“I knew that I was going to quit Motley Crue,” Tommy Lee recalls of the biggest decision he made in the past decade. “I told the guys while I was in jail, ’Dude this is it for me. I’m gonna do something else.’ “I knew that was happening, so what I was doing essentially was preparing. I dove into the writing space, the creative space. I figured, ’There’s nothing to play here. There’s no guitars, there’s no nothing. So let’s just go with what I have. I’ve got my mind, I’ve got a pencil, and I’ve got my voice.’”
So for the first time in a long while, Lee was back on track towards expressing himself. He may not have had much liberty of movement for the three months he spent in the Los Angeles County Jail for kicking his wife, Pamela Anderson, and punching a Phoenix security guard, but other things were set free during that time.
“You know what?” Lee says, momentarily focusing his intense energy into a mellow recline in an MCA Records conference room overlooking Manhattan’s Central Park. “There were times when I just despised the judge for locking my ass up, and there were times I wanted to hug him and kiss him. Because that changed my life, man.”
“It put me in a different head space. I took care of myself and did some spiritual, mental and physical things in there that just turned my life. I have this new appreciation for a lot of new things that I didn’t have before. Unfortunately, that’s what it took for me to slow down enough to realize that I have another talent other than just being a drummer.”
Oh, that’s right, Tommy Lee plays the drums. After jumping into the public eye with Motley Crue – a band that quickly became larger than life – the heat-seeking Lee transformed into a full-fledged celebrity, famous simply for being famous. Sadly, the things he did originally to get into the spotlight became a lot less interesting than the things that kept him there for most of the 1990s – including failed celebrity marriages and a dangerous temper. With so much smoke swirling around him, most people just plain forgot that Lee was a drummer to be dealt with.
Drummers haven’t forgotten. Lee’s uniquely clean, bruising style propelled a ton of hit songs and albums for the Crue, and was a huge influence on just about anyone who first took up the drums in the ’80s and ’90s. But despite his importance in the drumming continuum, drums are only a part of the things that seem important to him these days. He has a new band, Methods of Mayhem, and the 11 songs that make up the self-titled debut album are a rock/hip-hop/beat-heavy hybrid that has allowed Lee to make the leap to a very important part of his musical evolution.
“Let’s just call it Phase Two,” says Lee. “Being in Motley Crue, there were such fine lines drawn. Some things I would bring in and write, they’d be like, ’I don’t want you to do that.’ And I’d be so frustrated. So this is Phase Two – there’s no lines. We can add some breakbeats to jungle stuff, to techno stuff, to metal stuff. It’s the best … it’s a free-for-all.”
Besides singing on almost every track, Lee is responsible for a good deal of the guitars and programming on each song, and is also credited as co-producer (along with Scott Humphrey). In fact, one of the most important statements he intends to make with Methods is that he’s anything but a one-trick pony.
“People are like, ’Who played guitars on this record?’” Lee says. “I did. You know what? I played a lot of guitar parts, [as did] my friend Kai (Markus) and Phil X. A lot of people didn’t know that I’ve been a guitar player for years. I played guitar riffs on Motley Crue songs. Now people know I play keyboards and synthesizers, drums, sing, play guitar. Hey! I’m multitalented!”