Tommy Lee on Motley Crue and the End of Albums
Motley Crue hit the road this week to kick off their latest summer extravaganza, which finds the band teaming up with Poison and the New York Dolls. The tour also showcases drummer Tommy Lee in a 360-degree drum rollercoaster. Lee recently spoke with Noisecreep about the Crue legacy, who should be in ‘The Dirt’ movie, the most likely tour bonding experience this summer, and why he doesn’t think he’ll ever make another full album.
How much are you looking forward to being on the road?
I’m looking forward to it. I always have fun, dude. It doesn’t really matter who we’re out with; it just seems like every summer or every other summer we get on a bus and we go around the f—ing world and go rock s—. If you’re like a kid it’s like going to camp. We have more fun than humans are allowed to have still. I always know that it’s gonna be an awesome summer.
What do you think will be the big bonding experience on this tour this summer?
Oh god, probably breasts [laughs]. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of exposed breasts. Those are always a nice bonding experience, something we can all share, kind of like luggage.
Watch Tommy Lee on his 360-degree drumset at a Motley Crue concert
I know there was talk last year of working on some new Crue material. Is there any new material at this point?
We haven’t really started. Our plan was to have some music for 2011 and between Methods of Mayhem and Sixx A.M., Nikki and I have been busy. Nikki and I and Mick are the primary songwriters, so if the two of us have been busy the chances of that happening have been not so good because we’ve been doing some other things. But our plan was to get some new music together for 2011. It’s early in the year, we’re going on tour this summer, maybe we’ll write some stuff. We’ve been known to write several things during sound checks, I always have a studio on my bus. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some new stuff going or I don’t really know, maybe our plan now is to hold off on new music until ‘The Dirt,’ for the movie, which I think would be really a cool place to rip out some new music too.
Is there casting for the movie, will you guys be in it?
That we’re still trying to figure out. Will we be in it, will we not be in it, will there be some new unknown actors, will it be known actors? That’s something we gotta all figure out here.
Who would be the perfect person to play you?
I met this kid the other day in the Bahamas where I was a part of this rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camp and they say everyone’s got a twin, this kid was unbelievable, I felt like I was looking into a mirror. It was so f—ing bizarre, from the way he played drums to the way he walked, the way he talked, I was like, “Wow.” And the first thing I thought was, “That dude would be perfect for the movie.”
So you’re in favor of going a little bit more unknown?
I think so, unless if you’re going known then I would wanna go for obviously the best. Either way I’d be cool, but I think I tend to lean toward unknown because they don’t really have a past or anything that people would refer to.
Are there things you do to reinvigorate the old songs on tour?
Nikki [Sixx] and I do other things besides Motley and I think that brings in new ideas, new blood, so yeah, there’s always that. I think when we start rehearsing for the tour, Nikki and I are the most conscious about keeping things new and fresh with different arrangements, different segues, or switching it up enough to where it’s fresh, but not changing it to the point where people go, “What the f— are they doing?’ You can do that too. I think the fact we do some other things outside Motley lets us bring those experiences, some of the best of those experiences, back into Motley.
What are some of your favorite songs you’ve seen changed up live by other bands?
I saw a really cool concert when it was David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails, awesome and weird at the same time. I don’t think David Bowie played any of his hits, but he got away with it. And they did a collaboration where they played together, which was awesome. So that tour was straight up like, “We’re gonna freak the audience out,” and it totally crossed the line. But as a fan I didn’t mind because I like that stuff. Then again I’m not your regular fan. I’m also an artist, so I get it. But I remember looking at people going, “Huh?” Some people don’t get it, so you have to be careful with that stuff. You’ve got to be really open-minded and unfortunately, sad to say, most people aren’t that open-minded. Sometimes that’s rough, as an artist you’re sort of trapped in many ways by having to deliver them something pretty spoon-fed. Otherwise you got a bunch of people shrugging their shoulders, going, “I don’t know what the f— they’re doing.” It’s kind of a bummer, but unfortunately most people are like that and that limits some of your creativity, some of the things you can do to a show to make it different than the last time you were there.
Is there a certain type of acceptance where you realize people just want the big rock show, so you give them that and the best version of that spectacle you can?
Yeah, we’ve tried to switch it up in many different ways. Recently we played an album in its entirety. We did ‘Dr. Feelgood,’ and that was cool because it wasn’t us playing a bunch of new music that people may or may not want to hear. But we altered the show so when you did buy that record you probably listened to it from top to bottom, so we played it in that order and maybe tried to relive some of that experience. As far as new music goes, and people say it all the time, “When are you guys gonna make a new record, dude?” It’s like, “Really, why?” No one buys them anyway anymore. And I’m not sure what the reason is. To tell you the truth, I think the days of making a record, for me personally, are over. After this last Methods record I did I’ll never make another full record I think. It’s a waste of time cause people can only ingest a song at a time, so why not make bitching songs at a time and release them. If you want to call them singles, great, whatever; or at its maximum, an EP, four songs, done, boom. I just really feel like the days of the entire record are long gone.
I think a lot of artists though make new music for the sake of creation or to tour to keep it interesting. Would that be a possibility for you?
That’s kind of a group decision, but I just know me personally I think it’s just a waste of time, it really is. I don’t listen to anybody’s full record anymore and when I did, I don’t think I listened to the whole record. I’m sorry, and I don’t care who it is, if it’s the Beatles, I can’t listen to an hour and a half of anybody straight so I guess that’s just my personal preference. And I guess I’m just a fan of switching it up. I want to hear some of this, some of that. I don’t really do that anymore. Maybe it’s my child-like short attention span, but I’m not a fan of that long, drawn-out f—ing album anymore. I don’t think most people are; if you look at sales most people are buying songs at a time and they’re just not really buying records. That’s just a sign of the times. There’s so much more out there to play with that grabbing anybody’s attention and keeping it there for an hour and a half, good luck.
Are there old Crue songs you have a new appreciation for or that have become favorites to play live?
Sure, there are definitely ones that have stood the test of time, which are always a little mind-boggling. When you wrote them or played them early on you didn’t know they were gonna be that, and all of a sudden you play the song live and it still to this day just gets a huge reaction. It means a lot to everybody. You’re like, “Wow, that’s cool.” And I won’t name any names of songs cause that would take too long. There are songs out there that do that for you and looking out there, seeing a 14-year-old kid who wasn’t even f—ing born yet when that song came out throwing up the horns on his dad’s shoulders, up in the air, screaming the lyrics, you’re like, “What?” That’s awesome to see a whole other generation dig it as much as we did when we wrote it. There are some pretty cool things that happen. Those type of moments that you’re asking about, they’re epic.