Heart of Steel: Interviews

Tommy Lee Ė Never A Dull MomentÖÖTo Say the Least

Interviewed by Keith McDonald

the good old days...Tommy Lee was as wild as they come. Having honed his rock star skills as the drummer for the heavy metal outfit Motley Crue, Tommy has began a new chapter in his rock n roll diary. After leaving the Crue a few years back, Tommy has tasted some success as a solo artist with his Methods of Mayhem project and now with his first official solo release. With the MCA Records release, Never A Dull Moment, Tommy has been separating himself from his past with a new style of music that has little to do with his hard rockingí Crue days. From MOMís rap material to his newer, modern rock sound, Tommy has been gaining attention as a songwriter guitarist and frontman. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tommy while in New York and get an update to whatís been going on. You can check out the website at www.mcarecords.com


Why did you leave the Crue and go solo in the first place?

There were two reasons. One of them was creativity. I remember in the early and mid 90ís music was changing and I was changing. I was bringing stuff to the table, songs, like the stuff Iím doing now, and the guys were like Ďsounds awesome but itís not really Motleyí. I kept putting it aside. So on a creative level I think we were just going different ways. Then on a personal level Vince and I donít get along at all. You have to look at those two things and said I gotta get outta here.


Why did you jump over to MCA while you had Motley Records? Nikki started his own label, why didnít you?

I wanted to go to a major label. I didnít trust and still donít trust the organization, Left Bank, the management company. Allen Kovac is a bit shady and I donít think Nikki has his label anymore, not that he did anything with it. I wanted a major label behind it.


Now with your new solo project you really have jumped around musically. You went from Motley Crue, which was hard rock to Methods of Mayhem, which was rap to this project, which is a type of modern rock. Why the drastic change in musical styles?

Like I said before, I was changing, music was changing. Iím such a big fan of so many different styles of music. I love industrial metal, hip-hop, and techno. I guess because Iím a drummer Iím attracted to the beats, I love all that shit, itís all drums. You have to put yourself in my position for a minute. I had been doing one style of music for 20 years. Then I became a creative kid in a candy store. I wanted to get my hands on everything. Then I toured with Methods of Mayhem on Ozzfest and in September of 2000 I started writing the Never A Dull Moment record and thatís where my heart was. I think I sort of dabbled in some of the things I wanted to play with.


Did the Methods of Mayhem album do better than you expected?

Yeah. It went Gold in America, Gold in Japan and Canada. I did not expect anything. I thought people were going to trip out when they heard this record. Some hardcore Crue fans were like Ďwhat the fuck is thisí. I expected that. Some parts of America there are people stuck in a time warp. You drive through Peoria, IL and theyíre still playing old Scorpions. In LA, where I live, you never hear them on the radio.


Since weíre talking about radio, how has it been to the new record, any problems getting airplay?

For about five months ďHold Me DownĒ has been Top 10 on the Active Rock N Roll charts which I thought was crazy. In the last two weeks itís started to drop down because itís time for another single to play the fuck out of it. There are some modern rock stations that wonít play my record, like K-ROCK here and K-ROCK in LA and Chicago. Three of the biggest cities and thereís no airplay. Iíve been beating my head trying to get my music on the stations. Iím going to K-ROCK today, which doesnít mean theyíll add my record.


How hard was it to go from being a drummer to fronting your own band? How hard of a transition was it?

Itís not easy at all. Itís sort of natural because in Motley I always wanted to be in the front, like the drum solo. Out in front or spinning over their heads or blown up or in a space suit. I always wanted to be a ringleader. So the transition was difficult but not as difficult for another drummer who just played in the back and didnít do much. I think what made it easier is that Iíve been playing guitar and singing forever.


I didnít realize that you did that.

Even back further I wrote a lot of the hits. Girls, Girls, Girls I wrote on guitar, Home Sweet Home and Wildside I wrote on piano. Iíve been playing guitar for a long-ass time. I would write music for the band and I would have to thank Vince and Mick for not showing up at my house because that made me work harder. I would ask Vince to come by and he would be like ĎI gotta take helicopter lessonsí or ĎIím racing carsí. So I was like Ďfuck ití, Iíll sing it. I used to sing everyday in my studio and Iíd bring in finished demos, me playing the bass, guitar, drums and vocals. Then we would go in and record them. That transition wasnít difficult, it was just getting comfortable. Itís always easier in the studio; live you are singing and playing guitar at the same time. Doing the Methods of Mayhem tour, thatís where I really got the bugs out and got comfortable. Now Iím totally comfortable and having a blast.


Do you find it harder to break as a new artist than you did when Motley was breaking in the early 80ís?

Itís a lot harder now. When Motley was first busting out it just seemed we were really lucky to get that Ozzy tour and be able to play in front of that many people every night. That helped us and radio wasnít like it is now. Now major corporations own them and theyíre the gatekeepers. If youíre not on radio you ainít shit. That means no one gets to hear you. Thereís some shady pay-olla; itís whacked dude.


Does the album title Never A Dull Moment reflect your wild lifestyle?

Pretty much.


How does your lifestyle affect your music and writing?

I pretty much write about experiences, shit Iíve been through that I wanna share with people. Iím not a fiction writer; I like to write about real shit people can relate to.


Why did you part ways with Tilo and was it hard to do?

He was bummed, he understood. Between the label, my manger and the producer, they were like ĎTommy, you donít need two frontmen, you can do this on your own. I dig Tilo. Eventually I had to let him know I was going to move on without him.


Why did you go out on tour alone and not get a package together like you did with the Ozzfest?

We were offered Ozzfest and I didnít want to do it again. I donít care for going on during the day while people are still pulling up in their cars. Half the people werenít even there. You play in front of people just getting there, not in their seats. Iíd rather be playing House of Blues style venues packed with 1,200 people. Itís dark in there with a light show. Iím not a daytime guy. Weíve been touring and then in August we go home. Weíve been talking with the guys in P.O.D. and maybe some dates with Disturbed.


What can we expect from live show?

Weíre doing everything. Mostly the new record, a Crue classic thatís heavy as fuck and Methods of Mayhem. My band is tight as fuck; the drummer is a badass. I spent a long-ass time and about a month in pre-production rehearsal making the show look the way it looks. We do meet and greets after the show, itís awesome.


There have been rumors flying around that Nikki has said there will be no new Motley Crue music and that what heíd like to do is a Farewell Tour with the original members. What are your thoughts on this and would you be interested?

Heís not going to make new shit? I might consider it. I wouldnít say no. It would probably be awhile because Iím really enjoying what Iím doing now. If that were to happen it would be much later.


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