Big changes are afoot, after Todd Hoffman — who had been on the show since it first started back in December 2010 — left at the end of Season 8.
And yet, some things never change. Like Parker Schnabel’s ability to get Tony Beets to swear a blue streak, or the guarantee that expensive equipment will break down at the most inopportune time of all.
The biggest twist this season is that Parker’s former right-hand man Ness has struck out on his own to assemble a crew, stake a claim and go for it with his life savings.
Last year was a tough one personally for him after losing his mother, but he has charged ahead and taken a chance on himself.
A good portion of tonight’s two-hour season premiere recalls Ness’s sleeveless-shirted history working for Schnabel for six years, and his cobbled-together novice crew of homeboys who — as we learn in Monsters and Critics’ exclusive interview below — might have a lot to learn as they mine Ness’s Klondike claim.
Another interesting tidbit is that Ness’s own father seems less than enthused about Rick’s mining intentions. We will see as the season progresses if Rick proves him wrong.
Yesterday, Monsters and Critics spoke to Parker Schnabel, Rick Ness and Tony Beets for what turned into a rollicking and revealing snapshot of their underlying camaraderie, humor and take on work — as well as a look at what’s to come on Season 9.
Monsters and Critics: Rick, when we spoke ahead of Parker’s Guyana show, you told me your mum was really proud of what you had accomplished and what you were doing. How did you break the news to Parker that you had made that decision to strike out on your own?
Rick Ness: Well, I went and met him in Guyana. I figured that was as good a time as any. I’d said I wasn’t going to go, but that was kind of the deciding factor for me.
I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to talk to him anyway, I might as well get over there and go on this weird ass adventure with him.’
M&C: These Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail spin-offs that take place in remote locations. Are you still part of the party now you’ve told Parker you’re on your own, or have you been kind of edged out?
Rick Ness: Oh, I haven’t been edged out. But just like everybody else, you’re going to have to wait and see.
M&C: Okay. Whether it’s crabs in the Bering Sea or gold, you know Mother Nature does not give up her treasure very easily. Some people think hard work is what makes luck. What’s your take on that?
Rick Ness: Yes, I mean hard work is key. That’s part of why I think I’ve been successful up there is that I’m no stranger to hard work.
A lot of people say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. But, yes, at the end of the day, I just think it comes down to hard work.
Unfortunately, as far as gold mining goes, it’s one of those businesses where no matter how hard you work, sometimes you can still come up short. And that’s a painful part of it.
M&C: What about you, Parker?
Parker Schnabel: I think that it’s a combination of both. You’ve got to be at the right place at the right time too, right? What Rick says is totally true, but it’s also…to have those opportunities in front of you is…a lot of that is luck.
What you do with that opportunity is the next step. But those opportunities have to present themselves first.
Tony Beets: They say good luck spells hard work, right? And you make your own. As for getting the stuff out of the ground? Well, some days you get lucky, some days you don’t. Some days it’s there, some days it just doesn’t produce. The key is to stick with it, don’t give up.
M&C: Where exactly are you guys all mining in Season 9?
Tony Beets: Oh, we’re all still in the same spot. Rick has a new spot on the Indian River somewhere. But they…other than that, nobody else has moved.
M&C: I interviewed Todd Hoffman ahead of last season, and he said very nice things about you, Tony. Not so much about Parker.
Tony Beets: What did he want? What did he want?
M&C: He didn’t want anything. He said you could find gold on Mars. He said very positive things about you and your work ethic.
Tony Beets: Oh, okay.
M&C: He’s not such a fan of Parker. Parker, where did it all go south between you and Todd?
Tony Beets: They’re buddies.
Parker Schnabel: Oh we’re best buddies. No, I don’t know what happened with Rick and I…[laughs] or with…well, there’s a Freudian slip there! I don’t know what happened with Todd and I.
You know, I think that I’ve always just rubbed him the wrong way. I don’t like the way he…I don’t know how honest I should be with this answer. I’ve never respected the way he used religion as a tool in business.
That grinds me very deeply. And I think that we had a very fundamental difference on that and I made my opinion about it clear on several occasions. And he does not appreciate that. I like to think, deep down, he knows it’s wrong. But who knows?
M&C: Rick, you’re the new “Jefe”…you’re the new Crew Boss. But you hired a bunch of your friends from back home who are novices. How’d that go?
Rick Ness: Good idea, huh? Nah, it was interesting. I went back and forth about it a lot. At first, I was like, no, this is a terrible idea, I’m going to find a bunch of people with experience and I’m just going to go do this thing. And then I kind of thought about how it’s been for me up there, and the success I have had.
And at the end of the day, I didn’t want to share that with a bunch of strangers. I wanted to try and bring a few of my friends into it. And that’s how I made that decision. And yeah, it may or may not have worked out.
M&C: Hey Tony. I feel like your wife, Minnie, is the real steel and fire in the show. I don’t get enough Minnie time. Is she the brains behind your brawn?
Tony Beets: [laughing] Someday I’m going to get that broad to actually pay me. So I’ll have some money to spend all by myself.
M&C: Haha, okay. Say no more. Listen, audiences and people like contention. You’ve done nine seasons now, and you’re sitting in a car here laughing together. You share the same space, but there are real disputes over land and money, and pissing matches big time.
Tony Beets: Yeah we do.
M&C: How do you manage that?
Tony Beets: You mean between the three of us? That’s easy. I don’t care, they do.
Parker Schnabel: What do I care about?
Tony Beets: No, I think overall we get along pretty good. We have the odd dispute. but don’t let it spoil your whole day. I mean, who the hell cares right? Get over it, carry on.
M&C: If the TV cameras went away suddenly, why do I feel like, Parker, you would miss it the most? Like, you really enjoy the television production aspect of your mining…
Parker Schnabel: Yeah …
Tony Beets: [laughing]
Parker Schnabel: No, no. I think that’s a fair question…I don’t know what spurs that, but I’ve done this for the longest out of us three in the car here and, yeah. All my friends are, basically, guys that I’ve met through the show. Most of them are behind-the-camera people.
And I like the comradery and I enjoy hanging out with them and making this work and it’s something that…it’s an environment that I will miss. It’s a tough thing. Like, the fame side of it? I don’t really like that much. I like my…anonymity, I guess might be the right word or might not.
But, you know, I like to be able to just blend in and, when I go someplace, to just be able to get a burger or look at a piece of equipment without getting accosted. But, yeah, the filming I do really enjoy it. It still irritates the hell out of me, and I want to punch a cameraman in the face every now and then. But I don’t do it.
M&C: What about you, Rick?
Rick Ness: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know about any of that. If the cameras went away…there are parts of it that I would miss, no doubt. I mean, there are parts of it that are a lot of fun. I don’t mind going to a place and someone’s like, “Hey, I love the show, let me buy you a beer.” That’s pretty cool.
As far as if I’d still be up there mining? Hard to say, it’s…it’s tough to say. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, and I don’t really plan on being in mining for the rest of it.
But it’s an extremely good opportunity for me right now. And I’m definitely going to try to do the best I can with it, and get my little piece of freedom out of it, no doubt.
M&C: Hey Tony…who is the unsung hero in your giant crew of family? Who do you rely on more than anyone?
Tony Beets: Well, that’d be the family. I don’t think that there would be just one…
M&C: Which one?
Tony Beets: There wouldn’t be just one. You got a…
Parker Schnabel: [laughing] Who is your favorite child, Tony?
Tony Beets: Are you kidding me? [laughing] No, it’s just the family thing that makes it very nice. The family thing. I rely on them more than anybody else, actually.
M&C: I notice you, of all of the guys, are not on Instagram. You’re not really into the social media. You think it’s B.S.? Do you just want to do your job?
Tony Beets: No. In order to get on there, you got to know the alphabet first. And there lays the problem. That’s not even…that’s not even kidding you.
Rick Ness: [laughing] He can’t even speak English, how’s he going to get on Facebook?
Tony Beets: [laughing] Get out of it, Rick. But that’s the main…that’s the main problem, the alphabet. That would be handy.
M&C: Hey Parker, what’s the next destination for your “Trails”?
Parker Schnabel: Papua New Guinea.
M&C: Who’s coming with you?
Parker Schnabel: A top-secret group of people. I’m trying to convince Rick to come. But, he’s being, you know, he’s being Rick.
M&C: I’ve been doing a lot of research about what you guys actually do for a living. How do you protect your health?
Parker Schnabel: How do we protect ourselves from ourselves? Is that what you’re asking?
M&C: The stuff that you breathe.
Rick Ness: I drink enough alcohol to keep myself clean on the inside.
Parker Schnabel: Yeah, Rick cleanses his body with alcohol. It kills everything. His blood is like a constant cleansing system.
Tony drinks buttermilk, which just, slows everything down and protects it. It’s like a protective coating.
Tony Beets: [laughing] No, no, no. It’s not an apple a day that keeps the doctor away. It’s a handful of dirt a day that keeps the doctor away.
Parker Schnabel: And I just don’t eat, so nothing can make me sick.
Rick Ness: I smoke.
Parker Schnabel: Yeah, and then everyone smokes loads of cigarettes. It keeps the dust out of your lungs. You know, dust can’t get in if it’s already…if the space is already occupied.
M&C: Okay, I get it. The Keith Richards method. Got it. For all of you, which is the biggest pain in the ass? Canada or the U.S., when it comes to regulations? Tony, I know that Canada was all up in your grill about you lighting that fire on the lake.
Rick Ness: You had to go there, April.
Tony Beets: [laughing] Well, you know. It’s not a very good place if you’re a pyromaniac, that’s for sure. It’s kind of expensive.
Parker Schnabel: [laughing] No, I think that…I’ve worked in both the States and in Canada, and Canada is much more friendly.
Tony Beets: Mining friendly, I think, for now.
Parker Schnabel: Yeah.
Rick Ness: [laughing] I love all rules.
M&C: Okay. For Season 9. You’ve been through it. What little surprises can we expect? Start with Rick.
Rick Ness: Well it’s not a surprise if you say what it is…
M&C: Help me sell the show, please!
Rick Ness: Oh, I don’t know. Some gold, some laughs. Some new people. Some family, some gold. I don’t know.
M&C: How much gold?
Parker Schnabel: Oh you want to know exactly? Here’s the exact amount. [laughing] Nah, come on, April.
M&C: Who wins?
Parker Schnabel: You can’t ask for us to tell you what surprises to expect if that’s the…that’s the idea of a surprise. That we don’t tell you.
M&C: You have to learn the art of the tease, Parker. Give me a tease.
Parker Schnabel: Well call Todd Hoffman, and he’ll tease you.
M&C: Oh come on.
Rick Ness: Discovery gives it away way, way more than any of us ever do.
Parker Schnabel: Yeah, exactly. We’re all careful about what we say.
Rick Ness: Discovery does about two or three weeks in advance.
Parker Schnabel: We’re all careful with what we say, then I go on Facebook and I’m like, “Oh yeah, there’s the first four episodes.”
M&C: Looking back, which season do you have the biggest regrets about, and which season were you really proud of? Rick?
Rick Ness: Oh, I regret the first season because it got me involved in this mess. And I was most proud of this season, because I survived. Yeah, I don’t know. I just got out of the woods, April, leave me alone.
M&C: Tony, how’d you get involved in this? Who approached you?
Tony Beets: Well, that was easy. They went looking for an idiot, and look what they came up with.
Parker Schnabel: They were looking for one, and they found three. [laughing]
M&C: Tony, when you look back…can you believe that you’ve actually been involved with this nine-season-long TV show, and made it stick?
Tony Beets: I wasn’t on the first season.
Parker Schnabel: You [Tony] also weren’t really on the second one, but we did meet the second season when Pa was mining up there. We filmed on Paradise Hills. Because I remember not being able to understand a f***ing word you said to me.
Tony Beets: Has it changed?
Parker Schnabel: Yeah, I gotcha. I just don’t listen now. I understand, I just don’t listen.
Tony Beets: Hey you know what? This has been a good ride. So, I’d say, yeah.
Rick Ness: Yeah.
Parker Schnabel: That’s wild that it’s been that long though.
Tony Beets: It’s awful isn’t it?
Parker Schnabel: “Awful” [laughing].
Rick Ness: I was thirty. I was thirty years old!
M&C: Alright, so everything comes to an end. Where are you going to retire, Tony?
Tony Beets: I’m not.
M&C: What? You’re not going to ever retire?
Tony Beets: No, what would I do? I got five months off and I…I just got out of the bush three days ago and I’m freaking bored already.
I’ll be there probably in my eighties. Without a question. My mother’s eighty-five, she still drives, swims, and drives a bike. And I expect to do the same thing, except I’ll be gold mining.
M&C: Parker, do you see yourself doing this until you’re like Tony?
Parker Schnabel: [laughing] I hope I’m never like Tony.
M&C: You know what I mean. Are you going to do it until your teeth fall out of your head?
Parker Schnabel: [laughing] I have no idea. You know, the thing…a lot of people ask me that question. And how do you answer that? All three of us wouldn’t be doing this if the gold price jumps down to nothing. So, that is…that is outside of my control.
Tony Beets: You run out of ground, there are other opportunities out there.
Parker Schnabel: Yeah. My standard answer is this: I’ll do this as long as I enjoy it, and am able to.
M&C: A lot of fans want to know, when you get the raw gold, where does it go? Who do you sell it to?
Parker Schnabel: Some dude in Dawson that buys it.
Tony Beets: I’ll have to check with the wife.
Parker Schnabel: Rick just hoards…[laughing]. No…there’s like established gold buyers in Dawson. Rick makes jewelry.
Rick Ness: Teeth.
Parker Schnabel: You haven’t made gold teeth yet?
Rick Ness: No.
Parker Schnabel: Are you going to?
Rick Ness: No.
Parker Schnabel: Get a gold grill, Rick.
Rick Ness: I might.
Parker Schnabel: I’ll give you the gold for a gold grill, if you get the gold grill.
Rick Ness: Done. Donezo. Got it. Deal.
Parker Schnabel: But you have to wear it for a year.
Rick Ness: Deal.
Parker Schnabel: Would you wear a gold grill for a year?
Rick Ness: Yeah dude.
Parker Schnabel: How much money would it take?
Rick Ness: I don’t know.
Parker Schnabel: Or would you just do it for fun?
Rick Ness: I’d probably just do it for fun.
Parker Schnabel: Let’s do it. I think that’d be hilarious. Wonder if it’d f*** your teeth up?
M&C: It would. Don’t do it.
Rick Ness: I’m doing it.
M&C: Lil Wayne the rapper, had eight root canals all where he had his gold grills. But that’s an aside.
Parker Schnabel: You don’t want eight root canals, Rick.
Rick Ness: I don’t want that. I’ve never had a root canal.
M&C: No, nobody wants eight root canals. So, Deadliest Catch stars Edgar and Sig Hansen have their own labeled items which they sell. What’s the craziest thing or meeting for licensing your name for products that you guys have ever entertained?
Parker Schnabel: I want a Tony Beets hair salon. [laughter]
Tony Beets: You want to…?
Parker Schnabel: No, you’d probably do well.
M&C: For real, seriously. I’m sure people have approached you for some crazy stuff to license your names and things, right?
Parker Schnabel: I want a Rick Ness tattoo parlor, and…I don’t have anything, you know. Maybe I’ll run a weight loss program.
The three of us aren’t very good at that apparently, because we got jack s***.
M&C: Thank you so much for the interview. Best of luck to all of you. And I hope to talk to you ahead of New Guinea…
Parker Schnabel: Yeah, we’re going to go find the mother load.
Gold Rush airs Fridays at 9/8c on Discovery