INTERVIEW WITH MITCH PERRY GROUP AND EX-RATT (BOBBY BLOTZER’S VERSION) GUITARIST MITCH PERRY
Date: May 21, 2020
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography (first, third and fourth photos)
Guitarist Mitch Perry has a new album ’Music Box.’ He issued a new video a few weeks back for the song “Believe” which features performance footage of the Mitch Perry Group alongside images and footage intertwined related to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The song “Believe” is just about what it says, it’s about having the faith that things are going to work out and the things will get better,” says Perry. It’s unusual for a rock band to launch an album with a ballad, but who’s to say what is right or wrong in the music business anymore? We talked about “Believe,” working with Michael Schenker, Edgar Winter, working with Bobby Blozter’s Ratt and working with Steve Priest’s The Sweet. Watch out for a track by track of ‘Music Box’ with Mitch in the coming days.
Sleaze Roxx: YouR new song “Believe” has this uplifting and ‘spiritual’ vibe to it. Did you have this in mind as you were working on the song?
Mitch Perry: You know what? I love that you said that, thank you. I’d be lying to you if I told you that I hit that ‘spiritual’ button when we started to record. We wanted to do something with the whole record, including “Believe” where I wanted it to feel to the listener like the band was playing right in front of you. With all the stuff you can do with pro-tools these days, there’s really not a lot of ‘magic’ in making a ‘perfect’ sounding record. We can take bits and pieces and line them up ‘artificially’ and it’ll sound great, but to me, the magic is the combustible energy of people playing their instruments in a room together. We used a clicktrack. We let the album breathe. You really are getting a live performance, though as you would imagine, we did some overdubs. The core of the song was all of us playing together at once. I hope that is in some way contributing to that ‘spirit’ that you hear on “Believe.”
The song was recorded long before we got hit with Covid-19. The message is universal. It could be you believing that you’re going to land that job. [You] believe that the girl is going to say ‘yes’ when you ask her to be your wife. It could even mean that you believe that you’re going to get something like your stimulus check. Whatever it is. Having said that, it’s unusual for us to release a ballad to introduce the album, but it’s just so now. I know we had the band footage because we had shot that during tracking of the song. It was just a matter of finding the footage to make up the difference. I think the video turned out amazing between the performance and the other footage giving you the video that you see there.
Mitch Perry Group‘s “Believe” video:
Sleaze Roxx: How much of a wrench did the pandemic throw into the release of this album? I know people seem to go back and forth as in this is a perfect time to release new music because you have a captive audience and other people feel the complete opposite way.
Mitch Perry: Here’s my thought on the matter. We’re a brand new band. We’re competing for attention. Well, first of all, I like you and everyone else wish this wasn’t happening, but I think this hurts us less than a band that had a million dollar summer stadium tour lined up. I think this puts us in a position that we can get up running when we get the greenlight to get out there and play shows. We went out of our way to write, perform and record an album that we wanted to hear ourselves. Everything from production, songwriting and each individual instrument and vocal was put under a magnifying glass. I hope people will find some time in their day to listen to the album as a whole, from beginning to end. That’s the way I used and still like to listen to records. Unfortunately, over the course of time that has changed, I wanted to create a record that made me feel like I felt when I listened to a record when I was 17 years old and made me want to play guitar. I think we accomplished that.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you say the album is a blend of your influences from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, or would you say it’s more of a contemporary rock record or does it encompass everything?
Mitch Perry: I love that question. It encompasses everything. It’s got everything from the ’70s rock that I love along with everything else that came after and before it. We were sitting around listening to the mix of the record, we looked at each other and said “Who do we even sound like?” None of us could come up with a description of anyone that we sounded like, however you can hear The Eagles, you can hear Humble Pie, you can hear Led Zeppelin. I could go on and on. You can hear the influences on the album. We didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a fresh look at a style of music that hasn’t been getting the proper attention at this point in time.
Sleaze Roxx: Where can people get [the album] ‘Music Box’?
Mitch Perry: You can get it on www.mitchperry.com/ . It’s on CD Baby [and] iTunes. We will have hard copies via our website, but as you can imagine there have been manufacturing delays due to the virus. We’re hoping to have the hard copies available by the end of the month, but if you’d like to get right now, you can get it. We were talking earlier about possibly doing a track by track? We should do that. I think based on the questions you’ve been asking, you’re going to be pleased with the record.
Mitch Perry Group EPK:
Sleaze Roxx: You played with Michael Schenker, one of my favorite guitarists. You came on board for the ‘Perfect Timing’ album.
Mitch Perry: That’s one of my proudest moments!
Sleaze Roxx: Give me a little background on how you got involved with McAuley Schenker Group?
Mitch Perry: That’s an awesome story. I was in a band called Heaven prior to that. We recorded “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Prior to me joining [Heaven], they had a song called “Rock School.” They had toured with [Iron] Maiden and KISS. They were the cool band for a moment. I was playing with them and we were signed to Leber-Krebs [Management] and so was Michael. When we were recording “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, I played keyboards on that and Michael saw that. He must have put that into his ‘mental notebook’ because a couple of years later, I was in a swimming pool at the Oakwoods visiting Pete Way [UFO] and Johnny Dee [Britny Fox, Doro] who were playing in Waysted. So Michael sees me and says “Hey Mitch, we are looking for a guitar/keyboard player. You play keyboards! You do all of this ‘crazy’ guitar stuff!” He was referring to the two handed tapping all over the neck and stuff. He went on to say, “You play like that and there are a lot of people who like [that] stuff, but I don’t play that way. You don’t sound like me, so I think this would sound very cool. There is a song on the record that I think you would sound really cool on. Do you want to try it?”
I looked at him and said, “When?!” He says, “Now”! I jumped out of the pool, ran to my room and grabbed my guitar, got in the car with him and we were off to Sound City [Studios]. We get there. I walk into the studio control room where producer Andy Johns, Robin McAuley and management [are there]. Michael says, “Hi everybody, this is Mitch. He’s here to play the solo on “Gimme Your Love.”” I wound up nailing that solo and played a couple more things on the record and the next thing you know, we’re touring with Whitesnake and Def Leppard.
McAuley Schenker Group‘s “Gimme Your Love” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Take me inside what took place that day. I imagine you listened to the tune a few times, then you laid down your own personal creation on it or was there already an outline of what they wanted?
Mitch Perry: It was 100% me. Like you said, they played me the song and they played the bit where Michael plays and told me where they wanted me to come in. I don’t like to have anything preconceived if I don’t have to. Sure, there are times where you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have some framework of what you’d like to do. You can’t capture the magic from the first time it happens. It’s unbeatable. If I recall, we had a pretty good form of the solo by the second or third take. From there, it was probably like an hour or so refining some of the parts. The solo was pretty much what you hear on the recording. You can really feel it.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s amazing that solo is a perfect fit for the song and you’re telling me that you came in right off the street to cut that after hearing the songs a couple times?
Mitch Perry: Yeah, but what makes the story even better is that my favorite guitarists are Jimmy Page and Michael Schenker. So to be in a band with Michael and having Andy Johns producing it was like ‘Pinch me [laughs]’!
Sleaze Roxx: You also spend some time working with Edgar Winter. What was that experience like?
Mitch Perry: Edgar probably to this day is my overall favorite musician. What a super talent. I spent close to ten years working with him. It was the best finishing school a musician could ever ask for. You can’t be around Edgar and not learn a lot. He’s so incredibly special. We did three albums together and he guested on one of my instrument records. We got to do a lot of cool things. We worked with Leon Russell, Dr. John, Rick Derringer and a lot of just cool people.
The guy that got me into the band was Carmine Appice. I did a quick tour of Japan with him and [bassist] Tony Franklin in early 1994. When we were heading back to the States, he was going to tour with Edgar. I said, “Carmine, if he ever needs a guitarist, give me a call. I’d love to work with him!” So, three days into the tour, their guitarist had some personal issues that he had to tend back home so he had to leave the tour. So I got a tape [to rehearse] on Wednesday and was on the tour by Thursday and that’s where I remained for the nine plus years.
Sleaze Roxx: You were also a part of Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt. I was wondering what that experience was like. Did you get any negativity from the fans? In those types of things, fans take sides and can be really brutal to the people in the bands, though they had nothing to do with the fallout.
Mitch Perry: I loved that gig. It was really fun. I don’t recall getting any negativity, then again I didn’t look online. I want to say that I never said, “Oh, I’m Mitch, the guitarist in Ratt.” So, I didn’t feel that I needed to get any flak. Listen, I’m friends with Bobby, Warren [DeMartini], Stephen [Pearcy], Juan [Croucier] and knew them before they got their deal. I have nothing against any of those guys and in my opinion, Ratt is the original guys — period. I was being paid for a gig and I did it to the best of my abilities and it was fun learning Warren’s stuff, getting the precise sound and tone to do the songs justice. I think we sounded pretty good too. I know there were some people online that said we didn’t sound great, but you can’t base a performance on cell phone footage. You needed to come out to see it. It was a fun time and I don’t regret being a part of it. What a gig! What a great bunch of guys. If I didn’t take the gig, someone else would have [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: One more thing on Ratt, what was the most challenging tune for you to play in the set?
Mitch Perry: Oh, God! All of them [bursts into laughter]! I have to say I love Warren’s guitar playing and have from the first time I heard him play. I don’t play anything like it, but I have to say if you don’t do the songs justice, you’re doing them a great disservice. I had to really bust my balls to get anywhere close to sounding like him! It was pretty aggravating for a couple of reasons. The first being who wants to work twice as hard at something and second, I respected his stuff so much that I really did want to play it well.
Ratt (Bobby Blotzer‘s version) performing “Round And Round” live at the Great Steak Cook-off at Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis, Arkansas, USA on Oct. 16, 2016:
Sleaze Roxx: The last thing is on The Sweet, which is a band that I have rediscovered over the course of the past five years. How did you get to be a part of that?
Mitch Perry: Yeah, I’m in Steve Priest’s The Sweet. As you know, there’s two versions! Welcome to the world of rock ‘n’ roll [laughs]! So, for those that don’t know, I’m in Steve Priest’s band, I want to point out that he is the only ‘original member. Even though Andy Scott is an important member, he was there for all of the hits and had a hand in writing most of them, he wasn’t the first guitarist. So, Steve and Andy are the two sole surviving members of the band. Each have a band on either side of the pond. It’s funny the weekend that I parted ways with Lita Ford, who I had been working for for a number of years, The Sweet asked me to come in and fill in for their guitar player, I learned 90 minutes of of music and after learning the songs, I found myself asking myself, “Why did I say yes [laughs]?” You learn all this stuff that you’re going to play once and you put in all that work. The songs are phenomenal. We sound great and here I am, six years later, still touring with them
Sweet with Steve Priest‘s 2020 ‘Fox On The Run’ World Tour Sizzle Reel video: