Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee may have spent the past six months doing time rather than keeping it, but that didn't stop his glam-metal bandmates from churning out new music for the group's upcoming Greatest Hits collection.
Lee, born Thomas Lee Bass, had recorded the drum tracks for the new tunes -- "Bitter Pill" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Enslaved" -- prior to beginning his prison sentence for felony spousal abuse.
Despite Lee's recent stint in Los Angeles County Jail after a conviction for assaulting his estranged wife Pamela Anderson, former star of television's hit series "Baywatch," his bandmates in Mötley Crüe went ahead and completed the two new tracks for the album -- a collection of songs spanning the quartet's 17-year career.
Now that the recording is completed and Lee has been released from jail, the Crüe are scheduled to resume their heavy-metal antics onstage with a fall concert tour that will coincide with the album's Oct. 27 release.
"It's been hard for us, because there's a lot of love in the band," said Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, born Frank Carlton Serafino Ferranno. "But he's out ... and we get to go on as a band. I don't think any of it has affected the band in any way. It's not a band issue."
Although Sixx said the drummer's absence has not hurt the band in any way, Lee's run-in with the law is only the latest for the group.
The past year has been a tumultuous one for the Crüe. Sixx, 39, and Lee, 35, also had to face misdemeanor assault charges in Phoenix stemming from an alleged attack on a security guard after a concert at the America West Arena. Lee agreed to a plea bargain in the case and was sentenced to 30 days, which he served concurrently with his spousal abuse jail time. Sixx's case is still pending.
Despite all the chaos and subsequent bad press, Sixx seemed unconcerned.
"You gotta realize I've been living a circus for 20 years," Sixx said. "This is nothing new to me. I wake up in the morning and I live in the circus. Anybody else that comes into it is like, 'Oh my God, this is intense!' We just all kind-of slough it off, pick up our guitars and drumsticks and rock 'n' roll."
Considering Mötley Crüe's reputation for outlandish behavior, singer Vince Neil, 37, had a pretty tame explanation for the band's decision to assemble a Greatest Hits package.
"We actually decided to do it because it's been a long time since people heard the older stuff," said Neil, born Vince Neil Wharton. "There's a new crop of people out there, and we just want them to get reacquainted with the older Mötley. Plus it gave us a chance to get a couple new songs in and work again with [longtime producer] Bob Rock."
Programmed alongside signature hits such as "Dr. Feelgood," the new songs, "Bitter Pill" and "Enslaved," find the Crüe returning to the basic hard-rock formula that catapulted them to success in the '80s.
"I really wanted to do something that was focused on true life stuff," Sixx said. "I go to movies, and I f---ing walk out. I go to see 'Godzilla,' I leave. I put on these records, I throw them in the trash. I can't take it. There's too much information out there. I want a simple song with a simple message. That was the basis for the songwriting on this -- [getting] back to meat-and-potatoes."
Sixx said that working on songs which address the rougher periods in his life, such as "Dr. Feelgood," has helped him cut through all the negativity surrounding the band. " 'Dr. Feelgood' was me ... doing my best Bruce Springstreen," Sixx explained. "I took experiences I've experienced -- overdoses, addiction, the streets -- and basically wrote a short movie out of it. There's a character you can relate to ... a beginning, middle and end."
Formed in 1981, Mötley Crüe -- Neil, Lee, Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars, born Bob Deal -- helped define the '80s glam-metal scene with
fist-pumping hits such as "Girls, Girls, Girls" (RealAudio excerpt), "Kickstart My Heart" and "Shout At The Devil," which boosted their albums, including 1983's Shout at the Devil and 1989's Dr. Feelgood, to multi-platinum sales.
As Mötley Crüe get ready for their fall tour and prepare to record another album, Neil said the band has realigned itself, after branching out somewhat on its last album, 1997's Generation of Swine.
"We experimented a little bit on the last record," Neil said. "There were some good songs there, but I don't think it really was who we were. I think we went a little too far forward. I think what we do best is straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. No frills, just in-your-face rock."