By Andrew Catania
An axeman composer, a master musician, a skilled producer, an excellent lyricist, and an experienced record label owner, Stephen Eric Pearcy is a complete music institution on his own. The eminent music figure rose to a stature of global prominence in the decade of 1980s at the platform of his brainchild RATT, a heavy metal band that he cofounded in 1983, with lead guitarist Robbin Crosby. This joint venture turned out to be a rocking feat and eventually became his prime identity. Not looking back since the launch in 1983, RATT ruled the following decades through multiple gold, platinum, and multi-platinum record selling releases.
Unlike his contemporaries, Pearcy had no significant interest in music from his childhood, instead favoring automobiles and car racing. He might have become a race driver but destiny had other things planned for him. Having met a crucial car accident, Stephen fought for his life for six whole months lying on the ICU bed. It was then that someone presented him with a basic acoustic guitar, and Pearcy started fiddling with the chords. The magic of the strings did not take much time to bewitch the sporty Pearcy with its melodious charisma, and after recovering from the accident, Pearcy decided to test his mettle in the metal music domain. After a lot of learning, jamming and a couple of side performances, Stephen Pearcy eventually cofounded Mickey Ratt, which was later named as RATT.
The band established a sound regional following through frequent performances in eminent local clubs. Later, the release of their first EP brought the band into the limelight. This was just the start for the band. The EP’s success fueled Pearcy’s motivations and the combined efforts of the lineup resulted in the release of their first album titled ‘Out of the Cellar’ in 1984. The multiplatinum album broke all previous records, uplifting the music competition of the decade to a whole new level. However, this too was just a start and Pearcy was determined to bag more success and fame.
At a time when RATT was ruling the music charts with its fiery performances and had already had 3 gold-selling albums and 4 multiplatinum-selling albums, Pearcy’s restless nature compelled him to take the high road and he eventually bid farewell to the band in 1992.
Despite his other associations with Arcade, Vertex, Vicious Delite and special guest appearances, it is still RATT that accounts for his prime identity in the domain of music. He has tested his skills in a number of genres such as rock, industrial and heavy, glam and alternative metal, on a variety of instruments. He has also established a sound solo portfolio and launched his own record label in 1995. Stephen Pearcy has also pursued a career in acting and holds a number of significant appearances in Camp Utopia and Wicked City to his name. Stephen Pearcy is now entirely focused on extending his solo profile. He runs his own label named ‘Top Fuel Records’ and published his biography titled “Sex, Drugs and Ratt ‘n’ Roll” in 2014.
We recently had a formal chitchat with the versatile maestro about his past, influences, techniques, his upcoming solo record and personal viewpoint about his association with RATT. Here is the interview, presented with all the intricate details for his fans and music enthusiasts. Read on.
I listened to your album it sounds really good. It brings me back to the Sweet Cheater days of RATT.
Ah, I’m glad you said that! Thank you. That was a conscious thing to do actually.
Ok. This album, I am reading what you said, the creativity was different from your previous bands. How was that?
You mean with Ratt?
Yes. Ratt or Arcade
Yes. My solo stuff, especially with my co-writer Erik, my lead guitar player is the stuff we do it could cover something like very Zeppelin like ‘73 to the most aggressive stuff on the planet. That’s what I like about how we write, it gives me room to move in other directions. What was a conscious decision with Smash was to make sure this record had a lot of diversity and all songs got the same attention. It was a beginning and end and some stuff in there you know, Kix is for kids, that kind of thing. It was way different. It took a while to record this record to write it and everything. We wrote so much music and every time we thought we were onto something he would show me something else and I would go nope that’s number one now. So this was constantly happening and the songs just kept getting better and better and I’m able to do a lot more with my solo music, talk about things. You know a little more mind expanding per say or just stretch you know the light and the dark and the colors to change to ebb and flow, everything. We wanted this record to have everything. It was just like the EP and that’s where we made sure we were conscious that there was a lot of breathing room in most of this material. That it just wasn’t cluttered and there was room to breathe like the EP you know or at least other songs that I wrote back in the day.
This has got Ratt written all over it. I mean I know you’re trying to solo but you’ve got Beau Hill out there mixing it
Yes, I’ve got to clarify something. Beau Hill mixed and mastered one song. We couldn’t get him to the full project so we pretty much took that schematic from I Can’t Take It and we just went from there but I still have a song in the can that he mixed and mastered. We tried everything with this record there was no stone left unturned when it came to this, ideas and just being diverse. Like Physical Graffiti or something. I wasn’t trying to accomplish Physical Graffiti otherwise, there would have been 20 songs. I had the 20 songs. I get to stretch more with my solo stuff and a song like Ten Miles Wide is going to be the video single before the record is released. We start shooting in about a week. That is definitely Erik my guitar player channeling Robbin Crosby without a doubt. It is something Robbin would have come up with without a doubt, you know. Right out of the box you know, smack, Ratt! You know what, what can I say, my voice, it doesn’t matter if it’s me doing an industrial record without the Charlie Vortex it’s still my voice and that’s cool but I don’t try to change my voice to suit anything I just try different things and see where it takes me. It’s like a road trip and you don’t know where you’re going until you get there. We’re happy with it though we accomplished it. I’ve only released the lyrics on two records. One was Detonator which I was really reluctant to do and Smash. On Smash I was really glad I put the lyrics on there because there’s really a lot going on in that record lyrically that people will really open their eye’s to instead of having their eye’s bleeding. You know there’s a lot going on in that record inside an obvious tune like Lollipop or something. I have to have something really fun in there. This stuff is pretty interesting, to say the least you know
Absolutely! Working with Erik how is that different from working with Warren with songwriting and guitars?
With Ratt music whether it was Warren or myself or Warren it’s a little more complex because we know what we have to do and we’re actually kind of demoing stuff now for something later on in the year I hope but with Erik that guy is a writing machine and so am I so if he give’s me something and it hit’s me somewhere I mean it’s done in one day. But with Smash even though we had song’s like that I made sure that the lyrics were as perfect as they could be, said what they had to say and I changed the lyrics so many times on these song’s I mean literally I had lyric’s for song’s and scrapped them and started over but he’s just a writing machine. He might just come up with a title and say here’s an idea that I have and the next thing you know I’ve got lyric’s written for this thing already. It’s crazy! It’s a unique writing situation I have with him I’ve been working with the guy for 15 years now. He’s been in my solo band so we have this different kind of chemistry to where Warren and the other guy’s in Ratt whether it was Robbin or Juan or collectively all of us or one of us or two of us it’s a little more ‘we’re thinking’ Ratt music you know what I mean?
With the solo stuff, we’re not thinking anything we just go for it and make sure it’s the best we can do
Your voice sounds a lot better on this album. Have you re-done anything or is it just activity-wise you’re just stretching yourself out?
Well you know, it’s a slower record it’s a whole different environment number one, number two there’s not a lot of triple tracks, double tracks per say there’s more melody stuff over the lead tracks than anything you know like early Zeppelin or Judas Priest or something it’s just one guy, me, you know. I think there is only one song where Erik sing’s a bridge part and that is way uncommon. I took a different approach you know I didn’t want it to be like the Ratt schematic. It’s unique in itself with Beau and that’s how we get our sounds. I sing a main a low and a high and then we throw the melodies over that. With this record we took the approach like OK we’re just going to do the lead vocal track and then we’re going to put the melodies or whatever below or above it so we took a different approach and it’s very clear you know what I mean there’s not a lot of poop going on there’s no auto tuning there’s not a lot of crazy stuff going on
Like I said Sweet Cheater sound, there’s just nothing, there’s just you.
Yes and you know it was a conscious thing so we did accomplish what we wanted. We started, we made sure we stayed true to what we were doing and just went for it and if it wasn’t right we’d put it aside and get back to it later and if we didn’t like it we’d start on something else. That’s the way it works when I do solo stuff now so it worked out for the good. We really spent a lot of time it was probably three month’s in the studio off and on but it was more like a year of writing
OK. You still have your own label correct?
Yes! That I started in ‘95 yes. I licensed a record to Frontiers
That was my next question. How did you get involved with Frontiers? Because I know you have so much going on you’re a producer you’re a label, you’re a director, drag racing you’ve got your hands in all kinds of stuff
Yes, the last thing I did is I’m really trying to get into music with tv and stuff and still do that. What I had planned was a four song EP release and then when Frontiers got wind of I Can’t Take It and stuff they showed interest in Shulman who’s an old Atlantic relation so I was like OK well sure let me instigate this I usually do my own stuff so I pretty much went for it and jumped tracks like I said and the next thing you know it was like alright you’re doing a full record now so let’s get busy and we did. We just went at it and gave him the best thing we could give him.
In terms of licensing with Frontiers are you just doing a one album deal or do you have commitments after that with them depending on how this does?
No, I believe there is an option yes. I’m sure we’ll do another solo record with them yes. First I’ve got to get a Ratt record out
Is all of the legal stuff done between all parties involved with Ratt?
Yes the dust has settled pretty much and it’s getting cemented and yes the thing with Ratt is look, we have the ability to say look we don’t want to do anything for a year or two or three it’s just pen’s right, so that’s what happens. As we were doing that Warren didn’t want to go out there without all of us ‘the original’ and someone just decided well I’m going out there and I’m going to do my own thing and I’m going to call it this. Well, unfortunately, that was a bad move not only for our fans but for business and the true integrity of the entity. So hence this person created all these things going down. I don’t want to mention names or bad rap or nothing because justice is peace and things are done and taken care of and like I say the dust has pretty much settled and we’re going out and doing our thing. Ratt’s first show is February 11th and then we headline M3 you know there’s a lot going on there but it’s got to be done right. There’s a lot of this mess created but one thing you can’t do especially a person who didn’t write music or anything is try to change a course of history and its four member’s you know and that was the worst thing I thought possible you know we’re not one’s to get out there and chit chat for the sake of doing it. It’s not like the Hitler approach where you tell the people the same thing enough they’ll believe it. Our audience isn’t that stupid. They’re very smart they’ve been around for thirty years you know. You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of them hence things took care of themselves pretty much and so we’re moving ahead. A lot more to go down and like I said Warren and I have already started dabbling and writing and we’ll see what happens. We’d like to get something out sometime this year but we’ve still got a lot to accomplish and take it slow and easy and make sure it’s done right time and make sure there’s no if and’s or buts and hopefully, we can have another few years out there for everybody.
Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt! Do you think there is any kind of reconciliation between you and Bobby Blotzer?
OK. No all I know is there is Warren and myself and Juan and Carlos is back in the game and we’ll figure out who’s on fifth when we get there.
Carlos was a great addition to the last album
Yes. The first two songs Carlos and I wrote for Infestation. It was crazy. I sunk my teeth into those songs so fast. Some things just happen the same with writing with Erik or Warren sometimes. The last thing I just did with Warren him and I he showed me this riff and the next thing you know I’m in there singing and writing lyrics and we’re looking at each other going this is pretty cool and this was what, a few weeks ago? I just like writing. I don’t stop but I do have an obligation with Smash and it’s a great record and it needs to be heard it needs to be out there. We’ll be out there playing a lot of songs from it live. Some Arcade. I’ve got Frank back on guitar from Arcade my solo band
No way did you really?
Yes! He’s back in the mix and-and so we’re good to go. We’re going to have a good time and like I say Ratt’s gearing up to do some good things nothing to really be able to talk about now but it will be a nice fulfilling year, to say the least.
When you look at Arcade the first one A/2 that came out if the grunge thing did not take that would have been a platinum-selling album. I still play Arcade in the car to this day.
I love that record
Nothing To Lose your vocals you were spot on. I thought that was one of your best albums vocally
I still play it and these kids today say who’s this? Is it Ratt? I said no Stephen Pearcy is from Ratt but this is Arcade you’ve got Fred Coury on drums you guys were just in tune.
You know I’ve got to tell you that was Johnny Angel co-wrote all those songs with Fred and myself and it’s one of those records that just happened you know. Every song it was just almost handed to us lyrics came easy it just came easy it was a great deal. We had Epic/Sony behind us and I didn’t skip a beat you know we were just off and running. I wrote again got diversity with Mother Blue Sons And Daughters and then Nothing To Lose I wrote with Jim Vallance. Never Going Home, Jim Vallance I mean that was a really good record. The second was a little more aggressive. I had Holford solo producer in there and so that was a little more aggressive. I still like that record too but the first one, it’s one of my favorite records definitely.
You have a busy year ahead of you I know you host M3 you guy’s are headlining M3
Are you going to have your solo band with any of the same dates as Ratt or is that going to be a no-no?
No, they are two different entities. We plan on doing other stuff with Ratt because we want to get out and start hitting other parts of the planet. We’ll see I mean I’ve been told about some great things that could be happening and tours and so we’ll see. Nothing I can really say now like I say the dust is still settling and still a lot of things to take care of and once that’s done there’s some good stuff that could be on the horizon there. You know packaging and getting this out there so. A year is a long time. Band’s don’t tour like they used to anymore and I don’t want to you know. I’ll be happy doing two to four solo show’s a month if possible and with Ratt you never know. We’re taking it easy, starting carefully you know one step at a time and take it from there
You know the promoter’s are going to be coming after you guy’s to put you on some festival’s with some big names I am sure because you’ve got pretty much the whole kit and kaboodle of Ratt out there
Yes! It’s going down as we speak, yes!
Your voice sounds great in the past but you sound stronger than ever on this album and I can envision you singing with Ratt and Warren DiMartini I’ve always had him in my articles as one of the top ten greatest guitarist’s of all time and Juan is phenomenal with his bass flipping upside down and everything else we’re going to hear some fantastic song’s that’s why I can imagine we’re going to see you guy’s doing something with some big band’s.
Yes, there’s some good stuff in the works. That’s about all I can say. We’re very excited first with Smash and the dust has settled or is settling here with Ratt and we can put things back into perspective and the real entity is the people who come out and like what we do. It’s already 33 years old this month, 33 or 34. As long as we’re around I think making the right moves is the only way to go about doing it. I don’t want to go out year after year after year for the sake of doing it. It should be special you know and that’s what it’s going to be
Excellent! Well, Stephen, I wish you good luck on your solo album. It sounds great. Your voice sounds better than ever. You sound like I’m 11 years old again popping my Sweet Cheater in and telling my big brother about you guys.
I appreciate that man. I’ve done so many interviews today and that’s actually the first one that actually hit the nail on the head! That was the approach I wanted to take with these songs to go back to that basic breathing. You don’t have to think much. It’s right there in your face so I’m happy to hear that! Thank you!
Just out of curiosity do you think Detonator was a good album for you guys?
You know you believe in every record you do and you know there’s some record’s like the Yellow record we did it after the fact and it’s not one of my favorites although there are some moment’s and that’s all you can do. It’s all timing you know. It’s all everything has to be lined up in order to get that. With Detonator we weren’t in a good place you know. We had been on the road non-stop doing these arena tours for years, record after record and we were pretty crispy, pretty abused and pretty addicted.
We were a fucking mess and so going into Detonator Robbin wasn’t all there with us so that was the beginning of you know I see the end right there but we had a new beginning after that probably blessed by him and people who still want to hear us but Detonator to me it was a good record. You can only do with what you’ve got when you’re given only four colored pencils and you’re told to create the universe. You’re given a black pencil and that’s all you’ve got well you’ve got to make do with it. That’s about it, you know. So we did what we could. I like the record. There are some great songs on there. I think Way Cool is on there correct?
Way Cool Jr was on Reach For The Sky. Oh OK, Shame, there’s some good songs on there and Child Beyond scratch my head
Yes, Dirty Job
Thank you very much for keeping that flame alive with Ratt & Roll and your solo projects. You’re out there it sounds like you’re on the ball. That first song that Beau Hall did I said we’re right back to the Sweet Cheater days!
Right on brother, I appreciate it! Yes, we’re very happy with the record
Alright! Congratulations and I am, sure we’ll be talking soon!
Thank you very much, I appreciate it!!