Metal Edge, May 1986
While their hit single “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” shot Mötley Crüe to the top of the radio and video charts (10 straight weeks as MTV’s Friday Night Video Fights champ), the bad boys of metal were smokin’ in concert, masterfully inflicting their Theatre of Pain upon the senses of ecstatic headbangers across the country. A sellout crowd of 17 thousand came to Nassau Coliseum to see the Crüe (and opening act Y&T), and they got a mega-dose of lewd, loud, high voltage rock from the kings of tease and sleaze. Metal Edge got that and more: a pre-concert hang in the Hostility (Crüe’s version of Hospitality) Suite, a terrific interview with Tommy Lee, and a pass to the party after the show.
A high-speed demon of a drummer, Tommy Lee’s gravity-defying drum solo is the highlight of the Crüe’s concert. Offstage, the tall and sexy Athens-born basher is an equally hyper, always energized party animal who attacks life with the same enthusiasm as he does his instrument. Metal Edge talked to Lee in the band’s dressing room before the show.
How’s the tour going?
Tommy Lee: Great, I couldn’t be happier if I was twins. We’ve been kickin’ ass, selling out almost all the places. I couldn’t be happier, it’s like I’m speechless sometimes. It’s wild. We’re havin’ a blast.
Any particularly hot gigs?
Lee: They’ve all been good, but there are certain places that have just been crazy. Detroit was great, the Garden, the Forum, I could go on.
Are certain towns better party towns?
Lee: Nah, everywhere’s been great.
What are the best things and the worst things about the road?
Lee: The best thing’s being onstage, man, that’s where my heart is, to tell you the truth. When I’m not playing I freak out, I just pace around the house. You’re out for so long and you go, “God, I could really dig going home,” and when you come home you really dig it, but you find yourself going, “God, I really miss it.”
Which do you miss more, the playing or the feedback?
Lee: Just being onstage and the lights going and kids screaming and things flying in the air, it’s crazy. That hour and 40 minutes we’re on stage can’t be beat by anything. I’ve got a fast car and that keeps me happy for about 10 minutes. A Corvette. But that still ain’t the same, that doesn’t pull my trigger. Being on stage has got to be tops.
What kind of gifts do fans bring you?
Lee: Mighty Mouse stuff. You wouldn’t believe how many Mighty Mouse t-shirts, stamps, stickers, you name it. I got it; I’ve got a little Mighty Mouse on my drum set that sits between the drums.
Your riser tilts to a 90-degree angle during the show. Is that scary?
Lee: It’s a weird feeling. I mean, drums weren’t meant to be played like that. The gravity, it’s hard to play as well. Wait till you see the show. From the beginning to finish it’s like the Fourth of July. It’s really awesome.
Is it tough to keep the energy up over the long haul? Do you every get to the point where it’s “God, I don’t want to play tonight”?
Lee: The only time I really get like that is if I’m sick. When you’re sick it’s hard to get well, you really need rest, but you’ve got to do this every night. The show must go on. Other than that, you can always get energy, you just look out in the audience, and you just start feedin’ off that.
Do you ever miss home though?
And Heather Locklear?
Lee: Yeah! She works as much as I do so it’s not that bad because we’re both busy. If one of us weren’t busy it would really suck.
Does she join you on the road?
Lee: Uh huh, she’s come to quite a few shows.
Were you a fan of hers before, did you watch her shows?
Lee: I’d seen her maybe a couple of times on TV, but I didn’t really know that much about her. I met her one night at an REO Speedwagon concert, and just went “Goddd!”
Was she a Crüe fan?
Lee: When I first took out to dinner, she had a Mötley tape in her car.
Have you talked about getting married?
Lee: Little bit, yeah. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
Is it true “Smokin in the Boys’ Room” was added to the album as an afterthought?
Lee: Yeah. We never even planned for “Smokin’ ” to be on the record. We tried it once and it sucked. It was awful. Then Vince said, “C’mon, let’s try it one more time,” and we gave it a shot. It sounded great and we put it on the record.
Has MTV been a factor for Mötley Crüe?
Lee: Recently it has, but they never really played any of our stuff before last year. I would watch MTV for a week and never see Mötley. And this year I can’t turn the TV on without seeing us. It’s great, but last year with the Shout at the Devil album, it’s approaching three million copies and we just did that ourselves by touring, ‘cause they never played us. This year with their support as well there’s no telling what could happen.
You changed your look – was it a deliberate move away from the Satanic connection?
Lee: No, the Pentagram’s on the new album. The only reason we changed was everyone else looked like us. We said we gotta do something else. Plus, we didn’t really change, if you saw us when we first got together that’s how we dressed. If anything, we’ve gone back to what we were originally doing. When we first did it, people would go “these guys are weird” so we had to go with the leather route, it was right for that time. Now we’ve gone back to what we always wanted to do, put it that way. Now we’re happy.
[Nikki strolls in, barefooted, wearing a t-shirt with a shaggy head framed by a red circle/slash NO symbol reading NO MOTLEYS underneath, which he proceeds to tear at strategic points.]
Lee: He’s bad. Me and him get together… it’s ridiculous, man, we’ve been havin’ too much fun.
So we hear. Have to keep up that bad boy image.
Lee: That’s just us man, there’s four strange guys in this band. [Nikki opens a bottle of Jack Daniels, takes a slug, and passes it to Tommy]
Lee: This is a ritual; we start every night at seven o’clock. We’re late.
Nikki Sixx: Every five minutes late you’re penalized, you have another bubble.
Lee: A bubble is a big swig. So, we’ve been penalized three bubbles.
How important is image to Mötley Crüe?
Lee: Really important. We take that just as seriously as we take the music. I don’t think we take one more seriously than the other. Both are important.
If you think of the band as a whole, what percent is music, what percent image, what percent attitude?
Lee: Music would be 50%, image 25% and attitude 25%.
What does each guy bring to the band?
Lee: Vince pulls in the chicks. Vince is the one keeping things sleazy around here. Nikki’s always coordinating some party somewhere, and I’m right behind him. If the guys are a little tired, we’ll get everyone rollin’ and psyched up and stuff. I guess I would be energy, Nikki would be…
Sixx: Grumpy [laughs]
Lee: And Mick, Mick is hilarious man. He’s a great guitar player, but he should be a comedian. He keeps all of us laughin’.
Would you guys be friends if you weren’t in the band?
Lee: Oh, yeah. Me and Vince were friends before we even played together. We met when I was like 17 and he was 16 and 17.
How old were you when you first started playing? Did you always want to do it?
Lee: Like my mom says, ever since I was tall enough to reach into the silverware drawer. I drove my parents crazy.
When did you get your first drum set?
Lee: I was like five. Those paper ones, pretty wild, I played in a high school marching band, drum corps a jazz band. I didn’t have a big brother to turn me on to any happening music. I have a younger sister. I pretty much had to learn a lot and just listen to things and teach myself.
Were your parents supportive?
Lee: At first they didn’t dig the idea ‘cause I dropped out of school for it. My pops wasn’t too happy about that. Now they don’t mind as much.
A lot of bands have come out of L.A. in the last few years. Is there a rivalry or a friendship between them?
Lee: I don’t know, I haven’t really been home enough to have any friends or to make any enemies to tell you the truth. I’ve got three friends, and you’re looking at one of them, and the other two cats are in the other room. We’ve got drinkin’ buds we hang out with in other bands. Ratt’s good friends, and we see all the local guys now and again.
Has it gotten to the point where you can’t go to the supermarket? Do you ever wish you weren’t so recognizable?
Lee: Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes.
But is it worth it?
Lee: Yeah! I dig it. People go, “God, you must be tired of everyone bothering you.” But as soon as that stops, I’m gonna start to worry. “Wait, what’s going on here? Aren’t we happening or what?” So I don’t mind it at all.
Now that you’re this popular, how do you maintain this level? What do you do for an encore?
Lee: We just get out there and do our thing. It’s awesome, but like I don’t go, “Wow, we’re popular!” I guess we keep doing what we’re doing.
Sixx: I don’t know what we do. We just don’t really…care. We don’t stroke anybody or anything, we’re the same band we were then we played clubs. We don’t lie to the kids.
You have their support, but what about the industry’s?
Lee: I’d say in the beginning we probably weren’t taken very seriously. In the beginning it was “Who are these guys?” We just looked cool. But now I think we’re starting to get a little respect.
What was the breakthrough for the band?
Lee: Probably some of it had to do with touring with Ozzy last year. We played for a lot of people last year, it gave us a great shot. It was perfect, man. I think that’s what started this roll.
You’ve been together since ’81 – did you think it would take a few years to get to this point?
Lee: I don’t know. I always said that by the time I’m 25 – I’m 23, I had a birthday October 3rd, I always said by the time I’m 25 I know I’m gonna play the Forum and sell out the Garden, and here I am, I just turned 23, and it happened. I didn’t plan on it but I’m just tickled to death. Can you tell I’m excited or what? I can’t sit still, man.
Is it all you expected it would be?
Lee: It’s awesome. Like I said, I couldn’t be happier.
Do you think you’ll be doing this 20 years from now?
Lee: I don’t know about 20 years. I’m really into sounds and production and stuff.
Want to produce other artists?
Lee: You bet, I gotta do that one of these days.
Do you have material done for the next album?
Lee: Not done but we’ve got ideas and stuff floating around. A few months ago we started fooling around with some new stuff while we were at home. They’re not finished and ready to go, we’re just starting to get things rolling now so we won’t have to cram. We’ll start writing a bunch of stuff and start sussing out the good from the bad and we’ll be okay.
What’s the game plan for Mötley Crüe?
Lee: That’s really hard to say, a year from now we could do something really crazy and shave our heads – you never know what’s around the corner. None of us do, we’ll just do it.