Interview by Leslie Michele Derrough of GlideMagazine.com
Rikki, what has it been like playing with Def Leppard and Lita Ford on this tour?
You know what, I know people have said these kinds of remarks before but it is like one big family out here. It really is. Like, Will, our keyboard guy, does a lot of background vocals. He was sore last night so Phil Collen came out and did background for us. Just off the side of the stage, not out front, not trying to get attention, nothing like that. If somebody needs something, somebody from the other band is there if they can help out. When my dad passed away [a few months ago], Rick immediately was on the phone with Wounded Warrior Project making sure the Marine Corps were going to represent my dad, cause my dad was a Marine. And stuff like that. I mean, we are just there for each other and it's just really cool.
And what happens once you finish the tour?
Well, I'm not sure what's going to happen with Poison, to tell you the truth. We need to sit down as a band and talk about that. I will continue with Rockett Drum Works, my custom drum company. I have a lot of things on the horizon with that. It's being pitched for a reality show and we have a new production company and agency so I'm optimistic about that. But either way I still have work to do with Rockett Drum Works, whether it's a show or not. And my wife and I are expecting our second child. That's the first time I've mentioned it in the press and I haven't put it on Facebook or anything. It's gotten around a little bit but I just haven't put it out there.
Which of Poison's albums means the most to you?
I feel close to all of them, really I do. They say it takes your whole life to write your first record and one year to make your second, so I guess probably the first record if I had to pick.
You have been doing this for so many years with the same band. What is the secret for your longevity?
I think probably respecting each other's boundaries. I wish I could answer it better because if I had a secret I would let everybody know it. David Lee Roth said, and I quote him, "Bands are like dogs that chase cars. They run around and they make a lot of noise but they don't last very long." And I think that now that there are bands that have been around a long time, like AC/DC although they've replaced one member, but the Rolling Stones of course, Aerosmith with all the original members, Motley, Def Leppard ? just one guy has been replaced but that was twenty years ago so they have a longer career with a replacement than most bands have in their entire career. And us. There isn't a ton of us out there that have been around this long but it's kind of crazy because we're not really supposed to last that long, you know what I mean. At least in the old sense of it. We were supposed to come out, make a lot of noise, stay fresh for a while, stay relevant and then all of a sudden NOT be relevant; have the next generation come along and make us irrelevant. And somehow we're not irrelevant. And people don't know what to do with that yet.
I think we're seeing for the first time in rock history a slew of bands that are still able to go out and tour. Journey is one of them, on that end of the spectrum. Motley and Poison on the other end of the spectrum. Classic artists like the Stones of course, the Moody Blues. We're not supposed to be here (laughs). So some questions I can't even answer because this is new territory. We're guys who are supposed to have hearing problems and not be able to do this anymore ? and we do have hearing problems (laughs) ? but we're still doing it anyway. We just turn the monitors up louder (laughs). They really shouldn't say, if it's too loud you're too old.
They should actually say, if it's too loud you're too young (laughs)
Did it ever hurt your feelings with all the negativity that people, or rather the critics, have said about Poison?
Sure it does. And sometimes people believe it and sometimes people don't. It depends on who it comes from. I remember seeing Aerosmith at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg and thought it was an amazing concert and the next day I read a review about this guy saying how terrible it was. And I'm sitting there thinking to myself, was he at the same show I was at? Because it wouldn't have stopped me from buying a ticket but I was a super fan. Now if somebody is on the fence, would it affect them? Maybe, maybe not. And that's the people I guess I kind of worry about, the people who have maybe not kept up with Poison for a while.
But the most negativity that I think I faced was when I got hit with a false rape charge. Because anybody that ever had anything negative to say about Poison or me came out of the woodwork and thought, he's down, I'm kicking him while he's down, and he will probably never come up from this one. And I couldn't go in the press and defend myself because I was on a gag order. Then when it finally came out that I didn't know the person, I wasn't in the state, somebody had used my name, another guy that said he was me, and that is what happened. Most people didn't get that part of the news story. And nobody came back and went, jeez, I'm really sorry, maybe Rikki really is ok and I said all those negative things. I didn't get apologies from anybody. And these people were really nasty. I don't know how they sleep with themselves at night.
And that's what they do. We live in a society where people think it's ok to attack celebrities because it's perceived that we've got this free ride and that we should be so happy with everything that we have to the point where it's ok if everybody talks crap about us because I'm laughing all the way to the bank. I mean, that's the mentality that goes with it, like I'm not a person, I'm not supposed to feel anything when somebody says stuff, because I'm lucky enough to be a star. If I'm that lucky I shouldn't let anything bother me. And it's valid to be bothered by that stuff. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't bother me. Most days I try to look at the source and go, well, I'm not that impressed by people that don't impress me, so that's a mentality I'll try to take. But sometimes when you hear it come from someone you don't know, it's like, why? You kind of go, where does that come from? You almost feel sad that there's that much negativity in the world. I just happen to be a target of it that day. It just makes you go, no wonder there's bombings and Batman movie massacres. It really stems from the same thing. I don't know that person but I'm going to hate them anyway. So whether you use your words as a weapon or whether you go out and shoot people, it's the nucleus of that hate is not much different. And I think now that we have the internet, it's like journalism run amok. You can't tell the cowboys from the Indians (laughs). Nobody knows who they're firing at.
Some people are looking for dirt and that's what gives them energy for whatever reason. Would you want to have a relationship with somebody that functions like that? I wouldn't. There's a lot of people where it's like, don't you respect this journalist that is being negative and it's like no, why would I? Can you imagine being in a relationship with that person, how that would feel? Now if somebody is being objective, that's one thing [but tearing someone up] makes them feel better.
When you were at the height of your fame with Poison, how well do you think you handled it?
I could have handled things better. I think I could have handled money a little better. But I don't think I was ever snotty or mean or anything like that. I'm sure I had my days, we all do. But I would have maximized the fame better. But I was twenty-three years old. I didn't know what the heck I was doing really. But, yeah, there's things I would have done differently about a lot of stuff. People say, oh I'll never regret anything. I do (laughs)
It was an apartment building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I was with my dad and I was just learning how. I think I had just become an EMT, like maybe a month before that, and it was a black woman and this was her sixth child. It came out real fast and easy and she was kind of fun to deal with and it was a positive experience. It was really great. I think it was a boy, pretty sure it was a boy. And then my dad, probably within a couple of months after that, we were standing at The Spot, which was a hotdog stand on Market Square in Harrisburg, and a lady comes up to him and says, "How are you doing, Norm?' and he says, "Well, good, how do I know you?' She said, "Before I tell you that, I want you to meet Norman, this is my boy here.' And he said, "Wow, I like that name.' And she said, "You should, you delivered him so I named him after you.' And he hadn't remembered that but it was pretty darn cool.
Sometimes you just don't realize the people that you touch.
Yes. The woman will never have any idea that I was the EMT that night. I guarantee you she has no clue (laughs)
The other question was about you being a father. Now with another one coming, with all your life experiences, what do you want to pass on the most to your son?
So many things. I wish he was with me right now all the time. The main thing I want to pass on to him is please don't let Grandma make you be a Patriots fan (laughs). No, I'm just kidding. There is just so many. I can't wait ? well, I can wait because by the time I can do this I'll be old ? but I can't wait till him and I can have real father-son talks and I can tell him about some of the life things that I went through and what things I wouldn't do again and what things I would do. And be sincere cause this just isn't dad throwing it at you, this is dad who has been in a rock band for a long time and has really seen it, and at lightning speed cause everything happens so much faster in this lifestyle, at least while you're out here.
Are you glad that you waited so long to have children?
No, it just happened that way. I would have liked to have been ten years younger but that's just how it worked out. I am an older dad, I know that; I wish I was a little bit younger for him. But it is what it is so I'm just going to do my best. We didn't plan this one so I'm going to be an even older dad but I just have to work harder to take care of myself.
You had something really special just happen. Will you tell us about that?
Alan contacted Poison thirteen years ago and said, "Hey, I'm a kid, I'm getting ready to graduate from Notre Dame and all us guys decided we want to put together as much money as we can and get Poison to play Notre Dame.' And we're like, well, that would be neat to play Notre Dame, you know, a frat party, fuck, why not. Poison playing a frat party. So Bret and I really wanted to do it and we tried to put it together and it was just no way where we were located in the United States and when we could do a frat party. But we said, this is what we will do ? all 30 of you guys come to the show. So they came to the show and we had a great time and all that stuff. And Alan kept in touch with us over the years. He would come out to a Poison show every year. He joined the Navy, started sending us letters from Afghanistan and Iraq saying, "Hey, I'm deployed over here, I'm flying a plane.' He brought twelve people from his squadron one time, flew in to Dallas. It's like I said, it's almost like we had this kid, like Poison had this kid that went off to war and we kind of stayed in touch with him. So he asked me several months ago when he knew we were going to be in town, he asked me if I would be part of the promotion ceremony to Lieutenant Commander and I said yeah, it'd be an honor. That's what he does, he trains pilots and that's all he does now and that's what I did.