Motley Crue going out with a twang

Members of rock band Motley Crue (L-R) Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars pose at a...

Members of rock band Motley Crue (L-R) Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars pose at a news conference announcing The Final Tour in Hollywood, California January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

NASHVILLE — It was always a given that hard-rocking, hedonistic L.A. glam-metal outfit Motley Crue would go out with a bang since announcing their Final Tour.

But how about a twang?

In addition to touring North America this summer with Alice Cooper opening, including Sunday night at Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre before a trio of western Canadian dates in October, the group is also being celebrated with the Aug. 19 release of Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue.

Who knew?

“I grew up in Idaho and at my grandparents’ (country music) was on,” says Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, 55, seated beside the group’s lead singer Vince Neil, 53, in an elaborately decorated downtown hotel room.

“As a teenager I heard it all the time. But I was looking for my rock station. And I always had that as a foundation.

“As the years went, I was always checking in with all kinds of music. And I’d be listening to the Stones and reading the interviews about how they were influenced by country. It’s always the roots. It’s blues; it’s country. And then rock ’n’ roll in the ’50s.

“It was, for me, about 10 years ago when I was started listening to country radio in Los Angeles, sounds funny right there, and I started noticing how good these songwriters are. Like amazing lyrics, verses, choruses ... I was sucked in as a songwriter ... I became a fan that way. I guess you could call that new country and a lot of these artists that are on our album are those kinds of artists.”

Adds Neil: “My dad was from Paris, Tex., so I kind of had to listen to country. But once I found, say, The Eagles I was like, ‘OK, if this is country, this is really cool.’

“But my dad was a big Johnny Cash, Johnny Rivers (fan) — old acts like that, but then country became really, really country and I really wasn’t interested. Then this project came about, I started listening to country again and kind of realized that the new country is more rock ’n’ roll than rock ’n’ roll is right now.”

Neil even chimes in vocally alongside Justin Moore on the tribute album’s first track, Home Sweet Home, and in the video, too, which incorporates elements of the original clip plus features all four Crue members — including drummer Tommy Lee and guitarist Mick Mars — in a bar scene.

“We were blown away,” says Neil of when he heard the finished record. “Some of the artists kind of stuck with the track, but they put their own touches on it and some of them went in ... the other direction that they made some of the songs better, I think. Like Darius Rucker’s version of Time For Change. I listen to that and I go, ‘That’s the way the song should have been, our version.’ And you take the Mavericks’ version of Dr. Feelgood and now it’s like a Miami Vice-Latino-salsa-country song. It’s cool.”

Adds Sixx: “We didn’t have our fingers on any of it. We didn’t want to. We didn’t want to get roughs or demos of it and have our input because what’s the point? You don’t want to tell Rascal Flatts or Cassadee Pope or LeAnn Rimes what to do. Let them have creative freedom. And we were really pleasantly surprised.”

But will Crue’s hardcore fans be up in arms about their beloved metal band’s hits going country?

That remains to be seen upon the album’s release.

“We’re just kind of waiting but I think it’s going to work both ways,” says Neil. “I think the country fans are going to find rock ’n’ roll in Motley and be curious about it and see what we’re all about. I think the same thing with the rock fans. They’re going to go, ‘Wow, these country guys are doing this. Maybe I’m going to check out these artists.’ ”

Adds Sixx: “In the end, we didn’t make this record for Motley Crue fans. This is a country record with our songs for country fans. Now we do believe that they cross and I’ve heard many times that many people are ’80s rock fans listening to new country.”

Fun but bittersweet, no doubt, is Motley Crue’s final 2014-15 trek. (Their tour slogan is “All Bad Things Must Come To An End,” named after a similarly titled new song All Bad Things Must End — the band’s first in two years — which Sixx describes as an “aggressive and pretty funny” tune.)

Motley Crue have been performing it in their Final Tour set lists, but have yet to release it on radio.

“It’s pretty much us saying even the devil’s got to pay for his crime at some time, all bad things must die,” says Sixx with a chuckle. “We’re willing to be put up on the cross and be crucified here and say goodbye. And it’s kind of in a dark, snarky, Motley Crue kind of way of looking at our self.”

Known as much for taking debauchery to a whole new level off stage — essentially sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll personified with arrests, overdoses, divorces and sex tapes, too, if you read their 2002 autobiography The Dirt — the band still has a heart.

“I had been talking to the guys and I said, ‘We have to take our final bow in the city that we started it in,’ ” Sixx says. “Just the four of us, that didn’t even have a way to get around town, walking up and down Sunset Boulevard, putting up flyers and people not getting who we were; it slowly built into this local scene and national and international scene and it’s been over 30 years. It’s the same four guys. And we talk about taking that final bow in Los Angeles, Calif., and you start to go, ‘Whoa. Wow.’ Like after you get offstage, that’s it.”

The group even signed “a cessation of touring agreement” back in January to never tour together again after 2015, although they haven’t ruled out “one-off” performances if they get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or get a Lifetime Grammy.

Until then, they’re excited about the direction of the as-yet-uncast film version of The Dirt, which is being directed by Jackass alumnus Jeff Tremain.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Neil says. “It’s a really great script.”

Adds Sixx: “We wanted this movie to be more in line with GoodFellas and Boogie Nights and even Trainspotting, meaning that it’s got edge, it’s got bite, it’s not a VH1 glossy, Rock of Ages, period piece thing.

“It’s a real story of a real band and it’s got some darkness to it, but it’s a beautiful story.

“And, for us, as far as casting, the worst thing we could do is cast a bunch of known actors. Maybe for a little role here and there, but the four characters of Motley Crue they need to be some unknown guys that are willing to just get in there and go for it. I don’t want to look at a famous actor playing Vince Neil. I’m not going to believe it.”

Post-Crue, Lee is already drumming with the Smashing Pumpkins for their new record; and Mars is writing songs for a solo project and possibly his memoirs.

Neil, who has various businesses, says he won’t give up on rock.

“I’ll continue making music and going out on tour so I don’t see not touring as part of my life,” he says. “I love to be out on the road and I love to be in front of people so I’ll continue on.”

Adds Sixx, who is also looking at a solo album and the Broadway version of his 2007 autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: “A friend of mine, Harry Nilsson, a great songwriter, used to live about two blocks from me and he’d retired and I would drive past his house and he’d be getting the mail in his robe. And I’d go, ‘What’s happening?’ And he’d go, ‘I’m retired.’ I’m not ready for that. Like Vince, there’s a lot of creative juice left.”

FIVE GREAT MOTLEY CRUE ANTHEMS IN ASCENDING ORDER (IMHO):

5. Shout at the Devil (from the 1983 album of the same name): What was it that Dana Carvey’s SNL Church Chat character used to say? “Could it be ... SAY-TAN?” Well, even if the devil made them do it — and he didn’t, although they were accused of being Satan worshippers at the time — some songs are just ready-made for arenas and this riff-driven, heavy-rocking song is one of them. “Shout! Shout! Shout, shout at the devil!” indeed.

4. Dr. Feelgood (from the 1989 album of the same name): Just say no drugs, kids. Or not. In the case of this groove-filled chugging rocker about a drug dealer, “He’s not what you’d call a glamourous man,” on the L.A. Sunset Strip scene, the band brought their not-so-secret drug taking out of the closet. It was also Motley’s first mainstream Top 10 hit, so it obviously struck a chord. Great guitar, too, by Mick Mars.

3. Girls, Girls, Girls (from the 1987 album of the same name): In this hard-rocking ode to exotic dancers all over the world, including Vancouver’s Marble Arch, the band extols the virtues of dancing on the pole. The lyrics aren’t exactly PC but they work in the context of the song: “I’m such a good, good boy, I just need a new toy.” Naturally, the video features strippers hard at work and the band on motorcycles.

2. Kickstart My Heart (from 1989’s Dr. Feelgood): Bassist Nikki Sixx wrote this hard-charging song, often used to open the band’s shows due to Mick Mars’ killer opening riffs, about an infamous 1987 drug overdose in which he was declared clinically dead before being brought back to life with two adrenaline shots to the heart. The lyrics and the accompanying video, however, is more about thrill-seeking with images of sky diving, and car-and-speed boat crashes. “Ooh, yeah, Kickstart my heart, Give it a start!” I dare you not to sing along.

1. Home Sweet Home (from 1985’s Theatre of Pain): I got an even greater appreciation for this piano-driven power ballad — a major left turn into the mainstream for the band — after its use by the Crue-loving loser character played by Rob Corddry in 2010’s guilty pleasure flick, Hot Tub Time Machine. Corddry sings, swigs booze, and does both air guitar and drums in his parked car, accidentally revving the engine so hard he almost dies from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue track listing (country artist/Crue cover):

1. Rascal Flatts – Kickstart My Heart

2. Florida Georgia Line – If I Die Tomorrow

3. LeAnn Rimes – Smokin’ In The Boys Room

4. Justin Moore – Home Sweet Home

5. Cassadee Pope with Robin Zander –The Animal In Me

6. Aaron Lewis – Afraid

7. Big & Rich – SOS

8. Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen – Without You

9. Eli Young Band – Don’t Go Away Mad

10. Lauren Jenkins – Looks That Kill

11. The Cadillac Three – Live Wire

12. The Mavericks – Dr. Feelgood

13. Brantley Gilbert – Girls Girls Girls

14. Gretchen Wilson – Wild Side

15. Darius Rucker – Time For Change

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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