Rebel bassists

Like the previous Ratt article, the information came from a Robbin Crosby site that, like him, is unfortunately no longer with us. It’s too bad, because Curt Dudley’s site had way more going for it than the official Ratt site. The second anniversary of Crosby’s death was marked by an interview with Ratt’s main bassist – Juan Croucier.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and remembrances with us.

A: No problem, my pleasure! Robbin was a very good friend of mine, always. I loved him a lot. I do want to commend you guys for creating such a nice site for Robbin. He would have loved it! I’m sure he would have thanked you very much for what you have done. Keep up the great work.

Q: Way back in the beginning, do you remember meeting Robbin for the first time? What was your first impression?

A: I was at my apartment in Redondo Beach, C.A . I had a wanted ad out looking for musicians to form a band and he responded to it. He came over for a meeting and when I opened my front door, I remember smiling right away because I had to look up, way up. He was a pretty big guy. My first thought was “A football player sized guitar player? Okay, this guy can double as a body guard!” He was decked out in new leather pants, a leather biker jacket and cop/Gestapo boots. We hit it off from the beginning. I remember playing him my tape and him saying, “Man, you sing better than my lead singer!” Then he played me a tape of him and his band with Steve Pearcy singing. I told him I thought his tape was cool. The songs on his tape were Scene of the Crime, I’m Insane and You’re In Trouble. He was looking for a bass player for his band. It’s ironic that a year or two later I would later go on to become his bass player.

Q: Touring the world, you and Robbin spent a lot of time together. Can you share a couple of your favorite Robbin Crosby tour/war stories?

A: He was such a cool person. It would be really hard to just pick one. We went from dreaming about being a huge band to living it. That in and of itself is almost a miracle these days. We lived the dream. I know that Robbin felt like he had lived a full life, even though it ended so soon and so tragically. He really made a big impression on anyone that ever met him. He had an awesome presence. On stage, he definitely held his own. He was a pleasure to play with even on bad nights.

Q: Everyone knows Warren is a brilliant and gifted lead player. What is your opinion of Robbin’s abilities on lead guitar and his contributions overall to Ratt’s music in that area?

A: Robbin was a very solid player, as good as Warren in his own way. He could have been much better if drugs and alcohol had not gotten in the way of his creativity. He had a cool style that complemented Warren’s style. He contributed a lot to the band. One way he was very effective was defusing arguments among band members. He was the diplomat. He was an intense but gentle person. Heart of gold.

Q: Which of these do you think was Robbin’s greatest strength: Songwriting, Guitar playing, Leadership, or was it something else?

A: Robbin was the tiebreaker in the band. Ratt never had a leader. In the early days, he was more influential with the songs and the band overall. He had good ideas as a songwriter. He was also very aware of the band’s image and cared a lot about the band in general. Towards the later years, he became depressed because of many issues, but one of the main factors was that Warren was up taking more of the solos and more of the guitar work on records as well as on stage. It became harder for him to come up with as many song ideas as he had done in the past. He wanted guitar duties to be more evenly split between Warren and himself but it never was, so it only got worse.

Sadly, his guitar playing as well as his songwriting kept slowly deteriorating as a result of his depression and substance abuse. Ironically, those issues were also among his many excuses for his continued drug use. It was a vicious downward spiral. It was hard to see him doing that to himself but at the same time, we were powerless to stop him. We tried to help him, as best we could, many times. Even though I feel we went about it the wrong way. When you’re making big money for a lot of people, it’s been my experience that managers and other professionals try to get in the middle of the band’s personal relationships to the point of making the money more important than the people that are earning it for them.

It’s my feeling that we didn’t really give him a chance to get better. Hell, we never even had a meeting with him about the urgency of his problem and the fact that he was about to be fired from the band! I guess, in hindsight many of us were too concerned with our own personal agendas. He was finally asked to leave the band after the Japanese leg of the Detonator tour. After he left, it became painfully obvious that he kept us from fighting a lot and the chemistry of the band was distinctly different without him. He was just calm and sensible; too bad some people didn’t listen to him more. Ratt could have had a much longer career had we done so. When he left, it was the end for Ratt.

Q: I gotta ask….Robbin was really big on nicknames….did you have one!?!

A: Juan-hour-late and Cube – that would be short for Cuban. He had a great sense of humor. He did have names for everyone. Even roadies had nicknames. He named his own roadie Jimmy Wingate “Catfish.” Don’t ask my why, there was usually some kind of story behind it. First time, I heard him call Jimmy that, I thought he was really losing it. Our first road crew, when we were playing clubs had all reptilian names given to them. I’m not sure if that was originally Robbin’s idea but that is an example of how things worked in Ratt; we really did have some good laughs. “Hazel” was a nickname we had for Steve and Steve hated it. And the more he hated it, the more we used it when he would blow it.

Q: He was also quite the ‘quotemeister’ with seemingly an endless supply of one liners! Got any to share??!

A: “I know what side the bread is buttered on man.”
“That guy is a little wet behind the ears.”
“F#cking Hazel, man…we’re in Chicago not Denver!”

Q: It’s often been said that Robbin was a kind person and very approachable in almost any situation. Your thoughts?

A: Robbin loved the fans. He took a lot of time out to sign things, even get people into shows and so on. To this day, I have a friend that I met through Robbin that he got into a show in Duluth, MN and he went on to become not only good friends with the guy but Robbin let the guy live with him when he first came to L.A. but had no place to stay. That’s the way Robbin was. He would do things for people and not want anything in return. He was very loving and very sensitive. Personal problems within the band really got to him; he always wanted to keep the peace and was very appreciative of how successful we became. Robbin was one of the more intelligent ones in the band. He always wanted us to get along well, but ironically did things to single himself out and distance himself from the band. I’m sure he would have said the same thing about me.

Q: Robbin didn’t get the nickname ‘King’ for nothing…can you remember who came up with that moniker and why?

A: Nikki Sixx. Robbin liked being called King. I believe that came from The Gladiator days in Hollywood. Obviously, it was because he was so big. He was 6’5” and he wore boots that gave him two more inches and his hair gave him about three more inches so, that would make him about 7′ tall on a given night out in Hollywood or on tour with Ratt.

Q: Rhythmically, it all starts with Bobby naturally, but you and Robbin musically seemed to be locked together very tightly live…almost like a Siamese rhythm section!!! You guys appeared to feed off of one another and complement each other nicely. Is that accurate in your view?

A: Yes, that is an accurate assessment. The bass and drums are the foundation of any good rhythm section in any band. I always tried to play as tightly as I could with Bob and Robbin. The bass and drum groove were king (no pun) in Ratt. Robbin was very good at playing “in the pocket” with us; he knew about rhythm grooves. He was a good rhythm player. Keep in mind that Bob, being the great drummer that he is, was hard to play with in many ways; often times, he was more concerned with what he was playing on drums, as opposed to what we were doing as a rhythm section within the songs, but we were very tight, that much is for sure. Live the drums were always an issue at sound check. Bob ran his monitors so loud that it was hard to hear ourselves on stage. In spite of that and the fact that I moved a lot on stage live, we still we managed to keep the rhythm section tight. Bob and I played together in many bands, long before Ratt and we were also best friends.

Q: Any particular live show stand out in your mind as special?

A: The first show we did opening for ZZ Top in San Antonio, Texas has always stood out to me. That was the first “on a real tour” show. It felt like it was my first time on stage, when I heard the roar of the crowd after the lights went out and we were about to walk up to the stage. I’ll never forget being on that stage that night. The Los Angeles Forum and Madison Square Garden shows were also special. Monsters of Rock tours and the Tokyo Dome shows also stand out. Summer festivals here in the U.S. were always a blast to do too.

Q: I’ve heard several stories but, what REALLY happened in 1991 when Robbin left the band? Was he fired? Did he decide to leave?

A: He was fired, because his drug problem was not getting better; he had been blowing it for a long time. The last straw was the last Japanese tour for the Detonator record. He got really drunk before going on stage, one night too many over there and it took its toll on the band very quickly. But you could also say that (from his point of view) he was strongly influenced by management into stepping down by lies about a future career as a major record producer and solo artist. What we did to him was wrong and I’ve always felt bad about it. There were better ways of dealing with it, as opposed to the way we went about it. For example, we could have offered him “time off” and given him a chance to return to the band once he got his personal issues together. On the other hand, it is up to you to keep it together when you’re part of a band. Let me leave it at that.

Q: You and Robbin collaborated on a lot of the songwriting together. Any particular songwriting or jam session stand out as memorable?

A: The way we worked most of the time was he would show me something (a riff or a music track) that was unfinished and I would try to help him finish it by adding words, melodies or additional sections. He used to get mad at me because when I would show him one of my song ideas; they were already finished songs. All in all, we had a lot of successful co-writes, in that fashion. I think, overall, the songwriting balance was skewed largely because Steven would not work with him or others in the band on songs. It was a very disjointed way of writing together. No matter what I came up with vocally, it was stymied by the fact that it was always very hard to get Steve to sing something he didn’t “get” or understand. To Beau Hill’s credit, he did get Steve to do much more than he would have been able to do without him. Now I can see that it was just an insecurity thing that Steve had going on.

The last song that I helped Robbin with was a jam that he showed me in his car while at the demo studio and I turned it into Can’t Wait On Love, for the Detonator record. He played me a tape of the riffs and I came up with the vocal phrasing, melody and some of the words in the verses as well as the chorus of the song – on the spot in his car. He would just ask me, what would you do over this and I would show him. One good memory that I also have is when I re-wrote Scene of the Crime, in the studio minutes before we recorded it for Out of the Cellar. I re-wrote all the music, the vocal melody in the verses, added a pre-chorus, a new chorus, chorus tag and re-wrote the punches in the beginning and added them to the end of the song. I still really like that song a lot; it’s still one of my favorite Ratt songs. What we went into the studio with and what we came out with was totally different and much better.

Q: One of my favorite songs is Scene of the Crime. It’s got some great backup vocals on there. My favorite Ratt songs all feature good, catchy back-up vocals and you seemed to be the one doing most of them, much like Michael Anthony of Van Halen. Did you have a lot of input as to your backup vocal role in Ratt?

A: I started off doing most of or all of the backup vocals in the studio for Ratt. Beau Hill, our producer, pressured me into letting him sing with me in the studio, starting with Out of the Cellar and sang along with me on many parts. We would both sing the same parts in unison over the same mike. He was such a scammer; over time, he systematically became overbearing in the studio, wielding the producer advantage against the band. I would walk into the studio and he would be in the studio room, sitting at the piano “working on vocal harmony parts.” What a joke. Since it was just Beau and I, he only had me to challenge or question him on vocal ideas so, he would do his best to intertwine his vocal harmony ideas over the Ratt records. Ironic, because he mixed them so far back in the mix many times but that’s another story all together. He also cleverly isolated Steve from the band in the studio too. Isolating individuals was a production technique that Beau would often use. The song, Nobody Rides For Free, is a good example of me doing all the vocal harmonies alone. It’s the last one we did as Ratt so, maybe that’s why that one comes to mind.

Q: I heard somewhere you had left Dokken’s touring band to join Ratt, then left Ratt for awhile and then came back. True? If so, why was that? Did you go back to Dokken?

A: In 1979, Don Dokken, Greg Pecka and I toured Europe as a three piece called Dokken. We went on to get George Lynch and Mick Brown in our band. I never left Dokken to join Ratt. I was in both bands Ratt and Dokken for about a year and a half. The reason for being in both bands was simply that Dokken was not playing very many shows, one of the only ones we did was with Motley Crue at The Roxy when they shot their video. Dokken was waiting for the Elektra deal to go through, remixing the Breaking The Chains record with Michael Wagner (we brought him over here from Germany) and waiting on promises from management. Ratt was starting to play around town a lot, and I wanted to do live shows, not sit at home on Friday night.

I had taken Bob to audition for Ratt a couple weeks before he called me to play in the band. We went on to do very well on the Hollywood strip. Great shows and good times! Ratt was kicking ass in the clubs! Eventually, I was informed by Dokken’s management that I had to choose between Ratt and Dokken. Dokken had a record deal, Ratt didn’t, but I was happier in Ratt. After we got George and Mick in Dokken, Don and George started fighting all the time, so I could not get a song in edge-wise. I remember showing them Lack of Communication and George didn’t like it cause the riff was too repetitive and not challenging enough on guitar for him. In retrospect, I guess, I just chose a different set of problems by going with Ratt but I don’t regret doing so.

Q: To me, the video for Wanted Man is still one of the most entertaining videos ever filmed. What was the video shoot like? Was it Robbin’s idea for the premise of the video to be his dream?

A: That was a stand-out video to make. Robbin and I both loved making that one. We were all very much for the idea of doing a Spaghetti western type of video for obvious reasons; after all the song was called Wanted Man. I think it was Marshall Berle’s idea that we cast him in that “role.” Marshall and Robbin were very good friends. We were on tour when we made that video. The band had just done a show the night before, drove all night on the bus to the location for the shoot, shot the video and played a show that night too. God forbid that we take a day off touring to shoot a video!

Riding the horses was too funny. Watching everyone unable to control the horses. No one (including myself) knew how to rid. We should have shot the making of that video. It would have been priceless today! Talk about out of your element! Too funny, man. An interesting element about that video was that most of the people in the video were the touring staff.

Q: What song / album / video are you most proud of and why?

A: Invasion of your Privacy has always stood out to me, but that assessment was made a long time ago. I do trust my judgment but I’m not sure what record I would like best today. I would have to listen to them all again. Over the years, I have tried my best to forget about many of the painful things that happened to Ratt in the studio. Out of the Cellar was special, but Invasion of your Privacy was made at a time when everyone in the band really wanted to make the best record we could make (within the limitations or handicaps that prevailed) and prove that we were not a fluke but a force to be reckoned with.

I call it the “here to stay factor.” Among the best advice that I can give to any new up and coming band is to make sure you’re aware of this factor. Sometimes it’s referred to as “staying power.” And for the musicians reading this, if nothing else, remember this: Take every step in your career like it’s your last, because if you’re not careful, it may very well be your last step. Anyway, the tour for Invasion was a good one too.

Unfortunately, reality soon struck, or “the cancer grew” and Ratt records started to have an overall inherent thus steady decline in the attitudes and teamwork (if you can call it that) of the people involved in making them. Instead of records becoming easier for us to make, they became harder. Catch my drift? By the time that we made the last record, Detonator, it had become unbearable, embarrassing and demoralizing. Having to write with people who you didn’t want to write with was a total drag.

I knew that it was soon going to be over at that point but I never would thought that Steve would have quit Ratt after the tour. I didn’t think he was that stupid. He really messed things up for us, he quit when we were in big debt and he f@*king knew it. As a result of his quitting Ratt, we were sued and we ended up losing all our record royalties, publishing along with other forms of income for over a decade afterward. Imagine, going from making a decent living to being totally cut off from your job and income. To this day, the publishing issue that he caused is still unresolved and it was only recently that Atlantic records started to pay us record royalties again.

Song-wise, I like a lot of the songs musically, but many of the lyrics were very weak so they lacked meaning and substance, therefore it makes it hard for me to fully appreciate them simply for what they are, as opposed to, what I know and think they could have been. Talk about missed opportunities.

Video-wise, it’s hard to say because some of them were fun to make but ended up being silly or corny, Round and Round was good, Wanted Man was too, You Think You’re Tough was corny, Back For More was okay, Lay It Down…I guess, they were all okay for that point in time. Body Talk kicked ass. Shame, Shame, Shame and Lovin’ You’s a Dirty Job were a waste of money, so sucked. But I’ve seen videos from other bands in those days that were lame too. Dokken’s Breaking The Chains is one of them. Talk about corny! Don Dokken and I have had a few laughs about that one!

Q: You guys never put out a live album. Why? There’s got to be a few live shows in the can, so to speak. Any chance the 4 of you guys will get together on the business side and eventually release one?

A: I remember all the live recordings not being very good performances. We never really prepared to record live shows correctly. Most of the time, our front of house sound was never really technically that good from the live recordings I have. Live, the focus was always on stage performance and not so much the sound as a unit. That was a result of not stopping during rehearsals before tours and working on things like vocal harmonies that were off, etc. S#!t, we were lucky if Steve even showed up for rehearsals before a tour much less work with us on things like vocal harmonies and stage logistics or moves! I did tape most of the shows we did on VHS tape from the sound and light boards. I also have some DATS of the last tours we did as well as VHS videos. Maybe, we will put something out or at least get the masters and listen to them at my studio someday.

Q: In retrospect, give us your thoughts on RATT’s incredible run of success during the 1980’s. Just what WAS it like to be in one of the biggest bands of the era?

A: It was better than they say it was! It was everything that you dream of and more, pure magic! Those times contain some of the best and some of the worst memories of my life. Beyond words. Oh okay, let me elaborate: headlining killer rock shows, hot-looking women everywhere you looked ready to, um, “rock,” money to burn, parties all the time everywhere you went. You would have had to be dead to not have had a sinfully fun time. Too bad that we were not smart enough collectively as a band to make it work longer for us…

Q: Anything else you would like to add about any subject we didn’t cover??

A: Robbin was not only a very special person that I had the privilege to share my life with, but he was also a musician who I miss dearly and can never play with again. I lost so much the day thathe left us. My bro to the right of me, on stage. Robbinson Lantz Crosby was my partner in crime. I guess if you ever see Ratt again (the real guys) my side of the stage is going to feature the big void that Robbin leaves behind. I’m not sure I can let anyone take his spot again. It may become “covered by Juan.” But he told me to cover for him so…I guess the real question becomes who is this Juan guy and can he cover for Robbin? : ) Let’s see what happens.

If it seems like I’m picking on someone from the band or bitter or whatever, I’m not, I’m just telling the truth as I lived and remembered it. I’m not going to cover up the truth for anyone. I don’t care that much anymore and we were never that important. We were just a band that wanted to be loved by its fans.

In 2007, Curt interviewed another bassist – Krys Baratto. He wasn’t in Ratt but he was a former member of Robbin’s post-Ratt band – Secret Service. In 2005, Krys did a 20 questions interview with Metal Sludge and was nice enough to take some time to answer Curt’s 8 questions about his time in Secret Service. Not a lot of info is readily available about the band, so be greatful to Krys for his time. For further info about what Krys is up to, you can try searching for his existence on Facebook.

Q: You were the bass player for Secret Service; a post-Ratt project of Robbin’s. How did you initially meet him? Had you known him previously? How did the band come together? I don’t imagine you saw an ad in guitar center and went from there.

A: Indeed, I was the bass player for Secret Service. That’s funny about the Guitar Center add. No, he didn’t post an ad there. I honestly can’t remember how I was introduced to Robbin. I think it may have been through Dino – the drummer. Himself, Robbin, and the other guitarist Mark Lewis had been working on some songs.

Q: Besides you and Robbin, who were the other band members of Secret Service?

A: There was Perry McCarty from Warrior and Steve Stevens (Atomic Playboys) on vocals, Dino Guerrero from The Hangmen on drums, a great session guitar player by the name of Mark Lewis on second guitar, and of course yours truly on bass.

Q: Was the music in the same general vein as Ratt, or were you guys going in a different direction? Did you and Robbin write together, or did the material come from other guys?

A: The music had a bit of a Ratt feel to it as Robbin wrote petty much all of the Ratt material. With Perry’s voice, it was a bit heavier. With me and Dino there was a bit more of a groove with an edge to it. It was really some great stuff. Robbin came in with a song idea and we all put our two cents in to make it it’s own special little ditty.

Q: How long was Secret Service together? Did you guys gig at all? Was anything ever recorded, and if so, does any of that music still exist somewhere?

A: The band was pretty much together for like about two years. There were never any gigs done, although we were offered quite a few, but we never played out. We focused on writing and recording. There are existing recordings probably at the studio where we were recording. I don’t think it can really come out only because of rights and all of that fun legal stuff.

Q: In your opinion, what brought about the end of the band? Had you and Robbin kept in touch at all after the band split up?

A: The band just kind of fizzled mainly because of Robbins addictions. Nothing could get done in the right time frame. You could not really count on him to follow through with his end. That’s not saying he wasn’t a great guy and a great friend, but, it is really hard to work with someone who is an addict. So, everyone in the band just started or kept on doing their own thing. We did keep in touch right up until the end. We were always close friends. I believe he is in a better place and probably much happier now. Rest in peace, my friend.

Q: You mentioned in your 20 Questions with Metal Sludge that Robbin had lived with you for some time. How was he as a room mate? Any anecdotes come to mind that you’d like to share?

A: Robbin was, well, nice to have around at times – other times it was a nightmare!!! You know, there are quite a few things that come to mind, but out of respect I will kinda just keep them to myself, sorry, but that’s just the way I am about my friends. Nothing bad; don’t get me wrong. He was a really kind soul as I’m sure if you talk to anyone who really knew him would tell you. When he had money, he was very generous. He would take me to some really cool places to eat, he liked to do that, and always knew just what to order. We had a lot of great times.

Q: Robbin had a habit of giving nicknames to everyone. Did you have one?

A: That’s funny because it’s so true. But you know, he never “dubbed” me anything. That’s kinda too bad, I feel left out!!

Q: Is there anything that you’d like to add? I know I’m not really Barbara Walters or anything, so feel free to add whatever you’d like!

A: Well, I would just like to add that it was great knowing Robbin and great to play with him. Always a friend.

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