Interview: Tommy Lee of Methods of Mayhem
Mon, 26 Jul 2010 06:23:31
Tommy Lee really is the master of mayhem.
He's so effortlessly badass that he's been stirring up catchy chaos in not one, but three current projects. Whether he's spinning in a packed club, pounding the kit for thousands of fans with Mötley Crüe or fronting Methods of Mayhem, wherever Tommy Lee is, a good dose of aural anarchy is sure to follow.
That especially rings true on Methods of Mayhem's second offering A Public Disservice Announcement. For this groundbreaking record, Tommy placed the stems of each track on his web site in order to encourage fans to submit their own interpretations and add parts. The entire globe contributed, and Tommy changed the face of the game with the first truly interactive record.
The world's first taste of Tommy's Announcement is the fist-pumping basher, "Fight Song." It's a raw and raucous anthem that'll be etched in your head for days after one listen, and it might cause you to knock your neighbor's teeth out—we're sure he deserves it though…
Methods of Mayhem is dropping A Public Disservice Announcement on September 21, 2010 via Roadrunner Records/Loud & Proud, but Tommy Lee sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive early preview of the album. Tommy talks about writing a track with Chino Moreno of Deftones and Team Sleep, bringing the Mayhem back and why sometimes he just wants to dance.
What inspired you to bring Methods of Mayhem back now?
2000 was the first album, and now it's 2010! [Laughs] Every once in awhile, I've got to get my anything-goes-hat on and go for it. That's what Methods of Mayhem means to me. Anything goes stylistically. Whether it's having a bunch of guest stars on the record like the first album or this one. I made this record with the whole world!
Well that aligns with your boundless mentality.
Totally, man! If I would've known how much work was involved in doing this, I probably wouldn't have done it knowing that, but I'm glad I did it because it's sick. People sent in the wildest stuff from all over the globe. You're going to trip out when you hear it. It's really a bitching record.
What encouraged you to open up the gate and allow the world to contribute?
You know what, man? I like pioneering something new and being the first. It seemed like the perfect time. Technology-wise, it was ready to go. My partner Scott Humphrey had this great idea and the perfect way to set up the backend of this site so that we could house tens of thousands of submissions on a daily basis, listen to them, use them and communicate back and forth with these people who submitted them. So, the time was right in terms of technology and we were in the right frame of mind like, "Okay, let's do something totally insane." That's where it all started.
Did you learn a lot from the process?
I totally did! The craziest thing was it really opened my eyes to how many talented people are out there. There are 13- and 14-year-old kids ripping guitars in their bedrooms, recording music on their computers. That happens all around the world. Or you've got these weekend warrior dudes who don't want to be rock stars and don't really give a shit about anything but playing on Saturday and Sunday. They've got normal jobs, and on the weekend they drink beers and play in their club bands. You've got people all over the world who are super talented out there doing their thing [Laughs]. For them to be involved and for me to have the opportunity like that is remarkable. Just imagine an artist with every single color on his palette being able to play with all of these amazing talented people and ideas. It's pretty wild, dude! It's hard to explain because it's really so overwhelming.
What resonated with you about the music people sent in? What grabbed you?
First of all, so everyone is clear, I had already written and recorded the album. I put the tracks online so people would basically get a sense of what they were diving into. I already had the vision and the sound in place; I was really looking for people mostly to have fun with it. If anything great came out of it, we would use a little piece here or there. That was sort of the objective. There would be times where I would be listening to one track and I would hear something and go, "Oh my God, that would be great in that other track." Sometimes, it wasn't track specific. Sometimes, it was just a great idea like a really cool, trippy intro or outro that I used for a completely different song. It was really a mix and match, freestyle, pick and choose, edit, move it around and see if it works process.
Methods of Mayhem always created insanely catchy hooks.
Thanks, man! There are some big ones on this one too. There's some really memorable stuff. I've just always been like that. It probably comes from my early days. I was everything from a Cheap Trick fan to writing anthems like "Girls, Girls, Girls" with Mötley. I like it when it sticks in your head. It's supposed to, otherwise it just goes by and you think, "Oh, that was cool."
Your collaboration with Chino Moreno "Ashamed" always stood out. Did you do a new track with Chino for the new album?
There's a track on the record called "Only One". Chino and I got back together and did that one. I've just always loved his voice. He's got that really haunting, cool sound. The song starts off slowly and a bit jarring like that. Then it just gets ridiculously heavy. Wait until you hear it! [Laughs] Everyone who hears it goes, "Whoah, dude! That's gnarly!"
Your voices really complement each other.
We do have a similar feel and a little bit of a sound sometimes. They're not exactly the same, but they just work well together. They're two cool-sounding voices. I think you'll dig it!
"Fight Song" sounds like the perfect introduction to the album.
I wanted my hardcore fans to get the sense that Tommy's coming out swinging! [Laughs] I'm looking forward to playing "Fight Song." At the moment, I'm trying to get that song placed with the UFC or mixed martial arts. That song is right up their alley. I kind of wrote it for that. I'm like, "Man, we need a good fight song." You see those commercials on TV of those fights and you say, "This is what they need playing in the background!" It's so funny. When I put that out on iTunes a couple weeks ago, I was getting emails from people saying, "Dude, I just heard 'Fight Song,' and I want to walk across the street and punch my neighbor in the neck!" [Laughs] I thought, "Okay, this song's apparently working!" It's like, "I want to smash all of my furniture in my apartment!" I think, "Wow…"
It's a true anthem.
It's one of those bangers. It's one of those anthems that's definitely ready for battle. I can imagine a lot of people will be in the gym working out to it or just getting psyched to go surfing or whatever it is. When you're ready for war, I imagine you'd be putting that song in. I put it on while I'm in the car and it scares me because I'll start driving around like a frickin' maniac [Laughs].
Are there any songs that continue the vibe of "New Skin" from the first album?
Once again, like the first Methods of Mayhem record, it's really eclectic. From track to track, there's a super banger like "Fight Song" and then "Only One," which is dark and eerie. There's a really killer song called "Blame," which is probably like what you were talking about with "New Skin." There's a really funny power pop tune entitled "Drunk Uncle Pete." The first single is "Timebomb." I started shooting the video last night. It's a really cool song. I think everyone's going to dig this other track, "Party Instructions" [Laughs]. That's a full-on electro tune that I did with my buddy DeadMau5.
If this album were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Wow, that's funny you mention that. I've had a lot of people in the business—managers, agents and other artists—come in and listen to the record, and they've all said, "God, this sounds like you'd hear it in the movies!" I was like, "Wow, that's cool! I never really heard it like that, but I appreciate it." I don't know. One particular movie doesn't come to mind because the record's all over the place. However, it definitely has those cinematic qualities—from a comedy to an action movie to a horror flick.
Maybe The Hangover would sum it all up…
That would probably be real cool [Laughs]. It's crazy! The record's really all over the place from bangers to electronic tracks. That's just my style. I'm all over the place, so the record's definitely going to be all over the place.
Do playing drums in Mötley, singing in Methods of Mayhem or creating electronic music all come from the same creative place? Is there a different thought process behind each?
It's all just a feel thing. For me, a mood has a lot to do with it. Some days and, like "Fight Song," you just want to break shit and go crazy. There are other days when somebody's giving you shit or you're not having such a good day, and I always say this to my friends, "You know what? I just want to dance!" [Laughs] All Hell could be breaking loose, and I'll turn on some electronic music and dance around like a moron. It's a mood thing for me. It would probably freak you out if you spent some time with me because there are days where I'm super mellow. I'll walk around the house, and you'll hear new age music playing because I'm in a somber mellow mood. My life is so crazy that I've got to switch it up every once in awhile and hit the reset button, otherwise I would spin out. Bringing up mood, there's a web site called Stereomood. It's pretty cool. There are all of these words that describe moods. You can click "Bummed Out," and it's a bunch of a sad songs. There's also "Sunny Day" or "Your birthday." You click on these moods, and it's a pre-set playlist of that particular mood. It's really cool. You can click on your mood, and away you go with the playlist. I put it on a lot.
Having toured with Ozzy Osbourne back in the day, does OZZfest 2010 bring things full circle?
Yeah, you know what! It's a big one for him. Ozzy got us our very first big tour. It was the start of our relationship with him. Because of Ozzy, Mötley's got its own Crüe Fest. It's a big "thank you" and honor for us to go rip it with him, showing our appreciation and love. If it wasn't for him, he really took us under his wing and said, "I love you guys! You guys are fucking amazing!" He took us out on the road and really gave us an opportunity to play in front of 15-20 thousand people every night. That was a big deal. He had a lot to do with getting us out in front of the world. OZZfest is going to be fun. It's a quick one. Next summer, Mötley will resume Crüe Fest, but we're going to do this run with Ozzy for a second here.
Do you have a favorite memory of touring with Ozzy back in the day?
There are so many! When I think about it, I just smile and start laughing under my breath because it was pretty retarded. We had a lot of good times!
OZZfest is going to be the first time a lot of kids have seen Ozzy and Motley.
That's true! It's the weirdest thing, bro. Just imagine. Put yourself in my position for a second, there was a day when you look out and everybody in the crowd is pretty much exactly the same age as you or maybe a little younger. Now, a whole new generation is coming to see Mötley for the first time. I've seen guys as little as seven-years-old on their dad's shoulders throwing the horns up singing, "Shout at the Devil," and I'm like, "Wait a minute…How does this work? You weren't around for that!" [Laughs] I think it's amazing that there's a seven-year-old kid out there pumping his horns up and singing, and I see it all the time. It's good because it makes me realize that Crüe's got some longevity. We've been around for awhile and will be around longer. There's a whole new grip of people coming to check it out. I don't think anything would make me happier. That's cool.
What are your tour plans for Methods of Mayhem?
We're working on setting up a fall tour, and I'm going to put together something really cool for everyone. You're going to enjoy this one!
Have you heard "Fight Song?" What's your favorite Tommy Lee track?