Local Rock Writer Chris Akin Talks About His New Mötley Crüe Book and Explains Why the Band Belongs in the Rock Hall

click to enlarge Singer John Crab (left) and local rock writer Chris Akin. - Courtesy of Chris Akin
Courtesy of Chris Akin
Singer John Crab (left) and local rock writer Chris Akin.
Local rock writer Chris Akin got his start years ago as a contributor to Scene and then formed his own magazine, Music's Bottom Line, which he ran for several years.

Akin also co-hosted The Metal Show, a popular talk/music show on WMMS that ended in 2002 (but then shifted to 92.3 FM until 2006). Never one to shy from controversy, he regularly feuded with bands and other rock critics alike.

Akin, who hosts the podcast The Classic Metal Show, might not be on local radio anymore, but he continues to critique hard rock. He's just finished his fourth book, Cause & Effect: Motley Crue. The book serves as a defense of the band’s much-hated self-titled album. The tome comes out on Friday, Nov. 24, and will be available on Amazon and distributed through its outlets. It will also come out via audiobook, with bonus commentary that includes an interview with vocalist John Corabi and a discussion of the album with Akin and Chris Czynszak of the popular Decibel Geek podcast.

The audiobook will be distributed through all platforms (Nook, Audible, Amazon, iTunes, etc.) as well.

In a recent email interview, Akin discusses the book.

Can you talk about what you first liked about Motley Crue when you initially heard them in 1983?
When I first discovered them in 1983, they were just different than all that was out there. I was such a pop kid at that point, more interested in the Romantics or the Madonna debut than AC/DC or Judas Priest or anything that was considered “heavy metal” at the time. Shout at the Devil was my first taste, and it was everything could want. It was loud, catchy, looked kind of crazy and wrong, and had all the pentagrams and devil warnings that would make parents cringe. At the time, I had a part time job working at a church in Streetsboro, so listening to that in my walkman while cutting their grass was like my own private joke. They were just the perfect band for me at a time when I was looking for my musical identity. They were clearly the gateway band for me.

Your book works as a defense of the band’s self-titled album. What do you like about singer John Corabi?
As time when on with Mötley Crüe, they sort of lost their soul musically. When they first found fame, they were so vicious and rebellious. By the time they finished touring Dr. Feelgood, they were doing poppy, friendly videos like “Same Ol’ Situation” that were more geared at hot chicks than attitude. They transitioned from their horror/punk roots to party rock. When Corabi came in, he just took them to a new, darker place. His voice wasn’t soft or sappy. He wasn’t a “Home Sweet Home” guy. That blues soul his voice had took them into a far more early Aerosmith place than what Motley had been doing. Combined with the much darker place that he wrote from, it seemed like he re-energized Nikki Sixx as well. The songs sound nothing like what they had been doing as the Crue for years. Literally nothing like it. It was powerful, angry and more heartfelt than anything they had done since Too Fast for Love. Corabi’s voice was the key to it. It wasn’t just the sound, but the “roar” he added. He brought back a big, tough voice to a band that had stopped being tough when they learned it was more profitable to play to the masses back in 1985.

Having interviewed him before, talk about what he’s like as a person?
Not that we’re buddies or anything like that, but I’ve had the opportunity to chat at length with him several times in interviews, as well as at solo shows and when he was in Union and Ratt. He’s one of the most down to earth guys out there. He’s passionate about what he does, but he’s one of the more realistic guys you’ll ever talk to. He always seems generally surprised that anyone cares or likes his music. He’s never acted like a rock star. We did a Meet and Greet once at the old Ron’s Crossroads with Union, and people showed up with boxes of Mötley stuff. I was in the line telling people “pick one or two things to be signed,” and John pulled me aside and told me he’d sign all of it. “These people cared enough to buy my stuff, so I’ll care enough to appreciate it.” That’s who he is. When he played here earlier this year on his acoustic tour, he spent more than an hour before the show signing memorabilia, and then stayed after until every single person had a photograph or a handshake. He’s a genuine cat, and that’s rare in the music world.

You argue that the songs on the self-titled album are some of the band’s best. Explain yourself.
While I’m definitely an old school Crüe fan, I’ve always thought that their songs were fairly simple and not overly deep or talented. I always thought this label of Nikki Sixx as one of the great songwriters of the generation was insane. Most of Dr. Feelgood was slick, but just didn’t have a ton of substance. “Sticky Sweet” or “She Goes Down” - fun songs, but not overly creative or impressive. They then came out with Mötley Crüe, and you get really deep, dark lyrics on songs like “Uncle Jack” or “Misunderstood." For Mötley Crüe, it was the most heady stuff they’d ever done. Further, the addition of Corabi in guitar changed the entire soundscape of the band. Previously Mick Mars just played off the rhythm section. With Corabi adding depth to the guitars, Mars stretched out and really challenged himself in ways he hadn’t done previously. Song for song, I’d compare this release to anything else in the Motley Crue catalog and say that it would win comparatively...hands down.

What do you like about Mick Mars playing on the album?
Mick was never a virtuoso, but he had that “it” factor as a player. You’ll never mistake his playing for Joe Satriani, but at the same time, you pretty much know it’s him playing from the first note of any song. On Mötley Crüe  he seems like he was able to try a lot of creative things that the simplistic structure of most of Mötley’s stuff before and after Mötley Crüe didn’t allow him. Having Corabi there to play rhythms allowed him to focus more on the guitar high points of each song, and he really tested himself creatively.

You brought the album to parties. How did that go over?
Not as well as I would have liked! My friends were all a lot more trendy than me. I can remember many times that the 5 disc changer would switch from Nirvana’s In Utero or Pearl Jam’s Vs. to “Power To The Music” and people would be yelling at me to get away from the stereo. It was kind of indicative of the entire musical climate at the time, really. People just didn’t want to even acknowledge that only a few years earlier they were hair farmers with big hair, spandex and all the gimmickry. Usually, someone would come over and swap my choice almost immediately.

Talk about the concert you saw here in support of the album. I think they played at Nautica. What was it like?
It was decidedly smaller, and fairly disappointing to be honest. As much as I loved the Mötley '94 album, I didn’t enjoy hearing Corabi sing the Motley classics very much. Him singing “Dr. Feelgood” or “Home Sweet Home” just felt like bad karaoke. I’d been seeing Mötley Crüe since 1985 when they played at the Coliseum with Y&T. Seeing them at Nautica on a small stage and without all the theatrics that had become a Motley staple was disappointing as well. If there’s one thing Mötley Crüe did better with Vince than with John it’s perform live. Their gigs were “shows”, not “concerts.” In a way, it reminds me of what TSO would do later. You didn’t go to a Crüe show with Vince to hear your favorite songs. You went for all of it — the laser show, the crazy drum solos, amps exploding at the end of Mick Mars’ guitar solo, Nikki Sixx rolling around on the ground like a lunatic. That all went away on that Nautica show, and it wasn’t nearly as good. At a minimum, it was a letdown.

What’s your take on that infamous MTV interview that got the band banned for a short time?
I think Nikki Sixx believed his own hype. He was “the bad boy of rock n’ roll” at the time, and he thought that he could do no wrong because of it. He was incorrect. He got stupid with MTV, thinking that they were so big that MTV would just accept it, and he was wrong. I’ve chatted about this moment with Corabi before, and he’s told me several times that he knew in that exact moment that the album was dead. They had too much that needed to be proven, and it was the one time that Mötley Crüe needed some help from anyone that would give it to them to re-establish the band. But Nikki acted like the rock star that had sold 50 million albums in the previous 10 years instead of a guy who’s band was in a huge state of transition at a time that the business had completely gone away from the kind of music he made. To me, that was the moment that Mötley Crüe died commercially.

Talk about Quaternary and what you like about it.
Quaternary was just monumentally cool to me. You got it by mailing in a coupon that was inside the CD case. I loved the disc so much, that the opportunity to get more music from these sessions was like a gift to me. When I got it, the music geek in me loved it. I believe that the best song the band wrote in these sessions came from it. That song is “10,000 Miles Away.” “Babykills” is another great song from it as well that should have been included on the main disc. The rest of the stuff was such a cool look into the band. “Planet Boom” was what would become the blueprint for Methods of Mayhem later, which is interesting considering that it would be a long time before that materialized. Overall, the guys put their own solo spin on things and created a unique product that is as compelling as the actual release itself. It’s the most odd thing they ever did, but it had a ton of substance.

What was the key to enabling the band to make a comeback after the album bombed?
An interesting question, and one that I don’t know that I agree with the premise of. In my head, they never recovered creatively. Generation Swine came with a ton of hype, but was lousy and poorly received as well. There’s one song on the entire disc that’s passable to my ears “Flush,” and the rest is just garbage. The spark was completely gone, and what made it worse was they incorporated the creative “stretching” of Quaternary to creating more personal songs that absolutely blew on Swine. Songs like “Brandon” and “Glitter” are absolutely embarrassing. Subsequent releases New Tattoo and Saints of Los Angeles were marginally better, but creatively, they were done with Mötley Crüe. They became a nostalgia act, and given that they were the biggest of the hair metal bands and still remembered how to bring forth a huge stage production, they were able to tour successfully. Musically, though, I would argue that they never came back.

Do you think they should be in the Rock Hall?
Yep. I don’t even think there can be much debate there, actually. As much as Metallica is given the praise for innovating thrash metal and taking it to the masses, you have to say Mötley Crüe did the same for hair metal. That entire generation of bands, from Poison to Slaughter to Kix to Warrant, all owe their careers to Mötley Crüe  There were other bands doing it before the Crue broke, and many that probably did it better, but none made it explode like Mötley Crüe did. Quiet Riot may have been the first band to chart highly with the same style of music, and Twisted Sister may have done it longer and better, but in the end, Mötley Crüe kicked down the door that those bands, and so many far less talented acts all walked through and found success with as a result.

Talk about the bonus material you’ve come up with for the book.
My show, The Classic Metal Show, has really been embraced by fans that love podcasting. With that, I’ve become friends with another podcaster named Chris Czynszak, who hosts the highly successful Decibel Geek podcast. He’s also a huge fan of the Corabi Crue album, and has dedicated a lot of hours interviewing John and talking about this release. I wanted to bring in someone that had the same passion for this release as I did, so I asked him to jump on and just record a discussion about this release. So we did an hour or so recording about the album, just geeking out like two nerds at a bar might over a dozen beers. I also included an interview I did recently with John Corabi talking a bit about the Mötley '94 release, as well as his work with his current band the Dead Daisies. As a fan, I thought that people might like to hear what he’s up to now as well as reconnecting him with this great work of his past.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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