Bret Michaels of Poison talks 20 Years of Rock!
Bret Michaels says: "For the critics back then, fortunately most
of them are dead both physically and emotionally."
Bret Michaels let it rip today with Canadian resident Sludgeaholic and self proclaimed KISS fan – Mitch Lafon.
P.S. Mitch, do you like the Mark St. John era of KISS better than the Vinnie Vincent era? How about the Bruce Kulick recordings compared to the current Tommy Thayer line-up as opposed to the Ace Frehley early years?
Please inform! Now onto the Bret interview.
BRET MICHAELS/ POISON
20 Years of Rock – Open Up And Say… Ahhh, Critics!
By Mitch Lafon
It’s mid April, flowers are blooming, trees are getting their leaves, and Poison’s latest album ’20 Years Of Rock’ just debuted at #17 on Billboard’s album chart. In other words, everything is as it should be. Sure, Poison have taken their lumps from holier-than-thou critics over the last twenty years, but there’s no denying the band’s resilience as it sets off to embark on their outdoor shed and arena tour this summer with Cinderella. Love’em or hate’em, they’re still here and bringing joy to the converted while the non-believers are left wondering ‘how did they do that?’ Recently, I sat down with frontman Bret Michaels to get answers.
Mitch Lafon: Let’s talk about the Best Of: 20 Years Of Rock album first. When you started off critics said ‘I’d be surprised if they last 20 minutes’ – so how do you explain 20 years and what do you say to those critics?
Bret Michaels: “Twenty years of rock is an awesome feeling. I got to live twenty years doing exactly what I wanted to do which is make music, tour and have a great time doing it. For the critics back then, fortunately most of them are dead both physically and emotionally. It didn’t stop us then and it actually added a little fuel to the fire. Remember the old school critic shit? They’d be like ‘these guys didn’t play on this album.’ So, I’m like ‘well, if you don’t think I played on the album then why are you crucifying me? Crucify the ghost musicians you think played on it! They would say ‘this is bad and somebody else played this stuff.’ So, they were just sticking their foot in the mouth. The old school thing was to accuse a band of not playing on their own record. We’ve played on all our own shit and we’ve played it live a billion times. Other than when I speak to a few people and you being one of them, I don’t talk about the critics thing because they just never paid enough attention. In other words, if I was in a critically acclaimed band – it may have mattered because one year you’re the hype of everything they love and the next year they dash you against the rocks and you come and go with their judgments, but with us we’ve done our own thing through thick and thin and back again and it feels awesome.”
ML: You’ve become synonymous with the L.A. ‘80s movement. People don’t talk glam rock without starting with Poison. So, you’ve made your mark…
BM: “Yup, we’ve made a mark and you have to remember that even some of the harshest critics finally folded and said ‘look we made music too fucking boring.’ They took the thrill and excitement out of music and I think it’s a shame. They fought so hard to change and turn things around until it just became muddy. Rock ‘n roll was meant to be part fantasy and part reality… the fact is that we are passionate about what we do and we love going on stage and playing. We put all our energy into making sure the show is good, making sure it’s an exciting show and that’s all you can give. We still bring an unbelievable show. We’re still in the arenas and amphitheatres, but we could do 52000 (writer’s note: I had told Bret off tape that Bon Jovi would be playing a 52000 seater in Montreal this summer) had we made some better decisions along the way. No doubt about it. I say that openly and there’s nothing else you can do. You play to the fans that come and see you. If that means 10 000 at one venue or 6000 at the next – I give the same show regardless and I’m there to have a great time and I play to who showed up to see me play.”
ML: I remember a quote from a past interview where you said – “I don’t play to the empty seats.”
BM: “No, you don’t and fortunately over our career we’ve had a great amount of fans come out and see us. I think we’ve gotten beyond proving ourselves. We’ve been there, we’ve done it and we’ve survived. We weren’t a casualty of the ‘80s genre, we weren’t a casualty of grunge, we weren’t a casualty of the big alt female movement… all of them had something good come out of them, but the media is always looking for the next ‘new thing’ and when they do that you have to be prepared. If you built it then you know how to fix it and that’s what we have done.”
ML: And you’ve done it without selling out – you still do the same kind of visually exciting show. Let’s talk about the 20th anniversary tour – you’re going out with Cinderella for the third time in about five or six years, but you’re also taking out a new SONY BMG band called Endeverafter. Where did you find them?
BM: “Cinderella is obviously our good friends and I like their music. They put on a fantastic show and in 1986 – it was Poison and Cinderella that opened for Loudness. That was our first major tour, so we felt that we should call Cinderella – that’s who we should be out with. It’s twenty years, we did it together – meaning we started at the same time. We had a lot of fun back then and it’ll be a lot of fun this year and… I LIKE their show! I like hearing their music. They get the crowd fired up. Tom always delivers a great show.”
ML: Tom’s going to put some pressure on you. You can’t slack off when Cinderella is opening a show…
BM: “No you can’t slack off. They sound good and they sound different then us which is what I like because it doesn’t sound like we have six of the same band out…. and Endeverafter is opening. Here’s how I heard about them. I heard the same thing you did that they have this cool vibe-y big-rock kind of sleaze metal going on and I thought that could be very very interesting. Maybe just maybe they’ll be the next big thing and I’ve been pushing every single year to take out somebody new. I listened to their music and they’ve got killer songs. It’s got that modern active rock feel mixed in with big sleazy rock chords and hooks. The vocals are a little more sleazy than me… somewhere between me and Bon Scott.”
ML: It’ll be nice to see an ‘80s package with all original members…
BM: “That’s a great feeling to have all original and this year’s show is bar none… we have a brand new humongous set. It’s got moving pictures screens, lasers, pyro… It’ll be visually killer and it’ll be the longest set we’ve ever played. We’re going to dig out a lot of material. I don’t know what else I can give. Plus, we always keep our ticket prices reasonable. We never gouge our fans for every nickel we can get out of them.”
ML: Let’s talk about CC – on the Surreal Life he mentioned that he had just got out of rehab…
BM: “Right after the KISS tour, I went out solo (all through 2005) and we took a break (which was great because we had ran continuous for five years). While that happened CC got himself into some trouble and ended up in jail on two separate occasions plus the substance abuse… He’s been trying to hide that for twenty years and I told him ‘CC just tackle that fucking demon.’ Just openly admit that you’re such an addict… he’s been trying to hide it from everyone.”
ML: That’s how you stay an addict…
BM: “I didn’t get to see him for like a year and in that year he went through hell and back and then he ended up in L.A. county prison. You don’t wanna fucking be there and I think that straightened him up pretty good. So, then his first day out of jail and rehab was straight to the Surreal (Life) house. I have not see the show yet, but I’ve heard he looks healthy and that he’s almost making sense… meaning that he isn’t screaming at everyone and is a reflective CC which might actually be really cool. Right now, I know he’s doing fantastic and I hope that being on the road things will stay like that, but as you know Poison still has a pretty fucking kick ass after party. We meet a lot of people and a lot of partying goes on backstage.”
ML: And a lot of Grey Goose…
BM: “Yes, a lot of Grey Goose makes its way around backstage and CC is going to have to be strong enough to fight that stuff off.”
ML: Just to change subject – have you started rehearsals yet?
BM: “Yes and when we went in to do the 20 Years Of Rock… we went in with Don Was (which was killer because he’s worked with The Stones and Bob Dylan)…”
ML: Let’s talk about that song – “We’re An American Band” – why that song? It seems obvious. It seems to reflect Poison…
BM: “American Band more than anything reflected 20 Years. If I had my way, we would have done an original song, but with CC’s condition, the timing factor… we all said look ‘let’s just pick a song’ and it’s a song we played almost every single night in the clubs to close the show (back in the early days). It’s a song we all enjoy doing and it reflects twenty years of good times. It’s up beat and I didn’t want to do anything depressing.”
ML: You also did the whole country thing recently…
BM: “Well, let me say this – ‘Freedom Of Sound’ is a rock record with some country songs on it. If you take any song like ‘Open Road’ or “All I Ever Needed’ it could be ‘I Won’t Forget You’ Or ‘Fallen Angel’. I happen to like that country feel… what we call ‘Americana’. The record was very exciting for me to do and I got to be a judge on Nashville Star and I got to play with Hank Williams Jr.. I’m blessed in that I can do the things I like to do and enjoy. I can listen to AC/DC and Metallica at home and in the car have Toby Keith. I’ve never thought that if you liked Slayer you could never listen to Cinderella. Do you know what I’m getting at? I listen to songs without judging them. I just love a song and could care less what else is wrapped around it.”
ML: I’m with you. I listened to the new Poison CD in the car today before switching over to the new DIO Live Holy Diver, but this morning at breakfast it was Duran Duran playing.
BM: “That’s why you and me have hit it off (on so many subjects) because we’re both open minded to music.”
ML: Let’s talk Bret a bit – after this tour you’re going out on a fall solo run through Canada and the US. Is it the country thing? Is it all Poison?
BM: “It’s a mixture of both and there’s a great reason for that. I’m part writer of all the Poison stuff and I simply like playing the Poison stuff. I’ve added a lot of the solo songs in there and the reason I love to go out and play on my own is… I like playing live and people get to see the show minus the pyro and flash and get to see my heart and soul being put into the show and I think that’s a great thing. People get to see me as not just the lead singer of Poison, but as a songwriter and I get to play more guitar, harmonica, piano…”
ML: And you change the arrangements of the songs…
BM: “I change the arrangements a bit. At the end of the day, I make it a fun show and I get to do a lot of the things I wanted to do as a musician and a player. I get to play an hour and a half sometimes longer… just by myself.”
ML: Right, there’s no drum or guitar solos…
BM: “There’s no solos, so I get to shove a lot of music in there and it’s a great feeling. This tour is going everywhere – the US, of course, and Canada. I want to start in Montreal then do Ottawa, Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and all along the way over to Vancouver then drop down through the west coast of the US. I’m going to hit every major city in Canada then we do the US and we already have South America, Australia and UK dates.”
ML: One last question – what’s going all with the shootings? Two random acts of violence or is somebody out to get you?
BM: “Mitch… I pray… I’m not a fearful person. You and I have worked out together and you know I’m not walking around with twenty bodyguards. I pray that it’s random. I pray that the one in Massachusetts was just an act of drunken stupidity and the other one in L.A. I pray is a copy-cat. Here in L.A., it was well-talked about that I was coming to do the Adam Carolla show and it’s not hard to find the place. I’m praying it’s random, but the situation we had years ago with the FBI and this guy Mark Kram… there is a nut ball or two out there and I’ve gotten a bunch of death threats and most of them are pretty stupid… Just people looking for attention, but once in a while there are those that make your blood run cold. After the second one, I was like wait a minute – I could have had my kids in the car. It’s pretty scary. At first, you’re mad because you know it’s just some fucking coward, but then it’s wait a minute – I don’t want my kids sitting in the back of my car when this coward decides he’s going to take a pot shot because he thinks it’s funny.”
Mitch said: "It’ll be nice to see an ‘80s package with all original members…"
We’re guessing it’s safe to say that the following groups will not be on the bill if it’s ONLY going to be bands with all original members! Ratt, Skid Row, KISS, Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses, LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, Bang Tango, Britny Fox, Warrant, Enuff Z’nuff, Y&T, Krokus, Black n’ Blue, Pretty Boy Floyd, and anyone else who released a recording between 1981 and 1995!
20 Years of Sludge (will be in 2018)