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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Ratt

By: Justin Donnelly

Their reign may have been relatively short compared to others, but in their heyday, Los Angeles based act Ratt were without a doubt one of the biggest acts in the world alongside the likes of Poison, Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Warrant, L.A. Guns, Bon Jovi, Warrant, Guns N’ Roses, Europe, Twisted Sister and countless others. But despite the success, critical acclaim and several multi-platinum releases to their name, the ‘90’s saw a turn in musical trends, with the band eventually parting ways in 1992 following the release of their greatest hits package ‘Ratt & Roll 81-91’. Although the band (minus guitarist/backing vocalist Robbin Crosby, who eventually passed away in 2002) did manage to get together towards the tail end of the ‘90’s, the disappointing reaction from both the fans and the press alike toward their self-titled comeback album in 1999 resulted in the band once again taking an indefinite hiatus from the music scene.

In the years that followed, lead/rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist Warren DeMartini, bassist/backing vocalist Robbie Crane and drummer/backing vocalist Bobby Blotzer continued to fly the flag and tour under the name of Ratt, with vocalist Jizzy Pearl (Ex-Love/Hate/L.A. Guns) and lead/rhythm guitarist John Corabi (Ex-Mötley Crüe/Union) filling out the band’s line-up. But in a surprise move, 2007 saw another change within Ratt, with Pearl parting ways with the group, prompting a reunion with original vocalist Stephen Pearcy. Despite extensive touring, Ratt underwent another shift of members when Corabi announced his resignation from the band in 2008. Within a month, the band had found a replacement in former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo. Needless to say, with Cavazo on board, the core classic Ratt line-up more or less in place (Original bassist/backing vocalist Juan Croucier chose not to rejoin the group after their split in 1992), and talk of possibly making a new album, a real buzz stirred amongst fans.

Two years later, and Ratt have finally unveiled their long awaited seventh full-length album ‘Infestation’, which has been overwhelmingly hailed as a true return to form for the veteran act. With ‘Infestation’ now released, and Ratt lining up some live dates, I caught up with vocalist Stephen Pearcy at home in Los Angeles. to talk about the gradual reformation of the band, the group’s forthcoming touring plans and all things concerning the new Ratt album.

“We’re really surprised by how everyone has been reacting to the new album. I mean, we knew we had a pretty good album on our hands, and I’ve got to tell you, we’re really happy with it. We were hoping for a positive reaction, and possibly even thought that it would be perceived as one of our best albums yet. But the reaction to ‘Infestation’ has been well beyond what we initially expected. And now that the video for ‘Best Of Me’ is starting to air around the place, which I might add is a first for us (Laughs), I’m just really excited about getting this ‘Infestation’ thing going on the road.”

Looking in from the outside, it would seem that Ratt’s reformation, and the making of ‘Infestation’ was a fairly fast process. But as Pearcy points out, the band’s line-up and new album was the culmination of four years work.

“This all took a bit of time. I did a few solo albums before rejoining Ratt (2002’s ‘Social Intercourse’, 2006’s ‘Fueler’ and 2008’s ‘Under My Skin’), and no matter what I write, it’s always interpreted as something along the lines of Ratt’s kind of music. But I would always give DeMartini a copy of anything I was doing so he could hear my stuff. And in return, he would always let me hear some of his stuff he was working on over the years. So the pair of us were talking about the possibility of doing some stuff as Ratt again one day. Sometimes it was during soundcheck when DeMartini would be playing something, and I would say to him, ‘This is a song. What are we doing?’ After three years in the band, I was really serious about doing things once again. We also had to find the right label. And lo and behold, Roadrunner Records decided to come to the table. That made us fine tune Ratt to the point where we were saying to ourselves - Now we have to deliver. At that point, it had taken us a while to get there, but we knew that it was time. And you know it really helped to have a label like Roadrunner Records offer up that kind of support. So when it came time to make the album, we were prepared to step up to that challenge, and now we have ‘Infestation’ to prove it.”

And as Pearcy pointed out, ‘Infestation’ was definitely a group effort.

“We gave everybody the opportunity to write in the band, just like we did back in the day. That was the norm for us. Someone would offer up a riff, or a part, and we would work it up into a song, which would eventually turn into something Ratt sounding. We used the same process here. Crane threw out a couple of songs on the album. Cavazo came in and offered up ‘Best Of Me’ and ‘Eat Me Up Alive’. And I just went crazy and went off and did my stuff. Even at the last minute, when we were doing pre-production for the album, DeMartini was playing this riff that caught my ear. I was like, ‘That’s a song! Where did that come from?’ I suggested we work on it, and we did. And that song, ‘As Good As It Gets’, made the record. We were really more prepared than we thought. We were so meticulous about working the songs up and working on them to completion in the pre-production phase. So we did spend a lot of time on the album. To me, all the songs took on their own character. They’re all cohesive, and I was more than surprised with what we had in the end. Then again, I think the rest of the band was probably just as shocked with what I was working too in regards to the lyrics. They had no clue what I was going to sing! (Laughs) But it worked out for the better. I re-wrote lyrics, even though some of them were worked out months in advance. I would sit and rewrite them every morning, until I thought they were ready. Even our producer (Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette) put his two cents worth in. It was like stepping back to move forward making this album. DeMartini joked recently when he said that it only took one song a year to make this album! (Laughs) But the fact that we’re here, and we’ve put together a great album like this says soothing about how much work we did. ‘Infestation’, at least to me sits somewhere between ‘Out Of The Cellar’ and ‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’. I really think it’s that strong.”

Although Ratt’s quality control in terms of material making it’s way onto album in the past has been one of the band’s failings, Pearcy says that this time around, the band were adamant about maintaining a high standard for everything on ‘Infestation’.

“Well there wasn’t anything that was rejected by the band when it came to the lyrics, because I’ve always been open minded. It was the music that we got cynical with, and made sure that it was as good as it gets! (Laughs) Pardon the pun! I mean there was nothing that needed to be fixed in the song writing sense before we entered the studio. But I believe DeMartini, even right up until the last moment before recording, was always trying to tighten things up, and make sure that things were just right. He’s always been like that though. His meticulous manner might have been perceived differently amongst some within the band, but it was good for the album. He just wanted to make sure it was good as it got! (Laughs) Otherwise we just weren’t doing our job.”

The hard work has well and truly paid off for Ratt, and the return of the band’s classic sound has certainly resonated amongst fans, especially those who were less than enthused about the band’s self-titled effort from eleven years. But as it so happens, it’s not only the fans that were pissed off with Ratt’s last studio effort.

“I hate that album. That album is probably my least favourite Ratt album of all. It really was an album that suffered because too many people were involved, and it didn’t turn out to be what it should have been. When you’re writing with all these outside writers who think they’re the best thing going, it doesn’t take long to realise that they weren’t the ones who wrote all our hits. We wrote our hits! You know - the band. That’s why we decided to take it back this time around. We wrote this album. It’s one thing to have a producer come in and put his bit in there, because that’s his job. But when you have a producer and all these writers in there having their say on the sound and direction, it dilutes what made the band sound how they’re supposed to sound. All we heard was, ‘That’s great. That’s a hit. That’s the song right there.’ We didn’t need that. The reality is this band knows what the difference is between an ordinary song and a song that’s a hit. Even though it was great writing with all these people, the album did us no justice at all. This time around, it was Roadrunner Records that said to us, ‘Go do what you guys do best.’ And that’s what made us say, ‘Yes! That’s what we want to do. Watch this!’ The self-titled album is a black mark against Ratt. At least that’s my view on it. I knew when we were making the album that something was wrong! (Laughs) I was in the studio singing on the tracks and thinking to myself, ‘God, can we get this over with already!’ (Laughs) When you’re not enthusiastic about your craft, your art, your rock and roll or whatever you want to call it – then you have to ask yourself why you bother doing what you do. If it doesn’t feel right, then you know it isn’t right. That’s why I have my own record company, and I do my own thing. I want to do what I do, when I want to, and how I want to. That way at least I know it’ll be just how I like it. If you can’t get off on it, then how do you expect the fans to get off on it? All I can say is that album was not what I consider to be one of the band’s finest moments.”

Moving back onto the latest album, I asked Pearcy if there was any significant meaning behind the title of the latest album, aside from the obvious.

“Well, much in the way we do most things, everybody put in their two cents worth when it came to naming the album, and in the end, we had so many ideas. And it was only then it came down to the last minute where we knew we had to get those ideas down on the table and decide on the right one. I was recalling the first tour we did back in 1984. We called it the ‘World Infestation Tour’. So I brought up the name ‘Infestation’, and everyone liked the idea. From there, DeMartini came up with this idea of infesting the world with technology, and how the world was going to receive and perceive this new Ratt album, and the band as a whole in the many years to come. We didn’t want to just throw a woman on the cover, or get too involved with giving people a cover that they would typically expected of us. I took care of doing that within the music anyway! (Laughs) It’s basic rock and roll really. It’s not too complicated you know.”

Aside from the release of ‘Infestation’, another product that’s released simultaneously is Blotzer’s autobiography ‘Tales Of A Ratt: Things You Are Not Supposed To Know’.

“That’s right. He’s actually got something out there that some people might give a s**t about. I haven’t indulged in it yet. I really don’t care about what anyone would say about me anyway. It’s probably real, true and false all at the same time you know! (Laughs) Besides, why would I bother? I mean, I was there anyway wasn’t I! Actually, I’ve been working on a book of my own over the last couple of years called ‘Ratt Tales’. It wasn’t exactly an autobiography as such, but more a book that tells the complete story of Ratt, and everything that surrounded the band throughout the years. Before Ratt got back together, I was prepared to release the book. But now that we’re back, I kind of put that to the side. I’m glad I did, because there was no real happy ending to my story! (Laughs)”

Looking toward the future, it would appear that Ratt’s tour schedule is starting to look quite busy. And according to Pearcy, things are only going to get busier as time goes on.

“We’ve got a handful of dates with Scorpions, and we also have some shows where we’ll be headlining with our own stuff. We’ve got a bunch of festivals all over Europe as well, including ‘Hellfest 2010’, ‘Graspop Metal Meeting’ and ‘Sweden Rock Festival’ once again. So we’re going to be quite busy this year. We also have some festival shows lined up for Japan as well. There should be some thirty or forty dates up right now. We hope to get out to Australia sometime soon too. We had a great time doing those couple of shows a couple of years back. In the meantime, we’ll be out on the road for as long as we can with this album. And that shouldn’t be too hard, because it’s so cool for us to actually play some new songs. We’ve played around four or five in the current set we’ve been doing, and it’s so refreshing. I mean I love ‘Lay It Down’, ‘Round And Round’, ‘Body Talk’ and ‘Way Cool Jr’, but now we can add new songs like ‘Eat You Up Alive’ and ‘The Best Of Me’ to that list. We can play the whole album live, which is really cool. I mean anybody can rock and roll, but only we can Ratt and roll!”

The band have quite a long road in front of them, but as far as Pearcy’s concerned, Ratt is here for the long run this time around.

“It’s a pretty cool aesthetic within the band. First and foremost, what keeps us together is the music. We have a lot of integrity for the music. That’s where we’re at now. And the band is just getting along fine. We’re brothers, and sometimes brothers can go A.W.O.L. But at the end of the day, we always seem to get back together and take care of business. And that’s the music. We never cared about being press darlings, or being the hippest thing in the first place. We wanted the biggest party, and more of it! (Laughs) Now we’re all married, and have kids, and we now take a different approach. It’s no longer a case of ‘Where did they go?’ or ‘Where are they now?’ The fact is that we’re here right now, and we don’t plan of going away anytime soon.”

I would like to thank Stephen Pearcy for his generous time, and Bob Stevenson at Roadrunner Records for making the interview possible.

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