The Theatre of Pain meets Detroit Rock City this Friday when the co-headlining tour of Mötley Crüe and KISS kicks off in Bristow, VA. To prepare ourselves for this one-two punch to the eardrums, we spoke with Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and learned about his obsession with seeing KISS unmasked back in the 1980s, why he wrote that Facebook “rant” asking fans to stop hassling him for pictures and how much he loves the new album from punky-bluesters Band of Skulls. And while you marvel at the amount of obscenities one man can make, listen to our Tommy Lee Spotify Playlist on our Spotify app for the drummer's greatest hits.
So you're going on tour with KISS, which is incredible. You guys had a few shows with them back in 1982. What do you remember most about that time?
I just remember it being really quick: I was so bummed! I was like, "Wait, that’s it?" I was so dead-set on seeing what they really looked like. That was my thing. I was like, "Oh man, I’m finally gonna be able to see what these dudes look like in sound check and sh*t," you know? And of course, I never got to see that because when they did walk into sound check they had a scarf on their face or they were covered up, so I never did get to see what they looked like. In one way I was bummed, but in another way I was like, "That’s f**kin’ cool." You know what I mean? Just that surprise and mystery of it all is what I was infatuated with. More than the show or the music or learning anything it was just like, "What do they really look like?"
And now you can just turn on the TV and see Gene Simmons without his makeup.
Were you a big fan of them going into the tour?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget opening up Kiss' Alive II. You open up the album [on vinyl] like a book. The two sides open up into this big centerfold with all this fire and crazy sh*t and that’s when for me I was like, "Whoa, what the f**k is this?" Musically a little bit, too. I was such a huge fan of John Bonham and Led Zeppelin and that kinda stuff, but when it came to a show I was like, "Wow, this is it, now we're talkin'." So yeah, [opening for KISS] meant different things to me but it still freaked me out for sure.
Um… you know when you just mentioned we toured with a lot of bands, I just immediately rewound and thought about playing with the Stones and Aerosmith and Cheap Trick and all these bands that we grew up with. That’s weird. I haven’t really thought about that in a while and you just reminded me of that and I just got goose bumps. That’s awesome, thanks. Um… but what was your question? I spun out for a second.
Oh yeah, no problem. So for the fans who have been to the last few tours, what can they expect differently from you guys on this one?
You wouldn’t believe the scale of both of our shows. When we label it "the tour," it really is "the f**kin’ tour" to see both of these bands on one stage. As a matter of fact, I just got done redoing the whole roller coaster drum solo portion of the show and its f**kin' rad. Sometimes at this point in the game it’s hard to get excited about things, but this is definitely one of those things where I tell people, "If I wasn’t in Mötley Crüe, I'd be f**king going to this show anyway." It's quite the f**kin’ event. You’d probably see me standin’ on a chair with my f**kin’ fist up in the air and a beer in another hand going “F**k yeah dude!'”
Any chance your new "Sex" single is going to end up on a new Crüe album?
Well, you know, I guess you never really know. It was one of those where we wanted to have something new out there for the summer and it's really killer. And it's the first time we’ve ever given anything away as a free download. It’s a gift! It's some summer fun from us, you know?
I'm surprised it’s taken you guys this long to have a song come out that’s just called "Sex."
You know, me too, dude.
Recently you wrote on Facebook asking fans to stop asking for pictures in your free time. Since you posted that, have you been hassled any less?
It's weird listening to everybody’s reaction. I’ve seen a bunch of people going, "I totally agree, I get it," and then you got others saying, "You’re a f**kin’ douchebag, f**k you!" I’ve seen 'em both and I don’t spend a whole lot of time on it because I just needed to say what I needed to say. It’s so funny because no matter what you say, fans only read and hear what they want. I swear to God, I could’ve reworded it eight different ways and the people who were hatin’ on me would still only read and see what they wanted to. That letter wasn’t addressed to fans. I mean, I did address the fans, but the whole thing started with me saying, "F**k, I’m so over taking pictures with randoms and meeting randoms."
I'm not talking about fans, I'm talking about people that don’t even know who the f**k you are; they just want a picture with you. That's how this all started. My point was, everybody has a f**king camera in their phone these days. In the past, if someone wanted a picture with you and they had a camera on them it was like, "F**k yeah, let's rip a picture, this is cool!" And now everybody has a f**king camera, so if you stop and take a picture with a fan, somebody sees that and you got yourself a f**kin' 30-minute or one-hour meet and greet, my friend. And some people don’t even know who you are. They don’t even know your music but they’ve seen you on TV. So here you are, just trying to sneak into Starbucks for a quick coffee, and it turns into a f**kin’ meet and greet at a record store.
I can see that.
And that was my point, I swear to God. You know, God bless their little cotton socks, certain people only read what they want to hear and they're like, "F**k you, you f**kin’ owe everything to your fans! You’re a f**kin’ douchebag!" And I was like, "You guys are not even getting this." So to tell you the truth, at the end of the day, I really don’t care. I said what I needed to say and hopefully the people who got it, got it.
[At this point in the interview Tommy Lee told me a really messed up story about how a receptionist repeatedly asked for his photo when he was picking up his mother's ashes from a mortuary. That portion of the interview was published last week.]
KISS and Mötley Crüe is a great lineup, but what’s the best concert you've gone to as a spectator?
Oh man, I’m gonna say, I think my favorite… it's gonna probably have to be Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie. I couldn’t believe they played together and it was just such eye candy for me. Ear candy, too, I love their music. That’s probably the best I think, but on the electronic side, you see some amazing eye candy when you go to see a show. I know sound is important but [with electronic concerts], you know you're really going to see something. Because if you wanted to just listen, you would stay home, right? You want your eyes and everything stimulated. I’ve been to some electronic shows that are just like, "Are you f**king kidding me?" The production is just amazing; like deadmau5 has an amazing show. I’m a huge electronic music fan. It would probably freak you out. I make electronic music, too, I've been DJing since 2000.
What about non-electronic stuff. Is there anyone in rock that you're really into these days?
There’s a band called Band of Skulls.
Yeah! I got their last album.
Yeah, there are killer songs on it. There’s a song on there in particular, I think it’s called, oh boy, f**kin’ titles slip me constantly. One of the songs on there just freaked me out I was like, "Whoa, these guys are insane!" Those guys are cool, but there’s not a lot of rock stuff that’s freakin’ me out. There are bands like M83 that are making such f**kin’ amazing music now that I just haven’t heard anything rock-wise that’s really blowing my skirt up, where I was like,"'Whoa!"
Was the Band of Skulls song "Sweet Sour"?
That’s the song, dude! That is f**kin’ sexy-ass rock s**t, like, wow. Really amazing. So that’s probably been the only rock thing other than maybe the Dead Weather. They're amazing to me. Anything Jack White does is f**kin’ dope. Band of Skulls kind of reminds me of him a little bit. It’s funny because we referenced some Dead Weather and Band of Skulls when we recorded "Sex." There's the simplicity of the guitar riffs, and the beats are sexy. Somebody mentioned Jack White is going to produce the new Stones record, right?
I heard about that possibility.
God, if that… f**k, it would be just what they would need, you know? A younger rowdy guy like that probably would bring some new fire to those guys. But not saying that they’re like old and crusty, just that sound-wise he’d probably inspire them to sort of dig a little deeper into what they’re about and sh*t. Minimal stuff, keep it simple.
Would there ever be a chance you guys would play with Jack White or something like that?
I’m sure we would love to, I think it would be a lot of fun for sure. I'm sure he knows of Mötley Crüe. There’s no way he doesn’t.