Listen to Poison's current single, "Something to Believe In," and you'll hear singer Brett Michaels lament the abundance of social injustice in America today, from homeless people starving in the streets to Vietnam vets dying lonely and forgotten. "If there's a Lord above," he sings, "please give me something to believe in."
Sit down and talk with the singer, though, and it quickly becomes obvious that he does have something to believe in -- the fans.
"Because the fans are always there," says Michaels over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "If our career was judged by the reviews we got, we would have been done in 1986. Fortunately, our band has been based on what the fans think."
Consequently, Poison has always encouraged contact with its fans, if only to show appreciation for the support. Sometimes, that can take unusual forms; tonight, for instance, the band is making an impromptu appearance at Hammerjacks for a free show before playing the Capital Centre tomorrow evening. (98 Rock will announce ticket giveaway locations for the Hammerjacks show this morning, starting at 7:30. Hammerjacks will also have a limited number of tickets at the door. You must be 21 or over to attend the show; call 752-3302 for further $H information.)
Then there's the way Poison deals with backstage passes. Some bands use post-concert parties as a way of picking up groupies, but Poison takes a more egalitarian approach. "My sister's a production assistant on the road," explains Michaels, "so I give her a bunch of passes that are just for the people that look like they're raising the most hell for the band.
"It can be girls, guys, security people, whatever. I mean, she goes through the audience, up to the top layers, so that everyone's given that chance. If they're up in the back row and raising hell, she'll give them a couple passes to come back and party with the band. It's not like the old days where it was the girls in the first row, and that's it."
That's one reason why Michaels shies away from the word "groupie." "Groupie seems like a harsh word," he says. "But a fan is someone who loves the band. And when we go out to our bus, there are as many guys who want us to sign their jacket or sign their patch, as girls who want us to sign their jeans or the picture book that they brought.
"They may have different things to sign, but they're there for the same reasons, because they want to meet you."
And Michaels understands, because he was that way himself. "When I was growing up [in Harrisburg, Pa.], I went to the Spectrum in Philly to see Van Halen and Kiss and even Motley Crue. Just to meet them, so they'd sign something."
In fact, Michaels' memories of the way he felt when he was just another rock and roll kid screaming for his favorite band help keep him from getting too upset over the occasional bad press that comes Poison's way. "It's not that I care or don't care what the critics think," he says. "It's just sometimes what they write is blatantly wrong, blatantly a lie, or blatantly biased.
"But when I was growing up, I would read reviews on my favorites, especially Aerosmith, and [the critics] hated that type of music. And I'd read the review, and think, 'Well, I was at the show and I thought they were great.'
"The more they wrote bad things about them, the more I liked these bands. When they said it was a lousy show, I'd go out and get another Kiss patch or Aerosmith T-shirt.
"So when I see our fans there, it's almost like we're one big gang, if that makes any sense."