Tommy Lee became synonymous with drumming in the late '80s and early '90s, his solos setting the standards by which all future drummers would be judged, and his presence one of unparalleled rock 'n' roll excess. Since those heralded days in Mötley Crüe, a lot has happened, but Lee's focus hasn't shifted. Through tabloid headline after tabloid headline, he's kept his music close to his heart, all the while, his personal life being run through the American psyche as if it were made for prime time television. And while the hooplah may have been more than most men could handle, in sitting down with Tommy Lee as the release of his sophomore solo effort approaches (this time the project is simply called Tommy Lee, and the album, appropriately, Never A Dull Moment), it's practically chilling how sound both in mind and body the international superstar has become. It's as if the more he's been through, the more he's learned, and Lee savors the newfound knowledge with an enviable zest for life. The same zest that he applies to his music. On the eve of the band's departure for the road in support of Lee's latest solo outing, Maximum Ink sat down with the drummer-turned-frontman to discuss life as an icon, and the albums that have come as a result…
Maximum Ink: THIS ALBUM IS BEING CALLED A RETURN TO YOUR ROCK FORM, BUT I DON'T SEE IT AS THAT DIFFERENT FROM METHODS OF MAYHEM…
Tommy Lee: I agree, I really don't hear that big of a difference. Yeah, it's probably a little bit more melodic, but yet on certain songs "Sunday" sounds like Methods, and the verse on "Fame" is kind of hip-hop, but they have heavy sections in it. I don't see it as that much of a difference.
MI: DID YOU APPROACH THE WRITING ON THIS ALBUM DIFFERENTLY?
TL: Yeah, because I got home from the OZZfest in September and ripped the recording studio out of the bus, put it back into my house, and it was a weird time… I got home from tour, I wasn't dating any girls, and it was cool, because I basically locked myself in my house for a couple of months and just started writing. As I was writing, it was weird... With Methods I had to write sections that T-Lo could be in on, to make him a part of it, and I had to think about them a lot. This time I was just trying to make music and some fucking really great songs came out. I had a meeting with my record company, and they were like, "You know bro, we're not feeling T-Lo, we're not feeling him, we don't think that you need a side guy, you could do this on your own." I started to think about it, and the music started lending itself less to having two of those parts, and I just sort of made that decision that this is what this was going to be this time. You can't really stop the flow of the creativity, this is where it's going.
MI: THERE WAS A LOT GOING ON IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WHILE YOU RECORDED THIS ALBUM. WAS THAT REFLECTED IN THE SONGS?
TL: Sometimes… A song like, "Hold Me Down," the single, has parts of it that are personal, but I try to not be super-personal lyrically. I draw from the experience that I've maybe gone through, and I'll try to generalize in a way where I ask, "How can anyone feel this? I know they go through it…" "Hold Me Down" was written on the tour bus, and I was going through fucking probation, can't drink, fucking pissing in a cup everyday on tour, I swear to God, I felt like I was going to die sometimes and I was like, "This is fucking bullshit!" So I feel like that, and then I felt like as soon as I got ahead, "Boom!" right back to square one. But I went, "I know this happens to people in their workplace, they lose their job just when they thought they were doing good and they just have to start over. They feel like something is holding them down from advancing in their life, or financially, or this or that." My idea of a successful song is one that a lot of people can relate too, otherwise you get people like, "Yeah, that's a cool song, but I don't get it." So in ways, I try to take personal experiences and try to generalize them, so people can feel you.
MI: DOES YOUR ICONIC CELEBRITY STATUS MAKE BEING A MUSICIAN HARDER TO DEAL WITH?
TL: I think sometimes it does make it fucking harder, because I really want people, at the end of the day, to go, "That dude is a fucking talented musician! He sings, plays guitars, plays fucking drums, writes, produces, fuck!" I don't know, sometimes the celebrity factor overshadows what I'm trying to fucking do, and I just wanna play music. I mean, sometimes I sound like a little whiney bitch, but sometimes it makes it a little more difficult for me to do what I do. I just wanna be a fucking musician, I don't want all that other shit. But I'm sure that it also enhances that when you release a record, people know who you are, there's pros and cons to all that fucking bullshit.
MI: NIKKI SIXX MENTIONED A POSSIBLE MÖTLEY CRÜE REUNION ON THEIR WEBSITE…
TL: It's weird, because I love Nikki. I talk to him all the time, he lives right around the corner from me, but God bless him, he's still got that fighting spirit… It's like, "Bro, we already came and we kicked it's ass, there isn't anything else to do." I mean, we can go around and do one last tour, but for what? There's no new music, and I don't want to play the same songs again that we've been playing for 20 fucking years. I want to do some new shit. We talk about it, and in my heart I know the answer is no, because that's not what I really want to do. I love Nikki, but Vince and I don't really get along really well. We're cordial to each other, but there's just a lot of fucking baggage between him and I. Besides, if things go right, I'll still be on tour doing this a year from now.