You can still call him Dr. Feelgood.
Vince Neil never strays very far from the stage, taking fans on a musical escape that never gets old. Since his legendary metal bandmates Mötley Crüe collectively hung up their road leathers for good after a final farewell show last New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, Neil has kept on going.
“I never have stopped, from the minute I walked off the stage on New Year’s Eve,” Neil reports. “I played a corporate event 14 days later in Maui, Hawaii, and then three days after that, I played at Mohegan Sun [in Uncasville, Connecticut]. I’m proud to carry the torch. I’m thrilled people still like it, and very honored to be able to do what I do for a living. I have the greatest job in the world — to make people feel good for 90 minutes a night.”
Neil and Queensrÿche play Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino in Indio on June 11. “Queensrÿche’s great,” marvels Neil about the veteran Northwest prog-metal collective who will serve as his opening act that night. “They play a great setlist, with great songs. It’s a good package.”
While hanging out in an airline lounge at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Neil called Palm Springs Life to discuss golfing with Frank Sinatra, why he’s still able to sing in those higher registers, and what he thinks Mötley Crüe’s legacy will be.
Vince Neil says the song that resonates most with his audience is Home Sweet Home.
What are your favorite Palm Springs memories that we can talk about on the record?
“I’ve played in the Frank Sinatra [Celebrity Invitational] golf tournament, which was an honor. I met Frank, and [his wife] Barbara. I’ve been out on that course many, many times. I have a crazy love for it. But believe me, I was star-struck.”
What did you and Frank talk about? Were you able to compose yourself?
“No, not fully! (chuckles) I mean, it’s Frank Sinatra! He’s the man! It was an unbelievable memory. Anytime I hear Fly Me to the Moon or Summer Wind, I go, ‘I met that f—ing dude in Palm Springs!’ Palm Springs is a beautiful place, and I’m really looking forward to being there.”
You spent your formative years in Hollywood.
“Actually, I was from Compton. I was legit before it became legit.” (both laugh)
Did you have an idea about what Palm Springs represented while you were growing up?
“Well, at first, I figured I couldn’t afford to be there! And it’s funny how the tide has turned. You see all the bands who are going to be playing there on all the freeway signs. It’s just — whoever would have believed this? It’s killer. It kicks ass. Someone sent me a photo of our billboard sign on the I-10 freeway, and I’ve driven that road to Vegas. I got excited. It’s cool. It’s really cool to see.”
You can still hit those higher registers on a number of songs, but a lot of other singers from your era can’t. How do you keep your voice in shape?
“I have an old road singer/saloon singer mentality. I love performing; that’s what I do. I’m thrilled to be there, and I’ve done it so much. Younger, up-and-coming singers will say, ‘Hey Mr. Neil, what do you do?’ And I say, ‘Don’t do what I do, for God’s sake!’ I go in a bathroom, and (yells), ‘Hey! Heyyyyy!!!’ I scream. Even the guys in the band go, ‘What the f—?’ I do the worst thing you probably should, but it works for me. Everybody has a thing that works for them — but what I do for myself, I wouldn’t suggest.
“It’s been bulletproof over the years. Everybody gets sick sometimes and gets laryngitis, but I’ve been pretty lucky, especially in that higher-register stuff. And we don’t back away from it. It’s exactly where all the original tunings were. I understand a lot of people don’t want to do that, but if someone calls something out, I go, ‘F— it! Let’s do it!’”
It may be hard for you to say, but is there one favorite song you sing every night that, no matter what, is at the top of your list?
“I don’t know if it’s at the top of my list, but people get emotional when I sing Home Sweet Home [the chart-topping metal ballad from 1985’s Theatre of Pain]. The audience sings it really loud back to me, and it really reminds me of pieces of my life and other people’s lives, people I’ve always known.
“But from early Mötley, I’d say Piece of Your Action [from the band’s 1981 debut album, Too Fast for Love], Shout at the Devil [the title track from their multiplatinum 1983 release], and… you know, if I keep talking, I’ll end up giving you the whole set!”
That’s OK. We want people going to the Fantasy Springs show to know a little of what to expect that night.
“You can definitely tell people what’s coming. It’s a great, fun, energetic show of every legit Mötley thing you’ve known and loved, plus many of the things we didn’t do — so, some real surprises. And, of course, some of my solo stuff too.”
Could we possibly get a little T.n.T. – Terror ’n Tinseltown[the leadoff track from 1989’s Dr. Feelgood]?
“Here’s the thing — you never know! People always call things out, and the band is really good. We’ve done this for almost 10 years, and we keep each other on our toes. They give me a run for it, and I give them a run for it.”
For a while there, your brand of metal seemed almost passé, but I like seeing how the audience has returned to it and how new fans have just discovered a lot of the music we always loved.
“It was looking pretty bleak during certain years, in the middle ’90s — not just for Mötley, but for everybody — and it’s come back with a f—ing vengeance! If you look at KISS, Mötley, Leppard, Scorps, Tesla, and even the guys from Slaughter who play with me [i.e., guitarist Jeff Blando and bassist Dana Strum] — we do a lot of dates! All those guys play a lot more than people think.
“We were sitting on the bus recently, and one of the guys asked, ‘How many views do you think [Slaughter’s] Flight to the Angel has?’ It’s got over 12 million views — and it’s unpromoted! None of us buy any of this stuff. I go, ‘No wonder you guys play so much!’
“And that’s what people say now: ‘Hey man, I saw you on YouTube!’ Or, ‘I heard it on satellite [radio]!’ Hey, thank God for Eddie Trunk [That Metal Show], and thank God for Hair Nation [Channel 39 on SiriusXM], you know? It’s f—in’ cool!”
YouTube is essentially the national radio station and the MTV of the modern era.
“Damn right! You’re damn right!”
Now that you’ve had almost a half-year of perspective on the end of Mötley Crüe, what do you think the ultimate legacy of the band is going to be?
“It’s forever. The End, the movie of the final show, is coming out in the theater [on June 14], and there’s also going to be the movie The Dirt [based on the band’s 2001 best-selling, warts-and-all group autobiography]. I see it in the reaction to the songs, you know? I could be walking into a place just picking up a prescription or something, and somebody’s got an old Mötley shirt on.
“I’m proud to be that guy. I’ve never run from who I am, and the legacy is not only going to continue, it’s continuing as we speak here. Like I said, I’m thankful for the support, and I’m thankful for the love. And I’m very thankful for the people helping to keep this music alive. Without people like you, it wouldn’t have the legs that it has.
“Listen, I love the stuff. I proudly call the tour, ‘The Legacy Continues.’ You have to live every day like it could be your last, but I also plan on doing some great things ahead. I am who I am in my own skin, and I’m OK with it.”
Vince Neil with Queensrÿche, 8 p.m., June 11 at Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino Special Events Center, 84-245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio, 800-827-2946, www.fantasyspringsresort.com