Nikki Sixx is someone you might imagine not having his shit in perspective and under control, yet he totally does. Maybe you just know him as cofounder and bassist of Mötley Crüe, a metal god, a man of magically spiky hair, as someone who once frequented "Dr. Feelgood." But Sixx is also a father of four, a photographer since 1998, an internationally syndicated radio personality, and a clear-thinking, superbusy dude.
This rock star with skull tattoos and an oddly shaped goatee is also a New York Times bestselling author. His books, The Heroin Diaries, The Dirt (written with Crüe band members), and This Is Gonna Hurt: Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx, have all been hits. Crüe is still touring, celebrating 30 years onstage, and Sixx is also making music with Sixx:A.M. whose recent release, This Is Gonna Hurt, is the companion CD for the photo book.
Sixx even has his own clothing line, Royal Underground, with Kelly Gray, daughter of the creators of old-lady fashion line St. John, mixing fine fabrics with an L.A. "punk" aesthetic. Basically, Sixx's mind and body are like a one-stop shop for all cultural entities. Maybe next he'll come out with a perfume line or perhaps a blood-colored toothpaste for children. Whatever it is, it's certain to be a success.
In preparation for Crüe's visit to the Hard Rock, we spoke with Sixx about guys who bring crosses to shows, why he reads Newsweek, and blood, blood, blood, of course.
New Times: In your new memoir, you're very candid about how none of the members of Mötley Crüe have been to each other's houses. Has that changed since you released the book? Are you better friends?
Nikki Sixx: No, no. You know, it's like we're home, and we live together on the road for months at a time, and we go home, and I'm very, very, very regimented. I do seven shows in four days, a radio show, always doing photography, working on another book. Involved in Mötley on a million different levels, as are the other guys. It doesn't so much... like let's get together for a barbecue. Sunday comes, and I'm like hanging out with my kids. I think there's a misconception that people think that rock bands hang out together all the time, but it's not unlike a lot of people: When you leave your job on Friday, do you go hang out at your boss' house on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night after work? It's a little bit of folklore that you all hang together.
Your book has a lot of great, Diane Arbus-like photography. You've taken photos of things and people that the mainstream considers ugly but you consider beautiful. Can you tell me more about your aesthetic?
I think that everybody has a story and that today in society, we're taking empty glasses and pretending they're full. We're basing a lot of our social commentary on TMZ, People magazine, US Weekly — it lowers the standard. And part of my role in my life is to bring the standard musically, visually, performance/production-wise, and as a photographer, exposing things that maybe others just say, "Well, I'm much happier with Kim Kardashian and reading People magazine," when I'm like, "Why don't you read Newsweek and look at some of those photos and maybe it occurs to you that people have gone through things that you've never been through?" and realize that in real life, there are heroes out there that actually are, like I said, more than empty glasses.
I think that being famous for being famous is a farce. It's like a snake charmer out there. Our kids growing up are smarter than that. I know I'm smarter than that. I think we've got some bad habits. So I'm willing to put my back on the line and write a book about it and call a spade a spade.
You also talked about how Vince Neil said not nice things about you in his autobiography. He's been in the news lately with some hard times of his own. Do you feel closer to him than before?
I've always felt close with Vince. I honestly don't believe, you know? Vince didn't write his own book. The problem with ghost writers is that they get a piece, and the problem when they get a piece is that they want to create sensationalism because they sell books. What they don't realize is that internal relationships are more powerful than anything, so I just kind of laugh. Vince seemed not to have anything to do with it.
You're very open in your book about your breakup with tattoo artist Kat Von D. Since it's come out, have you heard from her at all about it? What has she said?
No. That's such a small time in my life, to be honest with you. For the time I've been on this planet, it was like, to break it down, a tenth of a percent of my life experience, a come-and-gone thing. Water seeks its own level; it's wonderful to move on.
Getting back to Crüe, this is the band's 30th anniversary. Other than keeping Crüe going, what are you proudest of about this achievement?
I'm proud that we're a band that gives 100 percent. I really love that. We've only done five shows here in America [on this tour]. We've had so many people come to shows and say, "I've never seen anything like this." I say, "Have you ever seen Mötley Crüe before?" They go, "No." So, we do what we do, and I guess there's not very many of us left that give over-the-top shows and have lived it, breathed it. We talked about it, on the radio show all the time, it's not OK to be OK, ever. If there's ever a time in history when we need rock 'n' roll bands to be real, we need it now. We need young bands that are hungry and going to give 100 percent visually, musically, lifestyle-wise. We've been doing this for 30 years; we won't last forever. The wheels will fall off the bus someday. I hope to God someone's out there cultivating the danger. Because it's fucking like watching paint dry out there. It's really boring, I'm telling ya.
In the early days, Crüe had a Satanic image; then you adopted more of a party-animal look. Did you have any weird run-ins with Satanists that prompted the shift?
Yeah. Every day. [laughs] It's wonderful.
Any story that's the creepiest?
My favorite is — and I'll still see it from time to time — there'll be like the guy outside the arena with the cross on his back and he's walking back and forth, and he's like, "Jesus died for your sins. Don't go see Mötley Crüe." And I go, "How do those two go together? Are you at the wrong place? Shouldn't you be at McDonald's?"
There were a bunch of photos of you released in the '80s covered in blood. When is the last time you've bled for your music?
Every night, it's a bloodbath onstage. If you've ever been to a Mötley Crüe show, you know that the first 15 rows get covered in, drenched in, blood.
You're currently on tour with the New York Dolls, who basically invented the glam look Mötley Crüe had in the '80s. What does that mean to you?
Well, I mean, they influenced us musically, and their sneer mixed with fashion is such a... They were so innovative. For me to have them out of here, to have them get to play for the tens of thousands of people every night, that's just to me so exciting. That when I get people that tweet and say thanks for turning me on to the Dolls, you know, mission accomplished.
Lastly, in the Crüe classic "Girls Girls Girls," you wrote some lyrics about the Dollhouse strip club down here near Fort Lauderdale. What's your favorite South Florida haunt these days?
No, I don't remember if I've ever been there. [laughs] That's the problem with 30 years of debauchery: You don't remember a lot. I don't know if I've ever even been there. I think Vince has, so that counts.