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LA-based glam-metal band Motley Crue have often been referred to as the world’s most notorious rock group. Anyone who has read the band’s book The Dirt or seen the movie adaptation would be struggling to disagree with that label. They were very naughty boys. The quartet consisting of Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars, personified the Sunset Strip sound and culture throughout the 80s, into the 90s, and in doing so achieved over 100 million album sales worldwide, garnered 7 USA platinum and multi-platinum albums and 22 Top 40 mainstream rock hits.

Guitarist Mick Mars was the guy who gave the band their name, he co-wrote the songs and gave the band their distinctive hard-edged rock sound. However Mick has long-suffered a debilitating health condition, ankylosing spondylitis, an affliction which has been gradually getting worse to the point that he could no longer tour with the band. In 2022 Mars informed Neil, Sixx, and Lee that he was retiring from the road. The other band members took that as to mean he was quitting the group entirely and brought in John 5 on guitar to replace him for both touring and recording purposes. An ongoing legal stoush ensued, as Mick suggested he still wanted to be both a recording partner and share holder for Motley Crue. A day before Australian Musician got to chat with Mick Mars, a judge gave the guitarist a significant legal win in that battle but the conflict between the parties continues.

In the meantime, after decades of creating anthemic rock riffs for LA bad boys Motley Crue, Mick Mars has today finally released his debut solo album, The Other Side of Mars. The album was an opportunity for Mick to spread his creative wings and deliver a more progressive sound, bringing in a bunch of encouraging musician friends who helped Mars to achieve his musical goals. Some of the song titles such as… Loyal To The Lie, Alone, Memories, Right Side of Wrong, Aint Going Back may give the impression of ambiguity… it would be easy to assume that the titles relate to his feud with his former bandmates. However, whenever quizzed about the sentiments of these songs in any interview, Mars seems to have valid alternative meanings for them all. Either way, I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by what he’s accomplished with his debut record.

Mick Mars was kind enough to chat with Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips about the creation of the new album. We found Mick to be sweet, excited to talk about his solo record and unwilling to add any pointless fuel to the Motley Crue legal fire.

Australian Musician: We’re talking about this great new solo album that’s coming out called The Other Side of Mars. You’ve been a professional musician for decades and this is your debut solo album. When did you first start thinking about a solo record?

Mick Mars: Well, actually, I’ve been thinking about solo music pretty much the whole time with Motley. It’s like … step away for a second and come back, you know. Motley being my priority of course but just to have something else that I’m working on and doing but I never came around (to it) until now.

Were all the songs written recently with this album in mind or do some song ideas go back a way?
There’s a couple ideas that go back a few years after the final tour in 2015. A few ideas back there that I have that were actually saved and weren’t good enough, in my opinion to make a full song out of. It gets frustrating sometimes. Lots of stumbling blocks.

Do you generally have a bunch of ideas that you keep on your phone or on tape?
Actually, I have Pro Tools, so I record all my stuff on Pro Tools and prior to that I had an old 16 track tape machine. But with Pro Tools and stuff, I save all my ideas. I have thousands of them and all of them are crappy but I don’t know how to get rid of ’em all (laughs). It’s all good.

I imagine you could have called on virtually any of your high profile musician friends to play on this album. In the end, you chose Paul Taylor on keys (Winger, Alice Cooper), Jacob Bunton on vocals, Korn’s drummer Ray Luzier, Chris Collier on bass and another singer Brion Gamboa, who contributed lead vocals to two songs. What was it about that group of guys that suited this project?
Well, Paul was the most important part of helping me with this record, with the way that he writes lyrics and how he enhanced what I had. He thinks the same as me. Basically Paul is just a very instrumental part of my way of thinking as far as writing and pulling that stuff out of me. Jacob is a friend of his. I was also looking for a singer, and Paul goes, oh, I know this guy, Jacob Bunton. And I go, well, let’s get him in, put some scratch vocals down or something. And it turned out that I really liked his voice a lot. So he did the bulk of the singing. He also did violins, violas, a lot of things like that on Memories, which is a song that I had written on a guitar. Paul Taylor put piano to it and I go… that’s perfect. Don’t touch it. Don’t mess it up with any drums. And Jacob added the violins, the violas and that stuff, and Jacob sung it, of course. But it was one of those moments of when … I was thinking and I keep saying this … it’s like Freddie Mercury walking out to the end of stage and playing on this piano and just singing. That’s what I wanted to capture. And I think that I captured that, although Jacob isn’t Freddie Mercury but that isn’t what I’m saying. I’m saying I definitely did capture that … what I was hearing and I didn’t want anything else on it.

Ray, on the other hand, that guy was suggested to me by Michael Wagener, who produced the record, and I didn’t think that he would do it at first because I really didn’t know him. He played in Korn, they’re pretty progressive, aggressive and that kind of a thing. And so when I called him, he was excited to do it and he came over and he was like, man… he ripped it. He ripped all the songs, man.

And Brion Gamboa, he was another guy that Paul knew that had worked with him before. For Killing Breed and Undone, I felt that those two songs is a direction I’m moving in first off, but the direction of the song, I wanted more angst. More desperation to the singing of Jacob’s voice. Of course, you heard with Jacob, it is very clear, clean, and he’s got a very powerful voice. But Brion has that rasp, that desperation of what I wanted to capture in those two songs, Killing Breed and Undone. So that’s where he entered the picture.

You mentioned the track Memories, which gives the album a nice bit of light and shade, it adds to the dynamics of the album having that in there. How important was the track order?
I was thinking along the lines of .. to take almost like a journey through my music, of going from this Loyal To The Lie thing to another feel, a different song that was just a little, I don’t know how to say it, a different kind of a category to take people on, almost like a musical journey, I guess. So Loyal to The Lie was pretty aggressive and Broken On The Inside is a little more with that screaming stuff! Then it goes Alone (in Your Grave), which is kind of a metal, I don’t know, it isn’t exactly a ballad, but it could be if I slowed it down. And then in Killing Breed, it’s a whole different area. To put Memories after that was just a whole different thing. So it’s like after Killing Breed (a song) of desperation and then Memories, which is about … obviously people that met and stayed together until death. So it’s kind of a journey type of thing to show different sides of what I feel and how I think about music and trying to not repeat and trying to really step away from what I was doing with my old group. Does that make any sense?

Yes it does. Why did you decide to end the album with an instrumental?
I needed a 10th song (laughs) and I had that lick for LA Noir for quite a while. And so I went like, what am I going to do? Actually I wrote that lick from quite a while ago … I liked those old black and white, 1940s and 30s sleuth movies, those old black and white detective movies, private eyes and all that kind of stuff. So it was like a six eight or six four or whatever kind of feel, which brought back into that. I don’t know. I just love that stuff.

Do you have a penchant for rock instrumentals in general? I know you’re into Dick Dale, but does your interest in instrumentals go further than that?
I think that there’s a place for cool solos. I don’t particularly just like instrumental stuff unless it’s by Jeff Beck. But no, I don’t feel in that direction. My ideas are to kind of weave solos into the melody. It’s difficult for me to explain it. I want to weave it in between as part of the song, not like a show. I leave that for the youngsters, that’s good for them. Oh, I dig it with the new people and stuff, new musicians, new bands and stuff. But with me, I’m really old school … I’m not like a progressive kind of a guitar player or anything. I guess the best that I explain was David Gilmour with Pink Floyd, he took his songs and weaved his soul into the song to make it speak.

Did you use many different guitars on this album, or just mainly your Strat?
I used my Strat a lot but I did use a lot of other guitars. I used a Gibson Melody Maker, a Les Paul, of course. I used a seven string on Undone. So yeah, I used a few different guitars, but mainly my white Strat, Isabella.

How fussy were you with your guitar takes in general? Did you do a lot of takes per track?
I would take things to a certain area of the song and go like, nah, that part doesn’t work. And just start at the point and be punched in. Of course, just like a typical kind of recording, when you hear something, when you’re playing or hear something, even after you say, hey, let’s put this on or let’s try this, take this out, or mute that there… so yeah, piecing parts together and seeing if it works or not. If it works, cool. If it doesn’t, it’s cool, I still have the other one … just playing around with stuff and fooling around and I don’t know, just seeing how far I could push it within the boundaries of the song.

Is there a track on the album that’s closer to your heart, that you’re particularly proud of?
The ones that I really, really like the most are Killing Breed and Undone. I’m really happy with the way those two turned out. That’s a kind of a direction that I’d like to move into. Not really a progressive thing, but more of I guess, a cinematic type of music that has a lot of expression, a lot of feel. I guess it isn’t really new by any means but just something that I wanted to explore and feel around and see what happens with that.

Was it difficult to say the album is done and to let it go?
I think that every musician on the planet says, no, I wasn’t done yet … they go like … I could do it better. No, you can’t! I’ll tell you a story. The guys that sang on my record, Jacob and Brion … mostly one take!

They go, let me do it again. I can do better. No, you can’t! Usually I feel that your first take, it’s just kind of not crappy by any means but loose or whatever. It’s like I can do it better and it never turns out better, but that’s just me. I know that a lot of people will do it again. But no, usually when those guys took the first dig, I go, that’s it. Especially Brion, because as I was saying earlier, that angst was there, he had it. I went, that’s enough. Even though there was some flat notes and some sharps and things like that. But we can fix that a little bit, it’s the performance that counts.

People have been asking you about playing this album live and you’ve said that if it was a limited run or maybe a one-off night, maybe you could do it. Have promoters actually begun contacting you in regard to possibilities? Do you see that as a reality at some point?
I haven’t been offered anything but if it was like say a residency, I’d have to first put the band together because it wasn’t really a band. It’s just a lot of friends of mine. But yeah, I could do that. The extensive touring, it is a beating. It’s a beating to go through airports or do this or do this. Man, I’m 70…probably 73 this year (laughs) and I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. I don’t know if you know what that is but it’s a miserable thing. And so rather than to be like, no, I can’t be like that, I can’t be like half-assed. I have to be full-blown me or it doesn’t work. If I do a residency, if I do a one nighter or something like that, I could put out a hundred percent. But at this age in time, no, sadly. I’ll keep putting out music though of course.

What do you hope people get out of listening to this album?
First, I hope that they like the songs and secondly, really to see the versatility that I can have. This song sounds like a monster song and this song’s all pretty and all nice and stuff … the diversity. And I hope that they get that because you could put on an album and hear it and know what to expect. With me, if you put on my record, I mean, this is only my first record, so you really don’t know what to expect. But when I go to do a second one, you may not hear what the first one is. I could bring in a female singer. I could go like, you know what? I’m going to put more of a blues edge on this. So I don’t even know. That’s what I think diversity is. You buy two or three albums from the same artist and usually they’re pretty close to the same thing. You know what they are, who they are. With me, I know I’ll get a lot of flack for it. I know I’ll get a lot of, what are you trying to do? What kind of music is that you want to do? And I go like, I want to do everything that I possibly can to be diverse, not stuck in cubby holes or into one thing. Now that might sound weird but it’s just how I feel. I mean, if you listen to say your favourite radio station, right? None of those bands sound exactly the same. I mean, they’re all heavy rock or mellow rock or this and the other, but they’re different. I guess maybe I’m just insane. I don’t know.

Mick, you’ve been around for quite a while now. Looking back at your career, do you have any regrets?
Not really, no. Waiting too long maybe, I dunno. I think that I played and waited too much. I guess I didn’t believe in myself with a lot of club bands and things like that. So I mean, people like Udo Dirkschneider from Accept … Udo and Michael Wagener would come and see me at clubs and go, what are you doing? I guess I wasn’t confident enough in myself. I don’t know.

So what are you most proud of in your music career?
In my music career? Yeah, really that I got to do it. I got to travel around the whole world and really do what it is that I love to do, which is music, and write music and see different countries and see different cultures and all that stuff, is so amazing to me. It’s like there’s not a lot of people that do that, that travel around the world that can see all of that stuff and go like, wow. And I guess that’s one of the coolest things ever for me and playing my music for all those peoples around the world. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

The Other Side of Mars is out February 23.

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