Sixx Degrees of Separation: The Nikki Sixx Interview
(Or The Story of One Mötley Crüe Fan’s Quest for Her Own Personal Holy Grail)
Gail "Looks That Kill" Worley
I confess: I love Rocker Boys. The more badass, the better. To me, the Hottest, Baddest Rocker Boy on The Planet will always be the man I like to refer to as the Lord God King of Decadent Rock Stars, the bassist and brain trust of Mötley Crüe, Mr. Nikki Sixx. I’ve been a total goner for Nikki Sixx since I mistook him for Siouxsie Sioux after seeing him all decked-out in glad rags and Kabuki make-up on the cover of Mötley Crüe’s second album, Shout At The Devil. That album sleeve simply screams, “Evil Band of Satan Worshippers Here for Your Daughters.” Nikki Sixx is the definition of Rock. He looks like he could burn holes in you with his eyes. He slays me.
But my love for Mötley Crüe is not restricted to an ongoing desire to slam Nikki Sixx; I also love their music. I would rather listen to songs like “Too Young to Fall In Love,” “Kick Start My Heart” and “Girls Girls Girls” for a million billion years than be forced to endure all this shitty modern alternative trash for fifteen minutes.
I’ve done hundreds of amazing interviews in my career and have been really fortunate to speak with some serious living musical legends like John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Ian Hunter, Alice Cooper and most of the members of Duran Duran. With the exception of Alice Cooper, which involved the most ludicrous fucking hassle imaginable just to get a 15-minute phone conversation, these interviews practically fell into my lap. But the interview I always yearned for, and could never, ever seem to make manifest despite Herculean efforts, was an interview with Nikki Sixx. There would be interview opportunities every year or so, but somehow circumstances always contrived to botch my chance and completely dash my hopes. In this way, I felt like Captain Ahab to Nikki’s Great White Whale.
Yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. Let me cut to the chase: this past spring, I pulled out all the stops, sold my soul to Satan and got an interview with Nikki Sixx. The interview you are about to read was conducted over the course of four days during a one-week period. Part of the interview took place with Nikki on his cell phone while he drove to some business meeting and the rest happened while he was at his house. Nikki was really super nice and polite and I got some good dirt. Listen in, won’t you?
I understand you’re involved with new clothing line where the shirt designs are based on your own tattoos. Let’s kick start this interview by talking about that.
I had always wanted to do a clothing line that was based on tattoos. I met with Edward Dada, who owns Dragonfly [Clothing] and he loved the idea, because he’s really about lifestyle. He does a lot of really cool lifestyle stuff with bands and he does a lot of cool stuff on his own as well.
It’s a little bit of an entrepreneurial thing, but it’s exciting for me. In rock & roll, I write a song, then I’ve got to shop the song, then I’ve got to record the song, wait to put an album out, then wait to get it out to the public, and it’s a long process. It’s one that I’m used to, but as is the case with any artist, I’m impatient. This gives me instant gratification. Every month we have new stuff.
If the designs of the shirts are based on your own tattoos, isn’t that sort of like having people walking around wearing your skin?
No, no, it’s in the design of the shirt. Like, I have this one skull piece that’s on my leg. I had an artist in Japan tattoo Japanese water [onto that] with these huge stars in the background. We took that piece and then put it onto a shirt; we made [the skull] grayscale but made the stars red, on a black shirt. It’s just amazing. It’s very interesting, the garment business. I’m very excited about it. I’m getting to meet a lot of cool, creative people and it’s very similar to rock & roll.
Is there much skin left on your body that hasn’t been inked?
Noooo! No, there’s not, I’m pretty covered.
Maybe just your ass?
Yeah, my ass and my left leg, and I’m done. Sometimes I like to collect tattoo work or maybe I’ll get something just for fun, you know.
Right on. I understand that the great Mötley Crüe biography, The Dirt is being made into a movie. Do you know who will be playing you in the film?
I have no idea at this point. It’s the scary part of the scenario for me because I know, as executive producer for the movie, that I have to oversee a lot of stuff. That part scares me a lot because that’s got to be really perfect. We have our thoughts, but I’m going to wait.
May I suggest Johnny Depp? He’s got lots of tatts and he’s hot.
There’s been talk of guys like Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves and Kevin Bacon because they all play music. Obviously, those are some really serious names. I have this saying that expectations are like premeditated resentment. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because I’ll just get pissed off. Right now, I’m just going to let it go to where it’s supposed to go.
Regarding The Dirt: After the book was published, was there anything that you revealed about yourself that you think, with hindsight, was maybe a bit of an over share??
No. You know, as the lyricist for this band I’ve always kind of over shared. I’ve never been one who’s scared to really pull punches, so I don’t really have any regrets for being honest.
I think your bare bones honesty is what made the book such a compelling read. Even if you weren’t a Mötley Crüe fan, you could get into the story.
That’s the concept behind the movie. Egotistically I know that certain band members would love to think that this is about them, but to be honest with you, we’re the least important part of the scenario — the band and even the music. It’s really a story of survival. It’s a human story, and I think that’s why a lot of people will relate to it. The last thing this movie will be is a botched up version of Rock Star or something. It’s just not going to happen. This is not a rock & roll movie. Definitely not.
My favorite part of The Dirt is the chapter on “The Cog Theory,” where you compare the music industry to a machine. How did you come up with that idea and articulate it so well?
I have these bizarre theories in my head, right? Of course, when you’ve been around and you’ve been through so much stuff, you can look back on theories and go, “Wow, I was right!” Or “I was wrong!” Or “Oh, if I had to be caught on The Cog again, how would I act?” Or “How would I maximize the moment before I’m thrown again down into the fucking spikes and the dirt?” Because we all get thrown back down. You know, I was out doing some stuff the other day with my wife and Britney Spears was shopping in the same store. That was kind of cool. I thought to myself, “Man, she’s yet to be spit out, and thrown off the cog.” It’s so painful. It’s really a far fall, you know? That’s the part I always notice about actors and musicians and even businessmen. Yeah, it’s really nice to go up, but I’m telling you, the higher you go, the farther it is to fall, so you have to [understand] the reality of that. I mean, Axl Rose is an example of a guy that rode that cog [all the way]. He got away with causing riots, hurting people, inconveniencing people and being a dictator. Then you look back on it and you go, “Wow man, that guy couldn’t do anything wrong, and now the same guy can’t do anything right.”
But he’s brought all that on himself, don’t you think?
Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s an interesting theory.
What’s up with Brides of Destruction, your new band with Tracii Guns? Before that line-up was solidified, I was always reading rumors that you were hooking up with Slash and Josh Todd (from Buckcherry).
Well, Slash and I are friends and we had talked. We’d considered doing this project together, but he had a different vision for what he wanted to do. He really wanted to work with Duff, Izzy and Matt, and that’s very comfortable to him. That’s important. So, that didn’t happen with us, but then Brides of Destruction happened, obviously, with Tracii and I think it’s good. I kind of like to think that it’s a real healthy competitiveness.
I know you’ve been recording with the band, how far along are you with the album? And what does the music sound like?
You know, I’m writing songs for other artists, but there were some songs I had written that I was saving for myself. I showed them to the band and they were like, “Oh my god man, these are unbelievable hits! These are great songs!” The thing was, we hadn’t become the Brides yet. What we had was a bunch of us playing some really good songs, so the next step was to write together. We did our second set of demos and from that, there was a song that leaked out onto the Internet, called “Shut The Fuck Up.” People were freaking out [when they heard it]. That stuff’s got all the elements; it’s got the heavier side to it, the pop sensibilities, it’s got more speed. Now we’re back at the studio again trying to push our envelope, and see where that goes. We started off more song oriented and now were closer to metal and punk.
I understand you are coming out with a book yourself, publishing one of your diaries?
Right. It’s my diaries from Christmas morning 1986 to Christmas morning 1987. It’s everything that happened in between and it’s probably my worst period of drug addiction and alcoholism. Coincidentally, it was also a highlight [period] as far as my career. The two are like oil and water; they don’t mix. The diaries are very telling. I think that, from an addict’s point of view and from a rock & roll point of view, it’s very interesting to read them, as a fly on the wall. Also, I think it’s going to be a good message [against] drugs. I mean, you’ll read this book and you won’t [want to get high]. So, we’ve taken my diaries and we’re reconstructing them. It’s really, ah [long pause] it’s… quite shocking.
I doubt anything would shock me at this point, after reading The Dirt, which makes Hammer of the Gods look like Dr. Seuss by comparison.
What’s the status of your professional association with Tommy Lee as far as The Crüe is concerned?
Well, we talk all the time. He lives right around he corner from me. Neither myself nor Tommy nor Mick nor Vince would be interested in doing another tour unless it was with the original band members. I think that we’d said we would take a couple years off, and that’s the best thing we could have done. I feel more passionate about Mötley Crüe now than I did two years ago, and I’m able to deal with the day-by-day stuff, as I always have, but not feel the pressure to do something because of a schedule. I like to make decisions based on simply what’s right and what’s wrong for the band. At some point, I think that we would all like to [play live again] but…whether or not that happens, it’s out of my control.
I guess you don’t really want to force it, because Mötley Crüe — at the height of that band’s considerable powers — was really special. You only want to go back into if you can be at your best.
That’s my belief. Unless it’s 1989 on steroids, I’m not interested in doing it.
It seems like every few weeks I read something about you in the news, and you always have some cool project going on. How do you stay so involved with so many facets of the industry?
Well, you know [long pause, like he’s about to confide in me] I went AWOL yesterday [laughs]. My manager’s office left messages for me saying, “Are you okay?” I go so full on, from 6:30 in the morning until one in the morning every day. Yesterday, I walked in the house, and no one was in the house — which is really rare. There are always people in this house; always songwriters, always maids, always nannies, always kids, my wife, her business partners. I walked in and there was no body in the house. And I sat on the couch just for one second, thinking, “Ok, gotta go! Gotta go to rehearsal!” And I just, I couldn’t move. It was silent here. It was so bizarre. And I just passed out and slept until 6 o’clock at night, sat up for like an hour and then slept all night until this morning. I guess that’s the thing, I go really hard at everything I do and then I crash, totally.
So, I keep excited about stuff by keeping stuff fresh. Like, I wasn’t excited about Mötley Crüe anymore. It was too much work. It was difficult to move quickly. When I move slowly, I fall asleep. I will, at some point, stop, and will probably never start again. I’m the kind of person that would go to St. Thomas and then just never come back again. Just, I’m gone! When I’m sixty, I’ll be down there cutting coconuts on the beach. [And someone will say to me] “Dude, what about all these things you have going?” and I’m like, “I’m done.” That’s how I work. I’m full on, very excited about stuff, and when stuff gets slow or cumbersome or it’s immature, I’m not interested anymore. And if I’m not interested, I can’t put my energy into it. Without my energy it doesn’t move forward. But I also burn out, because I go so hard. I love it, but it’s probably not healthy. I’m sure there’s some twelve-step program for me out there [laughs]. Workaholics Anonymous. So, there you go, what drives me is passion.
Honestly, Mötley Crüe has been put on hold… because it became sluggish. I want it to feel like a brand new, fresh, exciting band. I hate to see Vince out there on tour just playing Mötley Crüe songs, because there is a Mötley Crüe. I don’t understand that. When I go out and do Brides of Destruction we play Brides of Destruction songs. We might play maybe one or two Mötley songs, but I don’t want to live only on my past, you know what I mean? I find that interesting, because he’s got a couple solo albums; you’d think he’d want to promote them.
I don’t want to get into slagging Vince necessarily, but when I talked to Tommy — and I know Tommy and Vince do not get along — what he said basically is that Vince is a very unhappy person.
Yeah, that’s the bottom line: he is not a happy person.
Also his voice is kind of shot. Let’s get real, it’s been shot for years actually. Because of that, I think it’d almost be better not to resurrect Mötley Crüe, because it would never live up to expectations. He’s not the guy he was fifteen years ago.
That’s mine and Tommy’s belief. Unless Vince totally has his shit together, why would we go out and do it?
You want to preserve the brilliance of the legend. You don’t want to step on it.
I said to a friend of mine who was all, “Well what are you gonna do?”… I said I’m going to do one of two things: either Vince Neil’s going to get sober and really lean and fucking come back and kick ass like only Vince Neil can do — because he’s a bad ass motherfucker when he’s got his shit together… or not! And he goes “Really?” And I go “Yeah!” It’s not about crippling [what I have going on] out there, because I have too many things that are positive to go out and do negative stuff. That’s where Tommy’s at, too.
Maybe you and Tommy could just do something together, because that would kick some serious ass.
We talk about that all the time, but as Mötley Crüe, it will be the four of us — and the four of us at the best we can be — or there won’t be one. I extend my faith on this. Extending your faith in something you can’t see is like God, it’s like religion. It’s like having a religion towards a God, and I extend my faith that Vince will find the right road and we will be able to, as brothers, do this wonderfully. If not, I know that I have done something that I’m very proud of and I don’t need deface it.
In the meantime, you maintain your forward motion, and now you have a new band to grow with.
Yeah, the Brides are a total kick in the can. I’m going to shove the Brides down everyone’s throats. And if you don’t like it, fuck you; you’re going to take it anyway [laughs]. Because I’m really, really passionate about it, the way I was passionate about Mötley Crüe in the beginning.
Where did you find your singer, London LaGrand, because I’m not familiar with him?
Nobody is, he’s our little secret weapon! He’s from South Carolina and he was working here in Los Angeles as a hair stylist. He’s a 25 year old, new school/old school, I don’t know, he’s a trip. He’s a rock star and doesn’t even know it. He’s awesome! To me, he has a lot of the same thought processes as Mick Mars. When we were kids, someone said, “Hey Mick, what’s your favorite color?” and he goes, “Clear!” and I was like, “WOW! Why didn’t I think of that?” Mick’s mind is different than anybody else’s, and London has that kind of weird mind. When we’re writing music, he does something and I’m like, “What the fuck? Where did he come up with that?” It’s amazing to me, it’s baffling.
Have you played any shows?
We opened for Mudvayne and Taproot, and everyone just flipped out. I honestly think that we’re closer to punk and metal than we are to rock & roll. We’re hard but with these old school Buzzcocks, Ramones sensibilities. Some people have heard the stuff and said it reminds them of AFI meets Judas Priest. It’s weird, we have all these elements in this band. We have this drummer that’s like Tommy or Taylor Hawkins, this guy’s amazing — and he’s a lead singer. Then you’ve got Tracii Guns who’s a brilliant guitar player. And then you have London, who just thinks, looks and acts different. He’s a fucking rock star, I don’t know what to say! He’s a freak! I’m very happy. We look like early Hanoi Rocks or Dogs D’Amour, but it’s not contrived looking. Everybody looks different, but we all look like we just rolled out of the same gutter. It’s very much a trip. You’ll trip on the band.
You didn’t have any experience playing the bass when you started Mötley Crüe, and maybe that wasn’t so important when the band was new and everything just took off so fast. Was there some turning point where you got inspired to be really excellent your instrument?
To me, the instrument always has been a necessary evil in the band. I liked the bass because I can hit it hard and strings wouldn’t break, and I could bleed and it would still stay in tune. I could hit people with it and fucking didn’t care. It was just like a weapon. Probably in the last couple years, since I’ve been off the road, I’ve practiced an hour or two hours a day and I’m really into technically being a great player. That’s done a whole different thing to my mind, because I think the same way I used to think, but I’m able to push the bass outside the box of the songwriting. Tracii is such an amazing guitar player and Scott’s such an amazing drummer and the back line is just cooking. We do changes in our songs where you’ll go [pause], “I can’t believe you just did that. That’s against the rules of metal.” It’s like, we’re meatheads with chops.
Does the record have a title yet?
I like Here Come the Brides.
Isn’t it? It’s so funny because everyone pretty much calls us The Brides even though it’s Brides of Destruction — not “the” Brides. We’re not a “the” band. Just the fact that these five ratty looking motherfuckers are called The Brides is funny to me. Tracii Guns is hassling me on the [AOL] Instant Message. This is me and Tracii’s conversation…
[Nikki Sixx really did read me a line-by-line account of his Instant Message Conversation with Tracii Guns, but I decided it would be crossing some kind of journalistic line of integrity to really transcribe it here. So you are just going to have to let your imagination run wild]
… Finally I call him a fag and…
Maybe Tracii’s in love with you.
HAHAHAHA! No, we love each other, as brothers, but that’s as far as it goes [laughs]. I don’t know what it is with guys calling each other “Fags.”
I think it’s like a fraternity. I have guy musician friends that call each other gay and fag all the time.