Don't ask me about MOTLEY CRUE's showing at Castle Donnington in August 1984. I was stuck in a coach along with thirty other hot, frustrated punters, crawling through the surrounding countryside in the direction of the Dunlop Tyre while messrs. Mars, Sixx, Lee, and Neil were strutting their stuff. Not an unusual situation it would seem as just about everybody else I know found themselves in a similar predicament that day.
In case you hadn't heard MOTLEY CRUE are making a long-awaited return to Castle Donington this year as third-on-the-bill guests to AC/DC. Seven years and three albums later the Californian four-piece have remained a law unto themselves, rarely compromising the streetwise Hard Rock approach that first defined their style, as well as frequently finding themselves in the midst of scandal, self abuse, and outrageously bad publicity. Love 'em or loathe 'em MOTLEY CRUE have always walked it like they talked it. At times more SPINAL TAP than SPINAL TAP themselves. The CRUE's reputation for rock n' roll excess and a permanent existence in the fast lane has frequently preceeded them, at times overshadowing the hand's unquestionable contribution to US Heavy Rock in the last decade. Chest-beating paeons to the joys of booze, birds, and bad language may not be to everybody's tastes but no one does it quite like the CRUE; Girls Girls Girls, Smoking In The Boysroom, Wild Side, the soundtrack to a hundred nights of High School debauchery and run-ins with paternal and educational authorities. "Bad Attitude" is and hopefully always will be MOTLEY CRUE'S collective middle name. And it's an attitude that will no doubt be highly appreciated at Castle Donington this year.
"Man, we are so excited," declares Nikki Sixx, the CRUE's bass player at the start of our conversation. "We really didn't want to go out this year and headline. We just wanted to play a few shows to get back into the swing and play on a bill without any pressure, no big stage show, just the songs. Just MOTLEY CRUE I guess."
There were tales circulating that the band were pencilled in to headline the Castle Donington festival a couple of years ago.
"There was talk, but there's always business pressures and tour schedules over here in the States, which probably interfered with it at the same time. Having to sort all that out was what stopped us I should imagine."
Your last appearance at Donington was as opening act in 1984. I recall an awful lot of speculation and publicity surrounding the CRUE at the same time. You were very much the 'new kids on the block' and expectations over here in Britain were running very high. What are your memories of that earlier appearance?
"Real good," Nikki recalls. "It was I believe the first time we ever played in England and it was great. I remember being really impressed by the audiences over there. They were so fucking rowdy at that festival, and music is perfect for that kind of thing. We went through the two albums we'd released at that time [Too Fast For Love/ Shout At The Devil] and just picked out the heaviest songs to play. We're going to be doing that again this year."
So no ballads?
"Nah, we'll be doing all our rockers and we've worked out a brand new song called Primal Scream, which will be featured on our Decade Of Decadence compilation album and we'll be playing that as well; and we've been fooling around with that old SEX PISTOLS song Anarchy In The UK, so I guess that'll get thrown in as well."
It's a fairly heavy bill this year as well. Do you think the CRUE will fit in there nicely?
"I love all the bands on the bill, and I think our position as third on the bill will be ideal. We didn't want to go on any earlier or any later. We'll be right in the middle and that's just right for us. I know guys from all the bands, especially METALLICA, and they're the group I'll really be watching out for. We've been working with their new producer Bob Rock and I've heard some of their new stuff and believe me it smokes."
Nice bit of free publicity for Lars Ulrich and the boys, but tell us about some of the new MOTLEY CRUE material to be featured on the aforementioned Decade Of Decadence compilation.
"We've chosen two tracks from each of the albums that we feel is representative of the band at the time. We've got Live Wire and Piece Of The Action from the first record remixed by Michael Wagener to get back some of that dirty aggressive feel that was missing when they were first remixed. We've also chosen Shout At The Devil, Looks That Kill, Smoking In The Boysroom, Home Sweet Home, Girls Girls Girls, Wild Side, Kickstart My Heart, and Dr. Feelgood. And there's Rock n' Roll Junkie and Teaser from a couple of soundtrack albums, and three brand new songs, Primal Scream, Angela, which is real honky-tonk rock n' roll, and the PISTOLS' Anarchy. We didn't just want to do another cash-in compilation. This new stuff is so ballsy," he adds, laughing.
After five albums together, there was some talk about taking time off for outside projects, wasn't there?
"Well, we're all real happy within the band, and that gives us a lot of freedom, but we're all looking for other avenues to explore. Tommy is producing this young band called THE ELECTRIC LOVEHOGS. They're real hip at the moment and just on the verge of cutting something real different. Mick and I have been working with ALICE COOPER, which was great, a real honour, and Tommy and I have also been talking about producing some solo material for Vince, maybe just an EP with some real tripped out weird songs. But right now our main concern is just to do these shows and get moving on a new album. We're planning something big, something different. We've just rented a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, and we'll be bringing in a couple of multi-track machines and just staying there for a year and writing and recording. As now, our goal is to come up with a Physical Grafitti or The Wall type project. We want to do a double album, maybe conceptual but definitely different from anything we've done before."
That sound like a far cry from Too Fast For Love or even Girls Girls Girls. Do you think your values have changed over the years? Have the CRUE matured a little more now?
"I guess you could say that," ponders Nikki. "I think the music has become the most important thing. Our antics will always be our antics because there will always be these four real diverse personalities in the band. And no matter what we do or say shit happens. We're like a magnet for trouble. But we're not so much into exploiting that as we are into exploiting our music, and whatever happens along the way is just the icing on the cake. It's just good, clean fun. We're not into this 'hey, I fucked fourteen girls last night, isn't that cool.' It's more 'hey, this new album will the best thing we've ever done. Mind you," he adds with a chuckle, "if that other stuff happens, then it's great."
Despite some of the scandal that has surrounded the band over the years, you've outlasted many of your contemporaries from the early eighties, bands like KEEL, QUIET RIOT, and RATT (although someone seems to have forgotten to tell them).
"That's because we were never satisfied with the way we were musically or visually," Nikki explains, "We always took a chance on everything we did, and everytime we got crucified to start with until the next album came out and suddenly people thought we were genuises. I can remember running into this kid at an airport who came up and started telling me that Theatre Of Pain was the best album we'd done, but that he hated it to start with. That seems to have happened to us with every release. When Dr. Feelgood came out everybody started telling us how great Girls Girls Girls was. 'Hey you guys were breaking new ground before GUNS N' ROSES with Five Years Dead and Wild Side. all that groove-orientated shit' and I'm left going 'Hey, fuck, everybody's two or three years behind us.' And I'm sure we're going to get our balls busted this time around. The day we get complacent is the day we should stop. If we felt like doing an album full of acoustic material we would. I can't condone safety. Safety has no place in MOTLEY CRUE. We do exactly what we want to do, and we can't wait to get over there for Donington."
We've talked about the new album. We've talked about the past. In fact, we've covered just about everything except the most vital topic of all, the current state of drummer Tommy Lee's hair.
"He's shaved it," announces Nikki, delightedly, "but it looks real cool. Wait until you see it at Donington."
This year I'm making sure the coach makes it there on time.