Tommy Lee pops up on Zoom donning a fedora, sunglasses and a black T-shirt that reads “Please Evolve” in his pricey home studio.
“This Zoom thing is so (expletive) cool, because typically we would probably be doing a phone interview,” he says, smiling widely. “It’s been so cool to see people who you’re actually talking to. What a concept.”
Lee is pushing his new album “Andro,” a mix of electro, hip-hop, funk, dance and industrial music with special guests like Post Malone, Josh Todd (briefly), South African rapper Push Push, Lukas Rossi (from Lee’s former TV show “Rockstar: Supernova”) and Tyla Yaweh.
“I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it,” he says. “When I do my own thing, genres don’t even exist for me. I love bobbing and weaving through them all, smashing them together when they’re not supposed to go together. I love that stuff.”
“Andro” is represented on the album with the female energy tracks on one side and the male voices on the other, Lee says.
“Boom. That’s where the title ‘Andro’ came. The record clearly has two dominant energies—one male, one female. Once I separated them, they danced. They both have their own vibes. I don’t think that’s ever been done. I may be wrong, but I don’t think anybody’s ever done that conceptually. It’s really cool.”
The guest artists came as an afterthought, Lee explains.
“I have a collaboration list of people who I have always wanted to work with. I’ve admired their stuff. I’ve been following them and checking their stuff out,” he says.
“I’d be like, ‘Oh my God. So and so would just kill this track. They’re perfect.’ I would reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, I got a track. This has your name all over it.’ They would hear it and be like, ‘I’m in.’ Two days later, we’d be here at the studio recording it. It really started with the music, and the music sort of dictated what voice went with the vibe, what lyrics, all that stuff.”
One person with whom he particularly vibed was Julia Sykes of London’s PLYA. She appears on the song “Make It Back.”
“I had this song and I sent her just the music, right, and she loved it,” Lee says excitedly. “She wanted to do it. She comes over and I was like, ‘Julia, what would you like to hear?’ I had taken another girl’s a cappella and I Frankensteined it. I kind of chopped up how I hear the melody going.
“She didn’t want me to play it for her, because she didn’t want to be influenced by it. I said, ‘OK, fair enough. I get it.’ She goes out in the studio and she starts singing. I look at my engineer and I’m like, ‘Dude, what the (expletive).’ It was 98.9% of what I had already heard in my head—and she never heard this. I was freaking out. She killed it. I played her a demo of what I was thinking, and I’ll never forget her face. She was sitting on the couch like this” with mouth agape.
“That’s just rare. Christina, that just does not happen. I love telling people that story ’cause, wow, I still get goosebumps telling it.”
Now was the perfect time for “Andro” because the Motley Crue stadium tour with Def Leppard and Joan Jett was postponed and, frankly, Lee was over music.
“I was like, ‘OK. I’m going to take a year off. I’m going to clear my head. I don’t want to hear about music. I don’t want to listen to the radio. I don’t want to see it. I’m just going to remove myself and just air it out’—and I did that,” he recalls.
He did that for a year until he got antsy and the songs started creeping into his head. Lee thought the songs were “awesome,” and he says he had to put out the music.
“I wasn’t really planning on it,” adds Lee, who had just shot a “seriously ghetto, fabulous” video for his song “Caviar on a Paper Plate.” “I just can’t sit around.”
Lee says “Andro” passed the ultimate test.
“I still listen to it. After you’ve worked on a record for, God, a year and a half, you’re sick of it. You’ve heard it so many times that you’ve just worn it out. I still listen to it, and that’s a really good sign. That doesn’t happen often.”
Tommy Lee, tommylee.com.