Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee is a legend when it comes to music. You may simply think Motley Crue, but Tommy has had his hands in several musical pots over the years, including side projects like Methods of Mayhem, his own solo work and collaborations with artists like Nick Thayer, Bloody Beetroots, Violet Chachki, as well as his current fiance SOFI, who he produced past and upcoming records for. Additionally, Tommy Lee has been DJing since the early 2000’s, both alone and with his homie DJ Aero, even landing on his close friend Deadmau5’s Meowington Hax tour in 2011 alongside Feed Me, A-Trak, and Fatboy Slim.

After killing the game with Motley Crue for so long, Tommy is ready to make his full transition into electronic music. It’s something that has been festering over the years, as one can tell from his lengthy, but patched resume with electronic music. Records have been released here and there on mau5trap, Ultra and Black Hole Recordings, and he has DJed places like Virgin’s mobile’s 10th Birthday, Download Festival as well as Ultra, which was actually his third gig ever with DJ Aero. Recently, we caught up with Tommy to talk about his past, along with what is to come with the new beginning that is on the horizon.

’Nick Thayer & Tommy Lee featuring Mikill Pane – Fly Shit’

TMN: What was the first thing that got you into electronic music?

Tommy Lee: I got my first Mac IICi in 1984, and I started messing with the program Digital Performer. I started editing and chopping guitars and drums and I got into MIDI. It just opened up my whole world! I was like “oh my god, you can do that!?” You could flip the sample backwards and cut it and stutter it. I lost my mind basically. Once you realize what you can do with the computer, you just lose it. I got into electronic music and started messing with everything I could get my hands on. Probably one of my earliest influences was like harder industrial music like Nine Inch Nails, and Skinny Puppy; more the aggro shit. Even before then, I always gravitated towards beats, because I’m a drummer. Before computers, I was digging disco and funk. It all just makes sense why I gravitated towards electronic music.

TMN: Who are some artists that you are currently into?

Tommy Lee: I listen to so many different styles of music. It’s insane; I think I’m crazy sometimes. I tell people what I listen to they’re like “You listen to that?” I listen to everything from Andrea Bocelli, to FKA Twigs to Chvrches, Purity Ring, to Bassnectar and even Jason Derulo. It’s such a wide spectrum of stuff, I’m all over the place. My ear just gravitates to good shit. If it’s good, I jump on it and wear it the fuck out until I hate it, then I’m on to something else. Then down the line you have your iPod on shuffle and that song comes back on and you’re like “holy shit this is dope!” It’s almost like you forgot about it, then it hits you again. It’s a great feeling.

TMN: What are some differences you’ve noticed between rock n roll and dance music?

Tommy Lee: When I’m Djing electronic music, every thirty seconds there’s a drop and the crowd goes fucking bananas. For a rock n roll show, you’re usually in an arena, so there’s seats and in a club there’s not really seats. The crowd has those eruptions for rock n roll that’s usually at the beginning of the track or the end or maybe a guitar solo, but electronic music has so much more of those. It’s kind of like ADD drop. So that part is different. The rock crowds do get into it, but the bursts are just different. The energy is the same, but it’s just not as frequent. And, during a rock show, the crowd is watching the band play their instruments. With electronic shows, people are kinda watching the stage, but usually not really; they’re more dancing around and having a good time, which I really love. They both are wonderful, but each has their place.

That’s one of my things, when Motley Crue is over come 2016, I want to bring that performance element to electronic music because I think it’s terribly missing. I’ll never forget seeing Prodigy for the first time. It was Glastonbury with Motley, Smashing Pumpkins and The Prodigy and I had never seen them before and they were just starting to make some noise in America. They came out and opened with “Smack My Bitch Up” and that was the first time I saw people on stage performing electronic music and they smashed the fucking place. I want to bring some of that back. At the end of the day, we can only look at so much video walls and CO2 cannons. I wanna see some dudes banging that shit out. I think it will enhance everything about it.

TMN: You had a Facebook status a while back about talking about watered down “EDM.” Do you think things have gotten better or worse since then?

Tommy Lee: I don’t even know how to say this without it sounding weird, like; I try not to use that “EDM” word. I keep calling it electronic music, but there’s that unfortunate sound that’s been tagged “EDM” and I’m kind of over it personally. It’s almost that kinda happy, bouncy, sounds like someone’s galloping kind of shit. If I hear some more of that I’m gonna lose it (laughs). Unfortunately there’s a bunch of that out there and I haven’t heard anything new that has made me crazy. However, for me, like, I wouldn’t put Skrillex and Diplo’s stuff under the “EDM” title. There’s a certain kind of music that doesn’t even go near that.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. From experience I can tell you that anything that becomes popular turns into “okay, yay! Now we’re all gonna do this” and then it’s terrible and everything is overdone and watered down. I’ve seen it with rock music. About every ten years something new comes along and creates this big shift. I love when that happens! Some people aren’t so welcome to change, but I love it. It keeps us all young and musically moving forward.

Tommy Lee DJ

TMN: How do you feel about the abundance of genres/sub-genres?

Tommy Lee: That’s just putting art and creativity into a box and I’m not a fan of that. Again, it goes back to calling things “EDM.” I understand we kind of have to categorize things, or else it’s a mess, but I wish we didn’t have to. It’s a weird one for me. It’s like “Are you metal? Alternative?” and I’m like, dude, it’s just music. The other fucked up thing is some sub-genre comes along and you’re like “What’s that?” I think some people just make it up sometimes to be like, “oh this is the new cool shit.” I’m a musician, and I can’t keep up with all the genres and sub-genres. If I’m in this world, imagine a fan! How the fuck does a fan possibly keep up? It’s kind of like my job to know these things and have my finger on the pulse. For a fan, holy fuck. Good luck.

TMN: When you look for songs, where do you usually go first and how do you sift through material?

Tommy Lee: Hype Machine is a great place to go sniffing around. Soundcloud is for sure another. I also have my secret place to go when I’m not really attentively listening; it’s more playing in the background when I’m doing something. I’ve found more good music via this than I have found in years anywhere else. I don’t know where it’s being curated or what, but all I’ll say is it’s on Spotify. I’m constantly going “Who’s this!? I gotta get this!” I can honestly tell you I haven’t done that in a long time.

’SOFI – MiddleFingah’

TMN: How does it feel to be at the tail end of bringing closure to Motley Crue and moving forward more with Djing and producing?

Tommy Lee: It’s been a wonderful, incredible thirty-five years of life changing shit for me that I will never forget. It’s the double edged sword. I’m gonna be sad when it’s over, but also extremely happy for the future. While being in Motley I’ve done several side projects and solo records and collaborations with electronic artists.

I call Motley Crue the mothership, but like if I take a year off from them to work on solo projects and other collaborations, and then all of a sudden it’s time to release those and I’m excited. Then I go to start promoting it and touring it, and then the mothership calls; Motley’s going on tour again and I’m like “But wait! I just got this thing off the ground!” It’s frustrating. Imagine putting a year of your life into several projects – they turn into like a baby for you – and then all of a sudden you gotta like, drop the thing off with grandma and you’re like “I gotta go.” It’s like this abandoned child and you’re just like “fuck!” That part’s frustrating, so I’m looking forward to building the new shit and then following through with promoting it and playing it live.

TMN: What are you looking to do to keep your live show fresh in a sea of press play DJs?

Tommy Lee: Like I said earlier, it’s important to me to bring the live aspect. It’s not really bringing something new, it’s more bringing it back. I wouldn’t be the first person to bring some performance to the electronic world. Just bringing something different and cool to the table. I think about this all the time, but my Motley drums are on this 200 foot rollercoaster that flies around, it’s insane. Can you imagine bringing something like that to the big electronic festivals? Kids would shit their pants. That’s the kind of thing I want to bring; my ginormous rock show stuff to the DJ world. Like a lot of people in that world don’t even know about that shit. I’ve learned a bunch over the years, so to be able to bring that to a whole new world of people who have not seen that stuff is cool. I think they’ll love it.

TMN: What does the rest of the year look like for you?

Tommy Lee: For Motley Crue we have a bunch of North American dates. We have a little break in October and then November we go to Europe, Dubai, and Mexico. From here on I’m gonna be smashed until we have three final shows at the Staples Center, with the final one being on New Year’s Eve. So from here until 2016 drops, gonna go rock shit. If you’re gonna see a Motley show, those last three at the Staples Center are gonna probably be the best ones ever to see. They’ll officially be the last ones.

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