Juan Croucier of RATT Looks Back on the Atlantic Record Years and “That GEICO Commercial” with Mark Dean of Madness To Creation

Juan Croucier of RATT Looks Back on the Atlantic Record Years and “That GEICO Commercial” with Mark Dean of Madness To Creation

Contributor’s Note:  RATT’s signature sunset strip sound made the Los Angeles based outfit one of the most popular rock acts of the mid-’80s. As the story goes, RATT helped pioneer Hollywood’s legendary hard rock sound and scene and are proven true rock legends, headlining massive arena tours. Since 1983 to present, the band has sold in excess of 15 million albums in the US alone. Their first 4 records went multi-platinum.2020 RATT takes their live show out on the road for a series of tour dates. The RATT line-up features original members Stephen Pearcy, Juan Croucier with the addition of Pete Holmes, Jordan Ziff and Chris Sanders.  In this chat with Mark Dean of Madness To Creation, Juan Croucier of RATT discusses the Atlantic Record years, Napster, “that boxed set”, “that GEICO commercial” and so much more.  Fans can find RATT at the following locations:

www.facebook.com/therattpack

www.theRATTpack.com

Juan Croucier:  Hey, Mark. How are you doing, buddy?

Mark Dean: I’m good. You seem to be pretty busy at the present time?A strange time for the world at present 

Juan Croucier: Oh, yeah.  

Mark Dean:  So how are you spending the time?

Juan Croucier: Oh well, I’m going through and doing things like cleaning my desk that have piles of papers on there from years and years that I’ve been going, you put something down and go, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” And then you move on. So I’ve been just kind of cleaning and upgrading my recording studio and working on songs and just making good use of the time.

Mark Dean:  Are you aware that Cherry Red Records recently brought out a box set of the Atlantic Ratt albums?

Juan Croucier:  Yes. And I have yet to see it. I’ve yet to get it. But I’ve seen it on the internet. And it looks great. I want to get a copy.

Mark Dean:  I just wondered if you and Steven were included or consulted by them when they put it together?

 

Juan Croucier: Yeah, we were in touch with them and there were some things that we were considering releasing along with it. And then we reviewed some of the audio and it just wasn’t up to the quality that we wanted to put out. There was a recording of us playing live. I think it was Monsters of Rock back in the 80’s and it was a concert mix. And it just was disproportionate and you couldn’t hear certain things and so it wasn’t of the quality that we would wanted to have released. And so we just kind of cooperated as much as we could with them, and we wanted, of course we wanted the best product out there, but I’m looking forward to getting it actually and taking a look at it and listening to it.

Mark Dean:  I just wondered then if you don’t mind, if you could take me through those Atlantic albums in order and maybe we relive some memories of how they came together maybe, a particular memory about making a video of that album if that’s okay.

Juan Croucier:  Well, I mean if we’re to start with Out of the Cellar, that was a record that we had dreamt of making. All roads lead to getting a record deal and expanding, just playing outside of LA and Hollywood. And so when we went in to make that record, we had many songs that we had been playing live. And the band was really, really pumped and ready and excited and looking forward to it. And it was a really fun and interesting record to make. We worked really, really hard on it, it was a very serious schedule, and it was a… There were a lot of good times. I mean, I could sit here and talk to you for hours about things that happened in the studio and people joking around and we had a good time, but we were really, really focused on working hard.  

Mark Dean: Of course you have had pretty good success for that album as well.

Juan Croucier:  Out of the Cellar? Yeah. Look, we went out on tour, and it was really kind of interesting when I look back on it, of course. We went out for six weeks and we started playing with ZZ Top. The first night was with ZZ Top in San Antonio. And ZZ Top is from San Antonio and the place was sold out, and we got up on stage. And it was one of those oh my gosh, moments where you look out and you see all these people and you’re going, “I can’t believe it. We’re here. We did it.” And then you look down on stage and you look back up. Yep, they’re still there. ):

So it was really fun in that regard. We sort of accomplished what we intended on doing in that regard and from there, we hopped on other dates and parts of other tours. So from ZZ Top, we played some shows, a couple shows with Motley Crue and Ozzy. And then from there, we jumped onto the Billy Squier tour. And as we get the Billy Squire tour, his schedule was pretty nice. It was like two shows on, one day off, one show on, one day off depending on logistics. And so on those days off, we would go, we started to go and headline clubs. So we would do… It wasn’t unusual for us to play 21 days in a row without a day off.

Mark Dean:  That sounds like a very tough schedule?

Juan Croucier: Oh yeah, we worked really, really hard. And so the reason I’m kind of saying this is because being from LA and Hollywood, we didn’t really know how successful it was becoming because we were so focused on working. We knew we were doing well. We knew we were packing the clubs and the arenas were doing really good business. But it wasn’t like we were sitting here in LA listening to the radio going, “Wow, they’re playing our album a lot.” We never had that sort of that visual. It was just hard, hard work. And so we left for six weeks. And we didn’t come home for 10 months before the first break, and that first break was only because it was the Christmas holidays and we had to take a break. 

And then of course, we immediately followed that up with Invasion of your Privacy. And for that we didn’t have a whole lot of time to write. I used to carry a studio with us, various incarnations of a recording studio based on the technology back then. And so originally it was a four track machine with MXR drum machine, which was one of the first drum machines that was available, and it was pre MIDI. There was no MIDI back then. And I’d have a little amp and a microphone, and it was a way to sort of demo things in preparation for the next record. So we had some material when we got back because we knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of time to sit around and write. And so then we got right into doing Invasion and the fun continued.

Mark Dean: You must have had a pretty intense like you say, work schedule . For the first three albums you were basically releasing an album a year.

 

Juan Croucier:  Yes. Yes, it was a cycle. And it was, write the record, record the record, make the videos, prepare the tour, go on tour. It was just a really, really tight work schedule. And when you do that kind of thing, there’s a lot of people that are counting on it, a lot of coordinating that needs to be done, a lot of management issues and logistical issues to deal with, for lack of better term. And it just kept us going. Look, we loved it. We loved it. We were five young men with a vision and a dream. And we wanted to get out there and do as much as we could in the name of “Ratt and Roll” and sort of fly that flag. And we were having a great time doing it. It was always a lot of fun, there were lots of fans and beautiful women and just rock music. I mean come on, what can be better than that?

Mark Dean:  I was going to say there I mean were those videos as much fun to make or do they take long hours and hours having to redo things over and over again? Because those videos at the time and even watching them back now, they look like a blast, an absolute blast. You got the pretty girls, the music….purely a party going on right there.

Juan Croucier:  Yes, it was an adventure. It was like every day was a new situation. And we did it for so long that it’s really kind of an interesting thing. When you’ve been on tour for a long time, and you’re doing all, just travelling the country and whatnot. If you ask a musician, “Hey, what’d you do after Wednesday?” It’s almost like you got to look at your tour book to see where you were, to kind of go, “Oh yeah, we were in Milwaukee and we played this venue, and it was great. We had a fun time and blah, blah, blah.” So it really, for some, it wasn’t unusual for it to sort of become a blur, because it was just so much all the time, it was nonstop. And because of that, there were times that we would tour and we would stay in the city that we played in after. And that was really fun. But it almost got to be too much fun. 

 So then we changed it up and we would, we travel the night that we played. So we play one city, travel that night to the next city. And of course that kind of put a dampener on the fun a little bit. But we sort of did that to sustain the longevity because it was really easy. I mean, you’ve heard the stories. It’s really easy for musicians to just get carried away and start getting tired, and maybe drinking too much, partying too much, and having that affect the show and we always really… The general consensus of the band was to never compromise the show. And of course, you got to keep in mind that when you’re in your early 20’s, man, you’ve got a lot of energy and you’ve got a lot of resilience. You can take a beating and get up and keep going. So that really worked to our advantage because we were able to sort of meet the challenge. You know what I mean?

Mark Dean:  When did you feel then that the band’s sound had to change or had to evolve? Wouldn’t it be on  maybe the “Reach for the Sky” album, or maybe something like the “Detonator” album?

Juan Croucier:  We had a look, the first few records that we made certainly had a sound and some bands as you know, don’t like to make the same record twice. You want to evolve, you want to keep things interesting, you want to shuffle the deck. By the time we reached Reach for the Sky, we had the idea of, sort of let me pick the right words. Sort of having the music evolve, especially in the guitar department. I know that Warren and Robin had an idea and we all had the same idea. We were all pretty like minded, and we just wanted it to go a step beyond whatever that plateau might have been in our heads. And so we tried to change a few things, and it worked in some ways, and in other ways it was somewhat deficient. 

So we were working with a producer named Mike Stone, who’s a very talented, wonderful engineer, had a history that spoke for itself. And Mike was a great guy in some aspects, especially sonically the sounds that we were getting and the way that the color of the album was just amazing. But we had some issues in putting the whole thing together as songs. And so, to make a long story short, we brought Beau Hill back in to finish vocal parts of the record, and then mix the record. We did the best that we could. And of course, any time that you’re changing the production and changing the players, the people that are involved, sometimes it’ll work perfectly and it will be like, “Wow, that was just what a great call.” And then other times, the other side of that is you can have hiccups and things that you weren’t anticipating. And so it’s a collective effort.

So it’s an approximation, and you could always look back and go, “We should have done this. We should have done that.” But we were just trying to allow the band to evolve. And that was the most important thing behind it.

Mark Dean: Just moving on. Do you feel that the lineup changes that the band went through subsequently, the court cases etc., did that slightly tarnish or damage the reputation that you guys had worked so hard to build up?

Juan Croucier: Well look, when you have a group that’s been around for decades, and you have strong personalities, it’s… I mean, I can only think of a couple bands, a very few bands that have maintained their lineups. Things changed and we really tried to preserve what we could, within the circumstances. People’s agendas change and you can’t control people and you can’t change what they want to do or what they think or what their opinion is, you have to just sort of reach some sort of a compromise. And it’s unfortunate that the band went through what it did. And it’s an imperfect world, and we have to just deal with reality. 

And so Stephen Pearcy and I did the best that we could to allow the band to continue. And you’re always going to have people that don’t like it, you’re always going to have people that criticize you, and look for flaws and sort of derive you, but we did really, really everything we could within our powers to respect the legacy of the band, and to really do a good job in representing the music that the band has created over the many decades. So we’re trying the best we can to be respectful and honor what we all built.

Mark Dean:  It must have been difficult-  I’m not going to mention any names. We both know where I’m coming from with this, it must have felt for  you personally, sadness, and obviously anger as well to be facing one of your former band mates that you’d created so much music and also memories within the courtroom. I’m sure that had a profound effect on you mentally?  

Juan Croucier:  Look, there’s a lot of feelings that you go through. There’s a lot of times and we all as human beings, just think why couldn’t this have worked, why couldn’t we have gotten along better. Excuse me. I hate to use this trite statement, but it really is sort of like a marriage where you start out with high hopes and good wishes and a vision of what your lives are going to be together and so forth, and all of a sudden things, uh-oh, they didn’t go as planned, and they start to change. 

Music is a lot like that because it’s really a contact sport, in regards to your creativity being augmented by the people you’re creating with. So there’s a lot of conceptual things and a lot of cerebral things that you sort of process individually and collectively. And sometimes the agendas change, and the history and maybe mistakes that were made come into play. And sometimes there’s resent, maybe jealousy. There’s a lot of components there. It’s a lot to unpack. So there were a lot… There was a broad range of emotions. But I also understood personally that I only control so much. And I can’t manipulate or influence, at least not to a large degree, other people and their opinions. 

So you end up just trying to compromise, find a reasonable way to continue in. I don’t like saying anything disparaging about anyone. And I also don’t like to speak on anyone else’s behalf, so I know how I felt and I know that the last time that we were all in a courtroom together, it dawned on me that it might well be the last time that we’re ever in a room. Together. And that certainly… That was tough.

Mark Dean: Yeah, sure. Just moving on then. You also had a break from the band yourself, you had a couple of opportunities to rejoin them before finally coming back in 2012. Just wondered what prompted you to actually return in 2012 to Ratt?

Juan Croucier: Well, I have a recording studio and to be succinct about this, I never stopped writing songs, never stopped playing, always had either been producing records or working with my various solo projects, playing local shows and whatnot. We’d always stayed in touch and I was always very aware of what the band was doing. Look, you don’t invest a large portion of your life into something like a rock band, and just walk away and forget about it. I mean, I can’t do that, maybe somebody else can. So it was always a part of me there. Many of the songs that I’ve written and co-written, they’re like my little kids so to speak. And so you’re always aware of what’s going on, and we always stayed in touch. And there were just different agendas and different motives. 

And one of my biggest issues was that I went through a divorce, a change of plans, and I had two young children that needed their father to be there. Although I know I will never get accolades, nor do I want them, I knew in my heart of hearts that it was the right thing to do to be there present, to be a father to my children. That was the main thing. And so we kept in touch and when the planets sort of aligned, we came back together in 2007 to do Behind the Music, and of course the band elected to continue working in 1997 as everyone knows. And so in 2007 we did Behind the Music and came close to reuniting. Obviously, Robin Crosby left us in 2002, and that whole thing was a very sad and painful chapter, but when everything kind of did, took its course, I spoke with Warren DeMartini one day regarding another issue and we just sort of stayed in touch and pretty soon it was kind of like, well, it seems like the right thing to do, and it was just sort of a natural progression.

It’s always odd when… What am I saying? Let me say it this way. One of my things is I always look to certain bands that respected their lineups and I was just reading an article the other day about how many members have been in how many bands, right? And one band apparently had about 160 members that have gone through it over the many years, right? Believe it or not, Ratt was in that list, okay? 

All right. So one of my things was always to sort of keep the continuity of the original lineup, and that’s something I personally believed in, but not everyone agreed with me. So obviously what ensued after that was the return in 1997 with other members and life is what it is. You get dealt a certain deck, a certain amount of cards and you deal with them. So, for me coming back, it just felt like the right time and the right thing to do. And I think it was the right decision absolutely, I love our band.

Mark Dean: You mentioned there several times that you’d continue to create music, doing your own stuff producing other bands. I just wondered, given that you’d created other music, do you have any plans to bring out another solo album? It’s been quite some time since Liquid Sunday was released.

Juan Croucier:  Yes. And I’m glad you asked that. It’s a great question. Actually I’ve made a significant upgrade to my studio recently, and the intention is to be able to take the song from its inception or it’s sketch form into a production to complete it as quickly as possible. So I have a lot of music that I need to get out there. So yeah, I’m going to be going ahead and releasing some solo work in the future. And it’s been a long time coming. Honestly, I’m playing catch up. I’ve got two young children and a family and obviously Ratt’s been really, really busy. We also had the litigation that it just takes your time, and it doesn’t leave you in the best mood sometimes.  

Hey, great. They’re doing what? Okay, I’m going to go write a song. This is awesome. How much is that going to cost me? So honestly, it’s been a long time coming and I feel bad that I didn’t consistently put out solo records. And in fact in cleaning my desk, I found a list, yeah? I found a list of 27 songs that are completely demoed, recorded, done. And I went, “Oh, shoot. Yeah, I put this down about I don’t know six years ago.” So I was looking at that going, “Well, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” So yeah, I plan on doing solo records. My main objective, my main priority is Ratt, without a doubt, and I won’t let anything interfere with Ratt.

Stephen and I both respect that. And a lot of times for musicians, when you’re in a band, and let’s just say, well, let’s take me as an example, okay? All right so I’m the bass player in Ratt and we have a great lead singer. I’m really behind what he does, I back him 100%, I do the background vocals along with the other guys and that’s what it is. So I’m also a lead singer but I’m not the lead singer of Ratt, and I would never pretend to be. It’s just we have the format that we have that works. So in order for me to go out and sort of spread my wings and do what I do, I have to go outside of Ratt to do that. And that’s why solo records are really in essence, sort of for lack of a better term, sort of almost therapeutic for me. And plus I write a lot of music that isn’t appropriate to Ratt, to what Ratt’s thing is. 

So yeah, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’m really looking forward to it, getting it done. Of course, I got to be patient but I really want to try to put this on the fast track, and Ratt needs to also have output. And excuse me, we’ve been working really hard the last few years, getting the band back out there, sort of establishing that we can be consistent and the quality’s there and so forth. So we haven’t really had the time that we need to sit down and plot the course of the songs, but Stephen writes songs. I write all the time. There’s a lot of creativity in the group. We’ve got a great guitar player in Jordan Ziff, we got a terrific drummer in Pete Holmes, so we’ve got a really strong situation. And we just need the time to sort of allow it to ferment, and if you will, and unfortunately, right now everything is on hold.

Mark Dean: I was going to ask there, of course Ratt is also back in the public eye. You’ve made that commercial, that TV commercial?

Juan Croucier: Right. The GEICO commercial?

Mark Dean: Yeah. Was that fun to do?

Juan Croucier:  Oh, that was awesome. That was a really fun time and it was a really professional shoot. It reminded me of some of the videos that we did in the early 80’s, where you kind of showed up and was like, “Wow, what are all these people doing here?” It’s a big production. But the folks at GEICO were just absolutely amazing, the crew was terrific. It was a lot of fun. And it was actually shot in a house. And we literally used all the different places in the house. So there was no going to a soundstage to shoot part of it. It was all done literally in-house. But it was really fun and a good time and I think people are enjoying it. And I guess it comes at a really good time, right?

Mark Dean:  Obviously, we move on to the current situation. Nobody knows when live concerts are going to kick off again. I just wondered if Ratt as a band had any designs, any plans, maybe do some streaming live events, such as those that other bands have been doing online?

Juan Croucier:  Last weekend we were supposed to have played the M3 Festival. Okay. Then we had the big rock tour coming up that had been booked. And we had, of course we had Tom Keifer from Cinderella, we had Skid Row, we had Slaughter. Everything was just full steam ahead. And then this pandemic hit, and everything went off the rails. Right now we’re waiting to… We’re being updated, but it’s really touch and go. And so, at least speaking for myself, we have a show scheduled, I believe it’s July 25. But in the situation that we’re in right now, a lot of bands have postponed the entire, cancelled the entire year and they’re talking about having 1000 people in a 10,000 seat arena. I mean, how do you do that?

Mark Dean: Yeah, that’s not going to work at all. That’s not going to work.

Juan Croucier:  Yeah, right. What’s the point, right? So I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what is realistic and then what’s beyond. And as far as doing an internet thing, we’ve discussed doing a lot of things, but there’s really nothing like going to a live rock show.

Mark Dean: Absolutely, I agree.

Juan Croucier: Everyone knows when you watch something on YouTube, I mean you’re listening to it kind of, depending on what? How loud you play your speakers and where you’re sitting and who’s in the room with you. It’s not a big concert so that experience just cannot be replicated without being at a live show. So I hope we remain optimistic and I’m hoping that we can salvage this year. But I mean, I think I may be one of the last few guys holding up the flag going, “Hey, hold on. Don’t give up yet.”

Mark Dean: Yeah, yeah. Just got a couple more then for you. You’ve been in the music industry a long time, it’s changed a hell of a lot since you started way back in the 80’s. I just wondered what lessons the whole being a professional musician for so long. What lessons has the music industry actually taught you?

Juan Croucier:  That’s a great question, and I guess it… The main, obvious answer to that is that you have to persevere no matter what. You have to adapt. You can’t swim upstream, or you can try. I mean, you could certainly try and many do. But you have to adapt. You have to let go and embrace where things are. I mean, obviously you know as well as I do, I mean streaming now is a really big thing. Of course Napster came out years and years ago, and that was a sort of a shock to the system and that shook everything up pretty good. Record companies were pretty upset and of course they all sort of scoffed it, “Oh, that’s just a teenage fad. That’s not going to affect us.” I hate to generalize. I’m saying that the record company didn’t foresee the seriousness of the situation and of course that can all be tracked back to the advent of the CD.  

It’s one thing to record a cassette tape off a radio show, it’s quite another thing to make a digital, an exact copy of a digital CD and not lose a generation, if you know what I’m talking about. So with that, obviously it’s evolved and you just have to sort of adapt and it’s a challenge. So in essence, what the music industry has taught me, among other things, that has taught me quite a bit, especially when you start looking at how bands, almost every band has a story about how they got ripped off when they started, right? So there’s that of course, but really what it’s taught many of us among other things, is that you have to survive no matter what is thrown at you. 

Mark Dean:  Who would have thought we’d be talking about Ratt somewhat 40 odd years later?

Juan Croucier: Right. Yeah. Funny isn’t it?

Mark Dean:  I just wondered if you could briefly attempt to explain the enduring appeal of Ratt’s music and 80’s rock music. Why are people still listening to you, talking to you about it 40 years later, why are you still around?

Juan Croucier: We love what we do. All of us are musicians, that’s our primary occupation if you will. Okay? We’re artists. And when that’s really part of your soul, when that runs through your veins, there’s really no changing that. Am I surprised that Ratt’s around 35, 40 years later? Yeah. When I was in my mid to late 20’s, the average life of a band that was signed to a record deal was approximately three years. We obviously exceeded that by far, but a lot of things change in music and mostly people change. The things that you wanted when you were a young man, maybe aren’t the same things that you want when you’re in your mid 40’s, right? 

But I think that we, number one, the love of music, the love of what Ratt was able to accomplish as a team, as a band really. And then on top of that are the fans that appreciate and love the music, that it’s affected their lives. They hear a song that we did and they go back to their high school days and so forth. So it’s really been a very enjoyable thing and it’s never, you’re never too old to Ratt and roll if you will. And if it keeps making people happy, why wouldn’t we do it?

Mark Dean: I mean, I guess it proves as well that not all rodents can be killed. 

Juan Croucier: Yeah,that’s totally correct.

Mark Dean: No worries. Just a final one. I’m sure you have done many interviews over the years, but if the rules were reversed, who would you personally like to interview?

Juan Croucier: Oh. Wow, that’s a great question. I have a lot of people that I admire greatly that are just amazing artists. In fact, it’s funny you asked that because lately I’ve been reading a lot of biographies and memoirs by musicians, their histories and so forth. Of course, there are many folks that have departed recently, which is so sad. Prince, Tom Petty, Glenn Frey, the list is so long. I’m not going to get into it, but people that are living there’s a… I think someone like Todd Rundgren would be really interesting to interview because he has such a vast catalog of music, and he’s seen so many changes over so many years. And like Todd Rundgren, there are many, many others. 

The guys in Hall and Oates, Daryl Hall and John Oates. I was just listening to them last night. Again, listening back to records they did in the 70s. I just found it in my record collection and I was listening to it and thinking to myself, “Wow, this is just… For this point in time, it was an amazing record.” And of course it was a big hit record. So there’s no shortage of people that I would love to interview, and I’m a very curious person like most of us. And there’s a lot of things regarding how they did their music, how they wrote, why they wrote certain things, how they recorded certain things, what was the feeling at the time, your typical what it was like being there. That kind of thing. So yeah, no shortage of people for sure.

Mark Dean:  That’s brilliant. Thank you very much for chatting to me.  

Juan Croucier: My pleasure Mark.

Mark Dean:  Thanks for doing this. It’s been a huge buzz. Never got to see you guys live in the UK, but maybe in the future, who knows?

Juan Croucier:  Yeah, absolutely. Listen, you know what? Part of the plan this year was to go to Europe and then, it’s fun. There’s a lot of coordination that goes on with the promoter and management. And then we’re going to do Europe and then we’re going to do South America and then we’re going to go through Japan, Southeast Asia, blah, blah, blah. So it was like… But the plans changed because we started focusing on the powers that be, started focusing on the big rock tour. But let me tell you, we’re dying to get back to Europe. We’re just trying to figure out the best way that makes the most sense for us to go back, and there’s been a little bit of a couple times that we were supposed to go and things didn’t pan out. 

We did Sweden rock a few years ago and I certainly wanted to do more festivals and just more shows overall, but a lot of times it just… Sometimes the routing doesn’t make sense, but I really want to get back there because we love Europe and it’s been too long.

Mark Dean: It has. Thanks again for chatting. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Juan Croucier:  Thank you so much and have a wonderful day.

And there you have it!  Fans can find Mark Dean at the following locations:

www.facebook.com/Mark-Dean-Media-Journalist

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