Rock-god Tommy Lee doesn’t want you to watch. He wants you to dance.
The internationally celebrated rock ‘n roll icon has sublimated his ego and surrendered to the irresistible allure of synthesized beats, dirty electro basslines, and searing loopy melodies. Having achieved the pinnacle of success as a drummer with the bands Motley Crue, Rockstar Supernova and Methods Of Mayhem, Lee has decided to join fellow band-member, DJ Aero (born Chester Deitz), to embark on a career of DJing. Their debut at WMC’s Ultra Music Festival in 2004 took both rock and dance music worlds by storm. Dedicating themselves to the soul-wrenching, satiating sounds of electronic dance music, Lee and Aero are focused on DJing, and dance music production will soon follow.
New Yorkers will get a boost of adrenaline when Lee and Aero roll into town for a few dates, including an all-ages DJ set broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio’s “Area 33” at SIRIUS's NYC studios on Thursday, August 23rd from 8 – 10pm ET, and a club gig at Stereo By The Shore in the Hamptons on Friday, August 31st. Other New York-area gigs include a show at Bliss Lounge in Clifton, New Jersey. DJ Times journalist , SIRIUS Radio host, and long-time Clubplanet contributor, Emily Tan, caught-up with Tommy Lee and DJ Aero on their North American Electro Mayhem Tour to gain behind-the-scenes insight into their musical states-of-mind.
Emily Tan: Tommy, was there a moment where you first fell in love with electronic music, and is there a split between rock and dance fans who come to see you DJ?
Tommy Lee: At our L.A. Forum gig, there were 6,000 people, and everyone was dancing their asses off! I’ve always loved dance music, even back in the disco era.
DJ Aero: The last few gigs, we’ve been playing to dance people, not people who come expecting to hear Tommy play Motley Crue tracks or a Methods Of Mayhem set. I feel the tide changing in terms of fans coming to see us. With this tour, it’s very much focused on dance music. A lot of people think we can’t DJ; that’s not true.
Tan: Which DJs do you like?
Lee: I like Benny Benassi, Adam Freeland, Erick Morillo…Erick and I’ve done a couple of things together. I can’t believe it’s such a shock that I like dance music, because any time I’ve done anything with drums, I’ve always incorporated electro shit, always, always, always! When I’m at home, dance music is all I listen to! I’m actually kinda over rock music…
Aero: I really like Erick Morillo, too, and Donald Glaude, Simply Jeff, and Adam Freeland. I also still love hip-hop; anything by Wu-Tang Clan, EZ Elpee, Portishead…
Tan: Tommy, did you just say you’re over rock?
Lee: I really am! If I sit-down to write a song, it’s definitely gonna have beats…but, just the old drum sound or cheesy rock guitars…I’m just like, ugh! I’m just tired of the same-ole.
Tan: If electronic music producers can incorporate rock guitars and other rock-inspired sounds into their dance music, why can’t a rockstar play electronic music, right?
Lee: Totally! You know what I just heard today? It’s a band from Australia called Silverchair; they’re a rock band and I heard it from radio. They have a track called “Straight Lines,” and it’s a remix waiting to happen!
Tan: When did you first become inspired to dabble in electronic dance music?
Lee: I think working on the Methods Of Mayhem project, which was a hybrid, rock-techno-industrial-metal thing…I wanted to combine all of those styles and put them on one record. I had everyone from Snoop Dogg to the guy from the Crystal Method, to Kid Rock, to George Clinton, to the Wu-Tang Clan! That project was in ’99-2000. I didn’t just wanna be this one-dimensional “rock-guy.”
Tan: Aero, did you get into the ‘90’s West Coast rave scene?
Aero: Yeah, I saw Doc Martin, Barry Weaver, QBert, Short Kut, Mixmaster Mike, the Invisibl Skratch Piklz…all the great DJs. That’s when I discovered other genres besides hip-hop. I wasn’t into the hard-house, four-on-the-floor sound; I was more into the samples that I recognized from hip-hop being manipulated into new music with a heavy bass and crazy synth noises. I started throwing techno parties in my town, and as the breaks scene died-out, I started playing deep-house. I went to those crazy raves in L.A.
Tan: Who taught you how to DJ, Tommy?
Lee: I just started touching turntables and that was my turning-point. I was like, I wanna do this! Aero’s taught me a lot, and Mixmaster Mike’s also inspired me a lot. You realize all these things are possible, musically.
Tan: Aero, how long have you been a professional DJ?
Aero: Since 1999.
Tan: What was the first gig you played?
Aero: It was in Vancouver with the Methods Of Mayhem. Tommy and I met through Mixmaster Mike, who was the DJ. Mike was going out on-tour with the Beastie Boys and he couldn’t make the tour, so they needed a replacement. I sent a video of me scratching to Tommy and Tilo, and I got the job.
Tan: Tommy, is there an aspect of DJing that satisfies you as a musician, whereas you don’t find the same fulfillment playing in a band?
Lee: Yeah, it’s the sounds. You sit there and you play a rock concert, and it’s loud ‘n banging. But the electronic sound hits so much harder and there’s something about the bass [in electronic music] that freaks me out! If you go to a club, you’ll find me standing in front of the sub-woofers! [laughs] That’s something that comes from DJing that I don’t get from playing rock music, that big bass and gorgeous analog sound. Those sounds don’t come from drums or guitars…those sounds only come from electronic drums or synthesizers! It’s a whole new set of sounds you can’t get with a rock band. Listen, I love rock. But with electronic, I get to taste all the flavors.
Tan: I never would’ve thought Tommy Lee was such an electronic music enthusiast. Do you mind being called a “celebrity DJ?”
Lee: [moans] I fucking hate the celeb-DJ shit. My feelings get hurt. Some stupid tabloid mentioned me and Lindsay Lohan as being “celebrity DJs.” Don’t even put her with me in the same sentence.
Tan: Aero, where are you from and what DJs influenced you early in your career?
Aero: I grew-up in Victorville, California, 80 miles north of L.A. Growing-up, I played techno parties. I listened to hip-hop and loved Jazzy Jeff; he was a big influence. He was the first DJ I saw scratching. Let’s face it, when you first start DJing, you wanna scratch!
Tan: Tommy, do you ever feel as though people doubt your sincerity as a DJ?
Lee: I’m not DJing for any other reason than because I love it! When I’