Poison’s Rikki Rockett sits down with National Rock Review for a very in-depth chat.
Poison is a band that needs no introduction. Rikki Rockett, along with Bret Michaels, founded Poison. He takes some time out of his day off to talk a little about growing up as a kid wanting to drum, his insight on the music industry, and tons more.
NRR: So, how are you doing man? You said you were getting an “off day” today. How is it?
Rikki: Yeah, it is an off day. We are heading for Texas soon after this. We are just enjoying it though. That’s for sure.
NRR: To be in such a legendary band and when you’re in it for so long, and to be as relevant as you guys are today, are the days off more important now or it just doesn’t matter?
Rikki: They’ve always been important, I think. I’ve never really looked at it that way, but yeah, they are always important. You have to have a little time to yourself and it’s nice not having to be somewhere all the time.
NRR: You are quite the business man; you’re not just in a band. You have all of these things going on. How do you manage to always find a passion for all the things you have going?
Rikki: Oh, I have passions for a lot of stuff. I think that’s best in my life. You have to love life and there are so many neat things to do, everything from traveling, riding motorcycles, cameras, I’m into video and all that stuff, too. Yeah, I just love waking up every day and having something to do and when there is something I want to do, I get out there and do it.
NRR: You are a cancer survivor, isn’t that correct?
Rikki: Oh yes, correct. Throat cancer.
NRR: I’m sure that the impact of having to fight for your life and making it has had an impact on loving life and you probably have a bigger drive than you did before.
Rikki: Definitely, there’s no question about it. It definitely gives you a bigger and better outlook on things.
NRR: So you guys are currently on tour right now. How has the tour been going so far? What is the biggest challenge from today versus when you guys started?
Rikki: I have to pace myself a little more, I’m older. All of us do and all of us are. Our minds are young. Our bodies aren’t quite as young. So, you do have to pace yourself a little bit. One time, I watched Frankie from Quiet Riot do a set, and he got off the stage and I was blown away. “You’re such a bombshell out there” and he goes “Man! I’m just trying not to hurt myself!” So, the other night when I got on stage, I said “Geez, I’m just trying not to hurt myself”! Haha!
NRR: Speaking of a live show, you guys have an archive of music that is unbelievable, you have several hits. Is it difficult to bring a setlist together because of having so many hits and fans saying “I want to hear this song and that song”?
Rikki: It’s really hard. Your first hurdle to overcome is just time constraining. You can only play for so long and you can only do it at an energy level for so long, you know? We are not a jam band or something like there where we can just chill, take a break, and come back. We’re not that type of band. People want the hits, they do. You have to put those in and you have to pace the set and it’s tricky. It’s a very tricky thing to do.
NRR: When people are singing the lyrics and jamming to the songs, even after all these years does it still give you an adrenalize rush to hear the crowd?
Rikki: Oh yes! Absolutely, it’s amazing when people are singing along to our stuff in this country or any other country we play in. Yeah, it’s quite an awesome feeling. It’s really also cool when people are air drumming to the stuff I conceived 30 years ago. It’s not always the lyrics or something like that. It’s the music itself that they are translating back to me. It’s great to get that feedback. That’s equally as awesome.
NRR: Since you spoke of air drumming, were you air drumming a lot as a little kid?
Rikki: Oh hell yeah! Haha!
NRR: Who or what was the reason that you decided to pick up a couple of drumsticks?
Rikki: Well, there are two reasons. I went to a camp when I was little. There was this band called The River Boat Crew. I was completely blown away by listening to drums. I was just watching the drummer and I was like “wow”. Not long after that, I found out that my sister was dating the drummer’s son. That’s a true story. She used to babysit me and her favorite thing to do was to find a reason to get me in trouble so that she could send me to my room and she could go do whatever she wanted to do. So, this one night, I came home after dark and she threw me in the bedroom, which she felt bad about, she didn’t need to do that. So, to make it up to me she brought me her record player with a lot of Beatles records. I started playing on my bed with a couple of books and I learned how to play those songs. That’s really how it all started. It started everything from there.
NRR: When you and Brett sat down to get Poison together did you ever think that this would turn into such a juggernaut of a band?
Rikki: No, I didn’t. Back in Harrisburg, there were two bands and one was The Sharks and one was Kicks, out of Maryland, and we thought that if we could ever be that big it would be great. We could make a living doing that. We could have an apartment and we could live. Haha! How cool would that be? So, for us to think that it would ever be at this level was a surprise. I really do think that.
NRR: So, is it also a surprise to you that decades later, Poison is still as relevant as ever in the music industry?
Rikki: It is! We battle the same stigma now than we did before and I think that’s the side that a lot of people don’t see at all. When people say bad things about you or your life’s work which is what this is for me, that can tend to hurt you if you allow it to, but I have learned to not let that bother me. You can’t be thin-skinned in this business and I don’t give negative comments the ability to change what I do. I’ve done what I’ve done. I’m in this. I’m deep in it.
NRR: You speak of challenges like not letting negative comments or things like that bother you. What do you think is the most challenging thing now about being a musician in the music industry?
Rikki: You almost have to be multi-media these days. It’s a lot more complicated. I would find it difficult to figure the game out now as a new band, although I believe we would have found it out eventually, but it’s a different ballgame. It really is. You have to figure it out if you want to get your stuff out there. For instance, they were doing an interview on “millennials”. People in the 16 year old range a while back and they were asked “Would you rather delete iTunes or delete SnapChat” and 65% of the people said they would rather give up iTunes. So, that shows you where kids’ heads are today. Music is not important. It was so important when I was a kid, no matter what you did; you wanted to listen to music. People used to gather around a listen to music, but now people gather around a video game or they gather around an iPhone. Entertainment has literally changed. Music has become a secondary product to a lot of these other things. So, when you’re a musician these days, it isn’t all about you. That’s the hard thing for people to deal with. Now, for some people it is, and I think it’s changing a little bit. There are a lot of organic bands coming out. When I say organic I mean a bass player, a drummer, a guitar player, and a singer. I hope that people eventually put down the game controller and pick up a guitar, drums, or something like that.
Their current tour continues on throughout North America until July 1, so check out the dates here
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