Stephen Pearcy

As lead singer with RATT, Stephen Pearcy sold millions of albums garnering a clutch of Platinum albums along the way.  When the band folded he formed a diverse range of projects including Arcade and Vicious Delite as well establishing himself as a solo artist in his own right.  He’s back with Smash, his first solo album in almost a decade.  Mick Burgess called Pearcy to talk about his latest solo album and also to get the latest on the RATT reunion.

Your new album Smash has just been released. How do you feel now that it’s out?

I’m very happy. It was a lot of hard work and it’s been really well received over here and hopefully elsewhere. It wasn’t an easy process and it took about a year and a half to make. The last couple of months were very grueling. It feels good now that it’s out.

It’s been 9 years since your last solo album Under My Skin. Why the long gap between records?

I tend to do things when I feel like doing them. I write all the time. I started on a project about a year and a half ago called Suckerpunch and it was going to be four CD’s with four songs and I started tracking them. I gave one track to Beau Hill and he loved it and did some amazing stuff with it and we thought we had a lot more work to do and started writing again. Then Frontiers came into the picture and we decided to scrap the 15 songs that we had done and we started afresh and the only one we kept was I Can’t Take It which was the one Beau Hill had worked on as it was so good. It’s also the only track on the album Beau mixed and mastered as he wasn’t available to do the rest. Matt Thorn and myself produced, mixed and mastered the rest of the record.

You mentioned Beau Hill there, what was it about him that worked so well for both and RATT?

Are you familiar with the record This Is The Light? I call it my Punk record as it’s just this crazy record and I gave it to Beau and he mixed and mastered it. It was in the vaults for a while but it’s available now on my own label Top Fuel Records. I’ve always been in touch with Beau. We’ve always had a thing and created something together with RATT and when he was introduced to us before we did Out of The Cellar we were both starting out together. He was a new producer and we were a new band. When we went in to demo some songs he heard a rough version of Round and Round and he said that was going to be the song we’d work on first. That was the start of the creation of RATT music. He was like our sounding board.

The album has a very diverse feel about it. Is that what you were looking for when you started working on the album?

I have a very diverse ear for what I listen to and I wanted this record to be very special. I wanted it to be very diverse and to try different things. I didn’t want people to think I was being too much like RATT. We took the best songs and worked in a much more sober environment. I spent a lot of time on the lyrics and rewrote them over and over again until I thought they were right. There’s fun songs on there like Lollipop but there’s songs on there that dwell on things that are pretty intense like Rain which is about my daughter and what she goes through. I wanted to have a real ebb and flow so when you listened to it had the feel that it was on vinyl. I took that approach like I was listening to a record in the ’70s. This is only the second record where I’ve included the lyrics as I felt there’s a lot of things I was writing about that people wouldn’t really know about so I thought I’d do it again for this record.

Does your solo work give you more space to explore different musical avenues?

Absolutely yes. With RATT it had its own secret formula but with my own material I can go where I like. Vicious Delite was my Punk record, on Vertex I went more Industrial and I did Arcade which is very different again and I can do my solo music which is all over the place. If Zeppelin can put the Immigrant Song and That’s The Way on an album then why can’t we? I want this to be diverse so that I can try anything. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re just making the best record we possibly can.

The album has a very organic, live sound too.

We will be playing a lot of these songs live so that was another thing we kept in mind was to be able to play them live. I also recorded What Do Ya Think acoustically as a bonus track for Japan. We did a lot of different stuff.

You’ve written the songs with Erik Ferentinos, your guitarist. How do you tend to write together?

Sometimes he’ll send me some music or a song with a title like Ten Miles Wide and I looked at that title and thought I could work with that and the same with Passion Infinity. We just know each other so well. Sometimes he’ll send me a part or an idea and I’ll work on that. Matt our bass player had some great ideas too about keyboards and song structures. We decided that we wanted to do something that I hadn’t really done before by doing the chorus first on a couple of songs. Some of my influences came out too as I’m influenced by Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult and Zeppelin. On Ten Miles Wide Erik thought I was being channelled by Robin as he thought it was a perfect RATT song. My influences came through but not intentionally. We wanted to do the record organically and not put too much on it or overdo it, even down to the mastering where we didn’t want to compress it so when you turn it up you can hear more. With a compressed record when you turn it up you start losing things.

Where did you first meet Erik?

I first met Erik when I moved to San Diego in 1994 or around then. He lived across the street for me and his band at the time were really young but had opened for Fight and Stone Temple Pilots. I said I had a studio in my house and invited him over and we’ve been writing since day one.

How do you rate him as a songwriter?

He’s been with me now for about 14 years and he’s come on leaps and bounds. He’s such a great writer and has done some incredible songs. In fact they were so good some of my own songs didn’t even make it onto my own record. He kept coming to me with all these songs. I was just amazed. We ended up with about 20 songs and we decided to go for 12 of those for the album. We decided which songs to record and we took our time working on them. He’s already working on the next solo record as I am too. We’re going to be very well prepared next time.

Shut Down Baby has a real Zeppelin feel about it and some great slide work on the opening riff while Lollipop has that great Aerosmith swagger that really stood out on those early RATT albums. I take it Aerosmith and Zeppelin were two of your biggest influences growing up?

Aerosmith’s Rocks is my favourite record. I listened to Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Priest, Zeppelin and I loved Blue Oyster Cult, their lyrics were great. I was inspired by them on songs like Passion Infinity which is about being descending from space to protect the children of earth. I got a little outside with that one. Hit Me With A Bullet is full of cowboy slang and you’d have to look it up to see what it’s all about.

Dead Roses is one of the heaviest things you’ve done in a while. What’s the story behind that song?

That’s a pretty heavy song and is pure angst. I was addressing bad people. I worked with one a few years ago and now the dust has settled. Now we’ve got the RATT by the tail and have it back.

What Do Ya Think and Summers End give the album a lot of breadth. Do you think those songs may surprise some people that think who would pigeonhole you as a Metal singer?

That was a very deliberate thing and I’m not going to say that we are like Zeppelin but I wanted our approach to be diverse like Zeppelin. I like the fact that I can do What Do Ya Think acoustically then play some real heavy songs. I like to be creative. We wanted to do something different and we wanted to do it right.

What are your plans for taking your solo band out on the road?

We have shows booked from the start of March through to July. I could have more shows booked but I don’t want them to interfere with RATT as we are just getting things going with RATT right now.

Do you feel that all of the speculation over the activities of RATT is an unnecessary diversion away from your solo album?

It doesn’t bother me as they don’t interfere with each other and in fact they complement each other. When I do my solo shows they’ll be half of the Smash album and also songs from Arcade and my solo records and a cover or two depending on the audience. My solo band is a whole different animal but RATT has a bunch of festivals booked but they give me time to do what I do. We’ll see what happens. Getting RATT back on its feet after somebody led them to a whole different planet is very important to me. We don’t have to re-establish ourselves. We just have to go out as the real guys and kick some ass. Warren and I have demoed some songs already and we are planning on starting recording towards the end of the year. We’ll see what happens.

What made you decide to hook up again with warren and Juan?

We got so upset with what was going on last year. We thought it was crazy so we had to step up and take care of business. We worked for years and years writing songs and playing all over the world and to have someone come along and rewrite our history, it was just wrong. No, we just couldn’t let that happen. I’m very proud of what we did and I appreciate the fact that people still want to see us.

It’s difficult to fathom how the drummer can claim the name over the original singer, lead guitarist and bassist who also contain the main songwriters.

Nobody bought it. The biggest problem that happened is that they didn’t tell people it wasn’t the real band. People went there expecting to see us but the person who went out and did that didn’t seem to realise that we had a partnership and we just got tired of it. We stepped up and said let’s go. We gotta do what we gotta do. Now the dust has settled and he’s out of the picture. We have a couple more screws to tighten and then that’s it. He’ll never be involved with the band anymore.

With Carlos Cavazo taking Robin’s place who have you got in mind for the drums?

Jimmy Degrasso has sat in helping us for a while but he’s busy with Black Star Riders so we’ll need to make a decision on who will be our drummer soon. It’s very important that the next person we get is in for the long haul. I want to leave RATT on a high note. If we do our next record and I promise you it will get done, it’ll be our 10th record. That’d be a really cool way to say it’s been a pleasure. The next record we do will be phenomenal or it won’t be done. It has to be like the EP, Out of the Cellar and Invasion. It has to be the best thing as it might be the last thing. We have Juan back now and if we’d had him for the Infestation album that could have been even better.

Robin Crosby was a big part of RATT and was your main song writing partner. What impact would you say he had on the band both as a musician and as a personality?

When I started the band, Robin was the first one in. He was my right hand man. We created everything down to our image, our delivery, to writing our first hit You Think You’re Tough. He kept everyone in line and the guy that made things happen. He was the guru so to speak. RATT will never be RATT without Robin. I keep that in my mind all the time. Every time we do something I shake my head and think it’s not RATT. We’re the survivors of RATT and I have to deal with that personally every day. Robin was such a big part of us. When we go into the RATT business I bite the bit and we do the best we can. There’ll be three of the four main writers when we do the record but it’ll never be RATT but we are carrying the banner

That whole Sunset Strip era in the early to mid-80s was a fantastic time to be into Metal. How do you view it looking back on it all now?

With success came excess. The rest is history. The ’80s can never be duplicated. I don’t think anything quite so exciting has come this way since then. It was colourful, dangerous, exciting and so entertaining. It can never be repeated. After that it was a free for all. Van Halen set the standard in 1978 for what came in the ’80s. I was part of that and I met Van Halen at The Whiskey just as they were getting signed and I knew what was coming down and I moved to LA in January 1978 as I knew the shit was going to hit the fan and I wanted to be part of it.

Looking to the future. What are your touring plans for RATT and do you hope to play in the UK and Europe soon?

We have plans as we speak for RATT to tour worldwide. We will hopefully be including the UK and Europe in those touring plans. I really appreciate the fans and we’d love to play for them all over the world.

Smash is out now on Frontiers Records


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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