Rikki Rockett: back on the road after beating cancer

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When Poison announced they were going out on tour this summer, some fans referred to it as a “reunion.”

Bret Michaels, Rikki Rockett, Bobby Dall and CC DeVille hadn’t gone out on a full summer tour together in five years. And based on what some members were saying (or allegedly saying) in the press, there seemed to be some uncertainty about when, or if, they would hit the road again.

But speaking to the Deseret News from the side of the road on his motorcycle outside Rapid City, South Dakota, drummer Rikki Rockett downplayed the whole reunion scenario. Rockett says the band has played a couple of private corporation gigs over the past five years, and he was busy for a little while beating cancer. So really, Poison has only been away for three years, according to Rockett, which is about average for any band that started playing 30 years ago. The decision to tour again as Poison wasn’t as dramatic as some might have thought, he said.

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“Well, everything has to make sense about it. At the end of the day you don’t just throw darts at a board and go play there. It has to make financial sense for everybody. If you can’t go out there and make money, you go out and lose money, and nobody wants to do that. So, it had to make sense. And it did. The offers made sense. And then we were able to get the business out of the way and go have fun and do what it is that we started out doing in the first place, and that’s just make music and have a fun time doing it,” he said.

It would be hard to see, however, how it wouldn’t make sense to tour again as Poison. Since exploding onto the music world in 1986 with their debut album Look What the Cat Dragged In, the band has sold 50 million albums worldwide, defying the critics and establishing a long career. They were still playing amphitheater-sized venues at the time of their last tour. And just like last time, Poison is on the road with Def Leppard this summer, in addition to headlining their own dates. The much anticipated Def Leppard/Poison/Tesla tour rolls into the USANA Amphitheatre Monday night.

Though Rockett admits the band was a bit rusty at first, “It came back very quickly.” And now the band is “having a blast” on the summer tour.

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“We’re all getting along really well. It’s amazing to be doing this 31 years later,” he said.

Also during this tour, Rockett is taking road trips with his motorcycle, or From the Saddle as he’s calling it, and taking pictures, showing off slices of Americana.

“I’ve been shooting photos along this tour from the seat of my motorcycle – that’s the rule – and at the end of the tour I’m going to sell the photos, hopefully sell some, and donate the money to immunotherapy, which is what saved me from cancer,” he said.

The pictures can be anything from a bridge to a person, or whatever catches his eye.

“Honestly, anything. A lot of times it’s an interesting building or a person I meet. Sometimes homeless people will come up to me, I’ll be sitting right on the corner with my camera and they come right up and I go, ‘OK, I’ll give you a little money and you pose for me and we’ll make you famous with this,” he said.

The money Rockett hopes to raise from the sale of the pictures is a way for him to give back to the treatment that helped him. In late 2015, Rockett announced he was battling throat cancer.

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“I tried the radiation, I tried the chemo, and we thought it worked but it didn’t. And the immunotherpary was kind of a Hail Mary. My trial was successful very quickly,” he said.

Rockett was essentially the “lab rat” as he called it for the treatment. What immunotherapy does, in simple terms, is tell the body to attack the invading cancer cells.

“No matter how good your immune system is, if it doesn’t know to fight it it’s not going to do anything about it. What this drug does is turn that switch on, or drops the veil, I should say. It’s called a checkpoint inhibitor, so it says, ‘Yeah, this is a cancer cell. That’s a bad guy so let’s go after it,” he explained.

Coming this July, Rockett’s cancer will have been in remission for one year.

That has given Rockett time to pursue his many other interests, such as motorcycle riding, custom motorcycle building, building drums, and work with his side project, the Devil City Angels, a rotating lineup of all-star rockers from the 1980s. As for new music from Poison, Rockett – a blackbelt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu – said he was joking with Michaels that they should write the walk-in music for Conor McGregor for his upcoming fight with Floyd Mayweather.

Rockett is the brainchild behind Fallen Angel Customs, a clothing line designed for the riding and rock-n-roll community. Believe it or not, he says he’s even considering expanding that into his own Fallen Angel coffee brand.

As for returning to Salt Lake City, traditionally a very strong market for Poison, “I love Salt Lake City. I swear to God I actually considered moving there at one time. I like the people, and the weather, and the scenery is incredible. And I love motyotrycle riding up there.”

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