mila geran photo
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, 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”, Motley Crue.
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.
Motley Crue 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 Motley Crue, 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 Motley Crue’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.
Motley Crue 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 its 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 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 200 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
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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
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Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
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David Lindley, 2002
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Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
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Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
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Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
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John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
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Joe Bonamassa, 2011
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Eric Johnson, 2001
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….with hundreds more to come