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Mötley Crüe Honored at Sunset Strip

Tommy Lee shares views on Keith Richards, Dane Cook, future albums

August 17, 2011 6:30 PM ET
tommy lee motley crue
Tommy Lee performing with Motley Crue
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Mötley Crüe return to the Sunset Strip this weekend for double duty. The band will be honored at House Of Blues Thursday night to kick off the three-day long Sunset Strip Music Festival. Among those on hand to pay tribute to one of L.A.'s favorite groups will be the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, comedian Dane Cook, and Crüe’s tour mate this summer, New York Dolls frontman David Johansen.

On Saturday, Crüe take to the streets, headlining the outdoor portion of the festival, which will also feature Bush, Public Enemy, Matt & Kim, Escape the Fate, She Wants Revenge, the Dirty Heads and more. Rolling Stone talked with Crüe drummer Tommy Lee about which Sunset Strip record they hold, why he wants Keith Richards to roast the band and his view on the future of albums.

I understand you had to go through some crap to get your full show there Saturday, including the 360-degree drum roller coaster.
Yeah, man, I think they’ve been working on this for nearly two months. And it’s not been easy, so I’m so pumped we got everything coming for Saturday. That’ll be sick.

Thursday is the tribute. Talk about what it means to you to be honored by the Sunset Strip.
Unless they’re giving out an award for the most stumbling done between clubs on Sunset Boulevard – we definitely hold the record for most stumbles – I’m not sure what they’re honoring us for. No, it’s cool, man. I actually was a part of the one with Ozzy. I got to go up and roast, honor, have fun with him.

You've said you're psyched to hang out with David Johansen because he's so funny. What do you expect from him?
Nobody knows what he’s going to say. I’m looking forward to that probably more than anything, because I just know he’s gonna have fun with it. He’ll probably rail on us a bit. 

Dane Cook will also be there. Who would be the two or three people you would most love to have roast Mötley Crüe?
Dane is really cool. He’s a fan. He comes and sees us play a lot. I’m looking forward to him. Rob Corddry – he’s a huge Crüe fan, and I think he would be hilarious. If Sam Kinison was alive, he’d be fun. I think it’d be cool as shit if Keith Richards would.

Have you hung out with Keith Richards?
Yeah, man, I’ve hung out with him and Ronnie Wood a couple of times. One time in particular just absolutely blew my mind, when Mötley Crüe was opening for the Stones. The Stones guys sent their tour manager in to come and grab me, 'cause I wanted to say hello to the guys. This is literally five minutes before they’re about to go onstage. I walk in and Ronnie and Keith Richards are fucking wasted. I’ve played many shows wasted, but I’m talking about, these guys could barely walk, and they were about to go on. And I’m just sitting there going, “There’s no fucking way these guys are gonna be able to play. They can’t even find the stage, never mind playing the right notes.” And, dude, I was so blown away. What true professionals. Somehow they made it to the stage, and as soon as the house lights went off, it was just flawless. I was like, “I cannot believe what I just saw.”

When and where was the show?
It was in Toronto about five years ago, and it was on Halloween. It’s good to see those guys are still having fun, still just rocking it. I think that was the coolest part of that whole thing.

To be a rock star in your 60s, does that give you something to strive for?
Absolutely, man. I think about that actually every day when we play – I think “we’ve been doing this 30 years." And when I look out in the audience I see kids that are seven years old and I see people that are 57. It just makes me realize there’s a whole new generation of kids coming to see us play, which, to me, means that’s longevity, so we’ll still be doing this who knows how many more years. I get a big smile on my face knowing that we could be doing this as well and as long as the Stones or Aerosmith. Pretty damn cool.

What are a couple of your favorite Strip memories?
The very first time we sold out a Friday, Saturday and Sunday – that goes down as pretty landmark, because in my green-ass, naive, 17-year-old way, I literally was calling my parents, calling everybody I knew. I had no clue – I thought we'd made it. I was like, "Oh my god, we sold out a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Dude, I’m done." Little did I know, what an idiot (laughs). I don’t think we ever paid for anything while we lived on the Sunset Strip. It was always free drinks, free food, free everything, everywhere we went. So you gotta mark that up as a highlight. We never paid for anything, ever. Maybe the club owners and such saw something there, who knows (laughs)? Either that, or we were just really nice guys.

Talk about the bands you play with Saturday.
I’m stoked, man. Public Enemy and Bush and Cobra Starship – dude, it’s gonna be rad, I’m really looking forward to this.

Who are the bands you’re digging right now that have the potential that club owners saw in you guys 30 years ago?
There’s a new band that I’m really digging on called the Joy Formidable. I just like that dreamy pop. I’ve been listening to them a lot. 

Band to Watch: The Joy Formidable

When we did the interview prior to the tour, you talked about not wanting to make albums. Has being on the road changed your views on that at all?
As far as making new music, I’m sure we will. There’s nothing official laid out yet. What I meant was just making records to make records doesn’t seem like that’s got much of a point anymore, when people don’t buy records, they buy singles. Why not make more singles more often than these big, long records over two-, three-, four-year spans? Give the fans more music and better music, like doing EPs. I just think that would be a way better thing. Now, making a full-length record, I think, serves a purpose, like, let’s say, when The Dirt [movie] finally gets made. I’d say that totally warrants a full record and soundtrack album. But just to make long-playing records now, I don’t know. I’ve lost my appetite for it, and if you look around at the facts, so has the rest of the world.

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