The Japanese connection

I chose this magazine cover because nothing says heavy metal and Japan more than Pantera’s Phil Anselmo wearing a Karate kit. This article is about Ratt’s Robbin Crosby being interviewed by a few Japanese rock journalists for different magazines. These translated interviews were on a well-designed Crosby fan site that is no longer online. I’ve archived the interviews that were posted, but I’ve abridged the word-count from over 14,000 to under 5,200 – bearing in mind that I also saved the interview with Robbin’s Japanese friend and former bandmate from another band. I don’t feel bad about the clickbait cover since Robbin vaguely resembles Steven Seagal, who studied Aikido.

Atsuki Fukatami was the conductor of the first interview, which was for a 1986 issue of Burrn! The translator was Mr. Yonemochi – the director of Warner Brothers Records and their publishing office. Robbin was interviewed about their 1986 album – Dancing Undercover. It was initially titled A Fine Mess except there was already a 1986 movie with that title (starring Ted Danson and directed by Blake Edwards). At the time of the interview, the band recorded six songs – four of which didn’t have Rob involved in the writing (i.e. Slip of the Lip, 7th Avenue, It Doesn’t Matter and Take a Chance). The other two song were One Good Lover and Drive Me Crazy.

Atsuki: How many songs will be on the record? Ten songs?

Robbin: Maybe nine or ten songs, I think.

A: Who is writing the songs? Stephen and you?

R: Not all true. Stephen doesn’t write songs much and I wrote about two songs…

A: All your fans are waiting for your new record. Could you tell us what it will be like What’s the difference from Invasion of your Privacy?

R: The last record had a couple of older songs but this time it is so fresh.

A: So this time, there are no old songs and they are all new?

R: Yea, there were some ideas I had for a long time, but I’ve never played them to my band members before so they have never heard them and they’re real new songs.

A: Do you have a time limit to complete the recording?

R: No we don’t.

A: This record, did the record company tell you guys what to do with this and that?

R: No, that will never happen to Ratt!

A: How do you feel becoming an owner of a house?

R: Yea, Finally! But I haven’t bought furniture yet. It feels like camping, only I got the better roof.

A: What was the worst moment on the last tour?

R: We moved from Miami to Puerto Rico by airplane. Our tour bus went from Miami to Dallas. That was where we were supposed to get on the tour bus again but someone broke in our tour bus and stole our personal belongings. My brief case was stolen. Money, books, My address book. All my personal belongings.

A: Did you also break a bone in one of your legs on the tour?

R: That was terrible too. I had to get on stage during three weeks of that time, every night was terrible.

A: Are you looking for someone to take care of you? Any plans?

R: No. I understand that someone can take care of cooking and stuff but no one can really take care of other people.

A: Last year, your birthday was during the tour.

R: Yeah, it was at the California Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. During the show, all the lights went out. It was terrible and I will never forget that.

A: Any plans of using a keyboard?

R: We are using a Synth Guitar but not a keyboard.

A: Does Warren play that?

R: I used it last year.

A: Which songs did you use it for?

R: Lay it DownCloser to my Heart, and Between the Eyes, but we never use that on the hard sounding part – only backing tracks.

Tak Yonemochi interviewed Rob for the April 1989 issue of Young Guitar Magazine.

T: I’m sure that you’ve been asked plenty of questions about Reach for the Sky, but I felt that there weren’t enough songs that displayed YOUR personality.

R: There were more people than ever involved in songwriting on this album. That is, each of the songs was a group project. People like you, who know us really well, can tell which are my songs, and who came up for the initial ideas for each of the songs.

T: While listening to the album, I think it would be better if you played more solos. I discussed this before with Warren, too.

R: Maybe he’s scared? Actually, we spent way too much time recording this album. First we used Mike Stone, but he was no good. So we re-did the album with Beau Hill, which took two months. Then, when it was time to go back into the studio to record the solos and backing vocals, there wasn’t enough time. I’m sure that you already know how I feel about Warren’s playing. I mean, it’s not like I can listen to a tape of his playing, and say, “Hey! I can do this better!” Of course, I’m planning on playing more on the next record.

T: You are producing a band called Lillian Axe. This side of you as a producer, will it become a big part of you in the future?

R: Producing is a fun job, and I feel it’s worth doing. But there are times in which I can’t schedule for it, you know, there’s not enough time. It’s really difficult for me to pour my energy into them, then head right to the studio to record Reach for the Sky. So, I won’t do anything like this again, at least not when Ratt is busy. Probably never again…

T: I see. But having been on the production side of a record, I’m sure that you learned a lot of things that you wouldn’t have noticed in your work with Ratt.

R: Absolutely. I was able to see what needed to be done next, and what shouldn’t be done next. It was an emotional roller coaster. On the technical side of things, there’s a lot that can be done with today’s technology. For example, sampling is so easy now. I did a lot of things old school on this record, that is, analog. We recorded real drums, not samples. If I were to do it again, maybe I would take greater advantage of technological advances. Reach for the Sky uses real drums and sampled drums. We didn’t push the studio’s computers to their limits or anything like that.

T: Your amps are Marshalls, right?

R: Yup. I’ve been using the same ones for three years now. I think I’m pretty lucky when it comes to amps. I mean, Warren can’t seem to find the one. He’s always switching his amps, forever searching for the holy grail. He used to plug in direct to the amp, without using that many effects. But now that he’s using lots of effects, he doesn’t like using Marshalls on tour, because their sound changes from venue to venue. Anyway, the Soldanos that he’s got now are close to his ideal amps.

T: So who painted the dragon graphic on your guitar?

R: A guy named Mark Rude. He painted all of my other graphic guitars too.

T: Why a dragon?

R: Why? Well, first, the year that we started the tour was the year of the dragon – 1988. Second, I didn’t have enough balls to get it as a tattoo, so I got it painted on my guitar.

T: Soldanos have been imported into Japan, and they’ve gotten good reviews. What do you think?

R: Actually, all of the solos on Reach For the Sky were played through a Soldano. Because we had time constraints, we just plugged into the Soldano which was in the studio, and recorded the tracks. The double leads in City to City and I Want a Woman were recorded with the Soldano. As were the riffs.

T: There are popular products in which the attack becomes weak when the sound is overdriven. Soldanos aren’t like that, are they?

R: I guess you could say that. Every year, I think about trying a different amp. So the guys from Mesa Boogie come to my house with a new product, I play it, and it sounds good. But then, I play through my own gear, and think – Hmm. I spend a whole lot less money this way, too.

T: By the way, do you check out what’s being played on the radio these days?

R: Yes. The radio is my entertainment when I have just a little bit of time. I check out tunes on the radio, then go out and buy the record, or just listen as a chance to discover new bands. My current favorite band, who suits my tastes to a tee, is Guns ‘n’ Roses. They are a true rock ‘n roll band with plenty of heart. I really think that Slash is a good player. He plays solid guitar with a real bluesy feeling. It sounds a lot more convincing to me than a flood of notes.

T: It appears that many guitarists are coming around to this way of thinking recently.

R: If you listen to Warren’s playing now, it’s a lot more melodic and bluesy than before. He plays with a lot more feeling now, right? His playing on “I Want to Love You Tonight” is amazing. It’s very Hendrixy. I get shivers up and down my spine and break out in goosebumps just listening to it. It’s not just a succession of notes.

T: A lot of players are going to go for elements other than speed. Although that in itself may cause some problems.

R: Yeah – in a couple of years, everybody is going to be playing that way.

Keiko Suzuki interviewed Rob for the December 1991 issue of Viva Rock. She had interviewed him at a Mexican restaurant in Hollywood (El Compadre). She heard Rob speak in fluent Spanish. He learned how to speak Spanish before he was able to speak English because his babysitter was Mexican. The ensuing interview was edited so that it was one long answer. I also abridged it so that it doesn’t make a future article of mine seem repetitive.

On the night we received the platinum album for Dancing Undercover, we played a New Year’s Eve concert in Indianapolis. I think Cheap Trick did the opening show for us. That night, I cried…and those were the tears of joy for receiving a platinum award for 3 albums in a row, just by doing what we loved to do. I wonder if there were any other members in the band who felt as thankful or grateful about how well we were treated?

It took us nearly one year for the recording of Reach for the Sky. We were all disjointed, our producer Mike Stone did nothing but cause more problems. Everything was a disaster. Everybody was drinking heavily and doing a lot of drugs, including the producer. One day, while we still haven’t made any progress, Atlantic Records ran out of patience and asked us to give them the demo tape. Mike Stone got fired the very next day. We had to bring back Beau Hill as a replacement, or else we couldn’t finish anything. I mean, couldn’t START anything.

When I left the band, we all made a promise not to speak ill of each other. But when I see what they say in the magazines…how can I keep my mouth shut? I would have to sue for slander! YES, I was an addict, but so were they. When we finished recording Reach for the Sky, Stephen became an extreme alcoholic, and I was really into drugs. The tour for that album was okay, but it was cut short because of certain reasons.

Anyway, during our last Japan tour, I made up my mind that I no longer want to be in the band anymore. The Japanese fans were pretty observant. Even though they don’t speak our language, they seemed to sense that something’s wrong and say “Please don’t quit Ratt!” That gave me mixed feelings. Of course, all I could tell them at that time was “Don’t worry, everything’s fine”…because I didn’t want to make them worry any further.

You know, the song I’m Insane from the Out of the Cellar album, that is a song which I wrote when I played in a different band before I joined Ratt. I didn’t know who actually owned the copyright of that song, and right after we released the album, we got sued. To settle that problem, we had to give away most of the money we made from that album. The band paid $200,000 to save us from the trouble of going to the court. I paid all the money for the lawyer.

I don’t give a s#!t about Stephen and Blotz anymore. Stephen and Blotz are both self-centered egomaniacs.  I don’t have any bad feelings about Juan and Warren though. I like them both… But please don’t forget, Ratt was MY band. I’m the one who made that band. Just take a look at the EP, and you’ll find out that I’m the one who wrote all the songs (besides that cover song).

The song Round and Round got huge because of You Think You’re Tough. I’m the one who used to be the leader, but in the past several years, Warren was trying to assume leadership of the band. Gimme a break, how can he take the leadership while he’s blown away like that and can’t even think straight? I mean, come on…he sleeps like 16 hours a day!

I think it’s just a matter of time before the band is going to be disbanded. They’ve got so many issues and everybody hates each other…how could they possibly carry on like that? They may, if the record company required them to make another album, but that’s just hard to imagine because during the recording of Detonator, everybody was fighting all the time. Seriously, making another record with the same members would be like 5 people Sumo-wrestling all at once!

Kaz Hirose interviewed Rob for the May 1992 issue of Burrn!

K: As I know how much Perry McCarty is someone who has great talent, I’m sure that if you are going to work with him, your new band will be really something. Can you tell us more about your new band?

R: Well actually, at the moment, he is still a member of Warrior. When I was about to make this demo tape, I asked him if he could work with me, and he willingly accepted my offer. I’ve also asked him, “If we got a record deal, are you willing to join us on tour?” and his answer was, “Of course, I’d love to!” He sounded like he’s really up for it. He as well has interest in doing the ‘70s-ish kind of heavy rock we played in the demo tape. So currently, Perry is the vocalist, I’m playing the guitar, and a guy called Dino is playing the drums. The thing is, we don’t have a bass player yet. On that tape, I played the bass guitar. Right now, I’m looking for a bass player who’s also a good singer.

K: So right now, It’s not fully lined-up as a band yet?

R: As soon as I get back to the States, we’re starting the rehearsal. Actually, there’s one bass player who I’d like to ask him to join our band. As for the name of the new band, I’m thinking of calling it Call of the Wild. Although, I’ll have to go check if anyone else has the trademark registration for that name before we make that official.

K: Who came up with the name?

R: Me, of course. The titles of the songs you just heard are Number One and Waiting So Long.

K: Those songs sounded to me like Led Zeppelin-ish heavy rock.

R: I have a feeling that many of the bands we see on the scene these days have a dry sound like AC/DC and The Cult. As for my new band, I want to create a psychedelic groove like Jimi Hendrix, by using special effects.

K: When you were in Ratt, the musical potential may have been limited because of Stephen’s voice, but this time, you will be able to try various kinds of new stuff, huh?

R: Exactly. It’s not easy to write a song when there’s no melody, I’m telling ya. His voice range is limited, and he has no melody. That’s why we had to have Beau Hill helping us out. We used to put the melody to the songs by adding the backing vocals. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. Of course, I’m still proud of the songs I wrote when I was in Ratt, but right now, I’m really looking forward to what I’m about to start.

K: Did you listen to their ‘Best Of’ album which just came out?

R: Personally, I don’t think that should be called the ‘Best Of’ album of Ratt. The choices of the songs are real bad. My best Ratt song from that album is Tell the World.

K: Well, that song has the real early Ratt-ish sound, so…

R: That’s what Ratt is all about! The real heavy tune.

K: I agree. In my opinion, the substantial part of Ratt is Heavy Metal.

R: I mean, why did they even think about having that song Givin’ Yourself Away on their ‘Best Of’ album? Gimme a break!

K: I’ve noticed that it doesn’t have all the great songs like I’m Insane, The Morning After, and Sweet Cheater as well…

R: For me, Tell the World represents us the most. I also love Wanted Man. Personally, I don’t think most of the songs from Detonator are well worthy for our ‘Best Of’ album.

K: To be honest, I can’t believe the fact that they put 5 freaking songs from Detonator on their ‘Best Of’ album; and those 5 songs does not include Top Secret for Christ’s sake…

R: As for me, the only songs that might well be considered as our greatest hits are Round and Round, Wanted Man, Lack of Communication, You’re In Love, Lay it Down, Dance, Slip of the Lip…as for the latest ones, it will be Way Cool Jr. and Lovin’ You’s a Dirty Job. And of course, Tell the World and You Think You’re Tough are some of the best tunes as well. There are 5 songs that are not good on that so-called ‘Best Of’ album – 4 Detonator tracks and the Point Break tune.

K: Do you feel rather disappointed with the fact that Ratt’s best of album does not seem to be as good compared with Motley Crue’s best album Decade of Decadence, which was released around the same time?

R: Let’s see how the sales turn out, and we’ll know that the whole world thinks the same way as I do.

K: Did you ever go see any shows of the current Ratt line-up? The one with Michael Schenker as their guest…

R: I believe that Michael is on tour with Ratt as a member of Contraband. It’s not like he became a new member of Ratt. Anyway, I haven’t seen the show. I don’t think I would ever go see their shows. That is NOT Ratt…they are merely just a small mouse.

The Crosby fan site had an exclusive interview with Tommy Asakawa on June 2007.

Q: Your name came up many times in conversation during the few years I knew Robbin. How did you two become friends?

A: I had recently been playing with Stephen Pearcy and was looking for a gig. Robbin’s band Metropolis were regulars playing the La Jolla/Beach circuit and I’d heard they were looking to expand the line-up with another guitarist. The band was awesome and I wanted a shot, so I contacted Rob. Before we ever played together, Rob had bonded with my mother and there was an incredible chemistry between us. Something strange happened the evening that I first time I met Rob: a longtime neighbour that lived across the street from me died of a heroin overdose – my mom, Rob and I watched the police as wekk as ambulance take away the body as we quietly cracked jokes to break the tension. From that 1st night, we would be linked eternally.

Q: You and Robbin were close? Did you guys hang out a lot?

A: EVERY DAY, if Rob’s call didn’t wake me, my first act was to call him, even prior to my morning constitutional. We plotted everyday, in the A.M. hours, then attacked the rest of the day with gusto. My world and life is defined by this period.

Q: You were in some very early bands with Robbin in the late ’70’s. Can you tell me about some of those projects? Who else was involved?

A: My 1st band was Buster Cherry (Mickey Ratt) with Stephen Pearcy and Chris Hager (Rough Cutt), that band eventually evolved into Ratt. My second band was Metropolis with Robbin and Parramore McCarty. The groups that followed: Xcalibur, Phenomenon, Secret Service, Mac Meda, etc. were mostly permutations of the same core group of players. There’s many that don’t know what they want in life, and our bands would often be a waypoint in that quest – most whom stayed with it, you know of.

After we did all we thought possible in the San Diego rock scene, me, Robbin, Stephen and Chris Hager migrated to L.A. to seek our fortunes. Also in that group was Jake E. Lee, amongst others – Parramore and Craig Goldie would soon join us. Pearcy had lived in L.A. and had roots there, we didn’t go in blind. There’s a screenplay here.

Q: What was the San Diego Music scene like back the late ‘70’s? Was there a rivalry among bands/players or did you guys all hang together?

A: There was vicious rivalry in S.D. back then, however, there was a very civil way we interacted with one other, not unlike old-school republicans and democrats. The only real conflicts that occurred at a gig would be between the audience members, unless an audience member assaulted one of the band members, or audibly complained of the quality of music, then all bets were off. Back then, Jake E. Lee was a serious rival from across town – we never spoke then and there was pretty serious tension. After we got to L.A. and I met Jake, I discovered what a wonderful human he is. I have loved him dearly since.

Q: Any Metropolis anecdotes to share?

A: Metropolis was the La Jolla High School official rock band – there was this cute little guy that would hang by the stage and watch us like a C.I.A. agent: it was lil’ Warren DeMartini!

Q: I’m sure there were a few gigs that stand out as memorable or special…do tell!!

A: I’ll never forget Robbin and I playing a full-house Uptown Hall gig in S.D. and a fight broke out that was directly out of the movies: fists and chairs flying, people being tossed down stairwells, screaming woman, blood everywhere, but the band played on while watching each other watch the chaos ensue. Rob and I never laughed so hard whilst strumming guitars! Another standout moment: Metropolis had this gig on the beach in La Jolla with multiple kegs of free beer – it was out of control and one of the best days of my life. Bill Lourden, then Robin Trower’s drummer, sat in and we played a medley of Trower tunes – it was INCREDIBLE! Rob played the holy s#!t out of Trower songs, as he was well known for. We were so busy then, that night we played the Catamaran in Pacific Beach! I still remember the acute pain in my brain from those two gigs.

Q: In the mid ‘70’s, hard rock music had kind of stagated and not much was going on. You guys in San Diego and a lot of the L.A. rock players paved the way for the next big explosion in the ‘80’s. How did you see it?

A: The atmosphere for rock/metal in those days tended to be rare, as it was before Van Halen – we were caught between the disco era and a strong punk movement which we had a very healthy respect for. At the pinnacle of my days playing with Secret Service (me, Rob Secret Service (me, Rob & Parramore) – we’d pay the Del Mar Fairgrounds and regularly attract a crowd of 3000+. For a group of wayward knuckle-heads on acid, that wasn’t too bad.

Q: Sounds interesting! Can you Describe a typical day for you guys back then?

A: I would head up Mt. Soledad (La Jolla) to Robb’s pad, pick him up and over Muirlands to Rob Klima’s, where we’d ritually smoke a joint then make our way to Paul Laskers; there we rehearsed. Paul’s pad is up the mountain with this panoramic view of La Jolla, beyond downtown San Diego. We’d walk through Paul’s foyer to his bedroom but not before crossing the Rubicon: Paul’s mom, Carolyn – she’s a gifted pianist and has her string ensemble rehearsing in the living-room that we pass daily…stoned. There I learned my social graces. We’d quietly rehearse our parts in Paul’s bedroom, then move to the garage where we’d proceed to tear the place an @sshole with pure volume. Parramore would come later in rehearsals as he lived further away. We would go from concerto in C minor adjacent to Judas Priest Jr. on LSD – go figure….

Q: So it sounds like you were really soaking up all kinds of influences!

A: I cannot say enough about the deep cultural exposure that I received during this period – it would shape the rest of my life.

Q: When you learned that Robbin had passed…what were your feelings? Did you talk about it with others from the old S.D. gang that knew him?

A: I didn’t do enough, I let him down; I could’ve made a difference…I let myself down. I did speak with many of our close friends including Harry and Joanne Crosby. It seemed so out of our hands, we were all swept up in a storm of pain and emotion, so far beyond any natural grieving process.

Q: In retrospect what are your thoughts? Did anything positive come from it?

A: I didn’t know it until after Rob died, how much love there was between us all. His death changed us. It served as a vehicle to bring old friends back together and bring new friends together like you.

Q: When Ratt exploded in 1983-84, I bet the old San Diego gang were proud that finally someone had broken through. Ratt kind of blazed the trail for a virtual flood of San Diego musicians that were soon after to make their mark in the music biz. Would you agree?

A: Absolutely, Curt – we were floating with anticipation as there were at least 3 bands comprised of mostly S.D. players that did the migration to L.A. together in record contract contention simultaneously. We were excited for the Ratt guys as well as Rough Cutt that went on to Warner Brothers, and my band Warrior’s MCA along with Virgin Records deals. This was all in the shadow of Jake getting the Ozzy gig.

Q: When Ratt would roll through Los Angeles or San Diego on tour, I’d lay odds that there were some massive parties and lots of good memories!! Anything stand out in your mind?

A: Laughing at my childhood pals holding court with throngs of beautiful women. I was overwhelmed with emotion seeing Robbin and Stephen so happy with their hard-earned success.

Q: Did anything change for you after you left San Diego to pursue your music career?

A: Everything changed, but my solid foundation built in San Diego with the likes of Robbinson Crosby and all my incredible friends is my continual inspiration.

Q: The music biz is a tough business – it’s hard sometimes for bands to juggle the creative and commercial commitment sides. How was it from your perspective?

A: I was disappointed with the business side of music from the moment I was engaged contractually; greed backed by the law, sprinkled with a dash of ignorance is a potent combo.

Q: You have gone on to a very successful career in the entertainment business. Did experiences in the early days back in San Diego help you on your career path?

A: To be sure, my music background has served well as I never left, simply adjusted. I moved into the television and film world, integrating my musicality to enhance my visual skills. I’ve edited and produced for MTV, VH1, NBC, Fox plus more. Check out the following link for a list of my works: IMDB.

Q: Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to add?

A: Soon after I started playing in Metropolis. Rob would often say to me “Your Pearcy friend is too f#ckin’ cool!” They soon became the tightest of friends. Stephen had lived in L.A. prior to his S.D. days and was very aware of the L.A. scene. One night Stephen, Rob and I went to L.A. to scout our future. I remember hanging out in a trailer in the back of Decker’s house (Rob’s brother-in-law) in Santa Monica reading local rock rags to find a band to hear. Some band named Van Halen was playing the Whiskey – so off we went into the night. Do I have to tell you that Edward and company ripped our faces off? We were so f#cking star-struck, it was nauseating. We hung out after the gig and met Edward. This guy was a prince!

We went on trading gear and hanging with Ed, supporting V.H. in anyway we could. The boys must have thought we had some kind of cool style. Dave & Ed came to S.D. one day when Rob & I took them shopping for shoes as well as threads. The shoes that they wore on the cover of the first V.H. album were the ones we bought shopping that day. V.H. set a standard for us, a model for us to build our own structure – we watched closely, hung tight and took copious notes.

We became rock prophets in S.D. Nobody knew V.H. Yet, here was Steve, Rob and I, swearing on our lives that V.H. would rule the planet to anyone in S.D. who would listen. When V.H. took over the planet over, our S.D. reputations went triple-platinum. People thought we had a direct line to God…we did!

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