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INTERVIEW: RIKKI ROCKETT of Poison, July 2016

Drummer Rikki Rockett received the greatest gift recently with an all clear from his oncologist.  Never one to take the easy road, whether it is with his band Poison, his drum company Rockett Drum Works, his various solo and side projects, or life in general, Rikki chose to take the less traveled path of immunotherapy and  battled the Big “C” head on, winning thus far.  Taking time out of his busy media schedule to announce to the world his Cancer-free existence and to spread the word about immunotherapy, Mr. Rockett gave me a call and we spoke about this spectacular news as well as other things, such as Poison’s 30th Anniversary, his other projects, and much more…

Rikki Rocket, patient interview

Toddstar: Rikki Rockett, thank you so much for taking the time out, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you clearing the schedule for us a little bit.

Rikki: Right on.

Toddstar: There’s so much going on that I’d love to talk to you about. The most important is something that is obviously near and dear to your heart, but it’s near and dear to my heart as a national and local volunteer in my free time with the American Cancer Society is the recent declaration that Rikki Rockett is cancer free.

Rikki: Huge.

Toddstar: It’s serious huge, man, especially yours because my mother-in-law actually faced the same Cancer [Squamous Cell Carcinoma – tongue / mouth]. Let’s talk about the immunotherapy that you took at UC San Diego Health, man. Let’s talk about this. Let’s make sure everybody knows.

Rikki: Well, that’s what I’m trying to do is get that word out there because it’s clearly the future, the immunotherapy, but it’s not moving fast. It’s not moving fast enough. [in the background Rikki asks – “Could you put some water in that? Thank you so much.”] I’m sorry. I was just finishing up eating here. Still having trouble eating by the way. I just want to see that the normal standard of treatment and at one point we use to say, we’re going to live to see that, so we will live to see that provided we don’t die tomorrow. They are already moving on that. Immunotherapy, you have to clear the way for it. It’s coming and it’s coming like a freight train and it should, but in the meantime people are still getting standard of care, people are still dying, people are still suffering and the faster we can push it along, the better.

Toddstar: What was it about the immunotherapy that made you choose that as your path instead of like you said the standard care?

Rikki: Well, two things. One is that it is less damaging than chemotherapy. Re-radiation, I would have had to have done or the surgery would have been terrible because I would have been mute, they would have taken my whole tongue out. All those options weren’t very good because most of them don’t last, always. The chemotherapy doesn’t, almost never lasts once it reoccurs. Surgery, sometimes it comes back. Then you’re beat up and then it reoccurs and then your body can’t fight. It is just not a great option. The immunotherapy, if it does work, tends to be doable and it tends to just last. They are seeing people that are a decade out from the treatment. That’s why I chose it.

Toddstar: Immunotherapy, people don’t think about it. They think “I’ve got an illness and the doctors can make me well”, but this is something where you’ve almost got to have yourself in tiptop shape ahead of time going into this. You’re one of those guys – you don’t hear about the drugs, you don’t hear about the drinking. You’re a martial arts expert. You’ve done things to keep yourself in shape all along. Do you attribute that also to part of your recovery?

Rikki: You know what? I do. I haven’t asked my doctor about that specifically and I do. It’s one of those things I forgot to ask him. There are two things I forgot to ask him and that is one of them, but I do think that and the thing about this is that it seems like once the immune system is stimulated to fight cancer or to fight specific things, it tends to just keep fighting it. It keeps recognizing it. Just like certain viruses that you, get you will never get again. People would get chicken pox or something, you know what I mean? You will never get chicken pox again because the immune system recognizes it now. It’s very similar because this cancer was caused by a virus.

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Toddstar: Have they given you advisement as to what you have to do moving forward Rikki, to make sure that you maintain this cancer free diagnosis and keep you involved with all the various ventures that you are behind right now?

Rikki: Well, I’m going to stay on the trial. The trial is a two-year trial. Just because I had a complete response early doesn’t mean they are going to take me off of it. They will probably keep me on it for the full two years which is probably another year and five months or six months, about a year and a half. That’s fine by me because it helps them make determinations and it helps me too because my doctors are going to watch me like a hawk for the next few years.

Toddstar: Well, that helps you keep everything in line.

Rikki: Absolutely. By the way, I’m in a place right now in La Jolla having a coffee called a Jimi Hendrix – it’s a quad espresso. It would make Jimi proud. I just want you to know that.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. Going through all of this Rikki, and again I want to talk about it because I want people to know that it is not just long distance aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. It’s their idols that face this too. How important was everything else that you’ve gotten your life, especially business wise, you’ve got Rockett Drum Works, you’ve got your new clothing venture Falling Angel Customs. How important were those kinds of things to you to keep your head straight while you were going through the cancer fight?

Rikki: Well, you know what? Those things, I’m a little bit of a workaholic so it’s not really so much the actual products and things like that are the key. The key is that I like to stay busy and produce things and enrich people’s lives with fun stuff, whatever it is. I’m a person, I had a job when I was 16 years old and I’ve always gotten up in the morning with my job. Whether it is playing drums or whether it is doing something else. When I got diagnosed with cancer the said, “For the next three months, this is your job,” so I treated it like a job. I got up, took a shower, got dressed, went down and got my chemo, got my infusion, got my radiation or whatever I had to do. That’s the way I looked at it. You know what I’m saying? That’s what I’m doing now. Whatever I’m doing, I take it on all the way. It is a little bit weird, but I fill my days with things to do because if my mind is busy, it gives my body a chance to recover better.

Toddstar: It makes perfect sense. Shifting gears a little bit. This is probably one of the hugest announcements you’ll ever make in your life. Short of getting married and the birth of your two children, this has got to be one of the happier days of your lives. 2016 brings something else major to your life and that’s the celebration of 30 years of founding the band Poison. When you were a kid, 30 years ago Rikki, putting this thing together did you ever think you’d be able to say 30 years later, I helped start this and we’re still going strong?

Rikki: No. Not at all. I sit there and I think to myself right now, I hope I’m alive in 30 years. Back then, I probably was hoping the same thing. Wow. I don’t even know what to say about that. I’ve become the classic rock that I listen to just in a different way. A new classic rock. It’s weird to think that. I’ve always considered myself a more cutting edge, open minded, forward thinking person. To be the OG guy that’s playing older rock is a little uncomfortable, but I got used to being a baby band and I liked it. You know what I mean? Every night we went out on the stage, we were out there to prove something. I honestly still feel that way. I’ve never really relaxed. I always go out there with a fire up my ass feeling like I’ve got to convert everybody all over again. Some people I do need to convert all over again.

RikkiRockettphoto

Toddstar: Having been a fan of yours since that first release back in 1986 and even through your solo stuff and the stuff with the Devil City Angels. You’re not that drummer that tucks himself behind a kit in the back. First of all, you’ve got to show off those sexy, beautiful drum kits that you create. You’ve never taken a back seat to your kit. You’re a showman through and through. How important is that to you every night when you’re behind the kit to say, “Yeah. This is me. This is who I am.”?

Rikki: It’s important. I love the showmanship aspect and there are some people who are really taking it to the next level these days beyond what I’ve done. I have my own way of doing things and I always will. I’m glad that I could be one of the guys that really get drums to the front of the mix on stage as it were. That importance is never gone away nor will it ever.

Toddstar: You’re constantly smiling. That’s my take on it. I’ve seen you several times over the years and I can only imagine the smile on your face now as you sit drinking your quiet Jimi espresso talking about how you’re cancer free.

Rikki: I like my job, so of course I’m happy up there.

Toddstar: That’s one of the keys of life. Going back to everything now, knowing now what you know and the lifestyle you may have lived 30 years ago and how you’ve customized it over the years to incorporate again what you do with martial arts and your family life and everything else, is there anything or any missteps that you wish you could take back or things you wish you could change about your professional career?

Rikki: You know what? Not so much my professional career as much as just personal choices. I think I would have made different ones. One example would be I wish I would have never smoked, by way of example. Although that is not what caused my cancer most likely, but just things like that. Some people say I have no regrets in life, I do. I have a few. There are also a few things I don’t regret. It’s crazy to say you don’t regret anything. Who doesn’t regret anything? I don’t believe that. I think that is just diatribe. You know what I mean?

Toddstar: Sure, sure. If there was one thing that you wish people could take away from your recent bout with cancer, what would you want them to take away from that, Rikki?

Rikki: To explore all options. It’s like in jujitsu, in Brazilian jujitsu, a lot of times you end up on your back with somebody on top of you. My coach always says, there is always a way out. I now firmly believe that. If there isn’t a way out, then tap out and you do it without ego. Then you have to let it go, but only until you’re completely exhausted and you don’t have anything. It’s all gone. I never got to that place where it was all gone. I just want to see people never let it all go because it’s amazing how limitless the human spirit can be.

Toddstar: Great insight – thank you for sharing that with us. This has obviously kept you from doing certain things in your life like getting behind the drum kit, but it has also afforded you more time with your family. At the end of the day, has that been one of the high points of this? Listening to you so far, there’s a sunny side to everything so would that to you be one of the upside of maybe not being 100%?

Rikki: Yes, it has been. The only thing that I haven’t liked about it is that I haven’t been able to be a 100% with them at all times. Now, I am. Now, I can go do whatever I need to do with them. I still dry out, I have to drink a lot – my salivary glands don’t work very well. It’s hard for me to swallow; it takes me a long time to eat so my kids are ready to go a half hour before I am. Things like that, but for the most part, I’m back. I’m back to stay. I need to be. I was a very different person in January; I had to take two naps during the day. I couldn’t just go crazy and have a really good time with my kids. I couldn’t get through a whole day or whatever but I can do those things now.

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Toddstar: Thanks for pointing that out because I wouldn’t have thought of that side of it. I know you’re busy and I know you’ve got a whole day lined up so I’ve got one more for you before we cut you loose.

Rikki: Sure.

Toddstar: With everything you’ve got going on Rikki, you’re out celebrating this huge achievement and this huge, huge victory in your life. Again, congratulations on that because it’s no small feat being a Cancer Survivor. With all that said, again you’ve got the business ventures, you’ve got Rockett Drum Works, you’ve got Fallen Angels Customs. When are we going to hear some more music from Rikki Rockett? It’s been a long time since Glitter 4 Your Soul.

Rikki: It’s funny you should mention that because I’m starting to have talks with people about a second version of that record, believe it or not. That’s something I do want to do. I’m also hoping that Poison gets busy in the spring, we are talking about that and I hope that that comes to fruition. I continue to work with Brandon Gibbs doing things. In fact, we’re meeting with somebody about a reality show. Yeah. There are some interesting, fun things that are coming up.

Toddstar: Hopefully, another one of those fun things is another tour through my city. Love to see you back up here in Detroit.

Rikki: Detroit kills it, man. It’s one of the best cities in this country. For many reasons, one because it is the Rock capital. Truly. Okay? People may say it’s not, but it is – it’s Detroit. That’s the heart of America. It’s Detroit, Michigan. It’s where cars come from. [laughs]

Toddstar: We love you up here, man, whether you’re at the palace or you’re killing it over at Pine Knob – whatever you want to call it or whether you’re playing the smaller clubs, you got started out in out here.

Rikki: It’s Pine Knob. You know it and I know it. [laughs]

Toddstar: That’s true, brother. Well listen man; again, it’s been such an honor. This is one of the first interviews in a long time I’ve actually been a little nervous and star-struck before the phone rang because you’re a musical idol of mine. I thank you for the time.

Rikki: Thank you.

Toddstar: I wish you well and I cannot wait to hear what comes next, see what comes next, and see you on stage where you belong again, Rikki.

Rikki: Awesome.

Toddstar: All right, brother. Thank you so much.

Rikki: Talk to you soon, okay? Bye.

RIKKI ROCKETT LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

POISON LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Featured Articles, Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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