INTERVIEW WITH RIKKI ROCKETT OF DEVIL CITY ANGELS AND POISON
Date: August 10, 2015
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
RIKKI ROCKETT NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION. YOU KNOW HE’S THE DRUMMER IN POISON. RECENTLY, HE HAS STEPPED OUT OF THE SHADOW OF POISON AND FORMED DEVIL CITY ANGELS WITH GUITARIST TRACII GUNS AND SINFER BRANDON GIBBS, AND JOINING THE BAND IS BASSIST RUDY SARZO. THE BAND’S SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM WILL HIT THE STREETS ON SEPTEMBER 18, 2015. WE HAD A CHANCE TO CATCH UP WITH RIKKI ABOUT THE BAND, POISON AND MOVING FORWARD. WE ALSO ASKED RIKKI ABOUT HIS HEALTH AND HE STATED “I DON’T THINK IT’S CANCER — I HAVE A FEW MORE TESTS ON TUESDAY BUT THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD.” THAT IS EXCELLENT NEWS, NOW READ ON.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re part of this supergroup Devil City Angels. You’re about to release your self-titled debut album. How did this band come to be? This is a ‘band’ and not a ‘project’ correct?
Rikki Rockett: It’s absolutely a band for as long as we can take it. It’s difficult at this stage in our careers; we have kids, we have bills, we have priorities. You have to make whatever musical venture you do a profitable one. So it’s a little tricky at times to get to where everyone is comfortable. The older you get, the harder it becomes to pull that off. You’re not 25 and living in an apartment. We’re a little bit older and we have responsibilities. Right now, that’s the only thing that would sidetrack this (Devil City Angels).
Sleaze Roxx: When you launched the band, you had Eric Brittingham on bass who we all know from his work with Cinderella. He’s no longer in the band but he did play on the record. At some point after the recording of the album was completed, he left. What’s the story behind his departure?
Rikki Rockett: Eric’s departure goes back to what I was talking about. It’s a struggle in the beginning when you start a new band. In the early stages, things don’t pay off right from the get go. Some people aren’t as patient as others. Eric also had some other personal things going on so he needed to make some money now and we respect that. I think he did a fantastic job on the album and I always consider Eric a brother.
Sleaze Roxx: Rudy Sarzo enters the picture. How did he wind up in the band? Did he audition? I know he’s been touring with Tracii Guns as Gunzo all summer.
Rikki Rockett: There weren’t any auditions. I’ve known Rudy when Poison toured with Whitesnake in Europe in like 1989 or something. I’ve seen him on and off since then. I think the fact that he had been playing with Tracii Guns did make a difference because he fit in very well. It’s not like we wouldn’t have considered him anyway but it made easier to know that it was already working with Tracii.
Sleaze Roxx: How would you describe the band’s sound? I’ll tell you what I think and you can tell me if I’m completely off the mark. Devil City Angels sounds like a modern day Bad Company.
Rikki Rockett: Absolutely! The thing about Brandon (Gibbs) is that he’s a young guy but he sounds like he’s from the ’70s. That’s what is so appealing for guys like us. That’s the reason that I really wanted Brandon involved with us. When Tracii heard he said “Yeah, you’re absolutely right!” Brandon doesn’t have any baggage which is good and he has a lot of experience. He’s got a great pedigree; his brother is phenomenal too.
Sleaze Roxx: There’s no ‘flash’ to your playing on this record. You’ve kept it simple as have the rest of the guys in the band. Was this done by design or was this just how things turned out?
Rikki Rockett: (Laughs) You know there were times when I’d say “Tracii are you sure you don’t want to do more than that on the song? You can (laughs)!” It didn’t make sense to do that. We really have approached this very simply. When we were writing the songs, we didn’t spend too much time overthinking things — we went by our gut instinct. We went with what our gut told us and that turned out to be the right thing for the song. We didn’t want things to sound “forced.” To give you a better idea, we write like a garage band we set things up in a room and just jam.
Sleaze Roxx: You launched the album with a track “Boneyard” which you shot a video for. I’ll admit I didn’t want to like it but I loved it and I like it more and more with each listen. I love the modern classic vibe to the song.
Rikki Rockett: Thank you. It does capture that modern classic feel that you’re talking about and that is the reason that I voted for that song. I think that that song best represents what this song is all about. There’s an interesting backstory to the song. We couldn’t come up with lyrics and all of a sudden, I got this idea in my head and went into a sandwich shop for half and hour and I came back with the song. You want to write a song that has some relevancy to it but if you make it too personal, then no one can relate to it. If you make too standard, then it’s not personal enough. It’s a very difficult line to walk. The premise of the song was what it would be like to find this horny inmate girl. She’s on the other side thinking this is going to be my savior. We’re under this illusion that things are really going to work out. The little cabin that they use in prison for conjugal visits is called “The Boneyard.”
Sleaze Roxx: Did you personally approach writing for this record differently than you would for a Poison album?
Rikki Rockett: Not really. I honestly didn’t. We (Poison) used to write like that. We haven’t written together in quite a while at this point. I can play guitar and bass enough that I can sit down and exchange licks with another musician and have them interpret it like I envisioned it. We just play it — which worked with Poison and which is why I think this works for me. I had no idea that Tracii also worked that way so it was a wonderful surprise.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re planning on doing some live appearances for the album I imagine?
Rikki Rockett: Yeah — we did some touring last year. We put out a song and went on tour. We did some of the heavy lifting at the beginning so we could get our name out there.
Sleaze Roxx: I’d be completely insane if I didn’t ask you some Poison related stuff. You and the rest of the Poison guys did an appearance earlier this year with Brandon fronting the band. How did that get put together?
Rikki Rockett: When I was out touring with Devil City Angels, Bobby Dall came to one of the shows we played in Florida and jammed with us. He got the chance to get to know Brandon a little bit. We got offered some shows that Bret either really wasn’t interested in doing or if he had shows of his own scheduled — I can’t recall exactly. In any event, Bobby and I looked at each other and said “Why don’t we just get Brandon to do them?” Now we’d never call it Poison but we did think it was good to offer the promoters a chance to work with the three of us with Brandon fronting the band. They took it — we did it and the response was amazing. It makes you really think. Is this something that we could do moving forward? I think we could.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s got to be frustrating for you, Bobby and C.C. to continue waiting for Bret. It seems like Bret is always playing around the country. I get that he’s ‘the voice’ of the band and the face of the band but Poison is a band.
Rikki Rockett: (Pause) It’s very frustrating and that is the main reason that I started Devil City Angels. I like to play and record music. That’s become a little bit of a problem recently (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: Are there any hard feelings there? Or is it as simple as one guy isn’t on the same page as the rest of the band?
Rikki Rockett: I just think… I don’t know for sure actually. I haven’t spoken with Bret in months and months. I just think that at this point in time, he just prefers to do his own thing. Bret has his own way of doing things and I’m getting the feeling that he’d prefer not to deal with the three of us if he can avoid it. Look, I’m making that up in my head. I can’t think of any other reason.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think there’s some damage being done to the Poison name with Bret going out performing ‘watered down’ versions of Poison?
Rikki Rockett: The number one complaint that I’ve heard about Bret’s show is that he doesn’t play ‘Bret material’ and he plays ‘Poison material.’ I’ve heard that over and over from fans. I haven’t stepped out of Poison until Devil City Angels — because I believe that a band is more potent when you keep it together. I’m very loyal like that. I’ve been practicing Jiu Jitsu for 16 years now and I’m driving to Santa Monica which is 42 miles from me each way because I’m that loyal to my team. That’s the kind of person I am. Having said that, there isn’t a whole lot you can do when everyone don’t feel that way. I think we are kind of at that point — if we’re going to continue with Poison, we have to look at other ways that we can do this. Brandon isn’t a bad choice. It’s all I can say.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you be opposed to record new Poison music? Do you think there’s a need for new Poison music? A lot of your contemporaries have given up on recording new music.
Rikki Rockett: I think we should absolutely record new stuff! Take the Rolling Stones for example; they haven’t had an “Angie” in a while or a “Tumbling Dice” but what they are doing is really viable. I really enjoyed their last record. I think in order to remain valid, you have to do that. Bon Jovi has done that and he’s done pretty well with it. I can’t give up on writing — I think I have better stories to tell now than I did when I was 22. The whole idea that only the youth have something to say is a passé idea. Why should it be over because you hit a certain age? It doesn’t make sense to me — it never has.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your take on ‘Native Tongue’ in 2015?
Rikki Rockett: I think that’s a great record! It’s funny you should mention that because I just listened to a couple of songs from that record today actually. I felt like listening to that record and I downloaded my own record! (laughs) I didn’t want to rip it off a CD I just wanted to hear it right then and there. It’s really a great record, it really, really is. Richie (Kotzen)…I don’t hold anything against him anymore. I’m over it. As far as I’m concerned, he did me a favor. It’s all good. He’s a great musician and songwriter. I loved working with (producer) Richie Zito. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much success working with Richie but I think he’s a phenomenal producer. I know we talk about ‘Native Tongue’ not being a commercial success but it’s gone on to sell a million and a half copies over the years.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Crack A Smile’ that was the album that was shelved by the label and it was ultimately released years after the fact.
Rikki Rockett: I love ‘Crack A Smile’. That’s another record that I love. I really love all the record (laughs)! I really loved working with Blues (Saraceno). We became very good friends. He played guitar on my ‘Glitter for Your Soul’ record — he played guitar on all the tracks except for one. I think that album sounded a little bit more to me like Poison than ‘Native Tongue’ did. I think Blues’ style fit Poison better than Richie’s playing did I think. ‘Native Tongue’ was such a departure but I think it was good for us. I think we needed to do that.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Hollyweird’ is the reunion record. What’s your take on that now?
Rikki Rockett: You know, I don’t love that record. I think that a lot of the ideas on that record I loved. I don’t think that they were executed as well as they could have been. I think we could have taken a little more time and could have done a better job with that record. I feel like it was thrown together. I’m not super proud of that record. I’m not embarrassed about it but it’s just not our best work.
Sleaze Roxx: I imagine that’s motivation to take another crack at an all original Poison record?
Rikki Rockett: Oh absolutely! I know we’d do a great job — I do. I know that with Brandon, we could do a great job. It’s not like I’ve written Bret off but I don’t think that he has a lot of desire to work with us. That’s just my feeling at this time.