Juan Croucier is someone who is true to his word, true to his ideals. That isn’t always practical or popular in the world of hard rock/metal but Juan has not wavered and continues to stick to his guns to this day doing things his way. Known for playing bass, singing and writing a great deal of the hits during RATT’s multiplatinum era he now runs a recording studio and still stays active with a variety of musical projects. He doesn’t do a tremendous amount of interviews so we are honored to catch up with him and get an update on where he’s been and what he’s thinking. Read on…
Q: Thanks for your time Juan…it’s a crime but I haven’t seen you since you played here in Rockford,Illinois on the Reach for the Sky Tour. It was one of my greatest concert memories but suffice to say…it’s been a while. Can you start by letting everyone know what you’ve been up to in case they’ve been out of the loop?
A: Well, let me start off by saying thank you for this opportunity. For many years now, I have been producing and engineering records out of my studio ‘The Cellar.’ I started producing bands back in 1987 and among them, that year, was a band called Love/Hate. I’ve also kept playing, I’m currently in two bands, one is called ‘Juan Croucier’s Dirty Rats,’ with Pete Holmes (Black N Blue) and Jon E. Love (Love/Hate), the band plays a lot of the Ratt catalog as well as other originals. The other band is called ‘The Hard Rock All-stars,’ that band is a cover band with Jaime St. James (Black N Blue), Pete Holmes and Jon E. Love.
Q: Was engineering/producing something you were always working on as a hobby while you were busy touring/writing/recording with RATT? Do you find it to be anywhere near as satisfying as playing live or is it a lot more work?
A: I have always loved record production. Early on as a musician I was into quite a variety of bands that had very different production styles. From bands like YES and Be Bop Deluxe to bands like Aerosmith and Blue Oyster Cult.
It was quite obvious to me early on that having a great song was one thing, but having a great song along with a great production behind it, could really make a big difference and make a song amazing.
As a teenager I started writing and recording my own songs. Part of the reason I began to record my songs and not just write them and bring them to my bands was, being a bass player sometimes put me at a bit of a disadvantage
with guitar players and singers in bands. So, if I brought in the song demoed, it was much easier for the other band members to clearly understand the idea and not just have to work off of a bass line with a vocal melody.
The studio brings a different kind of musical satisfaction for me as a singer/songwriter. It’s much more of a creative endeavor, much more meticulous. It can really be a lot of work; long hours and so on, but it is also very rewarding. While playing or performing live, is more of an interpretation of the concept of the song and the vibe between
you (the band) and the audience. Both obviously require very different approaches and talents. They both have equally important functions, especially if you are a songwriter who performs his material live.
Q: To me growing up, you’re a legend. You were a cog in two of my favorite bands, Dokken and of course an integral singer/player/writer in RATT. Looking back and reading recent clips these are not only two of the most popular but also most DYSFUNCTIONAL bands ever. Hell, Dokken even named their album that. Recently, even after all these years George and Don were still trading jabs in the press…..the RATT situation isn’t much better. They recorded what many people felt was a good album and were barely able to stay together long enough to promote it. As someone who has been outside both situations for a while now, is there something the fans are missing? Why, after all this time can’t these bands simply coexist and present a united front to us, the people who have supported them for all these years?
A: Thank you, for the complement. To answer the jest of your question, it’s because being in a band is very much like being in a marriage. Often you’ve heard the politically correct term “musical differences,” when band members reach an impasse. But it’s really like anything else in life, when two or more people do not naturally get along,
little things can (and usually do) become big problems. Left UN-dealt with, the problems often escalate and after you have a history of not agreeing on things and just not getting along, everything becomes harder than it should be. Also, often times, it really comes down to maturity, collective intelligence and respect for one another. Oh and also, some musicians are just plain disturbed; it’s drama in — drama out. They don’t see themselves as others see them, so they don’t think they have a problem and it goes on and on, becoming a vicious cycle. Sadly, signs eventually come out and the fans pick up on it… Ironically, a lot of musicians don’t realize how closely fans watch them. Bottom line: some things are better left unsaid to fans.
Q: I realize it has been forever and a year but what do you cherish or recall about your involvement in recording Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains”? The sound and songs still come off well after all these years.
A: Breakin’ The Chains was recorded from a few different sessions over time and put together as a record. Back then, getting into a recording studio was almost impossible for most bands, especially because most bands were broke.
So, we pulled favors and often times worked the graveyard shift (from about midnight on in studios), we did whatever it took. The main sessions for what became Breakin’ The Chains were done at Dieter Dierks’ (Scorpions Producer) studio in Stommeln Germany and my brother Tom actually played bass on three of the tracks. A studio musician played bass on the rest of the tracks. I wasn’t in the band at the time because going to Europe without getting paid, would have meant losing my home (apartment). Don just wanted to get something out and really didn’t care how he did it. Those were desperate times for us as a band and succeeding meant everything. We rerecorded some parts of the record and remixed it in the United States for the Elektra release. When we did that, I ended up co-writing
a couple of the songs on that record. I recently listened to that record and I was surprised at how “stiff” the bass tracks felt to me (compared to how I played them), they just didn’t sound smooth, although I think Tom did an excellent job on the tracks he played on.
Q: When you went from Dokken to RATT was that considered a lateral move or a definite upgrade back when it happened….or better question….how did the move affect you personally?
A: I was in Dokken when it was just a three-piece band (in the mid to late ‘70’s). Don and I shared the lead vocal duties. Then about three years later we brought in George Lynch and Mick Brown. I put in a lot of time and effort into Dokken. I can’t really explain everything because it would take too long, but once we discovered and brought Michael Wagener to the United States from Hamburg Germany, he started working on rerecording and remixing
Breakin’ The Chains. While that was going on, the only gig we did was opening for Motley Crue at The Roxy, when their Too Fast For Love EP came out. I needed to play live, so I could make enough money to pay my bills. That was when I started playing live with Ratt. Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch had been managing Dokken and finally got us a record deal on Elektra. By this time, it was easy to see that George and Don didn’t get along at all. I was forced by the band and management to quit Ratt but only after we had recorded the Ratt EP. Therefore, although Dokken had a record deal and Ratt did not, after finally hearing the Ratt EP finished, I took about two weeks and really thought about it and finally went with Ratt (without a record deal) because it was just a much better fit for me as a player and as band mates.
Q: I used to draw the RATT logo on everything I owned. I bought the shirts….poster of the RATT being electrocuted on the studio console, buttons, etc….I have no qualms about admitting this. You were actually my favorite band back in the day. When I finally got to see you live I can still remember sitting all week in anticipation for the show.
Like many people, I have seen Stephen solo and RATT without you and Robbin (R.I.P.) I am a KISS and VH fan so I have no problem with lineup changes but there is something completely and totally “off” about any RATT I have seen since that Reach tour. Assuming you could somehow come to an agreement with the RATT co., which seems doubtful, would it STILL sound off to my ears without the mighty ROBBIN CROSBY?
Give me your honest, insider opinion as to the sheer importance of Robbin Crosby and what he meant to RATT…..
A: Well, I “never say never,” because I can’t predict the future but there have been some very nasty things said and done to me by my former band mates in Ratt. It has destroyed the trust, bond and respect we once had among each other.
Robbin was an important part of the Ratt chemistry. Despite his demons, he was one of the smarter ones in the band—he got it. He also tried to keep things in the band positive, for the most part. His guitar style and sound juxtaposed with Warren’s gave the band a unique contrast. It helped to forge Ratt’s signature sound.
Carlos Cavazo was playing in my band (The Dirty Rats) for about a year and a half before Warren called him to ask him to join Ratt. I know for a fact that (although Carlos is a formidable guitar player) Warren called him because hewas playing in my band. I took it personal (as intended) and it’s just an example of some of the bad things that have
happened over the years that are pretty hard to ignore and just get over. But I consider Carlos a friend and I understand why he took the offer to join Ratt. He is a fine guitar player, I know that he can cover anything Robbin did (all due respect to Robbin) and he’s also a good singer too.
Q: I got a chance to talk to Love/Hate’s Jizzy who basically indicated that he thought rock books were a total sham. He said that beyond the obvious proofreading errors there was a general slapdash approach to the whole thing. Have you read Bobby’s, what do you think of these Rock Star bios and would you ever consider doing one to set the record straight?
A: I have not read Blotzer’s “book.” I’ve known Bob since he and I were in Middle School. We actually used to be really good friends before and during Ratt. I can only imagine what he said about me, but considering the source and our post-Ratt relationship, I’m not in a big hurry to read it.
I’m considering writing a book but it’s a “dual edged sword” so, we’ll see… It seems like a lot of people are writing books and putting out hot sauces these days.
Q: It has been said that you had turned down the offers to do these RATT reunions because you preferred to keep an eye on family. Do you feel blessed that you weren’t raising little ones during the 80s and do you feel like you got a chance to experience a different side of life these last couple decades while still being able to do things musically?
A: Okay, great example of one of the many attempts by them to transmogrify the truth, let me set the record straight: I have had many offers to go back to Ratt (ironically, sometimes while they were deriding me in the press at the same time) and the main reason I have not gone back to the band is because we had a very problematic situation in the first place, and nothing had (or has) changed, we don’t get along, it’s not fun and things that should be easy are hard. Not because of my children. I have two awesome kids that were born while I was in Ratt and that didn’t deter me from being in Ratt. Some people like being in tumultuous relationships, I don’t. I have been fortunate enough to be able to work in my recording studio, still play in bands and be a father that is present in my children’s lives at the same time. It’s not, “all about Juan.”
Q: I watch the old Ratt the Video to get my classic RATT fix. I love the Japan footage it is AMAZING!! I know the last thing you probably feel like doing is watching that or your New Years Eve show in Japan but……..do you ever think of Japan, the fans there, or going back? Mr. Big is absolutely huge over there and you would have to imagine a reunited RATT would be as well….
A: Japan was great! In 1986 Ratt was given an award for being the biggest international rock act in Japan. The fans in Japan were like no other. Ratt and the Japanese fans had a very special connection. I have nothing but love and respect for Ratt’s Japanese fans. I’m sure that a reunited Ratt would do very well in Japan.
Q: From what I have heard that your new ALL-Star band that you are doing plays quite a bit of ourhometown boys Cheap Trick….Are you personally a fan of Tom and the band (extra points for saying yes)? I have to mention Cheap Trick as often as Eddie Trunk mentions UFO.
A: Yes! In fact, Jaime St. James andI both love Cheap Trick! I am a big fan of Tom Petersson. He’s a very underrated bass player, in my opinion. He’s very innovative and plays a critical role in the band. They opened for Ratt on one of our early tours. It was great to tour together! They’re great guys on and off stage.
Years before that, I even tried to get an audition with them after Tom left and before John Brandt got the gig. Ironically, I had replaced John in a band called Micki Free. But at the time, I was playing in a band with Bob James (ex-Montrose) along with Blotzer on drums and Ken Adamany (Cheap Trick’s manager) was managing us. When I talked to Ken about a possible audition, (in the hallway at a showcase we were doing) the look he gave me was a, “you’re fired” look! Obviously, I never got an audition, and the next time I saw Ken was years later, backstage at a Ratt concert where Cheap Trick was opening for us. But to me, Cheap Trick is an American national treasure.
Just a great band all the way around. The Hard Rock All-stars are proud of playing Cheap Trick songs!
Q: The shows you’re playing sound like being onstage is fun again for you. Do you like seeing peoples faces when you launch into a RATT classic that they might not have heard you sing in 20 years???
A: I only stopped playing live for about five years while I put all my time into my studio, making records for other bands. I started playing live again back in 1997 and have been playing live since then. I guess it’s only because I play locally that a lot of people don’t know that I never really stopped playing for that long. I love playing with The Dirty Rats, and The Hard Rock All-stars. Both bands are a blast to play in and yes, it’s great to see people’s reaction when playing songs like Round N Round!
Q: There are a few bands nowadays like the Donnas, Vains of Jenna and some of the other Swedish groups that proudly fly the RATT flag and cite you guys as an influence. Is the band’s legacy secure in your eyes despite all the damage that has been done to the name since you’ve moved on to other things? When all is said and done can you rest your head knowing you guys made your mark like few bands did?
A: I am very proud of what we did in Ratt! We were “the real thing,” and no one can take that away from us. Loud, proud, dysfunctional and dangerous, like it or not, that was Ratt. I’m glad there are bands that understand what we were about and are influenced by that. Now that all is said and done, I can rest my head knowing that I did everything I could to keep the band alive and moving forward, with integrity, as long as possible. But other forces
eventually prevailed and brought about the end of the band in 1992, leaving the drummer and I as owners of the name. Beyond that, you can do your own research on the Internet…
Q: Thank you SO much for making this onetime teenage RATT fan turned writer very happy! Is there anything else you wanna say to the faithful….any websites or Twitters to plug?
A: Yes! I’m getting ready to start a new solo record, a follow up to my Liquid Sunday solo record. I hope to have it out early next year. In the mean time, you can pick up a copy of the Liquid Sunday record at www.Juancroucier.com Check it out, if you like Ratt, I think you’ll like the Liquid Sunday CD as well. I also post show dates on my website too. Come on out to see us live, both bands (The Dirty Rats and Hard Rock All-stars) kick ass! Thank you, to all the Ratt/Juan Croucier fans. I really appreciate your support! You guys are the best! Godspeed! www.juancroucier.com