Arriving in Los Angeles in the mid-‘80s from Pennsylvania, Bobby Dall said he and his bandmates in Poison foolishly felt that they had already made it by virtue alone of having reached the West Coast.
“We were dumb enough to believe that we were rock stars right from the first day,” Mr. Dall, the band’s bassist, told The Washington Times. But, “if you don’t have that attitude, you will not make it.”
In point of fact, Poison did make it. Their big-hair-raising stage antics and hedonistic attitude earned them fans up and down the Sunset Strip, where the band bumped elbows with Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and other L.A. bands also on the brink.
Poison was signed in 1986, with albums “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” “Open up and Say…Aah!” and “Flesh and Blood” staples of the ‘80s hair metal sound.
Mr. Dall, now 53, described those halcyon ‘80s days as “a little blurry” due to the legendary drug and alcohol excesses of the era. However, he has been sober for years.
With age has come wisdom, but also the difficulties of entropy on the human body.
“As you get older, it’s a little harder,” Mr. Dall said. “But the show must go on. That is show business.”
Mr. Dall and his bandmates of three decades will entertain crowds at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore Friday evening, where they will share the bill with Def Leppard and Tesla for a three-ring circus of rock.
Poison will have an hour for their set Friday evening, which isn’t necessarily enough for the band to rock through all of their hits like “Fallen Angel,” “I Want Action,” “Nothing But a Good Time” and “Unskinny Bop.”
“That’s what the fans want to hear, so you must play the hits,” Mr. Dall said. “We only get to play for 60 minutes, and we have many of them, which is actually a great problem to have,” he added with a laugh.
While frontman Bret Michaels will be at center stage next to lead guitarist C.C. DeVille and backed by drummer Rikki Rockett, Mr. Dall will take a turn front and center for a bass solo on Friday.
“I haven’t done one in over 20 years, so I’m excited,” he said. “If I play it wrong, please forgive me, everybody.”
Mr. Dall counts Cheap Trick, Aerosmith and Van Halen as among his many influences, and he has been blessed to share the stage with all of them.
His late manager, Howard Kaufman, once introduced him to Mick Jagger, which left even Mr. Dall somewhat starstruck.
“I got to shake his hand and say hello. And that’s all I did,” he said, adding the two rockers did not talk shop or otherwise hang out.
“I try not to bother other artists because I understand the pressure [they are] under,” Mr. Dall said of meeting the Rolling Stones legend, “so I simply shook his hand … and it was a very blessed moment.”
By the same token, Mr. Dall maintains a fierce protectiveness of his private life. While he tries to grant the wishes of fans who approach him on the street for photos or autographs, sometimes the bass player simply wishes to be left alone.
“One thing I always try to explain to the fans is sometimes you’re not in a good mood,” he said. “If you buy a $100 ticket, I’ll give you a $400 show, but that’s where it stops. The rest of the time is mine.”
Likewise, he says he often gets impatient with people who entreat him to sign many items of memorabilia — most of which he believes will wind up sold online.
“I’m not going to sit there and sign 30 things for someone to get rich off of me,” Mr. Dall said, “but I don’t mind signing one [item]. That’s my rule.”
With 30-plus years together as an entity, it’s little wonder Poison has seen internecine conflict. Guitarist Mr. DeVille left the band in the early-‘90s after a rather serious fight with Mr. Michaels and was replaced for a spell with Richie Kotzen. (Mr. DeVille returned in 1996.)
Mr. Dall too once got into an onstage altercation with Mr. Michaels in 2006, and the concert ended uncomfortably. However, such disputes are to be expected among a quartet that has been jamming together since they were teenagers.
“Deep down, a band is like being married to four people,” Mr. Dall explained. “You basically become brothers that are very close. And just like brothers, you’re going to have fights along the way.
“You learn to apologize to each other and to make up, and you just do what you have to do to keep going,” he said. “The rule of thumb with Poison is, if you can get all four of us in a room or on the same stage, we get a free pass.”
With the contemporary music industry all but unrecognizable from the one Mr. Dall and Poison came up in during the 1980s, Mr. Dall said his advice to young musicians now is to either stay in school or “get ready to work very hard.”
“If you don’t believe in yourself, then don’t even go for it,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you aren’t ready to work 24-7 — and when I say 24-7, I mean 24-7 — don’t even get in this business. Because nobody will give you nothing.
“At the end of the day, it is still a job,” Mr. Dall said. “So either get great grades or get ready to work in one of the most entertaining industries in the world that will make you work harder than you ever even thought was possible.”
Now that he has lived past the half-century mark, it’s only natural that Mr. Dall would ponder not only the eventual end of his days, but what that may mean for Poison as an entity. He said he imagines the children of he and his bandmates perhaps taking over and continuing on the brand at some point.
“My plan is to play for the rest of my life,” he said, ” because one day the end does come.”
But one can only hope the final curtain will fall sometime much later than after this weekend, when Poison, Def Leppard and Tesla roll their co-headlining show into Baltimore.
“Up to this point in time, it has worked,” Mr. Dall said of his showbiz success, adding that he sometimes sees three generations’ worth of fans at Poison shows. “You can only live one day at a time.”
Poison plays Friday night at Royal Farms Arena with Tesla and Def Leppard at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.