In the early 1980s, Michaels started playing in a band with longtime friend and drummer Rikki Rockett. The two later joined forces with bassist Bobby Dall and guitarist Matt Smith to form the band Paris. After playing mostly local gigs in the Pittsburgh area, the band moved to Los Angeles. Not long after their arrival, Smith was replaced by C. C. DeVille, and the band changed its name to Poison. Like some of the other L.A. metal bands of the time, Michaels and the rest of the group teased their hair, went heavy on the make-up, and wore outlandish outfits, which led critics to label such groups as hair metal bands.