Jeb Wright of Classic Rock Revisited recently conducted an interview with POISON guitarist C.C.Deville.
Jeb: I was just watching you get beat up by a female kick boxer. The Surreal Life on VH1 ended up being a very good experience for you. You became the star of the season.
CC: That is what people say. I have to admit, I thought it was a pretty good show for me too.
Jeb: You can't be a good enough actor to fake what I saw happen to you on that show. I actually saw that you learned some things about yourself on the show.
CC: I learned a lot to things on that show. I learned how to live without being fucked up. It was a very difficult lesson. I don't know why it was so difficult for me to learn but I just couldn't get the fact that I had a severe drinking problem. The only way for me to get better was to stop drinking. I was in such denial. When you don't have the problem it is easy to just say, "CC, we love you but you have got to get a hold of yourself." The people that loved me were getting to the point that they were pissed. It was not about love anymore. They were pissed off that I was taking such poor care of myself and ignoring the basic need to survive. Unless you are involved in it then it does not make sense. I was perpetually beating myself up everyday. And for what? I had a good life. I was lucky enough to make a living at what I do. I was lucky enough to have a pretty good personality and be surrounded by people who love me and I was still making a mess of my life. I am so glad that I got a little bit clearer on that and that show helped make me a clearer on it.
Jeb: I know what you are talking about. I have been clean and sober for years.
CC: Then you do know what I am talking about. I did some interviews today and you really don't know what you are going to get. Some interviews are just fucking asinine I don't want to come off like a dick but I did interviews where they asked, "where is the craziest place you had sex?" or "how crazy were the 80's." I am just experiencing the things that are really important that might help someone else who is in a similar situation and they are talking about the condom machine. I can't get frustrated because different people are at different places in their lives. Some of the things that are really important to me are not sensational. I feel I spent so much time portraying the crazy, drugged out rock star in a glamorous light, that I need to give some equal time to tell people that it is okay to be sober too. You can actually establish good relationships and your life can get back together. You don't have to live in such a miserable state of anxiety.
Jeb: Poison has always lived to excess and I would imagine at times it appears more glamorous than it was.
CC: It was. I did celebrate the excesses and that is why I feel so passionate about singing the praises of being normal. I, single-handedly, said, "Look at me! Getting fucked up is fun." In the day, it was fun but the off switch was broken and I just couldn't turn it off anymore.
Jeb: If you had not stopped drinking would the Poison 20th Anniversary Tour even be happening?
CC: Probably, but it would have been so much tougher. I was driving my whole band nuts. I have a way of fixing myself up a little bit before the tour and then by the end of the tour, I begin to unravel. In the past, I was not able to sustain long periods of sobriety. I would just white-knuckle it. I would end up resenting everyone else because I couldn't drink in front of them. I never stayed sober to the point where I realized that with a little bit of life modification, my life could be a lot better. I never got to that point. I just got to the point of resentment because I had to hide my drinking in front of everyone. I was never able to stay more than a couple of months sober without completely unraveling.
I remember that the tour two years ago wasn't any fun. I was cranky and miserable and I made everyone extremely uncomfortable. Even if the current tour did go on with me drinking , it wouldn't be fun for everyone. I really don't have an answer for that one. I would hope it would have gone on because I would have hated to jeopardize everyone else's life for me. I know for a fact, that if it did go on then it would not have been pleasant for anyone.
Jeb: So it was just alcohol and not drugs that were the problem?
CC: I went through the blow thing in the 80's. Alcohol, single-handedly, brought me to my knees. I just got used to drinking.
Jeb: On the Surreal Life, you said that you came straight from rehab to the show. Was that really the truth?
CC: They actually pulled me out of rehab early so I could do the show. I was in a four week rehab and I was only there for three weeks. I was contractually obligated to do the show so they pulled me out. I had sober buddies for the two weeks I was in the show and then after the show was over, I went back to rehab for another three weeks. I ended up having six weeks of structure but in the two weeks I was in the show I had a good support group behind the scenes. At anytime I was able to call up sober people that were on the set. My mind was made up that I was beaten. I tried to outsmart my disease every single way I could. I tried drinking earlier and drinking later. I tried doing more blow and I tried doing less blow. I tried only drinking wine and I tried only having one mixed drink. It beat my ass every fucking time. This time, I at least, had the clarity that I could not do this myself.
The three weeks after the craziness of being in the house just cemented it in. I am eight months sober. It is not always wonderful but it is better than having a bad day and being piss drunk, avoiding people, stinking from not showering and having people around me who are not only hurt but also angry from me not taking responsibility for my life.
Jeb: I would have thought there was more of a chance of Ted Nugent giving up hunting than CC Deville getting sober.
CC: If my life hadn't spiraled out of control then I would have given up drinking but I would have been dead when I gave it up. You eventually do stop doing what is killing you but it is always nice to be alive after you have stopped. Listen, these are tough lessons but I am glad that I learned them now. At 43 years old, it was late in coming but thank God there is help out there.
In the past I have given my band a lot of shit. I have also given them some great songs. But I have given them a lot of grief, worry and tension a lot of things that really didn't have to be there except for my excesses. I am very grateful that after 20 years I still have my band and I still have people who want to see me. Honestly, I didn't think that I was worth seeing 20 years later. The drinking and the drugs really do a number on your self esteem. Your attitude and your ego goes through the mill.
Jeb: Is CC Deville going to finally grow up?
CC: It is a long time coming. For me, it had to happen. I still like the persona of crazy, rock n' roll junkie. If I was able to make that work, then believe me, I would. The reason I had a problem is because I really enjoyed being fucked up. If I didn't like it then I never would have done it a second time. All of a sudden, it becomes something completely different and it is not partying. I called it partying but that was only the first twenty minutes of the night. After that I would be hiding in the corner hearing noises that is not partying, it's insanity. I can't voluntarily kill myself anymore. There are enough things out there that can kill me without me bringing it on. The food I eat can kill me. Being in the sun can kill me. I could have heart disease or hereditary diseases that I can get from my family. Life is traumatic enough without me sticking my middle finger up at God.
Jeb: Why did you decide to quit?
CC: I found myself driving in a blackout and I hit four parked cars. I totaled out my car and the police found me crawling two blocks away. They got me for DUI with an accident and hit and run. The next day I checked myself in. There could have very well been a family in one of those cars. Could you imagine the feeling I would have if I had killed people because I couldn't hold my liqueur? Could you imagine ever looking anyone in the eye again? All because I couldn't stop drinking? If I didn't see the cars then I obviously wouldn't have seen a human being. It is just by coincidence that I am not a killer I could have been a killer. I was lucky that I got in enough trouble to wake myself up but not enough trouble that I had to live with the fact that I killed someone for the rest of my life.
Jeb: As a musician, you can use alcohol as a crutch. When you first face the stage without your crutch, it is scary.
CC: Listen, having sex without your crutch is scary. I am still working on what I think is romantic sober. Nothing is romantic when you are sober; everything is awkward. I am still awkward as fuck. I am not the same guy who went, HEY BABY' and put a lampshade on my head or a dildo in my ass because I was drunk! All of a sudden, I am like "Is that okay? Is that right?" I'm a bumbling idiot. I know it will get better but I have no choice because I am not going to start drinking because I think I can fuck better. The truth is I am sure that I am not even aware that my breath stinks when I am drunk but I am going, "Come over here and kiss daddy!" I am one of those guys who would drink and do blow and I would sweat. I can just imagine my greasy skin that is not romantic. I don't give a fuck what anyone says, that has got to be just disgusting. I have the feeling that the byproduct of being awkward will be respecting your partner a little more. The woman you love is not a fuck hole. I think it is good for me to be a little awkward; it forces me to learn.
Jeb: In the past, you have always been insecure about your guitar playing as well.
CC: I have always thought that I was better than people thought I was. I don't know anymore. When I would say that I was better than people thought I was, it always came out extremely cocky. I didn't know what to do. I won't even do any guitar magazines anymore because it is a no win situation for me. In the big picture, it is only about ego. I don't even want to give it power by thinking about it.
In the last ten years, people have made me know that they acknowledge my contribution to the guitar much more than they did back when it was all going on. I think people reflect upon it more now then when it was actually out. I didn't redo the tracks on those records; they are the same. Maybe people just listen to it more with an open mind.
Jeb: Some of it was that Poison was really glam. I think people may think bands use glam because they don't have the chops. Now, being sober, I would think you will experience more clarity when playing.
CC: You do come at it from a more healthy point of view. Sometimes you get caught up in the people pleasing aspect of guitar playing. Sometimes a couple of notes will suffice but I have to work in a million. Why? Because I don't want the one guy in the audience who wants to go to GIT to be upset. When I do that, I miss the whole boat of what music is about. Are you going to tell me Andy Summers is not a great guitar player? Sometimes, I still fall into that trap. I end up just being an obnoxious player, like a little kid who won't fucking shut up. In order to be a great guitar player, you have to be really confident in what you are playing. Playing really confident is sometimes playing like Clapton. There are not too many notes and there are not too few notes, there is just the right amount. Music is a pure form of expression.
Jeb: For all of your bands detractors we can say this: How many bands from the 80's put out a new album and have it debut in the Top 20?
CC: If you were to say that is what was going to happen then I would have thought you would have needed help for even saying that. Not in my wildest dreams when I saw that thing debut at # 17, I could not believe it. I am at such a great point in my life and only a few months ago I was so down. If someone would have said to me a few months ago, "I have an opportunity for you to die and it won't hurt", I would have seriously entertained it. I was dying in increments like the minute hand on a clock not the second hand. You don't really see the minute hand move but if you look away to talk to someone and then you look back then you will see that it has moved a little bit. I was slowly dying. I realized my will to survive was getting less and less. I was starting to make compromises like, "If I were to die, I wouldn't want anyone to be brokenhearted." I was starting to make concessions about the innate power to live that we are all born with. I was slowly starting to check out. That is how far I have come in eight months. I am still dealing with the wreckage from that earlier incident that I told you about. I still have lawsuits. I still have a girlfriend who has told me that I really hurt her with some of the things that I said. I was a little rough with her and I was handsy at times. You can't take that shit back. Whenever I raise my voice I feel her get unusually nervous. Those are the things that show what Mr. Pleasant was like when he drunk.
Jeb: I was always really nice to the ones I didn't know and really shitty to the ones I loved.
CC: That is exactly right. I wanted people I didn't know to love me but the people that knew me knew I was really not like that. People would say, "I know you are not really like that. I have a picture of you when you were seven years old and you are holding a puppy." After I kept treating them like shit they said, "You have been an asshole to me since I have known you. I don't even believe the puppy picture!" I want to be what I am not but then I am not what I really am.
Jeb: It is refreshing to have this type of conversation with you. You are known as the wild guy who does anything. You are really showing a different side of yourself. Just like when I said the album debuted at # 17 and you reacted with gratitude instead of ego.
CC: Being deserving is open to interpretation. We have been off the radar for a long time. No matter how you slice it, we have not done anything. We can't say poor us' because we have done nothing for so long. We have been in a vegetative state for so long and we have all been dysfunctional not just me. We have all had our bouts of being dysfunctional. I don't think any of us thought we deserved it. I think we were amazed that anyone remembered us.
Jeb: I did like the one new song you did a while back called "Rock Star." I thought that was a fun song. But you couldn't pay to get that song on the radio.
CC: We would have had to pay to get it on the radio and, believe me, we would have had to pay more than we could afford.
Jeb: You did add a new song on the new Best of record. It is a remake but it kicks ass. I love the original "American Band" and you all did it like one would imagine Poison to do it. Whose idea was it?
CC: I think that was Capital Records idea. I was scared about it a little because we were recording a classic song that was done excellent the first time around. I would have rather just have distributed the Grand Funk version and told everyone that was us on there. I don't know why we did it but it took balls. How do you beat a classic? We tried to make it as close to the original as possible because it was perfect the way it was. I did the guitar solo exactly the way he did it because I felt a little guilty to be messing with such a classic song.
Jeb: It is no secret that Bret Michaels and yourself have not exactly skipped down the yellow brick road hand in hand throughout your lifetime.
CC: It is just one of those things where we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. However, he has been a very good friend to me outside of the band. We say things back and forth to each other but I would defend him in a minute and he would do the same. I don't mind saying that my singer is an ass but I don't want someone else saying that. If someone else says my singer is an asshole then you are going to hear from me. He can call me an asshole and a cocky bastard but he won't let someone else do it. We are like brothers. We are tense but that tension is what makes it so great. We are both volatile people and we are both emotional. I don't think it would be as good if we just got along like The Brady Bunch. Part of the fun of Poison is that angst that happens.
I have known a lot of singers and guitar players. I have sat down with both of them and they describe things that I don't see. I have sat down with Edward [Van Halen] and I have sat down with Dave [David Lee Roth]. I have sat down with Steve [Steven Tyler] and I have sat down with Joe [Perry]. I have been able to talk about things with these people that most people don't get to talk to them about. They have given me great guidance. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant God almighty! I didn't even know how out of their minds they were with each other until I sat down and talked to them. They are better now but there were some problems. There has always been that little thing but I think it makes a great band.
Jeb: You did bring "Talk Dirty to Me" with you to the band.
CC: I brought that one and I brought "I Won't Forget You" and "Nothing But A Good Time" and "Fallen Angel." Bret will write some of the lyrics but I bring the music to the band.
Jeb: Last One: I wonder if the magic is still with Poison to write an album as good as the classic albums you have released.
CC: I have no idea; that is a very good question. I am a songwriter and I don't think the magic ever leaves. I thought the Samantha 7 stuff I wrote was really great. I also think "I Hate Every Bone in Your Body But Mine" is an awesome song. I don't know if I have lost the magic. Maybe the magic within the band needs some therapy. The first step is for the band to want to do it. If we want to do it then I think we can do it. Metallica did that movie Some Kind of Monster and they had a therapist with them in the room. There were some deep rooted problems that some of the band members had never expressed to the other band members. They didn't even know there was a problem. Sometimes being in a band is such a soap opera that you don't want to bring it up because you don't know what is going to happen. You end up carrying these things to your grave. If you are molested by an Uncle then you don't want to say anything because you don't want the family to know and you think you might be the one who let it happen and you are guilty. It is a weird thing.
The big picture is that to make another album is not that hard. If we want to do it then we need to do it. It is not hard for me to write songs that I love and that I think are great. I don't know if the band wants to play the songs I write. When we collaborate now, we have a great idea and after it is collaborated then it becomes not such a good idea. I am the same writer but things around me change. Maybe it is me; I don't know?
Jeb: Why won't Poison go back in the studio to find out?
CC: I am interested in it. I am totally into doing a new Poison record. As long as everyone else wants to do it then I would never hold that up. Right now is the perfect time because people would accept a new Poison record. Two years ago they would not have and maybe two years from now they won't, but right now people would listen to a new Poison record because there is a certain adulation with the 80's going on.
I have never seen so many 80's t-shirts in the stores. You have to spend $200 on a t-shirt that looks 20 years old. You talk about the great swindle job in retail marketing. But I bought them. I have some new shirts that look like they have been up a cows ass and I paid $89 for them and I am glad! Everyone comments on the shirts everywhere I go.