An Interview with Pete Holmes of Black ‘N Blue & Ratt

Feature image credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Image courtesy of Black ‘N Blue Facebook (official)

I recently dug in with longtime drummer, and general heavy metal master, Pete Holmes of Black ‘N Blue, and more recently, Ratt. Among other things, we touch on the origins, trials, and tribulations of one of rock and metal music’s most underexposed bands, Black ‘N Blue, his joining Ratt, and what lies ahead for both Pete, and Black ‘N Blue.

If you would like to learn more about Black ‘N Blue or Ratt, hit the links to their respective pages, and dig in. Once you’ve checked that out, dig into this interview with Pete. Cheers.

Andrew:
Pete, thanks for taking the time. As a burgeoning musician, what first sparked your interest in the drums?

Pete:
As early as I can remember I loved listening to music — all kinds — everything. As a child, I didn’t have a filter yet, so I loved it all. [Laughs]. My dad’s classical records, Christmas music, everything. The sound of the drums, and the rhythm drew me in deeper. I felt a connection to drums overall as think most of my peers and heroes did.

Andrew:
Before joining Black ‘N Blue, what were some of your early gigs where you first cut your teeth?

Pete:
I played with my friends and soon began putting bands together at a young age. I was in seventh grade when my first real band played at a few school functions, and that continued all through high school with many different groups. I was a working musician while going to high school and after. As a matter a fact, I just did some stuff with my old late 70s rock band, Vision. You can see some of the videos on YouTube as they begin to come out. The first one is a song called “Devils Daugther.”

Andrew:
What was the sequence of events leading up to the revitalization of Vision? Who makes up the band, and will a full-scale physical release be in the cards? How about some shows?

Pete:
Vision is a band that was started in the late 70s. We started the band with the intent to play clubs, which we did, but all the clubs at that time were hiring dance bands, playing the radio hits of the day. We wanted to play the music that we loved, which was not so mainstream, and still play live, even though you couldn’t do half of the set. [Laughs]. We played songs by more obscure artists, as well as original material bordering on prog rock, almost.

The band has remained dear to all of us involved and we’re all still good friends. We did a small showcase, the live-to video set of some of these songs in December of last year at a facility in Hubbard, OR called Painter Loops. So far, we’ve released one video for the song “Devils Daughter” by Uriah Heep with more soon to follow, so go to Youtube and put in Vision “Devils Daughter” to watch.

It was easy to put this together, for the most part, we just all said, “Yes.” After all these years, we did about four hours of rehearsal and the showcase. This is one of my favorite projects, and I hope we can do more with it soon. The players and my childhood friends in Vision are Marty McCray on guitar, and lead vocals, Kym Pratt on keys, and backing vocals, Jeff Munkers on bass guitar, and backing vocals, and myself on drums.

Andrew:
How did you first meet Jaime St. James, and Tommy Thayer, and subsequently, what led to you officially joining Black ‘N Blue?

Pete:
I had indirectly known Jaime in high school as he had a reputation, and was doing pretty much the same thing as I was; playing in bands and such. Later on, we all got to know one another better as we played the club scene in Portland, Oregon. At a certain point, Jamie and Tommy, who were playing together, decided to start a new project, which was Black ‘N Blue, and they asked me to join the band.

Image courtesy of Black ‘N Blue Facebook (official)

Andrew:
It wasn’t long before Black ‘N Blue garnered major label attention, and signed with Geffen Records. While Geffen did its best to get Black ‘N Blue out there, they also seemed to toy with the band’s hard-edged sound a bit. Would you agree? Looking back, was signing with Geffen the right move?

Pete:
I think signing with Geffen was definitely the right move. You can’t predict the future, and we had done our homework and went with whom we thought would be the best choice. How they handled the band, in the beginning, was great, and as a young group, you’re hoping they have your back and are guiding you in the right direction. Unfortunately, they got away from that and thought they knew better than us as to which way we should go, and that was just not the case.

Andrew:
What do you recall about the recording of the band’s self-titled debut? Looking back, do you feel it holds up?

Pete:
Doing the first record with Dieter Dierks was unbelievable. Going to Germany, recording there for several months, the culture, and the food — it was killer. The record turned out to be a fan favorite and opened a lot of doors for the band. The album definitely still holds up today.

Andrew:
Black ‘N Blue missed an opportunity to jump on tour with Ozzy, and instead, Ratt ended up on that tour. How detrimental do you feel missing out on that supporting slot was for Black ‘N Blue’s fortunes? Black ‘N Blue did end up hopping on tour with Aerosmith in the mid-80s. What memories do you have of that experience?

Pete:
Well first off, Ratt was never a rival band. A lot of people seem to think that, but we were friends on the LA club scene and had done many shows together. Jumping on the Ozzy tour would have certainly been a great push for us. Touring with Aerosmith was unreal. One of our first big tours. We were suddenly playing big arenas with our heroes. It was a dream come true.

Andrew:
It’s a common misconception that Black ‘N Blue and Ratt were rivals, but in reality, it’s not true. What do you recall regarding your first impressions of the boys in Ratt in the 80s?

Pete:
Black ‘N Blue and Ratt, as well as all the bands playing in Hollywood at that time, were friends. We did shows together and would share gear, it was very unpretentious.

Image courtesy of Black ‘N Blue Facebook (official)

Andrew:
Black ‘N Blue’s second album, Without Love, was an important album for the genre, and it’s said to have been highly influential on the likes of Bon Jovi, and Poison. This said, there was a significant softening of the band’s sound due to label interference. What do you recall about the sessions?

Pete:
The songwriting on Without Love rocked just as hard as the first record, it was just in a bit of a different style. It wasn’t planned, it was just what was happening in the songwriting process. The first single that Geffen released from that record was a mistake, that’s where they dropped the ball. If you put out “Rockin’ On Heavens Door” or “Stop The Lighting,” it’s a whole different game, but they had the power and did what they wanted.

Andrew:
Black ‘N Blue was the supporting act for KISS on its Asylum World Tour, which led to Gene Simmons producing the band’s next two records. What was it like on the road with KISS? I imagine it was a much different atmosphere than with Aerosmith.

Pete:
Really, the only difference between the KISS tour and the Aerosmith tour was that it was even bigger. I mean…opening for KISS?!? We went crazy. As a band, Black ‘N Blue took advantage of all the perks that were offered. It was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll baby! [Laughs].

Andrew:
As I mentioned, Gene Simmons produced Black ‘N Blue’s next two records, Nasty Nasty, and In Heat. Gene seemed to hone in on the band’s harder edge. Would you agree? As a producer, how did Gene affect those sessions?

Pete:
Again, with the songwriting, those were just the songs that were being written. Like, when we recorded Without Love, there was no plan to write a certain way, that’s just what was happening. Gene had ideas, some we liked, some we didn’t, but at the end of the day, we made sure those albums were Black ‘N Blue records, not Gene Simmons-inspired records.

Andrew:
In 1989, Black ‘N Blue came to end with the departure of Tommy Thayer. Take me through the decision to end the band at that time. What led to the fracture?

Pete:
I think by that point, we had lost our record deal, and things just weren’t happening for us anymore. We had tried a few different avenues, but those were short-lived. We all knew it was time to call it a day, so when we did, we had done what we could and felt like we had given it our all.

Image courtesy of Black ‘N Blue Facebook (official)

Andrew:
In between the band’s end, and subsequent reunion, how did you ride out the tumultuous time for rockers known as the 90s?

Pete:
I embraced a lot of the 90s bands. A lot of them were great. I’m a music fan, not a genre fan. As I said before, I love music. I think if you try to fight what’s going on, you’re wasting a lot of time. It doesn’t mean you still can’t play what you love, that doesn’t change, but you better be smart enough to figure out what you’re going to do, so you can keep working.

Andrew:
After a few stops and starts in the early 2000s, Black ‘N Blue finally resumed activities in 2008. Take me through the reunion, and the subsequent recording and release of Hell Yeah!

Pete:
With Hell Yeah! and the start of us playing together again, it was the same as it had always been. A couple of guys started writing songs, one thing led to another, and bam — a new Black ‘N Blue record was born. Of course, the next natural thing to do was play live. Again, none of it was planned, it just all came together, and we went with it.

Andrew:
Jaime is on record stating that he doesn’t want to do another studio album without Tommy Thayer. Do you feel that will hold true, or is there potentially another record in Black ‘N Blue’s collective bones
With Tommy’s time in KISS seemingly winding down, do you feel there’s a chance Tommy will hit the road with Black ‘N Blue in the future for more gigs?

Pete:
Anything is possible. I know Jaime is open to anything. We have two fantastic guitar players in Brandon Cook, and Doug Rappaport, and the band is sounding better than ever, so we can, and will do whatever we want. Tommy is and will always be a part of Black ‘N Blue, so anything is possible. I’m sure we will have a few shows together in the future.

Image courtesy of TPRS (The Pure Rock Shop)

Andrew:
I wanted to touch on Ratt. Take me through you joining them in 2018. Black ‘N Blue has a long history with Ratt. How did you get the gig?

Pete:
I’ve been playing with Juan Croucier for years now, we’ve done several different projects together and still do. Long story short, Ratt was auditioning guitar players and needed a drummer to help out. Their drummer at the time was unavailable and I sat in, after those guitar auditions they ask me to join Ratt.

Andrew:
Ratt hasn’t put out a new record since 2010. With the revitalized lineup, can you tell us if the band plans to hit the studio? Aside from that, what’s next for Ratt?

Pete:
I’m not fully sure of Ratt’s future, more shows to happen would be great, and new music is always a possibility, but everyone needs to be on the same page. We’ll see if that happens.

Andrew:
Looking back, Black ‘N Blue is an important piece of rock history and yet, the band is still very underrated. Ultimately, why do you feel Black ‘N Blue never exploded in the way some of your contemporaries did?
That said, what’s next on Black ‘N Blue’s docket?

Pete:
Why Black ‘N Blue wasn’t bigger comes down to many different factors. But at the end of the day, our peers and fans know the quality of this band, the quality of the songs, and the players, that’s why we can still go out and perform. For now, Black ‘N Blue will continue to play live around the country, so watch out for shows this summer. The best is yet to come.

Image credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Interested in learning more about the mighty Black ‘N Blue? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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