Ratt's Warren DeMartini Talks Gear, Trusting Your Instincts — and Embarrassing Gigs

(Image credit: Justin Borucki)

FROM THE GW ARCHIVE: Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2010. The Ratt guitarist sits down with GW to talk about his early days.

What inspired you to start playing the guitar?

I was the youngest in my family and had four older brothers. They were all listening to the great British Invasion music in the late Sixties when I was around seven or eight years old. Then, later, one of my older brothers snuck me in to see the film Woodstock, and that left a huge impression on me. I really knew then what I wanted to do.

What was your first guitar?

It was a modest starter model. The tuning pegs were so cheap that it would not stay in tune, and that made it impossible for me to get anywhere on it. Eventually, I got frustrated and smashed it like Pete Townshend did at Woodstock. And of course, that was the last guitar I ever got. I then had to go get myself a dirty job in order to save enough money to go buy another one, a Cimar Les Paul copy, when I was 14.

What was the first song you ever learned?

It was “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. I learned the riff by ear.

Do you remember your first gig?

I was around 15, and it was at my high school with my first band, the Plague. We were performing at an after-football dance. We played stuff by the Scorpions, UFO, Aerosmith and bands like that.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?

Ratt were playing an arena in Memphis that had a 10-by-10 octagonal riser on each side of the stage. At the beginning of the show, I would be on one riser and [guitarist] Robbin Crosby would be on the other. We would start the song, and then as the intro ended, we’d both jump off and land on the center of the stage together.

On this particular night, there was a lot more humidity than usual, which caused the risers to be more unbalanced. So as I went to jump, the riser felt more like a diving board, giving me more momentum, so I completely wiped out. I skidded across the stage, and when I finally came to a stop, the first thing I saw was Robbin laughing hysterically. For it to happen in front of so many people was really embarrassing.

Got any advice for young players?

If you plan to make a living at guitar playing, you need to trust your judgment and follow your gut instinct about things as they happen. Doing this can help you respond to challenges you’re not expecting and find your musical direction.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

I don’t have a favorite. I think every piece of gear is interlinked to something else, so it all matters—from the tuning pegs to the type of strings you use to the pickups and the materials that the guitar is made with. And that’s even before you get to guitar cables, tube amps, speakers or any of that stuff.

Photo: Justin Borucki

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Joe Matera

Joe Matera is an Australian guitarist and music journalist who has spent the past two decades interviewing a who's who of the rock and metal world and written for magazines such as Guitar World, Total Guitar, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, Sound On Sound, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and many others. He is also a recording and performing musician and solo artist who has toured Europe on a regular basis and released several well-received albums including instrumental guitar rock outings through various European based record labels. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera has called him, "... a great guitarist, who knows what an electric guitar should sound like and plays a fluid pleasing style of rock".