Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins has lived, dare we say it, a semi-charmed life. But here’s something he’s never actually done: interact, or even meet, Tommy Lee and the rest of Mötley Crüe — despite what viewers see on this week’s episode of Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy.”
In the show’s fifth episode, “Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie in Duluth,” Lee (Sebastian Stan) and his Crüe bandmates show up at a recording studio to rehearse. It’s 1996, and Mötley Crüe (and hair metal in general) has been overtaken in popularity by alternative rock — yet the Crüe is still taken aback when they’re assigned to the smaller studio B. Who’s taking the bigger room, the one the rockers are used to? Some new band named Third Eye Blind.
Lee’s not happy, and he barges into Studio A. “Hey, who the fuck are you guys?” he asks in the scene. “I’ve got bad news for you, Third Eye Blind. Studio A is Mötley Crüe’s room.”
“Really? That’s funny,” says Jenkins, played by Jeffrey Conway. “Because we’re booked into it for the next six weeks.” Who set that up? Tommy asks. “Our label. Elektra.”
“Elektra? That’s our label, Nikki,” says Lee, turning to bandmate Nikki Sixx (played by Iker Amaya). “What the fuck? They booked these assclowns in the big room over us?” The band leaves, angry and a bit dejected.
The scene serves its purpose — illustrating the state of Lee’s music career at that moment in time, before the stolen sex tape featuring him and Pamela Anderson went wide. But it’s also a bit of creative license from the “Pam & Tommy” writers.
“I felt like that was the perfect band” for the scene, says executive producer Rob Siegel. “I did a little quick Google search, what label was Mötley Crüe on? Elektra. Who else was on Elektra? Third Eye Blind. The timing was perfect. In 1996 they’re working on their debut album. So the scene is fictional, but I like to think it absolutely could have happened!”
It could have, but Jenkins confirms that sadly, it didn’t. “Mötley Crüe and I’ve never been in the same studio,” he tells Variety. “I recorded my whole first album in Northern California. So we were across the state from each other at the very least.”
But then Jenkins takes it even further: “I had never, in fact, listened to Mötley Crüe. I never even heard them. I actually saw Tommy Lee’s penis before I ever heard their band. I was like, ‘Well, good on ya, Tommy. Well done, lad.’ I literally had never heard them. But I somehow saw the sex tape. I’d also never seen ‘Baywatch.’ So I had never seen Pam or Tommy. That was my first introduction to them.”
Jenkins said he was actually a bit inspired by the mundane aspects of the video: the fact that Lee and Anderson were on a houseboat, eating macaroni and cheese. “I thought, these guys are supposed to be big rock star and movie stars and they’re still on a houseboat? It’s all doable. That’s what I thought, there was a sort of middle America element to it.”
It wasn’t until years later that Jenkins says he first heard his first Crüe tune — and he liked it.
“Years later I heard this song, maybe when somebody put it on the jukebox or something,” he says. “But I’m like, oh my god, what is that groove? It’s so nasty like aggressive and heavy. And it was ‘Shout at the Devil.’ And so I got this blind introduction to Mötley Crüe and I was like, this shit is great. And so we never kicked them out of the studio, but my drummer Brad said that what inspired him to play drums when he was a little kid was Mötley Crüe. He loved that metal shit. So there is a part of Third Eye Blind taking some kind of inspiration from Tommy Lee’s drumming.”
When Variety spoke with Jenkins, he hadn’t yet seen the “Pam & Tommy” clip featuring the actor playing him. “Was it Tom Hardy?” Jenkins asked.
No, it wasn’t. Conway, whose IMDb resume includes “Torn From the Headlines: The New York Post Reports” and “Betrayed,” is only credited as “Alternative Band Lead Singer,” although clearly it’s Jenkins (even though he’s never referred to by name in the scene).
“I feel strange watching myself being portrayed,” Jenkins says. “Just the idea is making me kind of smile. … I hope whoever played me on TV was pretty.”
The “Pam & Tommy” name check is a bit of serendipity for Third Eye Blind, which is about to mark the 25th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut album. Released in April 1997, “Third Eye Blind” was eventually certified six times platinum, and spawned the hit singles “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Graduate,” “How’s It Going to Be,” “Losing a Whole Year” and “Jumper.”
Last year, Third Eye Blind released its seventh studio album, “Our Bande Apart.” And this week, the group announced a North American tour.
“I’m really so happy with where we’re at,” Jenkins says. “I really love the people I play with. And I like the work that we’re doing now, it’s fun to be in the studio now. Our audiences are bigger than they’ve ever been, which is very strange. I think we are now what I was thinking we were going to be at the very beginning, which was an indie rock band with hopefully a bigger following. We kind of got inundated with hit songs on a few records that I think brings kind of a wider audience, which is really great. But it’s also allowed me to explore and be my whole self in music as I go along. And that’s what allowed me to make the album that I’m making now.”
“So I look at this as really a chance to go OK, what’s the state of the body of work over the last 25 years?” Jenkins adds. “And how do you put a setlist together that’s demonstrative of it? And the thing that makes it so easy is my audience is so young, which is just a phenomenon I don’t have any explanation for. I think it’s the upside of streaming services that people find our songs virally through sharing. And so it keeps my music alive, people keep discovering songs that then kind of bubble up.”