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Vince Neil is a man who's had some good times. He was the front man for one of the biggest bands of the Eighties, pop-metal superstuds Motley Crue. The Crue sold tons of albums, Vince married a statuesque ex-stripper named Sharisse, made tons of money, and partied like there was a gun to his head.
But Vince has also had some bad times. In 1984, he drove his car into a wall, killing Hanoi Rocks member Rick Dingley, who happened to be sitting beside him. Vince narrowly escaped doing serious time in the big house. He separated from Sharisse. Then Motley Crue dumped him. Why? The other guys claimed he spent too much time racing cars and wasn't serious about music. Vince says he never even saw it coming.
But Vince wasn't down. He quickly got his own band together, released an album, Exposed, and hit the road in support of Van Halen. He's spent the last five months in the studio recording a new album, and is about to hit the road once again. Will he make it on his own or languish in the kingdom of ex-front men ruled by David Lee Roth? Only time will tell, but here's Vince, on the phone all the way from his beachfront Malibu pad to pass the time of day.
Screed: Why do so many metal bands create weird spellings for their names, and use punctuation and stuff like umlauts?
Vince: Well, the only reason we did that was because when we decided on the name Motley Crue we all happened to be drinking Lowenbrou, and the dots looked cool. Then the first time we toured in Germany, because of the umlauts, it was pronounced Mootley Crhuh!
Screed: What's the state of metal these days?
Vince: There really is no metal right now. The fan base has just diminished. It's weird--rock 'n' roll just goes in cycles, and the people that listened to metal in the Eighties grew up, and are now listening to Kenny G or one of those kinds of people. The younger kids are now growing up on the Seattle sound or hip-hop. But there'll always be a link. Punk is coming back, and that'll lead right back into rock 'n' roll and heavy metal.
Screed: Do you think it's inevitable that as metal fans grow up, they'll gravitate toward something a lot more mellow?
Vince: That's what I see, I'm sure it's not true in every single case, but . . . Screed: Is that something you've had to fight, as far as your own tastes go?
Vince: No, not really. Well, yeah. You know what I listen to? I listen to classic-rock stations on the radio. I don't watch MTV, I don't listen to current stuff.
Screed: What did you grow up listening to?
Vince: Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, that kind of stuff.
Screed: Your music always seems to be on the pop side of metal; there're a lot of hooks.
Vince: I believe in strong choruses. I like when you write a song and it gets stuck in your head, like the Oscar Mayer wiener commercial or something. You know, you go away and you can't get it out of your head and it kind of pisses you off. That to me is a cool song.
Screed: Success through irritation?
Vince: Yeah, that's it!
Screed: When did you first realize you wanted to get into music?
Vince: I was a sophomore in high school, and there was this new kid who came into the school and he had really long hair. He asked me if I wanted to sing in his band, and I said, "Why me?" And he said, "Because you have the longest hair in high school." That was it. Screed: Did you have any desire to get into music prior to that? Vince: I never even thought about it. I just learned a bunch of Zeppelin tunes and Aerosmith tunes and started a band.
Screed: Whatever happened to that guy?
Vince: Actually, he auditioned for my band after I got out of Motley. He didn't make it.
Screed: What have you learned from rock, philosophically?
Vince: Geez, I don't know. I guess I haven't learned anything, I'm still doing it! But I think it's all about loyalty to others and your craft. Screed: How did loyalty play into Crue giving you the boot? Vince: It was totally shocking. Their loyalties were to money and trying to be the biggest stars that they can. They just forgot about the whole reason we got into this in the first place.
Screed: You've got your own line of women's swimwear. Did you have a hand in actually designing it?
Vince: I used to do it all, but with touring and recording, I haven't had a chance to do anything lately.
Screed: But women's bikinis must be pretty easy to design, I mean, it's like a few inches of fabric.
Vince: The hard part is trying to create new fabrics, ones that haven't been done before.
Screed: That's fascinating. I would have assumed most of them were made out of the same stuff.