Tommy Lee interview: rock'n'roll has become too safe, and that's kinda sad

Tommy Lee
(Image credit: Myriam Santos)

Tommy Lee has a warning for Mötley Crüe fans approaching his new solo album, Andro: “It should come with a sign that says: ‘Open your mind, open your ears; what you are about to experience is a man’s love for many different styles.’” 

Featuring an assortment of guest vocalists and rappers, Andro doubles down on the love of electronic music that the Crüe drummer first displayed with his late-90s Methods Of Mayhem project. The result sounds like stepping inside a club where something different is happening in every room.

Some Mötley Crüe fans aren’t going to like Andro. Does that bother you? I kind of feel sorry for people who are just rock fans, cos they’re gonna miss some really fucking cool songs that aren’t necessarily straight rock. They’re just fucking cool songs. 

‘Andro’ is short for ‘androgynous’, and you’ve said that some of the songs have ‘male energy’ and some of the songs have ‘female energy’. What do you mean by that?

Well, some voices on the songs are male, some are female, and those energies are very different. But I compare it to a human being – we all have both male and female characteristics. And the record has them too. I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve put on a fucking dress and ran around like a maniac. And if you haven’t, it’s never too late. 

Would it be fair to say you don’t actually give a fuck what people think of the record? 

No. I do give a fuck. Everything I do, I do with passion, and I’m an insane perfectionist, so I do care what people think. But I don’t care about being put in a box. I see people commenting sometimes: ‘Well it doesn’t sound like Mötley Crüe.’ Well of course it doesn’t, cos no one from fucking Mötley Crüe is on it. I can’t believe you even just said that. Are you fucking retarded? 

The heaviest track, Knock Me Down, features the rapper Killvein. Where did you discover him? 

A friend of mind [ex-Nine Inch Nails/Methods Of Mayhem member], Danny Lohner, told me to check him out maybe two years ago. And I’m like: “This guy’s a badass.” When I was writing Knock Me Down he was the first guy that came to mind. So I DM’d him on Instagram. He told me he got this message from Tommy Lee and he goes: “This is some bullshit, there’s no way.” I guess he did some research, so when I sent him the song, he was like: “Oh my god, dude, let me at it.” 

There’s a cover of Prince’s When You Were Mine on the album. Did you ever meet him?

I met him at [LA rehearsal studio] S.I.R. He was rehearsing next door to Mötley Crüe, and everybody was like: “Prince is here!” I thought: “I gotta meet him.” So I walk out, and he comes walking in with his security guy. I straight up fan-boy’d out: “Yo, Prince! My name is Tommy Lee. I don’t want to bug you, I just want to say that you’re fucking amazing.” And that was it.

You should have invited him to jam with the Crüe. 

Ha! It was either that or “Let me come over and play some fucking drums on some Prince shit.” But I ran into him another time at a club after that. And then I started dating his ex-wife [backing dancer Mayte]. I got a little closer than I thought. 

How did you get into electronic music? 

I’ve always been attracted to the beats, whether it be funk, R&B, hiphop or fucking screamo-metal. If it’s got a serious beat, I’m all over it. I started to get into sequencing and electronics and all that shit in the nineties. Then when Methods Of Mayhem came out, that threw everyone for a loop: “Tommy’s always just one fucking step ahead, what’s up with that guy?” 

Has rock’n’roll become too safe? 

It has, and it’s kind of sad. I haven’t heard a rock record that’s blown my mind in a long while. I can’t think of anything that I’ve heard lately that has made me go: “Holy fuck!” And I’m constantly looking. When you watch a lot of hip-hop videos or EDM videos, it’s all about people having a good time and just fucking living life, just fucking rock-starrin’ it. It’s like the rock’n’roll lifestyle is emulated by so many other genres.

You regularly roast Donald Trump on Twitter. When did Tommy Lee become a social-media warrior? 

I just have fun with it, man. I either create something that will make somebody laugh, or make somebody think. I’m all over the fucking place. At the end of the day, the most beautiful gift on the planet is laughter. Especially now, cos there’s so much fucking crazy, shitty stuff happening. 

Have you played the new album for the other Crüe guys? 

I played it for Nikki and he fucking loved it. He was like: “Great job, dude.” The other two, Vince and Mick, it probably wouldn’t be their cup of tea. When we’re backstage, they always put me as far away as possible, cos I have a fucking club PA in my dressing room and I’m always playing fucking crazy music. They’re like: “Put him way, way down the hall. We don’t want to hear it.” 

It has sometimes felt like you’re embarrassed to be a member of Mötley Crüe. Are you? 

No. Never. I’m really fucking proud of what we’ve done. Fucking hell, man, we came, we saw, we fucking kicked its ass. There was a time period, around 2000 when I quit for a minute cos I had to go do my own thing, Methods Of Mayhem, but that’s cos I felt like I was creatively dying doing the same thing over and over. It was like: “Forgive me, guys, but I gotta walk.” 

Do you think you’ll ever make a brand new Crüe album? 

Who knows? It’s possible. We got a stadium tour next summer [with Def Leppard], so it’s always a possibility. I never say never.

Tommy Lee's Andro is out on Friday.

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.