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Tommy Lee: The luckiest man alive?

Tommy Lee is a modern-day Dean Martin. Men want to be him, and women want to fuck him. Drummer, reality star and lover of famous females, Tommy Lee is the man. We caught up with him at his California crib to discuss the almost three decades of Mötley madness, what it’s like to play the drums upside down (in his underwear) and his lust for life.

HUSTLER: Are you the luckiest man alive? TOMMY LEE: I might be. I don’t know (Laughs.)

What is your secret? I don’t know if there is one. I definitely don’t try. Maybe that’s the secret right there. I think I have a lust for life. When I wake up in the morning, I’m like: “What are we doing today?!” I still have that little kid thing. I’m not sure what that is. It might be my children’s fault. They keep me young. I still do all the shit that at some point most adults stop doing, like playing in the sandbox. They keep my lust for life alive.

Do you still love making music? I live for that, man. There is nothing better. I’m finally building a full-on recording studio downstairs in my house. I go down there sometimes at night, and a tear will come to my eye. Finally! I’ve had home recording studios before, but they’ve always been sort of jimmy-rigged. I’m building a state-of-the-art recording studio. I’ve waited my whole life to have this. Once we get off the road, I’m going to go downstairs, and I’m not coming out for several months.

Did you ever imagine when Mötley Crüe was starting out that the band would still be going strong decades later? Never. I still think back.We were just at the Whisky a Go Go [L.A.’s legendary Sunset Strip rock club] the other night picking a band to tour with us on our next run. It was so weird walking back in there where it all began. I thought, Fuck! I remember calling my parents on the pay phone and saying: “Mom! Dad! We sold out three nights at the Whisky! Friday, Saturday and Sunday!” I was 17 years old, so naive and green. I thought selling out three nights at the Whisky meant we made it! I had no clue about the future, about doing
anything other than that. I was just living in the moment.

What do you remember most about the early days? I remember our spirit. We would pile into my fucking rickety-ass Chevy van and jump out with staple guns to blast flyers on telephone poles. All we wanted to do was make it even though we didn’t know what that was. I don’t think anybody knew it would have become this giant. We were just trying to sell out a club in Hollywood. Everything else from there has been a fucking unbelievable ride.

Back then you guys were a gang. Did you ever commit crimes? All the time, man. When we were at the club the other night, Nikki [Sixx] reminded me about this one time. There was this unmanned cop car parked in the alley behind the Whisky, and Nikki picked up this stick and smashed in the fucking window. He took a piss inside the fucking cop car! It was weird going back to the Whisky because you start thinking about all those early days.

We lived literally a hundred yards from the club at the corner of Clark and Sunset. And on the mic Vince [Neil] would invite all the people from the Whisky up to our small apartment. Five hundred people would be jammed into our apartment, and they would be fucking smashed in there, wasted. Eventually cops came and broke it up. Those were fucking amazing days, man!

How does it feel to have your own festival, and what was the best part of Crüe Fest? It was probably one of the most fun summers I’ve had in a while. It’s pretty epic if you think about where we came from. To now have our own festival? Ozzy is to blame for that. He kind of took us under his wing, and we became friends.We toured with him. Then he did Ozzfest, which I played with my solo project, Methods of Mayhem. When it finally happened, we all just looked at each other and said, “Dude, we have a fucking festival. This is crazy!” I never could have imagined that in a million years.

What is life on the road like now that your other bandmates are sober, and you’re the lone partier? I’m still flying the flag. Woo-hoo! Thank God! It’s funny because it’s definitely a different time. We don’t ride around in one bus together. We all have our separate buses, which is understandable because everyone has kids. I can’t imagine having us all on one bus. I’m the guy that they put all the way down at the other end of the hallway. I travel with a huge fucking PA system with gigantic speakers. Every night after the show everybody lines up. I have one rule. If you want to get into my dressing room, you have to remove one article of clothing. Either your top or your pants. Needless to say, it gets fucking crazy every night. So, for me, nothing has changed.

Have you gotten into some debauchery with younger bands? They were all in my room. Every night. (Laughs.)

You’ve always been really innovative with your drum kit, like the giant kick drum this past Crüe Fest. What can we expect next? We’ve yet to determine that. I’ve done some of the craziest shit ever, but I have this vision in my head of building a roller coaster where the car is the drum set with a couple of jump seats in the back. Run out to the crowd and grab a couple of fans, then fucking strap ’em in.

The track would go all around the arena. It would start above the PA section of the stage, come down, do a loop, go to the back section of the arena, do another loop. Then go to the top of the track and (mimics a roller coaster sound ) chick chick chick do the whole thing again backwards! I’ll be drumming the whole time, with two fans strapped to my back. It would be fucking awesome. Mount some cameras on that. I see it. I can fucking taste it. I’m gonna do it. It’s just a matter of when.

That would beat the time you used hydraulics to lift your drum kit and spun it in a 360-degree loop. What went through your mind while you were hanging upside down, playing the drums in your underwear? More than anything, other than loving it and going crazy, is watching the look on people’s faces when you see somebody in the audience just fucking flipping out. That’s why I’m here. Then I know I’ve done my job. I hate to call it a job because it’s definitely not work. As a kid I went to many shows, and when the drummer did a solo, I would watch people go buy a beer or a T-shirt. Or go take a piss. Whatever. Because the drum solo was the boring part of the show.

I thought, That can’t happen at my shows. Fuck that! I’ve always had this desire to be out front anyway. With my solo stuff I play guitar and sing. I try to take the drums and make them the focal point. To make people walk away and say, “Dude! I saw this show last night, and this fucking drummer was fucking spinning around upside down in his fucking underwear. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen!” To me that’s like chaching! Nailed it!

Any insight into which support bands will sign up for Crüe Fest 2?
No talk of that yet. Nikki had his Sixx:A.M. project on the first Crüe Fest, and he was doing double duty. He said, “Next year, fucking Tommy is doing this.” I’ve been dying to make another Methods of Mayhem record. I think that’s probably going to happen. I started doing demos and getting that ready because I’d really love to have Methods on the next Crüe Fest. It would be fucking awesome. Other than that, we haven’t talked about who’s next. I can tell you it will be bands that have good songs first and foremost. That’s so important. It won’t be your flavor of the week.

What is your favorite Crüe album and Crüe song? Fuck! That’s like the hardest question. We did a record without Vince that’s fucking amazing. It was the self-titled one with singer John Corabi. There are some tracks on that I think are so well written, recorded and performed. When any band switches the frontman, that’s dangerous. We all figured that out.

People are used to what they’re used to. So that record wasn’t successful. We worked really hard on that record because it seemed like we had so much to prove with Vince gone.We thought, Fuck! This has got to be insane or we’ll fall on our faces. That was the most effort and passion we put into a record. Then Dr. Feelgood is like a time warp. All of us, as a group, just said, “Fuck it! We’re done with drinking and doing drugs.” We took a year off and went to focus in the studio. That’s another one that’s monumental to me. Although Shout at the Devil has some cool stuff on it. I’m rambling because it’s so hard to say “Yeah, that’s my favorite.”

What was the recording process like for the latest Crüe CD, Saints of Los Angeles? That’s a fucking badass record. With technology it’s an interesting process. We did it in a way that we’ve not really done before. A lot of it was recorded in different spots. The drums were done here.We did guitar and bass at [Sixx:A.M. singer] James Michael’s studio. We did some vocals in Vegas, where Vince lives. It was done really all over the place. The fact that you can do that now and put it all together to make it sound like everyone is in the same room rocking is awesome.

Do you have plans to do more reality TV? Probably not. At this point in my life I’m so down to do things I’ve never done. Like I’ve got a list. Wrote a book. Did that. Did a TV show. Done fucking this and that. Jumped out of a fucking airplane skydiving at 10,000 feet like a moron. I don’t want to be that guy sitting there on his deathbed 40 years from now going, “Fuck! I wish I would have…” At the end of the day I wanna be like, “That was the fucking best ride ever!” And I will say that. I’m gonna do everything!

What is left for you to do? I’m working on a show that’s in development. I’m doing it for my kids. It’s an animation project like Family Guy called Adventures of Jimmy Jacks. It’s a voice thing. It’s full of crazy scenarios. That’s something I’ve never done. I think it will be really funny to use my voice for some crazy cartoon animation. There is always a purpose for doing reality shows. I did one show [Tommy Lee Goes to College] because I didn’t get a chance to go to college. I got a record deal when I was 17. I quit high school my senior year. I didn’t graduate.

I was like: “Fuck it! I’m going on tour.” When the producers approached me, I thought, Fuck! That would be fun. I could go check out college. See what it was like and make a fun TV show that freaked people out at the university.

The latest one I did with Ludacris [Battleground Earth: Ludacris vs. Tommy Lee] was an environmental show. I learned a lot, and we had a great time doing it. Hopefully it helped spread the message. Everything I do has a purpose. Something might come along, but more reality shows? Probably not.

With the books The Dirt, Tommyland and The Heroin Diaries a lot has been written about Crüe. Are there stories that still haven’t been told?
Oh, of course! (Laughs.) Any chance you can tell us one of them? (Laughs.) You know the saying that there are three sides to every story? My side, your side and the truth. That’s true with all the books. There are certain things that are better left unsaid. I don’t think you want to risk hurting anybody. There are stories that you just take with you forever and leave them at that.

Will The Dirt ever be made into a film? Fuck! It’s taking forever, and I don’t really know where we are at with that. I’ve seen a script. Then we were trying to find the right director. Certain people were available and then not available. I think it would be fucking awesome. Our story deserves some movie time.

Who would you like to play you? If I could pick anyone to play me? It would be Johnny Depp. I love that guy. He picks and chooses the absolute best parts. I know he’s a musician who plays guitar. I’ve met him a couple of times, and he loves music. He’d be awesome.

What is people’s biggest misconception about you?
I guess that people think that I’m that party guy 24/7. That’s not really true. I love lying in bed all day, watching movies, barbecuing and hanging with my kids. There is so much more to me. A lot of people think, Oh, Tommy Lee. He’s a fucking maniac. Well, yes. But definitely not all the time.

Will Mötley Crüe go on forever? Nothing is forever. The Buddhists will tell you that.We’ll go as long as we can. I look at Aerosmith, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, and they’re still fucking rocking shit. I feel fortunate that we’re somewhat in that category. We’re not as old as those guys, but it’s cool we’ve touched that many people’s lives that they still come and see us.

Do you have a motto or mantra? I have a couple. You know when people say, “God! What else could go wrong?!” I say, “God! What else could go right?!” That’s one of my favorites. And the other one: “We’re not here for a long time.We’re here for a good time.” Put that on my tombstone.




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