Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy talks drag racing, new album “View To A Thrill” & the future of Ratt
As a co-founder of hard rock band Ratt, Stephen Pearcy has sold many millions of records. Even during the years when Ratt was on hiatus (or the quintet had a different singer on-board), Pearcy kept busy with a variety of musical endeavors, including the Sony-signed band Arcade, a plethora of solo efforts, and his record label Top Fuel Records.
Late 2018 brings another full-length album from Pearcy, View To A Thrill, as released via Frontiers Records. Featuring the singles “I’m A Ratt” and “U Only Live Twice,” View To A Thrill was written in collaboration with long-time Pearcy guitarist Erik Ferentinos. The California-based frontman also remains active with Ratt and various Top Fuel endeavors.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen Pearcy by phone, not only about View To A Thrill – as set for a November 9th release -- but also his history with cars and racing. Audio from my interview with be broadcasted later this video as part of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast, as co-produced with Canadian website PureGrainAudio.
More on Stephen Pearcy can be found online at www.officialstephenpearcy.com.
View To A Thrill is your new album. It has only been a year since your last album. Were any of the songs for this album written for the previous one?
Stephen Pearcy: I think there might have been a couple of ideas, but we started from scratch.
Are you the sort of artist who writes every day or every week? You seem very prolific.
Stephen Pearcy: All the time, as much as I can… I love to write songs.
Beyond being prolific as a musician, you have been very active as a businessperson. When did you realize the importance of owning your own stuff?
Stephen Pearcy: 1994, after Arcade, I saw nothing getting done. The label’s pretty much giving up… So I decided I’m going to create my own label to do what I want when I want, when I sign bands to do what they want. It’s what you can do, put it out there.
You’ve also used the Top Fuel banner not just for the label but also for other products. I believe you had a Top Fuel Hot Sauce. Is that true?
Stephen Pearcy: Yeah, that was a while ago, that kind of fell to the way side. Improper timing of people. I do work with drag race cars still, that will never go away. I just use “Top Fuel” as my moniker, for the label, for my merchandise, for my Mic Knuckles [microphone holder] and anything else I put my mind to.
I remember reading in your book that you wanted to be a racer before your musical aspirations kicked in. Did you still race when not on the road?
Stephen Pearcy: No, I sponsor cars and go to races, I give my support. I was writing songs for drag racing years back, I’m trying to get back into that. I’ve been really busy with this new record and getting the new breed of Ratt out there, which has been going great. Racing will always be there.
Are you as passionate nowadays as ever about racing?
Stephen Pearcy: (presumably mishearing the question due to a bad cell phone reception) Writing music, I love writing songs. (laughs) Just playing the guitar, just doing what I want to do.
When it comes to writing, you mention writing on guitar. Does the vocal melody ever come to you first?
Stephen Pearcy: It could be one or the other, but pretty much guitar. I start on guitar, yeah.
You mentioned “the new breed of Ratt.” Are there plans for that version of Ratt to do a new studio record?
Stephen Pearcy: We would like to go in there and record a few new songs for next year, at least, before we go out again. I’ve got to have some physical stuff done, a knee surgery soon. Once we get back out there, I’m sure we’ll make time to get back in the studio and do a couple of songs next year.
When you are writing new music, do you know right away whether you are writing a song for a drag racing project, a solo album or Ratt?
Stephen Pearcy: Most of the time I do, I know what I’m getting into. Maybe the process will change over weeks or days, it may take a couple of months to finalize lyrics. But it depends, you know?
Infestation, in my opinion, was one of the finer reunion albums a hard rock band has ever done. Do you look back on that album fondly?
Stephen Pearcy: I think it could have been better. We did as well as we could do… That’s how I approach things, you can only do the best you can. To me, whether it sells 100,000 or 10,000 or a million, it’s our music, it’s my music… It’s a different business these days. People want one thing, they don’t want the whole package, but I give them the whole package, a full album from top to bottom.
You mentioned things better different these days, and you seem to be on the road more than not these days. Is that something that you enjoy?
Stephen Pearcy: Being out there, I’d rather not spend as much time out there and do other stuff. Songs for movies, soundtracks, just record music, distribute my catalog, stuff like that. But going out there’s rewarding at times, it’s great to be out there. But having to go out there with a blown-out kneecap is not fun at all, but I don’t cancel shows. So I just go out there and do what I do.
Looking back at your career, in your book you talk about the highest of the highs in your career and the lowest of the lows. Being that you’ve sold many millions of records and played at the arena level for decades, is there anything you are still hoping to accomplish within your career?
Stephen Pearcy: I haven’t written a song for a James Bond movie yet. (laughs) There are certain things I haven’t accomplished… I haven’t sung with Robert Plant yet. (laughs) But we’ll see what happens.
That’s funny you should mention James Bond, because the album cover for View To A Thrill and a few song titles from the album have Bond-related themes to them. So I take it that the Bond-related material is not a coincidence?
Stephen Pearcy: No it’s not… It was deliberate. The songs are all different. We utilize effects and keyboards, different things. It’s a much more forward record than Smash.
So Bond included, were movies as influential on your life as racing was?
Stephen Pearcy: No, pretty much drag racing… The Bond stuff, I just gave kudos to it…
I’m sure you’ve been asked about Milton Berle many times. Was using him in one of your musical videos entirely because of your relationship with Marshall Berle? Or were you also a big comedy fan?
Stephen Pearcy: Oh no, I love comedy, but Marshall – our [then] manager – brought him in. It was a very learned experience. We had done big long-form videos, but to have someone like Milton come in and take over, directing those parts, was insane. He told us, “Think light, don’t be serious.” People don’t really want political and to be bummed out, they want to have a good time. So we’ve always kept that in mind from day one.
So finally, any last words for the kids?
Stephen Pearcy: I’m out there… This album View To A Thrill comes out soon, I’m excited about it. There’s a limited-edition EP coming out soon through the Frontiers [Records] website.
I’ll probably be working on new Ratt music with Juan [Croucier] in the next few weeks for next year. The band’s great, Jordan Ziff our lead guitarist, Chris Sanders on guitar, Pete Holmes on drums, Juan and myself. I call it “the new breed of Ratt,” it’s sounding good. We’ll get a [new] tune out there [soon], it’ll be great.