It’s hard to believe that RATT frontman Stephen Pearcy was more interested in drag racing than music when he was younger. To me, he has way too much swaggah (which is sorely missing in music these days) going on to not be on stage rocking out. Pearcy and RATT provided us all with quite a few classics back in the day including “Round and Round,” “Lay It Down” and “Wanted Man” as well as the underappreciated Infestation in 2010. He’s about to release a brand new solo album on Januray 27 via Frontiers Music SRL entitled Smash. It’s Pearcy’s first solo studio album since 2008’s Under My Skin. This new solo album is one that will disappoint you if you want it all to sound like a RATT album and it will also surprise you if that’s what you’re expecting it to be like. We had the privilege of sitting down with Pearcy to talk to him about the new album, his upcoming solo tour and where things stand concerning RATT and all of the drama that’s been going on the last couple of years.
I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today and this is such a treat for me on a personal level. Please forgive me if I hit you with a few of the same questions that you may be getting in these interviews, but I want to have my facts straight. You and I both know that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s true.
Stephen Pearcy: Ain’t that right? Everything you read’s not always true!
It’s been a while since we’ve had new solo material and I was surprised when I first read about your new solo album Smash. To cut to the chase, what took so long?
I tend to, whether with my own stuff of Ratt, have to have the right timing and that’s why the former band RATT took time off. It has to be the right time and I’m in a better place to really sink my teeth into a solo record. We’ve been writing close to two years with the release of “I Can’t Take It” with Beau Hill mixing it and mastering it. That was the precedent for the solo record, so I thought, ok now we’re going to get into it. It was the right time for me and my co-writer Erik Ferentinos and we were ready to go because we had so much music. So, I started the project and then Frontiers approached me and I decided to scrap all of those songs and move in a whole new direction. That was the beginning of the process of really putting Smash together about six or seven months ago.
I was surprised on my first listen to this album because there’s quite a bit of depth there and there are many layers.
Thank you for saying that and for picking up on that.
You and Erik definitely have a very special creative chemistry going on there.
He’s been playing in my solo band for about thirteen or fourteen years and we’ve been writing almost the whole time. He really started coming to bat recently with his songs and they just kept coming. He would also come up with a title and it was crazy because it was the perfect title. I would take it from there and the proper subject matter would come up and I would put it down. I like the approach of people having to listen to it, figure it out and decipher it and make it your own. These days, so many people still don’t get my RATT lyrics properly and that suits me fine. With Smash, there is a lot of depth in there and some stuff is fun like “lollipop” but there’s also some personal stuff there, some interstellar, underworld aboveworld crazy stuff in there that I don’t think people would have expected from me. Another thing is the way we produced it; Beau Hill was able to do “I Can’t Take It” but not the rest of the record. We didn’t want this record compressed, so it’s interesting to hear people say this or that isn’t loud enough. The record was made to be played loud so that the elements of bass and vocals come out. The way people is it’s all compressed in your computer, headphones and this and that, but we didn’t want that. We wanted every aspect of it like lyrically, musically and so forth to be its own thing. I appreciate you picking up on that and mentioning it because there is a lot of stuff going on there. There is a beginning, middle and an end; we didn’t want any filler. We wanted every song to have the same attention and I think we achieved that.
Did that approach include your vocals because even though there is a rawness there, I can’t remember when I’ve heard your vocals sound so good?
I didn’t follow the norm that I usually do which is the RATT schematic way of recording me. An example is “Shut Down Baby” which is the first song that we tracked in our sessions and the vocal track is actually the first and second takes. I didn’t want to do doubles and triples; I wanted to have a lot of breathing space in there like the EP or on Cellar or like Zeppelin. Less is more and I didn’t want it all convoluted with all of this stuff, so it was a conscious thing.
Speaking of Zeppelin, you can definitely feel their influence on the album from the big riffs down to songs like “Summers End” which is one of my favorites.
Since the get-go, we would start tracking something and then another idea would come up and something wouldn’t make the record. I knew right away what was going to be cohesive; we wanted it to be diverse and that was one thing that we definitely wanted to do. We wanted it to be light, dark, up, down, this and that and I can’t deny that Zeppelin was a great influence on me. We didn’t go in because we needed a song that sounded like this or that or like RATT; some of these songs just happened. I’m glad you brought up “Summers End” because we made it to be a closer, but we didn’t know it. We knew it was a great song and we took our time with it and it was our closer and the end of the thought process. ‘Will I see you again? Here’s our journey and we’ve taken it.” That’s just how this record’s been; it’s not an overly thinking man’s record, it is what it is and it serves its purpose.
I saw on your website that you’re going to be doing a lot of solo dates to promote this new album, which is a very cool thing.
It’s important that Smash gets the attention that it deserves and hopefully we’ll be doing three, four, five songs off of it live. That’s going to be great to do and as far as the RATT stuff goes; we’re dabbling in a few shows as well. The dust is still settling and we’re able to go out there and instigate some stuff. I jump from one recording idea or another and Warren (Demartini) and I have already worked on a couple of tunes. That’s a whole other animal, but it’s one that we know really well so we’re taking the careful approach and we’re doing the same thing with shows. We’re doing Rocklahoma, headlining M3 and then we’ll see what happens. We could be in a full blown RATT tour by mid-year for all I know.
It was such a rush seeing RATT perform on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
It was like riding a bike, you know? What we were doing was pretty much making a statement. I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but, as you know, what was being put out there by somebody who didn’t write a note or a song and who was trying to re-write history with our music that we wrote was kind of disturbing. They were saying that these other people were “the band” so to speak and then not letting people really know who was actually playing. The band and their agents didn’t let the promoters know that it wasn’t the original band, so it kind of rubbed us the wrong way. So, we decided to let people see the real thing and we’ll take it from here. The dust is still settling, but we’re going to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed and then it will really begin. It was a great thing to do and it doesn’t matter if we don’t see each other for two years. When we all get back into the same vehicle and it just happens.
It gave me goosebumps hearing you guys do those classics!
It gave us goosebumps too because it had been about two and a half years with all of this stupid stuff and disrespect going on. It was a great thing to do and let the people who had spoken check us out.
This whole social media beast was nowhere to be found “back in the day” and, in my opinion, it’s taken a lot of the mystique out of music. I used to wait for my new issue of Creem or metal Edge to get my news and now bands post when they’re about to take a dump.
(Laughs) That is so true! Back then, someone would tell you that Blue Oyster Cult or Zeppelin or Aerosmith was coming and you were like huh, really? We had those magazines and that was about it. I totally agree with you and that’s why we kind of take a step back every now and then and try to keep it fresh. Social media is great and bands have been created and very successful from it, but that’s the new stuff. It’s kind of like the short minded thing, next; oh, I’ve already heard that, next. We had to work years to do what we did and thank goodness there wasn’t the internet back then or we probably would have had a lot more divorces going down back in the day (laughs). You can get your word out there quicker, which is a good thing; whether it’s true or not is another thing. Remember people, you have to do your homework on those things.
The casual fan may not realize all of the other things that you’ve hands your hands involved in from owning your own record label to drag racing to acting to being an author. Is there any of those things that you’re most proud of doing?
I was meant to be a drag racer and music was the furthest thing from my mind. When I got into music, being a lead singer guy was the furthest thing from my mind because I wanted to play guitar. When I say I yell at people, I don’t disrespect myself because I have my own thing going and I don’t claim to be Pavarotti over here. I’m just this guy who sings and writes songs and if they’re successful with whoever then great because I’ve written songs since day one. I started writing them when I got my own guitar. In that first year, I was writing songs like “U Got It,” “Sweet Cheater” and “Never Use Love;” I just couldn’t stop. I can at least say that I can do that and I yell at people too, but the misconception is that I just yell at people.
I had a question from social media for you. Todd J. in Ohio wanted to ask what’s your favorite memory that pops into your mind when you think back to when RATT and life was at its pinnacle?
I loved the struggling days when all of this was fresh and we were trolling Hollywood with Motley and we were all nothing. The first gold record was really rewarding because we knew that we actually could get something from doing all of this. I don’t care how many of them I get, but I always the first gold and the first platinum record closest to me for my achievement. As far as anything else, it’s headlining Madison Square Garden, The Forum, the San Diego Sports Arena in my hometown and those are things that you never thought you would do. I sat there in my house with Mickey Ratt and I would say that I was going to play there someday and my mom would say “yeah, sure, one day you will.” Then, I remember one day telling her that I was playing there and that I was headlining it.
Do you remember the first album that you bought with your own money?
Wow, let me think about that one. I think it was an early Sabbath record; I think it was Paranoid. I collected bootlegs back in the day from Cooper, Zeppelin and Aerosmith and I actually collected those before I bought real records.
I hate to say this, but our time is about up; is there anything else you’d like to mention or close with?
It’s a compliment to finally get this solo record heard and have people responding to it. I hope they get something out of it and they like what we did. As with RATT, the dust is settling and this could be the last rodeo with and this could be the last record. I do what I feel and that’s the type of person that I am; I’m in a good place in my life right now to do it. It’s going to be good to get out and do this.
On a personal note, I want to thank you for providing a big part of the soundtrack for a lot of debauchery in my younger days.
(Laughs) Robbin (Crosby) and I called that the three Ps and there ain’t much of that going on these days, but the paycheck!
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