Ratt 'n' Roll

Ratt left San Diego in the ’80s and scrabbled to the big prize in L.A. with their triple-platinum debut LP. After years of decadence, a few more albums, and the eventual drug death of guitarist Robbin Crosby, the band is back with three-fifths of the original lineup on their comeback album Infestation. In the words of lead singer Steven Pearcy, “Right now we’re back to where we should have been a bit ago.” That’ll do for the short form. He shared a few more thoughts on the return of the Ratt, from the road:

How are you?

Ready to be nice? [laughs] No, I’m just kiddin’...

Whereabouts are you now?

We are in, Medina...well, y’know, I’d have to look at an itinerary. Because once we get goin’, to me it’s just a nonstop Ratt ’n’ roll rock ’n’ roll show.

Your new tour kicked off on May 6. Does Ratt have any special way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, or is it not particularly different from any other night?

No, every day’s the same, y’know? A hundred people, a thousand, ten thousand, it’s pretty much: the circus comes into town, we do what we do, and hopefully you get enough of it.

Have you been enjoying the shows so far?

It’s been great! The new record, which was released on April 20, actually entered the charts at number 30 and [in] Japan entered the charts at number 5. It’s a great rock track, “Best of Me” [the first single], VH1’s actually on it, playin’ it, and we’re very excited, it’s almost like a whole new ball game.

Any plans to make videos for other songs on the album?

Yeah, matter of fact, the next single we have lined up is “Eat Me Up Alive,” and what’s interesting is, about the new CD, we wrote that thing to play live, which you try to do. But things get caught up in the studio and, y’know, you could over-effect or whatever. We were so basic and straight ahead on this, and we’re actually playin’ more than half of the CD during the shows, and some of the new songs are just goin’ over incredible. “Best of Me,” everybody’s singin’ it, and it’s just blowin’ our minds.

I’m afraid you won’t have Milton Berle [the star of Ratt’s first video] to work with anymore.

Yeah, Milty, y’know, when we did that first video [in 1984], “Round and Round,” he was our manager’s uncle at the time, and it was all new back then because all of a sudden you became actors. But when Milton Berle hit that set, he pretty much took over. Don Letts, the director, he was, like, “What in the hell...?” And Milton Berle just said, “I’m playing this woman in drag,” which was his forte, back in the early days on his show, “and I’m gonna be the husband, we’re gonna be at dinner.” It was unreal. We just followed the leader, y’know?

I never got the impression that Ratt took itself too seriously in the first place.

Well, no. All we were concerned about when we started this monster, was, y’know, just playin’ our own music and have a big party. You live and learn, and we lost Robbin Crosby to the excesses of what we do. It’s a dangerous occupation, y’know? Most people don’t understand. [laughs] We wanted to be part of the music scene, which you end up learning is a business. Robbin and I figured it out. When we were at Madison Square Garden, headlining, “Here we are, would you’ve ever thought?”

You left San Diego fairly early, but did you learn any lessons from the San Diego music scene?

Mm-hmm! Because my band, Mickey Ratt [their original name], with Chris Hager and John Turner and Tim Garcia, we played everywhere and anywhere and actually became a staple. I had to start all over when I moved the band to Los Angeles in 1980, through meeting Van Halen. But what I learned in San Diego is take it in stride, y’know? Enjoy. It’s a beautiful place. People still to this day drop by [my mother’s] house yelling out, “Ratt, Ratt!” leaving presents and letters.

It was a culture shock going to L.A., but I knew it had to be done. Nobody was offering us a record deal. We’d be headlining Golden Hall, Plaza Hall, Bing Crosby Hall, we were playing in front of 1500 people. In ’78 I took a trip to L.A., Whisky a Go Go, went to a Van Halen sound check, was fortunate enough to get backstage, became friends with Ed [Eddie Van Halen]. And I’d watch them play in front of, like, maybe 50 people, and they were playing like they were in the Forum. I’d go back to San Diego and say, “There’s this band, they’re incredible, we gotta be a part [of it].” It was crazy. Everybody started movin’ up there.

What about the L.A. scene shocked you the most?

What shocked me was we went up there thinking we were somebodies. But we were nobodies. We actually had people pay us a hundred dollars to not play. We’d set up and start playing, and they’d say, “Get the hell out of here! You’re too loud, you’re too weird!” [laughs, pauses].... Y’know what? This is ironic. Chris Hager, the original guitar player for Mickey Ratt, has just texted me. [laughs]

“Round and Round”!

Yeah, isn’t that crazy?■

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Rollins is the bomb. I will have to check that out. Tiki, do you remember Iguana's down in TJ? I once saw the Rollins Band there with Tool!! I went with a date in 1991, I think it was. Wow, what an experience. That place was nuts. This was before Tool exploded onto the rock scene, so it was great to tell people this story later when they got really popular.

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