Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe

Yeah, Mötley Crüe. Can you believe it? Dude, on the face of it, this is like me interviewing Donny Osmond (I will interview him in the future).

My love affair with Mötley Crüe goes back to 1983, when I was addicted to MTV and would sit around the frat house for hours and hours watching the endless barrage of videos. Then I saw something that scared me: Mötley Crüe’s “Shout at the Devil” video. Here were these long-hairs with pentagrams (flaming pentagrams!) putting their fists in the air and looking insane. Something inside me said, “Dave, this is commercial Satan worship” and I knew then and there that the Crüe were breaking new ground in rock and roll. Later on that year, as the Crüe became more and more huge, I noticed that one could purchase “Crüe glove” (they had little “Crüe” patches sewn on their backs) from Creem magazine. Then they went into Ninja routines. Then I started reading about the riots at their shows, the fights at airports, the insanity, the drunk-driving incident leaving the drummer for Hanoi Rocks, Razzle, dead and singer Vince Neil in legal limbo. I purchased the Shout at the Devil cassette, and even bought their tour poster, which is still in its protective cellophane wrapper!

And then the Crüe went in a direction I didn’t expect. They “cleaned up” and put aside the devil stuff and the make up and concentrated on poodle hair music. “Girls, Girls, Girls,” though, is, in my opinion, a fun song, worth a spin if you need a lift. But it would never be the same, and I stopped paying attention to the Crüe.

I had one last look at the Crüe as the Eighties closed, when “Same Ol’ Situation” was in heavy MTV rotation. Ugh! I couldn’t stand that song! That was the end, or so I thought.

I went back to listening to Shout at the Devil. While I think that album is a landmark in metal simply because of its outrageousness, the songs deserved a closer listen. Without a doubt, the title track is in the top ten of greatest metal songs ever. That song says “listen up!” Throw your fist in the air! Rise up! Destroy! “Shout at the Devil” is not something a “poseur” would record, ever. It says, bitch, I will make you hurt — and scream for more! If any song could turn the world upside down, “Shout at the Devil” is a good candidate. Next on this amazing album (amazing because it’s not a rockin’ album, but because it’s so anti) is “Looks That Kill,” as in “she’s got the looks that kill.” Sure, that sounds like a poodle-hair tune, but it is not. “Looks That Kill” is a marching anthem for Metal soldiers. With it’s chorus of “She’s/Got/Looks that Kill/She’s/Got/Looks that Kill/She’s/Got/Looks that Kill… Hey!” a frustrated male American youth will see blood.

Thusly, with my rebirth and the establishment of the Brainhammer! radio show, Drew Id and I would frequently play “Shout at the Devil,” because we both knew this was the epitome of metal. And our listeners did not mind hearing it alongside Obituary, Sepultura, or Metallica. And why shouldn’t they? It’s Metal! (Besides that, “Looks that Kill” starts of with the line “Listen up!” which is how Beowulf starts.)

Anyway, they’ve got a Greatest Hits collection in the stores right now, and I wanted to interview the entire band, but that fell through. Then it was Nikki Sixx (bass) and Vince Neil. (I don’t think the cadaveric guitarist, Mick Mars, was up for interviews.) Then that didn’t work, and it would be me and Tommy Lee. Yep, me and Tommy Lee, fresh out of serving six months for beating his wife, Pam Anderson, with whom he started in an amateur porn film less than a year ago.

Sure, the interview would last five seconds…

••

Seen any good movies, lately, Tommy?

Tommy Lee: Later. [leaves room]

••

So I didn’t want to interview Tommy Lee, unless Gail (who supplied me with questions) would be there, which she couldn’t because the schedule kept switching and she couldn’t get off work. So it turns out to be me and Nikki Sixx, the “sane” one. He’s only beaten up a few cops, overdosed (“Kickstart My Heart”), and married a Playboy centerfold. He entered the room in a full tuxedo, which he proceeded to take off. Then he locked the door and chased me around the room until I managed to escape out the window… No! It didn’t happen like that! It was like this…

••

Nikki Sixx : [entering room] It’s hot in here. Can we open a window?

[Nikki walks in wearing heavy boots, unkempt jet-black hair, earrings, a dirty long-sleeved T-shirt — ooops, those are his tattoos — and a big padlock on a chain around his neck. Turns out, he didn’t change clothes for the show, which happened about eight hours later. He is a very large man, I’d say about 6’3″ or so — taller than I am, his “sleeve” tattoos make his arms look smaller than they are; he’s got big arms and he’s lean. Since he’s rich and has had plenty of experience with lawyers, I think that he would slug me if I upset him. So rather than start quizzing him about the Tommy Lee video, I thought I’d just hang for a while, OK? That’s why I didn’t ask certain questions.] I hope no one’s going to commit suicide, we’re on the 19th floor…

Hey, suicide’s legal in New York, isn’t it? A lot of things are legal in New York! [To the manger:] … be sure and get my luggage and my cowboy hat and all that junk. Room 1003.

No bullshit about you, man.

What do you mean?

You show up looking like you’re ready to do a show!

Well, I just wake up and look the same when I go to bed!

Let’s get it started, then… I’d first like to read you a message from a coworker of mine, in reference to his wife:

“On December 10, 1989, the former Ms. Rosemary Mitchell, age 18 (now Mrs. Rosemary Weppler, age 27) attended the Motley Crüe Concert at Madison Square Garden. Her friend Dawn, also 18, was there, too. Apparently this was the first show Tommy Lee sat in the “bubble” and spun around on-stage.

“At this particular show, Ms. Mitchell wanted to get the attention of the band, especially Mr. Vince Neil. In order to accomplish this task, she thought it would be cool to throw something on-stage attached to which would be her name and number. Her friend Dawn thought the same. The two rabid fans agreed that their bras would suit just fine. Thusly, midway through the show, both of these lovely ladies tossed their bras on stage, awaiting what would happen next.

“It is nine years later, and the former Ms. Mitchell or her friend never received a phone call.”

So, what’s up with that? That’s really rude, isn’t it?

Ah, man, you know… and those were the only two bras that made it to the stage!

So you do have a collection…

There’s only two in it.

Is there a hotline she can call to retrieve her bra?

No, it’s in the Mötley museum. It’s a very large bra, too. [He did sign the latest Greatest Hits album for her, though.]

That’s decent of you [to admit he has the bras], and I’ve heard you’re a decent man.

Really? I hear that I’m either a total fucking psychopathic asshole or that I’m a nice guy.

You can be both.

I love the combination. I can do both, yeah!

What prompted release of this Greatest Hits album? Didn’t you already have a relatively recent greatest hits album?

We put together an album of classic Mötley Crüe songs called Decade of Decadence in 1991, but it wasn’t necessarily a “greatest hits” album. It contained a lot of b-sides and covers. The idea behind the Greatest Hits is to kick off our new label, Mötley Records, and it’s a legitimate hits album. We’re in a unique position to own and control all of our original masters from our entire career. I think there’s four bands in history that have achieved that. And they’re not the Stones or Zeppelin or Aerosmith; none of those bands, there’s not another major artist in complete control of their master recordings. I think that there’s a Motown artist that might, though.

Was this something you thought of from the beginning?

No, it wasn’t that premeditated, but it didn’t “just happen.” It had more to do with downright blood in the streets of us against Elektra Records. And it was bad, it was nasty. They needed to separate themselves from what they considered to be the Antichrist. And we needed to be separated from what we would call the fuckin’ corporate gatekeepers. Gatekeepers to where we wanted to go in the future. Bob Krasnow signed the band for $25 million in 1991, and started Decade of Decadence. It was a great time for us: we had earned that deal, we had earned that royalty rate, we had earned that advance; we made the company millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they didn’t have a problem with that… So Bob Krasnow leaves and in comes a guy named Doug Morris who then switched us to a lady named Sylvia Rowen. And she, in a sense, inherited Bob Krasnow’s Satanic Child, and every time she went in for her bonuses or her fiscal year or quarterly, there sits this band that she has to give this money to, yet she didn’t believe in us enough to promote us.

But you’re Mötley Crüe!

Didn’t matter. She didn’t believe in rock and roll. And she started hitting heads very early. The John Corabi album [Mötley Crüe] that we did was promoted poorly, the Generation Swine album was promoted worse.

I remember a live signing here in New York City…

It was great, but the fact is there were things going on that were beyond our control. And until we had control of our music we weren’t going to be able to control our destiny, but in the end it worked out great for them and for us.

You said that they considered you the Antichrist.

Something close to that…

OK, building on that, then, your band, along with KISS and Black Sabbath, are featured in the 1986 Jack Chick tract Angels, which details the massive Satanic conspiracy underlying popular music, not just heavy metal. Is what Jack Chick says true?

No way! Look at that! [I show it to him]:

Did “someone” come to you and say “Mötley Crüe. Want to hit it big? Just sign here… ?” [Notice how he deftly avoids the question.]

Great. Sold our souls for Rock and roll! When people don’t understand something, they try to kill it. Then, whatever you can do, if you have to dub it evil or dub it gay or dub it “eccentric” or weird or that is just, right down to the stings, the Beavis and Butthead mentality that “it sucks… ” that’s what you do to kill it.

I don’t recall them ever saying that about Mötley Crüe, did they?

No, but that’s what people do. When they don’t understand stuff.

Your music is out of control, though, and I mean that in a positive sense. Musically, you’re all over the place and crazy. It’s not just “hi girls, play music, then after the show,” although I’m sure there’s plenty of that.

We just go where our emotions take us.

I remember the video for “Too Young to Fall in Love” where the band was rescuing maidens with your Ninja moves… You’re kind of the “Conan the Barbarian” of rock and roll, aren’t you?

We were laughing at ourselves, we don’t take it totally serious.

I guess the contract with the Devil thread is shot… You recently appeared on one of the ubiquitous televised professional wrestling matches. Have you always been professional wresting fans?

Not necessarily all of us — Mick Mars was. When I was a kid, I went a couple of times and thought it was pretty cool stuff. The tie-in was done because of marketing reasons, but the passion we found is really what’s happening with pro wrestling. When we went and hung out with the guys, this is really cool and they’re saying this is really cool having a rock band around. And I think you’ll see more and more of it happening. People are going to follow our cüe.

An out of control band with out of control wrestlers…

The fans love both.

Speaking of out of control, on Decade of Decadence you covered the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK.”

I’m a huge punk rock fan, in a sense I think we’re a punk band. There’s that fuckin’ snotty attitude that it’s just natural for us.

The new version of “Shout at the Devil” [appearing on both Generation Swine and Greatest Hits] seems to have mixed-in elements of the more “industrial” hard rock popular with the kids these days…

Right.

Well, now that swing has made a serious revival, have you considered doing swing versions of some songs?

Ah, no. That’s something we don’t like.

Personally, I think “Bastard” would make a great swing tune.

I’d like to hear a swing band do it, that would give me a kick!

This swing crap is pretty cheesy, eh? On that subject, what kind of cheese do you like?

What kind of cheese do I like? Eating? I don’t eat cheese, musical cheese, yes, but eating, I don’t eat it; it’s not good for your girlish figure.

Are you non-dairy?

Non-cheese.

To what do you attribute your survival? I mean, all things considered, Mötley Crüe is bulletproof.

I don’t think we’re bulletproof.

You’ve been through an awful lot, pal…

We’ve been through an awful lot, but I think that we’ve been hanging by a thread. Even when people thought we were hanging strong, I think we were close to extinction a few times. I think the band was close. As early as 1985, I was going to leave the band, Tommy’s talked about leaving the band, Vince has left the band. It’s very explosive group of personalities, we’ve all been in fistfights with each other.

On stage?

There’s been times… Oh yeah, we’ve been in fistfights on stage. I remember times when me and Vince were in a fist fight and we’re fucking fighting at this concert when somebody else got in between us and tried to break us up. Well, me and Vince beat the shit out of that person because they were fucking with our thing. Like, our thing was is our thing and we’re like fuckin’ pit bulls! But if you come into our ring, we’re going to watch each other’s back. It’s really an interesting animal…

You really are pro wrestlers in a sense. “I went to a Mötley Crüe show and it turned out to be a wrestling match!” Gail, who’s doing this interview with me, in spirit, went to the recent Rob Zombie show, and she told me you and Tommy Lee happened to stop by. I understand that Tommy Lee did some work on that album.

I thought the show was great! I liked the production… It was really good, a bit “same-y,” though, because the show was that kind of repetitive riff stuff for hour and a half… My thing has always been songs. I want to hear a hook in every single song that just freaks me out.

Now, you toured with Type O Negative a couple of years ago. The way I understand it, one of you heard the band on the radio and right away wanted to do a gig with them.

Yes, they opened for us. I heard their record and I liked it because it reminded me of Bowie. That’s why I liked it. I didn’t really see it as Goth, I thought it was more like Bowie around the Low period.

Do you think that Pete Steele, frontman of Type O, posing in the nude for Playgirl has had any influence on Mötley Crüe’s “karma”?

Did he really pose in the nude?

Nekkid as the day he was born…

Ha! Maybe we gave them the push over the edge to do that… We really need to change the subject… don’t we? How about those Vikings?

Vikings? Yeah, how about those vikings?!

The team.

Oh, the team… You’ve done some notable covers, mainly “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” and “Anarchy in the UK.” What motivates you when choosing covers upon which to place the “Crüe” spin?

We did “Tonight” by the Raspberries, “Department of Youth” by Alice Cooper, “Hound Dog,” “Rebel Rebel,” just typical things. Usually our covers come out of rehearsals, sitting around, farting around, jamming; that song “Wake Up, Little Suzy,” Mick’s always loved that. And so every now and then we jam on it. And sometimes they come out on stage.

So you’re big fans of all kinds of rock and roll music.

Music’s a good thing. What do you think of the new album?

The album? Considering all the shit I get sent as a critic, it’s nice to get something I can listen to every day. [I hand it to him for an autograph… And I did listen to it every day, for two weeks! I just programmed out the songs I didn’t like, so there!]

Oh, it’s the promo where the songs are backwards.

Right, the first and second are in reverse order…

Also, if you look on the back cover [which is a photo of a medicine cabinet containing pill vials with Crüe song titles intermixed with the prescription labels], there’s a condom hanging off the top shelf. Wal-Mart wouldn’t carry the album unless we airbrushed-out the condom on the back.

How come they even noticed it?

They notice everything.

Someone had to check this with a fine-tooth comb!

They go over everything.

Did they make you change any of the drug names on the bottles?

No.

Gee, whiz.

You know, it’s the type of thing where you have to remember that 30% of your buying audience goes into Wal-Mart. You can be machismo and say “I ain’t gonna fuckin’ take that rubber off there… ” then, when people go into the store to get your record, they can’t find it. People have a lot more things to do in their lives than run around looking for fuckin’ rock records. And for me, I’ve gone into a store a lot of times to get, say, the new AC/DC record, and it’s not in there. So I get a Bowie compilation instead, and I don’t go back to the store for another month. And that can happen a hundred thousand times with a hundred thousand different people and the record sells a hundred thousand less copies and it slips down the charts to the 80s or 90s, and all of a sudden people say “AC/DC’s over!” Then the tour doesn’t sell, and the T-shirts don’t sell, then the band has a hard time getting their music to the fans. So it’s a game. You need to know when to it’s worth fighting. You need to know how to pick the right battles.

To what do you attribute this stunningly astute business acumen you have?

Just years of experience…

Was the rubber the most offensive thing you had on the cover?

Well, it’s not offensive to me; I wanted syringes and all kinds of stuff. We’re in a very conservative time right now. Middle America is very conservative.

I guess here in New York…

In New York City you see some fuckin’ guy shooting dope outside of the transvestite club and it’s lunch hour on a Monday! And you’re like “so what!?” New York and L.A. aren’t the same are the rest of the world, they’re on their own little time warp.

Do you still pack the houses between the coasts?

That’s where you do pack the houses.

••

OK, that’s enough! As far as seeing Mötley Crüe, turn on the radio or MTV (these days, maybe not), or VH-1 and you have a pretty good chance of catching some Crüe material. As far as touring, they’re touring the USA. Go see them and kick someone’s ass while you’re there!

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