(photo: Bang Showbiz)
Every Mötley Crüe fan knows there’s no love lost between the band members, who grew light years apart between their formation in January 1981 and their last ever show on New Year’s Eve 2015. Over the years, they’ve talked smack about one another whether they were in or out of the band (vocalist Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee both took extended leaves of absence), and they’ve stayed together for so long strictly for the music – and, yeah, probably the money.
But after their farewell show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles – documented in the film The End, which hits 250 movie screens June 14, for one night only – you’d think they’d be so hyped up they’d be exchanging high fives and clinking champagne glasses all night. While there was, indeed, a booze-filled bash, Tommy Lee was the only band member in attendance.
“It’s actually kind of funny, because I didn’t even see any of the guys after we got offstage,” Lee tells Yahoo Music. “Everyone did their own thing and split. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. Everyone was just gone. We had a big afterparty and those guys didn’t even come to it. How f—in’ weird is that?”
Actually, it’s not nearly as weird as many of the other spectacles in Mötley Crüe’s 34-year career. While The End doesn’t cover the car crashes, overdoses, or other elements of decadence and debauchery, it’s still a revealing rockumentary that captures the personal turmoil and sonic overload of the band that rose from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to become one of the most successful commercial bands in metal.
In addition to high-energy performances of guitar-churning, drum-bashing hits, including “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Kickstart My Heart,” and “Home Sweet Home,” the film contains candid interviews with all four members – Neil, Lee, bassist Nikki Sixx, and guitarist Mick Mars.
Succinctly and effectively, the segments chronicle the band’s history, accomplishments, and grievances, and few punches are pulled. “We’re not enemies but we’re not friends,” Sixx says. “We’ve kind of grown apart musically. Tommy was just a kid playing drums. [Now] he’s got all these other ideas, whether it’s heavy metal he does or whatever anybody does.”
“The hardest thing about being in Mötley is being in Mötley,” says Neil in another snippet.
The highlight of The End is, of course, the final performance, which is embellished with an arena-sized stage set, a rollercoaster track for Lee’s drum rig, the Crüecifly, and enough pyro to make Rammstein look like a bar band. Especially impressive is Sixx’s flamethrower bass, which spouts fire dozens of feet in the air. Good thing the dude kicked drugs and alcohol years ago.
“It’s so f—in’ cool that this thing is going to play in 250 theaters,” Lee tells Yahoo Music. “I bought tickets! I’m actually going to go and see the movie. Hopefully I can sneak in and sit somewhere in the back unnoticed. I’m just gonna watch it on a humongous screen and hopefully they turn it up loud as f—.”
YAHOO MUSIC: What’s your favorite part of The End?
TOMMY LEE: I don’t even know if it has to do with the actual movie. It’s just cool that it took place where it all started. It’s been one giant circle. So for me, it’s not that there’s one particular thing that makes me go, “Ah, this is killer.” It’s just the fact that 35 years later, this is where we finished it up. To be able to document that and say goodbye like that is the most important thing for me. But the whole thing is amazing. The [filmmakers] nailed it by capturing all the work that goes into the production. And the interview stuff is cool. Everybody’s extremely honest and the performances are killer.
Did your bandmates say anything in the movie that surprised you?
No, the only thing I was surprised by was I forgot where our first gig was. I thought it was at Pookie’s [in Pasadena, Calif.], and they were like, “No, dude, it was at the Starwood.”
There are moments in the film where Nikki and Vince make it clear that there’s still tension between the band members.
It’s been like that for a while, man. We all travel separately. We show up onstage. We play. We leave separately. That’s kind of how it’s been for quite some time.
Were there any blowouts as you approached the final show?
Actually, that final tour was probably the nicest tour we’ve ever done together. And I think it’s because everyone knew there was an end to it. And as functional or dysfunctional as it all is, there was a finish line. So people were actually being nice to each other and being cool. It was the coolest tour that we’ve done.
The End takes place on New Year’s Eve and balloons were supposed to shower the stage at the stroke of midnight. The timing was a little off.
Vince missed the mark by about 30 or 40 seconds, so we were late on the countdown. One of the songs ran over and the drum rollercoaster broke so the set was falling behind. We made the best of wishing everyone a happy New Year somewhere around midnight.
Of all the nights for the Crüecifly rollercoaster to break down. Were you bummed that everything didn’t go off as planned?
You know what? It is Murphy’s Law and just so typical for us. I almost expected it, which is kind of odd to say. But how can the very last night go perfectly? And you know, the other two nights in L.A. went perfectly. But the last night it broke and I just started cracking up. Of f—ing course it did. Why wouldn’t it?
Every big hard rock show needs that Spinal Tap element.
Dude, that’s exactly what was happening. We filmed all three nights and we were talking about not using that footage and using the shots from another night. And I said, “Hell, no. That was New Year’s Eve and that’s how it went down.” I actually think it was f—in’ hilarious. And it’s definitely in true Mötley style. If it can go wrong, it’ll go wrong.
Is it a relief not to have to climb into that contraption every night anymore?
Oh man, I loved that thing! It was great. I looked forward to that every single day. That was my time to fly over everybody’s head and get an insanely awesome bird’s-eye view of the arena. I’d high-five the scoreboard on the way out and on the way back. I loved that s—, dude.
Why did you play an electronic music medley during your wild drum solo?
It was cool and there was definitely some rock in there. There’s f—in’ Ozzy! I just wanted a nice balance of metal stuff and electronic stuff. It’s definitely where my head’s at, and has been at since 2000 when I started making electronic music and DJing. I just love throwing that out at Crüe fans who probably wouldn’t ever hear that kind of music anywhere else. I feel like I’m turning them on to something that they might really f—in’ enjoy, with some bass frequencies that move them way more than any heavy metal band or track could.
Why did you decide to make a documentary of the last show, as opposed to documenting the whole tour?
A ton of our fans saw the final tour, but mostly only the ones around Los Angeles saw the last show. So we wanted to do some sort of pay per view event or DVD for people that we knew wouldn’t get the chance to see the very last show.
Were you at all frazzled before the show, and was it hard to concentrate?
I kind of felt like I was on autopilot until the end, the same as always. The lights were in my face, there was fire and s— blowing up everywhere. I couldn’t really see much. I was just on full throttle all the way until the final song, “Home Sweet Home,” where I was playing piano.
That was a poignant moment for Crüe fans. It rings with finality.
That was the only chance I had to calm down and see people’s faces. I was just thinking, “Whoa. This is the last f—ing one.” And seeing people that were happy, seeing people that were crying, seeing and feeling all the vibes was super-intense. That’s when I got to take it all in.
In one of the interviews in the movie you say that it would probably take you a long time after the show is over to really process it.
It didn’t sink in until the last two months. It finally hit me: “Wow! This is really over.”
Did it feel like a loss?
No, no. Not at all. I’m extremely happy to end it on a high note. Those memories will always stay with me. It’s all good. There’s no bummer about it whatsoever. And I have no regrets that the band is done.
Right up until the last moment, Mötley Crüe was a celebration of excess and indulgence. The drugs and self-immolation may have been gone, but there was still this complete overload to the senses.
Yeah, man. In the stands behind the stage we had six giant pyro [generators], which had never been used before indoors. They made these ginormous flame bursts that were tickling the top of the Staples Center. Those things were shooting 40 or 50 feet high and, f—, they’re hot!
Did you ever worry that you were taking a security risk by having such crazy stage pyro and having Nikki use a bass guitar flamethrower that spouted jets of fire far enough to light hanging pentagrams?
No, man. We’ve always been about taking risks. We definitely set out to outdo anything we or anyone else had ever done before. We said, “If we’re going to do this one last time, we are going to f—ing do this insanely or not bother.” So we set out to leave some dents.
Excluding the final year of shows, what has been the most challenging tour Mötley ever embarked on?
Honestly, they’re all challenging for us. We’re constantly trying to out-do the prior production, so as you can imagine, it’s always difficult and fun to create the next new crazy. But there was no way we were going to outdo this one. I don’t know if it’s even possible.