Mick Mars and Keith Nelson interview: Two For The Road
GW Can you talk about your gear setup on some of the classic Mötley albums, like Shout at the Devil ?
MARS That was all my black ’72 Les Paul Custom guitar. I bought it for 400 bucks and sold it years later for 25 grand. That was a good investment! And the amp line was all Marshall. In the old days I had two: a ’71, and another that was also pretty ancient. They had master volumes, but on the back of the amp; I had them built-in. I used an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 [linear power booster] on the front and had the amps stereo-ed off. And that’s how I played in those days.
GW How about Theater of Pain ?
MARS That record was also pretty much all black Les Paul. Though I remember when I was cutting the solo for “Home Sweet Home” the guitar wouldn’t stay in tune or something, so I sent someone out to get me another one. The guy brought back a Kramer Baretta with a Floyd Rose on it. So that’s why you hear some whammy dives on that one.
GW What about Girls, Girls, Girls ?
MARS Well, Theater of Pain was the beginning of my using the Kramer and Charvel Strat and Tele-style guitars, and that continued on through Girls and Dr. Feelgood. Also, around that time I was working with Eddie Van Halen’s old tech, Rudy [Leiren], and he came in and set me up with this bi-amp system that changed a lot for me. I started to combine a lot of different amps, mixing and matching Hiwatts and Marshalls and Vox AC30s—all this different stuff. So I’m always open to trying new things.
GW Keith, Buckcherry is currently in the studio recording the follow-up to 15. You cut that album in roughly two weeks and on a very small budget. How did that experience, and the album’s unexpected success, affect the way you’ve been approaching the new one?
NELSON A lot and not at all. On the one hand, there’s a much bigger pile of money for us to work with. We could have gone to the Bahamas or something for two months to do the record, you know? But instead we’re doing it in L.A. in two weeks again. That seems to work for us. It’s funny, but now I hear people say “We’re gonna do it the Buckcherry way”—circumventing the major labels, getting the music out through MySpace and YouTube and all that. But we just did it that way out of necessity.
MARS With all the stuff that’s going on today, who cares about the major labels? If you sign a deal with a major record label now, you’re making a big mistake. With a major you’re making maybe 10 cents on a record, and you can do so much better—not only from your albums but also from touring. And there are ways to get so much more out of it.
GW Hence, Crüe Fest.
MARS Exactly. It’s funny though, because I always said to myself, “I don’t wanna be on tour when I’m fucking 40 years old!” But here I am in my fifties and still doing it. But I’ll tell you now, I don’t wanna be in my seventies and still on the road. Maybe my
early sixties, at the oldest. And even that’s getting to be too gnarly.
GW Due to your health issues [Mars suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative bone disease] people have speculated for years whether you’re still up for this.
MARS I always have to prove myself. I’ve been dead twice according to rumor. And there’s always stuff like, “Mick has to be carried onstage” or “Mick has to play in a wheelchair.” It’s all garbage. This thing that I have, I don’t call it a disease; I call it an inconvenience. And the doubters can come and see me live and get their asses kicked by my playing. Here’s a true story: A few years back I was in the hospital getting hip replacement surgery, and my nurse told me she overheard this guy ask someone, “Who is Mötley Crüe?” And the answer he got was, “Well, Tommy’s the drummer, Nikki’s the bass player, Vince is the singer, and Mick doesn’t do anything.” And I just went, “What? That’s crazy!” People are so dismissive, but they don’t realize that when you’re the only guitar player in a band, you’re really the only musical element coming off the stage. Other than the guitar,
there’s just the vocals and the rhythm section. I mean, not to degrade the other guys…
NELSON …but let’s do it!
MARS Well, bassists only have to play one string…
NELSON And drummers sit down all night. And singers, they don’t even have to carry any gear.
MARS Shit, we’ve got the hardest job in rock and roll!
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