It felt like Mötley Crüe would beat up all the dudes, bang all the chicks, then party til daylight. There were some hiccups along the way – a fatal car accident involving vocalist Vince Neil, a heroin overdose for bass player/primary songwriter Nikki Sixx, tabloid fame and jail time for drummer Tommy Lee, a debilitating spinal condition for guitarist Mick Mars. Not to mention a grunge-influenced album with a different singer, and a stint with Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Randy Castillo (which was cut short by cancer). Fights. Breakups. Reunions. Unprecedented mega-scale tours. Mötley Crüe has seen it all.
Now, it’s coming to an end. Mötley Crüe is putting an end to the madness once and for all. The band is swinging by Australia one last time with Alice Cooper as main support. Then they’ll continue their victory lap of the world before playing a run of dates at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. And then that’s it. No more Crüe for you. Once upon a time, Lee says, the band considered it a huge, huge deal to book a trio of shows at the Whiskey A Go Go on the Sunset Strip; now those days seem a million years ago and a million venues ago. “It’s so weird, man. It’s weird to even explain. It’s the most bizarre, multi-emotional thing. Shit, man, we came, we saw, we kicked its ass and we’re gonna walk away from this thing with the legacy intact.”
Lee is already planning his life away from Mötley Crüe. Although he has released his own music in the past (including with his band Methods of Mayhem) and has collaborated with other musicians before (including a track with bass virtuoso Stu Hamm), in a way his new creative freedom started last year when he recorded the drums for the latest Smashing Pumpkins album. “That was cool! Billy just said ‘Man, do your thing.’ He told a funny story where he was sitting there working on the demos and he said to the other guitar player, Jeff Schroeder, ‘I want it to sound like a Tommy Lee groove right here.’ And Jeff goes ‘Well, why don’t you just fuckin’ call him, dude?’ That’s when I got the call from Billy! It was so cool. I’m sitting there tracking the drums and I look into the studio at Bill and I see him jumping up and down, like, so excited. That for me was like ‘Okay, this is the shit now.’ It was good stuff, man.”
Beyond drums and vocals, Lee is a multi- instrumentalist – heck, he even had a signature Schecter guitar for a while. “When I was about twelve years old I was taking piano lessons and
I was playing marching drums in the marching band. I was getting frustrated, pissed off saying ‘This isn’t what I wanna do’. Basically I wanna rock shit,’ y’know? ‘I’m not feeling this piano business.’
I got my mom and dad to help me out and buy a little Epiphone or something, and a second-hand amp, and I just remember getting my hands on that thing and turning the distortion all the way up and going ‘fuck yeah!’ I remember opening my window up and putting my amp on the window sill because I wanted all the neighbours to hear it. I just wanted the whole neighbourhood to hear me rockin’ shit. Then you start hearing guys like Eddie Van Halen with “Eruption” coming on the radio and you’re going ‘What the fuck was that?’ So I’ve always loved guitar and I’ve always taught myself how to play. I play the guitar like a drummer would. I don’t really play stuff with solos or any of that stuff. I’m a rhythm whore. I attack it like I would a drum. For the life of me I’d been trying to figure out how to play a guitar like a drum so I designed this momentary switch so I could hold a chord down on the fretboard, then hit the switch with my hand on the body of the guitar, so I could pound on it and it would open up the chord, y’know? And I remember a couple of guitar player friends of mine were like ‘Dude, that’s fucking genius.’ But it was just me trying to figure out a more percussive way to play the guitar.”
I couldn’t let Lee go without asking about the 1994 Mötley Crüe album with John Corabi on vocals. That material is conspicuously absent from the ‘end of the Crüe’ celebrations. “It’s huge! Y’know what? Honestly dude, it’s one of my favourite Crüe records. Sonically, the songs, the playing on that record is gnarly. We worked our asses off on that record. We had so much to prove: Vince was gone, we had a new singer who also plays guitar and writes and he brought a whole new element to this. But once fans are used to a certain thing, they just didn’t want to know about any other version of Mötley Crüe. That’s understandable but when you break it down, that record still sounds rad today.”
For tour dates, visit www.motley.com/tour