Each week That Metal Show interviews your favorite hard rock and heavy metal musicians and and likewise each week That Metal Gear interviews your favorite TMS guests to find out how they got started on their instruments, who their influences are and what gear they use to get the sounds we all know and love. This week we catch up with one of the most enigmatic guitar heroes of the Sunset Strip, Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars.
With roots and influences that go back to the ‘60s, Mick is one of the more underrated guitarists in the metal universe but his signature guitar licks are some of the genre’s most unforgettable riffs. Let’s hear what Mick has to say about how he got started on a Mouseketeers guitar, his love of one-time Bob Dylan guitarist Mike Bloomfield and why he uses a multitude of amps to get his tone.
VH1: What was your first guitar and where did you get it?
Mick Mars: I got a very, very old 1950-something. Remember The Mouseketeers? It was a mouse guitar with a little wind up arm. I had to tune it my own way because I didn’t know how to tune it when I was a little kid and I picked out tunes on it. Then I got a Stella (acoustic) when I was about 12 or maybe 11. It was $12 at a second-hand store. That’s the first real guitar.
Who was the first guitarist that made you want to play guitar?
I had lots of influences. When I was three I saw a country and western guy, when it was really country and western music, not just country, like it is today. His name was Skeeter Blonde(sp?) and I saw him at a 4H fair. I didn’t learn anything from him or sit down and learn his music or anything, but I saw him play up there in this bright orange suit with all the studs on and stuff and a big white Stetson hat and I went, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to be.”
What was the first good piece of musical equipment you owned?
I had two really good pieces. It was either a 1955 or 1956 Gibson Les Paul Jr. and, I think, a ’62—whatever year the white tolex came out – Fender Bandmaster. I found the Jr. at a music store for $98 and I remember because I thought I got a deal on it. And then I found the Bandmaster for $30. That was the good old days.
What was the first song or guitar solo that you really mastered?
That’s a hard one, but right off the top of my head, one of the more complicated ones would be a song called “Wine” off the first Electric Flag album (A Long Time Comin’) with Mike Bloomfield. That’s probably the first very intricate kind of solo, you know moving in different spots, that I learned.
Your rhythm guitar style is very distinctive in that you use a lot of uncommon two-note chords as opposed to straight bar chords. Where did that come from?
A lot of it came from just playing around. Like when I play in the second position, I put a bottom octave on instead of just the two-string kind of a thing. I learned that from Jimi Hendrix.
See behind the scenes footage from That Metal Show with Mick, Metal Church’s Kurdt Vanderhoof and Tom Keifer from Cinderella.