Rikki Rockett of Poison Interview

After selling millions of records, having 12 top ten hits, and still headlining near sold out shows across the country despite the demise of pop metal, there are still critics. But according to Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, they have their fans to thank for their success.  

To coincide with their upcoming tour, Poison is releasing a new album called “Power To The People” on their own label, CMI (Cyanide Music, Inc.). And in addition to the tour and the album, the band has chosen to release their first single, “Power to the People,” along with a video that Rockett describes “Totally killer. Its like ‘Talk Dirty to Me 2000’.”

According to Rockett, the album has been inspired by their fans, who were completely responsible for their touring success last summer:

“I think mainly more than anything, I want people to understand that last year when we went on tour we had no radio play at all — none — we weren’t on MTV, the VH-1 thing didn’t run until two weeks before the tour was over.So, our success was completely, 100% because of the fans.”

An Untimely Release

And as if one album isn’t enough, there is also a recent official release of the album, Crack a Smile, which features Blues Sarenceno on guitar.

Had Poison forced the release of the album years ago, they figured that their former label Capitol Records would not have supported the album, and consequently, lack of album sales would have probably cost them their careers. So, the band opted to get out of their deal with the label by giving them the Greatest Hits record.

Rockett said, “In short, when we were done with that record, we played it for the label, and they weren’t into it.” The band also figured that their fans would appreciate hearing all of their favorite songs on one CD, and “You can’t go wrong with that.If the same song doesn’t sell twice, so what. It sold once.”

But, as it turns out, not only did their Greatest Hits album sell, going gold in 1996 and platinum on February 17, 2000, the band did extremely well when they reunited and toured the states last summer with virtually no support. So, Capitol chose to release the Crack a Smile album while the band was doing well. A move that according to Rockett, obviously showed that Capitol is “just out for the cash.”

Even though Crack a Smile hit the Billboard Top 200 at #131 and Rockett says that it is a good record that the fans deserve, he doesn’t agree with the timing of the release. He feels that they could have waited until there was a dead time or they could have done it a while ago.

He explained, “It’s not like I’m embarrassed by that record, because I’m not. But, you know, we’re moving on here and C.C. is in the band, and we’re writing different songs, and that’s what I’m into – that’s where our heads are at.” And though he doesn’t think that their former label is trying to ruin Poison’s career, he says that they are definitely not helping things by confusing the fans, since many still don’t know that guitarist C.C. DeVille is back in the band.

Though they have moved past that point in their careers, Rockett says that they wrote good songs with Blues Saraceno, and that he’s a great player. Yet, the album is something he has put behind him, “like an ex-girlfriend. Its not that I’m embarrassed that I ever went out with her in the first place, but its just kinda like I don’t’ want to have to — look at her again either.”

And as far as the unplugged songs go, Rockett said “Let’s put it this way, we’re not going to like stop in the middle of a set and go acoustic and like commemorate what we did on Unplugged.” What you will here live, however, are the energetic Poison anthems that you’ve come to expect, and some great new tracks off of their upcoming June 13 release, Power to the People featuring both live tracks from last year’s tour and new studio tracks with DeVille.

What will the Future Hold?

Shortly after their last tour, rumors about yet another Poison breakup started, stating that DeVille’s role with the band was simply a shameless act of self-promotion for his new band, Samantha 7 (formerly known as the Stepmothers).

And eventually, disagreements lead to the addition of replacement guitarist Tracii Guns, who joined Rockett and his bandmates Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall for a round writing sessions for their new album.

Rockett says that Guns is a different type of player, and you “have to work with what you have. You can’t make Tracii be C.C. Nor can you make CC be Tracii. so we started to write the kind of songs that would work with him involved.And we were coming up with a lot of really, really cool stuff quite honestly.”

But eventually, DeVille put things behind him once again and re-joined the band, and Guns refocused on his own band, La Guns, while Poison “changed gears and started over.”

Whether or not Poison would have a future without DeVille, however, still seems to be up for debate. Rockett says that he has gone through periods where he has said to himself and the rest of the band that if C.C. would leave the band that he would be out too, while at other times he has thought that they could go on and have some kind of a career without DeVille.

“I just think that you need to be better than you were before in order to eclipse that.Would we be better?.I don’t know. We tried it with a couple of guys, and I don’t think it was better – it was different, but I don’t know that it was better.”

Now, however, Poison is going strong in their original form, and keeping their side projects on the side, while still making plans for the future of the band. There is even talk for an end of the summer Pay-Per-View Event featuring “a live Poison show with songs and antics.”

Rockett says, “We have a commitment from C.C. and we have a commitment with each other that we’re going to keep doing this, and that Poison is our priority no matter what other things we get involved with. And hopefully, that creed will stay, and that’s how we’ll operate.”

The Bottom Line

Rikki Rockett

Rockett’s latest endeavor, Glitter for Your Soul, is not a solo record per se, it is more of a side project that he is doing with other people. He explained that “though it has nothing to do with Poison.it is not contrary to Poison either,” because they have each drawn influences from those artists.

Though he decided to do this album last year, Rockett says that it is something that he has always wanted to do. “These are my influences. These songs helped shape a lot of what I became later on. It’s not the only stuff that inspired me, but it’s an era that was very inspirational.”

And though he had an idea in the back of his mind about what he wanted to do, “What it really came down to was a combination of the fans’ influence and some of the artists that I had play on the record — the songs that they felt comfortable with or they felt they were inspired by.” He explained that he didn’t want to force anybody to sing something or play on something “that they just didn’t groove on.”

He is producing the album with help from his engineer Cliff Calabero, who also makes a vocal appearance on the song Action by Sweet. Other guest vocal spots include Jizzy Pearl on “Can You Feel It” by Angel; Lucy from Lily’s Siren on “Do you Wanna Touch?” by Gary Glitter; and John Corabi of Union on “Elected” by Alice Cooper.

Rockett himself sings lead vocals on “Life’s A Gas” by T-Rex; and Poison contributions include vocals by Bret Michaels “Tear it Down” by Starz, and vocals for “All The Way To Memphis” by Mott the Hoople with C.C. DeVille. In addition, Rockett says “Bob keeps threatening to come in and play bass on a song.”

The core band on the album is Rikki Rockett on drums and backing vocals, Chuck Garric (La Guns/DIO) on bass, and former Poison guitarist Blues Saraceno on guitar. In addition, Christy Calabero, did a guitar track on the Angel song, and Rockett contributed to a few keyboard parts on the album. But otherwise, the keyboard duties have been handled by Jeremy Rubbilino and Stu, who plays keyboards during Poison’s live performances.

At this time, he is still trying to get a few others into the studio, and the release date has yet to be determined. As for the label, Rockett said “Well, I’m not sure yet now. At this point it looks like Cleopatra, but so far I’ve funded everything myself.” He expects to have a decision made soon and will have the finalized information posted Web site at http://www.rikkirockett.com.

C.C. DeVille

Guitarist C.C. DeVille is also keeping busy with promotional events surrounding his debut album with Samantha 7, which is now available from Sony’s Portrait Records label. The rock-pop trio includes bassist Krys “Brinks” Baratto and drummer Francis Ruiz, and features DeVille on guitar and lead vocals.

For the first time, the charismatic guitar hero is writing on his own. He says “I really worked on the lyrics, and the hooks in it.” And, instead of using a plethora of different sounds, DeVille’s goal was to force his audience “to listen to the lyrics and the music in the melody.”

The album tracks include “Hanging on to Jane,” a metaphor for fame, not pot; “Good day,” a song about times when you just can’t communicate what you’re really thinking; and a few songs about fame and movies, “Hollywood & Vine” and “I Wanna Be Famous.”

Before gearing up for this summer’s tour with Poison, DeVille will be found participating in many promotional activities surrounding the release of his upcoming album. These include a guest appearance at the unveiling of a new Converse billboard featuring a photo of DeVille sporting his favorite sneakers. This “Just Rubber and A Blank Canvas” event will take place on June 8th at the Rock Walk in front of the Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd.

For more information on C.C. DeVille visit his band’s Web site at www.samantha7.com.

Bret Michaels

Poison frontman Bret Michaels recently made some public appearances, including backstage interviews and photos for the Westwood One Radio Network at the Grammy’s, and participation in the A&E program, the “Love Chronicles” last March. During the program, he provided a personal look into his life and his relationship with his girlfriend Kristi, who gave birth to their baby daughter Raine on Saturday, May 20.

On the music front, Michaels is offering advance orders from his Web site for a remastered and remixed version of the “A Letter From Death Row” which will include new artwork and two new songs, “Walk Away” and “Stay With Me.”

The new version of the album is also said to feature a track from the upcoming Poison Tribute album, which is set to include performances by members of “Kiss,” “Great White,” “Ratt,” “Union,” and “LA Guns.”

According to his Web site, the album will include the following tracks: “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Fallen Angel,” “Something to Believe In,” “Nothin’ But A Good Time,” “I Want Action,” “Unskinny Bop,” “Stand,” “So Tell Me Why,” “Doin’ As I Seen On My TV,” and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.”

Additional information about Michaels and samples from the tribute album and Poison’s upcoming release, Power to the People, can be found at www.bretmichaels.com.