Thursday, September 27, 2012

BACKSTAGE BRIEFS (Pt. V): POISON'S RIKKI ROCKETT

Rikki Rockett live in Hartford, Connecticut - 2006.
(Photo: Sandy Creamer)
This is Part V of a new week-long series in which I will share
various behind-the-scenes
short stories from my dubious
rock and roll past. Some of these
tales will be excerpts from my
books or my previous magazine articles, while others will be never-before-published accounts. Many
of my backstage-type experiences have been crazy, funny or unexpected. And some even have been heartbreaking. But I hope
that you will find them all
compelling. Today's installment
is an excerpt from my 2010 book,
A Shot of Poison. It comes from
Chapter Three  Look What the Cat Dragged In (Again).

____________________________________________________

In 2003 I approached Brevard Live magazine's editor about creating a new column. This monthly segment would feature interviews with various nationally known drummers. And as a drummer myself, I knew exactly who I wanted to approach for the first edition...
 
My interview with Rikki Rockett was scheduled to take place backstage at Nashville’s AM South Amphitheater prior to Poison’s concert on September 1. I arrived at the venue on time, promptly at 3PM. While I was waiting on Rikki, Poison frontman Bret Michaels and part of the crew organized a football game out behind the now defunct AM South venue. When throwing the ball around at home with my son Jesse, I’m a regular Joe Montana. However, I knew if I accepted the offer to join this game, I would have made a fool of myself  — and I definitely didn’t want to look lame in front of these guys! Also, even at my best, I couldn’t compete with Bret. He’s got a powerful arm and throws with amazing Troy Aikman-like accuracy. So I did my best to appear cool, watching from the sidelines.
 
By 4PM Rikki’s dressing room had been cleared of all tour staff and a “Do Not Disturb” sign was posted outside the door. We spent the next hour and a half hanging out — discussing drums, technique, influences, style and chicks while munching on Twizzlers and watching vintage concert footage on his laptop of one of our all-time favorite bands, 1970s glam rockers, Angel. With their outrageous white stage outfits and platform boots, Angel was once referred to as a “good-guy” version of Kiss. Their hard-driving, pop-metal style provided the musical blueprint Poison would follow in later years.
 
I typically try to get my interviewees to relax enough to drop their guard and engage in an open and honest dialogue. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. In fact, I frequently ask musicians very obvious and occasionally dopey questions just to get them talking. My theory is that even on tough interviews, if I can get the artist to talk long enough I can usually at least obtain a few notable quotes. Prompting Rikki to open up was never a problem and he definitely did not let me down.
 
“I don’t know what Joey Kramer (Aerosmith)
thinks of me, but I think Joey’s God!”
Rikki Rockett, September 2003
 
At one point during the interview he said to me, “I guess you heard about the fire.” Just a couple of nights earlier en route to Detroit, the brake line on one of the eighteen-wheelers transporting Poison’s equipment caught fire and the band’s entire stage show went up in flames. According to Rikki, only a few guitars and a portion of their lighting gear had been salvaged. Poison, the band known for their wild show and spectacular lighting, hit the stage in Detroit the following night with nothing more than a couple of borrowed amps and a rented drum kit. They didn’t even have a drum riser. Rikki added that the review in the local paper the next morning reported that the “stripped down” Poison delivered one of their best shows ever!
 
“I play hard but I’m not a basher.
I’m really just a kick,
snare, hi-hat guy, I always have been.
I play for the song.”
Rikki Rockett, September 2003
 
During our conversation Rikki told me about one of his current video projects. It was to be a documentary based on his life patterned after VH-1’s popular Behind the Music series. Realizing that I was a huge fan of his, Rikki was struck with the notion that he should interview me for his project. Initially I thought he was goofing, but shortly after the concert I was approached by Big John, one of the band’s longtime security guys. The intimidating, yet lovable six-foot-plus assistant hollered over the backstage ruckus, “Rikki needs you in the dressing room for the interview.”
 
“Punk was never out to destroy glitter rock.
It was out to destroy prog (progressive) rock.
Rikki Rockett, September 2003
 
Before any videotaping began, the group’s wardrobe manager came into the dressing room. She was organizing the band members’ apparel for a VH-1 special that was slated to tape within the next few days in New York. Rikki took one look at the outfits selected for the show and threw a fit.
 
“We used to be dangerous!” Rikki shouted as he leaped to his feet from his relaxed position lying on the dressing room floor. “Look at this,” he commanded with disgust, pointing to a T-shirt hanging from the wardrobe rack. “C.C. has been wearing this same Johnny Cash shirt every night of the tour — and Bobby wears this baseball jersey! A baseball jersey? We used to be cool! And Bret — I don’t even know what’s going on with him!”
 
Once Rikki had finally regained his composure he sat me down on a stool in the dressing room and instructed Big John to clip a microphone on my shirt. Standing in a dark corner in the room, smoking a cigarette, and assuming the role of an investigative reporter, Rikki began asking me questions similar to what we had discussed earlier in the day. Unfortunately, soon after the lights and camera went on, any journalistic integrity that I may have possessed flew out the window. I became so self-conscious about trying to be cool in this video that my mind blanked and I’m sure I came off like a real dope. Although I don’t think anything ever became of the project, I did get to see some footage a few weeks later. My quotes were sandwiched between those of famous rockers and other industry insiders and fortunately (thanks to some great editing) I only came off like a semi-moron.

My 2003 interview with Rikki proved to be an incredible experience for me. And as with all of the ops he's afforded me over the years, I appreciated his time, enthusiasm and hospitality.
 
-Christopher Long
 
Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.
 


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