RSS Feed

Anthony Morgan
January 2017

Stephen Pearcy

Studio City, California-based glam metal vocalist Stephen Pearcy, founding member of Ratt, set Sucker Punch as the title of his fourth full-length solo studio album as far back as May 2011, the opus slated for issue later that year. Pearcy’s fourth solo affair would eventually emerge in January 2017, its moniker revised to Smash, the long-player taking proper shape more recently.

“It probably started about a year-and-a-half ago, at least,” Stephen estimates. “I put a batch of songs together, and was getting ready to start the process. I was on and off the road, going into the studio. I did end up tracking four songs, and as of four to six months ago, I got involved with Frontiers. They liked some of the stuff that I was working on, and so I actually just had my guys and said ‘We’re just gonna go down another street here, and forget about those songs. We’ll start afresh, and make a new record.’ And, away we went.”

Among Smash’s central compositions happens to be ‘Can’t Take It’, which was mixed and mastered by Beau Hill, Hill having produced Ratt’s initial four full-lengths. “I wish I could’ve had him on the whole record, but the album title Smash came from that song,” the singer tells. “I mention it in that song, that we were gonna smash, and it just stuck in my head. The more I thought about it, I felt this is a very strong word. It can mean a lot of things, but one thing it does means is power. Attack mode (laughs), the final statement.

“I kind of went with it, and the artwork was perfect for the record and what I’m talking about, and the delivery. The subject matter of these songs aren’t party songs; they’re not necessarily relationship songs. There’s a fun song in there too, but everything else is pretty involved. It’s probably the most extensive lyric writing I’ve done in a while, and it’s something that I can’t really do with Ratt either, is write these kinds of lyrics. It was pretty interesting how this kind of evolved into its own thing – Smash.”

Smash’s lyrical content encompasses a wide range of themes. “With Smash, the topics are anywhere from extra-terrestrials to life, to death, to protection, to underworld, above ground, space, time,” Stephen lists. “I wasn’t trying to make it a mind crime; I just wanted to dwell into things that have my interest, that people don’t really think about sometimes. I had some fun with some things. ‘Ten Miles Wide’ is not about a relationship – that will actually be our first single video, that we shoot next week. It’s about a relationship between them and us, them being these other entities out there. I don’t preach anything I say on anybody, but I believe in some things – extra-terrestrial, or underworld – so I dwell in it. It’s nothing that hasn’t been said, but for me it’s quite different.

“Then I wrote a song about my daughter and how people are to people, so there are different subject matters. This is the second and only record that I put lyrics in, and it will be the last. I like people to figure out what I’m saying lyrically, so they listen to it and get the music over and over. This record actually needed lyric sheets though, so people wouldn’t be confused.”

August 1990’s Detonator – Ratt’s fifth studio jaunt – was the inaugural Pearcy-related effort to include lyric inserts. “I was reluctant to do that,” the frontman recalls. “Again though, I don’t know why, but with this record, they asked me to insert the lyrics. I said ‘I don’t really do that.’ I’m from the (Led) Zeppelin school of having something to speak, of having people figure out what you’re saying – even if you’re talking about the big party, or whatever. I reluctantly agreed, though. I said ’Yeah, I’ll put the lyrics in there. Sure. I think I should.’ There’s too much going on here, but I won’t again.

“I don’t want to put lyrics in my records, no. When I grew up with Zeppelin, (Judas) Priest, (Black) Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, all of these bands in the 70s. It was nice to figure out what they were saying, and all you saw was the record cover and some crazy artwork, and that’s what you went with – your imagination. You can make it your own song when you do that, not having lyrics in there. People can make the song into whatever they want and keep painting the picture, instead of ‘Here’s the picture. This is what it is.’ When you put lyrics in there, you tend to not leave the door open to imagination and your own assessment.”

‘They’ who requested Stephen insert Smash’s lyrics within the booklet happens to be Frontiers Music Srl, Stephen’s solo contract with the label having been confirmed on September 14th, 2016. “I knew somebody from the old Atlantic Records days, who got a hold of me – Derek Shulman I believe,” he shares. “They said that they were interested, but I had had contact with them years ago previously and nothing transpired. I pretty much do my own thing. I’ve got my own independent label, Top Fuel, but the same can be said for Smash – it’s still Top Fuel with Frontiers. It was a pleasure that they wanted to be involved, though. Right from the get go, I told them that ‘This isn’t just a standard ‘I’m gonna write songs and just throw them out there.’ I’m gonna make a real record.’ We set out to accomplish something, and we did.”

Stephen Pearcy

In accomplishing the feat of cutting Smash, co-conspirators were involved. “I co-wrote ‘Can’t Take It’ and there’s another song on there that I co-wrote with somebody, but the majority of the record was written by me and my lead guitar player Erik Ferentinos,” the composer accredits. “He’s been in my solo band for 14 years, and he was just a writing machine. We wrote so many songs, including myself. I wrote full songs, but with the stuff that he was coming up with, musically I was just overwhelmed with. It ended up being Ferentinos and Pearcy writing the core of it, yeah.”

Smash is much more involved,” Stephen submits. “It was a much more sobering place in every way. We wanted to take our time. We wanted it to have substance, diversity. Every song had the same attention, and we methodically thought it through. We didn’t want to rush it; we just wanted to deliver the best record possible, and with that, we needed to take our time. The record was a real thought out, step-by-step process, and that’s how it differs extremely. I could write a record in a day (laughs). With this record though, so many things actually changed. You could be in the studio tracking a song, and then a better song would come up, and I’d say ‘Put that song away. We’re working on this now.’ We really wanted the best record possible, and in every way.”

Differences exist between the mainman’s solo endeavours and work within the Ratt camp. “With the solo stuff, I have more room to move and try different things, and grooves, and be heavier,” he critiques. “It is a harder project in terms of how I deliver music. With Ratt, it’s a schematic of who does what. Whether it’s one guy bringing in a song… Most of the times we collectively write. It was the four of us – myself, Robb (Crane, former bassist), Warren (DeMartini, guitars), and Juan (Croucier,, bass) – or it could’ve been two of us, three of us. That’s how the difference is, and it’s a whole different animal. We know what we’re actually setting out to do. On that note, Warren and I have already started demoing up songs for a Ratt record, which would be our eighth. We would like to get started on that at the end of the year as we re-establish the brand, so to speak.”

The demo process for Ratt’s eighth studio platter is in its early stages. “It’s hard to say, because it has just started. We have two songs, but they’re taking on their own entity,” Stephen enthuses. “It’s melodic, and it’s gonna be heavier. Our direction is the Ratt EP (August 1983) and Out Of The Cellar (March 1984) – that’s where we want this to end up. We want it to be really good. That we’ve established from the get go, that we’re gonna take the same approach as I did with Smash. We want to take our time, and make sure it’s done 150% to the best of our ability. We’re very lucky; we’re fortunate that we can actually be allowed that right now.”

A 2018 release is being targeted. “We’re gonna hopefully start recording at the end of the year, because this year we’re already doing sporadic festivals and shows, and might end up on a tour,” the lyricist explains. “We’d like to tap into a lot of other countries that have been neglected in the past. Next year, a new Ratt record.”

Stephen announced his departure from the Ratt fold on April 24th, 2014, his re-entry to the ranks confirmed on November 29th, 2016 amid a complex legal battle over the moniker involving drummer Bobby Blotzer. “It’s not a surprising thing,” Stephen says with respect to his return. “It’s not that I quit, or anything. I have a tendency… Or Warren, myself and Juan. We don’t want to go out for a year or two – we just don’t. We find that there are other things in life – other things that we like to do and accomplish – but as far as the band Ratt, we just wanted some time off. It had nothing to do with anything else. We just wanted time off, and that was it. It just got turned into something else.”

How Ratt’s hiatus was ‘turned into something else’ has been a point of discussion. “I can answer that pretty deliberately,” the musician begins. “It was one person who had nothing else to fall back on, and decided that they were going to go out and try to change the course of history – its members, its achievements, accomplishments. Unfortunately, it happened, but the dust has settled and justice is peace. It’s very unfortunate, but our audience isn’t stupid. They’ve run with us for years, and that was the worst of it. That this person went out there and didn’t let anybody know that the original members weren’t in this project – what they decided to call the real deal Ratt. If they would’ve left it alone and just said ‘I am so and so from this band Ratt,’ that would’ve been a good place for everybody. They got greedy though, and couldn’t make a living doing it on their own merits (laughs).”

Should an entity touring under the Ratt moniker boast solely one original member, that respective entity is arguably not Ratt. “Of course not,” Stephen agrees. “I go out there and tour, but I don’t claim I’m the band. I created it and I’m the singer, but they are still my solo tours and my solo projects, and my solo music. I can stand on my own merits, and so can everybody else. Me and the other guys, we all have different things to do. We’ve been doing this – very fortunately – for 30-plus years. You just don’t throw a wrench into something like that. It’s criminal (laughs). It’s criminal to our integrity.”

The legal status of Ratt’s moniker has been clouded of late. “It was very confusing, but it’s not any more,” the entertainer stresses. “It’s all said and done. It’s taken care of, and the final nail in their coffin is coming up real soon. We just really try not to give it attention, but we just want to let people know reality in as few words as possible, because the attention shouldn’t be on that. It should be on our music and our legacy, and our accomplishments, and what we’re doing musically. That’s what it should be about.”

An eighth studio offering featuring Pearcy behind the microphone will be issued under the Ratt name. “We’re already doing festivals, headlining festivals – M3 is coming up,” Stephen references. “Yeah, it’s Ratt. It’s the original band, and that’s what it is. The other person cannot call themselves Ratt any more. 2017 is a whole new year, like 1984.”

Returning to the topic of Smash, writing sessions began afresh following the inking of a solo contract with Frontiers. “It was the same direction, but the songs were more aggressive,” the performer judges. “We were really going into a different mode, so to speak. The environment wasn’t that sober, meaning we were still crazy. With Smash, it was like a clean environment and in every way. We wanted to be tip top, and the same is going to go for Ratt. There’s nothing diluted, cloudy, or that’s gonna get in the way of actually doing the best you can, if you know what I mean. There’s less party, and more artistry. Not that we were ever artistic when we partied it up (laughs). I’ve recorded records laying down with somebody and I’ve recorded records standing up, and I prefer the latter nowadays. We’re very fortunate at this time to be able to do what we still do, or I am, and I appreciate it.”

Said writing sessions spawned leftover tracks. “We wrote so much stuff, Erik and myself,” Stephen reveals. “Some songs are way heavy, and we wrote probably like 25 songs during the whole process of writing. I recorded four of the songs that didn’t make the record, but they’re available out there – that didn’t go on Smash. I still have a couple of songs that are done that will eventually come out, but Smash was a whole new thing. It was started from scratch, but there were a lot of songs, yes.”

When Smash’s successor will arrive is unclear. “It’ll happen whenever I…,” the singer begins. “Solo records, to me they just happen. I have to be in the right place at that time. I don’t just say ‘I’m gonna do a solo record’ – there’s something that urges me to do it. With Ratt, we plan it, and it’s that kind of a process because of how we are structured as writers collectively. With my solo stuff, it’s pretty much just me writing songs myself, or collaborating with friends who play guitar, or my right-hand guy – Erik Ferentinos. We have such a great relationship writing. It’s crazy; we can sit down and write songs all day long, but now we actually take a different approach to what we’re actually doing.”

Recording sessions for Smash were a relaxed affair. “We took our time during the recording process,” Stephen remembers. “Our engineer who mixed and mastered with us is my bass player. He owns a studio; I’ve recorded every record at his place, and we know what we’re doing. He was also in an early version of Ratt back in the day, so the recording process was very comfortable for us. The live band is the studio band. When we go out and do shows, we go right back into the studio because we love that live feel, that live intensity. We try to keep it, so the process has some live kind of a vibe, but you go through the same pattern of making sure that everything’s right.”

In addition, cutting vocals was a relaxed affair. “With Smash, it was interesting because I wanted to try different things, but I didn’t want to step out of my boundaries,” the frontman notes. “I know who I am, and who my voice is. I don’t do things that I can’t do live, number one. It doesn’t matter. Anything that I do is going to be Ratt-related, but I don’t claim to be some opera, Pavarotti-type singer – my voice is just what it is. I like it live to be different. I try different things live, but in the studio, it is what it is. I deliver the best that I can, and fortunately I have the kind of voice where I can do it. My voice is holding up better than ever, and I’m happy about that. I don’t abuse it like I used to, so maybe I’m growing up. I don’t know (laughs).”

A carnival-esque atmosphere denotes Smash’s cover artwork. “Correct,” Stephen ponders. “His name is the Smasher, and my art guy… I’m the art director, but my art guy – the one I mentioned – he came up with the idea of the Smasher, and I thought that it was so perfect with what I was talking about on the record. The light can actually be the dark; the light can actually be the black. If you notice, he has a halo above his horns. I’m not portraying any negativity here; I’m letting people know that the good and the ugly are capable of smashing you, and we have become a part of that program.”

A music video will be filmed for the track ‘Ten Miles Wide’. “It’s gonna be conceptual,” the songwriter divulges. “We’re gonna have fun with it; it’s gonna have a different kind of vibe.”

Smash was released on January 27th, 2017 via Frontiers Music Srl.

<< Back to Features

Related Posts via Categories