Producer Behind Ratt’s Biggest Albums Has a Bone to Pick With Drummer
Along with Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot, Ratt helped spearhead the golden age of hard rock in the early '80s. Their 'Out of the Cellar' debut remains one of the most celebrated and best-selling albums of the era. Ratt's 'Round and Round' single has been a mainstay on rock stations ever since its premiere in 1984 and even squeezed its way onto pop formats from Hollywood to Helsinki.
Beau Hill, the producer of 'Out of the Cellar' and their next three platinum albums, was an integral part of Ratt's success. With his background as a musician and songwriter, Hill helped steer the band into crossover success throughout their arena-headlining days.
With melodic hard rock making a comeback in the States and Ratt returning with a new studio album for Roadrunner Records, Noisecreep caught up with Hill and got the lowdown on his days with Ratt. Throughout the years, some members of the band have been critical of the producer, so we gave him a chance to finally react.
How did you get originally involved with Ratt?
I had received a call from Doug Morris who was the president of Atlantic Records at the time. It was quite an unexpected shock to get that call. He said, "I want to sign this band from L.A. named Ratt and I want to see if you want to produce them. Are you interested in going to LA with me to see the band at the Wilshire Theater?" After I picked my totally broke ass up off the floor, I said, "Yes sir, I'd be very interested and thanks so much for thinking of me!"
Like Vince Neil, Ratt's Stephen Pearcy doesn't exactly have a powerhouse voice but it does have a lot of attitude and style to it. How did you go about working with Pearcy when you were tracking?
Well, I might respectfully disagree with you to a certain extent about Stephen's voice. By that I mean, that Stephen is Stephen; you cannot separate Ratt from his voice. So in that context, I think his sound was very powerful in the overall success of the band.
Working with Stephen was always a work in progress from my perspective. We were constantly changing our methods until we found his comfort zone, which included a trust that was built over time. Admittedly, I suggested some things that were initially a bit controversial but as the band's sound developed, we all became more comfortable with the results. Sometimes it's harder than you think to create a signature sound because it offers very little "artistic cover" if you have missed the mark. If you get it right ,then other artists begin to emulate what you have done, which is exactly what happened to Ratt.
When the band first played you 'Round and Round,' did you immediately know it was special?
I would love to pretend that I had a real Yoda moment and had recognized the hit record that it was but that would not be the truth. Without getting too technical about it, I really liked the skeleton of the song. However in the original arrangement, there was a break or a pause right before the chorus that really killed the energy level. That was the one thing that really bothered me about the overall presentation of the song. During pre-production rehearsals, I tried to get the guys to get rid of that break and power right into the chorus,but I was unsuccessful in my attempts. However this became a real stone in my shoe, and that hole in the arrangement continued to drive me a bit crazy every time we worked on it in the studio.
As we were closing in on mix time, I would frequently start my day very early in the morning because it's the time when I can listen and really focus on the music without any interruptions and/or comments from anyone else. So I started thinking about something rhythmic that I could use to hold the energy and create some tension going into the chorus without violating the arrangement the way the band wanted it to be. That's when I started experimenting with flipping the tape over and recording pre-delay on the backing vocal track which resulted in the "round-round-round" effect that sets up the chorus. As you can imagine, this too was met with a lot of raised eyebrows when I first presented the finished rendering to the band. Somehow I managed to convince the guys to run with it and we all enjoyed our first hit together with 'Round and Round.'
In a 2008 interview, Ratt's drummer Bobby Blotzer described you as a "dictator" in the studio. How would you respond to that?
Very interesting indeed, allow me to share a couple of thoughts.
First off, I completely support Bobby's right to indulge in selective memory and exercise his right to support a revisionist historical perspective. Not to mention the truly amazing gift of being able to remember details through the somewhat less than sober haze that we occasionally found ourselves in, from 25 years ago, no less! Personally, I can't even remember my own phone number from those days (laughter).
Second, based on our mutual combined efforts, Bobby certainly enjoyed cashing the checks that has granted him a seven figure net worth and a long career in the music business. That and the international notoriety that would have in all likelihood would probably have escaped him had he not been in Ratt with me (laughter).
Finally, to my old friend I would say, "Blotz, don't worry, be happy. We all contributed to the franchise known as Ratt and I think that an argument can be made that there are at least two sides to every story. I would hazard a guess that no one really benefits from sniping in the press, especially not the fans. You always have direct access to me whenever you might like to get in touch and you're always welcome to do so. With all due respect, The Benevolent Dictator"