WARREN DeMartini is, to many, the most important rodent in Ratt.
When vocalist Stephen Pearcy, bassist Juan Croucier, rhythm guitarist Robbin Crosby and drummer Bobby Blotzer are pictured at outrageous Hollywood parties in fashionable L.A. rock gear, DeMartini is rarely in sight.
No fluffed-up hair, usually pictured in a black t-shirt and old jeans, DeMartini and his far-out fingers give Ratt their bluesy, funky, sexy X-factor, the thing that makes them so subtly unique.
Not known for punctuality, he calls early — he has to rush off for rehearsals, you see. I fumble with my tape recorder…
Anyone who can remember American rock before Guns N’ Roses will recall the shockwaves – and we’re not exaggerating, are we oldies? — that Ratt’s 1983 six-track EP sent through decibel-obsessed circles. And you’ll remember, no doubt, how many record buyers across the world sunk to their knees in unashamed praise (and that’s only a slight exaggeration!) at their debut LP, Out Of The Cellar.
However if you’re a Ratt fan like me, you’ll no doubt be trying to forget how they haven’t hit that mark since.
Which, inevitably and predictably, brings us to the Ratt’s new album, Detonator. They say — and ‘they’ includes some well-
respected hombres — it is their best since that li’l EP all those gigs ago. They say it rocks more, is more balanced and is just plain f_kin’ better.
Me? I like “Shame, Shame, Shame”, “Loving You Is A Dirty Job”, “Hard Times” and a couple of others, but I’m not sold. It’s a good record
— one of the five or 10 best since last Christmas — but it isn’t up to Ratt’s lofty standards. Indeed, “Top Secret” is probably the most banal song they’ve ever recorded, and Detonator is my least favourite Ratt record.
Then again, Dancing Undercover and Reach For The Sky were my favourites. and they bombed! The signs are good so far.. “There’s no doubt we’re touring Australia on this tour,” DeMartini assures me by way of starting off. “What’s January like there?” Hot, we hope.
‘O.K., January. I want to go surfing!”
The talk of “starting all over” is more than empty new-album rhetoric, in this case. A split with Milton Berle’s management company, the premature cancellation of their last tour, the abandonment of regular producer Beau Hill… this is clean slate time.
Warren has no hesitation in discussing all of this and more.
HM: You haven’t toured overseas much at all. Is that going to be a new approach for you now?
“Definitely. We kind of rearranged the people who handle us now. The management we were with before were not interested in us playing overseas, and that was one of the reasons we changed. We’re very interested in playing everywhere.”
HM: Were you a little tentative about working with Desmond Child?
“A little bit. The last album he did was Trash with Alice Cooper, and while I think that’s a great album, it was really a little bit of a change in style for him. We weren’t looking to do things that were a change in style for us and were, I suppose, a little bit concerned he might try to do that to us, but it turned out to be a collaboration in the true sense of the world because he worked with us, not on us. I think every song on the album sounds like a Ratt song; I don’t think there’s a Desmond Child song. He mainly helped with the arrangement of verses — we had the songs, and his input was in pre production.”
HM: Was Stephen forced to work a bit harder than he usually does?
“Yeah, we all were. It was more like our first EP, we played a lot more. We had a lot of rehearsals, more than for Invasion Of Your Privacy or Dancing Undercover. This album was really shaped out by the time we went into the studio. Sometimes it’s an advantage not to have too much rehearsal, but I really think it helped this time.”
HM: The last couple of albums have been pretty tough for you. Has there ever been any temptation to just throw it all away at any stage?
“No, because we knew all along that it had to do with business matters and it was not the band’s fault. Some bands can manage themselves – they can book shows and do all those things themselves — but we’re musicians, we’re not like that. We realised without a big management company, we were always going to be behind the eight ball.”
HM: In the mid-80s, you and Motley Crüe were neck and neck as the biggest hard rock bands in the U.S. Why do you think Motley Crüe have gone on to be so big and your profile has dropped? Do you think it’s just a result of your management problems?
“No, you can’t just blame that. I think our thing wasn’t as focussed as it could have been. We work a bit differently to Motley Crüe — as bands we’re a little bit different. But I think our new material is much better and has more spirit; we’re more positive.”
HM: Why would it have been negative at one stage? Was it just the success thing that got to you?
“I don’t know. It was just, like, we’d come off the road and the management, as soon as they heard we were starting work on an
album, would go out and book a studio. They’d put down a big deposit on studio time and it was, like, let’s hurry and get another album out. The thing you have to watch for when you’re in that situation is that you don’t lose control.”
HM: I see Bobby has written the most commercial song on the album – “One Step Away“!
“Yeah, he’ll be impossible to live with! Actually, we did it on the road. Bobby hasn’t done much writing in the past, but he had been playing around with some chords. He came to us with them and they eventually became “One Step Away“. He didn’t get much into penning songs until then.”
HM: What actually happened on the last tour, when it was cancelled? You put out a press release saying,
it was because of your break-up with Berle management, but the rumours said it was because of poor ticket sales…
“Actually, it was a bit of both. The album did platinum and stuff, but it felt like there wasn’t any communication from the people that were managing us and the promoters to make sure the thing was advertised right. We’d play in my home town — Chicago — and here’s my family saying, ‘We didn’t know you were playing here. Can you tell us, because there’s nothing on the radio and nothing on the TV?!’. The album was in the Top 20, and we’re very much a live band — we put a lot of work into that — so we knew it wasn’t us. We knew we didn’t have the right people in the right positions. We’d done well live and on vinyl in the past, and we had to get people of a similar calibre to manage us.”
HM: Do you actually remember the day you sacked your management?
“Yeah, we were in Detroit. I remember that day — we felt like the management had let us down… we were out doing the work and nobody was supporting us, It got real nasty, but we were determined, we made sure we got out of it. We took a while to find a new management group too – we were determined not to make the same mistake again.”
HM: Would you work with Desmond Child again?
“Yeah, he really helped us with some things. With “Shame…”, for instance. Like, I think all that song needs is that riff, y’know? But Stephen and Desmond came up with the verses, and I wrote the music and chorus, It came out very melodic. Desmond was great, he never asked anybody to play anything they didn’t want to.”
HM: Stephen’s known to dislike spending too much time in the studio, isn’t he? He just goes in, does his bit and leaves?
“No — well, that’s the other thing that was cool about this record. It was great to see him go in early and not leave until something was completed. He was just getting really vibed up on the whole thing.”
HM: God forbid, but what if this album doesn’t do well?
“If this album doesn’t do well, I’m moving to Montana to start my dental floss business. Dental floss is big in Montana… it’s that sort of place.”
HM: Maybe you could get some dental floss jobs down here and go surfing as well…
“Yes, exactly. Hahaha, I could do a franchise — DeMartini’s Dental Floss, Australian branch!”