By David E. Gehlke
RATT's new "The Atlantic Years: 1984-1991" limited edition box set has, for now, taken some attention away from the band's inability or unwillingness to reunite and placed it back on their music. With discussion rampant regarding bands using modern technology (read: backing tapes) to enhance live performances, RATT's musicianship has received a nice re-validation of late. The band was widely considered one of the more musically capable acts to emerge from the Los Angeles Sunset Strip, headed up by the Robbin Crosby / Warren DeMartini guitar tandem that influenced an untold number of would-be guitar heroes to take up the instrument throughout the '80s. And for a good reason: Crosby and DeMartini's licks on "Wanted Man", "Body Talk", "Way Cool Jr." and several others rank among the finest the hair metal scene produced.
With RATT's '80s contemporaries gradually starting to call it a day, frontman Stephen Pearcy isn't sitting still. He remains an active solo artist and is planning a 2024 Las Vegas residency celebrating the music of the Sunset Strip. As expected, Pearcy didn't appear optimistic about a RATT reunion, but, in talking to BLABBERMOUTH.NET, the frontman shared that he, DeMartini, bassist Juan Cruocier and drummer Bobby Blotzer, were able to put aside any differences in the name of assembling the box set. Whether this leads to something new is unlikely (DeMartini appears to be the primary holdout),but Pearcy sounds content to remain as one '80s artist with no qualms living in the past.
Blabbermouth: Was the "Atlantic Years" box set a group effort with the other guys? If so, how did it come together?
Stephen: "It came together from BMG. They are doing a series with other artists. Why? It's popular again, although it never went away. They instigated it and said if we all wanted to be involved, and lo and behold, the surviving guys put their two cents in. And I put in the extra two cents for Robbin, what he might like. It was all good. We said, 'Go for it.'"
Blabbermouth: Was this, then, a collaboration between you, Bobby, Juan and Warren?
Stephen: "Probably the only reunion you're going to get. Right here, the 40th anniversary."
Blabbermouth: Was it easy to put this together? Any disagreements?
Stephen: "It was pretty copacetic. I am pretty happy with the whole thing. It goes back to when albums were something to look at and study. There was no Internet. You didn't know anybody in the band. The level of engagement like there is today is different. It was kind of cool putting it together and seeing what everyone came up with."
Blabbermouth: Many of your peers harbor ill will toward the major labels of that era. Do you share the same feelings about Atlantic?
Stephen: "No. Not at all. I got to tell you: Bands are only supposed to last for so long. People want to think you'll be together forever. Our plans were to stick around like the [ROLLING] STONES and AEROSMITH, but some get the [LED] ZEPPELIN timeline, especially when you have success. It's like, 'Yikes!' Around that time , 'Detonator' was a very appropriate title for what was happening. We didn't even know it. We were imploding. Robbin was not in a good place. The tour was a mess. It seemed like it was declining. The president of Atlantic, Doug Morris, the man who signed us, with all due respect, I told him, 'Hey, I got to stop this.' I think we stopped after a Japanese tour. I thought we were all going to die. [Laughs] I didn't want that to go down because of the shape Robbin was in. We were all pretty much beat up. We never had a break. Our only break was making 'Reach For The Sky', which took forever. We decided, 'We're going to shake things up and change producers.' I went in there, 'We're done. I'll pick this up later.' He didn't dig it at all. He was telling me to fuck off. I was like, 'You babysit those guys!' Long story short, they released ['Ratt & Roll] 81-91', which did great, our first best-of.
"He wanted another record. He said, 'If you're not going to give me another RATT record, I want a record.' He hit me up first. I went into the studio with Fred Coury [CINDERELLA]. He was staying at my pad and we decided to do something. Our bands weren't doing shit. We did. Doug Morris wanted a record. He said, 'I have an option. What do you have?' I said, 'I have all these songs. I recorded them way pro with my own money.' This was in '92. He brought me up, went to New York, and heard the ARCADE demos, which are great. He's like, 'Okay. I like it! Talk to so and so [Jason] Flom over here and start working out the stuff.' Then I got a call a week later, 'We don't want the record. We're putting out a best-of.' [Laughs] I go, 'Okay. Whatever.' I hit up a friend who used to be Vice President at Atlantic, Dave Glew, my fucking hero at Atlantic. He went to Epic / Sony and signed this to a two-record deal, ARCADE. Then, in 90-whatever, I decided, 'Let's instigate some stuff for RATT.' That's where 'Collage'  and the first step up with the group again happened."
Blabbermouth: The aftermath of the hair scene was such a crazy time. That's when you really needed to be connected.
Stephen: "My view of it is that nobody killed hair metal. Look how strong and popular it is now. It was too much. Everybody was looking and sounding the same. Everybody was getting signed in the mid-'80s. Thank god for GUNS N' ROSES for actually stepping up and shaking things up. You have to hand it to them. I was friends with Steven [Adler, drums] and heard their cassette. He brought over the cassette and said, 'Check this out.' I heard it and I went, 'Holy shit. You're going to be fucking huge, dude.' He didn't believe me, but he does now. If it wasn't for them shaking things up, smacking some reality back into the Sunset Strip, granted, they weren't the OGs from the early '80s like the real OG guys, RATT, W.A.S.P. , MÖTLEY [CRÜE], GREAT WHITE, who was DANTE FOX. There was a list. We can all blame it on VAN HALEN. They spearheaded the whole thing. Nothing killed the '80s. It was oversaturation and too much. Lo and behold, people are listening to the new music in the '90s going, 'There's no substance here. It's kind of cool. LIMP BIZKIT is way cool. PANTERA is cool.' They were great bands. Fucking great bands, but a lot of them didn't have longevity and decided to kill themselves off. You get the '80s Sunset Strip experience rearing again. It's going to be huge. You never lose your love for your music. Our audience is now our age, in their '50s and '60s. And now it's their kids and sometimes it's their kid's kids, which is even crazier. What do these '90s kids say? 'Thank god we discovered the '80s. It's dangerous, colorful and exciting. It's not the same drudgery and darkness. Everyone was looking like a roadie.' I remember so many things back then were so funny. Look what happened. The cream rose to the top. A lot of these '80s bands who never got played are being played more now than they ever did back then. That's a crazy thing, too."
Blabbermouth: The quality of play, namely, whether bands of your generation need to rely on backing tracks, is a current topic. There is plenty of archival footage of you and Robbin talking about RATT's musical capabilities. Bobby also said something on the topic not too long ago. Do you feel validated that RATT could always play?
Stephen: "That's one thing we had over some of our peers. I said this earlier, RATT is probably one of the only '80s groups from the OG guys who could throw down a song like '[Lovin' You Is A] Dirty Job', 'Way Cool Jr.' You're not going to hear that from MÖTLEY. You're not going to hear it from GREAT WHITE. It's not going to happen. I can handle that and appreciate it. Yeah, we could step up anytime. That's all RATT has cared about since day one. We had no competition. We ran around with the guys in MÖTLEY. We hung out with W.A.S.P. , all those guys. We were really tight. Much respect to this day for even staying in the game. But, yeah, it's a compliment and well taken. I'll take it. I would put our band against anybody. We didn't give a shit. We wanted to play and play the best we could. We wanted to play the best songs and do things that didn't follow trends. We didn't give you a ballad when it was hip. Then it takes a great producer like Beau Hill."
Blabbermouth: Visioning RATT using a laptop onstage or samples would be hard.
Stephen: "No, we wouldn't. It would be cheating. To each his own. Some folks do it to enhance their show and that's all good, but once that happens, it's almost like doing good drugs. [Laughs] It feels too good, sounds too good. You don't have to do too much. You can get caught up in it. It makes life easier, but it shouldn't be there to accentuate. Unless it's part of your game like the late '90s and 2000s artists. To me, it doesn't fucking bother me. I don't give a shit. I know what we did and didn't do. I know what I do now, and people say I sound like I'm on tape. I'm like, 'Fuck yeah. I'm doing my job. Thank you very much!'"
Blabbermouth: With RATT now a legacy band, how much does the business end, whether it's a box set, the catalog and merchandise, consume your time?
Stephen: "Not too much, because I've always had side interests. I dabble in all kinds of things and not just to see what sticks. I really like developing. I love some aspects of this business, still. Hence, we have the 'Sunset Strip Experience'. I see what's coming as the real '80s guys are dropping, like KIX, WHITESNAKE, this band, that band. Nobody is bullshitting anybody. They're like, 'We're done.' TWISTED SISTER, unfortunately. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not done yet. I've always done solo projects and things, but I see what's coming. We created the 'Sunset Strip Experience' because we have other things in mind, like a Vegas residency next year. And a concert series. We're working on some great stuff to keep the '80s moving along. It was a very important part of the history of music. Call it what you want, hair metal, this and that. The music that was created in the '80s was big business. Huge. There's not much respect for all that hard work and album sales. IRON MAIDEN, granted, you talk about these award shows and stuff, Grammys, this and that, so many artists deserve it from the '50s, '60s, '70s, then us '80s guys."
Blabbermouth: How would Robbin have handled all of this had he lived? I'm referring to the lineup issues.
Stephen: "From what I hear from Robbin [Laughs], he's pissed. He would be slapping these guys around. I'll tell you right now. It's not the first time I've said it. He's not a happy camper. He doesn't dig that there's so much bullshit. Robbin was the guy who kept everyone in line. I might have been 'this guy,' and everybody had their place, but he kept everybody in line. Once he gave up his post, it was a mutiny, unfortunately. Everybody wanted to be the guy who had their own RATT. Unfortunately, it's not how it works. Look, I started the band. I'll step up and say it. Robbin and I wrote the  EP. We had a vision. We knew what we wanted. We picked the right guys, I thought, and we did. But it got sloppy after Robbin, unfortunately. That was our fault. We do what we do now to say, 'Hey, a little bit of respect. We know what we did. We know what we accomplished. We're very thankful.' It blows my mind all the time when I'm playing solo. It's crazy. That's the only way you'll hear 'Ratt And Roll' is by going to OfficialStephenPearcy.com and looking at my dates. I would love to say, 'Hey, on the 40th anniversary, who knows?' That will be next year. Bobby and I talk frequently. He's one of the group's only guys with common sense and business sense. It's a trip. People would think it's the other way around. It is what it is. I'm appreciative. I can deal with our legacy. We worked hard. All of us. That's what's cool about this [box set]. It's the five guys, the original guys. Five records. This is it."