In its heyday, Poison was a band full of flash and dash, big egos and even bigger hair.
But put them on a stage and they could rock the house.
Bassist Bobby Dall spoke with me prior to a show in Johnstown, Pa., for an article published in The Indiana Gazette on Feb. 28, 1991.
Bobby Dall is the first to admit that Poison is a self-made band.
The rock and roll band’s bassist called recently from Portland, Maine, to talk about Poison’s upcoming sold-out show with Slaughter on March 1 at the Johnstown War Memorial Arena.
“None of us had any formal musical training,” Dall explained. “As kids we grew up playing instruments. We’re just four punks making a living.”
Poison was formed in Harrisburg in the mid-1980s by vocalist Bret Michaels, formerly of Butler; drummer Rikki Rockett, Mechanicsburg; C.C. DeVille, Brooklyn; and Dall, a Floridian.
The band moved to Los Angeles because of “necessity. Pennsylvania really doesn’t have a market for successful rock and roll bands,” he said. “We went to L.A. to put ourselves on the record company’s doorsteps.”
Even so, the band still ended up covering the cost of their first album, “Look What The Cat Dragged In,” on Enigma Records, which was recorded in a scant 12 days and sold more than 2 million copies.
The follow-up, “Open Up and Say … Ahh!”, sold more than 5 million copies.
“Even now when we go into the studio, we spend about eight to 10 weeks recording and that’s all, even though we could afford more time,” Dall explained.
The media, for the most part, has been against Poison from day one, he said.
“Some of them still put us down although a lot of them have come around to us. They thought we’d just go away. Guess they realized we’re like a migraine — we don’t go away.
“With the newest record, ‘Flesh & Blood,’ and the single ‘Something To Believe In,’ we’ve opened up a lot of ears. Too many people review bands through their eyes instead of their ears.”
Poison has matured through the last three albums, both musically and image-wise, Dall explained.
“Each record represents where we were in our lives. You get older and wiser. I think we are better songwriters now. We’ve kept the same format and the same members, so our progress really shows.”
All of the band members collaborate on the songs as they all write on a constant basis, he said, but, “You never know when a song will be a hit. It’s like throwing darts. Sometimes you hit and sometimes you don’t.”
Each album has had several hits adding to the band’s success, but live performance is what Poison enjoys most.
“I enjoy touring more than anything. Being on stage — that’s what a band is. The other things, the records and videos, they are just products of the band. What we are is what you see live. That’s what rock and roll is about.”
Touring with a rock band is no simple feat either, Dall explained, as the band members share tour buses and spend many hours together and they eventually get on each other’s nerves.
“What’s a day with Poison like?” he said, “Some might call it paradise, some might call it hell. It’s very chaotic. We usually don’t even see daylight. After the performance is when the real show begins.
“We are probably closer to each other than anyone else in our families. We are like brothers. Occasionally, we get on each other’s nerves and fight like brothers, but we all get along really well.”
After the current tour is finished, the band plans to take a break, Dall said, during which time a live double-album will be released, possibly in September or October. The recordings are being made during the current tour.
When Poison hits the stage Friday in Johnstown, fans should expect to see “everything you don’t expect,” Dall explained.
“It will be a fun-loving good time. We’ve got seven semis filled with lights and pyrotechnics. We’ve got a lot of tricks up our sleeves. It will be nothing but a good time.”
Michaels is touring this summer, playing fairs, festivals and casinos across the U.S. Visit http://bretmichaels.com for details.
In June 2015, it was announced that Rockett, Dall and DeVille announced in June that they had formed a new band called The Special Guests.
They plan to play Poison song with vocalist and guitarist Brandon Gibbs of Cheap Thrill and Devil City Angels.