AS THE LEGAL BATTLE OVER THE RATT NAME GOES “ROUND AND ROUND,” TENSIONS FLARE BETWEEN FORMER BANDMATES
Matt Wake of LA Weekly reports:
When an attorney calls me for this story and says he represents Ratt, I ask what version of the band he works with. The attorney, Stephen Doniger, chuckles and replies, “That’s sad you have to ask that.”
Two factions have been warring over who, and who doesn’t, have the right to use the name and trademarks of Ratt,…known for ’80s hits such as Round and Round and Lay it Down. Since 2015, drummer Bobby Blotzer had been playing shows under the name Ratt with a lineup in which he’s the sole member from the band’s ’80s heyday. Then, last October, founding singer Stephen Pearcy reunited with the other musicians from the Round and Round era — guitarist Warren DeMartini and bassist Juan Croucier — for a surprise performance on a Monsters of Rock Cruise.
Pearcy, DeMartini and Croucier have since announced a series of Ratt shows, including high profile sets at Maryland’s M3 Rock Festival and Rocklahoma in Pryor, Oklahoma. Pearcy says he and DeMartini are even working on demos for a new Ratt album. Meanwhile, a sold-out December 29th Michigan casino show by Blotzer’s Ratt was cancelled. According to a Facebook post by Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, that performance was nixed after being “issued a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the parties claiming rights to the Ratt trademark.” (“Sister Christian” hitmakers Night Ranger, who were also on the bill, did go ahead and perform that evening.)
Since one Ratt boasts the band’s frontman, guitar hero and bassist, and is booking large rock festivals, while another Ratt is built around the drummer, and just got cancelled, it might appear this dispute is over. Not so fast, says Blotzer. The drummer released a defiant statement via Facebook on January 9th. “This has NEVER been put to a FINAL judgment,” Blotzer wrote. “Let me repeat: NO FINAL JUDGEMENT…”
…Attorney Doniger, however, says caring about the fans is exactly why his clients “will not allow Blotzer to continue touring as Ratt with his cover band.’”
On a recent afternoon, Pearcy is driving in his Dodge Charger when reached via phone. Asked about the Blotzer dispute, Pearcy says, “That would be like somebody taking years of what you worked for and trying to change the course of history … and saying, ‘Hey, forget about those guys. It’s all about me.’” He laughs. “Well, if the guy wrote songs it might be a whole different story. But I really don’t even want to talk about this person actually…”
…When I reached out to Blotzer for an interview, his attorney Drew Sherman wrote back via email that the drummer was on “winter holiday through the end of next week,” which was well past this story’s deadline. Two days after that email, Blotzer posted his 1,200-plus word Facebook statement, which he apparently wrote in response to something prominent rock-radio host Eddie Trunk said about Ratt on his SiriusXM talk show.
Blotzer had called in to previous episodes of Trunk’s show to discuss the Ratt dispute, which the host says he’s still welcome to do. “When this stuff happens, I don’t take sides in it,” Trunk tells me. “I’ve always maintained the policy that all sides are open to come on my shows and discuss it.”
In Blotzer’s Facebook statement, he maintains that he simply wanted to go tour and play, but his bandmates’ cease-and-desist tactics prevented him from working. “They didn’t speak to each other till they saw the huge success we had this past year,” Blotzer wrote on Facebook. “We did 70 or so shows, and grossed more money on this tour than any tour Ratt has done in 20 years past.”
But Doniger says it’s not true that Pearcy, Croucier and DeMartini had no plans to tour again. They just didn’t want to tour with Blotzer. “The guys [Pearcy, Croucier, DeMartini and Blotzer] toured together between 2012 and 2014,” Doniger says. “They stopped because Stephen Pearcy’s twin sister died and he had to take time off. At that point DeMartini and Croucier decided not to tour without all partners for the integrity of the band. But within a year Blotzer was taking steps to usurp control of the trademarks so that he could tour by himself as Ratt…”
…[When] asked about what he feels is the biggest misconception of the Ratt dispute, Blotzer attorney Sherman says, “That Juan Croucier owns the Ratt trademarks. The summary judgment ruling was not a final judgment and the trademarks have not transferred away from WBS. Even if they did in the future, they would be owned by the Ratt Partnership, not Juan Croucier. And the only two remaining members of the Ratt Partnership, according to Croucier, are him and Bobby.”
Blotzer/WBS have filed a request for reconsideration, scheduled for January 23rd in a downtown Los Angeles federal courtroom. According to Sherman, “There are significant contradictions in sworn testimony by Mr. Croucier.” But Doniger says, “Blotzer tried to pull a fast one and has now ended up with nothing.” At the hearing, Doniger is seeking over $250,000 in costs and attorney’s fees from WBS for his clients.
In addition to the ability to generate revenue by touring as Ratt, whoever controls the trademarks also controls revenue from merchandising and licensing (but not music sales or publishing)…
…“I think it’s quickly forgotten just how big Ratt was,” says Trunk. “To me, album for album, song for song, you could even make the case they were more consistent than Mötley Crüe. But I think a lot of the reason they don’t get that same reverence as a band like Mötley Crüe is they had a lot of lineup changes. Mötley was great at making a book and dating Hollywood celebrities, and the excess really fueled their legacy, whereas Ratt kind of kept it in-house and you didn’t really hear about it all that much. So I think that factors in their perception…”
…Bands successfully touring with one original member has become commonplace…But how do two touring versions of a band impact fans? That depends, Trunk says. “I think for the really hardcore true fans that really know what’s going on, it divides them and obviously upsets them. I think that for a majority of people that don’t follow it that closely, honestly, a lot of them don’t know anything different. They see a logo, they see a name and they go and hear the songs played well like they remember them, and they have some fun and have beers with their friends and go home.”
Read the entire LA Weekly article by clicking here.