Chauncé Hayden: Mötley Crüe enjoyed enormous success during the late ’80s, but at the height of the band’s popularity Vince Neil was fired. Why?
Tommy Lee: A lot of the reason for the break-up was that the success we enjoyed gave Vince the money to take helicopter flying lessons and drive race cars. All these other things became more important than the music. Keep in mind those things are expensive to do and he would have never been able to do them if it wasn’t for Mötley Crüe. I think people forget that all these extra luxuries have been available because of the band.
That said, what about now? Aren’t those distractions still there?
That was one of the things we talked about when we got back together. The band has to come first no matter what.
What about the fans?
Don’t you agree there will be those who say that Mötley Crüe couldn’t make it without Neil and this reunion is more about cashing in than anything else?
Oh yeah, I’m sure. But if you ask me, the one thing that just reeks of money is the Kiss tour. There wasn’ tany new music generated there. That was purely for the purpose of making money. This situation is completely different. Although if it does make money, I won’t complain. A lot of people don’t know what I’m about to tell you. Our singer, John Corabi, who was in the band while Vince was gone, brought all this on himself.
We were almost done working on the new record. John was singing but he wasn’t sounding so good. So we were all like, “Fuck, what’s going on?” And he said, “I don’t know. I’m all freaked out, there’s too much pressure.” So we got a vocal coach in but that didn’t really help. After talking to him a little further in depth he said, “I feel like I’m responsible for your three careers. I feel like I’m dragging this thing down.” He went on to say, “You know what dudes, I think you should get Vince back.”
What was your reaction to that?
I was shocked. I was tripping out. I said, “What are you talking about?” He just said, “I think that’s what you guys should be doing. That’s what your fans want and they’ll never accept anyone as Mötley Crüe’s singer other than Vince. They don’t want some other version of Mötley Crüe.” We didn’t even realize that. Somebody had to tell us. We were in denial. So we just sat there and listened. After he said that we were fucking stupid for about a day. I remember Nikki [Sixx] and I talking the next day like it was yesterday. We were about a month away from going to court with Vince. All this stuff was about ready to pop like a pimple. Things were about to get pretty ugly in court. So Nikki and Vince got on the phone and bypassed the lawyers and got all those fucking idiots out of the way, and they just talked. Then a few days later Vince came down to the studio and heard some of the new music with John’s voice on it and said, “Fuck, this sounds amazing!” So we got to talking some more and Vince played us some of the music he’s been doing. Then when Vince went into the studio and started to sing over John’s tracks we started thinking maybe we really should get this whole thing back together.
Since it was originally Corabi’s idea I assume he took the news graciously.
Well, in one way he threw in the towel and in another way he was a very big man by fucking stepping back and saying, “You know what dudes, I think this is what you should be doing.” Because John was a fan of Mötley Crüe before he was even in the band. He couldn’t even believe he was in the band to begin with.
I’m sure the fact that he was a fan of Mötley Crüe prior to joining the band probably added to the pressure of taking over for Vince.
This is so true. Many times we would have to talk with him about that.
What would you say?
“You got to be the man, dude! You’re the man now—you’re not a fan, you’re the man!” That’s how Vince is; he believes he is the fucking man! Don’t
get me wrong, John is a very talented guy. He plays the harmonica and guitar, he sings, he’ll write a fucking song like that! He’s an amazing guy. But on the other end of the spectrum he’s nothing like Vince. When Vince takes the mic there ain’t no one else in the room.
He’s the man.
Maybe what all you guys needed rather than breaking up was an extended vacation.
That’s what Vince says. He goes, “You know what, we just needed a fucking vacation from each other, man.”
Getting back to having your songs played on the radio, New York City’s top radio stations seem to have a 10-song play list…
(Laughs) Ten-song play list! That’s so true, man! It’s like somebody just presses play and they leave the station. That’s got to change. You know it’s just got to.
Since radio seems to be selling out to the trend of the week, so to speak, don’t you almost have to take a close look at what the current trends are and play the game if the band is going to continue?
Well, I’m not 18 but I really believe that I have my finger on the pulse as far as where music is at, because I’m still a massive fan. Before you and I started talking I was flipping through the [radio] dial cause I’m such a fan of music. I’m very much a little kid when it comes to music. I listen to everything, and if I said I wasn’t inspired by a lot of the new music I would be lying. Thank fucking God there is new music because I can’t see recording the same record again. As far as what kids are into, I receive about 200 e-mails a day from them.
Is your e-mail address that available?
Sure, we publicize it.
What is it?
And you personally check it?
Every day. And the kids write me everyday and tell me what’s up. They tell me what they like and don’t like. And I listen.
How do you keep up with the times without alienating your fans? For example, U2 experimented with techno on their new album. But judging by the ticket sales to their concerts, the experiment seems to have backfired.
Consciously we don’t go “okay, we have to write this kind of song for this group of listeners.” We just don’t. We just write from our hearts. And I’ve been completely inspired by new music and the technology that’s out there now is fucking amazing.
So the new Mötley Crüe isn’t all about metal anymore?
Everything is so fucking cliché, bro. It seems to me that it’s all been said and done before. But you have to constantly find a new way of doing things. Why do people spend fucking 200 million dollars to make a movie? Because they have to. Because if another movie comes out and it ain’t fucking better than that new movie no one is going to go watch it. It’s the same thing with music. If your fucking album comes out and someone turns on the radio and goes, “Dude I’ve heard that sound a thousands times,” there’s a problem. I don’t want to hear a fucking guitar that sounds just like everything else on the radio. I want to hear ear candy. You have to be that way.
Obviously you have money, so what is it that drives you to keep playing?
I’m driven by fear. I don’t want to ever hear somebody go, “That sounds really old, dude.”
On a personal level I don’t need to tell you that your life is constantly under the scrutiny of the media. How do you feel about being tabloid fodder?
I don’t even know what to say about that. I’ll turn on the TV and I’ll be like, “What! No fucking way!” Obviously I’m not looking into the camera, so if someone is following me around it’s my wife’s fault. They’re really following her around and I just happened to be with her. But I don’t know what the big deal is. I mean, I guess we’re a fun couple and people want to see what’s going on with us, but fucking every day gets to be too much.
From what I’ve seen it appears that you’re not a big fan of the papparazzi.
I don’t mind it but it’s just weird how they take a piece of footage and then embellish on what was going on. I watch what they’re saying about me on television and I’m like, “Huh! That’s fucking bullshit!”
The tabloids project you as this brawling, tattooed maniac. In fact I assumed you and I would be beating the crap out of each other at this stage of the interview. However, I’m surprised to see that you’re a pretty easy-going guy. Or did I just catch you on a good day?
(Laughs) Yeah, people think I’m like that! I fucking hate that!
The Tommy Lee that I see in the media always has a don’t-fuck-withme look in his eyes.
(Laughs) Totally! Totally! The only time I get like that, bro, is when I go home to my house. My home is my sanctuary. When I go home I shut everything off. But then I’ll be looking out my fucking window and I’ll see the tree moving. Then I’ll see a fucking guy in the tree with a camera taking pictures of my house. Dude, it’s the only time I get crazy. You’re in my face and this is my house. Anywhere else is cool. I know that I’m open meat when I’m in the public.
You once went berserk on a Los Angeles cameraman outside the Viper Room. What happened to being open meat?
That was a problem. That was one of the guys who is at my house every fucking day. He just sits there right at my property line just fully taunting the fuck out of me. I’m good for a little while, but then I lose it. So, one night Pamela and I went to the Viper Room and as the door opened the guy was right there with the light right in my face. I couldn’t see at first but then I realized it’s that guy again and I just lost it. I didn’t even really do anything. I grabbed the guy’s camera to take it away, to get him to fuck off and leave me alone. But he wouldn’t let go of the camera so he went flying. It was kind of a nightmare. I still have to go to court for some of that shit.
Now that you’ve gotten more aggressive with the papparazzi, have you found that they back off more than in the past?
Yeah, it’s mellowed out quite a bit.
I hear that you’re a very jealous guy. Is there any truth to that?
That’s those people doing their thing again. I guess people would just assume that. I don’t know why or what I’ve done or said for anybody to say that I’m jealous.
Do you remember the first time you met your ex wife Pamela Anderson?
It was actually what’s on the inside. When I first met her on New Year’s Eve I was at this restaurant sitting dateless in a booth by myself.
Tommy Lee dateless on New Years Eve? On second thought, I guess I can see the motivation behind that.
(Laughs) It was really weird! I wasn’t really looking for a girl that night. I had just gone through a divorce [Heather Locklear], then I had a girlfriend, so I was kind of like over women for a while. Then all of a sudden the waitress comes over with a shot of Goldschläger. She told me it was from Pamela Anderson.
What did you think?
I went, “No way! Is she here?” and she said, “Yes” and pointed to where she was sitting. So I grabbed the bottle of champagne that I was drinking at the time and slammed the shot and went over to her table and licked her face.
Why do I have a feeling that same gesture wouldn’t work as well for me as it did for you?
(Laughs) Actually, I was ready for her to tell me to go fuck myself.
Then why did you lick her face?
I just felt like I had to lick her face and tell her happy New Year. So the second I did it she turned around and licked mine. Then the whole table started licking each other’s faces. But she’s a very intelligent girl. Just like people perceive me to be something I’m not, people think that she’s this dumb blonde with big tits who wears a bathing suit on “Baywatch.” However, they’re very, very wrong about her. I don’t know if you saw her in court this week but you could see that she’s a very intelligent girl. So, when I saw that I thought, wow, this girl is not only eye candy, she’s absolutely beautiful inside. It’s not often a girl that pretty is that beautiful inside as well. That’s what attracted me to her.
Then four days later you were married.
Yeah, I know it’s crazy. But then again what the fuck, if you feel that it’s right, why not?
But then, shortly after you were married, Pamela took your child and moved out. What was the truth behind that separation and what brought the two of you back together?
When she left with Brandon that was all my fault. It was a bonehead move on my part. The pressure of becoming a new father on top of the pressure I felt with the whole John Corabi situation and all the fucking shit I had to put up with having all these photographers outside of my home everyday kind of made me lose my fucking mind.
Define losing your mind? I was drinking a lot of
fucking booze to just
deal. I’m talking about
lots and lots of vodka.
Probably about a gallon of vodka a week. That’s a lot. I would drink all fucking day. I didn’t realize what I was doing. I was pretty engulfed in alcohol. When it really kicked in was when I was holding my son and I started to stumble around the house with him in my arms. Pamela saw that and she was like, “This is not what I want for a father and a husband. What if you drop him?” And she was right. That was really uncool and selfish of me, to drown my problems like that. Basically to make a long story short I had two choices to make: I could either just deal with the pressures or stay drunk.
So you don’t drink at all now?
Anything in moderation is fine, but I was abusing alcohol along with other substances. I just had to stop and take a break. Fucking alcohol is the biggest illusion on the planet! That shit is just fucking weird. It is so fucking weird. Dude! It’s amazing that that shit is fucking legal. It’s killed so many people. But then they arrest you if you take a drug like fucking
pot. It’s the most harmless drug on the planet. If you get in a car and you’re stoned you’ll be pulled over for driving too slow. Completely harmless. Yet, alcohol makes you want to fight and drive fast. That shit should be illegal and pot should be legal.
I have to ask you about your tattoos. What first got you interested in body ink?
You want to know something weird? My first tattoo was Mighty Mouse crashing through a drum. Might Mouse was my favorite cartoon. He was my hero. He was just this little guy, sort of like me, except that I’m tall, but he was really powerful and aggressive like me. I was 17 when I got it. This is really bizarre but it comes from a therapist. Once a therapist asked me about my family. And I found out that a lot of the reasons for my tattoos is because of this. My mother is Greek; I was born in Greece and after a year we moved to California. My mother at the time spoke no English so she had to draw everything she was trying to say. The way she communicated was through pictures. So the therapist said because of that I learned to communicate through pictures as well. So in a weird sort of way my tattoos are a way for me to communicate.
That’s very interesting.
Isn’t that bizarre?
There are many fans who believe that you tattooed Pamela’s name on your penis. Well?
No! That’s just a rumor. No man, that would be fucking unbelievable. That would be one fucking traumatic experience. As if circumcision isn’t enough! Holy fuck.
Any more tattoos planned in the immediate future?
I just got a new tribal tattoo in Tahiti. It’s a Tahiti tribal design around my thigh. It’s really cool. But I’m slowly running out of space. So I have to put more thought into what I get from now on.
Last question. Is it better to burn out or to fade away?
(Laughs) Burn out!
Tommy Lee fan mail address:
21731 Ventura Blvd., Suite# 300
Woodland Hills, CA 91364