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.

Vince: No. There are a lot of different types of fabrics that do different things to the body, and girls want to look as good as they can. I really don't have a personal favorite.

Screed: Who's your audience now? Do you get a lot of crossover from the Crue days?

Vince: It's a mix. There are the ones who want to hear Crue tunes, and others who are young enough that they never heard the band.

Screed: Does that make you feel old?
Vince: I am old. I'm 33.
Screed: That's not old.
Vince: It is in this business.

And now I'm turning the reins over to Serene Dominic, who will give his expert opinion on a few Tapes in the Mail:

Cattle ranchers Don Charles and Deb Gessner sent us a CD and it's a Matter of Life and Death. Although the couple appear modestly bare-chested on the front cover, this ain't a folkie Two Virgins--the pair reveal themselves only lyrically and musically, thank you. Charles proves to be an insightful lyricist who can write with equal conviction about the forces of nature ("Row," "Rain," "The Wind in the Willows"), relationships ("Weird Little Girl"), and the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes ("It Coulda Been Me"). Don and Deb play mandolins, harps, concertinas, banjos and sing like Richard and Linda Thompson used to. Don's personal notes about each song make you feel as if you're at the couple's home watching slides of their vacation, and actually enjoying it. Dig his explanation of the title track, which was written about their friend Ron's head injury: "He claims he can't listen to it, that it gives him a headache. That's sort of the point." Call 893-3328. Don and Deb will be performing Saturday at the Ark Room. Call 266-7368. Rappers in Phoenix are still accorded the same bemusement usually reserved for the Jamaican bobsledding team and black hockey players. But Dozier is up to any mouth-to-mike challenge, dubbing himself and his two-song cassette single "The Microphone Champ." Dozier's got both eyes on the bottom line. On "Tickle to the Ear," he reveals his plan to "stay paid from hip-hop hits," while on "Reality Check," he seems more concerned with getting a royalty check for his clever rhymes (enema and venomous). "While I'm pumpin' this knowledge, I still haven't got myself a salary yet." Purchase his tape directly from Dozier's pager number and prevent Mr. D. from getting ripped off by "the woody," possibly an L.A. term for, you guessed it, Caucasian record producers. Pager number is 1-602-862-8664.

The FM Converters from Mesa have a six-song demo. The playing is clean and energetic, but there's just one problem--singer/guitarist Michael Poturalski cannot hold a note in pitch for even one zillionth of a second without wavering like a drunken sailor.

Of course, some would say he is a unique song stylist in the grand tradition of the Seeds' Sky Saxon, J Mascis and (God rest her soul) The Ed Sullivan Show's Mrs. Miller. You may be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the opener, "Lucrative Juanita," but by song two, "Leave Me Alone," he turns into your worst karaoke nightmare. Which is too bad, because even a good idea, like writing words to the I Dream of Jeannie theme, is marred by Mike's hapless hiccup singing. Although the band writes good, credible rockers, the FM Converters will make believers of no one as long as they have a singer that sends listeners racing as far left of the dial as they can get. Call 964-2793.


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