“Stumbling on King Crimson and Gentle Giant was eye-opening for me. I went, ‘How can you do that so fast?’”: ex-Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars reveals his secret love of 70s prog

A studio portrait of Mick Mars with insets of King Crimson and Gentle Giant
(Image credit: Press/Island/EG/Vertigo)

As a founding member of Mötley Crüe, Mick Mars helped define 80s hard rock. But in an interview in the brand new issue of Classic Rock magazine, the guitarist reveals an unexpected love of progressive rock.

“I went through surf music and British Invasion, and then I discovered blues and jazz,” says Mars, who releases his debut solo album, The Other Side Of Mars, on February 23. “All the drummers in those days were into jazz, so I thought, okay, I‘ll listen to some jazz. I listened to Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, all those people, just learning a lot of different ways of doing things and different kinds of music.

He continues: “Stumbling on King Crimson and Gentle Giant was pretty eye-opening for me. When I heard [King Crimson guitarist] Robert Fripp, and the way that he played, I went: ‘How can you do that and do it so fast?’ It was so different. Everybody knows 21st Century Schizoid Man, but when you hear something like Cat Food [from 1970’s In The Wake Of Poseidon] you go, this is really off, but it’s so cool.”

Asked if he had his own prog rock phase, Mars admits that it was beyond his capabilities on the guitar.

“I couldn’t grasp it,” he says. “Well I could grasp it, but I couldn’t do it. I went to see Gentle Giant in California, and you’ve got them lined up across the stage, [keyboard player] Kerry Minnear here and [guitarist] Gary Green there, and they’d go: ‘da-da-da-da-da-da’ and it would go straight across the stage – this guy plays three notes, this guy plays four notes, this guy plays one note. My jaw dropped. I was thinking: How do you do that?’ But I loved it because I couldn’t do it.”

In the same interview, Mars reveals that he had the opportunity to join cult glam rock duo Sparks as guitarist, after answering an ad in local LA newspaper The Recycler.

“What happened with that was that the guy from Sparks with the moustache [keyboard player Ron Mael] called me from the ad I’d put in The Recycler. I told them straight up that it wasn’t the kind of music I played and they would be disappointed in me. They were more of a glam-rock band – David Bowie, T.Rex. I love that stuff, but I don’t play like that.”

Asked what Sparks would have sounded like with Mick Mars on guitar, he replies: “Oh, it would have been a train wreck.”

Mars, who rules out a return to Mötley Crüe after becoming embroiled in a lawsuit with his former bandmates after his departure in 2022, says his 41-year tenure in the band was “two-thirds fun… sometimes it was younger guys being younger guys and an guy older being: ‘I just wanna sleep.’ Pouring hairspray on my door and setting it on fire, that wasn’t fun. Though it’s kind of funny now.”

Mars, who suffers from the degenerative condition ankylosing spondylitis [AS}, which has fused the bones in his spine together, also confirms his decision to retire from touring.

“I could do a one-off show easily. I could do a residency easily enough, you just go downstairs and play. If I needed it I could sit on a stool or chair, then go back to my room and relax and watch a monster movie and go to sleep. But the intense travelling, I just can’t do that any more. It’s too much. I guess it was a choice. You can be a guitar player with AS, or a worker with no AS.”

Read the full interview with Mick Mars in the brand new issue of Classic Rock, out now. Order it online and have it delivered straight to your door.

Mick Mars in Classic Rock magazine

(Image credit: Future)

Classic Rock issue 324

(Image credit: Future)
Classic Rock

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