Metal Edge, February 1997
C.C. DeVille ain’t the same – and that’s a good thing. The hyper, strung-out guy who lost his career and almost lost his life to drugs has cleaned up, straightened out, and turned his life around, and has returned to the land of the living– and to Poison, and he’s ready to make amends for the past and rock hard once more. We met for dinner at an L.A. health food restaurant recently, where the very healthy-looking guitarist talked candidly about his odyssey.
C.C. DeVille: I went through such hell, self-induced. I’m so glad I’m alive. I’m so glad I’m talking to you. I was very immature, very cocky, and it took this for me to come back to earth. They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If someone was to give me a break, I’d say, “What do you mean?” I had a chip on my shoulder. Now that I’m outside of it, the best thing that could have happened was to lose everything. I was an immature brat with a capital B. I want to paint an ugly picture in case there are some kids doing this, they can learn. I don’t want to whitewash it at all. It’s a f.cking nightmare. I didn’t care about dying. Do you know how scary that is? I thought the coke was my songwriting, my sexuality. As long as I was doing a line I’d be able to write a song, I’d be able to make love. My brain was broken. My whole life was backwards. I was in my house on the hill, and I created my own universe, surrounded by yes men. And I knew what I was doing. Everyone who cared about me. I said, “Get out of here” and I only let in people who would look the other way. I wanted everything done my way. I was out of control. And as a result my life became out of control. I loved to blame other people. I look back now and I realized that all the people who did care about me I pushed further away, including the band. Bret, Rikki and Bobby, throughout my delirium, were always “Are you all right?” no matter how pissed off they were. I owe everybody apologies across the board.
[Post-Poison band] Needle Park was a great band but I was in no condition to be in a band. It just unraveled and I got further and further, getting worse and worse, coke, drinking. Everything came so easy, I got the record deal with Hollywood Records and then everyone got upset with me. I blame it on my behavior, I was not responsible. I was in the house on the hill, shooting things, shooting the walls, pissed off, I didn’t care anymore. Iwas a lost cause. I was at bottom emotionally, I was drained and didn’t care if I died or not. I don’t wish it on anybody, you compromise your life so bad when you don’t care anymore. She’s been with me through it all. We’ve been engaged for three years. She came in at the height of my badness. She had patience and she got me out of it. She’s my angel. One time, she left me, and I had a momentary vision of clarity: “This has gotta stop.” I promised I’d stop tomorrow if she came over. Everything I had left to drink I drank, and we left the house and I went to my mom and dad’s and cleaned up. I never went back to that house.
How did you get clean? Did you go to rehab?
DeVille: Never went to rehab. I wanted to stop. I stayed at my mom and dad’s. When I showed up at their door they were so happy. I’d put them through hell. My mother had counseling, Alanon, when I was doing drugs. It was a ripple effect. It hurts everybody. I just wanted to try to get straight. I didn’t care about fame or the business. Then I started to eat. I was sober but I was fat. I ballooned up to 220. I was huge. I was depressed and miserable and we were fighting all the time. I replaced one thing with another. But it was better than being on drugs. It wasn’t good for my heart. Once I felt strong enough and weaned myself off the chemicals I started walking, took it slow, and eating less. I started to get that compulsive behavior toward getting healthy. I had to take that energy and put it somewhere. I took up running. I still run.l Every time I tried to stop before, it was only temporary because I thought I can’t write, I can’t laugh, I can’t do anything without the drugs. When I started to run, I thought I had to get some spiritual enlightenment in my life. I’d be miserable if I always wanted to get high and couldn’t be high. I needed to be fulfilled. I switched obsessions. I pray now. And now my passion’s bath.
How long before you realized you could write without being high?
DeVille: About a year, for the first year it was a tightrope. As the weight came off I’d force myself to pick up the guitar. I would force myself to do it. As the weight came off and I was running more I had some kind of divine intervention. I know how it sounds, but I was so scared I would never have a fulfilled life again. I thought I’d never be happy straight, but God got all that shit out of my system and every day I’ve gotten straight I’ve gotten more fulfilled. She [Indiana] helped me, she’s been by me. Between my mom and dad and her, that was my AA meeting. It’s a success story. I got my family back, I got my friends back. They never really left, I left them. Just now I feel like I’m sprouting wings. I have a new outlook. I have a cat, a Siamese, he’s like my son. Paws. If I’m 400 lbs., whether I’m on MTV or not, my cat loves me. I play my guitar and he rocks with me. He’s the love of my life. I’m so thankful every day for the littlest things. I thank God every day.
Are you more religious now?
DeVille: Spiritual, not religious. I always knew right from wrong and now I don’t fight it. It’s easier to do the right thing. It’s kicking yourself in the ass. “Wake up, asshole!” I’m 34 years old, I’m too old to act like an idiot. The fans were the victims. I think back now… I need to get away from it, I couldn’t be in the band anymore. Now I have the passion again. I was scared that the passion was interlinked with the drugs. It’s not. Coke and any of those drugs, it’s a lie. You have to have enough time straight to see it. You get straight for a few months and you don’t notice a difference and you go back. You gotta give yourself a year straight and everything comes back into focus. I’m living proof. My passion is back, I feel good to be alive. I wake up in the morning and open the blinds and I love the sun. I’m not a vampire anymore.
I see that. You’re tan and healthy looking. And you’re so much easier to talk to.
DeVille: I’ve never been this relaxed. I thank God, the lesson I learned from being high I take now for the rest of my life.
You live down in Orange County with Indiana and your cat and your family nearby. What happens when you’re back in the rock ‘n’ roll environment? Is there that temptation to return to old behavior?
DeVille: I’m very scared to death of that. That’s why I’m going very slowly with Poison. I would never move back to Hollywood.
What about being on the road?
DeVille: It’s time for me to grow up now. The attitude is a lot different. But I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve got it licked. I know it’s always something I have to be careful about.
Recovery is a process not a cure.
DeVille: Exactly. I respect my health now and I don’t want to lose, I’ve progressed so much in the last year. I’ve got everything I ever wanted. I’m a happy person now. I’ve come down a few notches. I was very cocky, stupid, and immature and this is the best thing that could have happened as long as I didn’t die because for the rest of my life I have to influence others and before I wasn’t anyone to be around. It was a wasted life. Now I have qualities that I like and respect and I think I can contribute, even if it’s not on a famous level. I’ve had to come to grips with that, too.
During the time you were out of Poison, did you miss it? Wish you never left?
DeVille: Sure I did. But I was high and I had to get straight. Actually I was so unhappy and the drugs let me stay in the band. I was talking at people instead of to them. It was my responsibility to say, “Bret, this is what’s bothering me.” If I didn’t say anything, how was he supposed to know? I was being very immature and getting mad that no one could read my mind. I had to self-destruct to the point where I could come back and be a person and now that I’ve done that I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be great.
Of the Poison members, you had the most contact with Bobby over the whole recovery process, right?
DeVille: Yes. Bobby’s clean now, too.
You went to Florida to work with him.
DeVille: I was there for about two weeks. I had a great time at Bobby’s
When you left Poison it was on bad terms, especially with Bret.
DeVille: Yeah. I went through a time in my life where my pride combined with being a prima donna gave me no depth. I was blaming everyone for my own problems. I was getting mad at Poison because I wasn’t getting recognized as a guitar player or whatever, I felt I was getting the short end of the stick. I always blamed it on Poison. I was upset because they were lazy and they weren’t. I was miserable. I wanted to go solo, I wanted to prove… but when I think back what I really wanted was to be in a band that didn’t mind be doing drugs. I hadn’t even thought about joining the band again until recently. About two years ago, I was still in the middle of getting high and they said, “Why don’t you come back?” They all came to the house. I said I wanted to stop but I can’t, I wasn’t ready to stop and I knew I couldn’t be productive with this habit I had. It was a consuming habit. But it was the beginning of me saying, “I have to change.” It happened very slowly. But not much after that I went to my mom and dad’s.
When did you tell them you were coming back to the band?
DeVille: I told Bobby in Florida. “Let’s go slow, but I think I can do it.” He’s going to make sure that he stays straight, too. We also have to not tour like we did, we can’t keep up that grueling pace. I don’t think it will be a problem anyway because I don’t think we’re in demand. The reality is I might not ever be big again.
The It Came from the 80’s II special on MTV that you were in got good ratings. Do you think that’s a sign that fun rock music is due for a comeback?
DeVille: I think we were ready for it seven years ago. I love a show.
Do you think it’s a good time for a reunion of the original Poison?
DeVille: Absolutely. I’m going to try to write the best stuff that I’ve ever written. The mistake I made with Poison on Flesh & Blood, instead of trying to get the most out of Bret, out of the band, I withdrew. We didn’t do it together – Bret went in, Rikki went in, Bobby went in, I went in. This time I’m going to fight and argue and participate. Before, I’d write something and if they didn’t want to do it that way I’d say, “Just do it the way you want,” and that’s not a band. This time I’m mature enough to say, “If you do good, I do good.” There’s no ulterior motives. I had a chip on my shoulder in the past, I was a friggin’ brat. I think this will be a great record and I think people will be excited about it. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about living, let alone Poison. That’s a bonus! I was high and I wanted to be recognized like Eddie Van Halen and funny like Sam Kinison. But Sam’s gone and there already is an Eddie. I’m C.C. DeVille and I have to be the best C.C. DeVille I can be. This time I’m going to slow down and smell the roses. It’s been quite an education for me. I didn’t know you could have the passion again. I’m enjoying life. I relearned how to live and now it’s fulfilling. I never thought I would have been fulfilled or I never would have started doing drugs. I want to stress again, having a year straight you start to think clearly and your passion comes back and your happiness comes back and the peaks and valleys come back. It’s real and it’s wonderful and I thank God that I got another chance. I have my passion back, and if I’d known that it would have come back I would have stopped doing the drugs years ago. You gotta give yourself a chance to heal. It really is better.
Where do you think the direction of the music will be going?
DeVille: I like the fact that I have no idea. It’s wide open. We’re going to lock ourselves in the room and we’ll see. How Poison works, it will happen naturally. It’s a magical thing.
DeVille: After the holidays. I’m a bit nervous, I don’t want to get sick again either. But I don’t think I’ll have a relapse because I’m healing. I’m much stronger now. I can go to a club to hear the music, not to score. My life was askew. It was a vicious circle.
But you broke it.
DeVille: God did.
But you had to want to.
DeVille: I fought it. It’s hard, the hardest thing in my life, but it’s the most rewarding. The results are great.
You once said you had 100 guitars. Do you still have them?
DeVille: Yes, they’re at my mom’s in every room of the house. When I left the house in Hollywood the only thing I brought with me were the guitars. They’re my children. Whenever I go to my mom’s I take one back with me and clean it. They got pretty grungy sitting around with me not playing them. It’s therapy. I’ve done about 30, I have 70 to go. I love them all.
Do you have a favorite?
DeVille: I have a lot of favorites. My two favorites right now, I have a banana yellow Ls Paul that I got in a trade-in and my metal flake Strat, non-tremolo. One’s a ‘70 and one’s a ‘61. I used to play those racing guitars, Ibanez. Now I play Fenders and Gibsons. Since I’ve gotten straight my personality has come out more in my playing. I’m playing with more depth and clarity. Before, it was too many notes. “Look at me!” I forgot about the music.
What’s your most valuable guitar?
DeVille: A ‘58 Les Paul Sunburst, a ‘58 Les Paul Gold Top, a ‘58 Les Paul Black Beauty, a ‘57 Sunburst Strat and a ‘60 Gibson dot neck. I have a few telecasters. I almost relearned how to play guitar. The way I was talking at you, I was playing the guitar. I’m into nuances now and depth. I don’t play as young.
Do you have advice for a young player?
DeVille: Learn how to write songs. Don’t waste your time becoming a great technician. Songs, that’s where it is.
What do you love most about the guitar?
DeVille: I pick it up sometimes and I get transported. This is new. I used to pick it up, do a line, and go. Now it might take me a few minutes to get into a groove but it’s more satisfying. I love the feeling when I come up with a riff and go, “Oh my God, that’s great.” That’s my high. What’s great about Poison getting back together, when I get that feeling now, “Soon the world will hear it.” Before I wondered, “Will the world ever hear it? “Will I get another record deal?” “Does anybody trust me?” Now I go, “This has got a chance of being on radio.”
What are you listening to?
DeVille: Tracy Bonham, No Doubt. Oasis. Enuff Z’Nuff. I still love Quiet Riot. I thought Nirvana was great. Kurt [Cobain] was a reality check for me, I was still at my height of drugdom and it could have been me. I’m here to tell you that if you get straight and stay straight it gets better. I know the despair, but God has a way of fixing you. He fixed me. It’s an ongoing thing. I get excited now about things. It’s so nice to be normal again. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m sorry for disappearing and being irresponsible but every day is a day to fix it. It took me many years to learn that. I’m excited to come back, I’m excited about Poison, and I pray to God you forgive me for taking such a long sabbatical.