Bret Michaels: Poison and solo - the best of both worlds.

Something a little different for you. Some of my phone interviews are lovingly transcribed by the rather awesome Ron and Don Higgins. Much appreciated guys! Anyway, they asked if they could possibly team up and interview Bret Michaels on behalf of the site - which I thought was a great idea. Below is the interview - a nice indepth look at the Poison frontman, who has recently released his new solo album Songs Of Life.

Ron: Bret Michaels! How are you doing?!
Bret: I'm doing awesome.

Ron: I'm sorry to hear about your voice. Apparently you're having some troubles?
Bret: Yeah, it's okay. You know what it is? I'm a little… I'm usually not sick, but a couple of the guys got the flu and it just got into my chest and my head. You know, we're doing six shows in a row so it doesn't give you much rest.

Ron: Exactly. Well I appreciate you calling, especially with having the voice problems. I just really appreciate it. I just wanted to let you know that I believe my brother is also on the line. Don, are you there?
Don: I am here.
Ron: Okay.
Don: How are you doing, Bret?
Bret: I'm doing awesome, man. I can barely hear you. You may have to speak up a little.

Don: Okay. Is that better?
Bret: Yeah, that's much better.

Don: Okay, cool.

Ron: We'll try not to keep you too long.
Bret: You've got it. This is going to be exciting.

Ron: Well, really we just kind of wanted to talk about the tour, obviously, and we can talk a little about your record and maybe just a little bit about what your plans are in the future.
Bret: You've got it.

Ron: I think probably the best way to start is to talk about the tour. It actually started here in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is where we live.
Bret: Right.

Ron: And I guess you were probably at our favorite stomping ground, Annie's Riverside Saloon.
Bret: Yes.

Ron: I'm just curious, how is the tour going?
Bret: The tour's been great. I was out on the road from May until September 12, early May to Sept. 12 with Poison, and then I had about 12 days in order to get ready for the show and we came into Cincinnati on the 23rd I believe it was and rehearsed down there at Annie's for 3 days and just got everything… making sure we had all the right gear and equipment and it was very, very, very exciting for me. Annie's was pretty much a sellout the 1st night.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: And all the shows so far have just been… as far as musically, I just have had an absolutely great time being out on the road playing… you know, it's nice for me because I get to play not only a bunch of new solo stuff but I get to play the Poison hits, plus I get to do a bunch of songs that I've added to the set like, “Let It Play”, “Good Love”, “I Won't Forget Your”, a bunch of songs that we don't get to do that often anymore.

Ron: That's awesome. That's great. I'm curious. Why did you choose Cincinnati? I think that's awesome.
Bret: A couple of reasons. Most importantly, the friend of mine that booked the show there at Annie's… there were two most important reasons, first, we were able to rehearse there. They gave us a couple of days to rehearse and obviously WEBN and WTUE out of Dayton, the stations there treat us great.

Ron: Oh, good.
Bret: And I love… well obviously you know Riverbend there in Cincinnati, I love the fans there. They're ravenous and they're party fans. They're great and that's why I love them. We couldn't have picked a better city and the other reason, it was such a great central location to base out of because our next night was Detroit, then Cleveland and Indianapolis. It was really a good luck place to start the tour.

Ron: That's awesome.
Don: Yeah, my brother and I, we've seen you guys a couple of times and it seems like you guys always draw a really good crowd wherever you go. Part of it, I think is because you guys are so accessible to the fans yourselves, and I think the fans really reciprocate that and it's just a good time for all.
Bret: I'm going to apologize again. Ron, you may have to sort of repeat what he asked. I heard like occasionally... you started, then I heard “good crowds”, I heard bits and pieces of the question.

Ron: Yeah, you're coming through kind of rough for me too, Don. I don't know why.
Don: It must be the other line I'm on.
Ron: He was just saying…
Bret: Yeah, give me the gist of the question.

Ron: Really he was just making a comment that one of the reasons that he thinks that you do so well, both solo and with Poison, is because you are so gracious to your fans and so accessible as a band. An example is your web site. People that join up at Bretmichaels.com get backstage passes to meet you.
Bret: Well, first of all, thank you. I really think it's a couple of reasons. Anyone who is around me knows this; I'm extremely passionate. I'm as passionate today as I was the day I started making music about continuing to make music. I like being on stage, I like playing, I like being there. I love being down and dirty, I like being with the fans and jamming, you know what I mean?

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: And anyone who knows that about me knows my energy. I really am excited when I come on that stage and I'm never going through the motions.

Ron: Oh, yeah.
Bret: And also with my fan club, I've always tried to stay connected to our fans throughout our entire career and I think that that combined with them liking the music. I think if you've got good music and you're good to your fans, you're going to have a long career.

Ron: I think so too. And as a fan, I mean, I've been a fan of Poison since I think I saw “Cry Tough” back in '86, I guess.
Bret: Yeah, thank you. It may have been only you and me that saw it because I think they played it only once.

Ron: Correct me if I'm wrong. Wasn't that the first video that you released?
Bret: Very first video, and they played it like, I caught it at like 3:00 in the morning, like twice.

Ron: <laughs>
Bret: That was our first video and that was when we did it on our own. That was our own record.

Ron: Oh, okay.
Bret: That was Cyanide music through Enigma records, or Enigma Distribution and right after that, the record… Poison was the first band to have a million selling independent record.

Ron: Wow.
Bret: Then Capital picked us up and did distribution, but basically Poison has been its own label throughout our entire career.

Ron: That's amazing.
Bret: Yep

Don: That always was one of my favorite songs off of that album.
Ron: Yeah, I agree. It's one of the best songs and I remember, when it came out, I saw the video and I thought, I don't know who this band is, but this is a great song and then I never saw the video anymore and then of course they started playing The Big Hit.
Bret: “Talk Dirty To Me” was next.

Ron: Yeah, and I was like, “What happened to the other one”?
Bret: I'll tell you what happened to the other one. Like I said, we were out playing every club we could find and we had about $8,000 left to our name to exist.

Ron: <laughs> Oh, boy.
Bret: We spent it all on “Talk Dirty”. We gambled big time on “Talk Dirty To Me” and just threw a party at a warehouse and did the video and it luckily, thank God not only for our fans, but thank God the song hit because it was… it was really it. It was all that we had left.

Don: Sort of do or die.
Bret: Yep.

Ron: Well that's a great video because I remember the one thing about the video I remember, it just is sort of what your band is all about and what you've always been about. It's all about fun. That's kind of what turned me off about the whole grunge scene in the '90s, people are getting too serious. I've got enough problems, I don't want to hear everybody moping and crying and gosh, you guys came out with that video and it was just wild. It was like, “Let's have a good time”. I think that was '80s music in general.
Bret: I agree with you 100%. This is what I say, I never cut down, myself, I never put down any form of music. There's just certain forms I like more than others, right?

Ron: Sure.
Bret: I think that the magic that Poison had, and this includes my songwriting style, is that you've got to be honest with the way you write and here's what happens. I'm a person who has lived with Juvenile Diabetes – 4 injections a day – for my entire life. I take about 8 blood tests a day and I try to look, even at the most negative things, I try to find something positive.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: And so for me, I not only think that our music was fun, but I think we also had an energy even when we did songs that were depressing, like a “Broken Heart, like “Every Rose”.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: Or “Something To Believe In”. I try to inject positive things into very negative things in my life.

Ron: Uh, huh.
Bret: And I think that is what's kept us around that we were able to write on one album, we could have a song like “Nothing But a Good Time” but also “Every Rose”. We could have “Talk Dirty To Me” and then we could have “I Won't Forget You”. We would have a song like “Something To Believe In” and “Unskinny Bop”. And our fans, this is how cool our fans are, because I believed in the music I wrote, they allowed me to be what I wanted to be, and I don't think there's a better form of music than hard rock or melodic rock music.

Ron: I agree.
Bret: It allows me to do exactly what I want to do. I can be heavy like Metallica if I want to be, or I could turn around and write a song like “Something To Believe In” if I want to.

Don: That's pretty broad.
Bret: That's a good feeling.

Don: It really gives you a lot of room to express yourself. And I think you did just that on your new album. I was really impressed with all the different sort of styles within the melodic category but it all sounds like Bret Michaels. A little bit like Poison, but a little bit not.
Ron: Can you hear him okay now Bret?
Bret: Yeah, just a little bit. I got the gist of it. And what I wanted to say too, like on the new album Song of Life, part of my growing up, some of my biggest influences as a child, and I've said this to a lot of people, my first taste of music was actually country music. That was the first thing… my dad was a country music fanatic.

Ron: <laughs>
Bret: I'm talking old school. We're talkin' Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Sr., Patsy Cline, I mean that's what I heard first, and then I got used to listening… my mom liked The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan so I got to hear that. My first two records that I ever owned, right, really owned, right? Was Led Zeppelin II, and Lynard Skynard Pronounced [Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd].

Ron: Wow. That says it all.
Bret: Yeah, I've got a pretty good feel of… I'll give you an example, last night I played Nashville and I had Jeffrey Steele who won the Country Songwriter of the Year. He's a buddy of mine and he came on stage last night, and I gave him my guitar and he just played. I mean, right in the middle of my set I played “Something to Believe In” and I said, “Hey, here's Jeffrey Steele, CMA Songwriter of the Year”. You know, he wrote every big hit you hear, whether it's Faith Hill or Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney. He wrote all those songs. And he's writing some stuff for my upcoming solo record in the future. We're writing a bunch of stuff together. And the audience… I went up on stage, I gave him my guitar and I just let him play and I was singing alone with him and the fans loved it because it was just… a good song, is a good song.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: And they were loving it and digging it and having a great time, and then I turned around and had the guys from Saliva come up and join me on stage a few nights before that. And Josey was having a great time, you know? I think if you're up there and people with me, I'm passionate about music and when they see that I don't… I have an attitude because of wanting the music to be right.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: But I never have an ego, I absolutely love and enjoy being around other musicians and listening to them play. I have no ego. I'm not one of those guys that don't want someone standing in front of me or you can't play my guitar, and I think that people know that.

Ron: They do.
Bret: In 18 years they've figured that out about me.

Ron: It comes through in everything you do. Just like you're describing some of the things I've heard about other singers, you know? And the fans know it.
Bret: You're absolutely right. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Ron: No, it's just, I also saw a band once at Annie's and after the show, every single member of the band came out and signed autographs and shook hands, except for the lead singer who was “too tire” according to his roadie. Meanwhile, their bass player is running around like a lunatic the entire night and he's the first one out signing autographs.
Bret: Right. Absolutely.

Ron: I will say to his credit that he did allow people to pass items to his roadie and then he took them back and he did sign them, but most people that are fans, myself included, would much rather have just shook his hand and said, “Great job,” as opposed to getting… for all I know, the roadie signed it, you know?
Bret: Right. I got you. Again, I don't know that particular situation, but I think you find with some musicians, some of them got into music for the fuckin' wrong reason.

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: I'm not saying him, I don't know about him. I'm just saying, certain people… it's weird, I watch them and I'm like, “Dude, if you don't like playing music any more and you're going through the motions, just find another gig.”

Ron: Yep.
Bret: I can only make music because I really enjoy doing it. And when I'm up there smiling at Riverbend, believe me, you'll know if I'm having a bad show. I've started songs and fucked them up myself, and I'll stop them and say, “Hold on, hold on, that sucked.” And then we'll do it again. I'm going to get it right, you know? I think if you believe in it, that's what makes people believe in you.

Ron: Absolutely. And it comes through very clearly. With you, I think the thing that's obvious is that you're a fan of the music first and foremost and you're doing what you love.
Bret: Absolutely.

Ron: And it comes through great on this new album too, which I guess that's what you're touring on so we probably ought to talk about it at least for a little bit. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was actually quite happy when I got it and listened to it because, although there are Poison elements there, so Poison fans will enjoy it, it's much more diverse and I think that's a good thing because if it sounded just like Poison, I would question why bother doing it as a solo record.
Bret: You're ab… no, you're taking the words out of my mouth. I'm giving you more of… you hear the diversity in the way I was raised musically. And I get a chance to just spread my wings a little more. When you do a solo record, when you're in a band you share, the four of us share everything, C.C., Bobby, Rikki, and myself. And that is the way a band is supposed to work. Even through me and C.C.'s biggest fistfights, we're still a band of brothers. We still love each other in some sick way, right? But that's what makes Poison work, is that the four of us all get a say-so in the music and then they allow me to write the lyrics. But we all contribute to that song, and we all four take credit, and that's the way a band should work.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: And when I'm on my own it allows me to go out and spread my wings and do some things that are just different. In other words, now I can put a slide guitar as a solo, I can do a harmonica in a spot where maybe Poison wouldn't do it.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: I can do a song like “One More Day”. I did that song exactly the way I felt it should be done. If that was a Poison song, we would've added, everyone would've contributed as – let me say this properly – as they should've. But when you're a solo artist, it allows me to acoustically play the guitar and sing a song, and that's a great feeling too.

Ron: Is that the song “One More Day” you're talking about?
Bret: Yes.

Ron: That is… I've got to say, that is one of my absolute favorite songs on this album along with, of course, Raine.
Bret: Thank you.

Ron: To me, Raine is great, because, to me, it's the closest thing to what I would call a Power Ballad very similar to Poison and I love the Poison sound, but I love it lyrically as well. I myself am a father of three; in fact, I have a 3 year old daughter, like you, so I can kind of relate.
Bret: Absolutely. And that song was about life in general, what I call the circle of life. In other words, for me, I was a first time father there and it was such a beautiful… if you listen back to the song now the first verse, I'm just in love with my daughter and I'm strong for her. The second verse, I went out on the road on the Power To The People tour in 2000, a week after my daughter was born.

Don: Yeah, that would be hard.
Bret: I felt guilty for being away from her and you can hear that. And then when you listen to the third verse, “You are my flesh, you are my blood and I will always be there and stand by you,” you know that no matter how far you travel, that is your flesh and blood, and that is a great feeling.

Ron: It's awesome. That's what I like about the song. Musically it's great and lyrically it's great as well.
Don: And all parents can relate to that song. Obviously that'll be a special song for her for the rest of her life.
Ron: Yeah.
Bret: That was Don talking, right?

Ron: Yes.
Bret: Just tell me what he said.
Ron: He just said that that would be a special song for her, for the rest of her life.
Bret: Absolutely. And, Don, if you can hear me, thank you.

Don: I can hear you perfectly.
Bret: Okay, good.

Don: I'm trying to yell for the most part.
Bret: Let me try that, I dialed up my phone a little bit.

Ron: Okay. The other thing I found interesting when I was reading your biography is that your daughter's birthday, May 20, is actually the same day as my youngest son's birthday.
Bret: That's awesome, and it was the same day I released Songs of Life.

Ron: Wow. Look at that.
Bret: It was a win/win/win for me.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: Congratulations, that's awesome. I was going to say too guys, and I apologize because my voice is really hurting.

Ron: Okay.
Bret: If you want to cut in to the Poison stuff, I could give you a little of what our future is going to hold.

Ron: That would be great.
Bret: And I apologize, on my day off I normally don't talk a whole lot because I've got 6 more, actually, I've got 7 in a row now.

Ron: Well, I just appreciate you calling, so you do whatever you've got to do.
Bret: Well, I was going to cut to the Poison and I'll give you a synopsis of what we're looking for.

Ron: That would be great, and I would like to hear just a blip about your next solo album because from what I'm reading it's going to be country influenced. I think that would be really interesting.
Bret: Actually, yeah, it's going to be very, almost, kind of Americana-ish, you're looking at somewhere between John Cougar and Springsteen.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: Or even a John Mayer kind of feel, meets a little bit of what Kenny Chesney does too, which is very contemporary country.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: You know, I'm not going to… although I like what Merle Haggard did and George Jones, it's not… although I appreciate it, I couldn't make a record like that.

Ron: Right.
Bret: I wouldn't do it justice; you know what I'm saying?

Ron: I hear ya.
Bret: This is almost going to be like that early Rolling Stones, a little of what The Strokes do.

Ron: Gotcha.
Bret: The Stones, meets John Mayer, meets Tim McGraw.

Ron: That sounds great.
Bret: Yeah, I'm excited. In 2004, what I'm doing is I'm going to be back on the road solo.

Ron: Okay.
Bret: Poison will be off the road for 2004. I'm pretty sure we're going to be off completely. Then, we're coming back in 2005 with a brand new boxed set. This is going to be so amazing, it's going to be a CD and a DVD. It's called Twenty Years of Stuff.

Ron: Cool.
Bret: It's basically a history of Poison musically and visually. And then have about probably 3 or 4 new songs as well as old songs. A whole collection.

Ron: That sounds great.
Bret: And we'll be back on the road from 2005 until 2010 as Poison every year.

Ron: Oh, great!
Bret: We're going to take a year off just to kind of reboot and regroup and I'll be out solo all year with a new solo record and also I'm going to plan on doing a brand new film this year called, “The Forgotten”.

Ron: Yeah, Lorie mentioned that you're going to start filming that in January?
Bret: Yes. January, February, and March.

Ron: Is this something that you've written again or is this…
Bret: Yeah.

Ron: Can you give us…
Bret: Yeah, I can't wait for you to see it when it's finished, but it's really a very, very topical suspense thriller. It's very, very cool.

Don: Is this still in conjunction with… I know you've worked with Charlie Sheen.
Bret: I heard Charlie in there, I just didn't hear the rest.

Ron: He wanted to know if you were going to work with Charlie Sheen again?
Bret: I sure hope so. And if his schedule permits, yes, I'll do it and there will be some other different actors in there, some top name actors as well.

Ron: That's great. That's the other thing that I appreciate with you is that you've expanded your creativity beyond just music, going into these other avenues. You're tapping into country music and tapping into film making. If you're a creative person, you're creative – period.
Bret: You said it. And an artist, a true artist, this is what I always try to tell musicians and everybody, whatever you do in your life, don't push all of your life to be this artistic musician and then trap yourself in your own box.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: In other words, a lot of people go, “Well, that's my sound, I'm never allowed to leave that,” or, “I'm only allowed to do one thing.” Well, that's your own prison, don't do that. Go out and do what you feel.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: In other words, do exactly what you feel. If you want to go try to make a movie, if you yourself or your brother want to write a book, fuckin' go for it. There's no boundaries. In other words, we don't get to do this life over, you know what I mean?

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: That's what I try to tell people. Go enjoy it and live it out, man.

Ron: It's a great motto, because both my brother and I are doing the typical 9 to 5 jobs.
Bret: But that's okay. In life, believe me, I've worked every job you had to work and I never would've financially made it, musically. I would still be in a band on the weekends. I love making music that much. I will always look… I will find a way until I found a way.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: In the music business, and being an artist. It's truly, feast or famine.

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: There's no real in between. All you do is keep working at it until you find… that's what life's about, it doesn't mean you have to stop dreaming because you have a job 9 to 5.

Ron: Sure. I agree. I have friends… I'm 36 and they're already looking forward to their retirement. It's funny you mention that because my brother and I, we have written a book and we're trying to solicit publishers and things, but people ask us, “Why are you doing that?” Well, the 9 to 5 pays the bills, but we want to do something interesting and be creative.
Bret: But you know what it does? It gives you, it allows you… I tell a lot of people this… if you have to work a 9 to 5 job, there's no disrespect in that, just use it to supplement your dream.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: And then it gives you something to work for.

Ron: I think that's a great motto. I keep trying to tell my wife that I'm working the 9 to 5 and retiring from there is my worst case scenario, but that's not such a bad scenario, really.
Bret: No. And hey, if you can write stuff, publisher's are out there. What it is, you'll have, believe me, every successful artist has 12 million failures until they got to their success, believe me.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: If I played you some of my songs that I wrote and you heard them and you were done laughing, then you might say, “Now I understand.” It takes missing with 15 songs before you find that 16th one that's a hit, you know?

Ron: You've jut got to keep plugging away.
Bret: I was having fun while I made them.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: Well, guys, thank you. I'm sorry. My voice is going.

Ron: No, we appreciate it. When you do your tour next year with your new album, I hope you come back through Cincinnati again.
Bret: You know I will.

Ron: And we'll make sure that we're there and we'll give Lorie a call and see if we can hook up and do another quick, see-how-it's-going little talk.
Bret: That would be awesome, and hopefully you can come down to the sound check and we can hang out there.

Ron: That would be incredible.
Don: That would be great.
Bret: Well, plan on it, and speak to Lorie, and Don, you guys, and Ron, have a great holiday.

Ron: Well you too, Bret. Thank you!
Don: Thanks, we appreciate it.
Ron: Have a great Christmas.
Bret: I will indeed.

Ron: Take care. Bye, bye.
Bret: Take care, guys.