Hands up if your 2020 bingo card had a member of Mötley Crüe releasing the year’s most galvanizing electro/hip-hop record. However, that’s just what Crüe drummer Tommy Lee has done with his explosive new solo album, ANDRO, which is due out in October.
A huge fan of beat-driven music, Lee is well-versed in programming gear and known for following his rhythmic bliss. Unsurprisingly, ANDRO delivers plenty of wild electrostatic grooves worthy of both your attention and your speakers’ wattage. But on the new tracks “Knock Me Down” and “Tops,” the drummer even shares the spotlight with (respectively) two relatively unknown MCs, Killvein and Push Push, whose fiery words and voices Lee thought deserved a more prominent platform.
Lee spoke with Altpress about his eternal love of beats, from the vintage soul and funk records he was into growing up, all the way to the hip-hop vibes seemingly booming from the international space station. He’s also got some things to say about the state of the world. Spoiler alert: Those who think he should “shut up and play the drums” might want to pour a tall glass of STFU right about now.
I just heard the new track “Demon Bitches.” I have to tell you, I can’t wait to hear the entire ANDRO record. It’s wild and contemporary, but it’s alien at the same time.
TOMMY LEE: I am so pumped you heard that! It’s so crazy, because for me, I know what’s on the record and it’s fucking badass. [It’s frustrating to let people hear a song or two at a time. I’m like, “Fuck. I want to see it come out already!” There’s so much badass shit on the record. It’s a killer record. I’m really proud of it. Thank you, man. I’m glad you’re digging it. That track’s pretty fire, isn’t it?
Your programming is absolutely ridiculous. The tracks are groovy. But then it feels like getting a roundhouse kick in the back of the head, because something else hits you sonically.
[Laughs.] Coming from you, that really makes me happy. Thank you. Because a lot of work goes into that, [with] a lot of tweaking and being a fucking perfectionist [and] making sure, like, “Is it banging as it can possibly be? Yes. Okay, we’re good.” So I appreciate that.
DJ culture is all about the beat, so it’s obvious that you would embrace that. And I know about that other thing that you do. But when was your first immersion into electronic music, and the intersection of hip-hop beats into that DNA?
In 2000 with Methods Of Mayhem was when I went public with the, like, crazy-hyper version of myself and put it out there. But when did I first gravitate toward that stuff? As far back as I can remember, anything that had a beat that was funky or interesting or heavy or tribal or anything that moved me, I would go out like a fucking magnet right at it.
At a young age, I was listening to early funk and R&B like Parliament-Funkadelic and the Gap Band. Later on, I’m listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, and Van Halen. And then I was also experiencing Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails… That whole world just exploded.
I found myself gravitating towards anything and almost everything that had, you know, to me, a feeling. As a drummer, if the music is so powerful for me, man, I get the energy that I get from it. And if it moves me, I’ll wear the fuckin’ thing out, man. I play things until I can’t play them anymore. And then I’ll take a break, and then they’ll come back into my world. I’ve done so many different styles of music. It’s just been a fuckin’ giant playground.
Technologically speaking, could you have made this record 10 years ago?
I guess. But, then again, maybe not. Because, for some reason, my ear has really been drawn to a lot of female energy stuff. I mean, everyone from Halsey to Die Antwoord, there’s so much beautiful female energy stuff out there that’s heavy also. A lot of the new EDM stuff has just stunning vocal performances. I gravitate to Halsey and also Flume. He does a lot of stuff with female artists and that has really moved me a lot. So, yeah, 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have made a record like this, because I wasn’t really in that lane.
That would explain some of the tough women you have on the album, like Brooke Candy and Push Push, as well as that dude Killvein. You have a lot of relative unknown people appearing on ANDRO. You’re down to share the spotlight.
I have a list of people I’ve always wanted to work with. It’s a long list of people. I’m a big underdog fan. There are people who are so talented that will probably never see the light of day, just because of the way things are now and the absolute abundance of music and how hard it is to fucking cut through all the fucking noise. That fucking “Knock Me Down” track. I’ve been following Killvein for a while. Same with Push Push: She’s been around for a couple of years doing stuff and I’m like, “That girl is a badass.” Like I said, I’m an underdog guy, and super-talented people out there just deserve to be heard.
You’re primarily known as a very successful drummer. But you’ve done a lot of other things, like that Smashing Pumpkins album Monument To An Elegy. The wild programming of ANDRO is another, different realm. Is there a greater consciousness about music in the community you came up through? Or do you get a lot of “What the hell is Tommy Lee doing? That shit’s too weird”?
[Laughs.] Let’s take a buddy of mine, Morgan Rose, the drummer for Sevendust. He’s like, “T-Lee: Goddamn it, dude, how do you do this? Every fucking time I turn around, you’re doing some crazy new shit that just inspires me.” He’s making a solo record now because he has that stuff in him. There’s a lot of friends that I think admire my balls to do this.
There are a lot of Mötley fans that are out there saying,“What the fuck is he doing? This doesn’t sound like Mötley at all.” I was like, “No fucking shit. There’s no one from Mötley on this fucking record. What are you talking about?” It was so fucking stupid. For the most part, my friends are like, “Tommy’s fingers are right on the pulse, or always one step ahead.”
— T🥁mmy L33 (@MrTommyLand) August 7, 2019
That goes along with my next question. I have to ask you about that Facebook post you made last year about painting Air Force One pink. When you made that Facebook post, that was like Tommy Lee really drew the line in the sand. Did you get shit for it? Was it like, “We don’t play Tommy’s music on the radio anymore” or suddenly opportunities ran dry? Or was it all just really posi?
You know what? I get it. Mötley fans range from all kinds of colors, types, races. There’s also a bunch of Trump-supporting fans. I don’t know why, but there are a lot of them. And I’m not allowed to have an opinion, because I get told by fans, “Shut the fuck up and just stick behind the drums”? That irked the fuck out of me. I’m like, “Hold on a second. I can’t say how I feel about this fucking guy? I can’t say how I think he’s just fucking wrecking everything he touches? I just need to shut the fuck up and stick to playing drums?”
I’m sure that me personally, I’ve lost some fans. And you know what? On the flipside of that, I probably gained some. It’s a weird thing to talk about. But, you know, at the end of the day, it’s just a fuckin’ opinion. People just cannot take it. You take it, keep it moving or fucking unfollow. I don’t know what else to say. Am I supposed to say nothing? I mean, that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in now. So many people don’t speak up.