With a twenty year run as lead singer of the band Poison, Bret Michaels is one of the most enduring rock musicians of the past two decades. Known throughout the eighties for hit singles like Nothin But a Good Time, Talk Dirty to Me, Unskinny Bop and the ballad that earned Michael's millions of devoted female fans, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, the group reveled in their massive popularity and the excess that came with it.
The nineties brought a different kind of fame, with a headline making car crash that nearly ended the singer's life and a passionate and volatile relationship with Pamela Anderson which produced an intimate videotape of the couple having sex, something that both would live to regret. Not enchanted by the attention, Michael's joined forces with Pamela Anderson to pursue aggressive legal action that would eventually curb exposure of the tape. Rebounding with the inception of a film production company started with actor and friend, Charlie Sheen, Michaels displayed an undying love of the creative process. He wrote, directed and starred in the independent film A Letter from Death Row and directed Sheen in the film No Code of Conduct.
For the most part, Michaels has unrelentingly focused on his music, continuing to record and tour with Poison band mates C.C. Deville, Rikki Rocket and Bobby Dall, as well as write and record solo music. Bret Michaels is also known in music circles for throwing legendary parties and that fact did not escape VH1 execs or the producers at Mindless Entertainment, when they approached him with the idea of doing a hybrid: rock music/reality/dating show as part of their continuing "Celebreality" lineup. The newly single rock star and father of two was game, on the condition that he could do the show on his own terms. Extreme sports, rock music and plenty of debauchery are incorporated into Rock of Love. The formula is simple one blonde, blue eyed rock star plus twenty-five beautiful and willing women all shacked up in the Hollywood Hills and the alcoholic beverages flow like water.
For my experience, Bret Michaels is a wonderful guy who displays a genuine down to earth nature. He was an open book and always willing to poke fun at himself. He assumes no false airs. We had a great time analyzing love, relationships, and music and he is someone I would be happy to count as a friend.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Where are you right now?
Bret Michaels: We are actually in the lovely city of Nashville, Tennessee, one of my favorite cities. I was down here finishing up some work on a solo record that comes out in the fall. It's called Custom Build.
PR.com: And right now you're touring with Poison?
Bret Michaels: Yeah. Poison is out all summer long until September 3rd in Atlanta at the HiFi Buys Amphitheatre. That's the last show.
PR.com: Since you mentioned Nashville, in my research I noticed that although you're a rock musician there's a strong country music connection in there. What's the country music connection about?
Bret Michaels: For me it's very big. First and foremost I love rock music in all its forms! I love a good distorting guitar and good melody. I like good melody and that's where my connection to country is. When I grew up, my father was a huge country music fan. He likes the old school traditional stuff. When I was growing up my mom was big into a lot of what I call hippie folk-esque music, [like] James Taylor. I think that's led to what I bring to the band, which is not only just a sense of good rock music, but a good sense of being able to tell a story whether it's funny, sexual, deep I'm able to complete the story with the lyrics and the melody.
PR.com: Was music something your parents were very passionate about when you were growing up?
Bret Michaels: Only on a listening level. My mother played acoustic guitar and I got guitar lessons when I was a kid. One of the first instruments I learned to play really well was the harmonica (laughs). How un-cool of an instrument is that when you're a kid?! I'd be like, "Can I be the harm player?" and they're like, "No one in this band needs a harm player." (Laughs) My dad loves harmonica because every old country song had a harmonica player. Then I picked up the guitar realizing that was going to get me much more attention from the girls, if I was standing in the front of the stage with a guitar. And then the realization hit me that the singer seems to get the most attention (laughs).
PR.com: (Laughs) Right.
Bret Michaels: So I said, you know what, I'm gonna buy a p.a. system so I can front my own band. I'll sing, play the guitar and some harmonica. And then I found Poison. When you talk about a garage band, here is how garage bands are formed it's whoever owns whatever instrument
PR.com: So it's not who's most talented on what instrument?
Bret Michaels: No. If you own something, you come to the garage and jam. My first band had like fourteen guitar players, one bass player, a fiddle player, a drummer and a keyboardist. You couldn't be in a garage band if you didn't own an instrument.
PR.com: If you owned an instrument you were in, no matter what!
Bret Michaels: You were in! And then this is how it eliminates. It's a natural process of elimination, a lot like life. Eventually one of them couldn't afford gas money or their parents wouldn't drop them off, so they were out of the band. And eventually it gets down to where there's only four or five of you left, and that's your band.
PR.com: Let's talk about this new show, Rock of Love (premiering Sunday, July 15th on VH1). I can't imagine that you have trouble meeting women. What happened here? Why did you agree to do this show?
Bret Michaels: I don't believe that anyone who goes into doing reality TV really accepts it for being reality. It's really supposed to be unscripted TV. I don't think you go in for just the dating process. I think you have a firm realization that it's bizarre dating on TV. So let's just call it straight. I can't beat around the bush.
PR.com: That was going to be my follow up. Is this more about promoting the music? What's this about?
Bret Michaels: It's bizarre dating on TV. I knew that going in. The first time they had asked me to do this show I was still in a relationship that was coming to an end, and I said, "At this time it's not right for me to do it. I don't want to fake the show. If I'm single in the future and you're still looking for somebody, it would be great." I have truly partied with all of the VH1 executives. They knew I could throw a good party, which is what they were looking for. They said, "Do you have any interest?" And I said, "Here's my deal. I'm going on the road with Poison. I need to do this show on my terms. I'm a diabetic. I want that to be part of the show. I take four or five [insulin] injections, and that will be part of my everyday life. I'm very independent and I'm not a big posse guy." In other words, I don't have fifty-two people in an entourage. I've got a couple of good friends and we do stuff. What happens with a posse to me is that you have to move in a herd. You spend more time getting the herd to move then just going and doing what you want to do. All the things I've done in my life, VH1 and 51 Minds or Mindless Entertainment (the show's producers) were very open and very cool about. I said, "Can I take the girls on activities that I would do?" I didn't want a bunch of forced arguments, where every night we sit at the Jacuzzi and they're all madly in love with me. How can they be madly in love with me if they don't know me yet?
PR.com: Well I saw the promo clips on VH1's website and the girls were all over you. They were clawing at you!
Bret Michaels: But there were adult beverages involved (laughs).
PR.com: (Laughs) It was alcohol fueled.
Bret Michaels: Tequila makes your clothes fall off.
PR.com: Liquid panty remover.
Bret Michaels: Yes, liquid panty remover. They may have had a few adult beverages, and I think what made the first night great is I went into that show and they had no clue what to expect from me. I drove my Harley to the house. I got off the bike and I said, "Girls, here's what I want to tell you. I want to get to know all of you. You all look beautiful. Let's go into this house and throw a party and see what happens." They originally only bought six episodes because I was a little bit of a loose canon. They couldn't quite get a grip on what I would and wouldn't do. The first night we partied, and immediately the girls started to separate into groups. You could tell which were conservative, who were sexy, who were slutty, and who completely wanted nothing to do with me. And that's really life. That's why some of those shows are so phony to me.
PR.com: Where they're all clamoring for the guy, and he's everyone's ideal type.
Bret Michaels: Yeah and there's going to be some girls, that even if they would have liked me, they're just going to be turned off by the craziness going on and by the lifestyle. That immediately eliminated a few of the girls right off the bat. It took on a very natural process. I found this, and I say this because I have two beautiful daughters, and they're young but they're very competitive, especially with each other. Girls are very competitive. I don't mean just over guys, I'm talking about in life. So I said, "Why don't we pick natural activities where they can learn to bond with each other or learn to hate each other." So we did full contact mud football, motocross racing, gun shooting you name it. Let me specify that I love to shoot but I'm not a hunter.
PR.com: I'm an animal lover so
Bret Michaels: I'm an animal freak lover!! I do not kill any animal! However I do love to shoot. I grew up as a kid in Pennsylvania learning to hunt, and I just decided for myself very early that it was not for me. I love animals and I'd rather save them then kill them.
PR.com: Especially for sport. It doesn't make any sense.
Bret Michaels: Yeah, it didn't for me. I'm like, "Hell, we got plenty of hamburger meat. Why do we have to kill this bear??" (Laughs) "Why am I killing this bear?!" There's two things I think I got from my parents. Some form of common sense, and an ability to be very driven. I like to get up and do stuff, and I'm pretty spontaneous. I think that was also a big fear of the producers. And in their defense, they let me do what I wanted to do.
PR.com: I want to ask you about women, because people have a certain idea about what rock stars want in a woman. The stereotype is that rock stars like to hook up with the blonde haired, big boobed, not much going on upstairs, type. I feel like a lot of women play into it because they think that's what you want, and I don't know if that's the case.
Bret Michaels: I'm only going to speak for myself. Obviously in my past I had a quite wild relationship with Pamela Anderson
PR.com: I'm not saying she's not an intelligent woman
Bret Michaels: Go with me I found Pamela, and obviously she has blonde hair and big boobs, and she was very intelligent. Don't let her fool you. She knows what's going on. Here's what I'm looking for in a woman. The first thing you have to find, forget about the hair or the breasts for a minute; I'm looking for what I say is a physical attraction. That physical attraction comes when there's something about them that you look at, and one day that can be blonde hair and humongous breasts, and the next day it could be a very exotic looking girl with dark hair and green eyes and small breasts who's just beautiful. It doesn't have to do with the hair or the breasts. The first thing you need is physical attraction. You don't walk into a party and find the person you're most un-attracted to and then want to start a relationship. Everyone walks into the room and they say, "Wow! That person's really attractive." You walk over and you start talking and hanging out. Next thing you know, a couple of them immediately turn you off once they open their mouth. You're like, "Eeek! That will never pan out..."
PR.com: Yeah. "Peace out."
Bret Michaels: Maybe one night on the bus if I'm really drunk that could work, because I could drift out of town quickly. But for a relationship that will not work. Second, what I'm looking for is a great sense of energy and humor combined. I'm very self- deprecating. I'll make fun of myself before I will put someone else down. I'm looking for that in a woman as well; [someone] who can roll with the punches. I don't like high maintenance. High maintenance does not work for me at all. And I don't like anybody who talks down to people. I don't speak down to anyone who works around me, and so I won't put up with it in a relationship.
PR.com: Then you've debunked some of the stereotypes. Actually Pamela was the furthest thing from my mind.
Bret Michaels: Well that's the image that every rocker gets. Meaning, you go, "Damn! She's hot, blonde, big breasts." Kid and Tommy and myself but I was first (laughs)!
PR.com: (Laughs) You were there first!
Bret Michaels: I was the number one man!
PR.com: You set her on this path towards rock musicians
Bret Michaels: I set her on this path towards rock destruction (Laughs)! I am the man who can claim that. We used to laugh and she'd go, "Gosh, I used to go out with models and actors, and then I met you and it's been a path of destruction ever since."
PR.com: (Laughs) I don't think she's recovered yet.
Bret Michaels: No! She hasn't recovered! And I'm so sorry because she's such an awesome person (laughs). But once she got a little taste of that rock, she just couldn't go back. She got that bad boy thing and then she just couldn't go back. She tried and tried, but never went back to the other side.
PR.com: Girls like a bad boy with a good heart.
Bret Michaels: What you're saying about what girls are looking for, I think that if a guy is a likeable good hearted bad boy, who also can be creative and driven and spontaneous in other words, girls talk about a bad boy, but they don't want a guy that hits them. That's not the bad boy they're looking for.
PR.com: Actually, you know what, I misspoke. Women misspeak when they say that. You're looking for someone with a deep creative spirit and oftentimes that gets misunderstood as being bad.
Bret Michaels: We're both saying the same thing. A good hearted bad boy, meaning a guy who has this deep spirit, he lives outside the box and it's a turn on because they're likeable and great to that woman. What they want is this likeable good hearted bad boy, meaning rocker bad boy. That's not a bad thing. That guy's got a good spirit, he's creative and driven. They're looking for a guy that's got something going on, but he lives outside the box.
PR.com: Right. And that's oftentimes misinterpreted.
Bret Michaels: Yeah, but we like the word "bad boy."
PR.com: (Laughs) Yeah, we'll stick with bad boy.
Bret Michaels: We like the loveable bad boy (laughs).
PR.com: The loveable bad boy, yeah. But the reason I bring up this point is because in those promo clips for Rock of Love, there were these girls who were hanging all over you and they didn't seem too intelligent. If they were, then they were hiding it, because they're trying to fit into this category that they think you like.
Bret Michaels: A couple of the girls who were extremely intelligent and funny, at first, just were sort of living out what they thought I wanted, so I made a speech. I said, "What you need to bring is the real you. Just pop it out. I don't care." And a couple of girls, and this is no lie I had one of the girls that I was really head over heals for, and you know when you start to sniff out that something's wrong? I take her on this amazing date and on the way back in the limo we're sitting there talking and we're sort of connected, but not completely. I go, "What's the deal? I'm a big boy. I can handle rejection." Not well, and I may cry later, but not on TV (laughs). This show got very real. It brought out real conversations. One of the girls even booted me to the curb. How many people get kicked to the curb on their own show (laughs)?! That was a painful moment, but the reason I loved it is because I think people will understand that no matter where you are in life, rock star or not, the same shit happens. It's not like there's this magical vale. You may meet more people, but the same emotions play in.
PR.com: That makes sense. Because the more people in the public eye who I interview and speak to, on a human level, the more I realize that there's no magic carpet ride. We're all just people.
Bret Michaels: That is one of the best comments ever. There is no magic carpet ride. We're just people. And you've got to really fall in love. And this is my thing about being a "loveable bad boy" is that people know what I am and what I do. It's not like all of a sudden they woke up one day and I was working at a job and then I get a hit single and then I'm on the road. This is what I've done for twenty years, so they know what they're getting into. When [women] get around me, the one good quality I have in most of my relationships, well two qualities, is that I'm a good listener and I love sex. And I told them, "Please, do me a favor. If it's going to happen, let it just happen no matter if it's on a table, a chair, the floor, or the bed. Please don't take, like, an hour and a half shower to prepare to do it."
PR.com: Did you sleep with some of the women on the show?
Bret Michaels: No comment! There was a lot of sex involved but
PR.com: No comment means yes. Because if the answer was "no" you'd just say no.
Bret Michaels: Just let me say "no comment." I've always wanted to say that. I've never said that in an interview.
PR.com: Haha! Ok. How did 51 Minds (the show's producers) and VH1 choose the twenty-five girls for the show, and where did they find them?
Bret Michaels: They went to every city looking for girls who wanted to be on a rock dating show with Bret Michaels. They wanted to originally start with thirty girls. What happened is, the premise is that I cannot have known or have partied with any of them. I cannot have had sex with any of these girls prior. The next thing that happens is [the producers] say, "We're putting the thirty girls on the wall. Is there anybody here that you know?" I looked and said, "Well yeah, I've partied with her before." And they said, "Well she says she's never met you." So I said, "Ok look at this picture on MySpace. Here's the bus from a year ago, and here's the girl standing on the bus."
Bret Michaels: So we eliminated five girls, so now it became twenty-five. Then we went into the house and we threw ourselves a hum dinger of a party.
PR.com: Which girls were you most drawn to, the ones who came on very strong or the ones who were more aloof?
Bret Michaels: At first there's going to be a physical connection to the ones that are much more aggressive. But on the first night I went out of my way to try to sit and talk and hang with every one of them, individually. Then as they got drunker, and more adult beverages got poured, it got out of control to the point where the producers were starting to flip out because all of a sudden you'd be on the couch and five girls would jump up on the couch and start dancing. I think they weren't quite ready for the rock party that opened this show up.
PR.com: They don't know the groupie syndrome?
Bret Michaels: Well, it's not even groupie syndrome. What they were not prepared for was that these girls were not fake. They were truly being who they were. They were having fun. And you noticed right away, there were two or three that were real conservative and they would be over in the background by the pool and not say a whole lot. There was one that was extremely aggressive and drunk out of her mind!
PR.com: Lap dance girl, right?
Bret Michaels: It was just the alcohol, because she was actually a really nice person. But she shouldn't drink a whole lot. But those moments are what make for great TV. We started the party at 6pm, and it ended at 5 the next morning. The next day when I woke up, I got up and had to take my insulin. I worked out, did my thing. No one was feeling super great. And the next day, I've never looked more awful in my life (laughs)! My face was puffy and my hair was all stringy and hanging in my face. It wasn't my finest hour.
PR.com: What about the music? I know that you incorporated your music into the show. Is it songs from Poison, or new songs that you recorded solo?
Bret Michaels: Part of my whole reason for doing the show was that I would get to write the music for the show and get to play music. Most of the music in the show is solo material and Poison material. So you're getting the best of both worlds. If you didn't have music in a show by a musician, then that would be absolutely fake. That's what I do. Today I have my acoustic guitar. I get up, I jam a little bit. I have a full studio on my bus on the road. That's what I base what I do in my life on. I find what I love and then find things that surround it. I don't want to just be known for anything.
PR.com: You want your entire public identity to be wrapped around music.
Bret Michaels: Thank you.
PR.com: Your're welcome. I'm on fire today!
Bret Michaels: You are on! Can we just use your quotes as my quotes (laughs)? It took me an hour and a half, and you nail it in like four words.
PR.com: That's what I do (laughs). I like the single on your MySpace page, "Fallen." Is that from your newest album?
Bret Michaels: Yes. It gives you that side of me, and then there's another one on there called, "Go That Far," which is the Rock of Love theme song.
PR.com: People have labeled you, and I hope you don't get mad at me, but Glam Rock
Bret Michaels: Whether we're called glam rock, hair metal, hard rock I look at us as just a rock band. When we came out as Poison, we wanted to be shocking because when we moved to L.A. there were at least twenty thousand bands trying to make it. We wanted people to take notice of our music, but you couldn't just go out there in that day and age when everything was over the top. You needed to be extreme for people to take notice of what you were.
PR.com: Do you think you were pigeon holed into that glam/hair metal genre?
Bret Michaels: We were the ultimate garage band. Our band has been beaten up by every critic. Whatever people thought was a "punk" band, meaning you did it your way, you didn't care. That was Poison. We were independent, and we kept all of our publishing. We're our own record label. We did everything that was what punk rock was supposed to be. We'd have hit single after hit single, the critics would still crucify us and we still have massive fans. One day we realized this is who we are, and whether they call us hair metal, hard rock, glam rock, punk glam, punk metal I've been called everything. It seems like they could never put their finger on us and here we are twenty one years later, still selling out almost every arena we play.
PR.com: What's going on with your production company that you have with Charlie Sheen? Are you guys still producing movies?
Bret Michaels: We did three or four [movies] together and we had an awesome time. I want to say nothing but great things about Charlie. He treated me great and helped me to break into a very tough industry. I wrote these independent movies, and then we got Dimension and Miramax buying up some of my movies and letting me direct them. It was all great. Then [Poison] started heavily touring, and [Charlie Sheen] went on to do Spin City and then Two and a Half Men. It just wasn't business-wise to do a full production like we had been doing for about two or three years. We knocked out about three or four movies in, like, a three year span. But this year I'm going to do an independent film called Between a Rose and a Thorn (A title, no doubt, inspired by Poison's hit ballad, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn").
PR.com: Is that semi-autobiographical?
Bret Michaels: Semi. You will see a mixture of what I call a Spinal Tap approach to a serious movie. It shows you the full spectrum of a person a lot like me, and the crossroads in my life. When we're a child we fantasize about what rock n' roll is red carpets, caviar, Lear jets but no work involved. You pick your guitar up, managers fly you in, and you magically appear on stage; there's millions of women, and then you leave. I found out the hard way that, well, there's many a slip between the cup and the lip. You know what I mean (laughs)? And that's what this movie is about. It shows you the crossroads of my life. The day Poison broke big, when our first album went from three copies sold to three and a half million, we were getting all these plaques and all this stuff. I'll never forget walking outside the Capitol [Records] Building after they gave us this big ceremony and the news was there. They locked the door and I couldn't get back in the building. I'm standing outside going, "I gotta get back in. I think I left my car keys inside the building." Here I am in one of the greatest moments of my life and I'm standing outside by a dumpster while the janitor's cleaning stuff. How do you show the world these moments?
PR.com: I get it. It's like total elation and then this anti-climatic moment.
Bret Michaels: (Laughs) Yeah, I'm like, "Does anyone have the car keys? Fuck! We left them in the building!" It's that moment of greatness and then the moment of complete deflation. I want to show people that this is what happened in my life and that it's the journey, not the destination.
PR.com: What about you, would you say, is most like the cliché of what people think a "rock star" is, and what quality or thing about you is most un-like that cliché?
Bret Michaels: When you meet me and come onto the tour bus, I like to through a great party. I won't say all that I do, but I like to have a little drink or maybe a little smoke I'm just saying. But I'm a fun party guy. I don't go bad on alcohol. I don't become a mean drunk. I'm a happy-go-lucky party [guy]. Every cliché rock party you could think of, I have thrown on my bus.
PR.com: And the most un-like?
Bret Michaels: When I need private time, I get in my vehicle, and my love in life is to drive. I can get in a car or my Harley and I like to go out in the desert for four or five hours and have nobody and nothing around me. Just listening to some tunes, driving, and just completely clear my head. And I'm a Weather Channel freak (laughs). I love Court TV and The Weather Channel.
PR.com: One last question. I don't know what you can tell me or what you can't tell me. I know you can't tell me what happened on the show.
Bret Michaels: (Laughs) But you're gonna ask me anyway
PR.com: I'm gonna ask it in a cryptic way
Bret Michaels: You're gonna sneak it in, aren't you?
PR.com: Well, I'm announcing that I'm sneaking it in (laughs)! Is there anyone special in your life right now?
Bret Michaels: I will say that obviously my two daughters without a doubt. That is very special as a father. But, on a love connection side, there is someone special. And I'll just leave it at that.
"Rock of Love" with Bret Michaels premieres
Sunday, July 15th on VH1. Go to www.vh1.com.