mila geran photo
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON NOV. 29, 1985
By Steve Newton
Outside the hotel a huge tour bus sits, the dust on its sides inscribed with messages like “The Crue Rules”, “I Love You Vince”, and, strangely enough, “KISS”. Inside the lobby, a gaggle of pubescent females are trying to weasel information out of a hotel doorman, and teenage boys in denim rock-patched jackets sit idly about.
Upstairs, the elevator door opens on a bearded, unsmiling fella with a transmitter in his hand and a Harley Davidson belt around his waist. He sits up anxiously and peers in, then relaxes when he sees the shaft’s occupants pose no threat to security. I decide right then and there not to cause this guy any trouble, and wait quietly while the local WEA Records rep goes and arranges my interview with Mick Mars, guitarist for “the bad boys of metal”, Mötley Crüe.
The L.A. group were in town recently, touring in support of their third album Theatre of Pain. Mars, singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, and drummer Tommy Lee make up one very successful band. Their second album, Shout at the Devil, hit platinum status, and their new one–with the help of a video/single of Brownsville Station’s hit “Smokin’ In the Boys Room”–will probably outsell that.
Mötley Crüe aren’t one of metal’s more talented bands, but then, KISS weren’t exactly virtuosos either, and they made a few bucks. Wild image, rebelliousness, and a few catchy tunes can still do wonders when it comes to moving vinyl.
In the case of Mötley Crüe, they could use the money, as singer Neil has been ordered to pay $2.7 million to the two victims he injured in a drunk driving accident last December. The car crash also took the life of Neil’s buddy Razzle, then drummer for Hanoi Rocks.
Here’s Mars on the band’s image change, their forbears KISS, the new album, his fave guitarists, groups, and groupies.
I’ve noticed from pictures in rock magazines that you’ve dropped the “heavy leather” image.
Yeah we did do that. We’ve always been a bit different-looking band than anybody else. And everybody, now, is wearing lots of leather and studs and blowing out their hair and stuff. So it’s time for us to change, ’cause we don’t want to be stuck into that mainstream. It’s just to be something different.
Where do you get your clothes?
We design our own clothes, and then we have somebody make them. We don’t make the patterns, but we just sit there and say “Hey, this is what we want.” And the guy does it.
How important have the costumes and image been to Mötley Crüe’s success?
I would say that our costuming and our staging and everything is just like theatre. I mean you wouldn’t go to a Broadway show or somethin’ and see guys in street clothes up there acting out their parts. I just think that the costuming and the staging and stuff–you need to have that. It’s like “Okay here’s the cake, put the icing on it,” you know.
Were KISS a big influence on you guys?
[Sighs heavily] A lot of people compare us with those guys. I don’t really see any comparison. Because we wear makeup, and they wore makeup, but they wore like the white, mime-type. We wear a different type. It’s like Alice Cooper too–I guess when KISS were happening everybody was going “Hey, what did Alice Cooper have to do with this?” Makeup bands are always being compared to one another.
Theatre of Pain doesn’t sound as heavy to me as Shout at the Devil. Is the band softening a little?
No. By no means. I mean listen to cuts like “Fight For Your Rights” and “Louder Than Hell” and “Use It or Lose It”. That’s by no means any softer than Shout. Shout was a rougher sounding album, because we had to do it in such a short time. I think that maybe you might be confusing “more polished” with “softer”.
I actually like Too Fast For Love more than your last two albums. You seemed hungrier then.
Yeah, well that was a demo tape. We did that one in about two weeks. Then Roy Thomas Baker came in and remixed it.
Your guitar sound on that record had a little more bite to it or something.
Yeah, I mean that’s without a producer and stuff. I just took my Marshalls in a room about half the size of this and cranked it up and put overdrives on the top end. It just made it real distorted.
Whose idea was it to cover Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ In the Boys Room”?
Vince’s. When we first started the band we tried to play that song, and it was like “uugghhyeechh”. We sounded like crap, I’ll tell ya. And just right before we did Theatre of Pain Vince said “Hey let’s try it one more time.” So we tried it, and it just worked. I think it’s because we’ve been together now for five years, and we know how to play with each other.
Were Brownsville Station a favourite band of yours?
Well I listened to that song a lot, but…. Sorry Cub [Cub Koda of Brownsville] I did not go out and buy the album or nothin’.
Which bands were your fave back ten years ago, at the time of that song?
Who do you listen to nowadays, in your spare time?
I like to listen to quite a few bands–anywhere from Sheila E. to ZZ Top.
What about guitarists?
Jeff Beck has always been my favourite and he always will be. Always.
What do you think of the new superstar guitarists of today, like Yngwie Malmsteen?
He’s an incredible guitar player, but his attitude is so poor that I think it really turns people off. He could be like the best ever in the world if he just changed his attitude, ’cause it really screws people’s heads up. He goes [with a Swedish accent] “Well I don’t care. F*** it, I don’t care.”
Your band gets an awful lot of publicity from fanzines like Circus. You seem to be on the cover almost every second issue.
Yeah, that is pretty strange. I like Circus magazine and all that, they’re alright, but really, the kids don’t want to see any particular one person on the cover month after month. Whether it be us, whether it be Yngwie Malmsteen, whoever. Kids can kind of burn out if it’s a one-dimensional thing.
Mötley Crüe have come under attack from the “Washington Wives”, who want to rate records and have warnings on them…
Yeah, that’s already happening in the States. But the record companies volunteered it–it wasn’t like going to a ballot for people to vote on or anything. Those Washington Wives…it’s just humorous to me. I think it’s funny.
Your tune “Bastard” from Shout At the Devil–they were pointing that one out because of the line “Out go the lights, in goes my knife, pull out his life.”
Well that song was written about a certain person that we used to work with–I’m not gonna say what position or anything else–that we felt we were stabbed in the back by. And so it’s just a reversal on that, it’s just like “Hey, I’m gonna turn the tables around.”
You know, it’s just a song we did. It’s like going to a movie and seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You know that’s just a movie, and “Bastard” is just a song.
Have you toned down the sex and violence on Theatre of Pain?
It’s not as blatant. I think it’s there. It’s a little more subtle, but it’s there. Might have to listen to it harder [chuckles].
Are groupies ever a problem backstage at your concerts?
By no means! They’re a blessing. I love groupies. Without groupies, God, I probably wouldn’t have been a musician. Probably go home and be a farmer or somethin’.
To hear the full audio of my 1985 interview with Mick Mars–and my 1999 conversation with him as well–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 350 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
….with hundreds more to come