Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour brings them to Perth Arena on Saturday, May 23, with special guests, Alice Cooper and Amberdown. PETER HODGSON speaks with drummer, Tommy Lee.
The rock world needed Mötley Crüe right when they came along. Led Zeppelin were gone, Van Halen were too fun, Black Sabbath were too dark and punk didn’t have enough sex. So the Crüe stepped in to fill the void.
They were loud. They were glitzy. They sang about the devil like Black Sabbath, and getting laid like Van Halen. It felt like Mötley Crüe would beat up all the dudes, bang all the chicks then party ‘til dawn. 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, a grunge-influenced album with a different singer and unprecedented mega-scale tours.
And now it’s over. Mötley Crüe are putting an end to the madness once and for all. The band is swinging by Australia one last time to lay waste to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth with Alice Cooper as main support. 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.
“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 arse and we’re gonna walk away from this thing with the legacy intact.”
Lee is already planning his life away from Mötley Crüe, and although he’s released his own music in the past (including his Methods Of Mayhem band), 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, so excited. That for me was like, ‘Okay, this is the shit now’. It was good stuff, man.”
And beyond drums and vocals, Lee is a multi-instrumentalist. “When I was about 12-years old I was taking piano lessons and I was playing marching drums in the marching band. I was getting frustrated, pissed off, ‘This isn’t what I wanna do. Basically I wanna rock shit. I’m not feeling this piano business’. So I got my mum and dad to help me out and buy a little Epiphone or something, some not-so-great guitar 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 couldn’t let Lee go without asking about the 1994 Mötley Crüe album with John Corabi on vocals.
“It’s huge. Honestly dude, it’s one of my favourite Crüe records. Sonically, the songs and the playing on that record is gnarly. We worked our arses 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.”