Rockett Into Summer
Poison's Rickki Rockett - at the Pinnacle of Good Times, Bad Times

By Lee Valentine Smith

Emerging at the peak of the mid-'80s glam-rock renaissance with their album Look What The Cat Dragged In, Poison rode the burgeoning hair-metal wave to incredible success. By conservative estimates, the band has sold over 45 million records internationally - with over 15 million in the United StatesĀ alone.

They haven't released a record since 2007, but they continue to be a major draw on the big shed circuit, revisiting the hits - including "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Talk Dirty To Me," and "Unskinny Bop" - and a few choice covers. Often they hit the road with some like-minded friends in tow. For their current "Nothin' But A Good Time" tour, the original line-up of Poison - singer and reality TV-star Bret Michaels, guitarist CC Deville, bassist Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rockett - have able support from Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.

During a recent break from a grueling 12-hour rehearsal, Rockett spoke with INsite about the band, the tour and almost two years of cancer-free rocking.

The "Nothin' But a Good Time" tour isn't false advertising. You can't go wrong with Cheap Trick on the bill.

I just love those guys. Awesome players and songwriters. What can you say? They're legendary. You're definitely going to get a few hours of hits, there's no question about it.

There's not even time for a bathroom break or a drink run.

Except during my drum solo, but I'll try to keep it interesting to prevent that.

The hallmark of a Poison show is consistently great co-headliners, whether it's Def Leppard or even the New York Dolls on the bill.

Yeah, it was a good surprise having the Dolls along a few years ago. Motley Crue put them on. I had known [former Atlanta resident] Sylvain Sylvain for a while because I did a remake of "Trash" on my covers record. He loved it so I got to know him a little bit.

You mentioned your solo album, Glitter 4 Your Soul. That was 2003. Any plans for a new one?

You know, I talked to the bassplayer, Chuck Garric, he's with Alice Cooper and he's done a few gigs with my other band Devil City Angels. He wants to do it. But right now, the Angels have a new song called "Testify." We're gonna shoot a video for it when we're in Nashville, then we'll release it.

You're known for a love of motorcycles, but you're branching out by designing a line of accessories for the lifestyle with Fallen Angel Customs, www.fallenangelcusomsnet.

When I was going through the cancer stuff and trying to get into remission, my girlfriend and I were constantly thinking about the things we were gonna do when I got better. Even when I wasn't better, we were still trying. We went camping and just stayed busy. We decided we wanted to accessorize all those ideas.

How do you describe the line?

They say, 'Find your road and choose your dreams.' So it's stuff for adventure, whatever kind of adventure that might be. Not necessarily motorcycles, but it's all about wandering off the beaten path. Just get out there and don't even think about where you're going.

So this takes precedence over Rockett Drum Works? Are you still involved with that at all?

It takes so much energy to keep a company like that going and I didn't have it. I might do it again, but to put up shop, fire up a business and teach everybody about it, I just don't know if I want to be doing that right now.

It's very time consuming.

It is and I loved it. I really liked working with other drummers, coming up with ideas for them and designing their stuff. I think I've got a good eye for design but the rest of it is just sheer work, out-and-out hustle. The crew had to go on to other jobs while I was away from it.

You mentioned your heath. You've been cancer-free for nearly two years now. That experience obviously changes your priorities.

(Laughs) Oh you have no idea! That was a scare, let me tell you. Treatment didn't work the first time around. I thought I was gonna be cured and then it didn't work. But thank God for immunotherapy. That was the thing that worked for me. I've become such an advocate for it. I've helped a lot of people get on those trials and we've raised money to do more trials and save more lives.

You're a good spokesman for it and people might take your word for it, moreso than from a doctor.

Well that's true but they need the doctor's backing. The thing is, this is real medicine, it's not some wacko fringe therapy. The good thing about it is that it's an option for doctors now, rather than just doing another round of chemo. I'd like to see people try it right out of the gate and not even bother with the standard affair, maybe just do this. Chemo and radiation sucks, I'll tell you that right now. The immunotherapy does not. Very little side effects. I really think we're gonna live to see this, man. We are gonna live to see people being cured routinely.

Right. There'll come a time when cancer isn't a death sentence.

Not at all. I'm almost two years in remission now. The highest recurrences are within the first two years. I'm kinda at a pinnacle now, so that's good.

Does beating cancer affect the way you play?

Oh yeah, definitely. Last year at this time, I was only a year in and I was thinking it could come back. And it could. You know, anything can happen. I could get a different cancer, any of us could. But I really did begin to take this all in and appreciate it even more than ever. It's made me slow certain things down and speed other things up. I do like to stop and smell the roses a little more, but at the same time, I think I have a little less patience with people who don't deliver, you know what I mean? 'Oh, I'm gonna do this or that.' If they don't - well, I'm done with 'em. I used to be too forgiving with all those things. So certain things I'm less patient with and other things, I'm even more patient with.

We're both surrounded by people who are, let's say, not exactly reliable.

Yes! And you know what, man? You really learn who your friends are. I know you've heard that before, but it's true. People will avoid you like they're gonna catch it from you or something.

Your real friends won't run away, they'll be there for you.

Exactly. Sometimes you just need somebody to talk to and hang out with a little bit.

But sometimes they don't know the right things to say, even in passing.

I wanna tell people that when somebody's gone through something like this, please don't give them examples of people that didn't make it! 'Oh, I had a sister with cancer and she didn't make it.' Oh yeah, that's what I want to hear when I'm going through it. People will actually say stuff likeĀ that!

There are so many misconceptions about cancer or any sort of serious illness.

So many. But I will say: parents, get your child vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. Your son or daughter can get various kinds of cancer from HPV. It's nothin' to mess around with. If you think they're not gonna have sex, you're wrong. It's not going to stop them, so just do it in case. You can even get it from deep kissing now, so nobody's safe. But get the vaccine and it'll make you a hell of a lot safer. That's my public service announcement.

On a happier note, what is the dynamic of a band of healthy men in their 50s - as opposed to a bunch of 20-something glam-rockers prowling the late-night Hollywood club scene?

Well, we don't hit each other - as much. It's tough, though. As you mature, you get more baggage - so you have to handle it. If we'd had this much baggage when we were 23, we would have destroyed the band in a day. You have to learn how to handle all these things as time goes on.

A lot of time has passed since the most recent Poison album. Over a decade now.

It's been way too long and I'm very much ready to do something else. I really hope we do. But listen, people release singles now; it's like the '50s all over again. So the old dogs are just tryin' to figure out what the new dogs already know. I don't have anything to formerly announce right now, but we have talked about it.

Poison, Cheap Trick & Pop Evil will perform on June 5 at 7pm at Verizon Amphitheatre. For more information, please visit vzwamp.com.

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