Rat Skates

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Rat Skates
Rat Skates 2007.jpg
Skates filming in New Jersey, 2007.
Background information
Birth name Lee John Kundrat
Born (1961-05-17) May 17, 1961 (age 53)
Summit, New Jersey
Genres Heavy metal, thrash metal, speed metal, rock
Occupations Director, producer, screenwriter, actor, musician
Instruments drums, Percussion, vocals
Years active 1979–present
Labels Warner Bros., Atlantic, WEA, Megaforce, MVD Visual
Associated acts Overkill, Bomb Squad
Website www.ratskates.com

Rat Skates (born Lee Kundrat, on May 17, 1961 in Summit, New Jersey) is a filmmaker, writer and musician. He is most widely known as a pioneer of D.I.Y. musicians, director of music documentaries and his contributions to the thrash metal genre as the founding drummer of Overkill.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Rat Skates grew up in a conservative middle-class household in New Providence, New Jersey, where he attended school, played sports and drew artwork. By age ten, he was listening to music daily from The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Elton John during his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road era.[4][5] He achieved semi-professional status as a skateboarder and was sponsored by surf shops in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. He won first and second places in freestyle, slalom, and ramp competitions. His friends dubbed him with the nickname "Rat Skates" combining part of his last name and skateboarding.[4][5]

At age 15, he studied jazz drumming techniques with instructor Jack Robertello, and taught himself to play the drum parts of songs performed by rock drummers Cliff Davies, Joey Kramer, John Bonham and Peter Criss.[4][6] Skates met Carlos Verni (later known as D.D. Blaze, then D.D. Verni) in New Providence High School in 1976, and they formed a punk group known as The Lubricunts.[7][8][9] At age 17, they played the nightclubs CBGB, Great Gildersleeves, Max's Kansas City, Trudy Heller's, Bottany Talk House, The Mudd Club and The Showplace.[4][5]

While he was working at his first post-high school job as a graphic artist and printing press operator at RC Graphics in Caldwell, New Jersey, Skates met the Misfits founder/bassist Jerry Only while he was delivering printed materials to the X-Acto knife blade factory where Only worked.[4][5][10] Only booked a recording session Skates to play drums for a Misfits recording, but could not use his mother's car to make the session.[4][5][10] He worked as a stock boy in the Summit Food Market to re-pay his mother who loaned him money to purchase a Ludwig double bass drum kit that he re-fitted with Tama heads.[4][5] Skates and Verni were listening to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Riot, Accept, AC/DC and Scorpions as they wanted a heavier sound, and the Lubricunts disbanded.[4][5][10]

Professional career[edit]

Musician[edit]

Overkill[edit]

Skates placed an advertisement in The Aquarian Weekly newspaper to locate new heavy metal musicians that was answered by guitarist Robert Pisarek (who became known as Riff Thunder), bringing with him bassist/vocalist Robert Ellsworth (who became known as Bobby Blitz) who were members of a cover rock group known as D.O.A.[11][4][5] They temporarily named themselves Virgin Killer, after the Scorpions’ record of the same name, and permanently changed their name to Overkill which Pisarek selected from the title of a Motörhead record of the same name.[11][4][5]

Skates and Verni envisioned and implemented a theatrical, horror-oriented theme for Overkill, using visual elements from Kiss, Misfits, Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, and an unsigned club band from Pennsylvania named The Dead End Kids.[12][13][14] From 1981 to 1984, he participated in the underground New Wave of British Heavy Metal cassette tape-trading circuit that was shared between North America and Europe, that was the foundation for Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus to evolve into the genre known as thrash metal.[15][16][2] Skates promoted Overkill by creating the components he deemed essential to the success of national recording acts that included: creating stage name banners made with slide projectors and magic markers, modifying ornaments from Halloween costumes into stage clothing and stage props, silk-screening T-shirts, a castle-dungeon stage design made of hand-textured Styrofoam walls and supported by milk crates, rubber stamping the Overkill logo on guitar picks and drum sticks for fan souvenirs, and advertising with rubber-stamped stickers placed on highway toll booths.[11][17][18]

In March and September 1983, Skates co-composed five original songs for a demo tape titled Power in Black.[19][14] He dubbed individual cassette-tape copies for selling and to solicit for a recording contract, used a Xerox photocopier in a library to create a two-sided cover, and shrink wrapped copies using plastic film used to make fruit baskets and a hair dryer to include in their press kit.[20][5] This resulted in offers he accepted for Overkill to place songs on two compilation LP records: Metal Massacre V, and New York Metal ‘84 and accepted an offer from Azra/ Metalstorm Records to distribute a four-song EP record contingent upon his delivery of self-financed recordings and print-ready mechanical artwork.[5][4][21]

Skates established a relationship with Jon and Marsha Zazula in 1982 by mutual acquaintances of the Old Bridge Militia, an assembly of heavy metal fans and roadies who were providing their home for musicians Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton to live.[12][4][2] The Zazula’s were proprietors of Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, an import specialty record store located within the Route 18 Flea Market in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Assisted by band photographer and merchandiser Lori DeAngelis, he sold one thousand Power In Black cassette tapes from Rock ‘n Roll Heaven on a consignment basis in eleven months.[22][23][5] In 1982, the Zazulas formed Megaforce Records, which debuted L.P. record albums from Metallica, Raven, Anthrax, Exciter, Manowar and Talas. The Zazulas recognized the unit sales of Power in Black through Rock ‘n Roll Heaven and by Skates' international marketing, and they presented him with a four-album recording contract offer that Skates accepted and was signed by the members of Overkill on April 10, 1985.[24][5][25]

From 1985-1987 Skates arranged and co-wrote two full-length studio LP records: Feel the Fire (Megaforce) and Taking Over (Megaforce/ Atlantic), which debuted at number 191 on the Billboard Top 200 on April 11, 1987.[26] He implemented the song "Fuck You!" by The Subhumans that was embodied in a live/ studio EP of the same name.[11][9] He toured for these records in North America, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Great Britain, Poland, France, Holland and Austria as thrash metal bands experienced exponential growth during these years.[12][9][18] Skates became inundated with touring and recording commitments, and stated that the close-mindedness of some band members was suppressing Overkill’s success, and the inability to satisfy his work ethics resulted in deep depression, excessive sleeping and alcoholism.[4][5] He refused to meet the commitments required by a recording artist employed within the recording industry, and he announced his departure in Los Angeles, California in the fall of 1987 while completing a tour with Megadeth.[27][28]

Legacy[edit]

Overkill’s early success has been attributed to Skates’ songwriting presence and creative efforts.[7][11][29] He was voted one of the top-ten drummers of 1987 by the Japanese publication Burrn!, and his drumming on the songs "There's No Tomorrow" and "Feel the Fire" were the first recorded songs in the thrash metal genre to encompass non-continuous 16th note double bass drum patterns.[30][31] The Overkill logo was drawn and colored lime green by Skates in 1981, and is recognized as one of the most famous heavy metal logos.[16][4] He noted that when he removed the cross emblem from between the words in his original logo design, he never connected the two words “Over” and “Kill” together, and that is it was never resolved as being a one-word or two-word name, suggesting that Lemmy from Motörhead would know the answer.[5] Skates declined offers to join Megadeth, M.O.D. and Mind Funk; he never attempted to return to Overkill and stated that his only regret was "being naïve to trust".[5][23][10]

Other[edit]

In 1988, Skates wrote Some Stuff I Recorded, a ten-song demo of ideas to share with other musicians for a new project, where he played bass, drums, keyboards and vocals while intoxicated.[30][32] This songwriting was recognized by Japans’ Burrn! Magazine, as three songs from this effort debuted as numbers 1, 2 and 3 on their top ten charts in July 1988.[33] These compositions were re-recorded under the name Bone To Bone with guitarist Jules Asilo, bassist Kevin Drexler, saxophonist Jim Riccio, and former band mate Bobby Blitz on vocals.[32] Skates also recorded a country-pop project Ten Mile Road to Hell with Nashville-based composer/guitarist Eric Cook in 1989.[32]

From 1988 to 1996, Skates established a career as a percussion instructor through both private instruction and the New Jersey Percussion Center in Rockaway, New Jersey.[12][4] During this period he performed in public drum clinics and studied Gary Chester’s book The New Breed through private studies with rock and jazz fusion drummer Karl Latham.[32][5] In February 1990, Skates accepted an offer to join Bomb Squad, a rock/metal group of New Jersey musicians that was affiliated with The Old Bridge Militia.[12][32] He states that Bomb Squad was the most enjoyable musical experience to-date, and the pinnacle of his songwriting and drumming.[32] In 1993, a pending record contract between Bomb Squad and MCA Records collapsed.[32] Vocalist John Poper and bassist Michael Bloomer departed, and Skates and guitarist John Crothers continued on briefly with vocalist Mario Lanuza before completely disbanding in 1993.[32]

Filmmaker and writer[edit]

Skates freelanced for the Suburban Cablevision television network as an audio engineer, live mixer and cameraman from 1988 to 1992; departing due to creative conflicts.[12][32] In 1999, he studied digital audio production and non-linear editing from Trish and Chris Meyer, Jay Rose, and Adam Wilt, and designed and wrote advertising media for television, radio, print publications, performing arts societies, Fortune 500 companies, record labels and recording artists.[12][3] As an independent filmmaker, he co-produced, edited and animated designs for the documentary Get Thrashed (2008, Lightyear/Warner Bros. Entertainment) and Born in the Basement (2007, MVD Entertainment Group), receiving twenty-one screenings in eight countries, winning six awards and pay-per-view broadcasting.[2][3][34]

Skates conceptualized Rock-Un-Rold, a musician’s television talk show with colleague David Ellefson (bassist, Megadeth), and filmed a demo shoot at The Studio in New York City on October 28, 2007. They moderated two discussion panels of six recording artists and pitched an edited version to a Viacom representative who declined the concept due to the content being “too intelligent”.[34][35] In response, Skates began filming interviews in 2009 for the documentary film Welcome to the Dream- The Rude Awakening of Rock Stardom for release by the MVD Entertainment Group in 2012. The films preview teaser excerpts interviews from Grammy-award winning guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Anvil, Jay Jay French (Twisted Sister), Karl Wilcox (Diamond Head), Dr. Patricia Basczcuk (Psychologist) and Robert J. Pisarek, Esq. (Attorney), and an excerpt from his commissioned work for Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is sponsored by the International Documentary Association.[36][37][34]

Personal and notable[edit]

Skates cites writers/ actors John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith and Tim Allen amongst his influences. He married photographer and merchandiser Lori DeAngelis whom he had dated in 1980; she is third cousin to director Brian De Palma. They are both Christian Conservatives, parents to three boys and currently reside in New Jersey.[5][32]

Discography[edit]

Artist Title Label Type Year
Overkill Power In Black Blood Metal Music Cassette 1983
Overkill Overkill Azra/ Metal Storm E.P. Record 1984
Overkill Feel The Fire Megaforce L.P. Record 1985
Overkill Taking Over Megaforce/ Atlantic L.P. Record/ Compact Disc 1987
Overkill !!!Fuck You!!! Megaforce/ Caroline E.P. Record/ Compact Disc 1987
Rat Skates/ Bone To Bone Some Stuff I Recorded Independent Cassette 1988
Eric Cook (Koch) Ten Mile Road To Hell Wild Turkey Cassette 1989
Bomb Squad Live at Suite 16 Demolition Cassette 1991
Overkill Fuck You and Then Some Megaforce Cassette/ Compact Disc 1996
Overkill Fuck You and Then Some/ Feel The Fire Megaforce Compact Disc 2005
Lubricunts Sorry About Your Roof Vector/ Hottentots Download/ Rhapsody/ iTunes 2007

Filmography[edit]

Title Role(s) Label Year
Welcome to the Dream Director/ Screenwriter MVD Entertainment Group 2012
Born in The Basement Actor/ Executive Producer/ Sreenwriter MVD Entertainment Group 2007
Get Thrashed Actor/ Associate Producer/ Designer/ Animator/ Editor/ Camera Lightyear/ Warner Bros. 2008

Other appearances[edit]

Title Performance Work Type Label Year
Metallica Cast Biography Television Program A&E Networks 2009
The Last Bastions of Rock Cast Fritch Clark Documentary Film Urban Blight Films 2009
Death Rider Song Performance Metal Massacre V Compilation L.P. Record Metal Blade 1984
Feel The Fire Song Performance New York Metal '84 Compilation L.P. Record Rock City Records 1984
Songs (multiple) from Feel The Fire Live Song/ German Concert Performance The Metal Hammer Roadshow VHS Video Metal Hammer A.G. 1986
In Union We Stand Song Performance/ Acting Synch Headbangers Ball Beta/ Music Video Atlantic Recording Group/ MTV Networks 1987
Song Performances (Multiple) Live Song/ Concert Performance Videoscope VHS Video Atlantic/ WEA 1991
Song Performances (Multiple) Live Song/ Concert Performance Wrecking Everything/ The Batmen Return DVD Spitfire/ Eagle Vision USA 2002

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bienstock, Richard. Guitar World, ASIN: B000RPKQES
  2. ^ a b c d Ernst, Rick. Get Thrashed- The Story of Thrash Metal ASIN: B001AR4K6C
  3. ^ a b c Trunk, Eddie. Q104.3 Friday night Rocks (Sept. 08)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Lamadier, Laurent. Snakepit Issue #17, pages 63-68, Nov. 2008
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r DeAngelis-Kundrat, Lori. Born in The Basement, MVD Visual (2007) ASIN: B000RPKQES
  6. ^ Laszlo, David. Stygian Shadows Issue #13-14/08 pages 88-91
  7. ^ a b Pierce, Ken. Piercing Metal (05-12-07)
  8. ^ Fat Freddy. Heart of Metal (05-28-07)
  9. ^ a b c Forbes, Chris. Metal Core fanzine
  10. ^ a b c d Roth, Keith/ Kristi, Aimee. WRAT Electric Ballroom (03-16-08)
  11. ^ a b c d e Van Horn, Ray Jr. The Metal Minute (12-08-07)
  12. ^ a b c d e f g McKinney, Mark. Live 4 Metal (12-27-07)
  13. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon. MTV Headbangers Ball (05-24-07)
  14. ^ a b Doe, Bernard. Metal Forces Issue #3/83, page 41
  15. ^ Epstein, Dan. Revolver Issue# 56, page 62 (May 2007)
  16. ^ a b Ciavarella, Liz. Metal Maniacs, page 81, Spring 2008
  17. ^ Bowar, Chad. About.com (06-07-07)
  18. ^ a b Sakellariou, Markos. Metal Hammer Issue #282, page 72, June 2008
  19. ^ Jiminez, Jean-Francois. Enfer Issue #10/84, page 11
  20. ^ Mooring, Matt. Metalreview.com (08-01-07)
  21. ^ Kaye, Don. Rock Hard Issue #10, 3/85, page 19
  22. ^ Lerch, Ewe. Rock Hard Issue #15/85, page 12
  23. ^ a b Moore, Dawn. The Metal Web
  24. ^ Reynolds, Dave. Metal Forces Issue #11/85, page 8
  25. ^ Dawson, Cherryl. The Movie Chicks (11-01-07)
  26. ^ Top 200. Billboard magazine, Nielsen Media (04-11-87)
  27. ^ Kee, Chris. Zero Tolerance Issue #120 page 107, Nov/Dec 2007
  28. ^ Rhode Island Rock. Heavy Metal Addiction (12-24-07)
  29. ^ Kee, Chris. Power Play Issue #91 page 66, Sept. 2007
  30. ^ a b Sakota, Far. Burrn Issue #7/88, page 62
  31. ^ Tollison, Robin. Drums and Drumming, Issue #11/90, page 31
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Skates, Rat. Born in the Basement: Music/ Film
  33. ^ Sakota, Far. Burrn Issue #7/88, page 150
  34. ^ a b c Skates, Rat. Welcome to the Dream- The Rude Awakening of Rock Stardom
  35. ^ Skates, Rat. "Helping Artists to Survive the Collision of Art, Money, Ego Success and Fear"
  36. ^ Krushna, Hare. Metal Assault Radio (10-28-10)
  37. ^ Catricola, Mike. Heavy Metal Mayhem-Talk Radio (12-05-10)

References[edit]

  1. Top 200. Billboard magazine, Nielsen Media (04-11-87) [1]
  2. Van Horn, Ray Jr. The Metal Minute (12-08-07) [2]
  3. Barrett, Simon. BNN News Network (11-09-07) [3]
  4. McKinney, Mark. Heavy Metal Time Machine (11-26-07) [4]
  5. McKinney, Mark. Live 4 Metal (12-27-07) [5]
  6. Wiederhorn, Jon. MTV Headbangers Ball (05-24-07) [6]
  7. Pierce, Ken. Piercing Metal (05-12-07) [7]
  8. Fat Freddy. Heart of Metal (05-28-07) [8]
  9. Strigl, Mark. Talking Metal (09-10-07) [9]
  10. Bowar, Chad. About.com (06-07-07) [10]
  11. Dawson, Cherryl. The Movie Chicks (11-01-07) [11]
  12. Mooring, Matt. Metalreview.com (08-01-07) [12]
  13. Pierce, Ken. Sea of Tranquility (07-15-07) [13]
  14. Epstein, Dan. Revolver Issue# 56, page 62 (May 2007) [14]
  15. Milburn, Simon. The Metal Forge (07-20-07) [15]
  16. AKR. Talk Bass (05-23-07) [16]
  17. Christe, Ian. Bang Bang (05-03-07) [17]
  18. Ragman. The Right to Rock (12-03-07) [18]
  19. Mosqueda, Ruben. Pivotal Alliance (11-28-07) [19]
  20. Vinyl, Bob. Rock and Roll Nonsense (12-05-07) [20]
  21. Rhode Island Rock. Heavy Metal Addiction (12-24-07) [21]
  22. Moore, Dawn. The Metal Web [22]
  23. Forbes, Chris. Metal Core fanzine [23]
  24. Degraffenreid, Joe. Metal Hell Issue #19, page 35-36, June 2007 [24]
  25. Kee, Chris. Power Play Issue #91 page 66, Sept. 2007 [25]
  26. Kee, Chris. Zero Tolerance Issue #120 page 107, Nov/Dec 2007 [26]
  27. DeAngelis-Kundrat, Lori. Born in The Basement, MVD Visual (2007) ASIN: B000RPKQES
  28. Ciavarella, Liz. Metal Maniacs, page 81, Spring 2008
  29. Lamadier, Laurent. Snakepit Issue #17, pages 63–68, Nov. 2008
  30. Sakellariou, Markos. Metal Hammer Issue #282, page 72, June 2008
  31. Fragos, Sakos. Rock Hard Issue #26, page 96, Nov. 2007
  32. Krushna, Hare. Metal Assault Radio (10-28-10) [27]
  33. Catricola, Mike. Heavy Metal Mayhem-Talk Radio (12-05-10) [28]
  34. Trunk, Eddie. Q104.3 Friday night Rocks (Sept. 08) [29]
  35. Laszlo, David. Stygian Shadows Issue #13-14/08 pages 88–91
  36. Strattmann, Holger. Rock Hard Issue #17/86, page 7
  37. Lerch, Ewe. Rock Hard Issue #15/85, page 12
  38. Doe, Bernard. Metal Forces Issue #3/83, page 41
  39. Klemm, Oliver. Metal Hammer Issue #4/87, page 94
  40. Klemm, Oliver. Metal Hammer Issue #1/85, page 55
  41. Kuhnemund, Gotz. Metal Hammer Issue #12/86, page 32
  42. Doe, Bernard. Metal Forces Issue #20/86, page 52
  43. Gandolfi, Roberto. H.M. (4/87), page 28
  44. Kuhnemund, Gotz. Rock Power Issue #4/86, pages 24–25
  45. Kaye, Don. Rock Hard Issue #10, 3/85, page 19
  46. Secher, Andy. Hit Parader Issue #275, 8/87, page 10
  47. Cozze. Whiplash Issue #4/85, page 16
  48. Jiminez, Jean-Francois. Enfer Issue #10/84, page 11
  49. Rosner, Philipp. Crash Issue #4/87, page 18
  50. Giordano, Carmelo. Inferno Rock Issue #5/87, page 20
  51. Reynolds, Dave. Metal Forces Issue #11/85, page 8
  52. Sakota, Far. Burrn Issue #7/88, page 62
  53. Sakota, Far. Burrn Issue #7/88, page 150
  54. Zogbi, Marina. Metal Edge Issue #2/93, page 31
  55. Bienstock, Richard. Guitar World, ASIN: B000RPKQES
  56. Tollison, Robin. Drums and Drumming, Issue #11/90, page 31
  57. Roth, Keith/ Kristi, Aimee. WRAT Electric Ballroom (03-16-08) [30]
  58. Skates, Rat. Welcome to the Dream- The Rude Awakening of Rock Stardom [31]
  59. Skates, Rat. Born in the Basement: Music/ Film [32]
  60. Skates, Rat. "Helping Artists to Survive the Collision of Art, Money, Ego Success and Fear" [33]
  61. Ernst, Rick. Get Thrashed- The Story of Thrash Metal ASIN: B001AR4K6C
  62. Rogenmoser, Rich. Heard it on the X Radio Show (11-14-10) [34]

External links[edit]