RIP Magazine, July 1992
By Tom Farrell
Every rose does indeed have its thorn, and over the last couple of years, guitarist C.C. DeVille began to feel its prick at the same time that the other members of Poison started to view C.C. as the painful element. Whoever or whatever was at fault, the situation came to a boil when DeVille announced his intention to leave a band that is currently one of the biggest in the world.
After seven years, four albums and all those tours, it's hard to believe the whole Poison thing crumbled so quickly. Their legions of fans were, to say the least, confused and shocked. RIP, having heard lead singer Bret Michaels' side of the story ("The Last Poison Interview?" January '92), thought it only fair that C.C. be allowed to speak his piece.
Standing in the living room of C.C.'s Hollywood Hills dwelling, I'm admiring what is probably the best view I've ever seen.
"Isn't it great? I can see everything!" comes a familiar shout from behind me. C.C., who turned 30 on May 14th, is his usual ebullient self, and quite a sight with his shocking blue hair. He shows both the sadness brought on by his sudden estrangement from his former bandmates and the excitement he feels about his new project, tentatively called the C.C. DeVille Experiment. It seems that all the recent changes in his life have left him a bit confused though. Yeah, he's got the dream house, his past success as a rock star and the challenges of his future, but what's it all mean, really?
"It's very tough to differentiate a star from a human being. There are no manuals on how to be a star," C.C. ponders, before adding that he does not consider himself a star. "A star is someone who is respected for what they do. I'm not respected, not yet, 'cause I really haven't done anything to be respected for, except sell a ton of records."
Winding down the spiral staircase to the sub-level, C.C. reflects back on the days when stormy seas first lashed at the Poison camp. "About two years ago--and, guys [to Poison], please don't take it personally, 'cause I still love you--being in Poison stopped being fun. Look at the first videos we did, 'Cry Tough,' 'Talk Dirty to Me' and 'I Want Action.' Those were fun, and Poison was about fun! From 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' on, we lost it. We started becoming bluesy, and we weren't a bluesy band. Those first two years were special, and then it stopped being special." n
Going back a bit further, he recalls, "When I first met Poison [back in late-'84], they handed me a flier, and I threw it back at Bret, 'cause they looked like shit!" He laughs. "I thought, These guys aren't happening. Later on [in early '85] my friend Adam Bomb called me and said, 'C.C., the guitar player in Poison [Matt "Coco" Smith] just quit. Why don't you join the band, play for two months, quit, and then start your own band from the fame you get from playing with them?'"
C.C. took his friend's advice and joined Poison, and the gig wound up lasting quite a bit longer than two months. Within a year his songwriting coupled with the band's immense following and showmanship led to a recording contract. Poison shot to stardom. Even in those days, though, C.C. didn't seem to be one of the gang. When the band pooled their financial resources to get a house, C.C. resided elsewhere. "I was always different from Poison," he sighs. "[Bassist] Bobby Dall became my best friend--I was the best man at his wedding, and I still love him--but I was never really close to Bret and [drummer] Rikki [Rockett]. I don't think they wanted to hang out with me. Everyone wanted to make Bret a star. I would get calls for movie parts and guest veejay gigs, and I wouldn't even be told about them. I was always the outsider; I was always the other guy. Poison was three guys and 'him.' I have intelligence and good sense for music--why do you think they hired me?" C.C. asks in his usual forthright fashion.
As Poison's career progressed, the band's touring schedule got more and more hectic and began to have an effect on the boys. Living on a bus day after day in close quarters added frayed nerves to the general failing health brought on by fatigue and the party-hearty attitude that goes with life on the road. By 1990 Poison began to look weary, and it seemed they were caught in the same trap that has led to the demise of so many of their rock 'n' roll compatriots. Nasty rumors about some of C.C.'s less-than-sober antics began to filter out to the public. At times he almost seemed to be a bit of a scapegoat.
That's one thing C.C. couldn't swallow. "I was never really happy on the road. It was very rough, and I was miserable," he admits. "We sucked on some shows, but I could not take credit for it. No matter what anyone says, I was always the guy who took the band from whatever hell they were in and took them by the nose to get the show down. I'm gifted in that, and Bobby and Rikki will give me that, 'cause they know that's what I do. Bret has a hard time with that. He would blame me and say, 'Why are you f?!king up?' I'd say, 'People paid to see the show!' I really resent the fact that other members of Poison would say that I compromised a show, I'd tell Bret, 'Just go out there and shake your ass. No one listens to your voice anyways.' That's what we had a keyboard player for. I'm not going to lie to you; we sampled background vocals." Of course, a lot of bands do. And in a town where tinsel, plastic and sleight-of-hand are all employed to bring entertainment to the masses, you wouldn't expect a band whose motto was "Entertainment or Death" to leave any rabbits in the hat that would help them reach their goal. "There are things you just can't do onstage, but the audience expects you to do it regardless. My new band will have a keyboard player, too, but he'll be onstage."
Reflecting on the straw that broke the camel's back, C.C. states, "The final straw with Poison came at the MTV Awards, when the band got really upset at me for dying my hair shocking pink. All I knew was there was all these outrageous people there, like Madonna, Prince and Cher, doing outrageous things, wearing outrageous things. I doubled my fame in one night." C.C. is right, but it seems that type of fame, the shocking kind, was a thing Poison felt they'd outgrown; and C.C.'s attempt to be the most outrageous looking dude in a visual three-ring circus of revealing outfits, backless trousers and outlandish hairstyles attracted the kind of attention Poison didn't want. "They were really upset, and I knew they were going to get upset," recalls C.C. "I did it intentionally. I figured if they were going to get upset with me over something like this, then it's time to leave. I officially quit Poison right afterwards, and the official reason was musical and personality differences."
After a brief fling with Carmine Appice and Jimmy Bain, C.C. opted to form his own group with young unknowns. Filing into the band's cramped rehearsal space, C.C. introduces the other members of the C.C. DeVille Experiment. "Joey C. Jones is my singer, and all I can say is that if my soul had a voice, it would sound like him." The young, blond Texan achieved brief fame with his own band, Sweet Savage, which is how he attracted C.C.'s attention. In fact, Bobby and C.C. were going to produce a tape for the now-defunct outfit. Bassist Chris Torak used to go by the name Crstyal T. Roxx in the Hollywood-based group Liquor Sweet. "I met C.C. at a bachelor party the night after I moved out here from Cleveland. We were jamming at the party, and things took off from there." C.C. then picked up drummer Adam Hamilton (a friend of Jones') from his Texas-based band, and herded the young musicians together.
"It's going to be great," smiles C.C., "and a lot of fun! I've always made fun of the rock 'n' roll business!"
As for Poison, it looks like they'll continue their career by adding a new guitar wiz (all kinds of names are being tossed about) to replace DeVille.
And then there are those persistent rumors that C.C. may actually rejoin the band at some point.