POISON singer Bret Michaels spoke to the nationally syndicated rock radio show "The Tour Bus" (web site) about his band's ongoing war of words with DEF LEPPARD singer Joe Elliott over Elliott's comments at a June 6 press conference at the Sweden Rock Festival, in which Joe said bands like POISON and MÖTLEY CRÜE had "no substance in their music" and therefore relied more on their image in the '80s.
Michaels on how the whole feud started:
"I went over to do… I literally played at the Taste of Summer in Waukesha [Wisconsin]… I get done. I fly that night to Sweden, I land, [we] drive… literally… drive to the venue… I mean, it's like a 900-hour flight. [We] get in a car, [and we] drive to Sweden Rock, which is an amazing festival — we're closing it. We have the biggest night of the whole festival. Usually their closing night is their weakest night 'cause everyone is going home. It's their biggest night, they've sold all the tickets — it's huge. We get there, and the first thing I do, I get out of the car and they say, 'You've gotta go to a press conference.' And I'm like, 'OK.' Now. I haven't slept. This is beyond sunglasses at this point. I go, 'Alright.' I walk into the tent [where the press conference was being held]. They have a special entrance; you supposed to go through this… I'm like, 'Well, they're friends and press people. Why don't I walk just in and say 'Hello?' blah blah blah. I walk in, I'm shaking hands, hanging out, talking, whatever… Then I go up and start to answer questions. Everything goes great. You know, they're asking stuff, they're videotaping, they're doing whatever. All of a sudden, one guy goes, 'We have a video of Joe Elliott last night saying that MÖTLEY CRÜE and POISON and all these bands have no talent, they can't play.' Now, let me just put this on the record: I'm a DEF LEPPARD fan. Not 'kind of a fan' — like, I own the CDs; I own the albums. We used to do the song 'Wasted', if that gives you any indication. I used to play 'On Through The Night' with like… The song 'Wasted' was one of our favorite songs…. I'm a DEF LEPPARD fan. Old-school, new-school — it doesn't matter. Gone to see their shows, liked the guys. Joe Elliott, I don't really know, but he seems like a decent guy, whatever. I get in there and the guy says it to me. I say, 'You're lying. I don't think Joe would say that.' He's like, 'No, I've got it on video.' Which they had on video — him [Joe] stating this. And I'm looking at him going, 'Wait, he's dissing MÖTLEY CRÜE and POISON. We're here to…' I'm thinking, I've never said anything but nice stuff. And from what I understand, obviously Joe does not wanna be known as 'hair metal.' And I said, 'Listen, I don't think that 'Something To Believe In', as a songwriter, is a hair-metal song, but you can call me whatever you want. I like a lot of the bands that they call hair metal; I happen to think they're really good bands. So call me whatever you want — I've been called a lot worse. At first I take no offense to Joe's thing and then I start to get worked up 'cause he's, like, we can't write, we can't play. And then it hits me that, listen, I've been nothing but cool. And I go, 'Well, this is coming from a guy who lip-synched on 'Dancing With The Stars'.' I go, 'This guy lip-synched…' [Mega-producer] Mutt Lange writes their… you know, does their albums… I'm not dissing them, I'm just saying… In other words, I was like, 'Look, give me and Joe a guitar each and a pen and a piece of paper, stick us in a room for an hour [and see who'll come out] with a couple of songs. But I don't wanna fight Joe. In other words, what bummed me out was that one of the guys I like is dissing every band… I'm like, why does he feel dissing all these bands or putting them down makes him any better? Isn't he secure enough in his success or where he's at… If someone said, 'Hey, what do you think about MÖTLEY?' Even though we've had words — MÖTLEY and us, or supposedly, whatever — I'm like, 'Hey, I like MÖTLEY's music. I'm a fan. They have good rock songs.' I just feel uncomfortable in my skin.'"
On whether Joe's words might have been taken out of context:
"I think what happened was… He might have been pushed. And I wanna say this for his fans as well as my fans — all rock fans — I'm not in a fight with DEF LEPPARD; I like their music, I like Joe Elliott. This has gotten so beyond anything… And I looked at the guy when he said it to me and I said, 'You're lying to me.' I'm like, 'Joe sat in this tent where I'm sitting…' And I just got done telling everybody how great DEF LEPPARD is. I'm like, 'Man, they sound great, they've got good tunes.' And then it just pissed me off. I was, like, 'Wait a minute. I've done nothing but say nice stuff. Every time I've ever seen the guys, they've been nothing but cool. So it was a little, maybe, taken out of context, and for me… I don't wanna fight with them. I like their music."
On whether POISON drummer Rikki Rockett challenged Joe Elliott to a fight:
"That I didn't see. What I thought was going on was that they were like… What the joke was from a lot of fans was, like, 'Don't trip over a water backstage at a DEF LEPPARD concert, you might unplug the stereo.' And I said, 'With our band, we don't ever use…' There's nothing. That's what blows everyone's minds. You go to a lot of 'concerts,' and you can trip over anything we've got, we play everything. In other words, the keyboard player… We have one guy extra to sing some of the parts, but that's it. There's no… You can put us in a club… Like we did it in New York. We went and played for, I believe it was WPLJ, and they stuck us in this club and [we] played, and it was one of the best nights we'd had, 'cause you can put us there or in the stadium or an arena, and it's gonna sound the same; there's no fear. And that's what some of the joke… I think Rikki's challenge was the same as mine. If this is gonna become a songwriting duel, Rikki goes, 'Do you bring Mutt Lange, or do you bring the band?'"
An audio recording of Bret Michaels talking to "The Tour Bus" about POISON's war of words with Joe Elliott is available for streaming and/or download at this location.
Elliott recently hit back at Rockett and Michaels over their response to Joe's comments at the Sweden Rock press conference. Rockett questioned Elliott's rock historian credentials in his posting, and wrote, "I'd be hurt if this were coming from John Lennon... So it takes about one minute and 45 seconds to put on eyeliner. I suppose during that same time you were writing the next 'Imagine'."
Michaels had already responded to Elliott's comments earlier, saying, "We have not sold out, and continuously, for 20 years every arena because we care about just our appearance. The music comes first." He then added, "(DEF LEPPARD) shouldn't be knocking anyone about their music since they just did a show called 'Dancing With The Stars' in the U.S. and they got crucified because they fucking lip-synched the entire show, so before they bust anyone's balls, I've never lip-synched a fucking thing in my life — ever! It's the pot calling the kettle black."
In a July 18 message posted at DEF LEPPARD's official web site, Elliott wrote, "I was simply making the following simple point when I said a lot of those Hollywood bands weren't 'real' (or whatever I said)... I was born Joseph Elliott, Sav was born Richard Savage, Rick was born Richard Allen, Phil was born Philip Collen, Viv was born Vivian Campbell, and oh, Steve was born Stephen Clark. I don't think anyone in POISON uses their real name, do they? And I could name hundreds of others who don't, but POISON came to mind because I was asked about them! It's nothing personal, it was just an answer to a question. . . Hey... Rikki implies we're miming on tour?! HA!!! Well, he's welcome to come see us anytime he wants... Obviously not used to hearing a good band very often then, is he??"
Video footage of Elliott's original comment and Bret's response can be viewed below.