Producer Tom Werman recalls having tough time with three of the four Mötley Crüe members
World renowned producer Tom Werman was recently interviewed by Andrew DiCecco for Vinyl Writer Music. During Part One of the interview, DiCecco covered Werman‘s early years including working with Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick and Mötley Crüe, the latter which consisted of bassist Nikki Sixx, lead vocalist Vince Neil, drummer Tommy Lee and guitarist Mick Mars.
In terms of what led him to working with Mötley Crüe, which culminated in the production of three of their biggest albums — Shout At The Devil (1983), Theatre of Pain (1985) and Girls, Girls, Girls (1987), Werman indicated:
“Well, there was always a tumultuous vibe, but they were in much worse shape when we did Theatre of Pain. We had been put together by a guy who worked for me when I was head of A&R at Elektra very briefly; I lasted four months there because I couldn’t deal with the new president of the label. When I left, they wanted me to do a production deal with them and do three albums; I did Mötley Crüe, Dokken, and I can’t remember the third.
We met, we had a meeting; Nikki was tough, Tommy was OK. Tommy was really the diplomat. They gave me demos, and they had a lot of songs because it was very early in their career, and I took them home, I made some changes and we rehearsed, and then we went into the studio with this very good and very divisive, untrustworthy, kind of evil engineer. I didn’t use him for that long. We made the album pretty quickly; it was tough because Nikki had a car accident and broke his shoulder, so he played his bass parts in a cast with a sling. Certain things took a long time – their sound was pretty rough, I thought. Most of their fans like the sound of that album, and I like the sound of the Girls, Girls, Girls album because Mick sounds much better. I just think they sound like a major league band.
People like the gnarly quality of Shout At The Devil, and the songs were more elementary than the later songs. I think “Wild Side” wasn’t necessarily the best song for singing, but certainly the most interesting production that I did with them. They got better and better. Nikki wasn’t that good on the bass, I thought when we started, and he grew into his instrument. Tommy was always brilliant, and so was Mick.
With respect to reigning in the four highly dynamic personalities in Mötley Crüe long enough to record Shout At The Devil, Werman stated:
“When they got to the studio, they were reasonably involved, and they wanted to succeed. They weren’t just complete party animals. Vince was a little bit of a challenge, only because he wasn’t really involved in the concept of being in training. He would party pretty heavily all the time, and sometimes he would come in in bad shape. Instead of going home and having some tea and going to bed early, knowing that the next day he was going to have to sing a very important song, he didn’t really consider those things. So, he was tough. Mick was always pretty straight, pretty diligent, and well-prepared in terms of what he was gonna play. And he had some really great licks. His guitar licks were the basis of all their songs. Nikki and Tommy were dabbling in heroin and that was tough; it’s not good for decision-making. Tommy was always on; Nikki was on-and-off, mercurial, difficult to pin down, and sometimes in a good mood and sometimes not.
One day they came into the studio – I think we were doing Theatre of Pain – and Nikki dumped a whole shopping bag of candy bars in the control room. He just dumped them on the table. I think, later on, I said to my engineer, Duane Baron, “What’s with all those candy bars?” And he said, “Dude, they’re junkies!” I had no idea. And that’s when I learned about the association between heroin and sugar, whatever that is. Anyway, that was difficult, but I never had to – with any band – corral them and whip them and drive them and make them get together. You’re always a little bit of a psychiatrist within bands. There’s politics there, and there’s always one leader. You know, I had a really difficult time with George Lynch. And I liked George. He’s a genius guitar player. He’s incredible, he’s underrated, ane he’s not mentioned enough. But he and Don Dokken were oil and water; they did not get along. George usually hated the songs that Don wrote. He didn’t like the ballads, and Don was a crooner. Anyway, it went like that. So, that was a little difficult to control.
The most difficult thing I ever did was Rockstar. The last thing I ever did was a movie, and it came out a week before 9/11, so it disappeared. It was a good movie, I would recommend it – and it did well on video – starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston, and it was about the Judas Priest story. In the band, were Jason Bonham and Zakk Wylde; they were very explosive and difficult personalities. And Jeff [Pilson] was a really good, buttoned-down team player. He was mature, settled, and organized. So, I needed somebody like him. Jason, at one point, I guess I was talking with him about his behavior, and he said, “Listen, I’ve got a behavior to uphold,” talking about John Bonham. There were fireworks in that studio. So, that was the most difficult project I had to do.”
You can read Part One of the interview with Tom Werman at Vinyl Writer Music’s website.