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Mötley Crüe Back On Tour And Bigger Than Life –
September 2008: The path to success is never easy for any band, but Guitar Center's On Stage contests provide talented bands with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that even the hardest working upcoming acts aren't always guaranteed. On Stage: Mötley Crüe, Guitar Center's first On Stage event, offers your band the opportunity to perform live on stage as the opening act on Mötley Crüe's 2009 US tour, plus a recording deal with Eleven Seven Records, a management deal with 10th Street Entertainment, $20,000 in brand new Gibson gear, and $25,000 cash. All you need to do to enter is record three original songs, capture your band's best performance on video, and submit them along with a written Q&A that explains why your band should win.

USA Today called Mötley Crüe's new Saints of Los Angeles CD "A full dose of hammering sleaze-rock." The comment elicits a laugh from the band's legendary drummer, Tommy Lee. What's Tommy's own take on the record? Is it a return to classic Crüe, or does it represent a musical evolution for the group?

"I think it's a combination of both," Tommy replies. "There's some stuff that sounds contemporary, and some stuff that sounds like it was built from day one, in our old-school style. It's got a little of everything, and I think that's what makes it cool."

Tommy Lee at the Guitar Center Drum Ship, Hollywood

Crüe fans must agree, because Saints of Los Angeles entered the Billboard charts this past June at number four—which is pretty impressive for the first studio album from the band in eight years.

"The record has been doing great," Tommy agrees enthusiastically. "I think a big part of that is that people have been waiting for a new Crüe record: 'Eight years... Geez guys, c'mon.' There've been some 'best ofs' and live DVDs, but a brand-new record has been long overdue. I'm pumped, and obviously the fans are pumped, so it's a good thing."

For most bands, a new record means hitting the road in support. In typical Crüe fashion, this summer's tour is a major extravaganza: Crüefest. "We're sharing the stage with some awesome groups," says Tommy. "There's Sixx:A.M. – which is Nikki's side project Trapt, Papa Roach, and Buckcherry. We're all rolling from city to city together, and backstage looks like a circus. We're always hanging around together, being silly. As a matter of fact, all the singers from the other bands come up and do a tune with us every night. Everyone's having a great time.

"The shows so far have been awesome," Tommy exults. "It's so great to have everyone coming out. It's been packed every night. This is definitely one of the best festivals to see—and I don't say that just 'cause we're on it. There are five great bands, all playing great songs. It's going to be an amazing summer."

Following the summer leg of the tour, Tommy and the band will have a short break... if you can call it that. "In September we're gonna bounce out to Europe to do a bunch of press" says Tommy. "In October and November we have dates lined up in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. We take a break for the holidays, and then we're off to Europe, followed by another run in the States playing arenas. By the time we get done it'll be close to a year. Only two years ago we did the Red, White, & Crüe Carnival Of Sins tour, and that was gnarly: about 142 shows. Now, here I am, back to being a serious road dog again."

Which begs the question: Is it still fun? "Hell yeah," Tommy exclaims. "I can't wait to go on tour. Now, trust me, I love being at home with my kids and floating around in the pool and having fun. But when I go on tour, all the responsibilities go away. I don't have to deal with the pool man, or the housekeeper, or the phone ringing. On tour, I don't have to clean up my room in the hotel. I just have to be on the bus on time, and that's about it. I'm on vacation! Anyone who calls this 'work' needs to have their head checked. I live for those two hours a day when we're on stage. It's actually quite boring during the other twenty-two hours. I start wondering, 'What time's sound check so I can hit my drums?'"

Tommy Lee

Speaking of drums, Tommy is legendary for the unique drumsets he uses on tour. What's he playing for Crüefest? "There's a 40" kick drum," he replies, "which I love. It's mostly for aesthetics; I'm actually using another kick drum that's sort of inside it, being miked and triggered. My rack tom is actually a 16" floor tom, and the other floor toms are 18" and 20". Then I have a 24" bass drum on its side. And there I use three Hart electronic pads for 808 drops, special effects, loops... you name it.

"At the beginning of the tour the kit featured red-tinted clear acrylic shells," Tommy continues. "Drum Workshop made them special for me. They kind of freaked out when I asked them to do it, because they're such wood purists. But I pleaded with John Good: 'Please dude, I've always wanted to play a clear kit. Can we put the DW hardware on some acrylic shells?' And they did it for me, bless their little cotton sox. But when you're out on the road in the summer, it gets up over a hundred degrees in the trucks. I didn't take that into consideration. We discovered that the acrylic shells couldn't handle the temperature, and they started to crack. So I ordered a wood kit from DW, and we had to put the acrylics away."

Tommy is a Zildjian cymbal artist who, by his own admission, is "funny about cymbals." "What models they are doesn't really matter to me," Tommy explains. "What matters is what they sound like. So I can tell you the sizes I'm using, but not the models. I'm rockin' two 20" crashes up front, and one 18" on the left. There's a 22" ride, with a Zil Bell upside down. I use that when I need to go to a bell, 'cause it just cuts through everything. Then there's a China and a pair of 15" hi-hats."

Obviously, between super-big drums and big crash cymbals, Tommy isn't into the concept of "less is more." "Not at all," he says, laughing. "But look what I have to compete with: fourteen Marshall stacks... ten Ampeg stacks... I need gear that's going to bang it up!"

Tommy has been a larger-than-life touring rock star for almost thirty years. What does he do to keep things fresh? "I set up little projects for myself," he replies. "On the last tour I went in search of the best eggs Benedict I could find. I discovered that a restaurant called Las Colinas in the Four Seasons hotel in Dallas has, hands-down, the best eggs Benedict on the planet. This year, I'm embarking on a search for the world's scariest, most bad-ass roller-coaster ride. I'm a thrill-seeker, and I'm going to sample every amusement park I can get to.

"I guess you could call this 'research,' Tommy continues, "because I've wanted to do something for several years now. In Europe they have these portable roller coasters that ride on a flatbed train. How amazing would it be to come inside an arena and see a roller coaster installed? I want to run out into the audience, grab two fans, strap their asses to a rumble seat in the back of a drum riser that's on wheels on the track, and take them from way up high in the PA system, over a big drop straight down, around in a loop, up to the back of the arena, then a sideways corkscrew, and back to the stage. Then, once it gets back up to the PA, it'd slow to a stop... and then go backwards. That's my dream, and I am going to do it one day."

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