INTERVIEW: BRET MICHAELS, POISON

Joe Mackett unearths the truth behind the split, the recruitment of fretboard wizard Richie Kotzen, and the Native Tongue opus from an exuberant Bret Michaels.


Speakin’ in Tongues

Having issued their finest album thus far, Flesh and Blood, back in 1990, the tour to promote it very nearly finished Poison. It was plainly obvious that all was not well within the ranks, so when guitarist CC DeVille quit the camp prior to the release of Swallow This... Live it came as no surprise. After much thought, the decision taken by the remaining trio was to continue under the Poison moniker, and following much auditioning CC's replacement, Richie Kotzen was acquired. First offspring from this association is the album Native Tongue, and damn fine it is to...

Personal Differences

The first point for clarification when I spoke to main man Bret Michaels was that regarding DeVille's departure.
"We had a big disagreement about CC's guitar solos, which I felt were too long, and I thought the fans would want to hear more of our songs. We ended up in New Orleans having a big fist fight," he says quite candidly. "CC said that he didn't want to be there anymore and he sent papers over to Capitol saying he was leaving."
Personal differences are well and good, but it's no secret that alcoholism and substance abuse were rife in the Poison camp and must have been significant factors in the bust up.
"I would love to say they weren't," begins Brett. "Unfortunately I think it became too much especially for CC, Bobby, and myself. I had to calm down due to my diabetes, but CC and Bobby carried on and it became a big problem."
A solo project was also floated for Michaels in these difficult times. Was this ever a possibility of that happening?
"I got offered a solo deal, but in my heart and soul I wanted to continue with the band."
Richie Kotzen, baptism of fire?

New Blood

To his credit, Michaels has succeeded in this aim, which brings us on to Native Tongue by way of the acquisition of Richie Kotzen, who despite his tender 22 years, has three instrumental albums under his belt and accolades aplenty from the guitaring fraternity.
He was looking to put together a band at the time we got hold of him. He's not only a great guitarist, but also an important songwriter, which is really helping the band. It's worked out perfectly for both parties," says Brett in admiration for the new guitarist.
The overall impression I got from the new album was that it seemed a harder, angrier Poison. Would Brett agree and is the root cause the difficulties experienced?
It's not only the shit we've been through, but it also has a lot to do with Richie coming into the band, as he's opened up a lot of doors for us."
Having given my impressions, how would Bret describe the album? He pauses for thought before answering.
It's a very well-rounded album. I don't want people to think it's really depressing. There's lots of stuff that's really heavy, stuff like Ride Child Ride and Strike Up the Band, which are both uplifting with a great feel. Then there's the only ballad Until You Suffer, some which is really bluesy."


My own personal standout would have to be Seven Days Over You, a track stamped with the unmistakable Poison hallmark, whilst Stand, in contrast, goes right over the top, as the strains of a choir will testify.
It's a different piece," laughs Bret. "At first it was just me and Richie singing the chorus and Zito suggested bringing the First Church Choir in. At first I was a little negative, but when I heard all 35 of 'em sing in that little room I was blown away."

In spite of all the trials and tribulations poison can be proud of their finished product. Was the pressure generated by success caving Bret in? The answer is in the negative….
There's natural pressure, but I call it good. I feel the need on every record to go in and play the best we can. Once we got into the studio, I felt that we had picked the songs that came from the heart and had made us the most excited."
Grab native tongue and you too will hear a band maintaining their record of superiority.


Joe Mackett
Riff Raff
May 1993
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