Poison Idea was formed in 1980 by vocalist Jerry A. (aka Jerry Lang). The initial lineup consisted of Jerry A., Chris Tense (guitar), Glen Estes (bass), and Dean Johnson (drums). Inspired by Black Flag and other early Southern California hardcore acts, they were further influenced by Discharge and Los Angeles's the Germs. Germs singer Darby Crash's influence on singer Jerry A.—vocally, lyrically, and philosophically—was considerable, and Poison Idea followed the Germs’ extremist punk ethic. Tense, who previously had played with Jerry in a group called the Stand, was replaced within a year by Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts (guitar), formerly of the Imperialist Pigs.
In 1984, Chris Tense returned to the band, this time on bass, replacing Glen Estes (later of Portland, Oregon punk/metal band Final Warning), and the group released another classic album, the Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes 12” (the cover features Pig Champion’s substantial vinyl collection). The record found the band incorporating subtle rock elements into their music, which was further honed on their contributions to two 1985 compilations, “Laughing Boy” on the Drinking is Great EP (on which appeared other Oregon punk bands Final Warning, Lockjaw and E-13), and “Typical” and “Die on Your Knees” on the legendary Cleanse the Bacteria LP (compiled by Pushead for his own Pusmort label).
With the release of 1986’s Kings of Punk LP, Poison Idea had fully moved beyond the breakneck hardcore of their early records to a potent, driving and ultimately more intricate and sophisticated hardcore/hard rock fusion that incorporated the accessibility of hard rock without sacrificing the power of hardcore.
Following the release of Kings of Punk, the band went through several rapid lineup changes (mostly in the rhythm section), and then added lead guitarist Eric "Vegetable" Olson, a gifted musician who wrote many PI tunes during his tenure in the band (even contributing a piano vamp on one track). The band then released War All the Time (named for the Charles Bukowski novel) in 1987. War All the Time and the EPs that followed (the Getting the Fear 12" and the Filthkick 7") found them further developing the rock/hardcore sound first established on Kings of Punk, which they would hone in 1990 with Feel the Darkness.
Around this time, after numerous lineup changes, PI had convened one of their more stable lineups in Jerry A., Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts, Charley "Myrtle Tickner" Nims (bass) and Steve "Thee Slayer Hippy" Hanford (drums), with Kid Cocksman and then Aldine Strichnine on second guitar. By this time, their drinking habits and hard living were beginning to catch up with them: the band weighed in at about 1,300 lb. collectively, and Pig Champion in particular was very fat, often having to play sitting down. They also established their own record label in 1989, American Leather (named for the Germs song), and released two records the same year: a reissue of their 1982 demo Darby Crash Rides Again and the Discontent 7”.
In 1990, the band released Feel the Darkness. After the release of Feel the Darkness, Aldine Strychnine was thrown out of the band, and Mondo returned this time on guitar, for the 1991 tour. PI then released Blank Blackout Vacant in 1992, and, before seemingly splitting in 1993, they released We Must Burn.
When Pig Champion left the band in 1993, PI effectively called it quits. Jerry A pursued a solo project called Gift with his wife and Thee Slayer Hippy, and in 1998 the original line-up reunited for a 7" EP on released on Taang! (who reissued their early catalogue), but broke up following an aborted tour.
On January 31, 2006 guitarist Pig Champion died at his home in Portland, of undetermined causes, although he had been suffering from the flu and an untreated kidney infection. PI had recorded a new record and it was ready for release when he died. Pig wanted the record to be called Latest Will and Testament, a name that the rest of the band liked. After Tom’s death Jerry commented that Pig probably knew something that the rest of them didn't. The album was released in May 2006 on Farewell Records.
In 2007, the band again reformed to play shows in support of a split 7" single with Kill Your Idols (for TKO Records). The lineup for this incarnation was Jerry A., Chris Cuthbert (drums), Jimmy Taylor (guitar), Matt Brainard (guitar) and Rob Hume (bass).