Rat Skates

Rat Skates

Rat Skates (born Lee Kundrat, on May 17, 1961 in Summit, New Jersey) is a filmmaker, writer and musician. He is most widely known from the film "Born in the Basement" and as the founding member of one of the 1980s pioneering thrash metal group Overkill.

Early life

Rat Skates grew up in a conservative middle-class household in New Providence, New Jersey, where he attended school and was very involved in sports, art and music. He was greatly compelled to music at an early age, being first attracted by The Beatles’ "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" and Elton John during his "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" era.

He was first introduced to skateboarding in 1974 during the clay wheel genesis of the sport. Skates became part of a small group of skateboarders who were at the vanguard of East Coast skateboarding and were mimicking surfing- turned-skate maneuvers that were pioneered by Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta and the Zephyr Surf Team (later known as the Z-Boys of Dogtown from Venice, California). He had aggressively pursued skateboarding, achieved semi-professional status and was sponsored by local surf shops. He had placed well in many competitions, primarily in the freestyle categories, which was the stronghold of East Coast skateboarding due to the limited supply of drainage ditches, empty swimming pools and dominated primarily by flat terrain. His friends then dubbed him with the nickname "Rat Skates" combining part of his last name and skateboarding.

At age 15, he began studying drum technique with jazz instructor Jack Robertello, but was primarily inspired by rock drummers such as Cliff Davies, Joey Kramer, John Bonham and Peter Criss.

In 1976, Skates met Carlos Verni in high school (later known as D.D. Blaze, then D.D. Verni) who was learning bass guitar. They shared the same musical interests in Heavy Rock bands like Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Starz, The Godz, Black Sabbath, and Rainbow and were then introduced to punk music such as The Damned, The Ramones, The Vibrators, Generation X, Iggy and The Stooges, and Johnny Thunders through another classmate Fred Hensley (who became known as vocalist Billy Vector.) With Skates using drums that were borrowed from neighborhood friends, the three formed a group known as The Lubricunts in 1979 with another classmate Ken Sibley on guitar, who became known as Nick Fuse.

Professional career

Musician

Overkill

At age 17, while in their senior year of high school and not all members being of legal drinking age, The Lubricunts still managed to play nightclubs such as CBGB, Great Gildersleeves, Max’s Kansas City, Trudy Heller’s, Bottany Talk House, The Mudd Club and The Showplace. Their set consisted of both punk covers and originals. While working at his first post-high school job as a graphic artist and printing press operator at RC Graphics in Caldwell, New Jersey, he made The Lubricunts first promotional flyers and stickers. Skates met The Misfits founder/ bassist Jerry Only while delivering printed materials to the X-Acto knife blade factory where Only worked. Only invited Skates to play drums on a Misfits recording, which never materialized because Skates could not borrow his mother’s car to make the session. The Lubricunts only played live shows, and had never secured a recording contact or management representation. During these early days, he eventually borrowed enough money from his mother to purchase a Ludwig double bass drum kit that he ended up re-fitting with Tama heads and used it through his career with Overkill. He worked as a stock boy in The Summit Food Market and met his future wife, Lori DeAngelis, who worked at a nearby Grand Union supermarket. With the release of Judas Priests’ "Hell Bent For Leather" and Iron Maiden’s debut LP, Skates and Verni’s attraction toward the sound, talent and image of heavy metal music had superseded the simplicity of their punk efforts, causing The Lubricunts to permanently disband. Skates ran an ad in "The Aquarian" newspaper seeking new heavy metal musicians, which was answered by guitarist Robert Pisarek (who became known as Riff Thunder), bringing with him bassist-turned-vocalist Robert Ellsworth (who became known as Bobby Blitz) from their former cover rock group known as D.O.A. (Not to be confused with the Canadian punk band of the same name). They re-named themselves as Virgin Killer, after the Scorpions’ record of the same name, and then Pisarek’s suggestion as Overkill, after the Motörhead record of the same.

In his longtime desire to become a national recording act, Skates faced a very difficult musical environment in 1979 through 1982 as the culture of North Eastern North America was tail-spinning with contradicting genres such as disco, New Wave, punk, progressive rock and stoner music. These frustrations motivated him to work relentlessly to grow Overkill with Verni’s support and own efforts. They had mutually envisioned and implemented a theatrical, horror-oriented theme, freely borrowing visual elements from Kiss, The Misfits, Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister, along with an unsigned club band from Pennsylvania called The Dead End Kids. This musical club-circuit environment was firmly dominated by top 40 cover-rock groups; which had almost completely disbarred the acceptance of any original music performances. To avoid the possibility of absolute booking rejection, Skates and Verni mutually decided upon performing covers as well, but their selections by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Riot, Accept, AC/DC and The Scorpions were all but unknown at tri-state area bars and nightclubs, ultimately maintaining the same booking difficulties. As the performance avenues for original music were severely limited, Skates and Verni focused most of their attention to the visual aspect of Overkill.

From 1981 to 1983, Skates was heavily involved in the underground New Wave of British Heavy Metal cassette tape-trading circuit shared between North America and Europe. This free market style mindset would become the core foundation for thrash metal, and the sole launching pad for Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus and all bands that pioneered the Thrash genre. The fanaticism and enthusiasm of these traders compelled Skates to market and merchandise Overkill in the same grass-roots fashion. By flooding the primarily independent underground heavy metal fanzines with promotional materials and imitating the professional-caliber attributes of National recording acts, he was able to transcend Overkill from obscurity to international recognition. Skates utilized unconventional resources to create the components he believed were essential attributes of successful recording acts, notably: creating stage banners made with slide projectors and magic markers, modifying ornaments from a Halloween costume store into stage clothing and stage props, an array of merchandise including T-shirts that he and DeAngelis silk screened by hand, an enormous castle-dungeon stage set 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 through home-stamped stickers placed on highway toll booths.

In March and September 1983, Skates and band members composed five original songs that Ellsworth monikered as a style called Blood Metal for a demo tape titled "Power in Black" of which he made individually dubbed copies for sale and to solicit for a recording contract. He used a Xerox copying machine at his local library to create a two-sided cover, and also crudely shrink wrapped specific copies to include in their press kit. The greatly increased visibility that was generated from the press kits and DeAngelis’ live-show merchandising exponentially accelerated the merchandise and tape sales to an unprecedented level for an unsigned thrash metal band in 1983-1985 in both the United States and Europe. Skates was offered and accepted slots for Overkill to appear on two compilation LP records, "Metal Massacre V", and "New York Metal ‘84" as well as accepting 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.

Skates became friends with Jon and Marsha Zazula in 1982 through mutual friends of the Old Bridge Militia, a dedicated group of fans and roadies that shared their home with Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton. The Zazula’s were proprietors of Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, an import specialty record store originally located in the Route 18 Flea Market in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Within one year, Skates and DeAngelis sold more than one thousand "Power In Black" cassette tapes from Rock ‘n Roll Heaven on a consignment basis. In 1982, the Zazula’s had also launched their own independent record label Megaforce Records, which debuted with releases from Metallica, Raven, Anthrax, Exciter, Manowar and Talas. The Zazula’s were impressed at the sales of "Power in Black"; through their store and by Skates’ mail-order soliciting and international marketing efforts. They were convinced that Overkill could achieve great success by implementing Megaforce’s industry resources, 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.

From 1985-1987 Skates arranged and co-wrote two more full-length studio LP records: "Feel The Fire" and "Taking Over". His un-acquitted love for punk and hardcore music resulted in recording and performing the song "Fuck You" by The Subhumans that was embodied in a live/ studio EP of the same name.

Heavy metal was redefined with a new standard of extremes as thrash metal music began its worldwide breakout to the masses on a mainstream level in 1986. Many industry engineers, producer and A&R personnel were re-evaluating their respective functions as they were experiencing thrash metal music as a new genre without any previous comparatives or guidelines. This also carried over into making errors on a fundamental business level for Overkill. Skates’ life was drastically changed as the un-experienced third parties of the music industry became the determining element to Overkill’s potential success. These outside entities had relinquished him of the daily routines that he was accustomed to undertaking himself, also adversely affecting his creative decisions. 1986-1987 consumed Skates with continuous touring and recording commitments, he received only minor breaks in Overkill’s hectic schedule as the thrash metal culture and Overkill continued its unprecedented expansion. The stress from this lifestyle and inability to satisfy his work ethics led him into a deep depression of constant sleeping and excessive alcohol use. After coming to terms with the realities of his future as a recording artist employed within the recoding industry, he announced his departure in Los Angeles, California in the fall of 1987 while completing a tour with Megadeth.

Legacy

Skates is recognized as one of the inspiring motivators of the early 1980s thrash metal movement along with fellow musicians Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, Kerry King, Dave Mustaine, Scott Ian, Danny Lilker and former bandmate D.D. Verni. After his departure, Skates’ songwriting presence was absent from Overkill’s continued efforts, which shifted the fundamental base of their highly acclaimed early style. His drumming, notably on "There’s No Tomorrow" and "Feel the Fire" were the first such songs in the thrash metal genre to encompass non-continuous 16th note double bass drum patterns. Voted one of the top-ten drummers of 1987 by the Japanese publication "Burrn!" he was also offered to join other thrash metal acts including Megadeth, M.O.D. and Mind Funk, but he declined all offers. The lime-green Overkill logo that Skates drew in 1981 is recognized as one of the most identifiable logos in heavy metal music and is still being used today by the remaining members, as well as redesigned versions of the original mascot drawing (a skull head with bat wings modified from popular Harley-Davidson emblems). He also 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.http://www.ratskates.com/ourword.htm] excerpt from "Born in The Basement"] Skates never attempted to return to Overkill and has publicly stated that he never regretted his decision to depart. [ [http://www.themetalweb.com/ratskatesinterview.html The Metal Web - Rat Skates Interview ] ]

Other

Having been exhausted from his work, and disappointed in the direction that thrash metal music was continuing in, Skates took a brief but much needed break after his departure from Overkill. In early 1988, he began writing and playing again, but directly returning to his earliest roots of straight ahead rock music. His first effort was recording an admittedly half-intoxicated effort titled "Some Stuff I Recorded" [http://www.ratskates.com/music.htm Rat Skates :: Kundrat Productions Music ] ] where he also played bass, drums, keyboards and vocals as a ten-song demo of ideas to share with other musicians for a new recording project. Although he viewed his abilities at playing other instruments as being non-serious and strictly for fun purposes only, his songwriting element was strong enough to override his vocal deficiencies as three songs from this effort debuted as numbers 1,2 and 3 on the top ten charts in the July 1988 issue of Japans’ "Burrn!" magazine. These song ideas were re-assessed and re-recorded under the name Bone To Bone with guitarist Jules Asilo, bassist Kevin Drexeler, saxaphonist Jim Riccio, and former band mate Bobby Blitz on vocals. Skates also recorded a country-pop project with composer/guitarist Eric Cook.

Having been formally educated in percussion and restricted by the drumming limitations inherent to the thrash and speed metal genres, [ [http://www.metalcorefanzine.com/ratskates.html Rat Skates Interview ] ] he had also began a career as a percussion instructor through both private instruction and the New Jersey Percussion Center in Rockaway, New Jersey. Skates performed in several drum clinics, and built a large following of students, who were primarily interested in learning heavy metal power-fills. The lack of students’ discipline and acceptance of expanding techniques ultimately ended his full-time teaching career that spanned five years. Skates himself had further expanded his own percussion education during these years as well, through studies of Gary Chester’s book "The New Breed" and private studies with renowned rock and jazz fusion drummer Karl Latham.

In early 1990, Skates was offered to join Bomb Squad, a straight-ahead rock/metal group of New Jersey musicians that was affiliated with The Old Bridge Militia. Having enriched his musical breadth significantly past the thrash metal days, he states that Bomb Squad is the pinnacle of his musical career to-date, serving as the most satisfying and enjoyable experience of his as both drummer and songwriter. [ [http://www.ratskates.com/bomb_squad.htm Rat Skates :: Bomb Squad :: Kundrat Productions ] ] In 1992, a pending recording agreement between Bomb Squad and MCA Records eventually collapsed as the industry was obsessed with the grunge fad that dominated the public’s attention, leaving Bomb Squad in an abandoned market. The recording industry had shut down the opportunities for Skates and Bomb Squad to reach the masses. Vocalist John Poper (not to be confused with John Popper of Blues Traveler fame) and bassist Michael Bloomer a.k.a. Boomer had departed, but Skates and guitarist John “Boy” Crothers continued on briefly with vocalist Mario Lanuza before completely disbanding in 1993.

Filmmaker and writer

Skates freelanced for the Suburban Cablevision television network as an audio engineer, live mixer and cameraman in the early 1990s, but departed due to the schedule-oriented structure of broadcast television programming. In 1999, he studied computer-based audio and visual mixing and editing with the guidance of industry gurus Trish and Chris Meyer, Jay Rose, and Adam Wilt. This knowledge evolved primarily into designing and writing advertisements in television, radio, the web and print media. Skates’ total creative expression was still limited within the parameters inherent to advertising-based projects, and opted for the limitless boundaries of freestyle independent filmmaking. This resulted in a co-producing and animators role of the documentary "Get Thrashed" (Lightyear/Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2008) which screened in film festivals around the world during 2006 to 2007 and won various awards. His first completely self-produced film is the world’s only musician-based documentary within the 1980s thrash metal culture; a retrospective journey back through his Overkill years titled: "Born in The Basement", with Lori DeAngelis-Kundrat in the director’s role. This was released worldwide on DVD in 2007 by the MVD Entertainment Group. It is highly regarded as a definitive look into the thrash metal culture and reveals the mechanics and realities involved with creating a successful recording act in the 1980s without recording industry assistance. [ [http://www.ratskates.com/impressed.htm Rat Skates :: Born In The Basement Reviews :: Kundrat Productions ] ] [Wiederhorn, Jon. MTV Headbangers Blog] [Van Horn, Ray Jr.. The Metal Minute] [Barrett, Simon. Blogger News Network] [Abt, Keith. Yahoo Music] [Pierce, Ken. Piercing Metal.com] [McKinney, Mark. Blogspot.com] [Mooring, Matt. Metalreview.com] [Kee, Chris. "Power Play" (UK)-Issue #91 page 66, Sept. 2007] [Kee, Chris. "Zero Tolerance" (UK)-Issue #120 page 107, Nov/Dec 2007]

Personal and notable

Skates and Lori DeAngelis-Kundrat were married October 14, 1988. They are both devout Christians and active in their Church community. They have three boys and currently reside in New Jersey. He cites writers/ actors Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith, Tim Allen and John Cleese amongst his influences. [ [http://www.myspace.com/borninthebasement MySpace.com - RAT SKATES - www.myspace.com/borninthebasement ] ] [ [http://www.myspace.com/ratskates MySpace.com - RAT SKATES - 46 - Garçon - New Jersey - www.myspace.com/ratskates ] ] Lori is third cousin to director Brian DePalma, but has not worked with him. They own and operate Kundrat Productions, a recording a post-production studio in New Jersey. He still skateboards and plays music.

Discography

References

# Wiederhorn, Jon. MTV Headbangers Blog (05-24-07) [http://headbangersblog.com/2007/05/24/overkills-goth-roots-exposed-on-dvd-born-in-the-basement/]
# Van Horn, Ray Jr.. The Metal Minute (12-08-07) [http://rayvanhornjr.blogspot.com/2007/12/dvd-review-rat-skates-born-in-basement.html]
# Barrett, Simon. Blogger News Network (11-09-07) [http://www.bloggernews.net/111572]
# McKinney, Mark. Blogspot.com (11-26-07) [http://metalmark.blogspot.com/2007/11/rat-skates-born-in-basement.html]
# Mckinney, Mark. Live 4 Metal.com (12-27-07) [http://www.live4metal.com/ratskates2008.htm]
# Abt, Keith. Yahoo Music (06-25-07) [http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/Detritus/message/736%20]
# Pierce, Ken. Piercing Metal.com [http://www.piercingmetal.com/dvd_ratskates_basement.htm]
# Fat Freddy. Detritus E-zine/ Heart of Metal (05-28-07) [http://heartofmetal.niceboard.com/Main-Forum-Area-c1/Heart-Of-Metal-f1/Rat-Skates-BORN-IN-THE-BASEMENT-DVD-t1038.htm]
# Strigl, Mark. Talking Metal Podcast (09-10-07) [http://www.striglsmusicnews.com/cdreviews.htm]
# Bowar, Chad. About.com (June 07) [http://heavymetal.about.com/od/dvdreviews/fr/ratskatesdvd.htm]
# Dawson, Cherryl. The Movie Chicks.com (Nov. 07) [http://www.themoviechicks.com/mid2007/mcrbornbasement.html]
# Mooring, Matt. Metalreview.com (Aug 07) [http://www.metalreview.com/3942/Rat-Skates-Born-In-The-Basment.aspx]
# Pierce, Ken. Sea of Tranquility.org (07-15-07) [http://www.seaoftranquility.org/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=5172]
# (Unknown),. Metal Net Radio June 07) [http://www.metalnetradio.com/review.htm]
# Milburn, Simon. The Metal Forge (Australia) (07-20-07) [http://www.themetalforge.com/modules.php?name=Reviews&rop=showcontent&id=1319]
# "AKR",. Talk Bass.com (05-23-07) [http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=334915]
# Christe, Ian. Bang Bang Blog (05-03-07) [http://bangbangblog.info/2007/05/03/from-the-rats-mouth-overkillthrash-history-dvd/]
# Ragman. TheRightToRock.com (12-03-07) [http://therighttorock.com/?p=183]
# Mosqueda, Ruben. PivotalAlliance.com (11-28-07) [http://www.pivotalalliance.com/webzine/reviews.php?subaction=showfull&id=1196221805&archive=&start_from=&ucat=2]
# Vinyl, Bob. Rock and Roll Nonsense.com (12-05-07) [http://rnrnonsense.toomanyvoices.com/archive/2007_12_01_archive.html]
# (Unknown). Heavy Metal Addiction (12-24-07) [http://hardrockheavymetal.wordpress.com/2007/12/24/rat-skates-born-in-the-basement-dvd-2007/]
# Dawn. , The Metal Web [http://www.themetalweb.com/ratskatesinterview.html]
# Forbes, Chris. Metal Core Fanzine [http://www.metalcorefanzine.com/ratskates.html]
# Degraffenreid, Joe. , Metal Hell Issue #19, page 35-36, June 2007 [http://www.metalhellonline.com]
# Kee, Chris. Power Play (UK)-Issue #91 page 66, Sept. 2007 [http://www.powerplaymagazine.co.uk]
# Kee, Chris. Zero Tolerance (UK)-Issue #120 page 107, Nov/Dec 2007 [http://www.ztmag.com]
# Skates, Rat. Born in The Basement MVD Visual (2007) ASIN: B000RPKQES [http://www.ratskates.com/impressed.htm]
# Rat Skates Official Website [http://www.ratskates.com]
# IMDB (The International Movie Database) [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2202197/]

External links

* [http://ratskates.com/impressed.htm Born in The Basement Featured Film Reviews]
* [http://www.ratskates.com Rat Skates Official Website]
* [http://www.myspace.com/ratskates Rat Skates Official MySpace Page]
* [http://www.myspace.com/borninthebasement Born in The Basement MySpace Page]
* [http://www.themetalweb.com/ratskatesinterview.html Rat Skates interview on The Metal Web]
* [http://www.metalcorefanzine.com/ratskates.html Rat Skates interview with MetalCore Fanzine]
* [http://www.live4metal.com/ratskates2008.htm Rat Skates interview with Metal Mark]
* [http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B000RPKQES/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_summary?%5Fencoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending Amazon.com Reviews]
* [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2202197/ IMDB.com]
* [http://www.kundrat.com Kundrat Productions Website]
* [http://www.getthrashed.com Get Thrashed Website]


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