Interview w/ Drummer Pete Holmes, Black ‘n Blue/RATT – PART I
full in bloom interview with drummer Pete Holmes
(Black ‘n Blue, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Ian Gillan)
full in bloom: We reached out to you because of your situation. Can we start with that? Could you provide some background as well as an update?
Pete Holmes: Sure. Last year, in February, my wife Annette was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was out of nowhere, but it always catches you off-guard. The cancer was pretty aggressive and we had to deal with it right away. Then two months after my wife was diagnosed, my mom passed away. Things were going pretty shitty, to say the least. So we find out that the cancer was pretty aggressive, then it took us about a month to get her in treatment. We got the biopsy done and they said you have to go get this done now. So she had a mastectomy and there were some complications with that. Some things were botched, I still can’t believe it. I’m still dealing with that on many different levels.
full in bloom: Something was botched during the surgery?
Pete: Yeah. There were some things that were done incorrectly. When a physician tells you ‘we’re going to do this; this should be the way to do it’. What do you say? What do you do? What do you know about it? You go, ‘ok, that’s what you do’….then about 10 days into her recovery, we went back for a follow-up, on a Friday afternoon, so they could just check everything, the incision and everything that goes along with that. And then we find out that she has to have emergency surgery because of this complication from the first surgery. She got through it quick, but it was very unexpected. So it has been a crash course in being a caregiver for me. The pain she was in, the meds, the draining tubes and the whole ghoulish thing. It was supposed to all come to an end on that Friday but we had to start all over again. When she finally healed from the surgery, she began her chemo. She was on heavy chemo for…I think sixteen weeks. So everything that goes along with that, she lost her hair, getting weak, just the pain and the depression, the whole deal. Her mom had passed from cancer a couple of years prior. It was a different type of cancer. But, let’s see, I think it was the week of Thanksgiving in 2016. Annette still had some spots on her breastbone and in there. She finished the chemo and she was cancer-free, other than these spots. But they didn’t want to remove those because it was a really hard part of the breastplate, really hard to get at. We’re considering a mastectomy on her left side because there’s a chance that it’s coming back and she does have some spots on there . It’s a hard decision. I hate for her to have unnecessary surgery, but it’s not unnecessary if the end result is cancer.
full in bloom: Do you have family in Los Angeles?
Pete: No and we’re both fairly private people. I love her, so of course I am going to take good care of her. I’ve known my wife over thirty years. I’ve decided to put down everything and stay here with her. I’ve been able to do some shows, there were a couple of times I was able to leave for four days. She was fine, it was after her chemo and she didn’t have anything coming up and I would be back before her next chemo treatment.
full in bloom: I saw your GoFundMe page.
Pete: Yeah, we set up the GoFundMe page and we’ve received a little over $12,000 so far . We’ve left it open because we still need to. Even though we have some insurance, you know, I’m a working musician for life and I’m responsible for the insurance. Nonetheless, these bills with four different doctors are unbelievable. When something like this happens to someone in your family you really get a crash course in everything.
full in bloom: You can become an expert in a short time.
Pete: Oh, good God, I’m telling you, man. We were just at the doctor yesterday having blood test. It almost becomes routine and it’s really a shitty thing that that’s the case. I know she’s on the road to recovery and I’m very protective. I’ve got to take care of her; I can’t live without her.
full in bloom: You met her in the 80s?
Pete: Absolutely. I met her probably right as Black ‘n Blue was starting.
full in bloom: Wow. But you weren’t married to her in the 80s?
Pete: No, not at all. We’ve only been married now for fourteen years. We knew each other, we had this thing where we would get together and party really hard, then I wouldn’t see her for a year. Then she came down to L.A. and lived with me at the Black ‘n Blue house. We had a house that the band lived in when we first came down here. A big party house. She would come down and stay with me for two weeks. Then I wouldn’t hear from her for two years. Then I would see her somewhere and then I wouldn’t hear from her for six years. I was actually recording with Ian Gillan (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) doing some demo tracks for one of his records here in Los Angeles. Afterwards we went to Cat n’ Fiddle and she was bartending there. So around 2000, we kind of hooked up again and everything kind of clicked, like ‘wow, these meetings, the weird history’, and just everything kind of worked. I don’t know what that means, but it was on, there was a different kind of dynamic.
full in bloom: No kids, huh?
Pete: No kids. (laughs) We partied a lot when we were going in and out of seeing each other. We’d get together and do the big deal and go crazy. The great thing about marrying her was that she already knew all my history. She didn’t have to say, ‘well, you better get a real job’. She had already seen that we’d sold millions of records and that I played around the world. She knew this was my job. We just kind of looked at each other and I said ‘you know I am going to have a tough time taking care of both of us, let alone a kid’. It could have been selfishness but in all fairness, I just thought if I take that on I don’t know what’s going to happen, I was scared. So it’s probably a better thing for the child (laughs) and for me, because I just got too much shit to do already.
full in bloom: Sure. A lot of people feel like their life isn’t complete if they don’t have a child. A lot of women feel that way. I was never one of those people.
Pete: I still don’t know how I got married (laughs).
full in bloom: Did you grow up in Portland?
Pete: I grew up in Portland, Oregon, I certainly did. I’m glad I did, man, I really am. I got a great musical education. I got to meet all the bands that came through. It was just a natural progression of the tours that were being routed to come through L.A., San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. I really got to see some of the most unreal bands in the history of music, in their infancy.
full in bloom: I read somewhere that you were voted best musician in high school.
Pete: Yeah. I was voted best musician of my senior class. I never took band lessons there at all (laughs). I was never in a music program in high school. During high school, I was out touring with guys that were older than me. Going out of state. Playing in clubs. Sometimes playing original music. Sometimes playing covers. Sometimes playing progressive music. I would come back to school on Monday and there was some big party over the weekend and they’re like, ‘did you go, it was so awesome’ and I would say ‘uh, no I didn’t’ (laughs). I had some friends that I played in a band with that went to school there, that were my friends and my age. We set up and jammed in a music room there one day. We brought all our gear, big drum set, all our shit. It was part showing off and part having a place to rehearse. People were just blown away… we were playing this improv jazz fusion shit. Then the school asked us to play some of the assemblies. We did that without any music at all, we just improvised with this fusion music. I wasn’t involved in a lot of stuff in high school. I was very popular but I wasn’t in any click. I was blazing my own trail, so to speak. So yeah, I turned around and they voted me best musician. Can you imagine? There were some drummers there that were really good, in the marching band. I’m sure they just shit when they saw that, but I was getting real world experience, stuff you could not learn in school. It was a good thing growing up in Portland, for sure.
We would be playing the bars and I was just sixteen. Every break we took I had to stand outside and I would smoke cigarettes while the rest of the guys would hoop it up…and shit, that was fine with me, because it was more real than anything else, man.
full in bloom: Who were your influences at that time?
Pete: Oh Jeez. I was influenced by a lot of different music, so it’s kind of hard to pinpoint it. I was really into progressive music as well as heavy stuff. From the prog-side of things it was probably Genesis and Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Odd bands like Gentle Giant, anything that was different to me was good, anything that wasn’t on the radio, to me, was killer. On the rock side of things, bands like Grand Funk, Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Thin Lizzy, all the usual suspects. All those bands were influencing me. I don’t really have just one go-to band. It was all encompassing. I could be all those things and I was going to be all those things. I was going to have knowledge of all that. It was all killer to me. I was soaking it up like a sponge. There wasn’t one thing I liked more than the other. I just felt like I knew something more than everybody else with that kind of musical knowledge.
I collect albums and cds. A lot of those albums I still have them from the sixties. I still have the Monkees on the Coldgems label. Some of the early, early Beatles stuff still in the sleeve, unopened.
full in bloom: Do you shop on Ebay?
Pete: I do, yeah. Sometimes I do. I have real specific tastes though. I hunt it down and make sure it’s something I want. Modern stuff, I just bought the KXM cd, bands like that. I always have at least a little something from everything that’s going on, at least two records by every band that’s happening.
full in bloom: It’s interesting that you talk about having the progressive side to your playing. I have to admit, I have been a big fan of your drumming. I’m not a drummer, but I grew up with a close friend who played the drums. He taught me how to listen to a drummer. He wouldn’t even listen to a band unless the drummer was on point. Even if the songs were great, he would not listen to it if he didn’t like the drummer. Now, I can appreciate what those progressive drummers can do, a million things a minute. Like the Dream Theaterzzz and the whoeverzzz. But it’s the drummer that brings something else. My favorite rock drummers are people like Tommy Lee, I like the Appice brothers, Matt Cameron, there are others. My favorite metal drummers are people like Dave Lombardo and Vinnie Paul. All of them have unbelievable skills but there’s just something else about their playing. You have that same quality…it’s like playing with class.
Pete: I understand what you’re saying and I appreciate that so much, man. You know I believe, even though I know all that stuff and have all that background, really the musicians I was playing with molded me into what I am, which is a rock drummer. I’m not a prog drummer. I’m not a thrash metal drummer. The people you play with are the people that will define your road and you’ll find your niche. But you need to realize what that is and then you need to follow that. Then you need to have that realization of ‘God, I love Billy Cobham but I’m never going to play like Billy Cobham, all the bands I’m playing in are rock bands’…then be a rock drummer. All that other stuff will contribute. It’s like a guy who is going to write a novel. He loves to read books and he’s read a million books but he’s got to write one book that has his take on shit. That’s how it kind of is for me, but I do appreciate you saying that. There are a billion drummers out there that can play licks around me but the thing I have over these cats is the experience. You can learn all of the rudiments and all that technical shit but you can’t go out and play arenas with Aerosmith, then jump on with Yngwie and then go out with KISS. It’s equivalent to a master’s degree in music. It’s not something that can be taught.
I’ve had people like Vinnie Paul come up to me and say, ‘you were a huge influence on me when we were growing up’. I’m that kind of guy, too. If I get around someone that I grew up with, I’m the same way.
full in bloom: Did you work with Yngwie Malmsteen?
Pete: No, Black n Blue did a tour with him.
full in bloom: What was that experience like?
Pete: I was good drinking buddies with Yngwie. Everybody has their horrible Yngwie story….I did four months with the guy and we just partied the whole time. He was really cool; he was a great guy.
Ratt’s Juan Croucier
full in bloom: You just recently did some shows with Ratt’s Juan Croucier.
Pete: Yeah, we just did a few shows in Texas. It was us and the Killer Dwarfs, we just kind of co-headlined. We did three shows, we headlined two and they headlined the third show.
full in bloom: It seems that most of the Ratt drama has been resolved, were those gigs left on the books?
Pete: No, there will be more coming up. We’ll be doing some recording as well. Hopefully we’ll get into the studio soon. Between our schedules…in between Ratt shows and Black ‘n Blue shows, we’ll get together to record and do some shows.
full in bloom: Well, that brings me to my next point. Since the band kicked out Bobby Blotzer AND you’re also in a band with Juan, why aren’t you the drummer for Ratt?
Pete: Well, you know, there’s a lot of logistics. Let’s remember that we are speaking about Ratt (laughs). They’ve got a lot of stuff to iron out amongst themselves.
full in bloom: So, the reason they haven’t named a drummer is due to the ongoing legal issue(s)?
Pete: I don’t think that. I think, for now, they just haven’t been able to settle on one. Juan wants me to do it, I’m his choice…he’s the bass player. The other guys have guys that they like and I can understand that….I know all those cats. Listen, I came up with those guys, before we had our record deals.
full in bloom: I think you would be the best fit. It would be great to hear your style of drumming on their new material.
Pete: Thank you. Never say never. I would love to do it. A couple of years ago, Ratt were going to do some gigs and Blotzer hurt his back…this is how Jimmy (DeGrasso) started working with them. Blotzer couldn’t do the gigs and I was the one up for the gig because I had been playing with Juan. I know their music so well I could play it in my sleep. But I was out with (Michael) Schenker. Juan’s calling me on the phone, ‘man, I wish you were here’…that’s how frustrated he was and how much he wanted me to do the gig. He knows that I’m out on the road for a few months but he’s calling me from Chicago just to tell me that. We’ll see, Jimmy’s a great guy, he’s a great drummer…I don’t think anything is set in stone with them yet, but for now, he’s the drummer for Ratt.
full in bloom: It looks like you are also available for session work. What does it take to hire Pete Holmes to record drums on an album?
Pete: What does it take?….well, a few things. It has to be a good hang, meaning that the people have to be cool and easy to work with. It also has to be legit, in the sense that it’s not just some kid who doesn’t know how to write a song, yet he’s got six of them. It’s not really about money for me; I will sometimes do stuff for free that I love. Then there are some things that I will say ‘I’ll do it but you have to pay me this’. I have to enjoy the music, it has to be good. My name is going on that thing, so I’m not just going to do anything. If there has to be some money involved, then we’ll hash that out depending on all the other things, the hang, the songs, how much I want to play them, how much I want to be involved…and if it’s real…that’s the main thing. I can tell if it’s the real thing and if I want to be involved with it. You have to be able to communicate with me and don’t think like I’ll come out….some people will say to me, ‘I thought I’d pay you like $200 to do the whole thing’, I’m like, ‘dude, I can sit in my home and make $200, I don’t need to leave’. When we start there, then you can see that it’s kind of a weird thing. I’m a weird guy but I’m not weird enough to take shitty money.
full in bloom: Do you have any kind of recording background?
Pete: I don’t. Of course I have been around a lot of that. I have several different engineers I can work with and several different studios that I can work out of. If something needs to be done in Pro Tools, someone can send me the tracks and I can lay down my drums. I even have a studio where I can do 2-inch tape, which nobody does.
full in bloom: What do you mean? I thought 2-inch tape was all the rage nowadays.
Pete: That’s how I’m going to record with Juan. We’re going to do 2-inch and Pro Tools; we’re going to combine them. We want the playing to be real.
This concludes Part I of our interview with Pete Holmes. In Part II, we’ll start with his days in Black ‘n Blue, then his days working with Michael Schenker, Ian Gillan and Uli Jon Roth. If you are a fan of any ONE of those people, you won’t want to miss it. If you are in a position to help Pete Holmes and his wife Annette with their medical bills, you can donate HERE.
Make sure to listen to PART II of our interview with Pete Holmes, located here.