For more than 20 years Pete Evick has been the guitarist in Bret Michaels’ solo band, but he is much more than that. Pete is a best-selling author with a new book called MTV Famous, he owns his own candle company and fronts his own band. Pete recently took some time to talk about his book and all of his other adventures.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Pete Evick:
On the 80’s generation growing up with a love of music – We were all the same. Every one of us, man. And that was important. It’s like the old thing with Kiss. I bring up the Kiss thing because at their reunion, the old motto of” Kiss Is For The People” came back out and I hadn’t heard that used in a long time, what they were about. That was the same thing as my first book was not even about the music business, it was just about people. I really connected with a lot of people who weren’t in the music (business) about that book and the reward I received from hearing people say that it touched them was so great that I thought it’d be unique to try to pull what I did with that book into a kind of rock biography and still tell these rock and roll stories, but be inspirational and nostalgic to the reader instead of just be like, “Oh, look at all the great things I did”.
On going from Poison fan to Bret’s guitarist – I don’t know if I would say (it’s) weird (going from fan to friend). Not ever weird directly with him. Our friendship was instant and as if we’d known each other a million years. Weird on that stage, those first couple of years playing “Every Rose”, most of it was fine. But when we’d get to “Every Rose” and hit that big opening chord, and I’d look out at all those people and know that I was one of those people like we’re talking about and almost having an out-of-body experience. In my brain, I should have been in the audience and now my body was floating above the crowd out on the stage. I don’t know, unfortunately, I don’t ever say the word weird because it’s what I always wanted. I think I talk about it in the book because this stuff happened a little bit later in my life, it was more of a feeling of relief than anything.
I’d had a couple of record deals. They never went great, but that was good. I’d made a living in the music business. It wasn’t like I was, and forgive me for anyone it is, but it wasn’t like I was working at the 7-Eleven wishing that I still played the guitar. I was grateful for everything I did, but at the moment when I really, not the first couple of shows, but after I knew we were on tour and we were rolling and this was what it was it was just a feeling of everything that everybody ever helped me with was finally worth it. Every dollar my parents spent every night that my friends came to the club when they really didn’t want to be there. Just to help support. You got your friends, they come out and see us six nights out of six nights a month. They don’t really want to do that, but they’re supporting you and us as musicians.
Here’s the thing that I deal with a whole lot. Now, as I’ve gotten older is eventually I want to give that back because I don’t go out to see anyone play because we play so much. Then when we don’t play, I’m playing solo acoustic work back home and doing different things. I don’t ever want to stop what I’m doing, but if something comes, I think the next time a Poison tour happens, I think my goal is to go out and see another band every single night. Someone, I just want to support the people that supported me somehow. But that list starts in 1978. It’s almost like, what was that show? There was a show where the guy spent his entire life going back and making up for the mistakes he did. It was a comedy, “My Name is Earl”. Do you remember? It’s almost a version of that, but not necessarily making up for my mistakes, but I want to go back and somehow repay. everybody that ever, ever drove me to a guitar lesson or, or helped me do something. You don’t get there by yourself. I know you say you make your own luck and that’s true, but you do not get there by yourself.
On how he had the education and confidence to build a recording studio in his 20s – The education I’ve always been a learning guy. I’ve always I mean, obviously now these days the internet you can find out anything you want at any time, but I read books, and I was consumed and I went to other local studios and anyone that knew anything, even when I was a kid playing guitar, I didn’t just have one guitar teacher. If you were a guitar teacher in town, I went to you. I went everywhere and I learned everything I could, every single music store, every single thing. I am certain that from the ages of 12 to 18, I actually annoyed the piss out of every single person that worked in a music store or some kind of the music industry.
Even if I would meet people. I met the guys in Danger Danger. I think I tell you about that in the book and I’m nice to them. They’re super, super kind to me, but I started drilling them about the business of music. There was a band called Heaven’s Edge from Philadelphia. Do you remember them? I love them and they played a club, and me and my drummer Chuck went to see them at the Bayou in Washington DC and somehow we got into the back room and they had a mobile recording studio set up. All of a sudden, that’s all I cared about. I just wanted to talk to whichever member that band was running that thing and how to do it. So education, I just learned, but as far as what gave me the balls, so to speak, that is my greatest gift and my worst curse.
I believe I’m invincible to this day. I just believe there’s nothing I can’t do. I took everything. I knew from the music business and applied to the candle industry, if you read about that, I didn’t know anything about that. Now I grew my company into one of the leading soy candle companies in the United States. I’m working on this hot sauce. Well, it’s not a hot sauce. It’s a marinade, but it’s a company called the Virginia Sauce and Spice Company. I have a whole new model of how that company is going to work. I’m not a cook and I’m not a food guy. I’m a foodie, but I’m not going to sit around the rest of my life making recipes. But I have a whole concept that I want to apply from what I know of the music business into that company. Bret says it best, “bet on yourself”. You just believe. I just believe there’s nothing I can’t do. So there you go.
On the mindset it takes to go from being a great local band to being a national band – Thank you for bringing that up because that was a very, very powerful moment of my life. I speak about it in the book very powerfully. It was an instant when I was standing there on that stage, the 1st night with Bret in Detroit and it was a physical sensation my body felt to which I looked over and I went, “Oh, I understand what it is”. None of us have any idea what it is. You don’t even know what it is when you have it. Bret doesn’t know he has it. But 60 years old and still cries and whines about how hard we got to work to make it and get bigger and stuff like that. It’s not a greed thing. He wakes up every day like Cat Dragged In never came out and like “Every Rose” was never a hit every day. He acts like that and he still strives and stays hungry. I think that’s another important part to keep that going.
It was so eye-opening. I wish that everybody in the world (could experience it). A lot of people get to do things like that, play with their heroes, like at these rock schools and fantasy camps and stuff like that now. But if Bret was to walk in and do a rock school, he wouldn’t bring that energy that he brought to the stage. It would be different. It wouldn’t be what I felt that night. I almost wish that everybody that is truly pursuing a career in music had the opportunity to play one song with one of their real heroes in the real event in a real event. Dave Grohl lets these people do that all the time. He always picks somebody up with Grohl and I have to believe they walk away feeling the same thing because with Grohl, it’s not about energy Bret has all the energy in the world and jumping around like crazy and stuff. But Dave Grohl doesn’t have that he’s tied to that microphone a lot of times a lot of people are guitar players and singers, but man, he’s 25 foot tall on that stage. He’s a giant.
You can practice all day long. There’s always someone better than you. There’s always someone better-looking than you. That’s the thing that cracks me up too. In the eighties, I understand the look and the look was cool. I had that look too, but the focus was out of whack because anybody could go buy some clothes and look like that. You want it to be original. When Poison hit the scene, no one had looked like that yet. They took it another step further, then, but then there’s the flip side of that too. None of them wanted to look like that. You think of Motley Crue with Theater of Pain, they did that for one record and got the fuck out of that and got right back to those jackets on Girls, Girls, Girls. Motley Crue, and Poison by Flesh and Blood, they were all jeans and denim jackets. You did what you had to do to get noticed. Thanks to Kiss, Alice Cooper, there is a showmanship to it, but people look at the wrong reasons. My point of that was people would focus on image and look, but then think of people like John Popper from Blues Traveler, that guy was a gigantic star selling out huge places with those hits, look at people today. Look at Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, and all these guys. People are always usually off by just a little bit, you’re only off by what you’re missing. You’re just focusing a little energy too much on the wrong thing. The key to that is the real story of success is always going to be, whether it’s in a song or a statement on the stage or an interview, is to say something that everybody can relate to.
Say something, be the people’s person. Again, you can’t make an effort to do that. You can’t fake it. That’s the problem. You either are, or you aren’t. I’m going through this with my son right now, cause my son is working on a music career and he’s got this gives me chills to think about the last time I saw him perform because he’s only been performing a year and he wants to single-handedly bring back that 80s sound, but not like all these other bands have tried to do that are almost kind of corny and goofy. He wants to bring back the Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood-era stuff, or the Skid Row stuff, or Warrant, the stuff that was more well-produced and well-written. He loves all that stuff and we’ve worked on a couple of songs. He keeps writing these lyrics because he’s so into it. He came to me with these lyrics that were almost “Nothing But a Good Time”, he didn’t rip it off, but it was the story of, “I got to get up early and go to work and fuck my boss”, and all this stuff. And I’m like, Gavin, I’m your boss. You come to work at four o’clock in the afternoon. You’re faking this and no one in your generation feels that way anymore. You have to write something or even wear a shirt with a statement. You just have to be the voice of a people to get to that real level. “Every Rose” was super powerful for Bret. I don’t want to keep going on about Poison, but those are the things I learned.
On creating his candle company – The thing with Shining Soul was that I was at this point in life where I was really dark and down with the music industry, but I’d learned so much. I was aware of how much I’d learned at the music of the music industry, and I wanted to test myself. The entire thing was originally a test to see if I could take things that we do in the music business and apply it to an industry that wouldn’t see it coming. If you’re in a band, no matter what you think you are, you can say you’re a musician or you can say you’re integral. If you’re in a band to succeed, you are marketing yourself. You are a marketer from day one. All the things that I learned from Gene Simmons and all the things, not Gene personally, I don’t know him personally, but I mean, he’s an open book to his success. He loves to tell you everything he did great. All the things I’d learned from Bret and all the things in the music business. The candle industry was a multi-billion dollar American industry without any TV commercials, any, any discernible logos, and that’s all I kept thinking is, “What if there was a Kiss of the candle company or Ford?” I don’t million people that have a Ford t-shirt that don’t have a Ford car. I wanted to see if I could apply that and change something, but at the same time, I had this really weird thing. I didn’t want to seek and destroy. There’s hundreds and hundreds of small candle companies and hobbyists. People making a living as a side job. I didn’t want to come and destroy that. I just wanted to see if I could take things from the music industry and create something different, but I had to do it with something that I was passionate about. I was very passionate about the creation of the candle company. The more I learned about what I could do to help the environment and help the American farmer, I got more and more excited about. It and that drove me harder to do it.
It’s a struggle ever since COVID-19 the candle company’s a struggle. During COVID the candle industry boomed and everything was great. But then the supply chain problems started happening and we would go months without our main jar and your jar is like your guitar. It’s like Eddie Van Halen showing up without the stripes. Our look is ours. You had to twist and bend and then the prices went up dramatically on all goods. I didn’t want to start gouging people for candles. It’s a world-class product and I do believe it’s the best of what it is. But there’s a lot of these candle companies that’ll charge you like $80, $90 for the same exact thing I make, but, but it’s marketing, it’s all in the marketing. Other than the kind of wax you use a candle is a candle. To be honest with you, every one of them costs the same to make within a dollar or two. There’s candles that sell for $150. I can make that exact candle in my shop for the same price I make my candle that I sell for $30 bucks. It’s just the truth, but marketing is everything. Then if you get a product, you know, like Prada shoes, I guess you get a particular product that strikes a nerve with the wealthy and they’re willing to spend that money and you can get that money. And then all of a sudden it turns into what it is.
On if Bret ever thinks about Poison being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – The truth of the matter is, I don’t think Brett gives a single fuck about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s a lot of us that just let it go. It’s not our thing. It’s not our club. Bret’s not a jealous guy. So he doesn’t spend his life in spite of “Why is U2 U2 and we’re us?” He doesn’t feel that way. There’s every once in a while, there’ll be things that might have been managerial decisions or things we misstepped on that will bother him, but he owns everything. He is not a woe-is-me guy, that diabetes thing, and his health his whole life has kept him from. He’s never gonna cry you a river. He’s grateful for his success. Like I said, he wakes up every day acting like he never wrote “Every Rose”, it’s really the weirdest thing you’ll ever see. To be honest with you, if there’s been moments where I’ve thought about, let me film this and he’ll be so angry at me at first, but the message I would deliver would be so positive. Eventually, he would understand what I was showing the people. I think none of us even talk about it anymore. I don’t know who’s in it or who’s not in it. The last thing I remember at all was Eddie Trunk raising a fit about Judas Priest, and I don’t remember if they ended up making it in. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I would say the opposite of what most people think. I think too many people that don’t deserve to get in, get in. That thing should be reserved for the Game Changers. It should be reserved for the Led Zeppelins and the Van Halens. I’m a gigantic Van Halen fan and I do think it was ridiculous the way they were inducted and it was the only time in my life that I was ever heartbroken at a choice Eddie made to not show up. But he didn’t care. At the end of the day, what does it matter because you get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame past your prime, you’ve already sold all the records you’re going to sell anyway, so what does it actually do for you? I have a lot of friends who write for, one of my friends, Rich Bienstock is the guy who wrote the Nothing But A Good Time book. He’s one of my really, really good friends. He used to write for Guitar World, and then he writes for Rolling Stone, and he does all this stuff, and he’s a good friend, and he’s helped me tremendously by putting me into Guitar World, and he’s done things for me that a lot of people that in my position don’t get to do. (Jeff) Blando from Vince Neal’s band is one of my good buddies, and he doesn’t end up in those magazines and different things and Rich puts me in those and, and I’m grateful for him, but I don’t get bitter for those that don’t help. I just don’t. I don’t think Brett does either. We’ve never once had a conversation about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On 2024 plans – After the first year I do this thing, this will be my 15th year where my own band, Evick, we do a New Year’s “After New Year’s” show, and I do it every year, and it’s a really neat experience. It’s a very small version of the Sammy Hagar birthday event. Where all the fans I’ve met over the years come from all over the country, and we just have a concert in my hometown. I want to say all, I’m talking about 500 people, but for little me and my little town, it’s pretty impressive. Every year I go right when we start the show, I go everyone “Give it up if you’re not from here” and the place erupts. I usually have the city officials and stuff there. We all get a kick out of the power of rock and roll because it’s not even about my band playing anymore. It’s a community that comes for that weekend. I’m just an hour of the entertainment. They go out to eat. They do different things in town. They hang out together. So we do that on January 13th. And then we go straight to Key West for the Rock Island Festival. Then, to be honest with you, I think we’re full on. I think we at least have Fridays and Saturdays all the way up into June or July again already. So, no Poison for all those people that keep waiting for a Poison 2024 announcement. They’ll keep waiting for it and he’s not doing it.