Indisputably, rock is back. Ear-splitting rage seethes in crowded arenas, violent mosh pits writhe with sweaty headbangers, testosterone-fueled anthems lash out with stinging ferocity.
Are we having fun yet?
Motley Crue is, with a new album, a new drummer and a return to the hard-driving, fast-living, bad-boy style the band founded nearly two decades ago. For Motley Crue, the rock spirit never died--it was merely overshadowed by musical trends that weren’t nearly so entertaining.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is really about sex, drugs and cars. It’s not rocket science,” says bassist Nikki Sixx. “The way we live our life, we’re pretty happy, we’re pretty free. It’s not all bummers or serious conversations. That’s what was boring about alternative music.”
On their recently released album, “New Tattoo,” their first studio effort in more than three years, Sixx, singer Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars and new drummer Randy Castillo return to the sexed-up sound and party attitude of the band’s early days. The band headlines Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion on Sunday and the Universal Amphitheatre on July 1.
Part of their renewed strength as a band has to do with the addition of drummer Castillo, who is best known for playing with Ozzy Osbourne. (Castillo underwent emergency stomach surgery two weeks ago and will be replaced for the first five dates on the tour, including Sunday’s show, by Samantha Maloney from Hole; he will return for the Universal Amphitheatre date.)
While Castillo’s energy and love for rock are a perfect fit for Motley Crue, many wondered how the band would fare without his predecessor, the notorious Tommy Lee, who left the group last year to form the hip-hop/rock outfit Methods of Mayhem.
Sixx said the change had little effect.
“Every time Tommy’s old lady [his wife, Pamela Anderson] did something, they were in the press all the time. We started to think, ‘Everybody knows who he is, and if he leaves, will it hurt us?’ But fans didn’t even blink. People who read the National Enquirer don’t go to Motley Crue concerts!”
Motley Crue formed in L.A. in the early ‘80s with a combination of street-smart punk aesthetics and arena-ready heavy-metal theatrics. The band hit its peak with such Elektra albums as 1987’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and 1989’s “Dr. Feelgood,” and has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. While a nostalgia wave has propelled other bands of their era, such as Poison and Great White, into renewed prominence, Motley Crue wants to avoid being lumped in with other ‘80s acts. The band members refer to the stereotype of that era as the “cheese factor,” and it is not one they want to be associated with.
“We come from a place like the Stones, the Sex Pistols, early Van Halen. Those are our roots. That stuff is legit,” says Sixx, 41. “The cheesy part came after us, when bands looked at us and said, ‘Oh, they have a singer with blond hair and a drummer that spins his drumsticks, let’s go form 30 bands just like that!’ Then everybody said Motley Crue was cheesy, and the only way we could convince them we weren’t was to stick to our guns.”
That wasn’t easy when grunge came along in the ‘90s and seemed to make the Motley Crue attitude obsolete, but the quartet managed to ride out the trends, survive internal conflicts (Neil left the band in 1992, returning in 1997) and continue to make music.
What’s the key to their longevity?
“We stayed together!” exclaims Sixx. “We never had any intention of quitting. Why would you break up? Because you have to play a theater instead of an arena? Because you don’t sell records? Because your ego can’t handle it? But that’s how some bands are. It’s kind of silly.”
The timing may be right for rock to get a dose of good times, and this band wouldn’t have it any other way. Says Neil, “We don’t want to be up on a soapbox preaching about some war or how [lousy] life is. Quit whining. The alternative bands forgot about entertaining people. When you go to a Motley Crue show, you know you’re going to have fun.”
Motley Crue, with Megadeth and Anthrax, Sunday at Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion, 2575 Glen Helen Parkway, Devore, 7 p.m. $10 to $37. (909) 886-8742. Also July 1 at Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 7:15 p.m. $30 to $65. (818) 622-4440. For Motley Crue audio and video clips, go to https://www.calendarlive.com.