Over the top and glammed up are two ways to describe Poison in the 1980s. (Take a peek at the cover of the group’s 1986 debut album Look What the Cat Dragged In for a reminder!) The hair metal band quickly became MTV darlings during that time snagging an impressive six top 10 hits within a four-year span, including the No. 1 single “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Decades later, Poison is still rocking and remains one of the few of the era to still feature all the original members—Bret Michaels, C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett. The latter spoke with me shortly before the group heads to Jones Beach on June 21 to headline a bill that also includes Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.
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How is touring different today than from the 80s?
It’s more comfortable. Period. I really enjoy it. Man, we were all crammed together; we didn’t have much money. We didn’t start making money until the late 80s, really. The first couple of records, you’re in debt. But the buses, the accommodations, how you roll…it’s better these days…We hit our 20th anniversary, and at 20 years, we said, “It’s time that we get separate buses. We’ve earned it.” And this way, we won’t kill each other and can keep doing this for a long time. [Laughs]
How is the band getting along at this stage of your career?
Well, we have separate buses, so we get along just fine. [Laughs] The fact of the matter is we’re doing this because we love the band Poison…It’s our baby, so we all take turns taking care of it in different ways. We want to get along. We want to make it work. That doesn’t mean that we have to go to each other’s houses every day. A lot of times, people say, “Oh, you guys are like brothers.” Well, let me tell you, I wouldn’t want to live with my sister. I love her to death, but I don’t want to live with her! And I don’t want to live with the band. Love them to death, but we get up there, we do our job, we relate in the best ways that we can, and you’ve got to take a break from each other a little bit. The secret to longevity in a band is knowing really how far you can extend yourself to somebody. To know when to back off a little bit and to pick your battles.
Let’s discuss the bill of Poison, Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.
I love Cheap Trick. I’m a superfan, 100 percent. I’m really looking forward to them. Pop Evil played on a couple of shows with us a few years back, and it will be a lot of fun to have a little different dynamic out there. I’m very happy with the bill.
Music videos played a major role in Poison’s success. Which one was your favorite?
My favorite one is still “Talk Dirty to Me” because it broke the band. It’s the one video that really was a game-changer for us. And it was so offhand…It was a very low budget video and we didn’t have the money to do a lot of things. It just had to be very simple. We were like, “Let’s everybody know we’re shooting a video; let’s let people know we’re lip-synching. It’s a video for God’s sake. Let’s just have a good time with it. Oh, a crew member is in the shot? Put your arm around him!” It was just so much fun. When I met Michael Jackson, he told me how much of a fan he was of that video because it looked like we were having so much fun. And I said, “Well, we were.” And he said it translated. I was like, “How cool is that? The King of Pop loves ‘Talk Dirty to Me’.”
When and where did you meet Michael Jackson?
It was a wedding reception. We had the same attorney, our band and he. So he went to the wedding. And his monkey was with him that day, too, and a handler, and about four other guys that were armed. It was pretty interesting. I was getting the “hairy eyeball” from a guy with a glock, y’know? [Laughs]
Any plans for Poison to record a new studio album?
There is nothing for me to announce right now in that way. We have talked about doing new music, but nothing that I can tell you, “Yeah, we’re going to do this.”
What can fans expect at the upcoming show at Jones Beach?
We are going to throw in some things that we have not played in 20-something years. We’ve been talking about that. Hopefully that will still happen once we get into rehearsals and figure out how to put that stuff together. But the set will change 15 times from right now to the time we see you…or maybe even 20 times.