Tommy Lee: 'It's The Craziest Thing' We're Still Alive

25 February 2015 | 9:44 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"We’ve outlasted most people’s marriages."

More Mötley Crüe More Mötley Crüe

If you’ve not yet clapped eyes on the wonder of Tommy Lee’s Crüecifly, from The Final Tour Mötley Crüe are in the midst of – they actually signed a Cessation Of Touring agreement, the first of its kind, on 28 January, 2014 – you can clock some footage of it at the tail end of the notorious band’s recently released All Bad Things anthem’s accompanying music video.

“We are bringing the whole, entire, insane production,” Crüecifly pilot/drummer Tommy Lee confirms. Although doing so comes at great expense to the band, Lee says “it’s worth it”. “When it comes to that stuff we’re always like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just bring it all! Especially when everybody’s probably seen bits and pieces of it on YouTube and then [if] you bring over a smaller production it’s kind of like [makes gameshow-style fail noise], ‘WAH-wah!’ You know? We’re bringin’ the whole party, for sure!”

When the Crüe last (dis)graced our shores, as part of a co-headline tour with KISS in 2013, Lee was all aboard the drum coaster. But he reckons this Crüecifly is “so much scarier”. “The one we had on the last tour, it was like, basically, a big, 360 revolution, which was – I think it was 30 feet [9.14 metres]? This thing is, like, 60-feet [18.28 metres] high and 150-feet [45.72 metres] long. It goes, literally, to the back of the arena.” In some fan-recorded footage of the Crüecifly in full flight, the drummer cheekily points out, “The fucking cheap seats are the fucking shit right now, aren’t they?” when he arrives at his furthermost destination. “It is insane,” Lee observes. “And you know what? It’s actually scary as hell. It is WAY up there and I’ll never forget the first time I got on the thing, I was like, ‘What in the hell?’” Did Lee actually poop his pants? “Yeah, for sure!” Much laughter all ‘round. Was it a pebble or a splatter? Lee cracks up before elaborating, “It was smashed in there. Yeah, it was funny, because when I first got up – you know, whenever you look at something on paper when it’s in the design process you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah! That’s gonna be sick!’ And then the thing actually gets built and you walk into the arena, look up and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ Like, am I gonna be able to pull this? Like, you start to doubt yourself when you get there and you realise, ‘Holy shit! This is scary!’ [It] took a little bit to get used to, now I’m cool with it, but, man! At first I was flipping. Out!” Lee often slows down his delivery of words for emphasis. He laughs, “It was like, ‘I think I maybe overdid this!’”

"We’ve outlasted most people’s marriages. We’re like the world’s cockroaches: we just won’t go away."

Especially considering Lee has already survived a plummet from a great height. “Right,” Lee acknowledges. During Mötley Crüe’s Feelgood tour, Lee performed a drum solo on a flying drum set that was elevated over the audience on an invisible track. The solo culminated with Lee bungee jumping from his stool and finishing up about five feet above the punters’ heads. All did not go to plan at their New Haven Coliseum, Connecticut show in 1990, however, when miscommunication with his roadie nearly ended it all for Lee. Only a couple of shows on that run were cancelled and then Lee finished out the tour, understandably incorporating a slowed-down descent. When mention is made that it must’ve been torture getting back up in that thing, Lee allows, “It was not cool. I was, like, really freaked out about doing it again, but – I think it was a couple of days later – I went back up there and was like, ‘Okay, like, you know what they say: get right back up on the horse if it throws you off.’ So I got back up there and I was not comfortable with it for a minute, but [the fear] eventually goes away.”

Before he hit the deck, Lee head-butted some dude on the way down. So did that guy ever reach out to Lee to try and get his 15 minutes of fame? “Ah, it was an accident,” Lee stresses. “And, you know, he felt really bad. I felt bad… I panicked and pulled my foot out of the strap and I only did that because I thought [the roadie] wasn’t gonna hit the brake, so it was just a miscommunication on both of our parts and just an accident. So it’s cool. It’s all good [laughs].” This all went down pre-smart phone, so there’s no fan-recorded footage, but imagine if something similar happened now! “OH my GOD! I KNOW! Now, like, anything that happens – it’s out there to the rest of the world the next day or, shit! The next few minutes!”

So basically, Mötley Crüe must feel thankful on an almost-daily basis that Twitter and Instagram weren’t around when they were tearing up the Sunset Strip. “Oh my god, I am so glad that wasn’t around! We wouldn’t’ve been able to have that much fun,” Lee contemplates. “There’s no way. I mean, people were married or had girlfriends – there’s no. Way. I can’t even – we talk about that often, we’re like, ‘Could you imagine? If it was like it is now, then?” Pretty certain Crüe members would have found it entertaining to take photos of one another shagging randoms in bushes outside the Starwood Club and uploading the evidence to Insty. “Exactly! Oh my god. It’d be like, ‘Oh, dude, take a picture of this, yo!’ It would be such – it’d be such a disaster, hahahaha.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

A fun fact garnered from Mötley Crüe’s collaborative autobiography, co-written with Neil Strauss and titled The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band – which is being turned into a film (although it’s taking ages!) – is the band’s creative use of egg burritos: they would plunge their manhood into these Mexican delights after big nights out. “It was just trying to get another woman’s scent off of you,” Lee explains. And a shower would’ve been too suspicious ’cause the Crüe were notorious soap dodgers back in the day? “Well, exactly,” Lee admits. “It’d be like, ‘What’s he taking a shower for? He never does!’ ‘Cause you could at least have that excuse of, ‘Yeah, man, we all stopped off at the drive-thru, got some Mexican food on the way home’ – you know, after the club or whatever – and you could get away with spilling whatever on your crotch and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s just some Mexican food’.” SUCH bizarre behaviour, though! “I know, right?” Lee bursts into hysterics. So can he remember who first came up with it? “I think Nikki started that,” he hesitates, “and we were like, ‘That’s actually genius, dude.’ And, yeah, it just became somewhat of a tradition. I think he started that by doing it once and we were like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing!’”

"I think everyone’s actually taking it in and really realising that, ‘Wow, man. Look what we came and did?’ And now it’s time to say goodbye. Like, this is really fucking amazing."

When told the whole egg burrito malarkey stuck with this scribe after reading the band’s New York Times bestseller (multiple times), Lee opines, “Yeah, it’s smart if you think about it and how that happened – when people were just, you know, high and highly intoxicated – is beyond me. Like, to even come up with that is kinda genius if you think.” Were there not DUI laws back then? “Yeah, of course there was, but we didn’t even have cars,” Lee points out. “Our friends, or chicks, would drive us around.”

The Final Tour is an epic stint of live shows that kicked off on 2 July, 2014 (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and wraps on 31 December, 2015 (Los Angeles). The fact that all bad things are coming to an end can’t have even sunk in yet. “No, it hasn’t,” Lee agrees, “just only because, you know, we literally have, what, another year to go and the rest of the world to go play for. And it comes in spurts, you know? Like, for me personally the only time in the show is the very end when I get to actually – I’m sitting at the piano and that’s the only time it slows down enough for me to [get to a point] where I can actually look out at the crowd and get kind of a feel for what’s going on. That’s when it hits me and it’s like, ‘Woah, man. This is the last time we’re gonna play for these people!’ And I see people in the audience, like, crying, I see people, you know, waving goodbye – I see it all – and that’s when it hits me. But I just – you can’t sit up there bawling onstage… I mean, every night we look out there, we have a lot to be proud of, you know? It’s been wonderful saying goodbye to everybody and I think this tour, [out] of all of them, is probably the most – ah, what’s the word I’m looking for first? – the most gratifying, you know? I think everyone’s actually taking it in and really realising that, ‘Wow, man. Look what we came and did?’ And now it’s time to say goodbye. Like, this is really fucking amazing.”

The remarkable fact that they’re all still with us isn’t lost on Lee, either. “I pinch myself often wondering how in the hell we’re still alive. It’s just the craziest thing. I mean, I don’t even understand it,” Lee laughs disbelievingly. “I don’t know how we made it through this far, it’s pretty incredible if you think about it. We’ve outlasted most people’s marriages. We’re like the world’s cockroaches: we just won’t go away.”  

The Godfather Of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper, was recruited as support for The Final Tour and our conversation shifts to Mötley Crüe’s final-ever show at The Staples Centre on New Year’s Eve. Could Cooper lend the Crüe his beheading device for a spectacular, simulated mass death send-off perhaps? “Yep, that would be fun to chop off our heads,” Lee enthuses. Cooper’s supporting them in Australia, but Lee reminds, “I don’t think he’s gonna be on the New Year’s Eve show. Yeah, there ya go! ‘Hey, you’re not on the show, but can we borrow the guillotine?’” he guffaws.