"It's been muggy hot, but it's better than an earthquake," says C.C. DeVille in his inimitable rasp from his home in Los Angeles. "It's one of those half-full, half-empty days. But any day you wake up and the ground isn't shaking is a good day." DeVille should know. Never mind California, the guitarist lived on a personal fault line for the better part of a decade. DeVille drove the road of excess as too few survivors have. But unlike the majority of rockers who dealt in excessive excess, DeVille is still standing. Wiser and healthier (he runs several miles a day), the axeman has an upcoming tour and album with his Poison bandmates as well as a debut release from an unexpected power-pop side project called Samantha 7.
You're sounding quite vibrant these days. S7 is a lively offering.
D'ya like it? I think it's great punk pop. When I grew up in the late Seventies, the Plasmatics and the Ramones and Blondie were playing [New York's] CBGB's. And that was the most exciting time in my life. I loved the fact that more than just the music, the bands themselves would be on the verge of derailing at any second. And no one was playing on their own equipment. It was borrowed equipment with like tin foil in the back of the fuse, so you knew there was this urgency that you wouldn't get at a more polished concert. I loved the way they would go on there and the emotion of the song would carry them on. And that's what I wanted to capture with this album. I'm not really a big fan of production lately; I'm going through this phase of less is more. Just turn on the tape machine and see where things go.
So how did this unit come together?
I got sober, and I've been sober five years. And I was sitting there waiting for life to begin. And I went and started to look at bass players and drummers. The thing is that they both understood where I was coming from and they believed in the songs and they believed in what I was going through. I don't expect everyone to embrace this record, but I think the more you listen to it there's a certain something that grows on you. It's a pretty honest record.
Does S7 differ much from the sound of the upcoming Poison album?
The one song I did [with Poison] was "I Hate Every Bone in Your Body (But Mine)," and that's on the new Poison record. Interestingly enough, that song sounds a little different from the other songs on the Poison record. Even though it's the guys playing on it, there's a different urgency on it.
What's the best part of getting a second lease on life?
It's given me such a fresh outlook. I really feel born again and I really realize how lucky I am. When you get sober it takes that chip off your shoulder. When I was younger I always had a chip on my shoulder. But when I got sober, I realized that I put the chip on my shoulder. It's no one's problem but mine. I'm the one who gave me the nightmares. So it was very therapeutic for me to go through this and realize that people are good. For the most part, people are decent.
Did you ever think you weren't going to survive?
Yes. Oh many times, yes. It was a very frightening time for me. I didn't stop because I was broke. I stopped because I really thought I was going nuts. Normally when you stop, it's because you get arrested or you go broke or something. Even though that's rough, there's a natural safeguard. With me there wasn't. I could have kept going and kept going because my resources were not about to run out. But I felt myself going insane. I would hear voices. I was paranoid. It was just crazy.
What was the hardest part of kicking?
When I stopped, the first year was rough. I had to relearn how to live. For the first year or two, I didn't have a sex drive. I didn't want to play my guitar. I was just concentrating on being sober. And then that little drug person in your mind goes, "Well if you're not going to be able to have sex or write songs, well you might as well go back to doing drugs. This is no way to live." But that's not how it is. What happens is, you need time to live sober. You need time to get used to living sober. Within two years, all your passions come back. But it's that first year and a half when you don't have a passion for anything that's scary. And I can understand how people slide back into the drugs. Instead of taking more time and knowing this will pass. That's a wonderful lesson to learn.
Kicking seems to make a grownup out of addicts.
Well addiction is a symptom to not growing up. I know people think it's a disease. I don't think it's a disease as much as it's a choice. It's like a bad moral choice. If you have a brain tumor, if you have cancer, that's a disease. To say that an addiction is a disease, I don't think its fair to the real diseases of the world. Because you choose to get high or you choose to drink, you don't choose to get a brain tumor.
People can quote the Poison Behind the Music verbatim. Do you regret such a public airing of your dirty laundry?
No, I thought the Behind the Music was done so pro and so kind and tender that I think it was the greatest thing. It could have been the type of thing where it could have been sensational with tempers flaring. But it was a nice look back. You know, you look back and you realize we were a bunch of spoiled fucking brats. How dare us be complaining? Being a drug addict, or anytime you're famous and things like that happen, you lose touch with reality because reality doesn't feel like it applies to you. You forget that you have to grow up. And since I got sober I really learned the importance of growing up.
What's the most grown-up thing you do nowadays?
It's kind of goofy, but I've taken up gardening. Because you have to do something and you don't get the benefits right away. You plant something and water it and wait a week before you see something. Those were the things in life I had to learn. The gardening thing delays that instant gratification. And that's how I learned to progress a little bit. Quitting the drugs and learning how to be sober is just learning that you have to do things and sometimes there isn't an immediate reaction. Sometimes you just have to have faith in that what you're doing is right. The gardening is a good metaphor for that.
So what are you growing?
I have a cactus garden and I'm also growing a bunch of palm trees because I love that Hawaiian look. There've been a couple of exotic plants that I tried to grow and I killed them, they're really temperamental. There was this one that I watered too much and I kept thinking I hadn't watered it enough. So my green thumb is still blue.