“METAL OF HONOR” INTERVIEW: RAT SKATES FORMER DRUMMER OF OVERKILL
Interview with Drummer Rat Skates from Overkill
Full Name: Rat Skates
Exhibit A: You are considered by modern media as one of the pioneering musicians of the early 1980′s thrash metal movement. How does that make you feel?
Rat Skates: It makes me feel incredibly blessed and old, haha. The main word would be blessed; it’s not something in any lifetime that anyone could possibly plan out. It was about having the right attitude, at the right time and magic that happened, because of that. It’s a very cool feeling to know that we didn’t know what we were doing at the time and we didn’t even know how it would end up, but we knew it was fun and we HAD to do It and that’s why we did it.
Exhibit A: You were the drummer in the band Overkill. How was that like?
I guess like being a mother…I was growing something (my band, along with the other pioneering bands like Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, etc.) that had Its own legs and ran farther and faster than any of us expected. It was really exciting and fun. Fortunately I could see when the window was closing and when to leave as well…
Exhibit A: What brought you guys to form Overkill?
A very small group of us…Lars, Kerry, Gary, etc, were so obsessed with the new wave of british heavy metal bands that had emerged, and we were all part of the tape trading underground. These bands like Maiden, Accept, Saxon, Tank, Motorhead, Angelwitch took It up another level, but as all American kids do, we wanted to take It to an even higher level…which we did. Faster, heavier, more obnoxious. Metal affected us so deeply and we were so addicted to It…that we had to shove It down the throats of anyone we could. Metal absolutely controlled our lives; and our bands were our contributions to the movement. Headbanging Is an “Ism’ that we’ll die with…
Exhibit A: What are some of your favorite bands, past and present?
Rat Skates: I like all styles of music and I find that very important for a musician to listen to all styles, if you are a musician that’s very essential. Since, this is about metal, I will have to say Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are my favorites. As far as contemporary metal, there’s just no singing anymore, I like to hear singing. We’re headbanger’s, but we still sing, I’m very much stuck in the 80′s. The old metal will always be popular, because there was melody. Everyone feels the need to out do each other, but if it’s taking away from the song and the point to it. I don’t think metal can get any heavier, everything has been done and it has been done many times. I think everyone, regardless of age, can respect Ronnie James Dio (God rest his soul); but very very few will ever be able to do what he did because they are close minded and the trends shut down their minds and so their background ends up pretty one-dimensional.
Exhibit A: So, what made you decide to pick up the drums?
Rat Skates: Well, I couldn’t sit still enough to play guitar, although I tried when I was very young, I didn’t have the patience or finesse so I got frustrated. I had way too much energy. I’m a little too hyper to play guitar, drums are more physical, and I got more Immediate satisfaction early on…
Exhibit A: What do you think the current metal culture?
Rat Skates: I definitely see that trends, very cyclical and all I can tell you when I see the metal crowd now, they all look the same to me. I’m sure back in the day, my band looked all the same too, with our leather jackets, high top sneakers and denim vests with our layered haircuts. Now, it’s all one length hair, really long shorts, tattoos and beards.. back then we didn’t really have beards. I just see it as very tribal, and I can see It always will be. Everyone is trying (maybe unintentionally) to look like they want to kick someone else’s ass or tries to look more evil than the next guy. The one thing that I just don’t understand are the current trends In metal logos; I can’t read the name of the band! Most of them look like a ball of string that was dropped on the floor! But back In our day it was all straight lines and sharp cornered letters
Exhibit A: What is your first metal memory?
Rat Skates: My first metal memory I would have to say was around 1976 and Black Sabbath did the song “Never Say Die” on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Ozzy was flying all around the stage, he had the fringe on his sleeves flying around everywhere, going completely nuts and I thought “this is heavy, this is metal” it was unbelievable, it changed my life. That’s one of my first really vivid memories, and I knew I wanted more! Ted Nugent and Aerosmith were also huge, but they were really just heavy rock bands.
Exhibit A: Do you skateboard? And if so, what was your first board?
Rat Skates: Yes, I grew up skateboarding. I started on clay wheels…
I don’t remember the exact brand, and I vaguely remember Chicago trucks, but I was stoked on Cadillac’s Bennett’s and Bahne and Logan Earth skis early on. I’m a weird hybrid of a skateboarder and a musician. I skated semi-professional, did well In a lot of freestyle and slalom contests and was sponsored by a few surf shops, but the drums and metal took over. Skateboarding and music are the same mind set. It’s a combination of freedom, spirit and attitude and above all the style. Improvising creates the art of the moment
Exhibit A: Do you have any favorites in the skating world?
Rat Skates: The Zephyr guys are it, they are the alpha and the omega in skateboarding. There is so much feeling in their skateboarding and that’s what its about; attitude and style.. doing tricks wasn’t nearly as important and that’s what I loved about it. It was about balls…tricks are fine, but relating them to musicians, they were kind of like Johnny Ramone or Angus Young when the rest of the world were trying to be Van Halens…
Exhibit A: What’s behind the name Rat Skates? Since now we understand you do skate.
“Rat” was a nickname since I was a kid; my father was called “Rat” once In a while too, because of my real last name…Kundrat. The “Skates” was because my high school band was really Influenced by the punks, and no one used real names, especially because we couldn’t offend or shock anyone with our real names; they were boring. The “Skates” was just a natural fit, and at the time…1977 ’78, ’79…
skating was still my priority.
Exhibit A: Did skateboarding ever put influence into your music or vice versa?
Rat Skates: Oh yeah! Absolutely! Especially in the early Overkill. The original Overkill logo, the way I originally drew it was based on the Dogtown emblem, it was real street looking. I specifically show that in the documentary I did “Born In The Basement,” I show the equivocation of the Dogtown emblem and Overkill logo. Many parts to overkill songs…especially my arrangements and changes…
are from a complete skating mindset of the motion or groove, and the contrast of the change, or the move. Everything was critical, and I made sure that every part made a statement.
Exhibit A: Do you find a logo to be an essential in a band?
Rat Skates: Yes, I will tell you why. The logo identifies the band, sometimes a logo can say more, than a band can say in a song. A logo is everything; your band, your songs, all your thinking combined into one design. A logo has to represent you, it needs to be capable to reflect what your band is about.. it has to say everything. I know for a fact that an emblem Is Incredibly Important; It’s the publics first taste of you. Look how many kids were putting pentagrams and upside-down crosses on back of their vests In the 80′s…
why? because It looked cool and It said something, and most of them (including me) didn’t really even know what most of that stuff even meant.
Exhibit A: Did you do all the album artwork for Overkill?
Rat Skates: I designed all of the album artwork, everything about Overkill was all my thoughts and concepts, and D.D. had great Ideas too. When we got signed to Atlantic (“Taking Over”), everything started getting messed up, as the labels do so well. They are experts and completely ruining art and people’s lives.
Exhibit A: So, that being said, you’re quite the artist. What other sorts of visual art have you done?
Rat Skates: I’m a filmmaker based on my artistic ideas, just by the way I light things up, the camera angles I use, the tempo, what you hear, and what it makes you think. Its very emotional and Incredibly fun. Also, websites I’ve designed. Everything in my life is based on making me aesthetically happy, many times I will sacrifice functionality for aesthetics, haha.
Exhibit A: Has any album artwork ever really stuck out to you?
Rat Skates: Definitely! The early Iron Maiden records, there was a lot to look at on those album cover and to me the first Iron Maiden record sounds like what the album cover looks like. Also, Motorhead “Ace of Spades”sounds how the album cover looks. There was no Youtube or instant video things, which was great because we used our Imagination. That can be more fun than the reality sometimes. If you never have to guess, and then what do you have to look forward to? To dream, you need to leave things open to have something to dream about!
Exhibit A: Are you a fan of any visual art yourself?
Rat Skates: I can’t name any names, but I’m a fan of certain styles of art and respect all styles
Exhibit A: Your documentary “Born In The Basement”. What motivated you to bring this to life?
Rat Skates: There’s a few things, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew it had to be done and when I say that, I’m talking about the theme of “Born in the Basement”. The documentary was about the DIY mindset. Bands after 25 years, have adopted this philosophy, because Record Label’s disappeared and continued to screw people. The inspiration was DIY, because that’s really how thrash metal bands marketed themselves, bands like Metallica, Slayer and Exodus had someone doing what I was doing In their camp…
no maps our guidelines, just passion.
Exhibit A: How did you go about wanting to market Overkill?
Rat Skates: What TA said in the Dogtown and Zboys documentary, he said when they first got in the pool, “they knew what moves had to be done, but they just didn’t know if it was possible yet”. My thinking about the band was the same. I knew the world had to hear Overkill, I just didn’t know how to do it, I just knew it had to be done…
so I figured out a way.
Exhibit A: What were some of the methods being used in the marketing of Overkill?
Rat Skates: I used a copy machine for flyers, hand-dubbed cassettes one at a time, stapled flyers to telephone poles, put stickers on the highway toll booths, graffitied everywhere I could, made stage sets out of milk crate, made bumper stickers using rubber stamps and I silk-screened t-shirts myself. It was really cool when you saw your sticker stuck somewhere or some kid you didn’t know wearing your shirt.
Exhibit A: Wow. Well I think that about wraps things up with questions. Any last words.
Rat Skates: Good shit never dies and it will never because its good shit…
period! Integrity will never be a trend. Take one day at a time; GIVE and you’ll GET.
Interview By NAZRN