Tommy Lee talks Motley Crue, social media and the death of rock
If you have the choice to print the truth or print the legend, record label boss Tony Wilson once said, go with the legend every time. In the case of Mötley Crüe, however, the truth will probably trump any attempt at mythology, as even a cursory read of Dirt, the infamous biography of Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee, will testify.
The Californian four-piece, who rode the overly tassled glam-metal wave of the mid-1980s alongside the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Cinderella, became as notorious for what happened off the stage as on it, with week-long parties that contained every kind of rock excess – clichéd or otherwise. Uncomplicated three-chord rock songs like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr Feelgood” soared up the charts, accompanied by videos that portrayed a band living the high life.
Of course, there was plenty of trouble beneath the surface as a blizzard of illegal substances led to emergency wards and even prison cells. But they continued to make music, racking up nine studio albums, the most recent of which was 2008’s Saints of Los Angeles, and selling out stadia around the world with their full-throttle shows.
Now, though, they have called time. In 2014, they set out on one last hurrah, an 18-month world tour dubbed “All Bad Things Must Come to an End”. After swinging by Europe, they’ll make a visit to Abu Dhabi before their final 15 shows in the US, the last of which will be on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles.
Drummer Tommy Lee spoke to ShortList about why now is the right time to wrap up a story that is, he insists, all true. Every last word.
Is this your first time in the region?
No, not at all. A few years ago I DJd a set at the Gulf Bike Week in Dubai, which was wild. We were treated like kings for a whole week, so I’m obviously really excited about bringing the band over. My fiancé is coming with me, too, and she has never been before, so we’ll be spending six days in Abu Dhabi and Dubai after the show.
How did the gig come about?
When we were putting the dates together, we said to our manager that we wanted to play some places that we had never played before – that was one of the points of the tour. The opportunity came up to put Abu Dhabi in the schedule at the end of the European leg. We’ve heard they like their rock music, so we’re excited about it.
A first and last gig here...
Yeah, we’ll be going all out. Full tilt. We’re bringing over lots of crazy stuff, everything that you would expect from a Mötley Crüe show. We’ll be playing all the hits that people want to hear. Basically, we’ll be doing our job!
Are you bringing the upside-down, roller-coaster drum kit?
No! I’m really bummed out about that. With just the one show over here it wasn’t really cost-effective to bring it. But, man, that’s a wild part of the show.
So, where have all the rock stars gone? Where’s the new Mötley Crüe doing all this stuff?
I don’t know, man. I keep my ear pretty close to the ground for new music, I listen to a lot of stuff, good, bad and everything in between. But I just don’t know where the rock stars are. There’s just nothing happening. I keep hoping that there’s a kid in
a garage somewhere practising, ready to unleash, but it hasn’t happened for a while.
Does the current musical landscape need new rock stars?
Yeah, definitely. I think we need that guy on stage who represents danger, the guy who is on the edge, the guy who you don’t know what will do next… pass out or roll around on broken glass like Iggy Pop. Danger, surprise, something. Music is in a strange place right now.
What’s that down to? Why is everyone playing safe?
The business, I guess. We just didn’t care about anything when we started out. We honestly did what we wanted to do and dealt with the consequences later! We felt free to do whatever we liked. We just didn’t have a clue. No managers, no PR…
…no social media.
No Instagram! Man, how thankful are we that those things didn’t exist back then. Wow.
When you look back on your career and everything you got up to, would you do it all again?
I was saying this to someone the other day: What a wild ride it has been. And I wouldn’t change a second! We had some insane times, some great times, and we just did everything that young men wanted to do in a band. It’s hard to believe we did it all, in fact, it’s hard to believe we’re all still alive. It’s great that after all these years we’re able go out in the way we choose and on such a high note.
Is there a moment over the last 35 years that you can look back on as the ultimate distillation of everything Mötley Crüe were as a band? Is there one snapshot?
One? No way. Way too many. I mean, just being in the back of a tour bus after a show, a few open bottles of something and plenty of good looking company, heading off on the road ready to do it all again the next night. That’s what Mötley Crüe was and those are times I will always remember. It was a blast.
Is this definitely it for you guys? You’re not going to look at the fan reaction and rethink the decision to quit in a couple of years?
No, I can promise you that this is the last time. Another tour most definitely will not happen. We’ve had plenty of business guys going “Are you guys out of your minds?” But I think we have all come to a point where we have to accept that we have done all we can do
as a band. It’s great, we can plan our exit and give it one last shot.
Mötley Crüe Live, Friday, November 20, Du Arena, Yas Island, www.thinkflash.ae