Photo Credit: Mark Weiss
Iconic Rockers, Poison, have had one hell of a run and sure haven’t stopped having their fun. Selling out arenas worldwide and taking diehard fans on a ride to the wild side has been the name of the game for the seasoned vets who have made listeners crack a smile over massive hits such as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, “Talk Dirty to Me” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. Tease your hair and toss on a pair of skin-tight jeans because the guys have joined forces with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil for the ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time 2018’. I caught up with Drummer, Rikki Rockett, to discuss decades of adrenaline-fueled shows, remaining true to your vision, the story behind one of his tattoos and much more.
You guys are out on the road for your ‘Nothin But A Good Time’ tour with your friends in Cheap Trick and Pop Evil. Tell us about what we can look forward to hearing throughout this run.
We’re about six or seven shows into the tour right now and it has been going great. Honestly, we keep changing the setlist every night and it’s driving the video and lighting guys completely nuts! Our video and lighting guys will be set up for something and then all of a sudden, we have thrown in an unexpected twist and have decided change it up. It’s been fun switching it up every night and seeing how all of the different crowds react to it.
Totally. You guys have such a dynamic discography over seven studio albums that carry so many hits. I can only imagine that each and every crowd has fans that are traveling show to show along with you. I bet that everyone loves hearing different setlists and tracks being performed night in and night out.
Yeah, they do. You really only have so much time to play every night. It’s a great problem to have that we do have a lot of songs that were hits and that people want to hear them. You can’t leave out those tracks, but it’s all about how we choose to pace the sets. Over the years, we have had a couple of songs that were ballads or mid-tempo which at times just doesn’t carry a crowd, you know? We have to strategically tie in the hits, you can’t just play them all in a row because you’ll put everyone to sleep.
Photo Credit: Tammy Vega
I bet. Each city comes with a different demographic and a variety of walks of life as well. I can imagine that some cities love the slower ballads and some prefer the kick-ass Rock ‘N’ roll hits.
Exactly. For example, we played Rocklahoma and I think that the crowd was tired and wasn’t as responsive. I mean they cranked it up for “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Something To Believe In”, but the crowd wanted to be uplifted and rock the rest of the way. At times, you just have to read the crowd. I mean, we were originally a bar band. We started back East and played all of the Top 40 bars and stuff. You have to read people and adjust. Inevitably, when you’re playing in a bar band, you’re trying to get people on the dance floor to rock out or to just let loose. I think that’s why we are good live. We have figured out how to adjust and keep the crowd going throughout the show.
Yeah, absolutely. I perceive that that comes with the territory of being an artist. Being able to read your viewers and the reception that you receive and knowing how and when to adjust accordingly (while still remaining true to your own vision) is so important throughout all artistic mediums. Speaking of artistic mediums, let’s talk about the Rockett Vlog. It seems as though you explore your massive world of creativity and experimentation throughout.
You know, I would love to cover every single hobby and every thing that I love throughout life within the Rockett Vlog, which I can to some degree, yet I can’t have a blog that is about a million things. I have learned that on YouTube, people really want you to cover a particular thing. It is a really different medium. The platform doesn’t allow for somebody to be all things to all people! I have started to take on the theme of tying in what I can with motorcycle riding whether that means that I am taking a camera along or seeing something and incorporating motorcycle riding. I have started to move in that direction with the Rockett Vlog. I mean, my motorcycle gets me to all of the places that I want to go!
You know, what I’ve caught on from the Rockett Vlog is that it is similar to you being on tour, yet it’s you being on tour of your own world.
Totally! I even have a bike with me at all times while I’m on tour with the band, so it is a subcategory of that. I have an Indian Scout Bobber that’s always on tour with me.
Nice! Although you guys could play tracks from your seven studio albums until the end of time, is there any shot of Poison releasing any new music in the near future?
I really hope so. I don’t have an announcement about that, but we have talked about things. I just hope that we pull the trigger and do something.
Speaking of your music, let’s talk about the story behind the photo of the tattoo that you have on you right shoulder that ended up on the cover of your third studio album, Flesh and Blood.
Well, at that time, tattoo culture wasn’t really near where it is today. I mean, people have always been getting tattooed, but it wasn’t a trend at that time. It was a serious commitment. I wanted to show that commitment to our band. We wanted everyone to know how committed that we were to Poison and that we are in it to win it for life. I mean, nothing says that better than a tattoo! Therefore, I stepped up to the plate and said that I would be the one to get the tattoo that we would put as the artwork for our ‘Flesh and Blood’ album cover. It was so funny because Gill The Drill was the tattoo artist that tattooed the piece on me and we were trying to get it to bleed because it just looked better for the cover. Gill was punching me in the arm and literally drilling me with the tattoo gun me afterwards to get that shot with the blood! Finally, we got this awesome photo and cover with the tattoo bleeding and Walmart decided that they didn’t want the blood on the cover…..
I did hear that the cover with the blood got pulled!
It did! It kinda ruined it a little bit. The President of Walmart who is no longer with us, Sam Walton, was a very Christian man, you know what I mean? Anything that felt a little bit naughty was something that he didn’t like. We were such a big band by the release of this third record back in 1990 that a lot of people were going to see that. I will say this and I have said this before. We are not in the record business; we are in the music business. We are trying to convey a message and we’re trying to get our fans to understand what we are trying to say, but at the same time, it’s really all about the music. I mean, here we are today and people really don’t pay attention to the cover as much as the past, you know? People are paying attention to the download or the video that goes along with the music these days. If Walmart would have pulled our record at that time in 1990, it would have affected about 60% of our sales. At that particular point in time, Walmart was selling a lot of our stuff and we wanted our music to get to our fans.
We aren’t selling album covers. We are selling music. We had to make a tough decision. We didn’t want to sell out, but were we really selling out? We talked about ten other album covers as well and could have easily gone with another cover to accompany the same exact music. The album cover is really just advertising, it’s all about the music that is inside. Therefore, we ultimately got our advertising pulled. If Walmart wanted to pull our music, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. If they said that we couldn’t say certain words or said something about our music, then we would have absolutely taken the loss in sales. This is who we are; we can’t fake that.
Photo Credit: Mark Weiss
What a story. I perceive that you guys have really indented your legacy into the world of music through remaining true to your vision and doing so with integrity. I think that fans have picked up on that and that is why you have such a diehard army of Poison lovers.
I think that we have. Back when we started to evolve, we started to look different and we sounded different from what was going on in the world of music at that time. We definitely sounded different on ‘Native Tongue’ even though CC wasn’t there. You know, a lot of bands from our genre ran with what was going on in the early 90’s back when popular music started to change. We stuck to who we were. We couldn’t be Nirvana; that’s not who we are. Our music wouldn’t be coming from a personal place if we would have taken that route and that wouldn’t be fair to anybody. We did not turn tail and run. We did keep our integrity and you know, it all came around again; I’m really glad that it did.
It goes to show what can be if you stay true to yourself. Speaking of staying true to yourself, rumor has it that you are a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Has this helped balance out the life of excess that can come with the Rock ‘N’ Roll lifestyle? Has it helped you keep in tune with yourself?
Yeah, definitely. Jiu-Jitsu is a lifestyle. It’s a healthier lifestyle. Every time that you go in there, you want to do well and the only way to do that is to try to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Whatever you do translates throughout your whole day. I know that I am going to feel like crap tomorrow if I do certain things and if I do other things, I’ll feel better. I mean, from a physical and mental standpoint, Jiu-Jitsu has definitely helped me. As a drummer, I know that if I abuse myself, I feel terrible on stage. I feel so terrible if I don’t treat myself well and I know that the audience can tell if I am not on top of my game.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Savoia
I can imagine. Throwing yourself into the ringer and going wild each and every night catches up to a human being over time. People can get so distracted from what matters through a life of excess and don’t even realize it until they are hopefully out on the other side.
Totally. I look back and have seen some videos of the early days in which I would do those things and have now come to realize that those were some bad decisions. My other band, Devil City Angels, wrote a song about that; it’s called “Bad Decisions”.
How ironic. We all ultimately learn through life experiences and hopefully choose to adjust our behaviors in hindsight. Speaking of life experience, if you could share any words of wisdom with fellow musicians who desire to follow in your footsteps, what would you say?
Your first impression is a lasting impression. For example, when we put our first record out, ‘Look What the Cat Dragged In’, the way that we looked and the things that we said at that time are the things that have stuck with people forever. Fortunately, most of it has been good, but I think that a lot of it has been taken wrong. You just have to be able to live with whatever you do for a very long time. If I die today in a car wreck, it’s Rikki Rockett of Poison. It’s not going to be Rikki Rockett of Rockett Vlog or whatever. I have that cross to bear forever. I am all about this band and I know that I better make the best of it. The best thing to do is to do it the best that you can. So, I would tell any musicians that are putting anything out there that you are what you put out there. I know that these are the types of things that drive people crazy, ruin their lives or lead them toward committing suicide…
Yes. We all have to try to be mindful with our every decision and action because any choice that we make can really shift our lives in an instance, for better or for worse. Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans or anything else that you want to share about the tour?
It’s a totally new show. Our lights and videos are different, yet we are playing all of the hits. I think that we have really honed it. I know that a lot of musicians will thank the fans but I really just want to tell our fans that we know that we couldn’t be doing this without you. Our fans have given us the gift of touring and performing and making music. We do our best to put out as much energy as we can without taking it away from the next place that we go. It really is all about our fans.