Riki Rachtman interview

Originally published in ‘zine issue #3, 1991

Riki Rachtman is the host of MTV’s Headbangers Ball as well as proprietor of the Cathouse in Los Angeles, California. There are many and varied opinions of his work on the cable show and his sincerity for the music about which he speaks. So here is his chance to clear the air and set the record straight.

D.U.: So, Riki, how much fan mail that comes through to the Headbangers Ball do you pay attention to and read?

Riki: I try to pay attention to as much of the mail as I could. Right now, they’re saying that I get, like, 200 letters a day. I mean, that’s a real lot. But I know that Headbangers Ball gets more mail than any of the other shows on MTV. ‘Cause the metal fans, it’s like, if there’s something they like or don’t like, they’ll always be the first to tell you about it.

So how much creative control do you in fact get on the show?

None. I can say pretty much whatever I want, as long as I don’t say anything mean about another band. Pretty much that, y’know? I can’t say, “Hey, I think this band sucks,” even though there’s a lot of times I’d like to. That’s why when there’s a band that I really like on the show, and I go on and on, “Oh, I really like this band,” it’s ‘cause sometimes there’s bands that I don’t like and I have to keep my mouth shut. So if there’s a band that I like, and I like so many of the bands that we play, that I go off on these bands.

When you come on, you usually say that you like a certain band, and people think that you’re just saying that, like on the “Triple Thrash Threat,” for instance.

Certain bands on the “Triple Thrash Threat” I think suck. Certain bands on the “Triple Thrash Threat” I’m really, really into. I mean, I have never been on the show and said that I was a big fan of any bands that I thought sucked. If there’s a band like Suicidal Tendencies or Danzig, and I’m gonna go on and on and on, it’s because I think these are great bands, I think they deserve a lot of support, and this is the records that I buy and the concerts that I go see. So it’s not like I’m patronizing or kissing this band’s ass. It’s just because I really, really dig the shit.

If my opinion matters to some people, and they’re gonna listen to what I like, and they’re gonna go, “Hey, y’know, he’s right. That stuff’s really cool,” then it worked. Now, my opinion isn’t necessarily right.

So you try to have no comment on a band that you don’t like that gets played on the show.

It’s only ‘cause I have to. There’s certain bands on the show that I grit my teeth every time I have to intro their video. But that’s why. Rock ‘n’ roll’s so varied that you’ve gotta play, like, a lotta different kinds of stuff.

When you interview a band on the show, do you prepare those yourself or do they give you questions?

They give me questions, but I would say 30 percent of the questions are prepared and about 70 percent are questions that I wanna know. ‘Cause I’m a rock ‘n’ roll fan, and if I’m sitting there with, whatever, Slayer, and the question is, “Well, tell us about the production value of this,” I’m not really interested in that. But I am interested in asking them, “Are there certain towns where people go totally nuts?” Y’know, so there’s questions that I’ll ask that maybe isn’t written down.

So do you want to plug the Cathouse tour?

Right now, it’s like, we’ve got Cathouse in L.A., we got Cathouse in Arizona, and I wanna take the Cathouse on the road and start doing little clubs in other states. ‘Cause I think it’s a blast. It’s one of the most fun things we do. All we wanna do is, we wanna bring our club, our staff, our DJs, a band, some videos, and just go to some town and just, like, take it over for one night. Go on the road.

So that special you and Dave Mustaine did for MTV where you addressed the subject of his opinion about you, you’re not going to run it after all?

No, what the thing is, it’s like, everybody thinks that me and Dave Mustaine hate each other. Let them think whatever they want. I talk to Dave more than I talk to most people in bands. I think Dave Mustaine is one of the most intelligent songwriters that’s in rock ‘n’ roll. He’s very, very, very intelligent. Very, very cool guy. I can talk to Dave about personal shit. I like Mustaine.

We did this thing for MTV News where Dave got on camera and said, “Oh yeah, y’know, everybody thinks that we hate each other. Me and him get along.” And then we just said, “Fuck it. Let everybody say what they want.” I don’t care. It’s nobody’s business. We go skydiving almost every weekend. But people like to think there’s a feud, so let ‘em.

Is there another popular misconception about you that we haven’t covered that you’d like to air out?

Um, yeah, y’know what it is, it’s like, a lot of people think because I have to sit here and say a smile with my face, people will say that I’m a fuckin’ poser, because here I am saying something about Firehouse and then playing something from Napalm Death. They’re picking the music. This is my job. I do it for fun. And Riki Rachtman on TV isn’t necessarily Riki Rachtman in the streets.

So how long is your tenure on the show gonna be?

As long as they keep me. I love doing Headbangers Ball. If there’s something that people don’t like about the show, like if they want more thrash or they want less thrash or whatever, all they have to do is write in. ‘Cause that’s what it takes.

Is there a last comment to wrap it up?

Don’t kill yourself. ■


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