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Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on Drum Coaster: Someone’s Gonna Puke

Tommy Lee of Motley Crue
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

While it’s rare for a drum solo to be a true highlight of a concert, as opposed to a mid-set pee break opportunity, Tommy Lee is once again stealing the show on Motley Crue‘s current tour by performing upside down in a monstrous machine called the 360 vertical drum roller coaster.

As the band’s last true party animal travels coast to coast rocking, we caught up Lee to talk drum coasters, his love of the New York Dolls and the future (spoiler: Lee has no idea what the future holds).

I hope you’re not bored talking about this crazy rollercoaster you’ve put your drum kit on because I want to talk about it for 20 minutes.

Dude, I am sooo not bored talking about it, ask me anything.

OK, where the hell do you come up with this stuff? Revolving platforms, hydraulic lifts to tilt your drum kit up, a metal claw to suspend you over the audience while you solo, and now this. The stunts keep coming.

[Laughs] The coaster stems from when I started doing all that other shit years ago. It’s become one of those things where everyone is always asking, “What’s next? What’s next?” That kind of pressure gets you thinking.

Whenever I see a huge, unique stage gimmick, I have to remind myself that someone built it just for this one tour. Engineers, welders, techs have to build whatever you imagine.

You’re exactly right, man. This won’t be used with the next band that goes on tour. It’s like a dress worn at the Academy Awards. It’s worn once and then the thing goes away forever. And the crazy part of this whole thing was building a roller coaster we could move. To build a coaster in one place in amazing enough, but getting one that breaks up in trucks, that, when the night is over, is shipped to the next town. Dude, that’s even more amazing.

You need a Crue museum for all these different contraptions you’ve built for tours.

How cool would that be? After I’m done, people could get in it and try it out. That’s a good idea.

But people do get to try the drum coaster out on tour, kind of. You pick one fan out of the audience every night to ride it while you solo.

Right, that’s the craziest part. And I get the same answer every night when I ask the fan, “OK, how much have you had to drink?” [Laughs] They say, “Um, a couple beers.”

More like a couple beers and five Jager shots.

[Laughs] Totally. I’m like, “Dude, I’m not the cops, I just want to see if you can handle this.” Of course, I can smell booze on their breath. I’m just waiting for someone to throw up while we’re up there.

How hard is it to play drums while strapped in and spinning upside down?

Everything is different. It’s really hard to explain. The best way to explain it is by saying it’s just wrong. The drums are about gravity. Your hand naturally falls down on the drums as you hit them. Well, all of that changes it when you’re sideways. Then, when I go upside down, everything is more f–ked up. I’ve got to be pushing up just to hit the drums and it requires twice the strength. All this while I’m pounding the kit and blood is rushing to my head. It’s f—ing chaos.

How much chaos is there backstage these days?

My bandmates are pretty chill. Vince parties, we all party, but it’s a little different. It really depends on what your definition of the word “party” is. For me, it’s more of the same when my kids aren’t out on tour with me. I’m still that rowdy dude who has after-parties in his dressing room with concert-sized PA system blasting away.

With 30 years in Crue do you you ever think, “Holy crap! I can’t believe we’re still doing this!”

Trust me, all of us walk around and look at each other and, without saying it, we all know we’re thinking, “Really dude? Were still here!” and pinch ourselves. Typically, careers have short life span, 10 years if you’re lucky, so what we’ve done is amazing.

Why the New York Dolls? Great band, but seems like a little bit of an odd fit.

The New York Dolls are the only band that we grew up on that we haven’t played with. When Motley came up, we’re playing with Kiss, Ozzy, then, oh my god, Van Halen, AC/DC. Then we’re opening for Cheap Trick, then, oh, f—, Cheap Trick is opening for us. It’s been crazy. So basically the New York Dolls were someone we never got to play with and that’s why we invited them out.

So what’s next for you and the Crue?

I honestly don’t have a lot of info about the future. I don’t know about a new album or a tour next year. I know we are working on turning (the band’s 2001 book) ‘The Dirt’ into a movie, which would be so dope if it happened.

Why not go Green Day and turn ‘The Dirt’ into a Broadway show?

[Laughs] Oh, man, that would be crazy.

Watch Tommy Lee’s 360 Drum Roller Coaster in Action

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