The Carnival Of Sin Invades Sin City: An Interview With Mick Mars

  BY JEB WRIGHT

The bad boys of Hard Rock will invade the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for a 12 day residency beginning February 2nd running through February 19th. Motley Crue in Vegas is a no brainer, Motley at the Hard Rock in Vegas is a genius idea. The staff of the Hard Rock better be ready as once the Crue descend into town things are going to get wild.

The band has always been one to reinvent themselves and somehow, despite their endless appetite for destruction, they continue to have success in all of their endeavors. No other band has been as hell bent on self destruction and yet been able to stay the course of stardom. No band has suffered more tragedy, albeit a large majority has been brought on by their own insane behavior, but nonetheless they are all four still walking and talking. Motley Crue may not be indestructible but I bet they think they are! And why not, as they have proved you can not only survive years of outlandish behavior, you can actually thrive on it.

Vince Neil wins the award for Most Often In the Police Notes, Tommy Lee gets the award for Rock’s Biggest Dick and Nikki Sixx is among the best when it comes to living on the edge and coming out smelling like a rose. Guitarist Mick Mars, the stealth member of Crue when it comes to headlines, doesn’t do much press. He is the quiet leader of the band. He writes monstrous riffs and keeps an eye on the business of Motley Crue doing what ever it takes to keep the band relevant going into their 4th decade.

Read on as Mick and I talk about the upcoming Vegas gigs as well as some of the highlights of Crue’s past and how he deals with the craziness. We also discuss a possible blues album and if and when the movie version of The Dirt will ever come to light.


 

Jeb: Crue has found a new way to market themselves once again. You are going to be the Hard Rock Elvis with the residency at the Hard Rock.

Mick: The Elvis Presley of Metal, that’s pretty funny. There have been some rock bands – metal and rock bands – that have played a few days in a row in Vegas. I believe that we are the very first metal band that has done a 12 day residency. This will set another milestone for Motley Crue. We are like the metal Rat Pack. Vegas has changed a lot and rock bands are now wanting to play there. We got lucky and we got this residency at the Hard Rock. I have to say, and I am guessing, but I really think we are the first rock band to do that.

Jeb: Crue is the perfect band and the Hard Rock is the perfect place.

Mick: We were actually the last band to play at The Joint at the Hard Rock in Vegas before they remolded the place.

Jeb: When a band can get people to travel across the nation and come to you that is quite a compliment.

Mick: It’s all good, isn’t it? It really is kind of crazy. We are breaking some new ground.

Jeb: Vince can drink all he wants as you can just get him a cab back and forth each night.

Mick: [laughs] I think he still live there. I am staying there the entire time. We play four days a week and I am just going to hang out there the entire time. I can’t do too much gambling.

Jeb: Will you play different sets each night?

Mick: I hope so. We are doing quite a bit of rehearsing, with and without production. We have been rehearsing some really obscure songs like “Bastard.” It is going to be a surprise for me to see how this all works out.

Jeb: Do you think Motley Crue will continue to do these kinds of residencies?

Mick: I know it is a cool thing we are doing, and that we are probably going to make this possible for other bands to do the same thing. I don’t know if we are planning on doing more of this type of thing or not. We are going to have to check it out and see. For me, personally, I like to jump on the bus every night and go around and see the whole world but we will have to see how this works out.

Jeb: There has been a lot of talk that Motley Crue is working on a new record.

Mick: We have a lot of things in the works. We want to do things like Crue Fest. The music business is really tweaking out and getting weird. I think it is ridiculous what is happening. I think the future will have to see bands put together really cool packages that will be worth it for people to go see. As far as new music goes, I can tell you that I am writing a bunch of new material. Nikki is writing a lot as well. I am hoping that we will have a new record out by 2013.

Jeb: I would love to hear your new stuff. You are one of the best riff writers around.

Mick: I took lessons from Keith Richards [laughter].

Jeb: A lot of fans worry about you because of your health issues. Are you able to survive a tour?

Mick: The thing is, as always, that I am able to keep touring. It is one of those things that I call an inconvenience. Of course I have days that are worse than others and there is always some amount of pain with my hips. There are good days and bad days but it is more of an inconvenience than anything else. I don’t feel sick. There are a lot of people that go around that suffer from this type of thing and they go to their doctor and he tells them that they will be in a wheelchair. My advice to them is to go to another doctor because he is wrong. There are some things about this thing that I’ve got that are not so cool, but there is one thing that is cool – I ended up bent. I can always see my guitar. If I’d been straight then I would not be able to see myself play [laughter].

Jeb: Have you always been the quiet leader of Motley Crue?

Mick: In a way but it is more like being a silent partner. Look, I love music but I do stay on top of the business end because it is a business. I love writing music, traveling and getting paid to see the world but you have to keep your eye on what is going on around you.

Jeb: Were you young and dumb and lucky or did you know music is what you were going to do with your life? You do not even have a high school education.

Mick: I had every intention of being who I am today. It didn’t matter how many days, or years, that it took, or how many dues I had to pay.

Jeb: Was there a moment where you knew you were going to be a musician?

Mick: My moment was when I was three years old. I went to a 4H Fair, I grew up in Indiana. I went to the Fair and I saw this country musician play at the Fair, his name was Skeeter Bond and he had on this orange outfit with sequins all over it and he wore this large Stetson hat and he played guitar and sang. I was three years old and I said, “That’s what I’m doing with my life.” My Mom cut my hair like Elvis Presley and by seven years old I started picking at the guitar. I got into surf music like Dick Dale – I know Dick Dale and he is a really cool guy. I have to tell you that it is really weird to meet the people that you studied growing up. Next came Ed Sullivan with the Beatles and I said, “Oh, this is something different.” I keep moving on and studying things and I found the Rolling Stones. I discovered Paul Butterfield and guys like Mike Bloomfield. I just kept moving on and checking out new musicians.

Jeb: A lot of bands that came after Crue saw the guitar player go more the Van Halen route. I think you stuck with the old school pentatonic style. Am I off base with that?

Mick: Not at all, I feel that is very true. Throughout the ‘80’s and ‘90’s guys were lining up to go to GIT and all they did were learn how to play scales and learn how to play them really fast. At the end of the day, all they ended up learning was scales. I could have done that but I stayed true to what I lived. Here is good for instance, Eric Clapton said he was playing with BB King and he was playing this barrage of notes and the crowd was just sitting there. BB King played one note and the crowd went wild. That goes to show that it is not how many notes you play but rather how you play them.

Jeb: You are not afraid to use a slide in a song and you stay you despite the fact that most guys in bands like Crue were more into Steve Vai.

Mick: There are a lot of people that really like to play like that. Steve and I are really good friends. He is the kind of musician that when he plays to a regular crowd, that are not into what he does, he can play over their head. He is on the guitar like Terry Bozzio is on drums. He is so good that he is like rock’s version of Picasso. You have to remember that Picasso got so good that he started fucking up his paintings. Steve is one of those guys who can play a million notes but then turn around and play something very melodic too. There are not many players as gifted as he is.

Jeb: Do you feel that Motley Crue changed music? I mean you sold Too Fast for Love out of the trunk of your car and created a genre for yourself. Motley Crue ushered in the whole 1980’s Sunset Strip Glam Metal thing. Do you take pride that you’re the Godfather of that movement?

Mick: I really don’t feel like I am. I don’t feel like I did that. A couple of people have said that to me before but I don’t think I did anything special. I just did what I did, that’s all.

Jeb: You had a vision for Motley Crue and the guys in the band are about ten years younger than you. Did you ever worry that getting with a bunch of young and crazy guys might backfire on you?

Mick: No, and I will tell you why. It is because my age wasn’t my age. I was thirty but I wasn’t thinking like a thirty year old. I was thinking more like a teenager. I was hungry and I wanted to make it. There were other guys like me, who were thirty at the time, and they would tell me, “I’m happy just playing clubs.” Well, now they are happy selling Kentucky Fried Chicken, aren’t they?

Jeb: How important was playing the US Festival for Motley Crue?

Mick: It was very important for us. I believe, if I remember correctly, the guy that put that on US Festival actually went around looking for a new band to open the show. I don’t know if that is fact, or if it is just a legend, but I heard he went around to high schools and clubs and looked for a great new band and we ended up being that band. The US Festival was the Woodstock of the West Coast; there were over 300,000 people there. It was definitely a huge milestone for us and helped us get noticed.

Jeb: In retrospect, do you feel all of the drinking and drugs and crazy sexual stuff with groupies detracted from the musical legacy of Motley Crue?

Mick: Any kind of publicity is good publicity. I don’t care. If we were in the newspaper then I didn’t care what it said. Led Zeppelin were the same way. Their reviews were really bad and they had tons of stories about how they behaved offstage. Guess what? Led Zeppelin was in the papers and they became huge. It never bothered me what people thought of me.

Jeb: As stated earlier, you are the quiet leader of the band. How did you deal with things like Vince’s car wreck and Nikki’s overdose?

Mick: When you first hear about these things it is a really numbing feeling. All you can really do is say what’s on your mind. When Nikki overdosed I really didn’t know what to say to him. I just said, “Well, Sixx that was a really good move.” I will tell you something that sucked about that was that our tour manager told us, “You get to call up the people in Europe and tell them that you have to cancel all of the tour dates because Nikki overdosed.” I was like, “Oh my God, what am I going to say to them?” I was already upset because here is my bass player who OD’d and all I could do was tell him, “Dude, don’t do this shit. You’re going to get really hooked on this shit and it’s going to get bad.”

Jeb: The fact that you four are still alive and able to perform is a miracle.

Mick: I know. It is really weird. We depend on each other for our livelihood. The guys have all done solo things but nothing has come close to being what Motley Crue is for all of us.

Jeb: I heard you’re doing a solo album.

Mick: I am thinking about it. There is word out about it and everybody is saying that I’m doing a blues record. It will be a blues record per se but it will be more like how Edgar Winter interprets the blues. It will have a ‘70’s kind of feeling but I will be writing a more current style of music. I want to mix those two styles together. I’m an old school guy and everything that I write for me I always ask, “Will Motley Crue be able to play this onstage?” If the answer is ‘no’ then I scrap it for Crue but I put it away. I have to feel really good about what I’m doing or I go back and start from scratch.

Jeb: Are you writing for other artists?

Mick: I have written some stuff with James Durbin from American Idol. I’m the only guitar player that he wanted to play on his record. I am going to go see him at the Roxy. He is a good guy.

Jeb: The other guys in the band usually handle press. You don’t do a lot of interviews. Why is that?

Mick: I guess I don’t believe in my own hype. I don’t need to have a tremendously huge ego and I don’t need to thumb my nose at people. That, to me, is total bullshit. I am a guy who loves to write and play music and that is what I have been doing. Some of the music I have been writing may not be good for a live situation but it may be good for movies or commercials. I wouldn’t mind getting into some television and movie stuff.

Jeb: Speaking of TV, you were on the TV show Bones. That was pretty cool.

Mick: [laughing] Oh yeah, I remember that, it was fun. I remember we played and the entire cast was like, “What the hell? How do we follow that?”

Jeb: Going way back, you were a guy named Bob Deal and you looked like everyone else who was in a rock band in the 1970’s. You had the look of the day so I want to know what made you dye your hair black, go glam and change your name to Mick Mars.

Mick: I was reinventing myself. That particular look for the ‘70’s was a really good look but things were changing and I needed to change too. I either could dye my hair bright orange or black, either one would have worked. The mustache had to go as it was totally out of style. My plan was to quit playing in stupid cover bands. I used a lot of bands as stepping stones. I had a guy that really believed in me that wanted to put money into the cover band that I was in. I said, “No, don’t do that. I will find some other people.” I put my ad in the paper and it said, “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist” and Nikki saw it and called me. I was playing with him and then Tommy came in and that is when I told Allen Kovac, “I found a band.” He had the money so that we could push everything together really quickly. We were really a bunch of hungry kids.

Jeb: My favorite Crue album is not the most popular. I simply can’t get over the rawness of Too Fast for Love. What is the album that is most special to your heart?

Mick: I would have to say Too Fast for Love because it is really raw. We started recording that just a few months after we were together. I think we actually played one time live at the Starwood and then we went in the studio. I found a studio and Michael Wagener was a friend of mine and he recorded it. The guy that was the house engineer screwed everything up so Michael had to go through it and fix it the best he could. Roy Thomas Baker then entered and we had to go back in the studio and redo it again. We didn’t do all of it, we just had to do little parts and then Roy would fix it all. Shortly after that, we started recording Shout at the Devil.

For all intents and purposes, Too Fast for Love was just a demo for us to try and get a record deal. Tom Zutat from Elektra, which is the record company that when I was a kid, this is the honest to God truth, that both Joe Cocker and the Paul Butterfield Blues band were on, and I said back then that Elektra was the label that I wanted to be on. Here comes Tom Zutaut and Elektra ended up being the place we signed. Another record company came in and offered us more money but Elektra was the label I wanted to be on.

Jeb: You’ve had a lot of happy coincidences in your life.

Mick: Yeah but I have paid my dues too.

Jeb: Is The Dirt still going to be a movie and if so, who do you want to play you in the movie?

Mick: if I really had my choice and I could afford the guy then I would pick Gary Oldman. I have seen him in so many movies and he looks different every time. I think he could pull me off. It will be coming out as a movie. I don’t know exactly when but we’ve talked to directors and producers and it is in the works. It will happen.

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