|November 2004 -- Guitar Center goes 'Round and Round' with former Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy.
GC: Tell us about any of your current musical projects.
SP: Last year we (Rat Bastards) did over 90 shows and we'll tour all of 2005... everywhere, any place, anytime. I am currently trying to get the Bastards of Metal tour under way. Its intention is to eventually be an alternative to Ozzfest. Right now we're shopping the Bastards and I will still be doing a solo tour behind Fueler, my new album. So we'll see how it goes. We'll be ready for next summer with the Bastards. I do have a few 'Bastards' that are more than ready now like Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys), Ron Keel (Keel) and a new band from Chicago, Drop.
GC: Can you describe for us what your writing process is like?
SP: I usually have an idea in my head, or I've been going over a melody or lyrics with melody. I might put it down verbally on a cassette recorder or record the guitar part through a small amp. I use the cassette recorder for original ideas. Then I will try and come up with a subject or words that will introduce the subject. For example, on Overdrive I had the drummer just do what he felt was a good drum idea in the studio. I just had him record a few takes and then put a lyrical idea to a loose guitar track and went from there to developing the idea until I had a complete recorded basic track.
I might get an idea from another recording and dump it into a Pro Tools track and then work from there to build the basic idea. I have to have a drum track with guitar, always. Then I can pretty much go from there.
GC: Has your approach to writing changed at all over the years?
SP: My approach has pretty much been the same. Round and Round was written with the cassette recorder technique. You put the first guitar part on there, playing through small amps. Then play it from another machine and record the second guitar and vocal ideas along with it. You then have the two guitar parts and vocal idea on the second cassette tape deck and keep building until you have a skeleton of the complete song.
GC: Do you have any advice for young and aspiring musicians?
SP: Don't put your band name into a corporation! Also, he who writes should be the one getting credit and paid for it. This "all for one and one for all" s**t doesn't work, and believe me, I know. I've given credit on songs I've written just to shut people up. Then again, I was the writer in Ratt and some of the [band] members still think I don't write! It's all in the track record.
I love to write music and I also like to try different things and styles, not for anyone but for me. If I get off on it, I will present it and that's just the way it is. You get people involved who don't really understand your format of writing, let alone being able to write a note. They need someone like me who can put together a song from any idea, whether it's a hit or not. You get thrown into a situation [where you] have to write with someone. You deal with it. But the problem is too many cooks ruin the meal. Just because someone was a hit writer doesn't mean they're a hit writer for you.
I have learned a lot, having the pleasure to write with the best around and I'll never forget what I've learned from them. (They include) outside writers like Dianne Warren, Desmond Child, Marty Fredrickson, Jim Vallance, Mark Hudson to name a few. Then I have written with great players like Al Petrelli (Vertex), Robbin Crosby (Ratt), Jake E. Lee (Mickey Ratt, Ozzy Osbourne), Chris Hager (Mickey Ratt, Rough Cutt), Erik Ferentinos (Vodoo, 13A), Mark Zavon (JRZ, 40 Cycle Hum), Warren De Martini (Ratt), Juan Crocier (Ratt) and Kerri Kelly (Slash's Snakepit, Vince Neil). I can pretty much write in any environment or with any person. And I wrote differently with all of them.
[Also for young musicians] play anywhere, anytime and be in the music media business for life or it's not really going to benefit you in the long run. A lot of new bands today only have one or two album record deals, if even that. And there is no development unless you are the "golden child band" or you get lucky. And believe me, anything goes these days in music. You have to have total conviction or people can see right through you. Longevity is key and that comes from good old-fashioned touring, all the time. I love the road!
GC: Tell us about your current business venture: Top Fuel Entertainment. How did you come up with the idea to start your own company?
SP: Top Fuel Entertainment spawned from Top Fuel Records. I started the label in 1995 as a place I could go and introduce new products on my time and terms. I've learned a lot from the major labels. I was more than ready to give it a go. Now I can sign new bands and do whatever I want under our terms. We look forward to establishing a one-stop music resource center. We can do music, write TV shows, produce, mix, make product for LP, CD and DVD. It's a nice venture and it will take time, patience and good products [made] without compromise. It only takes one hit to get the wheels in overdrive and that is what we intend to do at Top Fuel Entertainment. I've written songs for movies and ESPN2 Drag Racing Series for the past few years and look forward to doing more in 2005.
||GC: How does your interest with NHRA tie in to TFE?
SP: I've been involved with drag racing since I was a kid and have always looked forward to driving a [top] fuel car since an early age. I also sponsored a top fuel funny car in the late 1980s and had VH1 with me at Kenny Bernstein's Budweiser Top Fuel Dragster shop for interviews and such. I got that rock 'n roll and drag racing connection thing going. Now we trade ads and corporate marketing with race and rock entities and projects. It's a good medium for both.
GC: This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Ratt. Are you going to do anything to commemorate this occasion?
SP: 20 years of Ratt 'n Roll! Yeah, I'm releasing the Rat Attack, 20 hits, 20 years, on Top Fuel Records at the end of the year. It's a complete orgy of music with re-recorded Ratt music and never-before-heard Ratt. Good for the real fans because the Ratt band that has been out touring the last few years -without me- won't release any new music to stimulate the fans.
GC: People may or may not know that you play guitar. When did you start playing guitar?
SP: True, most people don't know I play the guitar. Funny, the first band I was going to join I go and meet this hot guitar player, Tommy Asakawa (Warrior) with my guitar player from Mickey Ratt and we get to this place and I bring in my guitar all happy thinking, "I'm going to play guitar in this band," and the guys asked me right out "Can you sing?" From then on, I became their lead singer. That was 1976 in San Diego. I really wanted to be a guitar player and practiced my a** off to every Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult and Bowie record I could. Seriously, for about eight hours a day, the first few years.
When I put Mickey Ratt together in 1977, I made it clear that we were going to do half cover songs and half original music. The Ratt EP in 1983 came from the Mickey Ratt catalog over the years. Some songs even ended up on Ratt albums like Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy. Look at the Ratt album credits. Believe it or not, someone had to write that shit, and I'm proud of every note. Robbin was great at melodies, as was Juan. Juan would bring in whole song ideas, which made putting in my two cents easier in Lack of Communication.
Getting back to my guitar playing, once we started making it, I had a couple of guitars custom made real quick - an Explorer and Les Paul, made from Hawaiian koa wood, solid neck through body... think dark and loud. I had Bill Lawrence pick-ups in both. The Explorer is in a guitar shop near the beach out here hanging on a wall. I called them both "Betty." Great guitars.
GC: What kind of gear are you using these days?
SP: I've owned many guitars. My favorite is always the Gibson Les Paul. A lot of my recording for Social Intercourse and Fueler was done on a white Les Paul Reissue (1976) model I got in 1996, that's been with me since the Arcade days. That guitar just won't die. Other than that, I have had BC Rich Mockingbirds, Rich Bich's, Explorers, Pauls, Strats, a Hummingbird acoustic - mostly Pauls. At one time I was taking Robbin Crosby up to L.A. to hang with Eddie Van Halen in 1979-80 and started trading guitars. I met Eddie around 1978 and used to go up and hang at sound checks at The Whisky and Starwood. Robbin did end up getting a Flying V from Eddie back in1981. It was a black, Gibson copy. [I had a] nice time doing the guitar thing and trading, building. We would make any guitar playable! I'm still good friends with Eddie, actually.
Live I use Nady wireless systems. But lately I have been doing the cord thing. Actually it doesn't matter to me what I'm using, I just get into the mode.
GC: Do you have a home studio?
SP: I used to have a home studio, but I really don't have the time for that kind of attention since I'm into directing so many projects from Top Fuel Entertainment. So I have been going to the same location to record for the last few years. A great Pro Tools studio that is very comfortable, affordable and the engineer is more than capable of co-producing. I like throwing ideas back and forth and want some feedback. I like to try different ideas in the studio. I also like to get as much drums and guitars on tape and then bring it in to Pro Tools. I do have a system [for recording] believe it or not. I like to move fast to get what will eventually be ripped to shreds or re-done.
GC: Any gear currently on your "wish list"?
SP: Gear on the wish list? If it's from Guitar Center I will wish for it! Thanks again and look out for Fueler and other new releases from Top Fuel Records.
» Visit www.stephen-pearcy.com