Bret Michaels has always lived on the edge, from his wild days fronting Poison to his dalliances with busty women on VH1's "Rock of Love." But his latest move might lead some to question whether his appetite for destruction is getting too big. Despite recently suffering a series of life-threatening health issues, including an emergency appendectomy, a brain hemorrhage, a mild stroke and the discovery of a hole in his heart, Michaels is touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special before a series of solo dates in July. In addition, he's preparing to release a solo album, "Custom Built," July 6, and autobiography "Roses and Thorns: The Reality of My Rock n Roll Fantasy" is due this fall. He's also considering opening a restaurant chain that will bear his name.
How is your health? Should you be on the road?
I have taken every single precaution I can take, and I feel really good. Obviously I'm not 100% there yet, and I'm taking insulin and Lovenox injections every day. But it's either sit there and worry about what's going to happen to me or just go out and do it. If I'm going to live, I want to do the Lynyrd Skynyrd tour, you know? I don't want my legacy to be a brain hemorrhage. I want my legacy to be that I made some good music.
When you launched the Poor Boy Records label in the mid-'90s, you were ahead of the curve in terms of artist-owned ventures. How do you handle marketing and distribution?
I just hire all the same people that every record label hires. I finance everything myself and then I go to Target, Best Buy, Walmart and K-Mart -- anyone who will take the record. They hear a sample and they order a bunch. I hire a complete staff: people to work it at radio, people to work it online and publicists. Distribution is done through Mailboat, which is Jimmy Buffett's label. I used them before and they do a great job of making sure it's in every single store, and they are very accountable for the money.
What was the recording process for "Custom Built"?
I did a lot of recording while traveling. The title represents what the music is about; I'm covering a wide range of music, from rock to country, and I even cover a Sublime song, "What I Got."
The first single is "Nothin' to Lose" with Miley Cyrus. What's next?
"Nothin' to Lose" did really well at hot AC and then I got sick, so unfortunately I was down for two months and couldn't continue to work the song. Now I'm going to rock radio with [second single] "What I Got." And I'm going to country radio with a version of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" that I did in Nashville with Brad Arnold from 3 Doors Down, Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts, Chris Cagle and Mark Wills.
Has it been difficult to adapt to changes in the music industry after being part of it for so long?
Some things are still the same. Now artists use MySpace to get discovered; back in the day we used a slot at the Paradise Bar and Grill. There are great opportunities, but here's the downside -- in the new digital age, people are not as loyal and they forget more quickly. When we started, people really dove into knowing the band. In the digital world, it pops up and an hour later there's another video on YouTube and they forget about the last video they were watching. It's a little more easy come, easy go. I always tell new bands, "Don't fear going out and being personable with your fans." It's a great new world we live in to be exposed, but it's also scary because you can easily be disposed.
How is your new VH1 show, "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It," different from "Rock of Love"?
VH1 was getting a lot of requests for a show about my life at home, so we decided to move forward and do that. It features my daughters, Jorja and Raine, and I think the girls are having a good time. We're a fun family and I think people get to see that.