With worldwide sales of more than 80 million albums, Motley Crue doesn’t have anything left to prove. Yet the band is still out there slugging, and just wrapped up a global (and mostly sold–out) tour with Kiss.
Singer Vince Neil, who’s been out in front of the pioneering glam metal quartet since the beginning (we’re talking 1981) gets itchy when Motley takes time off. Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars have the occasional side project, but they do non–Motley stuff sporadically, when they feel like it. Neil keeps a solo band revved up and purring in the garage for those long stretches of time when the mothership is docked.
Neil and his band — bassist Dana Strum and guitarist Jeff Blando (both from Slaughter) and drummer Zoltan Chaney — perform Oct. 6 as part of the Tybee Island Pirate Fest.
All the Cruemen have been open about their dances with demon alcohol, narcotics and the law (see the 2001 book The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band). Neil himself published an autobiography of sort, Tattoos and Tequila, two years ago, in which he was brutally honest about everything from the cancer–related death of his 4–year–old daughter, to his multiple stints in jail, to his sometimes less–than–cozy relationship with the other guys in Motley.
(Although most of us use the shortform Crue when we talk about the band, Neil and the boys refer to themselves at Motley.)
At 51, Vince Neil is not only one of the world’s richest and most popular rock stars — he owns restaurants, strip clubs and an airplane company — he’s one of the hardest working.
We caught up with him on the road, a few days after he’d broken his foot before a Motley/Kiss show in Cleveland.
How’s your foot?
Vince Neil: It’s still broke! It broke in two spots, but it broke to where you can’t cast it, so I have to wear a boot. But the boot that the doctors gave me keeps it pretty steady, so onstage I can get around. But I’m mostly hopping — well, not hopping, but it’s a big boot so it’s a little awkward. But I didn’t have to cancel any shows or anything, so it’s all good. It’s going to take three to six months to heal, they said.
At this point, you don’t need to go out with your solo band; obviously it means something to you. Tell me why.
Vince Neil: I love playing with my solo band. We’ve been together for a while, and we have a lot of fun together. What it is, is I get the best of both worlds, with Motley and with my solo band. I get to play the big giant production things with Motley, and I get to kind of get back to my roots and play the smaller places. There’s no pressure, you just kind of go out there and have fun.
Is that important to you, after all these years in the stadiums? Is it nice to be just a rock ‘n’ roll band again?
Vince Neil: It’s more about just having fun. I get home, and I try to take a few months off, and I just can’t do it! I just sit there and go “I should be performing right now.” It just gets in your blood, you know? And right now, Motley, we finish up next week, and those guys’ll be off until January. When Motley goes back, we go down to Australia. And I just couldn’t see myself sitting around that long. So we just go out and have fun, play a couple shows a week, so I get to spend time at home and on the road.
You said somewhere that after more than 30 years of doing this pretty much every day, you don’t ever let the vocal muscle atrophy. Is that an exercise that you find very valuable?
Vince Neil: Yeah. My voice after all these years is probably the best it’s ever been. And I find that if I take a bunch of time off, it’s harder to kind of get that muscle going again. It’s like after you have a day off, the next day it’s a little tougher to sing some notes than if you had three shows in a row and it’s the third day. It’s just like working out — the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
You’ve said that your relationship with the guys in Motley isn’t that great any more ....
Vince Neil: Wait, wait, wait, I never said that! Our relationship’s great. No, we have a great time. On the road, they have the families out, so it’s a different thing. We travel separately because Tommy’ll have his kids out, and Nikki’ll have his kids, and stuff like that. The solo band’s not like a multi–million dollar organization. We fly Southwest to some place at 5 o’clock in the morning and load all the gear. It’s definitely back to your roots. But we all kind of do it together. It’s fun.
I was thinking, four guys in a van pulling the gear in a U–Haul. But I guess it’s not quite like that?
Vince Neil: It’s not quite like that, but it’s definitely not “we jump in the private jet, and everything’s all set up for us.”
You’re playing the Tybee Island Pirate Fest. Do you have any particular feelings about that, and have you ever been here before?
Vince Neil: I've defniitely been to Savannah, but this event sounds like a lot of fun. Anything to do with pirates and rock ‘n’ roll, and motorcycles, I’m there!
Is it very different for you, playing to thousands of people one night, and the next to a much smaller crowd at an event like this?
Vince Neil: Motley’s in Philadelphia tonight in front of 27,000 people. It’s definitely sold out. You do the exact same thing in front of 100,000 people as you do in front of 100 people. You just go out there and rock, and have a good time, and make sure everybody out there is having a good time.
In some respects, you life and career are open books. I wondered if you’d ever had any regrets about being so open about everything?
Vince Neil: Nah. When you’re in the spotlight, and people want to know about your life, don’t sugar–coat it. Just let ‘em know what it is. That why when Motley wrote The Dirt, we were just like brutally honest. People were shocked by a lot of the stuff, but that’s just the way we’d lived our lives in that time. I definitely have no regrets at all.
Do you ever feel that you’re lucky to be here, after all the things you went through?
Vince Neil: Yeah, I’m really lucky, especially because we’ve been a viable band for 31 years. And 31 years later, we’re still selling out arenas and stadiums and stuff like that. Man, even with my solo stuff it’s a great feeling that people want to go out there and watch you sing your songs. There’s not many bands who have the same four guys after 31 years. We’re one of the only.
What’s next on your plate?
Vince Neil: My life is kind of booked two years at a time. I know what I’m doing this year, and I pretty much know what I’m doing next year. And then by the middle of next year I ought to know what I’m doing the following year.
Tybee Island Pirate Fest
Where: South Beach parking lot at 15th Street, Tybee Island
When: At 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 on the Mainstage
Tickets: Free with Pirate Fest admission (see below)
Friday, Oct. 5
Festival open from 5-11pm
General admission: $10 (kids under 12 free)
Weekend Pass: $22
Main Stage Entertainment
6 p.m.: Rogues and Wenches Auction
7 p.m.: The Eric Culberson Band
9:30 p.m.: A1A (Jimmy Buffett tribute band)
Saturday, Oct. 6
Festival open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
General admission: $12 ($15 after 5 p.m.); kids under 12 free
Parade: 3-5 p.m.
Main Stage Entertainment
6 p.m.: Adult costume contests
7 p.m.: The Cherry Bombs
9:30 p.m.: Vince Neil