Poison’s still having a good time

Published on May 15th, 2018

By Jim Dail

Certainly times have changed in the career of Poison, who charted a number of big hits in the ‘80s, such as “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” However, in their minds much is still the same.

“Honestly, the fans are as enthusiastic as ever, but it is better now because you don’t have to prove yourself,” said drummer Rikki Rockett. “You just have to prove you can still do it. That’s a big deal, don’t get me wrong. But in the early days, people were just coming to see what all the fuss was. And they were looking at us like ‘I don’t know if we’ll come back and see you.’ After more than a 30-year run, we are not going away and they are still coming back to see us!”

And it is still about the fans as Poison will perform Friday, May 18 at the Fivepoint Ampitheatre in Irvine with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.

Poison hail originally from Mechanicsburg, Pa., before finding their fortune in the Southern California scene.

“When we were starting back east, we started to rent VFW halls and play covers with a few of our own mixed in,” he said. “It takes sometimes years if you get lucky.”

They were drawn to Los Angeles to play rock and roll.

“New York City was full of new wave and the remnants of punk, but out West bands like Motley Crue and Ratt had got deals, so when we got there we thought it would be great, but the labels were focused on heavier stuff. That’s just not us, so we stuck to our guns. No one would touch us.”

They knew early on the live show was key, then as it is now.

“We were a cover band and then we started to write songs and come up with things over time and remake things and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “We had an attitude of what we were doing and the way we delivered the live show. Even today, no matter what you do that day it is all about that show that night. You are centering the energy on how it is going to go.”

It would be Enigma that would step up and sign the band.

“They saw the value and saw past the trends,” he said. “They weren’t fixated on the next demographic.”

As Rockett puts it, Enigma, an independent label, may have been the perfect label given the situation.

“We were with Enigma when they brought three bands over to Capitol: The Smithereens, Stryper and Poison,” he said. “How the deal was arranged was Enigma became AR for those three bands. Literally, until the fourth record we didn’t have to deal with Capitol.”

Ironically, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which went to Number 1 on the Billboard chart, was one area of disagreement with the label.

“We did get some push back with ‘Every Rose,’ but we were insistent and then it was ‘I told you so,’” he said. “We were fortunate in that regard, and I will tell other bands that the more you do for yourself, the more you have later. It is important and it’s not control for the sake of control. We knew what we wanted to do and knew where we needed help.”

With that song, they were actually accused of being country!

“There wasn’t many ballads coming from an imaging standpoint,” he said. “Everyone was saying ‘it’s too country.’ So many bands of our genre got cheesy after a while and then we get thrown out with them. Thing about us is we weren’t cheesy.”

A lot of people focused on the image of the band, but he didn’t see that as the key.

“Poison got accused of a lot of things because of our image,” he said. “But we were making good songs, so the image was not as important. At the end of the day, the image was the end of the day. Some other bands were trying so hard to be so different and anti-Poison.”

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Certainly times have changed in the career of Poison, who charted a number of big hits in the ‘80s, such as “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” However, in their minds much is still the same.

“Honestly, the fans are as enthusiastic as ever, but it is better now because you don’t have to prove yourself,” said drummer Rikki Rockett. “You just have to prove you can still do it. That’s a big deal, don’t get me wrong. But in the early days, people were just coming to see what all the fuss was. And they were looking at us like ‘I don’t know if we’ll come back and see you.’ After more than a 30-year run, we are not going away and they are still coming back to see us!”

And it is still about the fans as Poison will perform Friday, May 18 at the Fivepoint Ampitheatre in Irvine with Cheap Trick.

Poison hail originally from Mechanicsburg, Pa., before finding their fortune in the Southern California scene.

“When we were starting back east, we started to rent VFW halls and play covers with a few of our own mixed in,” he said. “It takes sometimes years if you get lucky.”

They were drawn to the Los Angeles to play rock and roll.

“New York City was full of new wave and the remnants of punk, but out West bands like Motley Crue and Ratt had got deals, so when we got there we thought it would be great, but the labels were focused on heavier stuff. That’s just not us, so we stuck to our guns. No one would touch us.”

They knew early on the live show was key, then as it is now.

“We were a cover band and then we started to write songs and come up with things over time and remake things and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “We had an attitude of what we were doing and the way we delivered the live show. Even today, no matter what you do that day it is all about that show that night. You are centering the energy on how it is going to go.”

It would be Enigma that would step up and sign the band.

“They saw the value and saw past the trends,” he said. “They weren’t fixated on the next demographic.”

As Rockett puts it, Enigma, an independent label, may have been the perfect label given the situation.

“We were with Enigma when they brought three bands over to Capitol: The Smithereens, Stryper and Poison,” he said. “How the deal was arranged was Enigma became AR for those three bands. Literally, until the fourth record we didn’t have to deal with Capitol.”

Ironically, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which went to Number 1 on the Billboard chart, was one area of disagreement with the label.

“We did get some push back with ‘Every Rose,’ but we were insistent and then it was ‘I told you so,’” he said. “We were fortunate in that regard, and I will tell other bands that the more you do for yourself, the more you have later. It is important and it’s not control for the sake of control. We knew what we wanted to do and knew where we needed help.”

With that song, they were actually accused of being country!

“There wasn’t many ballads coming from an imaging standpoint,” he said. “Everyone was saying ‘it’s too country.’ So many bands of our genre got cheesy after a while and then we get thrown out with them. Thing about us is we weren’t cheesy.”

A lot of people focused on the image of the band, but he didn’t see that as the key.

“Poison got accused of a lot of things because of our image,” he said. “But we were making good songs, so the image was not as important. At the end of the day, the image was the end of the day. Some other bands were trying so hard to be so different and anti-Poison.”

Rockett is very proud of the lyrical work of the band.

“We love hooks, and that’s actually the whole thing about country, those turnaround lyrics,” he said. “It’s clever. Originally that was in pop. Let’s go to ‘Splish Splash.’ That’s the roots of rock. The lyrics are so clever that if everyone could do it, everyone would. It is not easy to do a hook that lasts for 30 years and withstands the test of time.”

That’s obviously the case with Poison.

“We do have the experience, and it feels familiar even if you don’t recognize faces,” he said. “I feel very at home with crowd.”

And they have the freedom to play not only the hits but to dig around their catalog.

“That is another one of the perks,” he said. “I believe with our audience that we could pull the most ridiculous B side and our fans would appreciate it and love it. Honestly, we do a poll online and some of them want to hear something that is unreleased, a real deep track.”

Poison also believes in accessibility.

“It should be that way that no one should have to spend their life savings to see our show,” he said. “At the same time, no one should be giving anything away for free. Ultimately we are in a good place.”

ckett is very proud of the lyrical work of the band.

“We love hooks, and that’s actually the whole thing about country, those turnaround lyrics,” he said. “It’s clever. Originally that was in pop. Let’s go to ‘Splish Splash.’ That’s the roots of rock. The lyrics are so clever that if everyone could do it, everyone would. It is not easy to do a hook that lasts for 30 years and withstands the test of time.”

That’s obviously the case with Poison.

“We do have the experience, and it feels familiar even if you don’t recognize faces,” he said. “I feel very at home with crowd.”

And they have the freedom to play not only the hits but to dig around their catalog.

“That is another one of the perks,” he said. “I believe with our audience that we could pull the most ridiculous B side and our fans would appreciate it and love it. Honestly, we do a poll online and some of them want to hear something that is unreleased, a real deep track.”

Poison also believes in accessibility.

“It should be that way that no one should have to spend their life savings to see our show,” he said. “At the same time, no one should be giving anything away for free. Ultimately we are in a good place.”

Photo by Mark Weiss

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