Interview: Nikki Sixx
Tue, 28 Aug 2007 11:44:01
Few rock stars have lived up to the title with more reckless abandon than Mötley Crüe bassist (and primary songwriter) Nikki Sixx, whose triumphs with groupies and near-death battles with drug addictions fueled iconic hair metal songs like "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Live Wire" and "Kickstart My Heart."
Sixx, somehow, survived the '80s—an era that the band once dubbed Decade of Decadence. Mötley Crüe survived, too, and is planning on a new album and tour in 2008. In the meantime, Sixx embarked on a personal creative journey, writing The Heroin Diaries, a book that splices his no-holds-barred diary entries from 1987 with reactions and remembrances from bandmates, friends and even ex-lovers. Sixx:A.M.—a new band made up of Sixx, singer James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba—have now brought the book to hard-rocking musical life.
Sixx spoke at length with ARTISTdirect about The Heroin Diaries, his harrowing experience with addiction, the secrets of the Crüe's commercial success and his personal reasons for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for at-risk youth at L.A.'s Covenant House.
How did you know that James and DJ were the right guys to accompany you on what must have been a pretty personal journey with Sixx:A.M.?
Well, first of all, we're all extremely good friends. I've always known how talented both of these guys are, and it's sort of an honor for me to be able to get their names out there. There's always a need for new talent, and these guys have both got a lot of experience and they're both songwriters and producers. James, DJ and myself basically wrote and produced this project together—three heads with one vision, inspired by the book.
And the book was entirely finished by the time any music started…
Absolutely. They digested the book and then you all came together to put the songs together?
Yeah, because we're friends, they had been around for the whole time I was putting [the book] together, talking about it, sharing my experiences and reading snippets. We'd talked about scoring a concept record. Before I met DJ, me and James originally had some conversations. Between the three of us, we've written a lot of songs with and for other artists; chemically, it just seemed like the right thing to do. Those guys are selfless, and we were able to tell the story in a selfless way—almost taking myself out of the book 20 years ago and turn it into a character. It's Quadrophenia, it's The Wall, in that there's a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
There aren't a lot of album-long narratives in the iTunes world.
That's the thing—I can't tell you how many people told me that they listened to the record from beginning to end when they got it. I've fallen into it, too—I'll hear a new song and I'll listen to it and bounce around the record. But The Heroin Diaries isn't really a "skip through the record" type of thing.
Track sequencing can be somewhat arbitrary, but it must have been an important part of your process.
Yeah, the track listing was very important to us, actually—having "Christmas In Hell" at the beginning, "Intermission" obviously in the middle, and "Life After Death" ending the journey.
Was it a grand plan from the outset that the diary would be seen by others in some form?
When they were written, they were very personal. I've kept diaries since late '79 or early '80 until now. Some of them sporadic and some of them are more focused; a lot of times when I'm on the road, I write every day, twice a day, all the time. I get home and skip a week or even a month when my life gets busy. At the time in the book, I was barricaded with my disease in my house. The pen and paper was almost like my only friend. I was going through something and I didn't know what; I didn't know how to express it to anybody, so I expressed it on paper.
Were you trying to let people into your world through what you were writing?
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