Interview Date: 03/28//2011
Run Date: 04/12/2011
Nikki Sixx might be best known as the bassist for Mötley Crüe, but those who’ve followed his life and times over the past several years are well aware that there’s more to the man than that lone credit. In addition to joining his Crüe cohorts as a co-author of the band’s life and times in The Dirt, Sixx also offered up his own life story a few years back ("The Heroin Diaries"). Now, he’s back with a follow-up of sorts: "This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx." Bullz-Eye had the all-too-brief opportunity to chat with Sixx about his new book and his decidedly unique eye for photography, and although time was fleeting, we did our best to get an update on the current state of the Crüe as well.
Bullz-Eye: Well, first, I have to unfortunately admit that I only just received a copy of your book this afternoon, so I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve had the chance to absorb the whole thing.
Nikki Sixx: Yeah, but I appreciate your honesty.
BE: I have, however, flipped through the whole thing, and I’ve read as much as I could given the amount of time that I had, and…you’ve definitely got a vision when it comes to your photography, man. I’m not necessarily going to say that I agree with the vision, but you’ve definitely got an eye for capturing your subject.
NS: Hey, I think that disagreeing is totally fine.
BE: I’m glad to hear that. So I read in the intro about how the simple little Canon 35mm SLR you picked up in a camera store in 1989 more or less changed your life, but prior to that, had photography ever been something that you’d had any particular interest in?
NS: Well, I mean, I’ve always loved photography. All kinds of creative expression, really. I’m a huge fan of photography and movies, especially old stuff. I have these great books on tintype photography as well as, like, Ellen von Unwerth and, you know, some of the greats like Jean Pierre Khazem. (Writer’s note: I’m not 100% positive that Sixx was saying “Khazem,” but he definitely said “Jean Pierre.” If I’ve gotten the wrong Jean Pierre, I hope he’ll let me know.) But there are great teachers, too, that are equally as inspirational. And tattoo artists and fashion designers, and…you go back and you start to look at some of the beautiful capturing of moments of some of the sideshows and what was happening in the 1700s and 1800s. Photography wasn’t available until the 1800s, so you had paintings of the circus performers, and you go back and look at it, at the reenactments and then later the capturing of this reality. It’s fascinating.
BE: As I look at the book, some of your photos remind me of some strange cross between Mathew Brady’s Civil War photos and Tod Browning’s “Freaks.” And I mean that as a compliment.
NS: Yeah, I mean, what’s beautiful about “Freaks” is that it’s beautifully honest. And, you see, I don’t feel that different than those who have been preconceived as freaks by society. It was only…much like people who were in the circus in the 1800s who were then the stars of the show and were then adored and loved. People wanted their autographs, and they would wait in line to see them, and everyone would talk about them, whether it was the trapeze artist or tightrope walker, the fire breathers, the midgets or the bearded lady or the giants. And it’s very similar to rock ‘n’ roll, isn’t it? You’re sort of outcasts until society decides that you’re popular, and then when you become popular, you’re then accepted into their arms and adored. And this is a breaking down of that whole system, and of me and how I dealt with it: as a creative person, as a young boy, as a teenager, as a young adult, and the fame and the addiction, recovery, fatherhood, creativity. And it’s very honest. Brutally honest at times. Like the photography.
BE: How did "This Is Gonna Hurt" come about? Was it just a natural extension of "The Heroin Diaries," or had you always intended to do a book of photography?
NS: No. Well, I mean, having tens of thousands of images that I’ve captured, the idea of doing a book of photography has been mulling around in my brain, but, like, is it doing it with poetry? Or is it doing it with short stories? Or is it doing it as a set-up for an eventual movie? You know, I don’t know. And as I was writing…what I was writing wasn’t supposed to be a book. It was just me writing. It turned into a book. It turned into…this. Basically, I showed some of my photography and talked about it, and it turned into this very painful and exhilarating experience where I really found out a lot about myself and came to some real conclusion on what I did and didn’t think about society and society’s vision of who we are and who are the freaks. And it was through interviewing and the documentaries that were being chopped together behind the scenes of what I was doing, getting to really know the people that I photographed, and their stories and similarities, and finding that it really opened people’s hearts. It really opened people’s hearts. I’ve seen people cry when they’ve watched the documentaries, when they’ve heard the songs by Sixx:A.M., and they’ve been moved by the stories in the book. So we’re doing something that is moving people, and that’s all that I’m really here to do. To move you. Even if you want to hate me, I’m okay with it. Just fucking feel something.
BE: It’s got to have been a nice creative release for you over the past several years to have been able to forge your own identity outside of Mötley Crüe.
NS: You know, I don’t know. I don’t really think so much about that. I mean, I’m a pretty creative guy all the time, so I’m writing music, I have the radio show. I love the radio show. I’ve been in love with radio since day one. I still kind of turn the radio on and kind of get chills when I hear a voice coming through. Even though I know how it works, it somehow feels like magic to me. Same thing with photography. I see it in my head, I set up a set, I find the right person I want to photograph and something I want to say, I capture it, I look at it, I print it out, I hold it in my hand, and I’m, like, “This is fucking magic! How does this happen?” I mean, I know how it happens, but it’s just so interesting to me. And music, it’s the same thing. It’s like you pull it out of fucking thin air. It just comes out. And one day you’re driving down the road, someone pulls up next to you at the stoplight, and someone’s listening to your song that you wrote. If it’s Sixx:A.M. or Mötley Crüe, it’s coming through the radio, and you’re, like, “Fuck!” It’s so exciting that you get to do this.
BE: So what is the state of Mötley Crüe in 2011? I mean, I know you guys are getting ready to go out on tour, not only with Poison but also with the New York Dolls, which is awesome. But are you guys a band of brothers, a la the E Street Band, or are you more of a corporation, like the Eagles? Or is it somewhere in between?
NS: Well, I don’t know either of those bands personally, so… (Trails off) I love being in Mötley Crüe. I love Mötley Crüe. I’m so grateful to Mötley Crüe. There’s something magic that happens when the four of us get together. You know, we have had such highs and we’ve had lows. It’s, like, I get to live and breathe every fantasy I’ve ever had because of those other three men being with me, and all of us foraging the fucking road together and creating all of this amazing music. And being a creative person, when I’m not doing Mötley Crüe, I’m doing something else creative. You know, I’m in this other band, Sixx:A.M. James (Michael) and DJ (Ashba) are two of my best friends, and we create all of this amazing music. And I do the radio show. And I’ve got a great partner with Kelly Gray and our clothing line, Royal Underground. That’s doing fantastic. And it’s all positive energy. I mean, I feel like I can infect everybody around me with positive energy. And I do. ‘Cause I want everybody to be successful.
(At this point, I get the “one more question” announcement from the publicist.)
BE: In that case, I guess I’ll close by asking if there’s been any update on the status of the film version of Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt.
NS: You know, I think we’ve just sort of finally dealt with the corporate red team and kind of getting everything back where it needs to be, which is back in the arms of the band. So now we can get it done. (Pauses) Did you have any last questions about ("This Is Gonna Hurt")?
BE: Well, yeah, actually, I was curious if you had any plans for a book tour, or if the Crüe tour was going to get in the way of that.
NS: Yeah, I’m going to be doing the Mötley Crüe tour this summer, but I am going to do a book tour, too. And with Sixx:A.M., we’re so excited about the record. I can’t wait for people to hear it. Have you heard any of it yet?
BE: Not yet. Well, no, I take that back: you guys have a video up on YouTube from it, right?NS: Yeah, we’ve got a little thing up there for “Lies of the Beautiful People.” It’s such an amazing record. But we’ve never thought of ourselves as a touring band, so we’re looking for other creative outlets, and we’re dropping the documentaries…we’ve got a series of documentaries that are going up on Hulu, and we’re very excited about that, because it really shows the inner workings of the whole "This Is Gonna Hurt," whether it’s the Sixx:A.M. record, the photography, the writing, the subjects, and letting them really kind of explain who they are. It’s an amazing project, and I’m looking forward to people being able to check it out.