BOBBY DALL  -  PLAYING WITH POISON

For 30 plus years, bassist Bobby Dall has subsisted on a steady diet of Poison—but he’s doing just fine.

In fact, Poison is positively thriving. The pop-metal quartet still fills major venues worldwide. Often times sharing the stage with other great acts, including, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Kiss & Aerosmith. And Poison’s lineup is the same as when they rocked the world with such smash albums as “Look What the Cat Dragged In”, “Open Up and Say…Ahh!” and “Flesh & Blood”.

Dall, drummer Rikki Rocket, singer Bret Michaels, and guitarist Matthew Smith founded the band, initially called Paris, in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, while still in their teens. “We sold everything we owned, pooled our money, and packed up the ambulance we used as our equipment van,” recalls Dall. “It was New York or Los Angeles. New York was too easy to run home from. Los Angeles was a larger commitment, and the bands we looked up to were there— Quiet Riot, RATT, Mötley Crüe.”
In LA, guitarist C.C. DeVille replaced Smith, and Poison’s star rose. The band excelled at radio-friendly rockers and power ballads, and their visual flair perfectly suited the newfangled MTV network. Their first album was big. Their second one was huge. Then came the third and the hits just kept coming.

Dall believes that the group owes it success to hard work, raw talent and a whole lot of luck. “When we formed the band,” he remembers, “I would always say ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’ To achieve stardom, you have to be gifted at what you do, and you have to be in the right place at the right time.” Yet Dall never doubted that he’d succeed: “I was ignorant enough to believe that I was a rock star. There was never a doubt in my mind what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to become.”

“THERE WAS NEVER A DOUBT IN MY MIND WHAT I WANTED TO DO, WHERE I WANTED TO GO, AND WHAT I WANTED TO BECOME.”

Poison’s rowdy energy and irreverent attitude make it easy to underestimate the sheer sweat behind their success. “I grew up playing 10 hours a day,” says Dall. “I started on guitar, and then switched to bass. I dropped out of high school at 15 and practiced all day. When the band came together, we rehearsed six to eight hours a day, five days a week. More than half the songs on our first three records came out of those rehearsals.”

bobby The hard work continued when the band got big. “After we made the first record, we went on tour for 18 months straight,” recalls Bobby. “Then went right into the studio to write and record the next record, after which we immediately went on tour again. From ’86 to ’92, we just never stopped.”

All that work forged one of pop-metal’s tightest rhythm sections. “Rikki is the kind of drummer who can start playing along to anything, off the cuff,” says Dall. “When we’re writing, he comes up with the greatest feels in the world. Meanwhile, my approach has always been to play what is needed, and not play what’s unnecessary. I’ve always been more interested in songcentered playing than bass-centered playing, and I’ve been influenced most by players of that type, like Tom Hamilton from Aerosmith, Michael Anthony from Van Halen, Tom Peterson from Cheap Trick, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, and of course Paul McCartney. Some of those players are definitely out of my league, but they were the ones I looked up to the most.”

Dall has relied on Yamaha BB Series basses since Poison's early years. “What originally sold me on the BB2000,” he says, “was that it sounded just as good as the low-end on a Yamaha baby grand piano. I would sit at the piano with the bass, play a note on the keyboard, and then the same note on the bass, and they would be almost identical. When the raw sound of the bass is as good as one of the finest pianos in the world, and then you start amplifying it, there’s nowhere to go but up. I unplugged my old bass, plugged in my Yamaha, and never looked back.”

These days Dall plays a trio of BB2024X models, usually using a pick. He likes to disconnect the tone controls so that the only active knob on the instrument is a master volume. “I want to eliminate as much error onstage as possible,” he explains. “I don’t want to worry about things like Bret bumping into me, and all of sudden my tone is all treble and no bass. But other than that, I do very little customization.”

Dall, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, seems as enthusiastic about performing as he was in his teens. “Playing onstage in front of 20,000 people is such an adrenaline rush,” he says. “It’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world.That’s why I always tell aspiring musicians that if you shoot for the stars, don’t turn back. Be the rock star right from the beginning. It’s hard to achieve, but if you do, make sure you’ve got your seatbelt on, you’re strapped in and you’re ready for blast off...”