Ratt, Arcade, Solo
Stephen Pearcy will forever be known as the voice of Ratt. He did not however let his laurels rest on Ratt alone. He formed Arcade who had a degree of success even in the middle of the grunge era. He also had other projects such as Vicious Delight and Vertex. On top of all that he has had a solid solo career. He will be releasing his fourth studio album Smash on January 27. We had a chance to catch up with Stephen recently and he talked about Smash as well as the latest going on with Ratt.
Rock Show Critique: It has been seven years since Infestation and even longer since Under My Skin, your last solo album, Your new release Smash will finally see the light of day on January 27th. After hearing it I will say it has been worth the wait as I think it’s your best solo album to date. My question is why has it taken so long to release the new music?
Stephen Pearcy: It started almost two years ago when I was calling it Suckerpunch and I had a whole other concept going for it. You know we’re on the road 3, 4 shows a month and we find time. We wanted to be meticulous about the new record anyway. We didn’t know what it was going to be called until the end of the first song “I Can’t Take It”. I mention the word smash and I went ok I think I like that. We kept writing and I was approached by Frontiers about seven months ago or more asking If I was interested. I said sure why not. Top Fuel can work something out and we did. We just went into writing mode. The thing with me and my guitar player Erik, is he’s like this writing machine. One day I get one thing, I start working on it then he shows me something else and I go that’s going on the back burner. Then we have to start all over. Then I have my own stuff I write. So it’s just a matter of songs and we wanted this record to be very cohesive. We wanted this record to have a certain ebb and flow, light and dark. We were very conscious; we wanted it to make sense. I didn’t want to have certain subject matters that I’ve done before. I wanted some things for people to think about. I wanted to cover the whole realm so to speak. I did want a beginning and end.
RSC: A few songs stuck right out like the opening track “I Know I’m Crazy”, “Ten Miles Wide” and “What Do Ya Think”. Do you have a favorite track or tracks?
SP: You know when we go to rehearse some of these live it’s gonna be crazy because live is where it all goes down. I like all of these songs. In fact “What Do Ya Think” that song we actually recorded an acoustic version like Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way” just to do. That’s a b-side in Japan. We want to be open to anything. So we can put down the electric then all of a sudden go out there in front with acoustics for a couple of songs then go back to beating your head in with electric guitars. They’re all my favorites, there’s not one song that I don’t like. It took a lot because we went through a lot of music and wrote a lot of songs. We started recording songs and I just said stop we’re doing this one now. I would hear something totally different and better on another song. These guys know I’m crazy and that’s how I work. It turned out for the better.
RSC: You worked with Beau Hill again?
SP: Beau Hill mixed and mastered “I Can’t Take It”. He wasn’t available to do the whole record. We really wanted him to do it. I think he was off travelling or something. We had the schematic so we can deal with it here. We slowly produced it ourselves.
RSC: You mentioned Erik. He’s been with you for over fifteen years now. How did you first meet him and start playing with him?
SP: We first met when I had just moved to San Diego. He was living across the street. I kept hearing this rock band. I just walked over one day and said what’s going on. I have a studio in my house if you guys want to stop by. I had time off the road he stopped by and played me some of his stuff and we recorded and demoed some of his music and we became friends. He had a pretty decent band in San Diego that opened for STP before they were big. He happened to just fall into the picture like it was just supposed to be. When it came time that I needed another guitar player I said “you can handle it can’t you?” He said “Sure”. And he just started playing. Next thing I know he’s been in the band forever.
RSC: How much touring do you plan on doing for the album?
SP: We start up February 24th up until July 2nd. Then we will see what we do after. The band Ratt, has finally seen some dust settling and we got a couple festivals on the books. They don’t interfere, they’ll actually compliment each other. That’s a whole other breed of animal there. So we have a lot of work with that to get that back in the system properly. Maybe see a record from Ratt soon enough too. I’m pretty much concentrating on Smash and then we’ll get into the Ratt stuff mid-year.
RSC: It seems you have a special show coming up at the M3 Rock Festival this year. What can you tell the fans about it?
SP: We’re going to try and make it a new and improved obviously. Then we have Rocklahoma after that. We’re just gonna up the ante. Make sure the band sounds as good as we can sound and maybe throw in a different song here and there that’s not expected. And do what we do. Ratt’s been around a long time. It’s not a big issue for us to take a year or two or three off. For some people it is but not for us the core members, the writers. You need time off to write. Warren and I started already to demo a song here and there. We want things to be not just good we want them to be crazy insane good this next time around. We’ll see what happens. We’re going take things slow and see what happens as far as The Ratt machine goes.
RSC: Although you haven’t released much music over the past few years you haven’t just sat around. What else have you been up to when you weren’t out on the road or working on Smash?
SP: I still dabble in the race car sponsoring and that’s something I wanna still do. I’m still doing business trying to get my Mic Knuckles out to the public. It’s just writing. The writing thing happens it doesn’t have to be delivered year to year. We’re not under that labeled thumb like we used to be which helped to destroy us in the first place. Record, tour, record, tour, you know until your blue in the face. We tend to take some time off, especially if we have a problem somewhere in the mix. We deal with that. That’s what happened here recently. Trouble on the set well we have to take care of that problem then we move on to smoother waters. It looks like things are going to be that way and we can do things comfortably. We don’t need to rush or take our time anymore. We’ve been around too long, done this too long and we know better. It’s a more sobering experience. You live and learn if you wanna stick around. Who knows maybe after this I don’t wanna do anything. I don’t know. Maybe I might just disappear (laughs). Accomplish this accomplish that then just disappear.
RSC: Personally for me I’ve always been a huge fan of the first Arcade album. I feel that is your finest hour on record. What is your take on the record and why wasn’t Arcade wasn’t bigger?
SP: That’s politics man. I agree, I get asked that all the time. Arcade, Arcade that was a great record. It happened at a strange time. I had just left Ratt and said I’m taking a break. I didn’t quit, I said I’m taking a break. Someone else baby sit. I’m going to do something else. I hooked up with the president of Epic/Sony Dave Glew and he gave me a two album deal and away we went. We worked very hard on that first record, myself, Johnny Angel and Fred Coury. The three of us wrote everything. It’s still today one of my favorite records. Frankie Wilsie one of the guys in my solo band was in Arcade too. The second record was a little more aggressive I think I had Halford’s engineer/producer in there at the time when he was still in Fight. The first record is phenomenal. I’d put it up there against anything. Hey look what happened in that era few of the bands stuck around and the rest fell by the wayside. It’s the way that it works. A fad is a fad. Music is music. Arcade stepped up and delivered undeniably a great record. We opened up some shows for Bon Jovi. We did some extensive touring. Then I don’t know what happened. It’s just part of the course of history. I don’t question things. I just try to flow along with what’s supposed to be. And if it works it works.
RSC: Do you play any Arcade songs live anymore?
SP: Sure in my solo set I might throw down an Arcade song. I might even throw down a Zeppelin or Priest. Of course I’m playing Ratt music. This time around it’s gonna be playing a lot of music from Smash. This is a really good record and we want it to be heard.
RSC: It seems some solo artists go out and play music from their old bands and covers. They tend not to focus on their solo material.
SP: It’s the easy way out. That’s just plain not wanting to do your thing properly. In Arcade I didn’t play any Ratt and people got uptight. All I had to do was play maybe a couple of songs. I was like no it’s gonna stand on its own merit, it’s gonna be what it is and that’s it. Well you live and learn. Throwing one or two in there’s ok. That’s what I learned. I like to do things that mean something. If I do have to play it then it’s gonna be cohesive one to another. Ratt, Arcade, solo that’s how I approach things and how I do my solo set. It’s a little more aggressive than Ratt. We have a loosely tight thing going. So we are able to actually do what we want.
RSC: Exactly when you toured for Arcade you played only Arcade songs the first tour. Then the A/2 tour you added two Ratt songs as the encore and the place became electric.
SP: You’ve got to figure it out. Our audiences are smart. People take for granted how smart audiences are. The fans or whatever you want to call them, I call them our friends, they’re hip, they’re smart they know what’s going on. That’s why they are there to see you. They wouldn’t waste their time. They have their expectations and you have to figure out what their expectations are. The way we work in the solo band is I go by the audience. I could have a set list but if I see something going down in the audience I’ll just pick a song out of the air and play it.
RSC: Then you see these newer bands play the same set, same order night after night. They must get bored themselves.
SP: You’ve got to have some versatility. Back in the day when we were constantly doing the arenas, you know what they want to hear and you have to play those hits. You can do other songs and that’s what we did. We were able to play a song or two that we like. I mean after all we have to have a good time doing it too, otherwise your correct you get stale you get bored and end up walking through the set and that’s not cool. The audience knows when you’re doing that too.
RSC: You’ve done many tours over the years. Do you have a particular favorite Ratt tour that stands out for you?
SP: No not a particular. There’s some venues that we were privileged enough to play like The Garden and headlining these places. It’s always cool to do Donnington and Day on the Green and be a part of history. Now that this machine is tightened up, rebuilt and ready to go it’s gonna be more than a pleasure to get out there and beat down.
For more on Stephen Pearcy check out the following links
Stay tuned for a review of Smash very soon!!