January 2016 interview by Todd Jolicoeur, photos by mintypics.com
Some interviews are stiff and rigid. Other interviews are well planned journalistic pieces that take a lot of preparation and thought. My favorite interviews are those with people that are your friends - out latest piece, an interview with Pete Evick of Evick, Downtime and the Bret Michaels Band, is one of those conversations. we just shoot the breeze and catch up. Sure it sounds like and reads like an interview, but the discussion is really two guys who haven't chatted in a while catching up... so come along and catch up on what Pete has been doing and what he has planned for 2016 as lead guitarist and band leader for Bret Michaels.
Toddstar: It's been a little while since we talked, not only as friends, but in an interview scenario. You have so much going on, plus your Bret stuff. Let's start with you. You've been doing these cool things with Stageit.
Pete: Yeah, man. Stageit's the way of the future, as far as I'm concerned. It's just a cool thing. I don't know if you tuned in or have seen it happen, but it's an incredible way for the people to reach their fans. Especially, interestingly enough, I think that it was probably designed with the youth of the music business in mind, but I feel it's an incredible way for some of us that are veterans of the music business and our fans that aren't as excited about getting up and getting babysitters and going out anymore, just to see a live show. The technology is what's cool. Obviously, it's very youthful and modern, but the idea that some of our fans that have children and families and jobs and stuff, and can't make the travel or can't even afford… the price of a concert ticket alone is expensive these days, but there's also babysitters, travel, food, hotels, if you're going to stay in places that aren't in main areas. The Stageit thing gives you the opportunity for anyone to watch from their house. It's still a very live experience. It's not like watching YouTube. You can't rewind it. You can't share it with a friend. You've got to be locked up. It's just like a real concert.
Toddstar: The fun part of this is, and unfortunately, I haven't been able to be in front of a computer when you've had them so far - I keep waiting for more to pop up, is you're doing this with your own band, Downtime. This isn't a Bret Michaels thing. This is a Pete and his band thing. What's it like to be able to sit and jam with these guys from your own basement, yet have all your fans be able to check it out?
Pete: To me, it's amazing, because that's where it all starts. I was born and raised and lived in Manassas, Virginia my whole life. My very first band practice was in a basement. Not the same house, but a basement of my home. It's full circle. It's like being 16 again. It's a really unique experience, but that basement is where we rehearse and where we record anyway. It's where we make music, so it's not like it was really foreign or odd-feeling. It was just put a camera up and let it film us.
Toddstar: How does it feel when you stand at that mic and you do this thing that is yours? You're not the band leader; you're not the lead guitarist. This is your project. Does this give you the same chills it did back in the day?
Pete: You know what? It's a different feeling completely. I think when you're young and you're afraid and you're protecting it with everything you have and you want everyone to love it, but you also protect it. I don't know if that's the best way to say it. As you get older, you get a more careful attitude, like, "This is it. If you like it, great. If you don't, great." It feels good. It's good to celebrate it as you get older. I'm happier at my age at 43. A lot of people my age start getting worried that their days gone by, and that if they aren't going to be some superstar by now, that they never are going to be and they should hang it up. To me, it's not ever going to be about hanging it up. I've done a lot of wonderful things, but there's still a lot of music in me. I'm still excited to deliver it in any way I can from my basement or in front of 100,000 people.
Toddstar: You gave me a great segue. You mentioned you've still got tons of music in you. Can we expect more solo releases from you? More music? I know you had something not too long ago, it was one track. Do you have a whole disc coming?
Pete: Well, I don't know if there's such a thing as discs anymore, but I have a collection of songs that I'm still working on. Just recently, getting the time to work on them again. We hit it pretty hard last summer. I didn't think we were going to go play as much as we did last year with Bret, but the schedule just filled up. We went with it. The schedule's still full, but my book's been released and some of my other things are off my plate. I can focus more on the music and certainly the solo instrumental stuff is one of the things I'm working on.
Toddstar: Awesome. You hit another high point. You released a killer book last year. We reviewed it. We loved it, as you well know. You and I talked about it.
Pete: You're always so kind about all of that.
Toddstar: I'm only kind when it's good stuff, Pete. Is there another one in there? Is there a follow-up?
Pete: There absolutely is. I'm just not exactly sure how to do it yet or when I'm going to do it. I've tossed around so many different ideas. Part of me wants to go completely different direction, but also part of me believes that I struck a real nerve with what I was writing about. Now, I've kind of thought, those were the moments from my childhood up, now, I'm starting about maybe thinking about going backwards and maybe starting with some of the moments that happened this year and move backwards a little bit. Maybe write, 12, 14 chapters about stuff that happened in my adult life that's still affecting me the same way as the stuff in childhood did.
Toddstar: You mentioned you really struck a nerve, and you did. Anybody that knows you or follows you on Facebook, Twitter, all the different social feeds, saw that it seemed like you had dozens of fans at every stoplight just wanting a photo of you and the book.
Pete: That was fun, right? In my music career, I never really documented much of it. The early days of my music career were before smart phones or cell phones that have a camera in it. I never really stopped to breathe any of it in, take pictures or anything like that as I was going along. When the book came out, I decided I was going to take pictures of everything. Every single fan that has a book in front of me, I take that selfie and put it up. It's very important to me.
Toddstar: It wasn't with the book, but I know a selfie with Pete is one of my favorites every time we get together. You also have Shining Sol Candle [http://www.shiningsol.com/]. You guys have been launching some cool stuff. For Valentine's Day, you had the special blend of cherry and chocolate.
Pete: Yeah, that was crazy. It sounds dumb. I don't know why no one had thought of it – or maybe and someone has and I just didn't know it. I was actually upstairs doing nothing and it struck a nerve that I ought to just go down and mix those two together. I did. It was awesome. I don't know. We don't need to talk about candle scents, but it smelled good. Everybody that smelled it, loved it, and I thought, "Well, we ought to put that one in production."
Toddstar: I don't mind talking candle scents, because you and I have talked about it before. Your artistic reach is more than just the music. It's a little bit of everything. Each of these pieces is just another component that feeds into the other. You've also released a platinum candle line.
Pete: Yeah, the new platinum line this year. We just came out with a more upscale thing. I think when I first started, the candles were more like what Yankee Candle or Village Candle or Kringle Candle do. That's what you see a lot in Virginia. That's where the world I live in is that market, but as I dove more into it and started paying attention to a lot of what some of my friends in LA and New York had, I realized there's a whole different level of candles that isn't marketed that way. The Platinum line doesn't have any labels on it. It's just a black jar, white wax, but more of a refreshing, rejuvenating scent. I think there's a market for it. We put it together. I think it's a cool looking jar. I'm excited about it.
Toddstar: I love it. I'm waiting to finish burning through the apple one I've got up at our cottage.
Pete: Right on.
Toddstar: Another cool one you've got out is the Twisted Sister candle. That had to be huge for you. I know you grew up with them as well.
Pete: Yeah. Twisted Sister is the first concert I ever saw in my life. This is their 40th anniversary this year. I know the guys really well. One of the guys that represents them, Danny Stanton, and me, are really close buddies. He put me together with Jay Jay [French] to make the deal on it. It just made sense because that album cover, Come Out and Play album cover was iconic. I kept looking at it and going, "Man, that would look great on top of one of these tins." I mocked it up before I did the deal with them. I showed it to them. I said, "Wouldn't this be cool?" Everyone agreed. It was a cool, neat item to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Toddstar: Like you said, it's got the iconic cover on the lid. Also, The Fire Still Burns label ison there. It's a cool package for anybody who loves metal and loves candles.
Pete: Yeah. Twisted Sister fans are like KISS fans. They're die hard. They want everything that has to do with it. We've seen a lot of sales. I've gotten new customers just from that candle, but it just looks cool. I look at it every day and think that's probably the coolest thing I've done with that business.
Toddstar: You mention that your calendar's starting to fill up with Bret's stuff now. Let's shift gears and talk about that. You guys put out a new compilation last year, True Grit, which was a great collection of different tracks, different mixes, and different versions. Any other musical surprises waiting for us in 2016? Or, are we just getting the Bret Michaels Band the way we all know and love them?
Pete: We're going to change the set a little bit this year. There's going to be more solo material in it than there's ever been. This is Poison's 30th anniversary this year. I don't know that there's going to be a Poison tour or not, but we've told Bret, clearly in the band, that we're going to celebrate the 30 years of the music we grew up on with him. I hope to put "Cry Tough" into the set and a couple of the real classic songs that maybe don't make it sometimes. We're going to be out all over the place. Coming back to The Machine Shop, and then we're doing the big arenas outside. We're doing everything again this year. It's going to be full-on rock 'n roll attack like it always is.
Toddstar: You mentioned "Cry Tough." What are a couple of playing tracks that you've always wanted to play live but maybe couldn't slide in as much as you wanted to in addition to "Cry Tough"?
Pete: We've done "Cry Tough"” over the years. We have done it, but I always joke with Bret about "Back To The Rocking Horse," which was on the Open Up And Say... Ahh! record. There's also a song off of Flesh & Blood called, "Life Loves a Tragedy," that I actually have the lyrics on my arm, tattooed on my arm. I'd like to do "Back To The Rocking Horse." I'd like to do "Life Loves a Tragedy." There are actually some tracks off of the Native Tongue record that Richie Kotzen played on. There's a song called "Fire & Ice," and a song called "Theatre Of The Soul." Both ballad type of songs, but just amazing songs that I would love to do.
Toddstar: I'm a huge fan of the Native Tongue album myself.
Pete: You know it?
Toddstar: It's so good. "Until You Suffer Some." There's nothing better, man.
Pete: Yeah. That's "Fire and Ice." That's great.
Toddstar: It's a great track. "Back To The Rocking Horse" is one of my favorite songs on Open Up and Say... Ahh!. Those would be great additions as far as I'm concerned. You mentioned something else now that you hit me right in the heart and you know you did. I think it hit you in the heart is The Machine Shop [http://www.themachineshop.info/].
Pete: Yep. Nothing like it.
Toddstar: You guys are coming back March 20. It's a Sunday night, so I can't wait to be up there and say hello again.
Pete: We missed you the last time.
Toddstar: Yeah. I was in Australia.
Pete: What a terrible flight that is, man. Terrible flight.
Toddstar: Dude, you're telling me. What's it about a place like The Machine Shop when you roll up in there that just it feels right for you guys?
Pete: Here's the thing. Actually, one of the other books I'm writing, instead of The Moments That Make Us; I'm writing The Places That Made Me. Instead of an inspirational book about trying to help people with being better people or being a better parent, this book is more tales of me in the music business and growing up in the places I've played. I was very fortunate to do all of the legendary things. Whether they were cover clubs or original clubs, I was lucky enough to play CBGB's in New York City several times. I was lucky enough to play The Whiskey in Los Angeles. Then, I was lucky enough to do these really famous cover clubs like Club La Vela in Panama City, Florida. As Evick, I played at the Full Throttle Saloon up in their front for ten days in a row. There are all these different really famous live music venues, whether they're original or cover, all over the world, and I was able to play all of them. The Machine Shop's the only one left that still feels like that. The Machine Shop, all the hype about CBGB's, all the hype about all that stuff, I've spent so much time there. I can't explain to you how much time I spent there. It was cool; don't get me wrong, but The Machine Shop's the same thing, but, it's still there. You never really knew who owns CBGB's. It got passed on. With The Machine Shop, Kevin's there. He's greeting you at the door. He's saying, "This is my place. Welcome. This is all rock and roll with no apologies. This is it. If you like it, great. If you hate it, then head down the road." I don't know if the magic is The Machine Shop or if it's Kevin, but whatever it is, it's one of a kind and it's the last of a kind.
Toddstar: I'd agree. I think you hit it. I think it's the magic. I think it's for both of them. I think The Shop's got its own charm, but I think it's got Kevin in every corner.
Pete: Yeah. Even with the merchandising and stuff that he does. He keeps his hand on it. There's no faking it. You know what I mean? It's just cool. That's all.
Toddstar: I agree. What's it like for you? Like you said, you guys will play 100,000 people at a festival or something. What's it like to pack all your equipment and get on that stage and be three seats from the crowd? What's that like from a performer's point of view?
Pete: You know what? The thing is, that's what you dream of your whole life. When it happens, it's just amazing and it never gets old. You play in front of those enormous crowds. The truth of the matter is, it doesn't sound any different. It doesn't feel any different than playing in front of 500 people. There's a feeling. It feels like you're part of something big. It's like everybody's there and you're all making noise together. The fans. The band. Everything is unison. Everybody's part of an event. Sometimes, a concert or a nightclub doesn't feel that way like it does when there's this huge festival of 100,000 people. We're all here together and we're in this fight together. It's an amazing feeling.
Toddstar: Speaking of a fight, the music industry is a fight these days. How is it, somebody like Bret or yourself, can still go out there and do what you love to do, do what you've dreamed of doing, and not have to worry about what's going on around you with the industry?
Pete: You have to worry. I go back-and-forth on this. The music industry is not what we were promised. What we thought the music industry was does not exist. That's okay because what music industry is now, is actually amazing. It's up to us. I don't need the label. I don't need the lawyers. I don't need any of that. I don't need the producers. You can make a record in your basement. You can put it up for sale. The problem everybody's missing is you have to go deliver the music. That's the part everyone's skipping. Go out and play. Everyone says there are no bands like there used to be. There's no nothing like there used to be. It's because they don't go out and play. You play in your basement. Then, you play in your friend's basement that's having a party. Then, you play in your talent show. Then, you play at the bar-b-que down the street. Then, you play the pool party. Then, someone at the pool party gets you in at a rec center. Then, at the rec center, someone gets you in at the local pizza joint. Someone in the pizza joint gets you in at the bar. I'm talking about as you're a teenager and you're growing up. Then, you're old enough to play the bars. Then, you play the bars. You play the circuit. People don't put the effort in anymore. The grass roots things. Dave Matthews went out and pounded it. Bret hit the ground and pounded it. All the bands that are legendary bands just went and played. It's the old Bob Seger thing, a Detroit guy. There was an interview I love with Bob Seger. I think I've told you about it before. "Bob, what's the secret to your success?" "I showed up." He said that in this interview one time. It gave me chills. Not a day has gone by that I have not thought about that since then. That's what it is. The difference now is, people are writing music, the ability to make and create your own music for free, and distribute it. All the cards are there, but no one wants to out and deliver the music. Me and Bret are doing it. We go and we play, every night. I'm 43. He's 53. The young guys that want to get out on American Idol or The Voice and be a star overnight, that's the problem. I'm not saying the show's a problem, but the show's a cool show. But, if you win that show, then you better take what you've done and run and hit the road. If you're lucky enough to. Everybody that's been on The Voice or any of those shows, as soon as they're done that show, they should go home and book their own tour. I don't care if it's a basement or pizza joints, or nightclubs, but while everyone knows your name, get out there and shake their hand. That's what everyone does wrong.
Toddstar: I agree with you 100%. I've had the same philosophy about that stuff. Pete, I appreciate the time you took out. It's always good to talk to a friend.
Pete: Yes sir, always good.
Toddstar: I can't wait to see you guys rocking out The Machine Shop on March 20. Is it still you, Bret, Bart and Rob?
Pete: And Mike. Our drummer, Mikey. Yep.
Toddstar: You go way back with Mike.
Pete: Yeah. I go back with all of them. Me and Bart have been playing together for 30 years too.
Toddstar: Okay. Cool. Tell everyone I said "Hi".
Pete: I will. We'll see you there.
Toddstar: March 20.
Pete: All right, buddy. Thank you so much, Todd.
PETE EVICK LINKS:
BRET MICHAELS LINKS:
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