Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee on solo album ‘Andro,’ sobriety and Nikki Sixx: ‘He drove me to rehab’

Tommy Lee is 58 going on 8. 

“I act like a (expletive) kid anyway – I figured, ‘Whatever with the 5!’ ” jokes the boisterous Mötley Crüe drummer, who celebrated his birthday earlier this month. “I’m going Benjamin Button-style, I’m gonna keep going backwards.” 

But Lee is hardly living in the past. After the success of last year’s “The Dirt,” a Netflix biopic charting Mötley’s wild early days, the musician is taking a bold new step into the future with solo album “Andro,” out Friday. It’s his first solo effort since 2005’s “Tommyland: The Ride,” and eschews rock for an eclectic mix of hip-hop, EDM, funk and R&B. The experimental, guest-heavy record was largely written and recorded in Lee’s basement studio in Calabasas, Calif., in the home he shares with his fourth wife, social media star Brittany Furlan. 

“The Mötley fans, they expect this from me now. I started doing this in 2000, the cross-genre-smashing and hybrid stuff,” Lee says. “I either lost them then or they followed along.” 

USA TODAY recently caught up with Lee over Zoom to chat about new music, sobriety and the late Eddie Van Halen

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Tommy Lee, 58, releases his third solo album, "Andro," on Friday.

One of my favorite songs on the album is your cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” with singer Lukas Rossi. How did that come together? 

Tommy Lee: If you know the original, it’s super uptempo and poppy. When Lukas had come to me with the idea of slowing it down and making it super dark and sexy, this song took on a whole different meaning for me. When it’s slowed down like that, the lyrics in that song are sad. I feel that song, like, “Whoa! This is hard.” It was really fun to do that version, and if you’re gonna re-do a Prince song, you better do a (expletive) good job of it. 

Did you ever cross paths with Prince back in the ’80s or ’90s? 

Lee: I’ve met him twice. Once, Mötley Crüe was rehearsing in studio A and we heard Prince was rehearsing in studio B. I’m such a massive Prince fan, so I was like, “I’m just gonna keep poking my head out the door, hopefully to catch him coming in and say hello.” And I did. He was with this massive security guard who must’ve been 8 feet tall, and here’s Prince who’s (much shorter, even) with high heels on. I did everything in my power not to fanboy, but it was awesome. I met him again at a club a couple years later. Then, the weirdest thing ever: I was engaged to his ex-wife (Mayte Garcia) at some point. Talk about some weird full-circle strangeness. 

Brittany Furlan, left, and husband Tommy Lee at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

You’ll be one year sober next week. How are you feeling? 

Lee: It feels good, I’m digging it. Idle time is satanic for someone like myself. We got off tour New Year’s Eve 2016, I came home and I was just (expletive) bored to death. I just fell into this crazy tunnel of boredom, literally drinking every single day from morning ’til night. I was drinking like 2 gallons a day and my wife was like, “I’ve never seen anybody drink like this. You’re fine and you function, but this is insane. It can’t be good for you.” 

Was there one moment when you knew you needed to go to rehab? 

Lee: We were planning on going on a stadium tour and I was like, “Man, I’m in no shape to go do that. I should probably stop this madness, and get back into the swing of things and go do this tour.” That was definitely one reason for pumping the brakes. 

Your bandmate, Nikki Sixx, has been open about his sobriety and past struggles with addiction. Has he been a support through this? 

Lee: Dude, he drove me to rehab. (Laughs.) He’s been insanely supportive. He came over here, and I didn’t know he was coming – my wife called him. I remember waking up, I’m laying in bed, and I hear, “Come on, dude, let’s go!” I look over and I’m like, “What is Nikki doing in my bedroom right now? This is (expletive) weird.” And he was like, “Let’s go!” and I’m like, “Where?” My wife had set it up. So I was like, “Alright, well before we go,” and I poured a (to-go drink) that was probably all vodka and a little splash of cranberry, got in the car and went. So he’s been great, he’s been lovely. And he’s been sober for, Jesus, 900 years. So our friendship has gotten even closer than we were before.

Mötley Crüe members Vince Neil, left, Nikki Six, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee on stage in West Hollywood, Calif., in 2011.

Mötley Crüe was forced to reschedule its tour for next summer due to COVID. Have you been in touch with any of the guys about working on new music in the meantime? 

Lee: We haven’t talked about doing any new music, although that’s not to say it won’t happen. Like everyone else, we’re just trying to figure out if (live music) is gonna happen again. Nikki and I designed this insane stadium show that’s all sitting in this giant warehouse in Las Vegas where the productions get built. Just sitting there waiting. So we’re dying, man. We’re dying to go out and play. I miss it terribly. Hopefully people get their (expletive) together, we figure this out and we get back to normal, if there is such a thing.

What was your reaction when you heard Eddie Van Halen passed earlier this month? 

Lee: I’m still in shock about that. Three weeks ago, I was hanging out with (former Van Halen singer) Sammy Hagar and he didn’t mention anything about it. I assumed he had gotten the cancer taken out, and he was on the up and up. But man, what a sad thing. We literally lost one of the most innovative, incredible guitar players of our time. By far. 

Nikki said on a podcast last year that Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil once bit Eddie. Is that true? 

Lee: Yes, we were all on the Monsters of Rock Tour (in 1984): AC/DC, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe. We were all partying, and Mötley had this thing we would do if we really loved you: Some people high five, other people hug, we would bite you. Vince went over and just chomped on Eddie and Eddie was so mad. He was like, “What the (expletive) is wrong with you?” He wasn’t very receptive to it. I bit Malcolm Young (of AC/DC), and he hated it, too. We did that for a couple of years until we were either over it or realized it might be a little dangerous. 

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