Don McBee - Vocals
Ralph Longo - Guitars & Backing Vocals
Mark “Freeze” Freseman - Guitars & Backing Vocals
Bryan "Coach" Lujan - Bass & Backing Vocals
Steve Fletcher - Drums & Backing Vocals
"Inject the Venom"
Hard rock bands are not created to play music that could pose as a cure for insomnia, hard rock bands are created to blast speakers and peel the plaster right off the walls. Rattleshake were no exception. The nucleus of the band formed in the late 80’s when bassist Bryan Lujan and guitarists Ralph Longo and Mark Freseman played together in the popular San Francisco Bay Area band called Mad Anthony. Bryan then brought in his friend Steve Fletcher for beat-keeping duties and a few weeks later, fellow Bay Area rocker, vocalist Don McBee (Flame) was added to the mix.
The band name Rattleshake was randomly rolled out by Ralph and for no reason other than it sounded cool, it stuck. This inspired Ralph to design the band logo, a rattlesnake wrapped around an “R,” sporting a nose ring, Mohawk, and cigarette dangling from forked tongue. This “Rattleshake Rattler” avatar perfectly captured the cool, head-banging, bad boy vibe the band wanted to exude.
Rattleshake unleashed their inaugural display of hard rock fury on February 3, 1990 at the Niles Station in Fremont, California. Proof of the band’s prowess was provided by the packed house which resulted in the arrival of the Fire Marshal who threatened to shut the place down. The max-capacity crowd created an electric atmosphere custom-made for tearing it up and that’s exactly what Rattleshake did. The visceral thrill the band experienced every time they played in front of a mob of metal-heads was a crack-like addiction and soon they had blazed through every club in the Bay Area while opening for major-leaguers such as Winger, Tesla, and Warrant.
Between gigs, Rattleshake continually honed their high-energy brand of hard rock, with Ralph and Mark doing the bulk of the songwriting, then bringing the songs to practice for the rest of the band’s input. Steve would suggest some nifty arrangements; Bryan would display his knack for slick transitions and climatic endings, and Don would weigh in with some strong lyrical suggestions. As a unit, they were solidified in their songwriting goals: heaps of hooks and a natural, unforced flow.
They say that if you can remember the 80’s, you probably weren’t there, and that adage certainly applies to the excessive nature of the hair-metal era. But despite the parties, groupies, booze, and unbridled chaos of the rock star lifestyle, the band will never forget the night they had to hit the stage sans singer because Don was still on the road racing back from his home in Oregon. The band barreled into their first song, doggedly determined to just do their damnedest, when Don suddenly darted onto the stage barefoot and dripping wet from the shower. Rattleshake soldiered on and kicked all kinds of ass that night-which is exactly what they wanted to do to Don for his tardiness-and now look back on that near-disastrous show with fond memories, referring to it as their Spinal Tap moment.
So many unsigned bands from back in the day claim to have nearly struck it big, but Rattleshake remain refreshingly candid in that department, acknowledging that nothing really came close to panning out. Perhaps a case of simply not having the right contacts or perhaps merely the melody-massacring death marches of grunge. As Ralph puts it, “we were racing up the road toward success at 150 miles per hour, but then Nirvana showed up and turned that road into so much shit.”
Whatever the reason, Rattleshake’s hard rock journey eventually reached a dead end and the band called it a day, leaving behind dreams they had dared to chase, memories they would never forget, and some great music to rock out to. While the likelihood of a full reunion remains slim, at least the masses can now enjoy the metal magic the band crafted two decades ago. Let Rattleshake inject you with their hard rock venom …you’ll be glad you did.
Written By Mark Allen