Exclusive interview: Tommy Lee gives Rhythm the lowdown on Public Mayhem
Tell us about Public Mayhem. You’ve invited fans to submit music for your next album, right?
“It’s definitely a first. A lot of DJs do remix things where they mess with one track but never an entire album, which is absolutely insane. I can’t believe we’re pulling this off.”
How have you gone about piecing things together?“Me and my guitar player pretty much got the songs together and demoed them so essentially we weren’t asking people to write music. We were just looking for some parts. Jam along and if something is amazing we’ll use it so some tracks have up to 15, 20 different people on them but it might be just a little section, a quick guitar riff, a keyboard part, a vocal, a drum beat for just a verse or a drum loop that someone programmed in their drum machine. So far I think one of the biggest tracks has 25 different people’s submissions in it. It’s the craziest idea ever.”
Why use the Methods of Mayhem banner again?
“I thought it really seemed to fit with what was going on here. The first Methods of Mayhem project was a super-hybrid, stylistically anything goes record with a load of collaborations from other artists. This one, once we started conceptualising the idea of all this madness, I was like, this is a Methods record because instead of a bunch of other rock stars I’m collaborating with my fans and other musicians. This is definitely up the same alley and anything goes here. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope it all works out. It’s been wonderful so far.”
Will you tour this record?
“I will. We’re starting to look at that, probably in the beginning of March.”
Who will you bring out on the road?
“I don’t know right now, we’re trying to figure that out. Either I’m going to jump on somebody’s tour as support or go out and do my own dates and bring a support band. We’re still working on that right now and that stuff takes a minute to sort out.”
Do you try anything different with your beats on the new record?
“I’ve always loved the mixture of crushing live drums with a programmed groove, that really cool blend like in the verse there’s a really funky drum beat that is programmed then it comes in to the chorus you’ve got that enormous human feel where the band kicks in. I really like that awesome mixture of electronic and acoustic together. I’ve done some of that before.”
For years the music industry fought against the internet, but with this project you’ve embraced it.
“If you can’t beat them, join them. You can sit here and bitch about it and complain, you know, give it to them for free, they’re going to steal it anyway so what is the point? What I’m putting up are called stems, they are the raw tracks. You’ve got a vocal track, a drum track, a bass track and a guitar track. They are unmixed, raw tracks. Who wants that? It’s something to jam to so if you’re going to steal it, go ahead! I don’t care! Once it’s done and mixed it’s a different story, but what a great way to have people get a taste of what it is starting to sound like and how it’s being put together.
“Here is the other thing I noticed, why not use the internet? Once you give people ownership of something, I see it happens every day, you’ve got a guy who’ll come back to the site to check in. We do shout-outs on daily videos of parts that we like that are contenders that may make it. You’ve got a guy now who goes, oh my god, dude, I think I’m going to be on the record! They tell their friends, their friends tell their friends, ‘Dude, Joey’s guitar is on the record!’ Now this becomes something very personal to them and there is that ownership. All of a sudden you’ve got this army of people supporting you because now they are involved in it. It really is cool for everybody.”
Who are your hot drummer tips for 2010?
“There’s a band that recently started to break out here called Passion Pit. I really like those guys a lot, they are a great band and their drummer plays some interesting stuff. There’s another band called Does It Offend You, yeah? Crazy name, right? And there’s another band called MGMT, probably of the new guys who are breaking out, those three have really caught my ear with some interesting stuff, the fusion between electronic and acoustic instruments.”
A lot of ‘80s rock drummers were very anti-electronic drums but not you.
“It’s so bizarre because I don’t know how you could not like it! I would experiment all the time. You’ve got a humongous sound system set up in an arena and at the time I had this sampler and some drum triggers. I put one on the snare and the kick drum. In the sampler I had heard these sounds that were just enormous. I hooked up the sampler and the triggers, and I A/B’d with and without and I lost my mind. That’s when everything changed for me. One sounds like a cool drum sound and the next sounds like thunder. That was all I needed to hear and ever since I’ve never just played with acoustics because it’s like putting nitro-methane in your car and then running it on regular unleaded gas. It’s night and day, it really is.”
To read the rest of the interview with Tommy, check out the February issue of Rhythm.