INTERVIEW: Riki Rachtman Discusses Cathouse Live
Best known for creating The Cathouse in Hollywood back in the late 80’s as well as for hosting MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, Riki Rachtman took time out of preparing to ride his motorcycle across the country from North Carolina to California to speak with SoCalMusicToday’s Chris Loomis. Riki discusses The Cathouse Live festival taking place at Irvine Meadows on August 15 and his involvement in creating this epic event as well as his take on the Sunset Strip today.
Hello Riki. This is an exciting time as coming up on August 15 at Irvine Meadows is the first Cathouse Live Festival featuring many of the defining bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s. How did the idea to put together this festival come about?
It’s something I have wanted to do for a long time but I didn’t want to do it on such a grand scale. So I talked to John Reese (SGE Entertainment/Mayhem Festival Co-founder) who is a longtime friend and I said I want to do a Cathouse tour, I want to get four or five bands together and tour and hit smaller venues, like 900 seaters – something like that. And John was like yeah, that’s a great idea but he wasn’t interested. Then like a year later he calls me and says we want to do a festival and here’s what we want to do. I’m like Irvine Meadows – that place is so big.
So he started to put together a list of bands and I put together my list of bands and combined the lists and came up with what we have. And we kept coming up with ideas trying to make it very Cathouse like. It’s a new thing for me – working with somebody else and doing something on such a large scale. We are making the event a whole week as we have got a pre-party that Thursday in Hollywood, it’s gonna be great, I really can’t wait.
This is such a great lineup. How did the process work for choosing the bands for the Cathouse Live festival? Did you have a specific vision of how you wanted this to be cast?
You can look at the list of bands and guess which bands I picked and what bands Live Nation put on the bill. There were bands not on my wish list but Live Nation put them on the bill and it made sense as it’s just all about doing a really cool festival, it’s a festival of all types of fans of that era of music will be happy with. You may not like band “A” but you love band “B”, “C” and “D” – there’s a lot of different types of music represented. Junkyard is nothing like Trixter but there are a lot of people that like both. We are just trying to make everybody happy and get as many of those bands in there as we can making the ticket prices as low as possible.
Bottom line, it’s about having a really cool and fun time at the festival. I had to do it in California first even though it’s the hardest market for rock music. If we did this anywhere else it would have sold-out immediately.
Can you put into perspective the level of effort to put together a festival like this. How involved were you with all the details, how far in advance did you start planning all this?
I am very, very involved in this to the point of consuming way too much of my time. I have a vision for this festival and when you are working with other people they don’t have the same vision you do but as a result of collaboration we are coming up with all this great stuff.
It’s definitely not something where I just gave them the Cathouse name and just said run with it. I’ve had the Cathouse name for almost 30 years and I want to make sure this is a really, really cool festival. It’s a lot of time, several months of planning.
With the large number of bands and all the different personalities, what are you expecting backstage and behind the scenes on this day? This is like a family reunion.
It is very much a family reunion. When we did the press conference (in Hollywood at The Whisky) for this there were so many friends I have not seen in a while show up. In December I moved to North Carolina so there are a lot of people I haven’t seen. Of course I keep in touch with Taime (Downe from Faster Pussycat) and Gilby (Clarke formerly Guns n Roses) all the time.
So there is a lot of excitement, there are a lot of bands that are excited in seeing other bands they haven’t seen in a while. It’s gonna be as fun for us as it is for all the fans out there.
There will be two stages with bands performing throughout the day. Will there be any other activities or festivities at the festival that will help duplicate that original Cathouse vibe?
The main stage will be rotating so when one band goes off then the next will be able to start, just a bam, bam, bam output of bands. The other stage will be like a regular show where a band stops then a quick setup for the next, probably like 10 minutes between bands.
There is going to be a killer chopper show, there is gonna be some really cool bikes there, I am officiating a wedding in the Cathouse booth, we have go-go dancers, a ton of cool vendors, just a lot of different stuff going on. We are just really trying to capture the entire feeling and vibe of The Cathouse. Fans will not be disappointed.
What will your personal involvement be on the day of the show? Will you be introducing bands, walking around the festival or just enjoying the debauchery backstage?
I wish I could just relax and enjoy the day. I will be talking with all the bands and putting out any little fires that come up. Live Nation will be getting each band on and off stage so that is something I won’t be doing. I’ll be making sure everything is running smooth in The Cathouse booth and making sure people are having a good time.
Is there any bands in particular you have not seen live in a long time that you are looking forward to seeing perform at Cathouse Live?
I haven’t seen Sebastian (Bach) perform in a while. I’m such a big fan of his. I haven’t seen Dangerous Toys or Saigon Kick for a long time. Can’t remember the last time I saw Junkyard even though I have kept in touch with them. But yeah there are definitely quite a few bands I have not seen in a while so that is going to make it more fun. Like when Sebastian’s playing I’m going to be watching him not running around doing anything else. And Tom Kiefer, I’ve seen him play recently but he is just so talented.
What can we expect from the all-star jam at the end of the night? Are you going to participate on stage in any way?
I’ll probably sing a song. Gilby (Clarke) is working on getting people together to play in this all-star band. I want members of bands new and old that you’ve heard of, it should be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about this, I am just bummed we didn’t have another hour of time to play with the all-star band.
Is there any possibility of Cathouse Live continuing and becoming a yearly destination festival?
Next year is the 30th anniversary of Cathouse. I know I am doing a big thing for Cathouse on The Monsters of Rock cruise. I will be doing something more for The Cathouse 30th, I just haven’t figured what yet.
Right now I want to see how this goes, see how it works out with me working with somebody else and if it goes great who knows what the future holds.
Are there any plans in the future to possibly resurrect The Cathouse on the Sunset Strip or something similar in another major city?
I would like to open a small bar like in Vegas and call it The Cathouse, it would just be a rock bar but as far as something in Hollywood, I don’t think there is a chance of that happening. Unless somebody came to me with the ultimate deal, I am just not going to put The Cathouse name out there. But you never know though, if something does happen it better be pretty soon as I don’t want to be that old croaker guy – “hey kids come inside my rock club.”
What is your view of the Sunset Strip today vs back in the late 80’s, early 90’s?
There is no comparison at all because the Sunset Strip today is dead. We can blame all the major companies and businesses for tearing down these places but the truth is if those places made a lot of money they would still be there. Right now it’s hard to get people out and do stuff. The thing that killed the Sunset Strip, everybody thinks it was grunge but I don’t think that at all, I think what killed the Sunset Strip was when they passed a law that you could not pass out flyers. That took away all the energy and people hanging out there. Every band would go there just to promote their band, there were always people out on the strip and when the flyers and promotion stopped it just hasn’t been the same.
There’s no Tower Records, I don’t know how long the Viper Room will last, The House of Blues is gone, it’s just a shame that’s all I can say.
Regarding Headbangers Ball, do you have a favorite memory or interview from the show that sticks out in your mind?
The ones that always stick out are the ones I did with Pantera and Alice in Chains. With Pantera it was because they were the guys you just hang out with and party, they were the ultimate party band. They were just so much fun and they treated their fans so great.
Alice in Chains, they were just goofy. We would just do so much crazy, fun stuff. I really miss Mike (Starr) and Layne (Staley) – it’s a shame they are not here. That band, they just got it, I think the most popular show was the one we shot with Alice in Chains at the waterpark with the band wearing Speedos.
Is there anything else Riki Rachtman is up to that you want to mention?
I have been doing a NASCAR radio show for the last 14 years. I’ll be riding 9my motorcycle) from North Carolina to California then from California to the tip of Florida with Taime (Downe). Just go to my Facebook or follow me on twitter (@rikirachtman) and that will keep you up to date on my rides.
Riki, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me – I really appreciate it. Best of luck with Cathouse Live and safe travels across the country on your motorcycle rides!