‘NONSTOP’ After near extermination, Ratt is back in the lab, coming to Easton’s OneCentreSquare
SEPT. 13, 2019
Back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, rock band Ratt helped establish a Los Angeles music scene that became known as “hair metal” because of the purveyors’ teased coiffure and screaming guitars, counting groups such as Mötley Crüe among them.
In that era, Ratt produced five gold and platinum albums and gold hits such as “Round and
Round” and “Lay It Down.” But the years have not been kind to that scene. “Hair metal” became almost a derogatory term, bands stopped getting airplay, and even Crüe retired.
Ratt hasn’t had a hit in nearly 30 years. It has split and reformed a couple of times and even had an infestation of competing Ratt bands.
More recently, singer Stephen Pearcy, 63, had knee problems that affected shows.
But it looks like Ratt again is, as its biggest album proclaimed in 1984, “Out of the Cellar.”
Pearcy says he’s healthy and the reunited band, which also includes classic-lineup bassist/ backup singer Juan Croucier, is working on new material. And with 1980s music again in vogue, Pearcy thinks Ratt is back in the race.
The band plays at Easton’s OneCentreSquare on Friday.
“We just keep kicking ass,” Pearcy says in a phone call from his Los Angeles home. “We’re doing really well out there and I’m getting healthier and that’s all that matters right now.”
Pearcy says he is writing new music — for the first time in years with Croucier, and even with new guitarist Jordan Ziff.
The singer describes the new music as something between the band’s 1983 self-titled debut EP and the triple-platinum “Out of the Cellar.”
“A little tougher, you know?” the singer says. “We had a tendency [at the band’s peak] to be too
melodical or something. And we’re going to probably see even more straight-forward” music.
But he says that music won’t be part of the set at OneCentreSquare.
“We’ve been rehearsing some other stuff that we’re going to throw out there soon enough, but right now, we’re just kicking all the hits,” he says. “I mean, it’s nonstop — ‘Wanted Man,’ [‘I’m] Insane,’ [‘You Think You’re] Tough,’
‘Slip of the Lip,’ ‘Round [and Round’] of course, ‘Back for More,’ ‘Lay It Down,’ ‘You’re in Love.’ Going down the hits — anything that was a video — you know?”
That melodic sound is what made Ratt famous. “Out of the Cellar” produced three Top 40 hits: “Back for More” and “Wanted Man,” as well as the gold “Round and Round.”
Pearcy says the band had no idea how well that disc would connect when the band was making it.
“We knew we had good songs, and that’s all we knew,” he says. He says that when producer Beau Hill heard
“Round and Round” — the first song the band recorded for “Out of the Cellar” — it “really wasn’t all together yet — we were doing it live, but it really didn’t sound like it.
“We happened to just hit on all cylinders. We had good songs, we were a good live band. You know, we’d go up against anybody. We had no competition — our competition was ourselves. We didn’t go up against Motley or anybody back in the day.
“It was like, ‘Hey, we’re on our own; we’re doing our own thing.’ You know, we want to be pirates [a reference to the band’s appearance] — we don’t want to be heavy metal people,” he says with a laugh. “And in every which way, it turned out good. But the music? It just came together, you know? That’s all I can say.”
Ratt followed the debut disc with three more platinum albums (its sophomore disc, “Invasion of Your Privacy,” went double-platinum and had the gold “Lay It Down”). An accompanying home video, “Ratt: The Video,” because the first to sell gold in the United States and eventually sold platinum.
But as hair metal fell out of favor, the band’s fortunes waned. After its 1990 album “Detonator” went only gold, the band released only one more album in the next 20 years.
Pearcy left the group in 1992 and formed a series of far less successful bands. Ratt, without guitarist Robbin Crosby (who later died of a drug overdose) and Croucier, reunited in 1997 and in 1999 released an album, “Ratt,” that had more of a traditional bluesrock approach and barely broke Billboard’s Top 200.
Pearcy again left in 2000, and toured with a new band as “Ratt featuring Stephen Pearcy” before a court ruled he could not use the name. Then in 2007, the band again reunited, and in 2010 released its final disc, “Infestation,” which broke the Top 30.
But the band split yet again and had two touring versions — one led by classic lineup drummer Bobby Blotzer, and the other by Pearcy and Croucier — before a court ruled the name belonged to the latter.
“That’s way over,” Pearcy says of the battle for the band’s name. “We hands down just took care of that. And it was terrible, because he brought the integrity down of our group so bad. … I don’t know where he thought there was any substance there, but you now, it’s over and done and we move on.”
Joining Pearcy and Croucier in the new Ratt lineup are guitarists Ziff and Chris Sander, and former Black ‘N Blue drummer Pete Holmes (“He’s just thunderous,” Pearcy says. “Crazy. So we’re happy with the lineup right now.”)
Ratt resumed touring in 2018, but was derailed by knee problems that left Pearcy unable to move well, or even stand, on stage, and saw him sometimes overcoming pain with too much alcohol.
“My one knee was totally blown out and I couldn’t deal with it,” he says. “That got all better a year-and-a-half ago, and then my left knee blew out, which happens. And I was in so much pain out there, and I just got a little too tweaked one night or two nights.
“And then I went, ‘I’m going in to get this done. I can’t be out here beating myself up and having sh-tty shows.’ And what all I had to do, I’m gonna need knee surgery. But it’s so difficult. People don’t understand.”
Pearcy says he’s still is not 100 percent. The band is playing just once a week until he’s entirely healed.
“I just have to be very careful and
that’s it,” he says. But that hasn’t stopped the band from working on new music.
“We still do what we do,” he says.
“It’s just that nowadays, it’s a matter of how to get it done faster — just get it done properly. You know, and not really waste a year. It would be great if we could get a record out there, and get a few songs and an album, and take it from there.”
Pearcy released six solo discs, the latest of which was last year’s “View to a Thrill.”
“We weren’t prepared to go in and do Ratt music” at that time, Pearcy says. “I mean, anything I write can be construed as Ratt music. It’s just the way it is — the way I write.” He says his solo band guitarist, Eric Ferentinos, “gives me a full ton of music. Then it becomes a whole different game for me. Anything goes — keyboards; heavy, heavy metal stuff; and then some other things. ‘View to a Thrill’ is probably the best solo record I’ve done.”
The same is true of the songs for the new disc, he says.
“But it’s going to be as Ratt as possible,” he says with a laugh. “You don’t forget the schematic of Ratt music.”
Plus, Pearcy’s voice still is identifiable as it was in the 1980s. But asked how he has kept his voice in tact after these years, he laughingly says, “by abusing it.”
“I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s just a sound — I just have a certain sound,” he says. “I don’t do exercises, I don’t, you know [sings scales]. I pretty much just have a cigarette, coffee. I mean, the best therapy for me to get my voice ready is to laugh, to talk. You know, that’s my vocal exercise.
“You know, you clean up a bit and you figure out how you’re actually doing things 35 years later, you know? So that’s important, too.”
Morning Call Lehigh Valley Music reporter and columnist John J. Moser can be reached at 610-820-6722 or [email protected]
Stephen Pearcy, lead singer of Ratt.
The band Ratt, shown here in the 1980s, plays Easton’s OneCentreSquare on Friday.
Ratt, with singer Stephen Pearcy (center), will play Easton’s OneCentreSquare on Friday.