Tommy Lee is not your average rock and roller. Sure he’s married models and starlets, earned enough gold records to fill a vault, preserved his x-rated exploits for posterity, and partied harder than Keith Richards, Charlie Sheen and all of Guns N’ Roses combined (probably). But now the Motley Crue drummer is exploring a new and different way to get crowds on their feet: DJing. Alongside his turntable teammate DJ Aero, these mix masters are taking on nightclubs across the country as Electro Mayhem. Hide your daughters and hide your eardrums, because it’s about to get loud!
We met up with Lee at the newly-opened Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs, California, where he was helping launch their Sound Of Your Stay program. This service allows guests to order DJ equipment up to their beds like most people order eggs benedict. A batch of Traktor Kontrol Z1 systems are on call 24-hours a day to help you turn your suite into the hottest club in town…or at least on the second floor. When it comes to partying in your hotel room, who better than rock ’n’ roll’s quintessential bad-boy to set things off right?
While that part makes total sense, we were having a harder time figuring out how the hell a 51-year-old rock legend got so deeply involved in the EDM scene, seemingly miles away from his roots. But according to him, these two musical styles aren’t as different as you might think.
Like most things with Lee, size matters -especially where the sound is concerned. “You listen to a rock band, it’s cool and it’s raw, and it’s harsh sometimes. It’s very cool, but electronic music has just the biggest bottom end and the crispest top. It’s f–king insane. They are frequencies that can’t be reproduced by a bass plugged into a stack of Ampegs. It’s just a different animal.” Aside from pure power and volume, the rhythmic dynamics appealed to this stickman. “Being a drummer, I like relentless pounding and funk, not just four on the floor. [When] I go listen to house and I hear a cool beat, I’m like, ’What’s that!?’ Because I’m a drummer I’m attracted to that stuff immediately.”
Tommy Lee first teamed up with DJ Aero fourteen years ago while working on Methods of Mayhem, his first solo effort outside of Motley Crue. The guest-packed album was an eclectic mix of rock, hip hop and electronica, and he needed a dude to bust out the beats for a few tracks. The two became partners soon after, making their main stage debut at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in 2004. From the start, they were very clear on the division of labor. “Aero does all of the mixing and beat matching, and sends his mix to me,” Lee explains. “I do all of the effects. I also play electronic drums and send it back to him and back out to the house, so there’s always something going on. I’m kind of the guy who takes the mix and tweaks the f–k out of it.”
In addition to Aero, Tommy Lee has worked with some of the biggest names in the DJ game, including his close friend deadmau5, whose most recent album topped the U.S. Dance charts. After playing with the best and spinning at hundreds of gigs all over the world, Lee is rapidly becoming a force in the dance/house world. So what’s his number one lesson for any up and coming DJs out there? Make sure you’re reading the room. “What’s everybody wanting to do next? Where are we at? What’s the room ready for?” These are the questions he keeps in the front and center in his mind.
Aero warns against cluttering up the groove when people just want to dance. “Tommy will play drums and we’ll scratch and do a little bit, but there are times where you just say ’Chill out, there’s a lot of scratching going on.” Lee tells the story of a fellow DJ who dared to keep it stripped down and no frills. “He was killing it just playing records.” Take note, aspiring mixers: let the beat breathe!
Electro Mayhem released a 3-song EP #MSND on deadma5’s mau5trap label last January, and it looks like fans won’t have to wait too much longer for a full-length music offering. “I’ve actually been working on a lot of stuff, and Aero’s been working on a lot of stuff,” Lee tells us moments before taking to the stage. “I think probably in the new year we’ll get together and see what we got. I’m always making music, constantly. I was just making some in my room.”
But now it’s time to bring the beats from his room downstairs to the Hard Rock Hotel lobby, which had been converted into a full scale rave den for the evening. A set of dueling turntables hold the place of honor in front of the sunken seating area, dubbed the ’VIP pit,” complete with complimentary bottle service. Yes, we were partying like rock stars while sitting feet away from one of the biggest living rock stars. It was then that we were treated to hearing them Electro Mayhem for the very first time -and we promise you, this isn’t just hype. The guys are INCREDIBLE at what they do.
From old-school hip-hop to the pure English pop of Chvrches their remixed tracks ran the gamut in terms of genre. The only thing they had in common was that they got people MOVING. The crowd -a mix of Motely Crue rockers and young club kids- was on their feet the whole time, showing off their (occasionally NSFW) dance moves. Tommy joined in by contorting his body to the beat as he spun, turning the DJ set into an athletic event that went on for three hours. And after they said goodnight, we’re reasonably certain that the party continued up in their rooms…