In an interview recorded on his tour bus during a Devil City Angels stop in Nashville, Rockett reflected on the early days of Poison as they made a leap the transition from their home in Mechanicsburg, PA to Hollywood in the early 1980’s.
“I was really scared. I lived in the same house until I was 22 years old. All of a sudden, BAM, I’m in a fuckin’ one bedroom in the hardcore part of Hollywood. The first week we’re seeing people get their asses kicked out front. I remember this pimp was literally smacking the hell out of his ho across the street. We went down the steps. I had a Pearl drum cymbal stand. I’m like “Let’s just fuck this motherfucker up”, you know what I mean? We went down and the guy comes around with a knife this fuckin’ big and we’re like “Maybe we shouldn’t get involved (laughs)”
Poison quickly built a reputation as a top live act on the Sunset Strip; boasting a glam look and songs that described a life of excess. When asked about how accurate the lyrical content was at the time, Rockett said: “We didn’t have any money. We didn’t have beautiful cars. We didn’t have anything. So, we wrote about it like we did. A lot of times when people have it in their life, they write about how downtrodden they are. But when you really don’t have anything, you write about how wonderful it could be. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go out and party every night. Later, that happened because we were, like, fulfilling our dreams. But when we were writing those songs, they were wish lists.”
Original guitarist, Matt Smith, quickly left the band to return to Pennsylvania to start a family. The audition process of replacing Smith would see the competition narrowed to two players; CC DeVille and Slash. “Slash, we had known. He was in Hollywood Rose….We all liked him. He came and worked on some songs with us but we continued to audition people even though he was a frontrunner…We didn’t want, like, a hotshot Yngwie guy. We wanted an East Coast guy. And then CC auditioned and he just made more sense than Slash did. So, it was a tough decision because we all liked Slash. Slash was really pissed off about it. He was pissed. He was like “What the fuck you guys?”…So there was that rivalry between Poison and Guns n’ Roses because of that, I think for a long time you know?”
One thing that definitely helped DeVille’s chances was a song he brought to the audition from his previous band, The Screaming Mimis. That song was ‘Talk Dirty to Me.’
According to Rikki, “It was a different feel… I don’t want to say it was a different song; that it would be totally unrecognizable but it didn’t sound the same.”
Producer Rick Browde was previously associated with DeVille and was tapped to helm the album. Early on, tensions flared, “CC had some tie-in with him….We didn’t have much money and he was willing to do it. And he was a Nazi in there, he really was. When we recorded ‘Talk Dirty to Me’, we actually had kicked him out by then. We did not part happily….Talk Dirty to Me was recorded twice. It was really stiff; the way he wanted it.”
As it’s well-known by now, Poison has had a well-publicized tension between certain members. When asked for a cause, Rikki responds, “You combine success and drugs and pressure and all sorts of things and the lid can come off in a minute….You’re in each other’s space all the time and one person does stuff that just annoys you, it’s the little shit…Look at these things in jail. People go to jail and they’ll fuckin’ beat the fuck out of each other over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What do you call it, shank a person?…I mean, I’ve wanted to shank everybody in this band! (laughs)”
Asked about the trend of rock stars today being more relatable, Rockett doesn’t agree with it, “Everybody’s like “Aw shucks” about it. We were unabashedly about it. We loved the fuckin’ pageantry of it. I didn’t grow up thinking “I wanna be a rock star so I can have a Porsche. I woke everyday wanting to be a rock star so I can have a big drum kit and a big PA. That’s what the fuck I wanted. I’d go see a concert and at the end of the night I was like “Man, those guys are getting laid right now.” I want that shit. You know what I mean?”
The episode featuring Rikki Rockett can be downloaded/streamed below.
The Decibel Geek Podcast, hosted by Aaron Camaro and Chris Czynszak, is a weekly podcast the celebrates all things rock and metal. In existence since 2011, Decibel Geek has become a top rock podcast for music listeners. Episodes are uploaded every week and are accessible on www.decibelgeek.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict, Podcast Republic and podcast apps everywhere.