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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

New blog feature: Talkin' with celebs ... starring C.C. DeVille of Poison

When you write about arts and entertainment for a Midwestern newspaper, you end up interviewing a lot of classic rockers.

Sometimes you go into the interview with a set of preconceived notions, and often they are disproved. The most obvious example in my experience was C.C. DeVille, the guitarist for 1980s hair metal band Poison. I was never a fan of Poison back in the day, and I assumed DeVille would be a pathetic has-been clinging to past glory. I couldn't have been more wrong. DeVille was nice, funny and completely comfortable in his own skin. As this story, which originally ran in The Post-Crescent on June 21, 2001, makes plain, DeVille isn't deluded about what Poison was back in the 80s or what they are now. Talking to him made me respect his band a lot more than I did going in. And, yes, "Talk Dirty to Me" is now on my iPod.

Way back when, a certain Green Bay Packers quarterback took to the local radio airwaves to croon his version of the Poison hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

"Do you remember that guy Matusek? That quarterback you guys had for a little while? I think they called him Majik," said Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille in a phone interview.

DeVille is referring to Don Majkowski, the fair-haired field general who led the Packers to a 10- 6 record in 1989. The Majik Man joined his heroes on stage when they played Brown County Arena in 1990.

"We kept him up and we partied all night," DeVille recalled. "And the next day you guys played the Bears and he was so hung over. I think he was in maybe two or three plays and they yanked him. We had great seats and we were watching him totally (mess) up. I kind of felt guilty."

Clean and sober for seven years, DeVille no longer indulges in the typical rock star excesses that Poison was known for in the '80s. But he isn't totally free of addictions.

"I am a gardener," he said, without a trace of sarcasm. "I was such a bad drug addict and I was so into that instant gratification - have a drink, feel good, do a line of blow, feel good; if something wasn't right, chemically change it - that I had a problem with learning how to delay that gratification. I know it sounds goofy, but the gardening taught me to work on the thing and you don't see the results overnight. I'll work and I'll plant and I'll be watering stuff and it will be two weeks before you start to see a difference."

DeVille's new hobby isn't without its dangers, as he discovered before heading out on Poison's current summer tour. "Before I left I planted 10 big palm trees, huge ones," he said. "I had this big, big winch thing that lowers the trees down and I almost caught my foot on it. I sprained two of my toes and I almost had to postpone two shows.

"Can you imagine that? C.C. DeVille has to cancel the tour because of a gardening accident? I mean, an OD is one thing. A car accident is another thing. But a gardening accident? I would have never lived it down."

While Poison will perform by itself Friday at Oneida Casino in Green Bay, the band will be joined by Warrant, Quiet Riot and Enuff Z'Nuff for its July 1 show at Summerfest in Milwaukee, part of the 2001 Glam Slam Metal Jam tour.

"I'll be honest with you. A lot of the bands are still bananas," DeVille said. "And there's members of my band that are still bananas."

As for himself, "I had to (quit) because I went too far too early," he said. "I was like that shooting star that was really, really bright but only for a little while. If I wouldn't have stopped I would have died. There was no such thing as moderation in my life. Would I still love to have the occasional drink? Yeah, I would. But I know that I can't so I don't even go there."

After leaving Poison in 1993, DeVille wandered in the wilderness of drug addiction before cleaning up and rejoining the band in 1999. Since then, the glam rockers have enjoyed three consecutive successful summer tours.

"I actually look forward to the gig," said DeVille of his new outlook. "I feel in control. I feel confident. I feel if something does go wrong live I have the whereabouts to fix it, where before if I was high I would just say to hell with it and keep playing.

"Had I not had the last three years, I would have looked differently on touring than I do now," he confessed. "It was never a happy thing for me. Going on the road was always miserable because I was always high, or I was always drunk. I couldn't find the drugs I wanted because I was on the road. And I would spend a lot of time trying to find what I wanted and I would be in these neighborhoods that were so bad and I would risk being arrested."

DeVille might have regrets about his personal life, but professionally, he makes no apologies about being in a hair metal band "I think it's fine," he said. "I don't think people mean hair metal as a degrading thing. I think there was a time there in the late '80s where the one thing that would stick out is the band's hair.

"It was the defining thing. To me it's like punk. You look at people with safety pins in their mouth and you go, 'Oh that's a new punk band.' The problem is when you say hair metal, they think it's all show and no go. But I don't think that's really what the thing was."

Maybe not at first. But even DeVille admits that hair metal had run its course by the early '90s. "I thought the hair bands, the way we were going, we got very lethargic and very bloated," he said. "It was just more of the same. Every year became more of the same. I became disillusioned. That's why I quit the band for a while."

Now Poison is getting ready to head into the studio to record its first album with the original lineup since 1990's "Flesh and Blood." If the new music fails to free Poison from the shackles of its lightweight image, so be it.

"Of course it's frustrating from my point of view, but I'm sure Donny Osmond felt he was a serious musician, too. And in my brain he's Donny Osmond," DeVille said. "Everyone goes through stuff like that. You can't blame people for the image they have of you. All you can do is either embrace it or ignore it. You can't go barking at the moon because of what you created. We were very responsible for what we created."


Anonymous cheddar said...

How come there's all kinds of interviews with has-been glam rockers but noone ever digs up has-been rappers? Come on ... a Kool Moe Dee interview or a sitdown with Kwame ("What was up with the polka dots?") would be tight.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous mwr said...

good point cheddar. plus old school rappers had such a huge effect on our culture, an entire population.. i'd say much much more than glam rockers. Although those guys usually get their own documentary... something like "scratch"

4:33 PM  
Blogger Steve Hyden said...

Actually, that's a horrible point, Cheddar. How many shows do you think Kool Moe Dee or Kwame have played in the greater Fox Valley area?

If you want to get me a time machine, I can try to set up some old school rap shows in 2001, make my 2001 self write about it, and then post the story today. Otherwise, sit and spin, a-hole.

You hear that sound, btw? Snnnnnnnnnap!

4:39 PM  
Blogger paul said...

You should do the audio version of some of these stories, complete with Funnyman flourishes. I'm still waiting for the dead dog podcast.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous cheddar said...

Steve, you're just scared that Kool Moe Dee's awesomeness would overwhelm you, your interview would go horribly, and you would write a crap story afterwards.


11:46 AM  
Blogger Thomas Roz said...

Before the Majik show you are speaking of ... Poison played flag football at my neighborhood park. You have to remember how freakin' big Poison was at that time, and here we were (me as a fifth grader) watching Bret Michaels take snaps at QB in a game against the stage crew. I'll have to blog about that memory later. My early brush with fame.

11:52 AM  

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