Motley Crue and Alice Cooper on Death-Defying Drumming, Bodily Functions
When you gather all four members of Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper, the conversation will inevitably turn to subjects that are both dark and profanely funny. Seated in a New York City hotel room, everyone is dressed appropriately in black to talk about what lies ahead: the Crüe’s final concert and how they will say goodbye.
“Alice, can you build us three more guillotines, and then we’ll just end it?” usually tacit Crüe guitarist Mick Mars suggests, referencing one of the shock rocker’s most infamous stage props.
“Better, it’s a puff of smoke and when it clears, there’s just skeletons up there with your clothes on – and that’s it,” Cooper offers.
“That sounds good,” Mars rejoins, looking content as everyone laughs.
After December 31st, 2015, the only show Mötley Crüe will be playing will be the great gig in the sky, to borrow a phrase from Pink Floyd. Last year, the band’s original four members – Mars, vocalist Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee – signed a “cessation of touring agreement,” a legal document that prohibits them from playing together ever again beginning on New Year’s Day of next year. So, starting last summer, the group, along with special guest Cooper, has been making the rounds on its ultimate victory lap, the “Final Tour,” complete with unwieldy pyro (“The first blast of fire I think singed my eyebrows off,” Cooper tells the band, “It took my breath”) and a full-scale drum roller coaster dubbed the “Crüecifly.”
This week, Mötley Crüe announced the final 34 concerts they’ll be playing in North America, most of which feature special guest Cooper and all of which will feature the Crüecifly, culminating with a blowout at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. The Crüe also put out a new song, “All Bad Things” – as in the tour’s slogan, “all bad things must end” – which may or may not be their final song, depending on whether they write new music for the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of their 2001 memoir The Dirt. The band claims to have other surprises planned but is keeping mum on what they may be.
Currently, though, as they tell Rolling Stone between stories of lascivious debauchery and forked-tongue-in-cheek death jokes, their sights are firmly set on the end of their touring career, the reason they’ve gathered together in the first place. Even if it kind of weirds them out.
Your final tour is halfway done. What did you learn from the first leg of the tour?
Tommy Lee: It’s cool, man. It’s weird, though. There’s a different energy out there in the crowd. They’re like, “Fuck, this is the last time we’re gonna see these guys.” And for us, we’re like, “This is the last time we’re gonna play for these people.” There’s a really different energy.
Vince Neil: When I’m singing “Home Sweet Home,” I’m like, this is the last time I’m playing this song to these guys. Sometimes I start to choke up a little bit if I think about it too much.
Lee: Yeah, that one fucks me up. It’s the last one of the night.
Nikki Sixx: When Alice first heard us say something that, he said, “Thank God.” [All laugh]
Lee: “Last time I gotta hear this fucking song.” [All laugh]
Sixx: And then he signs up to tour with us again. That shows who’s crazy here.
Alice, what have you enjoyed about the tour?
Alice Cooper: The synergy of the two bands is so good because they’re both bands who bring it every night. We’re from the old school of, “Don’t just get up there and play the song. Sell the song. Kill the audience.” It’s becoming a lost art. The bands I’m seeing now are just so tired and so boring. What happened? Why don’t they want to be rock stars?
Lee: “Let’s go to the thrift store and buy a cardigan.” [All laugh]
Cooper: “Let’s look shy and sensitive.” A lot of young kids that are hungry for this kind of rock & roll, they never get it with their bands. Well, not all bands – like, Foo Fighters are killers, they do a great show. Black Veil Brides, I think in a period of time, they’ll be a big band. But you have to go see the vintage bands in order to see a real rock show [pauses]. And notice I said “vintage bands” and not “dinosaur bands.” People call us “dinosaur bands” and I say, well, “carnivore bands,” we eat little bands. [All laugh]
“I’m going to be really sorry that I wore that ‘Beetlejuice’ outfit at that time.” —Nikki Sixx
“All Bad Things” just came out as a single. Is that the last Mötley Cruë song?
Sixx: As of now, yeah [laughs]. Who knows what happens in the future? We decided to stop touring and take it one day at a time. We’ve got a movie coming. Who knows if we want to do music for that?
We recorded “All Bad Things” a year ago, nine months ago and played it a couple of times at the beginning of the tour, just to see what it felt like live, and it felt really good. We knew we weren’t going to put it out until now, so we pulled it from the set. We just wanted to see what it felt like. We want to get it back into the set now and start playing it.
Did you tweak it at all after the test drive?
Sixx: It felt pretty good live, to be honest with you. A lot of good riffs. New songs are always weird to play live.
Neil: Especially when it’s not out, and we’re playing it like everyone knows it. It’s kind of weird.
Why is that?
Sixx: People want to like new music, it just takes a second. When we played “Dr. Feelgood” live for the first time, we were going, “Maybe we should take this song out of our set.”
Neil: Remember at the US Festival [in 1983], we played the whole Shout at the Devil album before it came out. And people were like, “Huh?” We’re like, pff, play the whole album.
Cooper: And we should know better. When I want to see the Stones on Steel Wheels, and they did two new songs, I went and got a Coke [laughs]. Because I don’t know those songs. And I went, “Wow, I’m doing exactly what I don’t want audiences to do.”
Nikki, you mentioned The Dirt movie. What scene from your book are you most looking forward to seeing on the big screen?
Sixx: The “squirting” scene in the opening.
Neil: I don’t know how they’re gonna do that, freeze frame.
Sixx: You’re supposed to freeze-frame cum? Is it cum? We’ve never really understood what squirting really is.
Lee: It’s pee.
Sixx: It’s pee. OK. So we’ll freeze-frame pee like Goodfellas.
Neil: Kind of like The Matrix.
Sixx: We’ll have narration over it. That’s what I’m looking for. Even our producers go, “We’re really going to try to put this in the film, but we doubt it will make it.”
Lee: Nikki and I went to a table read and it was so fucking surreal. Especially when the movie opens like that, you go, “Oh, my God, if it opens like this, this is fuckin’ nuts.” That was really a trip. [Director] Jeff Tremaine’s vision is to really recreate…
Mick Mars: In 3-D…
Lee: He wants to make it as real as possible. He’s really detail-oriented. He’s like, it’s going to be down to the cars you see on the street, the telephones from the Eighties, the lights. The outfits. You’re going to feel like you’re in that time period, and he wanted a lot of stuff. There will be a lot of P.O.V. stuff where you’ll be in Vince’s head, in Nikki’s head while it was going down.
Sixx: I’m going to be really sorry that I wore that “Beetlejuice” outfit at that time. [All laugh] It was a great idea.
Mars: You had a matching guitar.
Have you been involved in casting at all?
Sixx: No, our belief is – and I think it’s the same for Jeff – is to have good, young unknown actors.
Lee: He’s a huge fan, too. So I feel like it’s somewhat protected.
Is there anything from the book you don’t want to see onscreen?
Sixx: [long pause] It’s all good.
So with the next leg of the final tour coming up, will you be changing the set list?
Sixx: We’ve got a real good groove going on. We’re not playing all the same cities. We haven’t gotten to that conversation yet.
This leg of the tour will be different because you’ll be able to do the Crüecifly drum coaster at every stop. Tommy, at what point did you stop feeling scared shitless to get on that?
Lee: I’m used to it now, but there are still moments. The peak of the coaster is about 60 feet off the ground, and it’s fucking scary up there. It’s no joke. But I enjoy the shit out of it, man. The crowd goes fucking bananas. It’s fun.
Have the rest of you ridden the coaster, too?
All: Not me! [All laugh]
Cooper: I look at it every night backstage and go, “Nope.” You can put me in a guillotine, but I’m not going on that thing. [All laugh]
Neil: I went on the last thing [in 2012] and that was enough for me.
Lee: Was that on your birthday?
Neil: Yeah, I was like, “Get me out of here!” [All laugh]
Cooper: That should be an initiation. You ought to do that as part of the VIP package.
And charge VIP insurance rates.
Sixx: That’s why there’s not an extra seat on it. A nightmare.
Lee: All of a sudden you see someone go, [falling] “Ahhhhhhhh,” for 20 minutes.
Sixx: “We lost another one.”
Lee: When we first set it up, and my first time on it, we went up to the highest peak. It feels a lot higher than it is, if it’s 55 or 60 feet, it feels like a hundred. So up there, I just dropped a stick and it was literally like [opens hands and waits six seconds while all laugh] dink dink on the arena floor. I was like, “Holy shit.”
Cooper: Wile E. Coyote [pantomimes a tiny puff of smoke].
“We’ve got to do something way over the top and stupid. That’s the last show.” —Sixx
Did it break?
Lee: I play with aluminum sticks.
Sixx: It stuck in the floor.
Lee: It pierced the concrete [laughs].
So what do you have planned for the Staples Center show, your final concert?
Sixx: We’ve got to do something way over the top and stupid. That’s the last show. That’s our hometown where we started, you know?
What ranks as way over-the-top stupid?
Sixx: I guess we could burn the place down. [All laugh]
That show is on New Year’s Eve. Will your cessation of touring agreement allow you to do a countdown to midnight?
Sixx: We’re talking about ending it at the stroke of midnight. When they drop the ball, they drop the ball on us.
Mars: Fuck it.
Lee: We’ll come up with something fucking insane for sure.
Would that prohibit something like a concert at the Whisky a Go Go afterwards?
Neil: If the Whisky is still there.
Sixx: I don’t know. It’s way far away.
Cooper: I think there’s going to be therapy afterwards, probably. Consoling.
Sixx: January 1st, therapy session. But it won’t be group therapy; it’ll be individual therapy. We’ll all be waiting in the lobby to go into the same therapist.
So, with this cessation of touring agreement, what are the repercussions of a live reunion?
Sixx: There’s always one of you guys trying to get us on that.
Neil: You’re always looking for the loophole [laughs].
“The Eagles are on, what, their 10th farewell tour?” —Vince Neil
No loophole. What would happen?
Neil: You’ve got get four guys to say, “We’re going to break this agreement.” I don’t think you’re going to do that.
Sixx: The whole reason for signing that wasn’t really for us, it was for you guys to take us seriously. Everybody. When people say they’re doing a farewell tour, it’s bullshit.
Mars: And fuckin’ six years later, you’re on the road.
Neil: The Eagles are on, what, their 10th farewell tour?
Cooper: Cher’s on her 20th.
Sixx: And that’s fine for everybody else, but we don’t want that. So we said, “We’re going to sign this.” We mean it seriously..
Cooper: I think you should revise the agreement so there’s a contract on each one of your lives if someone decides to reunite [laughs].
Sixx: Yeah, but you get the insurance policy. You can be the hit man and get the insurance money.
Neil: Yeah, walking to the show, “Oh, I’m gonna play tonight with the guys.” There’s a gun to your head, “No you’re not.” [Laughs] Who is that?
Sixx: It’s Alice again!
Cooper: I’ll tell you what, it’s a great movie. You see a little red dot right here [points to chest].
Neil: “Just kidding!”
So is “Home Sweet Home” gonna be the last song ever?
Sixx: Are we supposed to tell you that? We’re cutting it from the set [laughs].
Neil: On the last night. “Really?”
Cooper: You should do a James Brown where they put the cape on you and you come back.
So are you guys ready to say goodbye?
Neil: Yeah, missing being onstage with everybody, that’s the toughest part. We’re all going to be doing music outside of Mötley. But being onstage and not having these guys around –
Sixx: It’ll be great for you [laughs]!
Neil: [Laughs] Yeah, thank God!
Sixx: Bands usually break up. And then there’s two Mötley Crües. Or there’s one called “The Crüe” and one called “Mötley.”
Mars: There’s one called Megadeth and one. . .Metallica.
Sixx: Well, that one worked out.
Lee: Well, that’s why we did the contract thing. It’s solely to avoid that.
Sixx: When the tour first started, I felt that little lump in my throat and I was like, “Wow, this is the end.” Then we had the group’s birthday, on January 17th, and I just went, “Wow. Where did all the time go?” As it gets closer, it’s going to become more real for us. I don’t know anybody that’s had a planned retirement.