If you’re wondering what guitars Mick Mars plays or which set of drums Tommy Lee bangs on, read our Motley Crue gear guide for ‘The Dirt’ on their equipment
In celebration of the release of the Motley Crue Netflix biography, The Dirt, being released as well as a retrospective album, we’ve put together a Motley Crue gear guide, including Mick Mars gear guide, Nikki Sixx gear guide and Tommy Lee gear guide.
After being in production since 2006, the biographical film detailing the rise of Motley Crue is finally being released, exposing millions of newcomers to the wonders of Vince Neil’s vocals, Tommy Lee’s drumming, the bass playing legend Nikki Sixx and absolute guitar hero Mick Mars’ skill with six strings.
Whether you’re just hearing ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ or ‘Shout At The Devil’ for the first time, or always wondered how Mick Mars gets that intro to ‘Kickstart My Heart’, you’ve come to the right place.
First off, let’s start with our Mick Mars gear guide!
Mick Mars Gear Guide: What guitars and what gear does Mick Mars play?
It’s no secret that Mick Mars has had a lot of guitars over the years. According to the man himself, he has had hundreds of instruments pass through his hands over the years as he is an avid collector, (and eventual seller) of rare and vintage guitars. However, there are a few mainstays that have defined his career, specifically a single Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster…
What guitars does Mick Mars play?
Again, the list of guitars Mick Mars has played is extremely long, so we’ve kept it to the main guitars he’s known for.
Too fast For Love era -1981 - 1983
During the Too Fast For Love and Shout At The devil recording sessions and subsequent shows Mick Mars was known to use a Gibson ’72 Custom Les Paul. This was his main guitar for many years, and the guitar he relied on to get his signature hard rock sound. According to Mick, this is now hanging in a Hard Rock Café in Florida…
Shout At The Devil era 1983-1984
Mick Mars was soon in hot pursuit by guitar companies who wanted him to play their guitars. By this time, he was then mixing up his live and studio rig with an interesting combination. In addition to his Gibson Les Paul Custom, he was then starting to use a Gibson Flying V with custom black pickguard and single humbucker (the only one like it in the world), B.C. Rich Warlock, and Guild Flying Star. Although according to his interview with Guitar World, he doesn’t miss them and they all either ended up being sold or broken.
Theatre Of Pain era – 1985-1986
Throughout the Theatre Of Pain era and touring schedule, Mick was known to use a combination of Hamer Explorers, Kramer Barettas and Kramer Pacers, as he was inundated with calls from guitar companies to try out their gear. The Pacer and Baretta being the most interesting choice as these could have been the gateway to the ‘Kickstart My Heart’ sound where the Floyd Rose trem is used to its full potential… maybe this is where he got the idea?
Girls, Girls, Girls era - 1987-1988
This is where things really started to get interesting for Mick as avid fans will know that the Motley Crue guitarists started using Telecaster shaped Kramer guitars around the time of the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls era’.
Dr.Feelgood era - 1989-1990
Mick got that signature ‘Kickstart My Heart’ sound using a variety of Kramer Custom Shop "mirror top" Telecasters with Floyd Rose tremolo arms and locking nuts. He also used a variety of Barettas and custom shop Kramer guitars during the Dr. Feelgood tour. However, the keen eyes will notice that he was using a sunburst Fender Stratocaster in the ‘Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)’ video.
Decade of Decadence era - 1991 – 1993
Around the time of their first compilation album, Mick Mars was utilising the likes of Fender Stratocaster guitars, Fender Telecaster guitars and his Gibson Les Paul. However, he was also utilising a Charvel Super Strat and PRS CE22 guitars.
However, the next stage of his career saw the man completely flip to the Fender Stratocaster, for which he is now known for.
Mötley Crüe era and tour - 1994-1995
At this point, Mick was using his Fender Strat almost exclusively. He told Guitar World magazine: “That’s when I started playing Fender Strats,” Mars says. “I owned a few vintage Stratocasters by then, and I loved how light a real Strat felt. One of the first real Strats that I ever owned was pieced together using ’63, ’64 and ’65 parts. I bought it for $1,200 while we were on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour in 1987. The pickups didn’t work, so I put humbuckers in it and installed a Floyd Rose. Even though it’s really beat up, it’s a player’s guitar. I still use it onstage and in the studio.”
Throughout the rest of his career, Mick Mars has been known to pick up an orange ’64 Gretsch here and there, most notably a Chet Atkins signature model as well as a Paul Reed Smith McCarty 24. But let’s be honest the two main guitars Mick Mars is known for is his Gibson Les Paul Custom and heavily modded Fender Stratocaster which includes parts from a '63,'64, and 1965 Strat. This guitar is in an HSH (humbucker/single coil/ humbucker) configuration with J.M. Rolph pickups and a Floyd Rose vibrato.
What amps does Mick Mars use?
To get his signature sound, Mick never uses one single amp, but opts to use a selection of different amps to get his tone.
Most notably, he uses a combination of modded Marshall JCM800 2203 50 and 100 watt amps, Soldano SLO-100 Super Lead Overdrive Head and Rivera Bonehead 100 Watt Head. He then uses a selection of different power amps to get a fatter sound.
He told Vintage Guitar: “I use a lot of stuff – everything from Marshall to Soldano to Rivera to Crest and VHT. I use my stuff like a lot of people who bi-amp and slave out to this, that, and the other. I do mine in fives; I use Rivera, Marshall, and Soldano amplifiers, all going to different power amps to boost the signal. When I’m standing in front of my amp onstage, it’s putting out 124 dB, but it doesn’t hurt. It’s just a really fat, warm tone.”
For this he uses Fryette, VHT Classic and Crest Power Amps (Soldano head goes into the VHT 20-100 power amps) as well as a Marshall 1959 SLP Head.
As for cabinets, he uses Marshalls with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.
What guitar does Mick Mars Use in The Film ‘The Dirt’
So far from what we can tell in the trailer, Mick Mars as played by Iwan Rheon uses an Epiphone Les Paul Custom in Ebony whilst they are jamming in the bedroom and the Hamer Explorer in the video above. Here it is below:
What effects does Mick Mars use?
Although he’s definitely not much of an effects player, as he prefers to get his sound from a range of amps, he does have a selection of effects in his backline.
Mick Mars uses a Bradshaw rack effects unit, an Eventide H3000 which he says has a lot to with his sound, Yamaha SPX1000 as well as an Alesis Quadraverb for some dry slapback echo, and for a Leslie cab effect.
Again, he told the people at Vintage Guitar that he uses the H3000 for his main effects such as octave divider, chorus and the Yamaha SPX1000 to make the sound a little wetter, but aside from that Mick is essentially a guitar and amp man!
You can get a better look at the guitars and basses used in this new video clip.
What strings does Mick Mars use?
Mick Mars uses Ernie Ball strings, a light gauge too! Check out the video below:
Nikki Sixx Gear Guide: What bass and what gear does Nikki Sixx Play?
The dates are a bit hazy here, but stick with us…
Unlike Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx has only really deviated from his choice of bass guitar on a few occasions. His main weapon of choice is the Gibson Thunderbird bass as seen below.
This style of bass has been his go-to for almost his entire career, opting only to trade it out for the likes of his Gibson Nikki Sixx Signature Blackbird bass , which Epiphone now makes after Gibson stopped producing it in 2003, and the B.C. Rich Warlock Bass.
There was also a Gibson Nikki Sixx Signature Model Thunderbird IV which opted for the more traditional colour scheme.
From 1987-1990, Nikki used the Spector Spectorbird style guitar, which had a familiar shape on the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ tour and album.
Throughout the Shout At The Devil era 1983-1984, Nikki Sixx mainly utilised a B.C. Rich Warlock Bass with reverse headstock.
There was a slight deviation with the addition of his signature Nikki Sixx "Schecter Sixx" Bass which is a pretty awesome bass indeed!
Nikki is also a big fan of smashing basses on stage, which is seen in the trailer for ‘The Dirt’. Of course he’s not silly, so he chose not to smash any of his super expensive Gibsons, and chose to smash up his Fender Precision bass guitars, usually black Squier Precision Basses with white pickguards.
There were also a range of different bass guitars including Hamer Firebird, Guild Custom Shop models, Hamer basses and BC Rich bass guitars, but if you want that Nikki Sixx sound, then you need either a Gibson Thunderbird or B.C. Rich Warlock Bass.
What amps does Nikki Sixx use?
Nikki has a fairly simple set up when it comes to bass amps opting to use an Ampeg SVT-CL Classic Bass Head, Ampeg VT-40 Amplifier as well as Ampeg SVPCL preamps and Ampeg SVP1600 power amps all pumped through Basson 810B 8x10" 2000 watt bass cabs.
Tommy Lee Gear Guide: What Drums Does Tommy Lee play?
Here’s the set up for his ‘The Final Tour kit’ as per the Pearl website - also known as the roller coaster kit.
- Crystal Beat (prototype)
- Ultra Clear (730)
- powered by Epro Live Tru Trac Drumheads
- 26x16 bass drum
- 14x14 tom w/ legs
- 16x16 floor tom x2
- 10x5 rack tom x2
- 14x8 Free Floating snare drum (Aluminum)
- 40x16 gong drum
- BC1030 boom stand x5
- S930D snare stand
- P3002C Demon Chain double pedal
- H2000 hi hat stand
- D1000SN throne
The E-pro Live kit is also a Pearl kit:
- 26x16 bass drum
- 14x14 tom
- 14x14 tom
- 16x16 floor tom x2
- 18x16 floor tom
- 20x14 gong drum
- 14x6.5 Ultracast Snare Drum
View more photos on the Pearl website here.
Vince Neil gear guide. What Mic does Vince Neil use?
And that about wraps up our Motley Crue gear guide!
Let us know whether you think we’ve missed anything, and if you loved ‘The Dirt’!