Q&A: Tommy Lee Tells All

Drummer-turned-author talks Pamela, little people? and his penis

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When Motley Crue burst onto the scene in the early Eighties, they took rock theatrics and fast living to a new level. The Crue quickly became one of the era's mightiest hair-metal bands, and the cover of their major-label debut, 1983's Shout at the Devil, says it all: frontman Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mickie Mars and drummer Tommy Lee all done up in glam war paint against a backdrop of fire and smoke. Lee became one of rock's most famous (and infamous) drummers, playing in a signature Speedo and suspenders in a rig high above the arena. Never one to take a back seat, Lee was strapped into a kit that did 360 spins at the front of the stage during a 1987 tour.

In 1989, the Crue released their blockbuster album Dr. Feelgood, but tensions within the band signaled the slow decline that was to come. After much-publicized arrests, drug and alcohol abuse, and drama-fraught marriages to TV pinups Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson, Lee left the group in 1999, forming rap-metal outfit Methods of Mayhem, and then recording his first solo album, Never a Dull Moment, in 2002. Now Lee, 42, is ready to look back -- with his new autobiography, Tommyland.

So is it weird having your life become a book?

More weirdness to add to the pile! I'm like, "OK, everybody knows absolutely everything about me -- is there anything left?" I'm so excited to just get it all fucking out in the open. Can God please turn the page with me! And maybe this will end all the stupid fucking questions I have to answer constantly. Like once it's out in the universe, you can never take it back, it's done. And maybe this will be an opportunity for people to get to know who Tommy is and go like, "Wow, that dude's kind of an interesting guy. He's got a lot going on. He's not just what I've heard about."

I was surprised at how open you are -- I mean, you talk about everything.

Total over-share.

I couldn't believe that your penis narrates parts of the book . . .

Oh, yeah! At the beginning, I'm having this argument with my penis because he thinks the book is all about him, right? So randomly throughout the book there are these pop-ups and big, bold quotes where he's throwing in his two cents. It's strictly fun. More fun, fun, fun.

At one point in the book you talk about how it's not that hard for you to be faithful, but then you also give some advice on group sex situations . . .

Well, when I'm single I'm one guy, and when I'm in a relationship I'm totally another. They're both a good time.

It sounds like right now you just want to be single for a while.

Yeah, I do. I'm really, really enjoying it. But there's also this big part of me that's so old-fashioned, loves my kids, loves to be in a relationship, loves to be loved -- and I miss that. So, who knows? I don't know what the hell I want these days. The right girl . . .

The passages where you and Pamela Anderson talk about your relationship are totally over-the-top, really sexy and sweet . . .

Unfortunately, everybody knows about the bad times -- so overblown and completely out of context and out of control -- and nobody knows about the good stuff. Of course I wanted her in there -- she's the mother of my two beautiful boys. We just sat down and started reminiscing about some old stories -- and she totally nailed me for my terrible memory.

The way she collaborated on the book, it seems like you still have a great relationship.

You know, it's almost better now than it ever was, because now we're just friends, beautifully co-existing and co-parenting, going to see the boys play soccer, swimming, having barbecue parties. There's none of the pressure of marriage, and I'm loving it. After child custody and divorce -- that can just put some serious damage on the whole scene. But we seem to have gotten through it, so I'm stoked. We can now get on with our lives and enjoy each other with our kids.

You also go way back and write about your music teacher when you were in high school.

Mr. Dvorak. I was driving around where I grew up about an hour outside of L.A., and I was like, "You know what? Fuck it." I hadn't seen him since I left high school, and I had to see if he was even still there. So I went to the school, and we hung out and talked. And it was just so great to see him -- when I walked in the room, he had a tear in his eye, and I did too. Music was really the only thing that got me through school, the only thing I was passionate about. He said to me, "You know, Tommy, you're the only one who's come back to say hello." I was like, "Whoa, that's heavy." We had a blast.

Why did you drop out?

I was seventeen when the Crue got a record deal, and I was in my senior year of high school with, like, two months to go. And it was like, "OK, go rock the entire planet and rip it, or stay in school for three months and get a diploma?" My parents were so bummed. And I was like, I know this is gonna happen! Just trust me on this! They were like, "You have to have something to fall back on in case this music bullshit doesn't work out."

I hear you're spending time in college now, in Nebraska. Is there anything you feel like you missed by not going when you were a kid?

I've got a new TV show coming out on NBC, and it is so bananas. Just imagine, like, total fish out of water: rock star goes to college in Middle America. It's retarded; it's going to be such a fun show. Like, at one point I tried out for the track team. And I'm thinking I'm pretty fast, I ran some track in school, did the hurdles and the high jump and the long jump. Then I'm watching these college kids run, and I'm like, "Uh-oh, these guys are fast as shit! I'm gonna get chewed up." And these guys fucking whizzed past me, so I just decided to go with the rock-star thing: do the speed walk with a cigarette and a martini.

What's it like being in their marching band?

I tried out for the drum line -- which I did in high school as well -- and I had two weeks to learn their half-time show and all the drum patterns. And when I made the cut, they told me I could perform the half-time show with them. I went out there and rocked the show -- it was killer. I've got a bunch of new friends now over there. I'm actually going to record those guys, 'cause I'm working on my solo record now, and they've got some fucking amazing beats.

What's going on with the album?

I've been working my ass off. These are probably the best songs I've ever written in my life -- as the years go by, I'm just getting better at my craft. I'm making a really freestyle, collaborating record, all guest stars: I've reached out to Lenny Kravitz and Nikka Costa, and Nick Carter and I have a beautiful song we do together. Butch Walker came over. I'm hoping we can put it out in January. New year, new record -- Boom! Blam!

Taking time to look back on your earlier days with Motley Crue, how much do you still feel like you can relate to that whole experience, the craziness and total debauchery?

I think I'm smarter, more mature, more experienced. I mean, I'm still a fucking maniac when I want to be -- I can flip that switch on, and I can also flip the switch over to Tommy the Dad, Responsible Guy. It scares me hearing myself right now!

At one point in the book, you say that you're really into circuses. What do you mean?

I have this crazy fascination with little people. Like, if I see one, I'll run up to him and be like, How's it going? To be really honest with you, I want to take them all home with me. And I know I can't do that, but for some reason I always try. They just remind me of fun and the circus. I don't know what it is. And I've just always called my world "Tommyland" -- like Disneyland, but a lot fucking crazier. And Pamela threw me a party several years ago where she created this whole bizarre world: Cirque de Soleil performed, and we played "little people football," and there were contortionists and swings, fire, pianos, drums . . .

You're shooting a gangster movie, right? 10th & Wolf, with Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper and Brad Renfro . . .

It's a hardcore Mafioso flick -- we get to play these gnarly gangsters. Our mob gang owns this strip club, and some drunk guy jumps up onto the stage and starts grabbing one of our girls, and I pull him down and start pummeling his face, and blood's running everywhere. It's pretty violent, it's pretty cool.

But you've had plenty of experience with fake blood in your life.

Oh, right! [laughs]

You even talk about the time you spent in jail [in 1998, for spousal abuse]. . .

I just figured it's a great story to share with people about what I did during probably the shittiest time in my life. Hopefully it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, don't really wanna go do that again, not a fun tour. And I made a deliberate choice -- "OK, I can make this the worst fucking time in my life, or I can be completely positive in here and do some work on myself and figure out a) why I'm here, and b) who's Tommy?" It's a story about how I actually met myself again, really. Because since the age of seventeen, my life has been really pedal-to-the-metal, and I never checked in with myself. At some point I think I just lost myself. And if that story helps somebody, even better.

You end the book with a letter to yourself, which opens, "I'm writing to tell you that I'm not sure where I am anymore." What's that about?

Yeah, some late-night rambling -- Still-Confused Guy trying to figure it all out. But you know what? I don't want to get all philosophical on you, but once you figure it out, what the hell's the point? We're all still in school -- God, hopefully we're all learning something new everyday. Once you got it all figured out, the fun's over!

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