Motley Crue’s infamous bassist Nikki Sixx took up photography in 1989 as a way to help have an outlet to stay clean from his well publicized drug and alcohol abuse. His new book, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography And Life Through The Distorted Lens Of Nikki Sixx, came out this week as a showcase of his photography and personal stories from the past few years.
The book is a follow up to his New York Times best-seller The Heroin Diaries, This Is Gonna Hurt is part photo, part journal — but all Nikki Sixx. It is a collection of compelling snapshots and stories that capture the rage, love, optimism, darkness, and determination that shape his work. I sat down and read the book in one sitting interested to see how Nikki creates photos and what motivates him creatively. The photography will definitely spark emotions as you look at images of alternative types of beauty. Nikki states that he wants to create a reaction. “Love it or Hate it, but don’t be on the fence.” Pick up a copy and you will have a reaction.
In the book, Nikki also talks about his band Sixx:AM and how they came to meet and start playing together. Nikki discusses how amazing it is to have found a second group of people to play with and have magic in creating new music. In a series of documentaries that were released to promote the book and the new album, the band talks about how the photography inspires their music and how the music inspires the photography.
The CD, This is Gonna Hurt, drops May 3, but we got a preview copy this week. At first listen this is a departure from Motley Crue, but in the lyrics you can still hear the thread of Nikki’s world. “Lies of the Beautiful People” is the first single playing on radio right now. It goes hand in hand with the book by lashing out at what the world thinks is beauty. I was more taken with some of the other songs on the album like “Sure Feels Right” and “Smile.” The thoughtful album — produced entirely by James Michael with writing credits going to SIXX, Michael, Ashba and band friends John William Lowrey and Blair Daly — dives deep into meandering emotions through epic melodies. The resulting work is a deep, dark and intoxicatingly addictive mix of sounds and passion. Overall the album blew me away and I have listened to it over and over through the week. I am a die hard Motley Crue fan, but Sixx:AM with James Michael vocals seems fresh and new with songs that will carry us through the summer with hit after hit.
We caught up with Nikki Sixx this week to discuss the book, the album and the upcoming summer tour that will hit Cincinnati in June.
CB: I had a couple questions about the book first. You said in the book that you wanted to inspire people. What inspires you to do this?
Nikki: What inspires me? I am so inspired every day. I am inspired by thinkers. I am inspired by rebellion. I am inspired by children. I have been inspired by love. I have been inspired by heartbreak. I try to take everything that comes at me in life. I sometimes go in life, “I am kinda new at this.” Then there are times in my life that I didn’t handle things… I wasn’t very… I didn’t handle things right. And even though you stumble, you still kind of get through it. And one thing for me is when people tell me No and tell people No and tell artists that they criticize and judge things and people. And you feel that everybody deserves a chance to take a shot at what they want.
CB: Do you have a favorite photo?
Nikki: As a photographer, finding that I do them and the moment they take my breath away. I process them, I print them, I manipulate them and it’s a neat thing, I color correct them and then I am done. I am on to the next thing. And that’s how you create a body of work. I don’t sit around and look at my photography any more than I sit around and listen to my music. So, when you get far enough away from it, you can actually see. It’s like the forest of the trees. Like with Motley, I am able to look back and go, “I get it, I get what we were doing at the time.” When you’re right up close and personal, you don’t really know. That’s the honesty. That’s living in the moment. So, for me, whether I am doing photo journalistic stuff or set up stuff, it’s kind of hard for me to choose at this point.
CB: Well I can relate, I am a photographer and I am always after capturing that moment or that place. Do you have anywhere you want to go to photograph or experiences you want to do that you just have to go out and do it.
Nikki: For me, one of the things that I get excited about is getting in situations I shouldn’t be in.
CB: I read that. I read many of those stories in the book.
Nikki: It’s not for shock. It’s not for ego. It’s literally so I can get into the most dangerous situation and capture something that nobody else can see. That is really some of the stuff that I am looking forward to.
CB: Is it for the adrenaline? It’s almost like an adrenaline rush right? Like people who jump out of airplanes?
Nikki: Yeah, I guess so. It’s just something about the moment and capturing it. It’s like some people who want to be backstage with the camera. For me, filming and be able to get a photography pass and be able to shoot the circus, it’s great. I love the contortionists and trapeze artists, but I would like to see what happens before they go on and after they come off. I want to see the clown taking off his makeup and what happens between when he takes off his makeup and the next morning. Is he an alcoholic? Is he sleeping with a prostitute? Does he have a wild temper? Is he sad? Is he happy? That’s the stuff I am looking for. The stuff that’s underneath what everybody else sees.
CB: Well in the book, you talk about a child seeing you somewhere and their mom having to explain to them what a “Nikki Sixx” is. So tell us, what is a Nikki Sixx?
Nikki: I think it’s an evolution. I think I am the same as all of my friends. I’ve been meeting so many fans on the tour with Motley Crue and SixxA.M. and the last book tour Heroin Diaries and I am seeing myself. Kind of like we are on the same journey together. And I really enjoy that. I like when people say they relate to my book because they are going through the same thing or they say “I relate to that part of the book because my brother went through the same thing.”
CB: That brings up another point. I have been following you on Facebook for a couple weeks and I am amazed that every day when I wake up you are addressing people that are writing to you every single day. And it seems to be very inspiring. You are obviously very inspiring to people. Does that create any type of burden for you? Do you feel a responsibility or weigh on you that people look at you like that?
Nikki: No, I think that it would be a burden if it wasn’t honest. And I can honestly tell you that I have been really honest with my feelings and whatever Motley Crue has been to people and through as people has always been really honest. And that is same for me independently and with SixxA.M. so as a writer, you just write what you feel and that is what I do every day. I write every single day and I just get it out there. You are not always eloquent with it. I don’t think there’s an etiquette to what it is that I do with my life. The only thing I can do is be as transparent as possible. I have very few boundaries with things. My boundaries are my family and my home. That’s really it. I’m not going to let anybody into my home or my family life or get you deep into that. Or even into my personal relationships and see how deep that goes. But otherwise, I don’t feel a responsibility but it seems natural and I just do it. If you go back and look at the lyrics on our first record, our second record, fourth record, read the lyrics and go into the lyrics of SixxA.M.. You’re going to say, “There’s a thread. It’s there.”
CB: I picked up Heroin Diaries probably about nine months ago and I read it on a plane ride. It seemed hard for me to believe that this same person you were with the girls lined up backstage then was the person who wrote that May 21st journal entry to Kat Von D in this new book. Just this outlook toward women and relationships has evolved a lot. I’m sure the drugs and alcohol had a lot to play in that first book but it was interesting to me how the relationships with women in both books seemed to change.
Nikki: I am in a relationship right now. And my girlfriend said to me recently that one of the nicest feelings she has is that I am completely honest with her. I won’t cheat on her and I won’t lie to her because I have the experience of doing the wrong thing. So there is the whole thing laid out what you just said, ‘How could it be the same person?” Well, it’s the experience. I think if you go and talk to most people who were in their teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc. You are going to interview them and go “Wow. I was able to go into your family life and I found out in your 20’s you aren’t the same person you are now.” It’s when people are the same person or claim they are the same person, I am let down. And I am going to point out artists and musicians who are, “Yeah it’s all the same.” I just lost respect for you because you lied to me. You can’t lie to your audience. You can’t lie to your fans. You have to age gracefully. And that’s what I love about Keith Richards. That’s what I love about the Rolling Stones. They are aging gracefully. They are falling apart at the seams right before our eyes and they are doing it gracefully. And that’s the most beautiful thing that we can do.
Nikki and Motley Crue will be performing with Poison and New York Dolls in Cincinnati at the Riverbend Music Center on June 26th. Stay Tuned for Nikki Sixx Part 2 as Nikki discusses the upcoming tour stop in Cincinnati.