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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
NZ: I think
the one thing that really popped them open was that they played the US
Festival in ’83.
CC: Yeh! May
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
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.
I wanted to talk about the Blood Session, which I consider to be the
best photo session in Mötley’s long career.
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.
was that actually shot?
NZ: That was
shot at my studio where I’m sitting right now!
What were the guys actually like to work with? Are they easy to get
along with and get shots done?
CC: Yeh. Not
specific to any particular photo shoot.
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.
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
CC: So that
was your last involvement with them as such, around the time of Decade
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.
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.
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?
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.
about the Helter Skelter EP?
NZ: Did you
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.
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.
just curious. So what do YOU think of the new Mötley record?
CC: I really
NZ: You like
They change with each album. There are more ballads than I’d have
hoped. The ’94 album with Corabi, that was the shit.
that was good or bad?
CC: That was
NZ: You like
the album with John on it?
although I didn’t really like what happened.
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.
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.
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.
Tommy seems like a real dude to me.
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.
Neil, thanks for your time.
good Paul man. Take it easy and keep up the good work.
Here's some more of Neil's work with Mötley Crüe for you to
Neil Zlozower's great Motley Crue book now >>
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