‘Those guys have been hammering on me since ’87, trying to replace me,’ says Mars, talking about his legal efforts to maintain what he claims is a rightful place in the band’s business affairs, even after retiring from touring
“I carried those bastards for years,” says Mick Mars, telling Variety how he thinks his 41-year history with Motley Crue should not end with him facing off with the other three members in the halls of justice.
The veteran band, now down by one original member, has sued to force Mars into arbitration, looking to get a ruling that he is officially a member or shareholder, with any of the rights that confers. They contend that when he announced he was quitting touring, that amounted to a resignation. Mars, 71, counter-sued on Thursday morning, contending that he didn’t give up anything, at all, by announcing last fall that effects of his longstanding arthritic disease made him no longer fit for the road. His legal filing was full of provocative assertions about the others, and so was the response Thursday afternoon from Crue’s lawyers, who believe he gave up all rights by putting away his touring suitcases — and further, the Crue camp maintained, Mars had become an instrumentally erratic drag on the band.
Variety has Mars’ first interview about what’s gone down in contentious recent months — or even the band’s entire career, since, he alleges here for the first time: “Those guys have been hammering on me since ’87, trying to replace me.”
For background to this Q&A, you can read about Mars’ freshly filed lawsuit in this story, or see the response of Crue’s attorneys here. The gloves are clearly off,. Crue’s reply to Mars’ action had their litigation attorney, Sasha Frid, telling Variety: “After the last tour, Mick publicly resigned from Mötley Crüe. Despite the fact that the band did not owe Mick anything — and with Mick owing the band millions in advances that he did not pay back — the band offered Mick a generous compensation package to honor his career with the band. Manipulated by his manager and lawyer, Mick refused and chose to file this ugly public lawsuit.” In response to Mars saying that he only quit touring, not anything else, Frid said: “Retiring from touring is resigning from the band. The band’s primary function is to tour and perform concerts.”
The law firm also provided signed declarations from seven 2022 tour crew members alleging that he could no longer remember or execute all his parts. Mars’ response, in this interview, is to invite the band members to meet him and see who can remember what; he says he’s the only member (ior ex-member?) who would be able to perfectly play everything from memory.
This interview, conducted via Zoom and laying out what Mars feels will be his upper hand in arbitration, as well as obviously hurt feelings, has been edited for length and clarity.
First off, how has it feel, quitting the road — and everybody can agree you did retire from that — after 41 years with this band?
Forty-one years of hard work, mentally and physically, of course. I miss it, but I don’t, you know what I mean? Playing-wise, playing in front of a large crowd and seeing the world, I miss that. But my body says, “You can’t do that, Mick.” I’m more at peace, for sure. My body just doesn’t wanna do it. I don’t like old. [Laughs.] Because my brain wants to go and my body goes, “Nope, you ain’t going nowhere, bud.”
But I didn’t know you had to get sued to retire (altogether). That’s kind of crazy. I had to throw that out there.
There has been a lot of speculation among the band’s fans, who basically have been kind of confused since October, when there were competing statements — you said that you were retiring, just from the road, and the next day, literally, there was a band statement saying that you had retired, period. Fans were like, well, which is it? Now with this legal filing, you’re making it clear it was not your intention to retire altogether, but just to retire as a touring participant. Is that right?
Yes, exactly. Things get twisted around sometimes from other band members. I don’t really know if I should say this, but… Those guys have been hammering on me since ’87, trying to replace me. They haven’t been able to do that, because I’m the guitar player. I helped form this band. It’s my name I came up with [the Motley Crue moniker], my ideas, my money that I had from a backer to start this band. It wouldn’t have gone anywhere. And then to be hearing stuff from people like Bob Daisley from Ozzy Osbourne’s band, when we were touring with them, and Carmine Appice… [In his 2014 memoir, Daisley recounted a conversation with the other members of Motley Crue on a tour bus in 1984 when they allegedly solicited his advice about firing Mars, and he strongly advised against it, saying Mars was an integral part of their chemistry. Daisley retold the story in an interview four months ago with Blabbermouth.]
The thing that they keep pushing, for many years, is that I have a bad memory. And that’s full-blown, out-of-proportion crap. Around 2012, when they first started saying that my memory was bad and I didn’t remember the songs, I came home and saw all my doctors, because I keep myself together, because I’m an old bastard. They had all the 10th Street people there [from the band’s management] — probably about five or six people — (versus) all my doctors going: “There’s nothing wrong with him.” And now they’re still playing that game with me.
So, no, the truth is: I want to retire from touring because of my AS [Ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory, arthritic disease that causes vertebrae to fuse]. I don’t have a problem remembering the songs. I don’t have a problem with any of that stuff. But I do have a problem with them, constantly, the whole time, telling me that I lost my memory. No. Wrong. That’s wrong. Absolutely wrong.
But my stupid body is telling me “No, don’t do that” [stay on the road]. You know, I’m gonna be 72 years old, and I’ve been touring with these guys 41 years, helping build the brand, helping do this and that. And you’re served with papers and going, this is crazy. This is stupid. I mean, come on.
In your suit, there’s a footnote that refers to other instances where someone retired from certain duties in a veteran band but remained on the board or remained a full partner. It sounds like you thought there is precedent for wanting to get off the road but still have full participation as a shareholder and being on the board, if there is one, and that sort of thing.
An example would be Ace Frehley. Ace Frehley still owns everything that he had when he was in Kiss. And Foreigner, with Lou Gramm — he doesn’t wanna go back. There was too much brain damage, I guess, from (conflict with) Mick (Jones), the guitar player who formed it, who’s not doing too well now. It’s things like that. And with me… I don’t know why I’m being sued. I’m confused and I don’t get it. I There’s no reason for me to be having to do it under arbitration or anything else.
You say you were offered a severance package that involved getting 5% of the current tour, which of course is the first one without you, and then that would be it. [He says in the suit that the band later upped the offer to 7.5%, provided he signed off on having future interests in the band’s companies.]
That’s an insult to me that they’re offering me that. No. It’s my name. It’s Mick Mars, it’s Motley Crew, the four of us that made the band. You would have to have a good reason to be fired. I don’t. I could come back with this and go like, “Hey, you know what? I’m gonna counter because you assholes are felons. You (Lee) for spousal abuse; you (Neil) for manslaughter.” [Sixx has only been convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.] I’m not doing that. It just makes me really upset that they want to try and bully me more or less out of the band, so it’s the last man standing that collects everything. And if there’s any real justice to it, I’d be the one that would be the only one that has no criminal record. I’m pure. I’m clean as a freshly washed baby. [Laughs.] I haven’t done anything. And these guys have all gone over the top — heroin addicts, on and on and on and on. [Sixx has spoken often about overdosing and being clinically dead for two minutes in 1987. He has subsequently written about his sobriety.]
And I’m being beat up, mentally — and I’m already physically ruined. But the hazing, the gaslighting and all that stuff, when they tell me that I’m losing my mind and I’m this, that and the other — oh my God. What’s the matter with you guys? You’re the felons, not me. In my defense. [Laughs.] hey should be pointing those fingers towards themselves, not me. That’s my opinion. You can’t be fired from your own company, unless you do something horribly bad — like, be a felon. That’s mean, but, sorry!
In the present day, though, there have been a lot of statements made about you not being able to place efficiently on your final tour with them last summer and fall. Your response to that is that at least you were playing live, when you allege in the suit that 100% of the bass parts were pre-recorded and some of the singing and drum parts were not live. But is there anything to you not being up to snuff?
I call bullshit on that. I know the songs. I’ve even said to those guys — when we were on the phone, when they were all gonna fire me — I go, “You take your drums and play this song. You take your bass and play this song. And I’ll play the song correct.” And prior to this particular stadium tour, when we rehearsed, the first thing that happened when I walked in was, Nikki Sixx was like, “Hey, Mick, how did that part go? I can’t remember it.” So that’s how our rehearsals went. I rehearsed all of these songs for three months, every day, solid, twice a day. When I walked into this rehearsal for the stadium tour and I said, “Pick a song, I know them all,” (the response was) “Uh, we aren’t gonna do it that way,” to quote Nikki Sixx.
And yes, on this particular tour, Nikki’s bass was 100% recorded. Tommy’s drums, to the best of my knowledge, there was a lot. I can’t say he did all of it recorded, but there were some reports from people in the audience that said, “Oh, I heard the drums playing, but there’s no Tommy on there. The song started, and there’s no drummer.” Stuff like that. And actually everything that we did on that stadium tour was on tape, because if we didn’t, if we missed a part, the tape would keep rolling and you’d miss it.
So what was different from what you were doing than the others, if there was a tape?
What was going in my ear wasn’t really my guitar. It was some kind of weird, out-of-phase kind of a thing. And I have it here, on my iPad. I’m telling my sound guy, Scotty, to turn up my guitar, and I go, “Wait a minute, that ain’t mine.” Because mine’s a big, huge, fat sound. And so when I started getting at it, it was a lot better. But there was parts with that tape on my guitar that were so horrible, yes, I did lose my spot a couple of times. But not all the time. And it is very difficult. And then it’s also difficult when they have a bunch of old-school 808 bass drums going and turning up the bass guitar. Do you know what that does to a guitar frequency? It drowns it out. And that’s what was going on a lot out front. … You’d have to be me to know it was the truth.
Anyway, that was the worst 36 gigs ever had with the band. It was 36 [instead of the originally scheduled 12] because they knew I wanted to retire from it after that. [He says in the suit he did not want to do the extra two dozen dates that got added but went along with it.] I don’t know, and I can’t say I positively know, but I have a pretty good feeling that they wanted me gone anyway. Because they’ve been wanting that since forever. It’s just frustrating for me. I’m pretty upset that they’re even pulling this crap, when I carried these bastards for years.
Just to make it clear, you say that on the ’22 tour, you were playing live, or at least trying to play live, even while you contend some others weren’t, but amid all the audio in the feed, there were all these backing tracks going on that made it confusing to know what was really being heard and what wasn’t?
Yeah. I can’t prove it because I wasn’t out front, right? But some of my other friends were. People that saw me, I asked, “How was it? How was I sounding, with these tapes and this, that, and the other?” And they’d go, “No, I think you were playing live.” And I go, “Yeah, I was!” But there’s a tape, also, (to fill in) if I made a mistake — which I didn’t. Bbut when I asked them they said, “No, man, your fingers are on. You’re playing it right.” Everything that was coming out, whether it was me live or the tape, I was playing the right thing. And they could tell by my fingers, because they’re all musicians too, and if I’m on a big screen,, they’re seeing it — and I know I’m playing it right, too.
Because I promise that I can go to any place and play any of those songs right now, and I haven’t played them since October. I mean, 40 years of playing the same eight songs, you know. [Laughs.] That hasn’t changed. In my defense. It’s like, Jesus, man!
There were some pretty difficult times I had over time — not difficult to stay in the band, but just to have them mentally fuck with me. Like, “You can’t play. You forgot your parts. Why you do this?” To me, everybody has a brain fart now and then. I don’t care who you are, but you do. And I admit, yes, I do sometimes too. And on stage, it’s live and that’s the way that it works. But if there’s a tape, (players can go) “I’ll just go and put on a CD and do nothing.” [Laughs.] But for me… it’s live.
How have you managed the pain on tour over the years, since you’ve been diagnosed with pain from AS since you were 27? Did medication help?
You know, I love what I do. It’s like, “Pain, yeah — so? This is what I wanna do.” But there comes a point to where it’s like Chinese water torture. You get that drops on your head, and then all of a sudden you go like, OK, enough.
I did have some medications to keep on tour. I got addicted once. And when we had I think it was a two-year break or something, I got gone and said, “I don’t (want to) do that shit.” There were stinking opiates and I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Didn’t wanna go there. It was around 9/11. When 9/11 happened, I had just come home from Japan when that happened, that same day; I remember it so well because I was watching that in the morning as I got home. I was addicted to these things by theb and I went, “No, I’m done. We have some years off. I’m getting off this crap. I hate it.” To be dependent on something, I don’t like that.
But to stop touring … it’s difficult for me now to do that. But the pain from walking, going on all the planes and the trains and the cars and this and this, you take a beating. I’m gonna be 72 years old. I’m not 30 anymore.
You thought you could still stay in the band, officially, to do one-off shows or a Las Vegas residency or something, while the new guy [John 5] did the touring, and that would be a reasonable way forward to stay in?
I could easily do a residency, because it’s just like going down the elevator and going to the gig and playing. Easy. Traveling around the world? Not so easy. Doing a one-nighter, say, just for shits and giggles? You guys are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — God forbid? [Laughs.] That’s not difficult.
But you think that the situation you brought up, the Ace Frehley/Kiss situation, applies where you’re still a member of a corporation with all rights, and it doesn’t even matter if you ever play a show again?
Lawyer Edwin F. McPherson interjects: Yeah. It certainly shouldn’t matter legally, and doesn’t.
What do you expect to hear to happen from here, now that you’ve filed this suit?
I think that those guys are hoping that I’ll just fold and lay down. Because I’ve done that many times. But this thing that I helped build for 41 years, I’m sorry, you’re not gonna take that from me. I worked very hard for that. It’s mine. I’m keeping it. You can’t have it. Sorry. But they’re well prepared, I can already tell you, because I’ve known them that long too. But I’m not backing down. I’m not gonna fold. And we’ll see what happens. I’m most definitely not afraid of them, or intimidated or anything else.
Do you think fans will be disappointed to know for sure that you are not a band of brothers, per se, at least when it comes to your part with them? Or do you think people are cynical about it and automatically think, “Well, of course bands hate each other”?
Well, that’s the way it works. Every band hates each other, right? But it’s hard to predict. There’s gonna be a lot of disappointed people, and there’s gonna be a lot of ones who go, “Yeah, tell me something new.” But on the stage, all the band members are like a unit, until they’re off the stage and then they’re not anymore.
I can’t put a number on it, but there’s gonna be a lot of people going: “What the hell is wrong with these guys? You know, Mick just wants to have some peace.” I mean, I’m an old man! [Laugh.] I think some people will really, really care and go, “No Mick, no band.” But they say that about everybody (who leaves a group). It is what it is. And like I said, I’m a part of this company that made this name. I’m not gonna let anybody take it from me — anybody.