In early May, we travelled to Nashville to spend a couple of days with Mick Mars and hear about his bitter departure from Mötley Crüe. Mars stepped away from the touring unit in late 2022 after 41 years in the group he co-founded. He’d been suffering from the debilitating bone disease ankylosing spondylitis for decades, and life on the road simply became too painful to endure. In his telling, they used this as an excuse to violate legal agreements and deny him his share of band proceeds. The matter is currently working its way through the legal system.
“When they wanted to get high and fuck everything up, I covered for them,” Mars told us. “Now they’re trying to take my legacy away, my part of Mötley Crüe, my ownership of the name, the brand. How can you fire Mr. Heinz from Heinz ketchup? He owns it. Frank Sinatra’s or Jimi Hendrix’s legacy goes on forever, and their heirs continue to profit from it. They’re trying to take that away from me. I’m not going to let them.”
Crue bassist Nikki Sixx has a very different take on the matter. He argues that Mars became unreliable on their 2022 reunion tour, forcing them to rely on pre-recorded guitar tracks during shows. “We’re sitting there, coming back from retirement, and our guitar player can’t remember songs,” Sixx said. “We were there watching him physically fall apart, mentally fall apart, his memory fell apart. We really were, with kid gloves, always trying to support Mick. We’ve always stood by his side. But we couldn’t let his side of the stage just be a train wreck. And now he’s only saying these things because he’s trying to hurt us. What’s the point? He’s destroying his own legacy.”
Our feature article dives deep into this morass, and contains perspectives from attorneys on both sides, Mötley Crüe’s manager Allen Kovac, former Crüe’ singer John Corabi, and members of Mars’ pre-fame band White Horse. But there was a ton we simply didn’t have room to run. Here are 15 things we learned from our time with Mick Mars.
1. Power ballads like “Home Sweet Home” and “Without You” helped Mötley Crüe’ widen their fanbase beyond traditional metal fans, but Mars wasn’t a huge fan.
“I got tired of the power ballads pretty quickly,” he says. “I know a lot of people really loved them, but I wanted to hear more soul coming in. Maybe I just think of music in a different way. And after a few power ballads, all these other bands acted following suit. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, okay, okay. Enough.’”
2. He only tried heroin once.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Mars says. “We were debuting Theater of Pain on one of those old radio stations. I was so hungover and I went, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. You got a bump?’ That’s because we did coke. Nikki goes, ‘Yeah’ and he gives me a guitar pick with this white horse heroin on it. I went, ‘What did you give me?’ He goes, ‘Smack.’ I hated it. I never did it again.”
3. When Vince Neil killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley in a 1984 drunk driving accident, Mars thought the band would be unable to carry on.
“I thought it was over right then,” he says. “And it wasn’t just that one person died. Two other people were really hurt. It was pretty devastating. Right after the accident, some people thought it was me in the car since Razzle and I both had long, dark hair. But the way that whole thing was treated [with Neil serving just 15 days in prison] would have been very different today. I thought he was going away for a long time. It hit Vince really hard though. I think he retains that to this day.”
4. Part of him wishes they changed their name when John Corabi took over for Neil as lead singer in the Nineties.
“If we’d changed our name, that album could have been pretty big,” Mars says. “People would probably have called it New Crue though. We probably couldn’t have done it. But when the album came out, I thought it was going to do great. And it didn’t because people were upset with us. They were like, ‘This isn’t Mötley!’ That was really hard. I guess it was the time for us to pay our dues.”
5. He prefers Mötley Crüe’s 2000 LP New Tattoo to their 1997 album Generation Swine, but he’s still critical of it.
“New Tattoo was written too fast,” he says. “I don’t feel like there was a lot of thought-out music on there. Some parts were cool, but it was all done so hastily. The manager and booking agents and whoever were like, ‘You only get this much time in the studio. We want another album to tour.’ And it wasn’t as good as the records we did before since it was just sort of pasted together.”
6. He’s never read the band’s 2001 group memoir The Dirt.
“Maybe that sound weird or something,” he says, “but there’s parts I didn’t want to re-live or hear.”
7. He did watch the 2019 Netflix adaptation of The Dirt.
“The only time I watched it was the premiere,” he says. “I thought it was okay. You know how movies are. They can’t fit the whole book into an hour and a half. Some of the parts were a little overblown and overdone. But it was a fun movie.”
8. Ozzy Osbourne approached him soon after The Dirt movie came out.
“I can’t remember where we were,” he says. “I think we were playing somewhere near Bakersfield. Ozzy came running into my dressing room. He goes, ‘Mick! Mick! Did I really snort ants?’ I said, ‘Yes you did.’”
9. The band started using backing tracks at their concerts around Dr. Feelgood since the three musicians onstage couldn’t recreate every part of the album live.
“I remember saying, ‘People know what’s supposed to be there,’” Mars says. “‘Will they miss it? Some probably will, but a majority will not. They’ll hear it subliminally the way it was recorded as long as the meat and potatoes are there.’ I didn’t want to fool the audience, but the others wanted to fill in where the holes were. I never liked that garbage.”
10. Despite a nationwide tour in 2022, he says the last time the band really talked was the premiere of The Dirt in 2019.
“Nobody spoke to me in 2022,” Mars says. “A lot of the time felt like I was just playing by myself. You know how you can be in a crowd of people and still feel alone? That’s how I felt that whole tour. I felt used, sad, and inferior. When we played the last show [in Las Vegas on September 9, 2022] I felt relieved. A lot of the pressure was gone. But I was very emotionally wounded. They weren’t just shallow wounds. They were deep ones; the kind you can’t get over.”
11. He stands by his assertion that Nikki Sixx didn’t play live bass on the 2022 tour.
“I’ve been with him a long time, and I got fan-based film of him thrusting his arms in the air and stuff when there’s a bass line playing,” says Mars. “I’m absolutely positive [he wasn’t playing live bass]. I think he did that because he felt too much competition from the other bands on the tour, like Def Leppard. I think they made him feel inadequate about his bass playing.” (Sixx emphatically denies that he faked any part of his bass playing on the tour and the band produced sworn declarations by seven members of the crew backing up Sixx.)
12. According to Mars, the band initially told him he wouldn’t get a dime from their 2023 tour with replacement guitarist John 5.
“Then they bumped it up to five percent and then seven and a half percent,” says Mars.” I was like, ‘No. You’re not going to take that from me. I worked to hard for this stuff.” (Mars attorney Ed McPherson says the proposal also included a percent of any merch featuring images of Mars, and the final offer of 7.5% only applied to the 2023 tour. “It was going to be zero after 2023,” McPherson says. “Nikki was quite adamant about that.”)
13. Mars texted with guitarist John 5 after the news hit he’d be taking over for him in the band.
“He wrote to me a bunch of times and he was worried,” he says. “I wrote back, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll kill it.’ That’s about it…John’s a really good guitar player. He’s schooled. The songs aren’t very complicated though.”
14. To him, the legal fight is about more than money.
“Just let me retire and have my legacy,” he says. “I don’t want to be a drama guy. I want to be a fuckin’ happy guy. But what do I get handed? Plates of shit. I don’t want it. I’m beat up on that shit. Let me have my legacy so that I can enjoy what I’ve done. I own one quarter, or even half, I don’t know for sure, of Mötley Crüe Inc, which trickles down to all the other Mötley Crüe entities. I’m not asking for a right arm or left arm. But dammit man, I’ve never seen anybody have to go through this shit when they want to retire. I’m not an employee of Motley Crue though. I’m an owner.”
15. He hopes to never talk to his bandmates again.
“I think all of us would be okay with that,” Mars says. “And I don’t just mean me with them. I mean them with each other. I don’t plan on having a funeral. If I did, I think maybe they’d show up for that just out of courtesy. But for me, there’s no funeral. There’s no nothing.”