Juan Croucier Interview for RobbinCrosby.net
Today marks the second anniversary of Robbin's passing, and we at RC.net have something very special to mark this day. Below is an exclusive interview with Juan Croucier. Juan, we can't thank you enough. So, without further delay, enjoy the interview! We hope you enjoy it!
Q:Juan thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts & 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: The first time we met, I was at my apartment in Redondo Beach , CA . I had a wanted add 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 another one that I can't remember the name of. 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 & Robbin spent a lot of time together. Can you share a couple of your favorite Robbin Crosby tour/war stories?
A: I have so many memories of great, fun times. 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 & 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/peacemaker. 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; it was made up of 5 very different personalities. In the early days, Robbin was more influential with the songs and the band over all. He had good ideas as a songwriter. He was also very aware of the bands 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 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 and it only got worse. Sadly, his guitar playing as well as his song writing 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 in a band like Ratt and make 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 members' 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. The band could have had a much longer carreer had we done so. When he left the band it was truly the beginning of the end for Ratt.
Q: I gotta ask....Robbin was really big on nicknames....did you have one!?!
A: I can't remember, other than “a—hole or f$#king a—hole.” Just kidding. He may have come up with “Juan-hour-late.” I'm not sure. He may have also bee the one that came up with “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, he was named Catfish…there was usually some kind of story behind it. First time, I heard him call Jimmy "Catfish," I thought he was really losing it…come on, “Catfish?” But that was his sense of humor at work. 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.
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.” “Fucking Hazel, man…we're in Chicago not Denver!” Things like that… “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. I believe Robbin came up with that one also or was that one Bob…I'm not sure, it was 22 years ago.
Q:It's often been said that Robbin was a kind & gentle person and very approachable in almost any situation. He always seemed to have time for the fans. Your thoughts?
A: Robbin loved the fans. He took a lot of time out to sign things and 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 LA and had no place to stay. That's the way Robbin was. He would do things for people and not want anything in return. He really did have a very loving heart and was a very sensitive person too. 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: I think it was Nikki Sixx that came up with that one and 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 & 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. We did a lot of fun things back in those days before we “made it.”
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, it was dream like to me. It truly was, a dream come true for all of us. 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 US were always a blast to do too. Awesome times. You should have been there!
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 carreer 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 & 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 Steve had going on.
The last song 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 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, in his car and on the spot. He would just ask me, what would you do over this and I would show him. One good memory 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' from 'Out of the Cellar'. It's got some great backup vocals on there. My favorite RATT songs all feature good, catchy backup vocals and you seemed to be the one doing most of them, much like Michael Anthony of Van Halen did for them. 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 members of the band. (Big mistake) 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 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 & then came back. True? If so, why was that? Did you go back to Dokken?
A: I was in Dokken for many years before Ratt. In 1979, Don, 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 Ratt and for Ratt to audition him a couple weeks before Bob called me and asked me to come and 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 and I could not get a song in edgewise. 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 spagetti 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! It was like being cowboy for a day. Riding the horses was too funny. Watching everyone unable to control the horses. No one (including myself) knew how to ride… We should have shot the making of that video. It would have been priceless today! Talk about out of your element! Ratt the touring band on horses! Too funny man… An interesting element about that video was that most of the people in the video were people that worked with us on that touring staff. We gave everyone parts to play in the video. We had a great time making it.
Q: What song / album / video are you most proud of and why?
A: The Invasion record was one that 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. However, The Cellar was a special record, but on Invasion… That record 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 I can give any new up and coming band is to make sure you're aware of your “here to stay 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 carreer like it's your last, because if you're not careful, it may very well be your last step.
Song wise, I like a lot of the songs musically, but many of the lyrics were very weak and lacked meaning and substance, therefore (to this day) make 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 Your 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 were a waste of money and sucked. But I've seen videos from other bands in those days that were lame too. Breaking The Chains, by Dokken 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. Shit, 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: I've recently heard rumours that you are considering rejoining RATT. Any chance RATT's 4 remaining original members will reunite to give the people what they want?
A : That is always a danger! I recently went and jammed with Steve at a show and also jammed with Bob and Warren at another show. I guess we did get together again, just not on the same stage! Ok, joking aside, I'm doing just fine and I'm not in any big hurry to put the band back together. I would think that we are at least collectively smart enough to do that at some point (simple math) but it's obviously not up to me alone, the other remaining members or ex-members (whatever) have been in court fighting each other and are not on speaking terms at the moment. I guess when the bank accounts call out louder than the egos do, they will want to talk again. I am and have been very ambivalent about doing it. If it never happens, I'm fine with that too. I could never go back to the fighting and tension we used to have. Maybe, some would argue that it served us well and created a healthy tension. I just don't have any tolerance for that kind of crap anymore. You either get it or you don't and I have to be in a situation that is agreeable to the same pursuit of perfection or I'm out like a flash!
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 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 every where you went… What do you think? You would have had to be dead to not have had a sinfully fun time. Too bad we were not smart enough collectively as a band to make it work longer for us…
Q: I know you are incredibly busy these days and that you own your own recording studio 'The Cellar'....any exciting new bands recording there that we can look out for?
A: I just try to work with good bands. It's up to them to sell themselves. I have been annoyed in the past with some bands that just don't have songs. That's when it becomes a job. In the future, I plan on working with fewer bands and focus on my records more. Those are much more fun for me as an engineer, producer and artist. If you would like to see a list of most of the bands that I have worked with, go to www.juancroucier.com and look at the discography.
Q: Tell me about your current project 'Liquid Sunday', What's up these days? Got any live shows or a tour planned?
A : Liquid Sunday is not a band right now. I've been too busy to put the band back together yet. I had a three piece band about 3 years ago but the guitar player decided he wanted to play coffee houses and find a girlfriend. The drummer just sort of got lost at his day job. To this day, I don't think they have found him! I heard a rumor about a dumpster accident but it's not confirmed. I plan on checking out some new players soon, maybe after I make the next record. I really miss playing live with Liquid Sunday. It was fun band to be in.
Q: A million thanks Juan, anything else you would like to add about any subject we didn't cover??
A: You're very welcome. Robbin was not only a very special person that I had the privilege to share my life with, but he was also a musician I miss dearly and can never play with again. I lost so much the day he left us. My bro to the right of me, on stage with Ratt… Robbinson Lantz Crosby, 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 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 what ever, 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.
I also want to tell the readers to stop by my website: www.juancroucier.com and pick up my Liquid Sunday record! I also have a new record of the demos I recorded while in Ratt that I'm about to put out in the very near future. You can also read a lot of messages Robbin wrote to the Ratt fans on The Cellar Message Board. Enjoy!
Juan, thank you so much for taking the time with us, we really appreciate it!