Interview by Jeb Wright of ClassicRockRevisited.com
Jeb: There seems to be a lot of stuff going on concerning your solo career.
Bret: I don't know if you have kept up with the website and all the movie stuff that I have been doing or not. Poison is my first love but I have a brand new solo album coming out this fall and I am really excited about it. It gives me the chance to write outside of the band and to do some stuff that I would not do with Poison. My love is hard rock. There are just certain songs that I don't necessarily write with Poison in mind. I used some outside writers and it gives it a little bit of a different feel.
Jeb: This is your third solo album. How is this one going to be different?
Bret: I think each of them is different. The first one, A Letter From Death Row, has songs that were written around the film. The second one, Ballads, Blues & Stories was me taking a different approach to people and explaining to them what I was going through. It was like what was behind the idea behind the music. A lot of times people ask me, "What made you write this song? What were you thinking about?" That is what I did with the Ballads, Blues & Stories. The new one will contain some really great songs. Doing solo stuff gives me the chance to go out there and do some stuff, not necessarily with the band.
Jeb: What do you look for when you are gathering musicians for a solo project?
Bret: I have worked with the same guys on the last few things that I have done. I work with these two brothers; Christy and Cliff Calabro. For me, they are great musicians and they are very talented singers and songwriters. You go in there and you look for people that you want to perform with. By the time this record is completely finished I am hoping to get a lot of well known musicians to perform with me on each song. Hopefully, each song will have a different person on it and that will add a little feel to it that shows their own personality.
Jeb: Do you have a wish list yet?
Bret: I definatly have a wish list but I would rather hit you with that in about a month when I know for sure who is going to be on it.
Jeb: How long has your official website been on the net?
Bret: That has been going since 1998-99. It has gone really, really well. At this time we have four full time employees that work there. They are good friends of mine. We get to work creatively together and I think it has really turned out to be a great site.
Jeb: A lot of artists use the internet as another creative tool. Do you view it that way?
Bret: Absolutely. The site gives people direct access to what is going on and where the tour is while it is happening. Even magazines like Metal Edge have a two to three month lag time of information. I think with your site and my site these things can go up almost instantly. People have direct access to the news and they can find out when the tour is so they can go see Poison. If I do something as a solo artist then they can find out while it is happening. They have a direct line through people that are working on the site. It gives them a clear channel as to what I am doing on a daily basis.
Jeb: What is Poison up to?
Bret: We were doing both records at the same time. The Poison record is titled "Welcome To Hollyweird". I think people are going to love this record. I am very excited. As everyone knows, I am very vocal about this point; we are going to continue to keep playing new and fresh music. That gets me excited. I love going out and playing Poison's hits as well. You are located in Kansas right?
Bret: We come through there to Bonner Springs Sandstone Amphitheatre and every year it rocks from the minute we start playing until the minute we are done. It is one of our favorite spots on tour. It really is. One of the things that I think is great about the new Poison record is that C.C. and Rikki and Bobby and myself got to spend a lot of time with each other rehearsing. It is a great hard rock record. It sounds like Poison. I think this record is going to kick ass.
Jeb: How close are we to a release date for it?
Bret: We are looking at April for the single and the first week of May for the album release. The tour starts in Tupelo, Mississippi in the second week of May. Right now it is booked from May to October.
Jeb: How thrilled were you with the results of the Glam Slam Metal Jam?
Bret: I felt excited about it. They did an MTV Cribs special. I had a picture on my wall and they pulled it off. It is like this poster thing that I made from Sandstone in 1993 when we were doing Native Tongue. It was a sold out show. It was during the height of the grunge movement. I wrote on the back of it, "Sandstone! What a great place. Thanks to all our Kansas fans!" I remember that show. That was when we had Richie Kotzen in the band. To come back and do Power To The People in 2000 and the Glam Slam Metal Jam in 2001 is great. I am really happy that people showed up. I know that my heart is into it. You just go out and kick ass and hopefully people see that.
Jeb: The command that you have over the audience is awesome. I think the whole idea behind the Glam Slam tour was genius. The way that you lined up the bands, I mean. It really rode just the way a show is supposed to. You had all the balloons, the confetti and the song by C.C.
Bret: "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except Mine." One of the things is that we have all been friends for a long time. Me and C.C. have had our share of knock down, drag out fist fights but we are just like brothers out there playing. I hope people can see that we are really enjoying ourselves out on stage.
Jeb: Back when all the bullshit was going on with C.C. did you ever think he would be back?
Bret: I always hoped that he would. Even after the MTV Awards, when we had our first knock down, drag out fight -- that was a real one. I have said this many times but if you get in a fight with somebody that you don't know in a bar then that is one thing. When you get into a fight with someone who is your best friend then it is a really weird feeling. I always hoped that we would patch it up and make it all work. After I had my car accident in '94 we all started talking again. We had not spoken in two years. C.C. said, "Look, I'd love to come back but I am to fucked up right now." That was it. He couldn't come back yet. We worked with Richie Kotzen and Blues Saraceno and both of them are really great guitar players but I didn't have the same kind of feel that I had with C.C. I mean, C.C. is my friend and we have been through a lot together and when he came back there was a certain kind of magic. Look at Aerosmith. Look at Kiss. When the original members come back together then it is awesome.
Jeb: I think you can recapture the bond.
Bret: You said it. It is the bond.
Jeb: Now when you get in a fist fight, whether it is a stranger or your best friend, you get into it on the world stage!
Bret: I remember getting into that fight at the MTV awards. Van Halen had played. C.C. was doing one substance that was taking him in one direction and I was partaking another substance that was taking me in another direction and we got on stage and I am not sure he knew what song we were playing. It was one of those nights -- this sounds strange but you can have a million good shows and then have one of those nights where we were both just kind of fucked up and shouldn't have even walked onto the stage. When we got done he made a few comments to me and I made a few comments to him. I will never forget being backstage and being in a fist fight with C.C. and rolling around in front of Eddie Van Halen and almost landing on Cindy Crawford's -- one of the most beautiful women in the fucking world -- shoes. I am almost rolling on top of them while we are pounding each others face. There has never been more of a classic moment. I am in love with Cindy Crawford. This is how I met her! She is looking down at me as I am pounding the hell out of C.C. I don't think things are going to work out for the two of us (laughter)! That was my brief encounter with one of the most beautiful women in the world.
Jeb: I think you have never had too much of a problem getting beautiful women.
Bret: At least I can vouch for the other members of the band (laughter)!
Jeb: I gave up drugs and booze in the 80's. I am a guitar player as well but I am more on a level of Foghat than C.C. Deville.
Bret: Can I tell you about my first concert ever? Let me just take it on a different direction for one minute. Foghat and The Sweet 1978 Love Is Like Oxygen tour. That is the day that I knew I had to be a rock star. The girl I took to the show immediately wanted to fuck the singer in the band. I knew I was shit outta luck unless I immediately became a singer. I wasn't even able to drive to the concert, I was like 15. Foghat and Sweet was one of the best concerts that I have ever seen. Since then I have seen Foghat with Blue Oyster Cult and they ended up becoming one of my all time favorite bands! You said you were a guitar player, which I already knew, but you said on the Foghat level and I am thinking, "I like Foghat. That sounds like a good thing."
Jeb: I love Foghat but there is pentatonic 12 bar blues and then there is some of that shit that your guitar players is pulling off!
Bret: I understand (laughter).
Jeb: What I was saying is that it has been great to watch you guys come through it all and remain together. I can only imagine what it must have been like at your level. The mess we made with drugs on bar band level was bad enough. The fact that you have all lived through it is amazing. To see C.C. get clean and change his life is just awesome. He is just great and he seems to be just as crazy as ever!
Bret: Ever since I met C.C. he was a heavy duty partier. Even when I first met him. He never much slowed down so when he finally collapsed in the mid to early 90's until when he found himself again -- you know this from getting yourself sober--you have to be the one to hit rock bottom. All the people in the world can tell you about it but you have to hit it yourself before you will fix yourself. I was convinced it was the drugs that were making him mentally insane but all you have to do is travel with us for a short period of time to realize that he is really twisted. When he got sober he was almost weirder! I thought it was the drugs but it wasn't (laughter)!
Jeb: When he wore that poster board sign that said $2 for a handshake...!
Bret: (laughing) He looked like he was one of the guys in a breadline. Oh my God! Here is the sick thing-- in his mind he probably meant it. Everyone else was laughing but he was probably serious! Everything else aside, C.C. is a great guitar player. For me to be able to hear some of the things he writes and some of the things that he plays is really a big thrill.
Jeb: What is the writing arrangement?
Bret: Here is how I do it: I walk in an whip out the guitar and play a riff. Then C.C. goes, "Wait a minute! I have something." We have to transpose everything because we play a half step down from standard tuning. It all is really just a train wreck that works. Sometimes I will come in and have a whole song done. There is a song on the new album called "Front To Back" that is sort of my collaboration. Everyone adds to it. We go around and say stuff like "What if we add this" or "I will sing this here." We just add stuff and everyone kind of pitches in. For the most part, I do the lyrics and we all pitch in on the music.
Jeb: Are you really from Harrisburg, PA?
Bret: I can take it one bureau smaller. We are from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Put it this way, Harrisburg was the big city that I went to. I was originally born in Pittsburgh, PA but my Dad was in the Navy and he got transferred to the Inland Naval Depot in Mechanicsville. It was a pretty wild experience. I met Rikki in Mechanicsburg. Bobby was originally from Florida and he moved to Wormleysburg. It just keeps getting smaller and smaller.
Jeb: How do you end up from there to being one of the hottest bands in LA?
Bret: Here is the best things that we had going for us: We had nothing to lose! In other words, none of us worked any kind of a job. I was 17 years old when I left. I had quit high school and was working at a music store. We wanted to write original material. We packed up our van and literally that was it. We moved out to Los Angeles together and we literally struggled and starved. The best thing that we had going for us in LA was that we didn't have enough money to go get fucked up. We spent all of our time writing songs and playing shows. We would go to junkyards and find old Harleys and old car parts and drag the stuff onto the stage. We had a van so we could fit the junk in it. We would go play places like The Country Club and we became the biggest draw in LA because people would show up to see the freak show. I am not kidding you. We would trip over shit. Let me put it to you the best way I know how: We came onstage one night and I decided that I was going to swing out on stage like Ted Nugent. We had no grips. We had no guys. We had no gaffers. Needless to say, we hung the rope up and it busted. It was a disastrous result. I ended up with three broken ribs! We did some of the craziest and dumbest shit. People would show up because it was an event. You saw the show last summer. Imagine that on a much smaller level. The pyro would be us blowing up car fuses. I would have to step on them myself. Confetti was in boxes on the ceiling that would dump on my head. We went through a very interesting period but we did our best to put on a very theatrical show.
Jeb: Your original guitar player was named Matt something.
Bret: Matt Smith. He got his girlfriend pregnant. I have the utmost admiration for him. He was very cool. He said, "Guys, I am going to be a father and we are living like pigs. I can't do this. I need to go get a job and support my family." We were living like pigs. We lived behind a dry cleaner in a warehouse. It was a sad moment for us when he left. We did have the good fortune for us to find C.C. Deville.
Jeb: How did you choose him?
Bret: It was really strange. It came down to three people. One of them was C.C., one was Slash from Guns & Roses and one was a guy who had played with The Joe Perry Project. Slash wanted to have duel guitar player situations and we were not looking for that. I also play guitar so we wanted to stay with four guys in the band instead of five. C.C. came in with "Talk Dirty To Me" already written. Me and him didn't get along from the get go. Rikki and C.C. loved each other but Bobby and me couldn't stand him. There was just something about him. We said, "This guy has fire going." He did. It has been a hell of a ride since.
Jeb: How do you feel about being the Number 1 Hair Metal Band on VH1?
Bret: Dee Snyder is a good friend of mine. I take all awards with a grain of salt but I will say that I think it was an honor for us because we were up with all these great people like the Scorpions, Motley Crue and Kiss. To be number one in a category of people I admire is a good thing. If that means that we put on a hell of a rock show and that we wrote good music then I will take that award. I'll wear my sash with pride.
Jeb: A lot of people give you guys credit for starting the whole hair band deal. Do you agree or disagree?
Bret: In a sense I agree. We wanted to come out and be as outrageous as we could. For us, we wanted to come out and shock people. We wanted to get noticed and stand out. Us and Motley Crue were spearheading the whole thing.
Jeb: By the time the 90's got here we had way to many people who didn't rock who were in rock bands.
Bret: I respect all kinds of music. Poison took Alice In Chains out on the road before they really even broke. What pissed me off the most about everybody is that they all decided to become this serious grunge band. I am like, "When did you come from Seattle and when did you become depressed? A year ago you were doing a completely different thing." I think a lot of the bands that jumped on the bandwagon like that lost the respect of their fans. Before we go any further I want to say this: This summer lets work something out for when we play Sandstone where you can come down to sound check and we can play a couple of songs together. We will do some stuff up on stage and who knows maybe you can come up on stage at the end of the night and do "Rock & Roll All Night" with me.
Jeb: Hey no problem man!
Bret: Seriously, if you have a couple of buddies -- as you have seen with our shows sometimes we invite half the fucking audience onstage with us (laughter). We will just totally blow it out. Lets consider it done. We will figure out how to do a bitching contest on your site. We will do it and we will make it rock.
Jeb: Thanks man. I really have enjoyed talking to you.
Bret: I want to thank you. Whatever we can do to make that contest work we will do. When we get closer to the release of the solo record we will do something bitching. Please let people know that they can go to www.bretmichaels.com and they can hear some of my solo stuff. Come down for sound check when we are in Kansas City.
Jeb: I'm gonna keep you to this now!
Bret: You have my word. I won't say stuff that I won't do.
Jeb: I am just giving you a hard time.
Bret: If I don't speak to you sooner then I will see you in Kansas City in a couple of months.
Jeb: I will talk to you soon.