What comes around goes around. The lyric from
Ratt’s 1984 hit “Round and Round” that famously upended the
karma cliché is also an apt description of the revolving door
employment policy of ’80s metal bands in general and L.A.
metal bands in particular. After the game-changing success
of Van Halen, a formula emerged that bands were forced to
adhere to, and that made it tough for the uninitiated to tell
them apart at times. In the ensuing decades, it also gave rise
to some seemingly interchangeable guitarists, all of whom possessed
the chops, look, and high-gain humbucker tones that
the genre demanded. Think about it: Richie Kotzen has been
in Poison, Dokken, and Mr. Big. Reb Beach has filled the
guitar chair in Winger, Dokken, and Whitesnake. (In fact,
Whitesnake alone provides a pretty complete ’80s metal
family tree that includes Ratt shredder Warren DeMartini.)
Which brings us back around to Ratt.
After rapidly gnawing their way to the
top of the charts with their 1983 fulllength
debut, Ratt enjoyed a string of
platinum albums that were fueled by
the guitars of DeMartini and Robbin
Crosby. As with many of their contemporaries,
the ’90s were less than kind
to the band, resulting in a long hiatus
at best and a breakup at worst. Crosby’s
death in 2002 made a true reunion
Metal fans are a loyal bunch, however,
and they never deserted Ratt. Now,
in 2010 the band is back for more, with
Crosby’s guitar spot filled with another
survivor of a huge ’80s band: Quiet
Riot’s Carlos Cavazo. He and DeMartini
riff and shred their way through the
new release, Infestation [Roadrunner],
with killer tones, great technique, and
Ratt’s trademark sus2 and sus4 chords
Are you surprised to be talking about a new
Ratt record in 2010?
DeMartini: Surprised? I’m not sure
if I’m surprised. You can’t count on being
around very long in the music business,
but from early on, playing music was
always something that I wanted to do for
a long time. Deep down I always thought
that we still had something to offer and
that we still had our best record ahead
How did the Carlos connection come about?
DeMartini: We had known each other
for years and when we needed a guitarist,
Carlos was the first person I thought of.
Cavazo: I got a call from Warren one
day saying they were auditioning people.
I went down and it worked out.
What was the audition like?
Cavazo: They told me what to learn
and I did it. There were some adjustments
I had to make. A couple of times they
said, “No, that’s the lead part. You don’t
do that.” [Laughs.] In the audition I had
to learn the right rhythm parts. Warren and I were really able to blend well together,
though. It was a weird day because Zakk
Wylde comes walking in the room and then
George Lynch comes walking in and I’m
thinking, “Are these guys auditioning too?
I might not have a chance now!” But they
just happened to be in the building for
How did you divide up the guitar duties on the
DeMartini: There were no rules. Generally,
if it’s something that you bring into the
group, then you’ll usually play lead on it.
Cavazo: We didn’t really talk about it. It
just kind of fell into place. One or two songs
I did all by myself and there are a couple
Warren did all by himself. But definitely our
styles worked right in the songs that we
What went into the song “Eat Me Up Alive”?
DeMartini: That was my Charvel with
the French graphic. The beginning is the
neck pickup and for the second half of the
solo I switched to the bridge pickup. That
guitar has my signature Seymour Duncan
bridge pickup and a Seymour Duncan Quarter
Pound single-coil in the neck. The amp
was a Diezel V4 and a 100-watt Soldano
together through Diezel cabinets. The Diezel
handled the low end and emphasized the
highs, and the Soldano dealt with the mids
and upper mids.
Cavazo: That’s me in the intro. For the
rhythm tracks, I played my black Gibson
Flying V into a modified Marshall JCM800
and a Soldano. I used that Marshall for a lot
of the solos I did.
That song has three solos. Who’s doing what?
Cavazo: The first little lick between the
verses is me. On the main solo it’s Warren
on the first half, me on the second half, and
me again at the end.
DeMartini: Actually, we fell into a cool
groove and kind of split that one up. We did
the same in “A Little Too Much.” That’s Carlos
in the intro and I’m playing the solo after
the second chorus.
Would you cut the harmonized solos together?
DeMartini: The producer on this record,
Elvis Baskette, really preferred doing things
one at a time. It took some convincing to get
him to mic up two rigs so that Carlos and I
could record the double leads together in real
time, which we did end up doing on “Take a
Big Bite.” That was one of the only things
that was sort of worked out in advance. The
rest of it was pretty spontaneous.
Warren, your solos on this record have your
trademark sustain and chops, and they also have
the wide stretches that were always a big part of
DeMartini: We were all into the stretching
thing back in the day. Jake E. Lee used
to do a big stretch like that with his thumb.
I think he invented that when we were hanging
out one day and sort of seeing who could
stretch further, and then he ended up working
that into something he did on Bark at the
Moon. He and I were roommates and we’d
sit and play and we’d both be sort of whittling
away at songs that would end up being
part of the rock and roll tapestry. At that point no one had heard those riffs yet. That
was a neat period.
How has your gear or your tone evolved over
Cavazo: In the Quiet Riot days, I was
using Marshall MkII 100-watt amps. I always
used a distortion box with them because
they’re pretty clean amps. For this record,
the rhythms are pure amp distortion. For
Quiet Riot records we might use Fender
amps for clean tones, and sometimes we’d
plug a guitar directly into the board. But with
this album, there are hardly any clean sounds
at all. I pretty much did straight guitar—no
DeMartini: It’s funny. I was listening to
my playing on YouTube the other day and I
thought, “Damn! It’s gain-y and it has a lot
of high end. My settings now have probably
30 percent less high-end and a lot less gain.
Carlos, since you followed Randy Rhoads in
Quiet Riot, did the questions about him ever get
tiresome, like now?
Cavazo: Not at all. I mean, he’s the
founder of the band. He deserves to have the
recognition. I was proud to carry on his name.
I really didn’t get it that much though, because
people only remember him really with Ozzy.
I would imagine it to be much harder for the
guitar players who followed him in Ozzy.
Did you know him?
Cavazo: Yeah. I had the opportunity to
meet him many times. A band I was in,
Snow, opened up for Quiet Riot. I was in
the dressing room and had my guitars lined
up and I had an acoustic guitar there. Randy
came in and we talked for a while. I remember
him picking up my acoustic guitar—he
wanted to play that.
Do you think people are more receptive to
shredding guitar solos now than, say, 15 years
DeMartini: In some ways, yeah. I don’t
think lead guitar ever got less popular with
people who like lead guitar. I just think the
music business was marketing something
else and part of that plan was to sort of
trash the rock and roll style that we were
doing. That’s my take on it. But the music
we made holds up. It still sounds good, at
least to the people who like it. I think in
that way we’re very lucky.