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Take a look inside the Shout At The Devil liner notes and you will see "Neil Zlozower (click, click)" in the Special Friends List. His photography has been used on Mötley Crüe album covers, as well as printed in rock magazines adored by millions of fans worldwide.

On the 12th of July 1997, a Saturday morning at 1:30 am my time, I caught up with Neil Zlozower via telephone to his studio in Los Angeles California. Chronological Crue is proud to bring you this insight into his involvement and friendship with Mötley Crüe. Here’s it is – ZLOZ - From Behind The Lenz.

(All Neil Zlozower photos used on this site are with permission)

Chronological Crue: How did you first get involved in the industry and who are some of the artists you’ve worked with in the past, prior to your first involvement with Mötley Crüe?

Neil Zlozower: Basically I consider my beginning shooting the Rolling Stones at the [Los Angeles] Forum in 1969. That was me just being a fan. Back then tickets were $6.50 - $5.50 - $4.50 and in ’69 I was 15 years old. I could only afford the $4.50 tickets, but in those days they didn’t have the big security guards. I just bought the cheapest seats and walked to the front row and basically shot photos from the front row all night.

CC: Awesome.

NZ: So that’s when I consider I got my start. I mean, I didn’t have a photo pass or anything, and I basically did it for me to hang on my walls at home. That’s what I consider is my beginning in Rock’n’Roll photography.

CC: ’69 is a great number and certainly a great year. That was the year I was born!

NZ : Yeah, 69 is my favourite number. Hahaha.

CC: So how did you come to be involved with Mötley Crüe?

NZ: Back in about 1976, I used to work with a couple of other photographer - Andy Kent, Barry Levine, Neil Preston - and we all sort of parted ways in ’78. Then it was in about ‘80/’81 that Barry Levine, who’s probably most famous for all his work he did with Kiss in the bi-centennial sessions and Empire State Building session, called me up and said he was working with this new band and wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing some work with him and the band. So we went down one night to one of their rehearsals at a rehearsal hall called S.I.R. in Hollywood, and basically I was introduced to the guys. At that point they were sort of a local L.A. band who was pretty well known around the L.A. club circuit, but at that point hadn’t broken out yet. I think their Too Fast For Love album was out but it wasn’t really a smashing success.

CC: Was that before they were picked up by Elektra? Are we talking ’81 here, or are we into ‘82?

NZ: I think it was on Leathur Records. I don’t believe it was on Elektra Records. It was probably about ’82 as they were getting ready to start the Shout At The Devil thing. I was there when they did the video shoot for Looks That Kill. I think it was the first video they did, so I was there at the video shoot. Barry [Levine] was there too. Actually, let’s step back a little way. If I remember correctly, they did a few local shows in L.A. where they opened up for Kiss.

CC: Correct.

NZ: I remember shooting them at the Universal Amphitheatre and then I remember shooting them at Irvine Meadows. I also remember a funny incident at Irvine Meadows. They were backstage and Nikki said, "Yeah. This is our last gig with Kiss, so at the end of the set I’m gonna go, 'And we’d like to thank our Grandmothers’ favourite band Kiss for having us open up for them'." He was going to say that in front of the audience and I’m like, "Ohhh! I don’t know Nikki. That may not be the greatest idea. You don’t want to burn any bridges before you do anything." So this was before they were wearing the Shout At The Devil clothes, which obviously was a whole new phase for them. They went from sort of primitive black leather and belts and bullets and stuff. I think Barry was the one who really sort of strayed them toward the Shout At the Devil look, which obviously was a really huge success for them.

CC: Excellent.

NZ: I think the one thing that really popped them open was that they played the US Festival in ’83.

CC: Yeh! May ’83.

NZ: I think it may have been June. I’m not sure. It was before the blazing heat of summer. I was there shooting them. It was a three day thing. I was there all three days. Mötley played the Heavy Metal Day. The headliner was Van Halen, who I used to do all their photos back then. I think there was Ozzy, Judas Priest, Scorpions. I believe Quiet Riot played or was supposed to play that gig. I can’t remember. I think they may have cancelled that gig and that’s how Mötley got the spot but I can’t really remember. That was a few brain cells ago.

CC: A few thousand?

NZ: Yeh! A lot’s gone down in my head since then. I think Quiet Riot was supposed to play but they were pretty big already by that time and I think they didn’t want to do it, or something happened and Mötley actually got the spot at the last minute.

Nikki oozing with attitudeCC: I wanted to talk about the Blood Session, which I consider to be the best photo session in Mötley’s long career.

NZ: Thanks. I appreciate that. It’s one of my all time favourite sessions and as a matter of fact, in my studio I have a couple of shots of Nikki hanging up from that session that are my favourites. They’re actually left over from the movie Airheads, the shots that are hanging. That was probably my all time favourite photo session I ever did with anybody.

CC: Do you recall what was used for the actual blood?

NZ: For the actual blood on the guys, I went to a theatrical place and bought the very, very highest grade blood... artificial blood, that you can buy. Stage blood. I don’t know if you remember around that time, there was also that band W.A.S.P. that was out and if you ever looked at photos of Blackie, he used to do a lot of stuff with blood, but his blood looked all watery and thin and wasn't really red looking. We went and got the highest grade fake blood that you can buy and we used that for the photo session. On the background, that was actually red lacquer paint that we put in paper cups and threw sporadically onto the background and let it drip down and do it’s own thing.

CC: Where was that actually shot?

NZ: That was shot at my studio where I’m sitting right now!

CC: Awesome. What were the guys actually like to work with? Are they easy to get along with and get shots done?

NZ: In general?

CC: Yeh. Not specific to any particular photo shoot.

NZ: Well put it this way. Like all bands, when they’re new in the beginning, they’re all hungry and photos are a big part. Back in those days, everybody loved seeing photos of themselves in magazines. It was cool... the typical rock’n’roll star. But as in any band, the bigger they get, the more money they make, the more everybody is demanding of their time to do photo sessions, and so on. It gets to be more of a pain in the neck. So in the beginning, they were real co-operative. They would do anything I would say. They’d be more gracious and more humble in the beginning, but towards ‘91/’92 which was the end that I worked with them, ‘cause I didn’t work with them in the John Corabi period and I’m sort of boycotting the band now, they were like... You’d go on the road and fly into Texas, or fly into Florida. "OK guys, let’s do some photos." They’d be like, "Oh man, we don’t wanna do photos. We don’t have time. We’re too cool to do photos. We don’t need photos." So throughout the years that I worked with them, their attitudes changed. They went from being really anxious to do photos and see them, and then ‘We’re big rock stars. We don’t need to do photos. We’re too cool to do photos.’ I actually just spoke to a good friend of mine who said he was out on the road some weeks ago trying to do some work with them, and he said it was probably the most painful experience he’s ever been through.

CC: Wow.

NZ: So in the beginning they were cool, and slowly but surely it drifted from cool, to not as cool, to like, 'why am I even bothering attempting to do this?'

CC: So that was your last involvement with them as such, around the time of Decade Of Decadence?

NZ: I just shot Vince about three weeks ago for a Washburn ad. Me and Vince are cool. I don’t have any problems with me and Vince. I really don’t have any problems with Mick or Tommy. I haven’t seen them for a while. It just seems Nikki’s now copping this attitude that he thinks his shit don’t stink and he’s the greatest rock star that ever lived and he’s too cool for anything. So, I don’t need to deal with that. Considering me and Nikki, I thought at one point in time were the best of friends. I used to go to Nikki’s house when he used to go on tour in ‘85/’86. He used to live in Laurel Canyon and I used to have to go and feed his cat every day because he was out on the road and no-one else was dumb enough to do it. So me being a good friend of his, I went to his house everyday and fed his little cat. Then also me, Nikki and Robbin Crosby from Ratt, we took a trip down to the Caribbean in ’84 and caused a whole bunch of havoc down there. We were on this island called Martinique. We went to Club Med and I don’t know if that place has ever been the same since, but we had a great time back then.

CC: Hahaha.

NZ: But considering myself and Nikki, who I thought at one time were such close friends, he really dissed me as far as I’m concerned. But there’s not much loyalty in this business. People forget fast. They get so into their ego and so into like, ‘I’m a big rock star. I can do anything that’s possible’, they forget who their real friends are. They have so many ‘yes people’ around them saying, "You’re the greatest thing since bubblegum" and they start believing it after a while. I don’t know what’s happening with the guys now. I hear their album’s stiffing bigger than any album in history, so maybe Nikki will get a dose of reality. Not Tommy, not Vince, not Mick.

CC: Did you work with Vince during his solo career?

NZ: Yeh, I did do some sessions and you know what? Like I said, the last sessions I did with the guys, I think I flew out to Albuquerque and Phoenix in about 1991 on the very last tour they all did together where I think Warrant was opening. Vince was the same... big rock star... ‘I’m cool. We don’t need photos.’ When Vince left his band and started playin’ with all my friends in his solo band, Vince was 100% cooler to work with than he was towards the last stage. I think there was a lot of pressure and tension off. He was very cool. I’ve run into Vince a couple of times since and Vince is very cool. Me and him get along great. We’re both car fanatics, so we like talking cars and stuff. We like high performance vintage vehicles. We have a lot in common. Vince is a great guy. I love Vince.

CC: If you had to look back at the times you’ve been around the band, what would you consider to be perhaps one of the funniest incidents?

NZ: That’s a good one. They all sort of blend into one another at some point. I can’t really remember. Like I said, I used to hang with Nikki. We had some fun times in the old days when he was living in a little apartment right above Robbin Crosby, and chicks used to come over. He’s sort of a jokester Nikki. I mean the Blood Session has to be a great session. Vince was getting married the very next day after the Blood Session. I think he’s been married two or three times.

Vince during the Blood SessionCC: That would’ve been to Beth wouldn’t it?

NZ: That was to Beth, yeah. He was getting married to Beth the next day, so every shot I shot at the Blood Session, I can read on his face, "I gotta get outta here. I’m getting married tomorrow. I can’t deal with this." Mentally, when you do a photo session, you want the artist to be with you and his mind was somewhere else. So he split about seven o’clock at night and the other guys split too, but Nikki stayed around. We got a little toasted to say the least, and me and him continued to work and pour that blood all over him. Me and him were just going crazy, totally cranking loud music and all that. That was a really fun time for me. All the times on the road were fun but that was before I was married, so there was never any shortage of girls at Mötley Crüe shows. They were just begging to do whatever you wanted them to do.

CC: Were you a part of the backstage parties as well?

NZ: Yeah. I would be one of the guys that the Tour Manager would give 20-30 backstage passes to and go find the finest cream of the crop girls out there and make sure they’re willing to do anything anybody wants them to do. Being a photographer, I’d say I have excellent taste in fine women, so I would just go out there and get the finest specimens I could find. First thing you ask them is how old they are, before you ask them anything else. Then I’d ask them a couple of other questions and if they had the right answer, they’d get a backstage pass. If not, see ya later. I did many, many, many Mötley Crüe shows over the years and it was always a lot of fun hangin’ with the guys. Not always the greatest trying to get photo sessions with them on the road ‘cause they’d be up drinking and partying. I think most of them are all married now. All been married at one time or another. A couple of the guys are divorced. It was always fun working with them. I always had a great time working with the guys. They always treated me like family in the old days.

CC: Is there one particular show that stands out in your mind? I know the guys say the US Festival is certainly a highlight. Would that show be the one for you as well?

NZ: No not really, ‘cause in general that was a pathetic three day weekend being a photographer. They were just one band out of maybe 30-40 bands. Me and another friend of mine; we rented a hotel room. At those big venues, you gotta carry lots of cameras, really long lenses. By the third day at the US Festival, I think that was David Bowie day and Stevie Nicks, which doesn’t really thrill me; I remember him going to me, "OK. Come on Neil. Let’s get going. Time to get going to the show" and I’m like, "Look Geoff, you go to the show. I’m gonna hang here and stay by the pool all day. I don’t give a fuck about the show anymore." Somehow he got me to go. The US Festival was great for Mötley ‘cause I think it was the first glimpse the world really got of them with Shout At The Devil. Back then they were brutal. There were the Scorpions and Judas Priest but the Mötley guys were a little different than all those bands so far as I’m concerned. They were supposedly into that devil stuff, which as far as I was concerned, was just an act. It was a good gimmick. Everyone’s got to have a gimmick and that was a pretty good gimmick back there. I think they did a pretty good blitzkrieg on the audience. No one really knew who Mötley was at that point. They came out and they were pretty potent stuff back then.

Helter Skelter EP - vinyl picture discCC: How about the Helter Skelter EP?

NZ: Did you see that?

CC: Yeh.

NZ: After I did the Blood Session, which I thought was one of my best sessions, I went over to Elektra Records and saw the main A&R man Tom Zutaut, and Tom was like, "Neil, can I have this session" for like a week. I came back like a week later and he was like, "Neil, we want to buy this session from you. We want to pay you $5,000 and we’re gonna come out with this Christmas Helter Skelter thing. We wanna make a picture disk. We wanna use your photos. We’re gonna have a poster in there and it’s gonna have the pictures right on the disk." I said, "OK. Cool. $5,000 bucks. Yeh I like that." So all I remember... me, Nikki and Robbin Crosby went to the Caribbean and they stayed an extra week than what I did. They could take two weeks off. I’ve got bills to pay and shit so I only stayed for a week. So from Martinique, you fly to Haiti. Then from Haiti you fly to Florida and then from Florida you fly to L.A. So I got to L.A. about 11:30 at night. My girlfriend picked me up at the airport and she’s like, "Oh, Hi." I could tell something was wrong. I go, "Hey baby, what’s goin’ on?" She goes, "Well you know Vince." I’m like, "Yeah." She said, "Well he was driving with this drummer from Hanoi Rocks and they got in this car accident and the drummer got killed." I’m like, "Oh, are you kidding me? I wonder if Nikki knows about this." Down in Martinique they had phones but it was virtually impossible to get anybody on the phone. You couldn’t just call a place like you’re calling me and get hold of Nikki. It was a big ordeal to get hold of someone on the phone. So all I know is when Nikki got back and Robbin got back a couple of weeks after all this, the record company had already pressed about a 100, 200, maybe 500 Helter Skelter EP’s and the record company decided that it was in really poor taste at that time to come out with this Helter Skelter disk. So I actually think they pressed close to 400 or 500, not even 1,000. So they stopped pressing them. Very few were made. I think they were given out as promotional items. I actually have one of them to my name and that’s it. So that’s the story with that. It was going to be something that was available for Christmas time but they decided to yank it. Even the ones they did press... I don’t think that you could buy it. I think they were just given out to special people.

CC: All right Neil, I that’s probably a good point to round it up at.

NZ: OK. If you ever need any other help, feel free to give me a ring.

CC: Cool.

NZ: Hey, just curious. So what do YOU think of the new Mötley record?

CC: I really like it.

NZ: You like it?

CC: Yeah. They change with each album. There are more ballads than I’d have hoped. The ’94 album with Corabi, that was the shit.

NZ: Meaning that was good or bad?

CC: That was good!

NZ: You like the album with John on it?

CC: Yeh, although I didn’t really like what happened.

NZ: Right. Just to let you know, John used to live four doors up the street from where I am sitting right now. His wife used to do makeup for me on quite a few photo sessions. I love The Scream.

CC: Awesome. Me too.

NZ: I think that Scream album is amazing. One of my favourites. I got it down here. I still listen to that and I remember Nikki loved it also. Nikki actually called me up and said, "Hey Zloz. What do you think of that guy John Corabi? I know you know him." I go, "Hey, John’s f*ckin amazing. I love John. He’s f*ckin great." But personally, I didn’t really like that record at all. I didn’t really like John in Mötley Crüe. I didn’t think it was very good. That was my personal thing. Or maybe I was just pissed off at them at the time too.

CC: Possibly.

NZ: Well like I said, me and Vince are cool. Tommy and I have emailed each other about eight or nine months ago. He got my email address and I’ve got a kid about a year old now, so he just had his kid probably a little bit before me. So we were emailing each other for about a week or two. He was cool and I was cool.

CC: Yeh, Tommy seems like a real dude to me.

NZ: Yeh, Tommy’s a good dude. I like Tommy. I’ve got no beefs with him. No beefs with Mick. No beefs with Vince. I’m just not very happy with Nikki.

CC: Alright Neil, thanks for your time.

NZ: Sounds good Paul man. Take it easy and keep up the good work.

CC: Cheers.

 

Here's some more of Neil's work with Mötley Crüe for you to enjoy:

Cover of Dr.Feelgood single

Nikki Sixx

Tommy Lee

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