Rikki Rockett

Rockett Man! An Accidental interview with

Rikki Rockett

There was a period of time in the 80’s when my favorite thing to do on a Saturday night was watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. Ratt were my favorite band at the time (don’t even start) and I saw them on a couple of arena tours where the support band was Poison. I usually got to the venue in time to miss most of Poison’s set, because they just weren’t my thing, so if anyone had told me back then that one day I’d be on the phone for an hour (on my dime) with Rikki Rockett, I would have laughed myself unconscious. But things change.

One night, a few weeks before Christmas, I had Rikki Rockett’s home phone number in my hand. I was writing a story on this Pokemon parody called Tokemon , based on little characters who smoke pot and get loaded. When I found out that Tokemon was being animated by Rikki, I got his phone number from a publicist so I could get some quotes for my story. I had been impressed by Rikki’s appearance on Poison: Behind the Music , and I thought it’d be kind of fun — kind of kitsch, even — to talk to him. I never expected to spend more then five minutes on the phone with him. What happened was, when I got what I needed for my story, I forgot to hang up.

Rikki Rockett is 37, still has most of his hair, and lives on five acres in Agua Dulce, north of Los Angeles. Obviously, he saved his money and invested well, which is a reason to respect him right there.

The genesis of Rikki’s fame may stem from his position as the drummer in Poison, but that’s such a small part of what he is all about. His support of animal rights causes is well known. He designs Web sites and works with Flash animation. He owns a comic book company. He likes ultimate fighting, Joan Jett, and Glam rock. He hates it when people use the phrase “hair metal.” He follows a strict vegan diet but admits that he smokes too many cigarettes. He’s been around long enough to remember when punk rock was really punk rock. Rikki Rockett is so sweet, so cool, so down to Earth, I had a crush on him for about three weeks after this conversation. Rikki and I talked about the kind of stuff a rock star will only tell you when you’re not really supposed to be conducting a formal interview.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall. I was a fly on the wall with a tape recorder.

We join our conversation, already in progress.

••

If you’ve ever been around children who are into Pokemon , it’s like they’re speaking a foreign language.

It’s like observing in the early 80’s when college age people were into Dungeons and Dragons , it’s like they had their own language. But game people are on another planet, period. I started to go down that path and one point and then I went “Nope. I’m not going to do it, I’ll waste my life away.” One day I’ll look in the mirror and be old and gray and have accomplished nothing except finding the seven swords of…something (laughs). I mean, I buy toys, especially the Todd McFarlane toys, I’ve got the Kiss ones and the Spawn stuff…

I love that stuff.

I have a lot actually in storage in my attic right now, because I just haven’t figured out how to display all this stuff yet. But when I had my comic book company, between my partner and I we must have had a couple hundred action figures.

I didn’t know you’d owned a comic book company.

Yeah, a comic book company called No Mercy Comics. It still exists, I just stopped publishing right now. My partner died last year and I just stopped. But now I may be doing a book through Image — Poison related, as a matter of fact — so I’m going to see if they want to do something.

What” going on with Poison anyway?

We go into the studio in a couple of weeks with Bob Ezrin, and we had an extremely successful tour this last summer that we did it with no [new] record or anything. We definitely pissed off everybody that wanted to put a nail in our coffin, because that didn’t happen. We’re the only band [from that period] that didn’t go out and screw up the last four years or five years. Everyone else went out, and I’m not afraid to say it, Warrant and Slaughter, all those bands went out and tried to be like heavy and integral and we just came out and went “Hey we’re a glam band, that’s what we are. Music’s a whore, let’s dress it up!” (laughs).

Well I do remember when Poison was first signed to Enigma, my girlfriend who was friends with Bill Heine used to say to me, “Poison: the band that made Bill Heine a millionaire.” Enigma had all of these weird punk bands, and Poison.

Exactly.

I have to tell you that when I watched Poison: Behind the Music , I really did think you were the coolest guy in the band. It really came off like you kept yourself together when everyone else was totally freaking out. And I’m not just saying that because we’re on the phone. You really came out shining.

Well thank you, very much.

Because Bobby Dahl is like a total idiot. He wasn’t portrayed in a very flattering light, as far as his opinion of women is concerned.

Well, you know what though, You need a guy like that in the band…

To make everyone else look good by comparison…

He’s not going to win the hearts of feminists, but he will [impress] those guys — in Orange County (laughs) — I mean, Bob’s for the guys. That’s his personality. He’s like Howard Stern. That’s his demographic (laughs) and he gets that part of the demographic for us. I’m not cut out for that ’cause that’s just not my thing. But I thought it was funny the way he put himself across.

He was entertaining. What can I say? To have a Behind the Music special is something to be proud of. It’s a great thing. It’s the best show on TV.

It is. And you know what, I can’t get it right now.

Oh no!

I gotta call. I got basic cable, because when I moved here I didn’t know whether I was going to do satellite or do full-on cable.

Satellite…satellite…

I just don’t feel like screwing around with the satellite right now. So I’m gonna do the cable thing. But, see, I like Ultimate Fights, and they don’t show that on cable, only on satellite.

Get the satellite dish…Rikki…you can afford it…

(Laughs) I don’t know.

And you have the best rock name of course: Rikki Rockett! Is there a better name? I think not.

I don’t know, Joan Jett and I were laughing about how if we got married she’d be Joan Jett-Rockett (laughs).

I’m not sure if she likes guys Rikki, I hate to be a bummer.

She likes me! (Laughs) She hung out with me for three and a half hours.

I love Joan. She’s awesome.

She kissed me on the lips and everything…but it wasn’t passionate. But Joan’s the coolest, I’ve loved her forever. The Runaways, I was definitely into the Runaways when I was an adolescent.

Oh hell yeah. I used to listen to Rodney on the Rock (KROQ), Rodney Bingenheimer’s show on Sunday nights and he’d play them and all this cool punk rock.

You know what though, I think you growing up out here, you were probably a little more privileged as a teenager, I think, because back in Pennsylvania, I mean it’s better now, people are exposed to more things now because of VH1 and all that. But back then I had no…I had radio and they didn’t play things like that. I think they played “Cherry Bomb” for a week. But the Runaways probably played Orange County and all these places. Like I said, people are more hooked in now, because of the Internet and VH1, MTV, more magazines, more everything. People are just more connected in every way. But MTV and VH1 are like a double edged sword in a lot of ways, because there’s artists that become popular and if you heard just [their] music you might not even buy their stuff, ya know what I mean?

Well, MTV revolutionized the way people buy music. Forever, for better of worse. But thank god for VH1.

I know, I swear to god VH1 is cooler now. I remember when you watched it if you wanted to see Michael Bolton.

And now they rawk! Like, I’m going to see Buckcherry on Monday and I can hardly stand it I’m so excited, they’re so old school.

Oh, I love them.

I just want to see a bunch of guys who are all tattooed, singing about taking drugs.

Right, I love Buckcherry. That whole vibe is trying so desperately to make a comeback. East of the Rockies there’s more rock and roll. It gets West of the Rockies and it starts getting “yo,” it really does. I noticed it while we were on tour. Phoenix, where we really do well normally, we didn’t do as well as places in the East, where we didn’t do as well in the past. We did better numbers in some places than we did at the peak of our career on this past tour, which is really bizarre.

It is bizarre.

It’s just that the East coast…it rocks more, I don’t know how else to say it, it sounds like a moronic way of putting it across but it does. The fans just want it more. Out this way, you still have baggy shorts, all the way from the Rockies.

That might have something to do with the better weather.

Yeah maybe (laughs).

Here we just want our rock.

Yeah you guys wanna rock!

When I lived in California it was cool. But then it became not so cool, so now I have to live here.

You rock, man.

No, you rock.

When you write this, are you going to be mean?

No way, why would I be mean? You’re cool.

Well, the press hasn’t been exactly friendly to Poison. But you know what? It is changing a bit, and I’ll tell you why. People who loved our band back when they were a teenager and didn’t have the power to do anything, they’re now of age and they’re radio programmers and TV people and critics and writers. So it’s changing. They’re going “Hey, I wanna write about the bands I love!” People don’t want to admit they were influenced by Warrant but they’re starting to want to admit that were influenced by Poison, which is cool. Which means we have more legs than we thought we did, or that other people thought we did.

You were talking about a resurgence in the glam rock, and I totally see that happening and I’m so excited about it. Because that’s my childhood.

I just wish Buckcherry went further with their image.

Well, you don’t want them OD’ing on stage.

(Laughs) You know I’m doing a glitter record?

I read something about that. Would you like to tell me about it?

Yeah! It’s going to be called Glitter for Your Soul , and the reason I call it that is because the songs that I’m putting on there definitely molded what I became, in a lot of ways. I think other people would be as influenced by this stuff if they were exposed to it. A lot of people never knew anything about Mott the Hoople or — it’s really sad — T-Rex!

Oh, Mott the Hoople, one of my favorite bands of all time.

Yeah, Mark Bolan was one of the biggest selling artists of all time in Europe and everywhere else. It’s just in America where he really wasn’t that huge. It was just “Bang a Gong,” that was it, and Electric Warrior .

But his legend is still very strong as far as influences and a certain degree of visibility, for someone who is dead. Along with Jimi and Jim.

Right, Well see that’s the thing, you always hear about those artists. And sure, they were influential, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix that get all the attention.

So you want to bring up those artists who were a bit more underground?

Not necessarily. I was not that influenced, to be honest, by Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. I missed that, I came right after that. I became musically aware after that has passed. When I was 14, the Doors weren’t just coming out. Aladdin Sane was coming out, Alice Cooper, Kiss — this is what was happening, and that was, what ’74 or something? Hendrix was already dead and I didn’t really discover Led Zeppelin until I was 17. I knew they existed but to me it was just a hesher thing. Now, the Who I liked because of Keith Moon, but the stuff that really shaped my whole thing was this kind of glam music, that’s what excited me. So I’m just paying tribute to that.

Hey, do you remember Angel?

Oh, totally! My favorite record was On Earth as it is in Heaven , ’cause I saw them open for Rush. I was into everything, Alex Harvey…people talk about punk and go “the Exploited” and I’m like, “Dude, the Dead Boys. Rat Scabies.” That kind of stuff was just really really important to me, along with Aerosmith too, and Van Halen kind of saved the day later on because things turned disco. So this [music] is just one part of what influenced me, but it had the biggest impact I think. What’s really cool is I’ve been talking with Roland Bolan, Marc Bolan’s son, and I want him to do a track.

Wow that’s neat, where does he live now?

He lives out here in the valley. He’s a really nice person. And see, that’s what I want to do, I want to bring interesting things to the mix. I don’t want to just do these songs, I want some of the original artists involved or some connection with the original artist or band. I ran into Peter Criss at Drum Day LA and I want him to sing a song. I don’t want him to play drums on it, I want him to sing. I just think that would be interesting. I want to use those people and give them an outlet too. It’s kind of my way of giving back, in a way. These are songs that I’ve always wanted to do and I could never get a band to want to do them. One of the songs I’m going to do is “Is it My Body?” by Alice Cooper. Poison did used to do that song, but very few of the songs I’m putting on here have I ever really played before, with a band because they just didn’t want to do them. So I’m excited.

I always thought that Poison’s best songs weren’t necessarily your hits.

Isn’t it kind of always like that? I mean, I love hits, I love pop music. I like a 3/12 minute pop hit if it’s a cool song, but some of our [other] stuff I would have thought would have been a hit, and it just didn’t work out that way.

Like, on the Monster Ballads and Monsters of Rock CDs, your two worst songs are on those records.

What’s on them?

“Something to Believe In” — that’s not even a rock song! That’s a ballad! Why didn’t they use “Unskinny Bop” or something that rocked even? Who did that record? And “Every Rose has Its Thorn” is just not a good song.

You know, it sold really well, that thing.

Oh yeah, it’s fun, but not all the Monsters of Rock songs are really rocking songs! They put ballads on the Monsters CDs, and the ballads on the Ballads CD are the worst ballads these bands did. I mean, they put “When the Children Cry” on Monster Ballads , but where is “Wait”? Let me pick the songs!

Yeah, they should have come to you (laughs).

••

Poison begin a national tour this summer with Slaughter, Dokken, and Cinderella. Glitter for Your Soul should be released in the late fall of 2000.

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