Motley Crue – Pam Who?

Here’s a brief interview I just did with Tommy Lee, drummer for Motley Crue and ex-husband of Pamela Anderson. Though I wasn’t allowed to ask any “Pamela” questions, it was pretty cool anyway. – Later, Dale

Motley Crue – Pamela Who?    Just the mention of their name conjures images of tattoos and leather. Rock’s premier bad boys, Motley Crue, are back in the spotlight. This time, the news is good. No focus on ex-wives and private video’s, but on a new greatest hits CD and massive world tour that will bring them to Texas in just a few days. On December 1st they play the Austin Music Hall and on December 6th they perform at the Aerial Theater in Houston. I had the unique opportunity to interview Tommy Lee, drummer for the Crue, a few days ago. I gave Tommy a call at his hotel in Minneapolis, MN where the band were getting ready for a show at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Here’s how the conversation went.

Dale: Hello, Tommy?

Tommy Lee: Dale, hello. Can you hang on a second, I’m on the other line.

(Short pause)

Tommy Lee: OK, I’m back. Sorry about that.

Dale: No problem. How are things going?

Tommy Lee: Cool, man. Things are really going great.

Dale: Hey, I just wanted to talk to you for a few minutes about the new CD and tour. You’ll be in Austin on December 1st.

Tommy Lee: Yeah we are.

Dale: I guess you guys are kicking butt and taking names on this tour.

Tommy Lee: You bet, dude. That’s our job.

Dale: Well, first of all, tell me about the new greatest hits CD and the two new songs, “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved.”

Tommy Lee: Well, we wanted to do a hits CD for the fans. A lot of people thought “Decade Of Decadence” was a greatest hits package, but it wasn’t. It was just like a 10 year mark for us. We just picked our favorite songs and put them on a CD. A lot of those songs were never hits. We just thought it would be a cool thing for our fans.

Dale: I think many people thought “Decade” was a hits package though.

Tommy Lee: Yeah, a lot of people think this is our second greatest hits package but it’s not. I think some fans might be confused. Even though some of the songs are the same. It’s nearly 20 years for us, it’s about time we did a greatest hits record.

Dale: It doesn’t seem like 20 years does it?

Tommy Lee: I know dude, that’s crazy huh?

Dale: I still remember my first Motley Crue concert. You guys opened for Ozzy on the “Shout At The Devil” tour.

Tommy Lee: Oh man! Wasn’t that an awesome show? Ozzy was so cool to us on that tour.

Dale: My favorite tour was the “Dr. Feelgood” tour. You had the drum kit that traveled around the top of the arena. Anything special on this tour?

Tommy Lee: No, we’re playing all theaters on this tour so we didn’t bring anything crazy this time around. On the last tour, we brought out some stuff, because we were playing arenas on the “Generation Swine” tour. Did you see that one?

Dale: No, I missed that one, unfortunately.

Tommy Lee: On that tour, me and the drums both disappeared. It was way cool. But on this tour, it’s just us and some loud rock ‘n roll. Just like in the old days. Since the theaters are so small, we decided not to bring any of that. But we are bringing a ridiculous amount of sound and lights.

Dale: So this is kinda a “back to basics” tour for the band?

Tommy Lee: Yeah, exactly. Maybe next summer we’ll do arenas again and we can bring out the big guns.

Dale: Tell me a little about your recent work with Rob Zombie.

Tommy Lee: That was cool. Well, I had just gotten out of jail and went to stay with my best friend, his name is Scott. He helped produce “Generation Swine.” Anyway, he was producing Rob Zombie’s new album. I was staying there for a few months and they were recording Rob’s album.  They needed a drummer, and Scott said, let’s use Tommy. Hell, he’s living here. It just made sense. So they asked me and I accepted immediately. Let me at it.

Dale: I’ve heard it and I think it’s some of your best work.

Tommy Lee: Aw, thanks man. That’s cool.

Dale: I’m really looking forward to seeing you guys in such an intimate setting as the Music Hall in Austin.

Tommy Lee: Right on man. We’re having so much fun on this theater tour.

Dale: Any upcoming TV appearances we need to know about?

Tommy Lee: Yeah, we do have a VH-1 Behind The Music Special coming up soon, but I’m not sure of the actual date. I don’t wanna say the wrong date, but it is coming up soon. Like next month or something. It may be at the end of November. I guess I need to know that answer. It’s gonna be a real cool special.

Dale: I really like the idea that you guys are letting local bands open your shows on this tour.

Tommy Lee: Hell, yeah. Isn’t that cool. It gives them a chance to play in front of a lot of people, you know, and show there stuff. And it gives us a chance to check them out and if a really good band comes along, we now have our own record label. It opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Dale: That brings up my next question. What was the idea behind the band starting their own record label? Was it to retain total artistic control?

Tommy Lee: Yeah, well, it all started with a lot of disappointment on our part. There was a chairman at Elektra Records who we had worked with for years, then he got ousted. Then this other lady came in and she didn’t really get us. She was more of a pop or R&B person. And she didn’t get us at all. To tell you the truth, we just wanted to get off the label.

Dale: I’ve heard similar stories in the past when personnel changes at a record label, often the new people are hard to work with.

Tommy Lee: That’s what happened. We told our management, “Get us off that (blank, blank) label. And he got us off and in the process he was able to get all our master tapes. Everything we’ve ever recorded for Elektra, even our videos. We own all of our stuff. There’s only a couple of bands that have accomplished that.

Dale: You’re right, I can’t think of many bands that have complete control of their music. Obviously Garth Brooks, maybe the Rolling Stones.

Tommy Lee: I think maybe David Bowie, and somebody else.

Dale: Good, that’s a major feather in your bands cap.

Tommy Lee: It’s awesome. It’s a humongous asset. So, yeah, we’re all excited about it. Now we can do as we please without asking for permission. We can do special things for our fans.

Dale: Freedom of expression has always been an important part of Motley Crue’s music.

Tommy Lee: Exactly. That’s cool, man. You’re right, we have always done whatever we wanted with our music.

Dale: Tell me about the live show on this tour. What can the fans expect at the Austin and Houston concerts?

Tommy Lee: We’re playing some stuff from the first album that we rarely ever play. Just a real good show, it’s slamming!

Dale: How long are the shows?

Tommy Lee: About two hours. An hour and forty-five minutes, something like that.

Dale: I noticed on the Motley Crue website that a lot of fans keep asking for a live album. Any chance of that happening in the future?

Tommy Lee: Yes, there is a live album coming. It’s in the plans for us.  There’s also a book that we’re gonna do in addition to the live album.  We just talked about it yesterday. Now that we own all of our back catalog, we’re planning on putting together what we call a “Millennium” series. There will be a box set of all the albums plus all the other (blank) like demos and outtakes. A bunch of funny (blank) on each album so it will be similar to the original album but with a ton of new (blank.) For free we’re gonna throw in a live album.

Dale: That’s very exciting news for the fans.

Tommy Lee: Yeah, we just talked about that yesterday. We hope to have it ready for next year while we’re working on a new record.

Dale: Your fans have always played a big role in this band and the things you do.

Tommy Lee: Right. On the “Generation Swine” tour we had some question and answer sessions with our fans and we asked them. “What is it you guys want? What can we do that we haven’t already done?” And one of the answers was “A (blank) live album!”

Dale: Tommy, what’s touring now like compared to touring when you guys first got started?

Tommy Lee: Now there’s just so much history with this band. When we start each song, the fans know all the words. Where as before when we’d play, most of the fans didn’t know the songs. Now they know everything, which is so neat.

Dale: The Crue has always had such a one-on-one relationship with their fans. Do you still do “Meet & Greets” at each concert?

Tommy Lee: We try to, but it depends on our schedule. If we have a long way to travel to the next city, sometimes we don’t have time.

Dale: Describe a typical day in the life of Motley Crue on tour.

Tommy Lee: Well, let’s see. Right now I’m working on a solo record so I have a portable little studio that travels with me on the road. I work on that during every second of free time I get. I don’t go out and party anymore. Every now and then I might go out, just to take a break. Right now I’m really concentrating on my solo record. But a regular day for Motley on this tour is play three days then have two days off. So we play like five nights a week. So, on days like today, we’ll do some interviews, then head over to the gig around seven. We play, get on the bus and drive to the next city.

Dale: Does the band still do soundchecks everyday?

Tommy Lee: Nope, our sound guys get it all set and it sounds good so we just leave it alone.

Dale: Well Tommy, thanks for taking time to talk to me today. Looking forward to seeing you in Austin at the Music Hall. I’ve been a fan of your music for a long time. It was nice to finally get to talk to you.

Tommy Lee: Hey, bro, the pleasure was mine. Thanks for doing a story about us, that’s cool. Be sure and look me up in Austin.

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