions of records and take a lot of drugs. [laughs] That was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to be a racecar driver when I was a kid but I got all smashed up and ended up in the hospital. Someone then gave me a guitar and I just adapted to it. It almost became an appendage to me and when I got out of the hospital I just started writing my own songs. The first songs I wrote were songs on the Ratt EP and that was in 1978. I didn’t really want to be a lead singer though. I wanted to be a guitar player. I saw Zeppelin a couple of times and I went, “I hear my calling. This is it.”
Are there any bands that were coming up on the Strip with you guys that felt like should’ve made it that never did?
Um, no because there were so many great bands but the thing is, when I came into town in 1980, the only people that were around was Van Halen, Quiet Riot, and a couple of younger bands. When 1981 rolled around and we ran into Motley Crue, it was almost like the western days. “Who’s the fast gun in town? Oh it’s this Mickey Ratt band.” We were saying the same thing. “Who’s the hot shit here? Motley Crue.” Then we met up and became good friends and then everything new started happening. Great White was Dante Fox, Stryper, we went up the ropes with them, they were called Roxx Regime. It was such an interesting kind of world that we fell into. There were a lot of bands but the ones that really kind of stuck it out are the ones still standing in different ways, manners, and forms.
Back when RATT just started to break through, did you have any idea that it would be this long of a ride?
Ratt will be 34 years old next year and honestly, we didn’t think any of this would last [laughs]. When Robin (Crosby; former/passed guitarist) heard our song on two radio stations at once, we were like, “Oh man, we made it!” We didn’t think we’d make it another year or two. We just thought we would get signed and we hoped for the best. Fortunately we had plenty of hits and plenty of these platinum records that nobody gets any more. We took the ride and we took it all the way. Some survived and some didn’t. Some of us are still kickin’.
You’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Do you still get that feeling of excitement before walking on stage?
Oh yeah except now I have a different approach. I don’t waste my time with the “pre” of everything. I go there ready and prepared to go on the front line and then I’m off duty. I turn that freak on and then I turn it off when he’s done. I still have a great time doing this. Who wouldn’t? It’s the face, the vibe. There’s that millisecond. If you can get just that one little millisecond that we all look for up there; that feeling. It doesn’t last long but if you can grab that for just one second, it’s the most amazing feeling of euphoria that no high can come close to. I don’t go searching for it. It’s just something that has to happen. It’s like going 330mph in 4.5 seconds.
What is one song that you never get tired of singing no matter how many times you do it?
Well, I like a lot of our stuff. I love the EP. I still get off on Cheater or songs like that. I love “Body Talk” and of course “Round and Round” has this euphoric thing with people that really does something. There are also some solo songs of mine that we don’t play that I just love and that get me high.
I loved when you joined the Donnas for their cover of “Round and Round.” How was that for you to see such a young band tipping their hats to Ratt?
Yeah. We actually re-recorded that song for them. It was crazy. You don’t think about it sometimes; the impression that your music does make on people. It’s an interesting thing. It’s a compliment though of course when people appreciate you and have a place for you their life because I’ve had those moments too. What they get out of me couldn’t be far different than what I got out of Zeppelin or Blue Oyster Cult or Sabbath or Cooper. To top it all off, getting to meet these people later in life and get to sit in with them it’s like, “Holy shit! I’m actually up there with Blue Oyster Cult or hanging out with Aerosmith.”
That actually leads into my next question. What is the most starstruck you’ve ever been?
Oh meeting Robert Plant. Definitely. It was really strange. We were in Europe doing a festival and when I check into a hotel, I usually go to the gift shop. Some fan came up to me and said, “Hey, Stephen. This is great. I have my two favorite singer’s autographs.” I said, “Right on who are they” and he goes, “Robert Plant and you.” I said, “Way cool. He’s a huge influence” and he says, “He’s right over there.” I signed his shit and was like, “Thanks very much” and walked right past him to go meet Robert Plant [laughs]. I talked to him and met him and he knew who I was. It was really something.
If you could put to rest one misconception about Stephen Pearcy, what would it be?
Some people don’t seem to think that I don’t write music. I have to remind them, “Where do you think the EP and Out of the Cellar came from? Another one would be that we’re actually very smart people [laughs].
Are there any plans for you to tour any time soon behind Smash?
Yeah, there are plenty of dates on the table. We’re still booking them and for Ratt, yeah, we have a couple of shows but as you know, that’s a whole different monster [laughs]. We have to take our time doing what we’re doing with that.
Thanks so much for taking the time out to do this and thank you for all the years of great music. It’s been a real pleasure to get to talk to you.
You got it brother. Thank you, Don. I really appreciate it.
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