Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview With Billy Rath Of Billy Rath's Street Pirates, Formerly Of Johnny Thunders & The Heatbreakers

Critical Mass: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Billy. It's so great to see you back out there playing music with Billy Rath's Street Pirates. Can you give us a little history on how you got the band started?

Billy Rath: Thanks it’s great to be back playing Rock ‘n Roll again. (Getting the band started and new cd)
I had been toying with starting a band, had a name, but didn’t put much effort into it. Also I couldn’t find musicians around where I lived in S. Jersey. I was in the wrong situation without any transportation and that can really kill your imagination inspiration.
I was writing songs and getting my chops together. Then it started with my son Jeff. He kept urging me to go on FB. So I did, and people started writing me. I was overwhelmed with all the people contacting me on FB. I found out about the Maxs Reunion and decided to go. The Waldos were playing one night and Walter invited me up to play a song or two. The response I received from all the people that night and over the three days of the reunion really humbled me and also opened my eyes and heart. From there I began to put all my energy, time and money into the project of getting a band together called “The Street Pirates”. I went through two different line ups. Now, I believe, is the right line up. We go into the studio this week, Aug. 10 & 11, to cut a special edition CD. The release date will be in mid to late August.

CM: Last September you played with your old Heartbreakers bandmate, Walter Lure. What was it like playing with Waldo after so many years?

BR: Playing with Walter again was greaaaaat… fun and powerful! Walter and I talked about getting together again but he has his agenda and I have mine. We stay in touch, we are friends and may do a few Heartbreaker gigs now and then, nothing positive.

CM: You played with Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers on the legendary "L.A.M.F." album. Any fond memories about those recording sessions?

BR: Fond memories about recording “L.A.M.F.”… All I will say is that it was hectic.

CM: The Heartbreakers played along with the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash on the now infamous Anarchy Tour in the 70's. Legend has it there were more canceled shows than actual shows played. How many gigs did you guy's do on that tour? And where the shows as crazy and out of control as legend makes them out to be?

BR: The Anarchy Tour was scheduled to play 24 shows… it ended up that we played 4-5 shows. The only people who were out of control were the townsfolk and the press, not the bands! An example: In Cardiff, Wales across the street from the venue was a preacher yell’n and scream’n that the music was the devils music through a PA system. People, young and old, were carrying signs around the venue, in the street and by the preacher. They were definitely out of control… the police had to come and calm them down .

CM: I'm sure Johnny and Jerry, respectively, had their good and bad nights. But when you guy's were on it was fucking phenomenal. What was it like being a part of such a chaotic band like The Heartbreakers?

BR: You are right in saying “The Heartbreakers” were a phenomenal band. It was a great high playing together.. The four of us were like magic, we were not chaotic! We all new what to do and we did it as one tight unit… we fit together like a hand and a glove.

CM: For a number of years after Johnny and Jerry passed away you just kinda disappeared from the music scene. Rumors floated around that you had found religion and had joined a cult. And another was that you had died about ten years ago. What were you up to? Where you still playing music?

BR: I disappeared in 1985 for health reasons or I would have probably died as was rumored. No I didn’t find religion or join a cult. What happened was that I ended up in a Christian Based Rehab to get clean and get some kind of life back. I was a mess with one foot in the grave. There Big Book was the Bible so I decided to read it, you know, work the program. This book, The Bible, spoke to me. It was like the words were written with me in mind. What I ended up finding was a Relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I didn’t join a cult nor was I a fanatic.. What I did was go back to school. I now have a BS in Psychology and a Masters in Theology. I was helping/counseling people with alcohol/drug addiction. I also became a minister and Pastured a few churches’ helping people find a better way to live…

CM: I, for one, am glad to see you back out there playing music and kicking ass again, Billy. There is a tour in the works for this year right? Are there any dates that you can confirm as of right now?

BR: I to am glad to have the chance once again to be playing some good old Rock ’n Roll! Now that I have the right line up and with the promo CD coming out we will be able to get a tour in the works. No dates yet, just individual gigs… I am going on tour in the UK and Europe mid Sept- mid Nov which was booked before I had the right Street Pirates. I will be on tour with Steve Dior, the guitarist from Jerry’s bands. We are called “The Broken Hearts”. It is a 30 yr anniversary tour of the Anarchy Tour in which there are four bands just like back then. It will be fun and of course good exposure for getting The Street Pirates across the pond.

CM: Is there a website where fans can get news on the upcoming 7", tour dates and merch?

BR: A Website is right now being put together along with a limited edition Street Pirate package consisting of a CD, T Shirt, Sticker, autographed Photos. A nice package…

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Billy. This was such an honor to talk with you. I really hope we can get you and the Street Pirates to Chicago for a show or 2. All the best to you and the band. Thanks again.

BR: The honor was all mine, thanks Critical Mass… Book the dates and we will be there to get some “booty” from Chicago!
Billy Rath’s Street Pirates send our “yo, ho mates“ to our fans in the “windy city” Chicago…


  1. Billy - you are awesome - never forget when you guys invaded the UK and blew all our bands out of the water - back in '77 - Heartbreakers were the greatest!!! and man - Leee did a fantastic job of managing you guys - not an easy task to be sure - trying to get u guys in one place - remember the flat in Islington!!! Greg


  3. No, one of the top rock and roll albums ever made, period! LAMF holds its own next to any Stones LP in my opinion. And Mr Rath's bass playing -on LAMF or anything else- is a prime example of r & b based rock and roll.

  4. Just a great bass player - catch the Madrid TV special! Billy really in control, as Jerry does his wonderful thing behind JT.

    Last time I saw Billy was at the Fulham Greyhound, when 'the boys' turned up late. Great memories. Thank you Billy.

  5. I remeber seeing a poster at Max's that read; "The Heartbreakers Do To R&B What The Rolling Stones Only Thought About Doing"

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