Tommy Lee is no stranger to controversy. His 40-year career has seen the Mötley Crüe drummer tour the world, battle multiple drug addictions, fall foul of the law and get married four times. But now, like everyone else, he is holed up at home, waiting for the worst of the coronavirus pandemic to blow over.
Isolation can sometimes prove productive, however, and Lee has found the extra time on his hands perfect for finishing his latest album, Andro.
And as the US election nears, The Big Issue finds him in a boisterous mood, as ready to unload his anger over President Donald Trump as he is to wax lyrical on his musical ambitions.
Big Issue reporter Liam Geraghty spoke with Lee from his home in California.
The Big Issue: How are things in California? Is it a bit smoky there?
Tommy Lee: Dude, everything’s on fucking fire. As usual! It’s smoky everywhere, the air quality is extremely poor. I feel like California is just cursed. If it’s not fire it’s a mudslide. If it’s not a mudslide it’s an earthquake. It’s like, arrrrrgggghhhh!
Do you miss touring at the moment when we can’t go anywhere and shows aren’t happening?
I do, man, and every time I think about seeing the lighters in the air and the screaming, of course I miss that. Who wouldn’t? Especially now our stadium tour got moved back to June 2021, I can just imagine what it’s going to be like being on stage with that many people and that energy when it’s OK to be together again. It’s going to be priceless – that kind of energy I’m probably never going to see again in my lifetime. Can you imagine what that’s going to be like? Holy shit!
Have you been keeping in touch with the Mötley guys during lockdown?
Yeah all the time! I just spoke to Nikki [Sixx, bassist] today and he has finally left Los Angeles. Within two-and-a-half weeks of the Covid stuff he was like, “I’m leaving LA.” That was totally unexpected. We’re pumped to go do a stadium tour, it’s something we’ve never done before and the thing sold out as soon as tickets went on sale. I miss it, man. I can’t wait for it to come back around next June.
You’ve been passing the time by making an album. And it’s a bit different to what a lot of people know you for.
I like so many different styles of music that it is super eclectic on my record. It could be a screamo metal track, then it’s a dance track then it’s a ballady rock track or a Prince cover. I’m literally all over the place. In 2016 Mötley was done, I said I’m not even listening to music. I made it about a year and then, of course, I had a bunch of ideas and started recording, and getting them done took about a year and a half.
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What do you want people to take away from this solo record?
I read the other day that vinyl records have outsold CDs. So it’s cool that people are getting used to putting on a record and sitting down and making that commitment for 30 minutes instead of streaming a song for two minutes on their phone and on to the next. I hope they take away that experience. I really did go out of my way to design it to be an album because it has two distinct sides. One is an all-male energy side and the other side is all female. So depending on what kind of mood you’re in I feel like there is something for everybody that might blow their skirt up.
Sounds perfect for a time when people are sitting around and willing to listen to something a bit more deeply.
This is the perfect time for that. We’ve slowed down so much that we’ve pretty much stopped to take notice of a lot of cool stuff that we may or may not see as we go zooming by in our daily life.
You’re not going to be able to do much live with this record. Is it difficult releasing something without having that side to it?
I’ve thought about playing a couple of virtual performances but the more I wrap my head around that and everybody is doing it… music is like this incredible indoor and outdoor sport. It just doesn’t come across on a computer screen, on a phone or on a TV set as it does when you’re there, man. The energy of the people and the sound system, just pounding. That just doesn’t come across in the format people are doing right now. But it would be so much fun to go play.
I’ve got to ask you about the upcoming election. How are you feeling about things at the moment?
Oh man, it’s so weird because our options aren’t great either way. The guy who is our president now is just doing a fucking horrible job and he’s a fucking moron. But at some point you’ve got to cut your losses: is this at least better than what we had going on? That’s sad when it is the only option that we have.
You were also attached to a letter slamming Trump a few months ago that went viral.
I credited the person but I’ll take the credit because it was pretty well written! The thing that stings the most is that I feel like we’re embarrassing. I feel like people in Europe and the rest of the world look at America and think: “What the fuck are you guys doing over there? Stop voting for celebrities and get someone real to run the country.”
What about four more years of Trump?
Dude, I swear to god if that happens then I’m coming over to visit you. I’m out of here. I’ll go back to my motherland, go back to go Greece and get a house on one of the islands.
We’ll make some room for you.
Cool! You guys have got great golf courses over there.
They’re not great for getting away from Trump though, he owns a couple of them. Plus I think Alice Cooper has kind of got the ‘rock stars who play golf’ thing down to a tee, hasn’t he?
Dude, I’ve played golf with him and he’s fucking great. But he’s got the commitment part of it down. He literally golfs every day. He came on tour with us in 2016 and he would go out every day. Pretty serious, but he’s a great golfer.
Andro, the new album from Tommy Lee, is available in stores and online now.