Bobby Blotzer of RATT Interview for House of Hair Online
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
HOUSE OF HAIR ONLINE: You have your son Michael out on the road teching for you. You’ve been on the scene for quite some time and now your boy’s following in your footsteps. What a thrill, huh?
BOBBY BLOTZER: Yeah, he’s been around the scene too. He’s been out touring with me since he was four years old. He’s been coming out on the road and climbing all over the tour bus, that kind of stuff, so it’s really like home to him. It always has been and he loves being on the bus. Michael’s a drummer as well; he’s been playing since he was ten and of course he’s looking for his break. He’s a great player. It’s a tough business and world out there, you know? I’d love to see him make his way, but in the meantime he comes out and techs for me on the road and he gets to play, do sound checks, play Ratt stuff, cruise the bus and be on the road. I love having him here.
HOH: One of the things that’s always been with me since the early eighties is how my stepfather hated heavy metal and hard rock, but he got interested in Ratt because of the Milton Berle connection. I was raised on ‘50s t.v. shows through him so I understood his excitement. What are some of your favorite memories with Uncle Miltie?
BB: Well, first of all, I’m going to touch on when you talked about your Pop. Funny story…my real dad died when I was six, but my mom remarried to this guy named Pete who was my stepdad. He bought me my first guitar since I started out as a guitarist. I remember sitting and looking at him watching The Midnight Special and Foghat was on one night. We were watching Foghat and he had a few beers in him and he let me drink a few beers; I was only 14 then and he was like, ‘You really like this shit, huh?’ (laughs) I go, ‘They’re great, yeah! It’s Foghat!’ So he says, ‘I don’t get it. Elvis, man, The Beatles bow to Elvis Presley!’ Jump a few years ahead and it’s 1985, we’re headlining in Pittsburgh where he used to live and he comes out to the show and he says, ‘You know, I’ll tell ya, I’m really proud of you. I can’t believe you’re making money with that noise!’ (laughs)
BB: I love it when the old school dads are like that! They’re set in their ways in the rock shit and they really don’t care. Now Milton, he used to invite the band to The Friar’s Club. He was the president in Beverly Hills and we used to go with him. First it was at the actual Friar’s Club; they did the roasts every couple months on somebody famous and they’d have a whole panel of famous people, guys who were Friar members who’d get up there and be involved. Milton always had cue cards, so we used to do these on tour with our manager who was his nephew, Marshall. He would put together cue cards for all of us to get up at the end of a tour and we’d roast each other. We were using the same kind of jokes they were using, but then they moved to the Beverly Hilton Hotel into the ballroom, which was just huge. We would always get the table right in front of the podium. We’d be sitting there watching all these guys you’d seen as a kid, actors and such all smoking. It reminded me of when you’d walk by the teachers’ lounge and you’d glimpse in there and see them all smoking; you could do that when I was a kid! I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re eating and smoking? They’re humans!’ So it was always a trip to be that close to Milton and that movie star crowd he ran around with, watching them talk about the dirtiest shit! It was really entertaining. He was an interesting guy. He was a legend and I always felt honored to be in his presence. We all did.
HOH: Well, that was some kind of special having Milton sponsor Ratt, much less appear in your videos.
BB: Yeah, he was in “Back for More” and “Round and Round.” The funny thing was, he was doing Marshall a favor by doing this, and that’s what really launched this band. The people at MTV at the time were my age—I’m 51 now—they were around my age or older, and to them it was like a big thing Milton Berle was in a heavy metal band’s video! So they cranked “Round and Round” every half hour, man. That’s what really broke this band, that song. Another thing funny about him doing us that favor, we paid him to do it. He used to like to go to the horse track. He wanted to be paid in cash, so I think we gave him $20-25,000 and he’d just use it for his track money! (laughs) I thought that was pretty funny.
HOH: (laughs) I want go back to the original Ratt EP from ’83 a minute. I can let that one play five or six times in a row, not just because of the time duration, but to me it still has an urgent sound like Motley Crue’s Too Fast for Love and all of the early-eighties L.A. stuff. You guys and Motley put out these edgy albums before the whole scene broke. What was it like back then? Did you guys actually have a vision of how it was all going to happen?
BB: Sure, it was a dream, but the key word that you hit was it sounded “urgent.” It really was. We were in the studio on a shoestring budget, no time to fuck around. We were hungry, broke, visions of stars in our eyes, you know? We were trying to keep up with the Motleys and trying to keep up with each other and make our own way. I just think the thing that’s great about the EP and Too Fast for Love is certain records like those, you sense the hunger. You sense the hostility we put into the tunes. We meant business and that EP was done in a five day period: done, recorded, overdubbed. We walked out of the studio on Thanksgiving Day in 1982 and I remember we mixed all night long and when I walked out it was just light out. We’d been up all night and drinking beer the whole time between ourselves, the producers and the engineers, and I had to go to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving. I remember being so tired. I just got in the car, stuck my feet up and went to sleep! (laughs) Then I played everybody the tape and I was all proud of it.
HOH: Were you guys ever involved in the notorious flyer wars on Sunset?
BB: I don’t think it was really a war. (Stephen) Pearcy was like that. He was the master of self-promotion. I never did it. I lived in Redondo and I just wasn’t the flyer-putter-up kind of guy. I’d been in a lot of bands before and that just wasn’t my thing, personally, but Stephen was always promoting Ratt. He was putting up flyers everywhere for our gigs and then we started getting chicks and some other band hanger-on people who were friends and could help out with that. I don’t remember anything like having a war with other bands like, ‘What the fuck, they covered our flyer with their name!’ I don’t remember any of that, but I’m sure it went on!
HOH: L.A. today has to feel different to you. I’ve talked to some other bands in the area, many of them younger groups coming up, and they tell me the L.A. rock scene has a dead feel to it unlike the golden years. How do you feel about it?
BB: I think it’s faceless. I don’t go out anymore to clubs, because I don’t know any bands, not one. I don’t know any of them other than my son’s band he plays with. In those days, there were so many of our bands that we all knew each other and we all hung out. If one band was playing, the rest of them were hanging out, getting drunk, rocking and carousing. You knew all the bands, you knew their songs and it was scene. Now you have the pay-to-play thing, they do these Key Club and Club Vodka shows and shit where literally 30 bands will play in a night! That’s a fucking joke! They charge them all, these guys who promote and I can respect that, but it’s rough on an artist or musician who’s trying to make his bones and get a following. How do you get a following, you know what I mean?
Even the Rainbow, man, we’ve gotten older, and it just doesn’t have the star power that it did then. I started going to the Rainbow when I was 17 and I was seeing Deep Purple, The Who, Alice Cooper and Zeppelin. Hanging out there as a kid, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is amazing!’ So when we started getting famous and stuff, there were a lot of other bands who were famous and they’d be there any given night. We’d all be there and it would be the same thing we saw in ’81 and ’82, but then we were multi-platinum, we had lots of money, and we’re in there sniffing coke off the tables! (laughs) I still occasionally go to the Rainbow to eat and see Tony and Michael, who are the two managers and door guys along with Mario, the owner. They’re really like father figures for a lot of us.
HOH: Getting into Ratt’s latest album, Infestation, to my ears, this is the first album since Detonator where it has a real band of brothers feel to it. I don’t know if it’s the presence of Carlos (Cavazo) or whatever, but this album has that old kick to it. How does this album and lineup feel to you?
BB: I think having Carlos brings it back to a dual guitar-driven band and that’s a good thing. I love Carlos and he’s always been a good friend. I was not, however, one of the supporters of him joining the band because I was used to John Corabi and his rhythm and him not having a lead player type of approach. When we first started playing with Carlos we no longer had a rhythm player, we now had two lead players. He adapted quickly, though, we got along, and he started picking up right where Warren (DiMartini) and Robbin Crosby) left off. So it guided the sound back to a grass roots level, I think.
This record, man, it’s come out to be something that wasn’t derived. We didn’t contrive it and try to make it like we needed to write “Round and Round” again. It was more like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this record, everybody write your shit,’ and everyone went and wrote their songs keeping in mind we wanted to make it more aggressive and a little more up-tempo. You know, back to the hungrier side. That was the only thing that was contrived. We wanted to get back to a younger, rowdier, less-polished thing. To me it came out like a record which would’ve been a great predecessor to Out of the Cellar. It somehow fits between the EP, Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy. It fits in there snugly, you know? The songs are very catchy. I think people have resoundingly said they don’t have one song they skip through, which is always a good thing to hear. We all know what that’s about, when you’re on a record and you’re like, ‘Ehh,’ then stop on one that’s good, then you skip again, ‘Ehh,’ move past three or four songs. But gosh, everybody’s just digging this record. I think if this record would’ve come out in ’85—not that Invasion wasn’t a good record—maybe even ’87 or ’89, it would’ve been our Dr. Feelgood. So right now it’s been hopping up the charts around the world. In Japan it entered number five, Canada at number six, here in the United States it was number 30. I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist, so in my mind if we can hit 150,000, you know? Right now we’re over 85,000 in the first month, so it’s really amazing. The label’s doing backflips! They’re like, ‘Start writing some checks!’ (laughs) They’re talking about writing the next record already.
HH: I enjoy a good rapport with Roadrunner Records and I was stoked to learn they’d signed Ratt. What’s the vibe like working with Roadrunner, who is one of today’s metal industry leaders, versus the Atlantic days?
BB: It’s funny, because I haven’t had daily updates and of course they weren’t done email-wise back then, but it’s still the same words, whether you get an email or phone call from the label, and you’re seeing the excitement of them pushing us to do this and that, keeping the machine going to promote. I’m completely all about that, so it’s exciting to have that feeling again. We didn’t have that with John Koladner and with the label when we did the self-titled Sony record that came out in ’99. It was like reporting to the fucking principal with John Koladner. We went every two weeks with a batch of songs and sit in the office with him in that raised chair and he had this big giant panel of all this electronic shit. He would sit there and put the CD in and listen. Sometimes he’d stop 30 seconds in of the song and go ‘I don’t like it.’ It was like, ‘Can you fucking listen to the rest of the song, John, please?’ I agreed with him on some of the stuff, but nonetheless we busted ass on that thing. We worked for over a year on that record. Stephen wasn’t into it and it just didn’t have that vibe. This album, everybody’s excited, the label, the band, the family, the fans, and it’s a pretty good feeling. I’ll be 28 years in this band, now, and nothing would be sweeter than a gold record or a platinum record right now. I’d just love it, but I totally appreciate what we’ve sold even compared to 18 million records. It’s sort of like The Wrestler, when Mickey Rourke couldn’t get arrested. Now he’s resurging in the movies and anytime you see people like that where you get popular again…you know what I mean.
It’s not like we were down and kicked to the curb since we’re making a good living touring, but I think there’s been some tarnish on the name thanks to Stephen and myself. You know, Stephen quitting, myself bickering with him in the internet press and the public forum, which I was not in a good state of mind at that time. I regret we did that. I think it kind of hurt the integrity of the band from both of us doing that and the lawsuit and all that. So getting him back in the band and taking these steps towards where we’re at now is great. Even though this particular show we’re doing tonight isn’t a great big venue, we have a long list of stuff we’re playing this year with the Scorps. We have two weeks playing with Steve Miller, Peter Frampton, .38 Special, Starship and Edgar Winter, which should be interesting. I’m really looking forward to that. We have a few shows in Europe too. Right now we have this two-week CD release smaller room set-up for the rest of the tour. I’m glad to be working anywhere, man! (laughs)
HH: Let me ask you this; when I hear Infestation, I think it could’ve come between Invasion and Dancing Undercover, actually. Do you think the critics tomahawked Dancing Undercover a little too much back then?
BB: I agree with them. While there’s some songs I really like on that record, there’s stuff on there I can’t even listen to. We weren’t prepared for that record, and it’s common knowledge. Our manager put a $50,000 deposit on a studio and it wasn’t refundable, which is what he told us. We didn’t have shit written at all! We weren’t ready. We were in a very costly recording studio writing songs and working them out. I just think there’s stuff on there that’s really sub-par, but then again, that record sold $1.8 million, so I can’t snub my nose at it. I just think we could’ve done better, obviously.
HH: But then there’s redemption all over with Reach for the Sky thereafter. You guys tore it up sales-wise and so did MTV with loads of airplay.
BB: I like Reach for the Sky a lot. Mike Stone did a really good job engineering that, God rest his soul. It was a costly record and we ended up going in and redoing just about all the lyrics, melodies and lead vocal tracks. There was a problem with the bass track where it was out of tune and I was like, ‘You’re just figuring this out now? How is that?’ That cost us another two or three weeks and in those days, I don’t know if we didn’t care, but you’d spend fortunes on the records and videos, God, man. This record here, I did my drum tracks in four days. For how good it sounds and how good it is, it’s less than a third of what we spent on the other records.
HH: That’s a good stat and I’ll add to it by mentioning you guys sound relaxed on Infestation.
BB: We were recording in Virginia Beach and in the tracking room, I’d look to my right and there was sliding glass and windows. It was all blue ocean and white sand. I was very relaxed. On a break you could just go out and kick it on the beach. It was a really pleasant setting. I loved it.
HH: You just wrote a Ratt memoir. Tell us about it.
BB: Yeah, I started this book, Tales of a Ratt: Things You Shouldn’t Know in January of 2008. I wanted to tell my story and to tell an honest story, to bring people on the ride that I’ve had through my life with Ratt. I’ve had the urging of friends over the years saying how they love to hear the old stories. You get a few beers in me I can just start rambling off stories and people love to hear them. I’ve heard so many times, ‘Bro, you should do a book!’ In my mind I was thinking, ‘Who’s going to care? I’m not a writer.’ But after some time I decided it was something I wanted to do and I started it. I got a guy involved with me, his name is Jim Clayton. He’s a screenwriter and I wrote a couple chapters, he helped assemble them not to make sense, but to read better and he added a few accents here and there. He was very instrumental in making this book.
It has a lot of stories about my famous counterpart buddies in different bands like Def Leppard, Motley, on-and-on-and-on. There are stories of us boating on my boat, drinking, hanging out at clubs, hanging out with Keith Richards at his listening party, a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. There’s a lot of good, fun stuff, but of course there’s highs and lows everybody has and I had in my life, but generally there’s nothing that’s going to embarrass anybody, I don’t think. Maybe one or two people. I had to be honest in certain stories that involve people where this was the reality of what we were doing in this band together. I wasn’t going to be telling any stories that would embarrass anyone’s family. It wasn’t going to be one of those tabloid tell-all books.
HH: That’s good, because a lot of people automatically assume you have to live up to The Dirt if you want to write a rock bio these days.
BB: I enjoyed The Dirt. I read that and I read Nikki’s (Sixx) book (The Heroin Diaries) and I only got through three chapters because it was so dark. Cold, brutal. Just brutal. I was around those guys when all that shit was happening. He was telling the story and it was taking me back to a dark time, not that all the time in Motley was dark, but his trip and what he and Robbin used to do, I don’t want to really conjure that up in my brain. All the stuff about me and Tommy Lee…at one time we were dirtbike riding buddies, golfing buddies, we did all kinds of boating. We did the fun shit. We had our share of getting drunk and stuff, but the dark heroin thing, that wasn’t my thing. I’ve never seen it, never tried it.
My book has a lot of fun stories. It’s available at bobbyblotzer.com and through Amazon.com. It’s a good book and I’m getting rave reviews. I’ve sold hundreds of them just on my own. Everybody digs reading it. It definitely tells the Ratt story.