Interview by June Bird of Animal Liberation NSW
June: Hi Rikki -- my first question: are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
Rikki: I'm nearly a vegan ... about 95% ... meaning I'm not perfect!
June: So what do you find hard about being vegan?
Rikki: Just really knowing what's in certain foods is important, and travelling can be tough especially in some countries. However, I don't really look at it as an inconvenience. Not to sound wacky, but I think going vegan is a gift of enlightenment.
June: No that doesn't sound wacky at all -- I'm definitely with you there! So at what age did you go vego and what spurred you forward?
Rikki: It was only 8 years ago. I was fighting against animal abuse and one day I simply realised that the mass slaughter of animals for food is one of the worst forms of abuse in our world today. We get upset when we hear about the guy down the street with his dog chained up outside on a short leash in all kinds of weather but we overlook the abuse in the farming industry.
June: Were there any significant events while growing up that really shaped your compassion towards animals?
Rikki: Yes, I was a hunter and on my first day I didn't get a buck, so I decided I wanted to shoot something. I shot an innocent bird out of a tree. It fell to the ground and I watched it take it's last breath two feet from me. I killed for no reason whatsoever. That moment has haunted me ever since. That day I made a commitment to do everything I could to help the innocent lives of animals. I still feel sick that I did that every time I think about it. I try to use the experience as empowerment. What it really was was a jerk-off kid who was bored. The idea of hunting and the relationship between it and the disregard for life is a very real concept.
June: What about your friends - are any of them vego?
Rikki: I have lots of vegetarian friends. My girlfriend Malina is a great inspiration to me and always has been since I met her.
June: Would you plan to try and raise your children as vegetarians/vegans?
Rikki: I don't have any children, but when and if I do, I'll raise them vegan until they're old enough to make their own decisions.
June: Do you find most people are understanding of your choices?
Rikki: It's mixed bag really. I don't take shit from people who aren't, yet I don't shove my opinions down their throats either. I just tell them the truth.
June: Do you have any animal companions?
Rikki: Yes, collectively Malina and I have 15 animals.
June: What are some of your favourite things to munch on?
Rikki: I love vegan Chinese food and I love Italian food.
June: What about wearing leather or wool etc?
Rikki: I really don't wear any. I have a leather jacket that I've had for 15 years that I can't seem to let go of, but I hardly ever wear it.
June: What do you think about circuses, rodeos and zoos?
Rikki: All the above make shadows of the animals they once were or could have been. The very concept is abuse to me.
June: Do you know any other vegetarian celebs?
Rikki: Yes I know people like Tippy Hedren, (Melanie Griffiths' famous mother) but I'm out to convert as many people as I can!
June: So Rikki ? how do you feel since you went vegan?
Rikki: At 38 I look better than I did at 30 I think.
June: Righto - this is your opportunity - what would you like to tell your fans about going vegan and about your passion for animal rights.
Rikki: I grew up on a meat and potatoes diet. It's tough to make the decision when you're raised that way. However, it is so nice to lay down at night and know that no animals have died for you or because of you.
June: What do you want to say about Ted Nugent* who seems to be everything you're not?
Rikki: He actually isn't everything I'm not. He's a patriotic rocker who asserts his beliefs. However, his animal politics totally eclipses all that. I don't hate Ted, I hate his beliefs, which makes me dislike him in general. I try to take the attention away from Ted himself when I'm asked about him. The animal issues are way bigger than both of us and he doesn't deserve the press he gets from it. The hunter as an environmentalist is a myth.
* Editorial Note: For those not familiar with Ted Nugent, he's an american rock legend. He also organises and participates in the killings of bears and other animals for 'sport'. (As reported by PETA many years ago, he also got out of army service by defecating in his pants. Seems he's not so brave when the other side can shoot back.)
June: What's the stupidest thing you've heard from a meat eater?
Rikki: That man was meant to eat meat!
June: Your stance seems to be very brave as the heavy metal/hard rock world doesn't seem to have many vegetarians/vegans on the scene! So what do 'they' think about you whipping up animal rights issues?!
Rikki: I've had several people say, "Ahh, so you're politically correct now, huh?" Yeah, I wish animal rights were politically correct, maybe we would get more press for Gawd's sake!
I do feel like a loner out there sometimes. But it's nice when I meet other activists on the road. I have an immediate bond with them. The toughest part is getting people to understand the real point of animal rights. It's become a blanket term for too many people and it's used any way the person sees fit. Positive or negative. Synonymous with terrorist or with animal welfare, or anything in between. The first thing I have to always do is set people straight on what it really means. To me, it means to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of animals from the hands of humans.
Life is indeed rough for all living things on earth, that does not give us free reign to make it worse!
What pisses me off more than anything is someone telling me to get in touch with my spirituality as they chew a chunk of steak. What's more is the notion that Poison exploits women and a reckless lifestyle. I am not responsible for anyone being responsible or not. Human beings have the right to choose. Choose to fight, kill, help, heal, exploit themselves, hurt or evolve. One thing remains constant... animals are more often than not, victims of our decisions.
June: Being a rock drummer is a fairly full-on career. Have you found any difference in your stamina and recovery time after playing since becoming a vegan?
Rikki: It is a full career, trust me! I have found more energy both in drumming and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (submission wrestling) which I have been doing for about 4 1/2 years.
June: What sort of things are you doing in your life at the moment?
Rikki: Tons! We (Poison), just finished the mixes on the new record called "Power To The People". It's Five new songs and 10 Live tracks from last years tour. We are now our own official record company for this new one. CMI (Cyanide Music Inc.) so, we do everything. I am the graphic artist of the band so I am doing the record covers, etc.
I am also doing a record for Cleopatra records called Rikki Rockett's "Glitter For Your Soul". 11 Tracks of 70's Glitter songs with tons of special guests. Poison then goes on the road starting in June for the summer 2000 Power To The People tour. I also do websites. I specialise in Flash animation for the web.
June: Will Poison be touring 'Down Under'?
Rikki: All I can say is that I certainly hope so. I love it there. I was born in the USA so I have always been happy in the US, but I've always said that if I couldn't live here, I'd live there.
June: Thanks very much for the interview Rikki, but do you have anything else you want to say about animal rights?
Rikki: Don't base your beliefs on anything but what you truly feel in your heart. I happen to believe that when people really reach down inside themselves, they'll see that killing animals for food is not ethical or necessary. It's this idea that gives me hope in humanity.