In Samantha 7 Heaven: An Interview with C.C. DeVille of
If guitarist C.C. DeVille’s album with his new band Samantha 7 is any indication of his true persona, he could very well the (only) poster boy for shy, insecure rock stars. As the guitarist for Poison, it’s no secret that he dabbled heavily in drugs, wore flamboyant clothing and make-up, and could have any girl he wanted. Still, he contends that he rarely asks a girl out.
“Usually I get someone to ask her. I get someone from my crew and I say, ‘Listen, you see that girl over there? Go ask her if she’s interested.'” Or she has to ask him out.
A raw, mixture of the Heartbreakers meets the Beatles, the album is chock full of similarly insecure experiences. “Seané Girl” is a song about DeVille’s inability to tell ex-White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult that he has a secret crush on her, and “I Wanna Be Famous” reinforces his feelings of inadequacy about not being famous aside from Poison, “like Tom Cruise is famous, not just his movies.” It’s hard to believe DeVille is the same guy that wrote “Talk Dirty to Me.”
I caught up with DeVille on a rainy afternoon in Los Angeles, just days after the birth of Poison singer, Bret Michaels’ daughter Rain Elizabeth. Heeding to Michaels’ cries to, “Get down here. She’s having the baby,” DeVille, now a self-professed compulsive eight-mile-a-day jogger, literally ran to the hospital, something he alluded that he could never have done during his junkie days.
So, you’ve been clean and sober for five years. Congratulations.
Yeah. That’s been a very good thing. And you want to know something? The clean and sober part isn’t even the miracle of it. It’s what I was able to do with my life since I’ve gotten clean and sober, which is really the benefit in why someone wants to stay this way.
It seems like it’s always been a prerequisite for rock bands to get into drugs. Why do you think that is so?
I don’t know. But it was something that I fell for. In the interview I was just doing, I brought that up to them, too. I said for some reason, it’s a prerequisite that if you’re in a band, you get high. And I don’t have the answer for you. All I know is that I was very aware of that, and I felt like, “Well, this is what rock people do.” And it’s really not a good thing at all, because it’s kind of stupid. I don’t know what it is about music and drugs. Maybe because you can make your own hours and because you don’t have to be at a certain place and time that you can afford to get high. But as far as I’m concerned, once I got healthy, I became much more prolific, and the quality of my work has gotten so much better since I’ve been sober. So I can’t imagine being the other way again. It’s definitely not a good thing for me at all.
Is staying sober a struggle?
For some people it is.
I think it’s a struggle for people that don’t really want to be sober yet. I think once you’re ready to be sober, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. You can’t be halfway ready. You have to really be defeated by this. And you really have to be at your bottom. Then you realize it’s real simple, because then there is no choice. The hardest thing in life is when you have a choice: “Should I do it or should I not do it?” My lifestyle on drugs, it was just too wild and unpredictable and too dangerous. For the 10 percent of all the parties I was having, you never know who’s going to end up dead – either directly or indirectly. If I’m driving home or someone’s driving me home. Someone’s playing with guns. Or someone hears something or is paranoid. It sounds like a movie, but all these things, when you do drugs, become possible. And if you work so hard in life to be a success, to just piss it away is just so stupid.
Now you’re an eight-mile-a-day jogger.
I’m eight-mile a day, but I’ll tell you something. For about two weeks now, I’ve been doing 11 miles at night and four miles in the morning. I haven’t been doing it on purpose. At nighttime, I start my run… And I run all the way to Laurel Canyon (in L.A.). And then I run up and down to the ballpark… It’s just one of those things. I don’t even plan it, but this past week, I’ve been averaging like 14 miles a day, which is – I don’t even know if you know how impossible that is [for me]. But I’m hooked on it.
How many minute miles?
Oh, it’s maybe eleven-minute miles. I’m not breaking any records. I’m not saying that I’m doing eleven miles fast. It’s a jog. My father can’t even walk eleven miles! You’re right. It’s not a fast pace. It’s a leisurely jog, without a doubt. But still, it’s a lot [he whines a little as if wanting reassurance]. This way, at the end of it, when I come home, I’m tired.
No. It’s still very good because you’re strengthening your heart muscles.
Not only that, I realize that I’m a little compulsive or a lot compulsive. If I’m sitting here telling you that I’m jogging 15 miles a day, I think that I’m a bit more than a little compulsive. But the thing is, at least it’s good for me…
Are you working toward a marathon?
Yes. That’s what I’m trying to do. I can do 10K runs. Those are a piece of cake… But the marathon is like… I think I stopped after 20 miles once… I just wasn’t ready. I had to go to the bathroom. And I didn’t train right. But in the back of my mind, I know the goal is to run a marathon.
Well, you know what you’ve got to do when you have to go to the bathroom is just go on yourself.
I know that. That’s what everyone told me. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t just go. I was embarrassed to just go. Everyone says you don’t stop. Just let it go. And I’m like, “I can’t let it go.”
We’ll think it’s sweat.
I know. But it’s awful.
Tell me about the two guys in your new band [bassist Krys Baretto and drummer Francis Ruiz].
They’re two unknown prodigies. They’re both fantastic. They’re young and very energetic. And because they haven’t made it, they have a lot of piss and vinegar, which is something that I’d like to hang on to, because usually the first thing that goes in your career is your excitement. And you replace it with being jaded. So I got these two guys that are really fresh and very exciting. And I think because they’re so good the album came out as good as it did.
Is this something that was waiting to come out of you all these years?
I’m the principle songwriter in Poison. But the thing is that I also love pop music, like old-fashioned pop music. And I really wanted to get back into that. So I wanted to put together a band that can have that late ’70s pop sound – even that mid ’70s pop sound. So that’s what we did, and I think it came out really great.
I’m thinking that when you take on different endeavors, you’re challenging yourself to be different from Poison.
Well, yeah. But the thing is… especially with Poison’s first record, that was pretty much me being really raw. Then later on, we had producers and then there was more money. And it sort of turned into something different. But I wanted to make sure that we went back to the basics on my solo record, because I really did like Poison,s first record. I love “Talk Dirty to Me,” and I love that style and that sound. And that’s really where my heart’s been. So for my Samantha 7 stuff, I wanted to go back to what makes me really happy and excited.
It almost sounds like you guys were just jamming in the garage.
Right… And it,s really produced very rough. It’s not really polished. But I wanted that, because I know that live, we’re only going to be able to go out as a three-piece. We’re not going to have any samples or anything like that, so I wanted to make sure that we can do whatever we do live so people wouldn’t be upset.
How are going to work Samantha 7 in with Poison while you’re touring?
It’s going to be very tricky, but I think I’ll be able to do it. Some days on with Poison and some days off. I know the guys are going to fly in, and we’ll do some festivals. And I might try to do some of theirs [dates] with Samantha 7. In other words, the band is self-contained. So basically the band can come in with a Winnebago, let’s say, and a trailer and they can have all the equipment in there, and I can just have a different guitar set up. So all I would have to do on the day off is just be able to I can leave all my Poison set-up with Poison, and I can just grab an amp and a guitar and just go do some shows and that wouldn’t take anything. But I wouldn’t be able to stay there and tear it down. I would have to just go do the show and run back and have the guys fix it and things like that. But it’s definitely possible.
For years there have been rumors in and out that you were out of Poison. Iterate, please.
Years ago, I left because I got offered a very big record deal at Hollywood Records, so I left the band and signed with Hollywood. What happened is the album never came out. They paid me the money. But they never released the album.
Are there any songs on your album from that?
No. I’m allowed to use any of those songs because they own those songs. So with Poison, once time went by, we talked it out and we got back together and the last tour was really great. Then we figured we’d go in the studio this year. And we did an album. And that comes out June 13th. And I’m singing on that new album [Power to the People], as well.
“I Hate Every Bone in Your Body (But Mine).”
Who came up with that flashy title?
That’s mine. I wrote that for Samantha 7. I wasn’t finished with it, and when Bret asked if I wanted to sing a song on the album, I said, “Sure.”
You know, I never knew what an “unskinny bop” was until you guys said it. Did you guys coin that phrase?
I don’t know. We still don’t know what “Unskinny Bop” means. When we were in the studio, I would write the music, and usually if Bret didn’t write lyrics yet, I would try to think of something that would just fit phonetically. And I guess “Unskinny Bop” became something like that. It wasn’t meant to be a song. They were just working lyrics. And then when we played it for the producer, who was Bruce Fairbairn, he goes, “That’s marvelous. I don’t know what an ‘Unskinny Bop’ is, but whatever it is, it’s perfect.”