'Why Would We Want to Be Motley Crue, Jr.?' Nikki Sixx Steps Out With Sixx:A.M.
Photo by Paul Brown
Nikki Sixx is calling from the bunk of his tour bus in Detroit, ten days into the Sixx:A.M. tour. And ten days after that band's April 29 concert, the bassist goes from medium-size venues to behemoth sports stadiums for the final Mötley Crüe tour. The FINAL final, legally speaking. In 2014, the hair-metal demigods signed a legally binding "cessation of touring agreement" that at the end of 2015, Mötley is kaput. For good.
Any second thoughts? "No, none of us have them," says Sixx. "We know it's time, and we're OK with that. We made the decision, we were proactive in this. No one came to us and said, 'This would be a good shtick.' We said, 'We're doing this and we want it to stick.' People said, 'You're going to leave a lot of money on the table,' and we said, 'If it's just about the money, we're in the wrong business.' In the future, when bands say they're doing a farewell tour, I hope they also draw up legal documentation that says they will [make it final]. Because, you know, bands lie to fans, and fans don't trust bands." (A prime example of this phenomenon would be Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tours tour from the early Nineties.)
Mötley frontman Vince Neil nails it in "Kickstart My Heart," the tune that addresses Sixx's brief 1987 death by overdose: "When we started this band/All we needed, needed was a laugh/Years gone by...I'd say we've kicked some ass."
Now the father of four and a decade sober, Sixx is kicking ass with Sixx:A.M., and any Mötley questions are deftly turned into promo hype for his current and future band. Rounded out by singer James Michael, guitarist DJ Ashba, and a touring drummer, Sixx:A.M have been together for eight years, and they're currently writing their fourth album while on tour supporting their third, 2014's Modern Vintage.
Sixx is clearly thrilled to be in the company of like-minded musicians and working on new material. A band, muses Sixx, "is about being in a gang. It's about motivating everybody to climb that mountain together and get to the top. Put that pole in it with your flag. And say we made it together, everybody did it together, everybody's strengths and weaknesses. That's the greatest thing about being in a band."
Mötley's high-altitude flag will be replaced by Sixx:A.M.'s, but if his current group doesn't reach those dizzying heights, Sixx is fine. "Every night before Sixx:A.M. [perform], we huddle up and we have something to say. We have a mission. We have so much fun on the road. It's musically challenging and lyrically provocative and it's uplifting. It's almost a bit of a spiritual experience, because our messages are so positive."
To wit, "Relief" sounds like assurances to the victim of a panic attack: "But you look like you could use a friend/Someone to make this madness end.../And in a little while/All the noise in your head will fade away/And you will find some relief then."
"We come from places that people can relate to," Sixx says. "You've been beaten down, you've been torn down, you've been bullied. You've lost hope, you've gone through depression, drug addiction. This is reality," he states. "Life is not some TV episode where everyone is happy and smiling, having the perfect beer. Life is real, and it's really fucking hard sometimes, and all we're looking for is a little light at the end of the tunnel. That's what Sixx:A.M. offers."
With the exception of the mother of three of his kids (Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt) going to prison in 2014 for international cocaine trafficking, most events in his incredibly busy life are just as positive as Sixx himself appears to be. And while his swagger about Sixx:A.M. is unflagging, it's not unfounded. Modern Vintage is indeed what its title suggests.
"Modern Vintage...It's us. It's us. We're a new band, we're modern, but at the same time, a lot of the stuff that influences us is vintage. We're like, 'What is this record?' And somebody said, 'It's old and new.' I'm like, 'That's a bad album title,' " he chuckles.
At 56, but looking at least 10 years younger (and with a model fiancée who is 29 years his junior), he understandably notes, "Age is my favorite, favorite thing to do. I get to age." Of course — as will be evident to anyone undertaking even a cursory reading of either Mötley's 2001 autobiography The Dirt or his own 2007 tome The Heroin Diaries — he's lucky to have the opportunity. "I get to look back over all these years, throwing it into my everyday life, whether it's being a father, a husband, or a musician or a businessman or a radio host, an author, a photographer. It's, 'Wow, I can always do this! You can't stop me!' Because I'm doing it for my passion."
His undying passion for Sixx:A.M. and music of various stripes has resulted in a collection of songs that some people deem "eclectic." Indeed, several songs on Modern Vintage are unexpected from a modern hard rock band whose "related bands" on Spotify include Halestorm and Rev Theory. "Before It's Over" is almost vaudevillian, or like a song by genius writer Harry Nilsson: It's a hyper-quirky, jauntily non-metal rave-up that wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack of a Seventies film like Harold and Maude, while the winning "Gotta Get it Right" boasts Queen-like pop sensibilities. "We just go with the flow," he says. "I think the songs are just organic and natural. We don't ever go, 'What's popular today?' We just care about truth."
Mega-fame has been a constant for more than half of his life, but if Sixx:A.M. don't reach a similar stature, Sixx says he's fine with that.
"Mötley played the Troubadour; Mötley played Madison Square Garden," he says. "Is it possible lightning strikes twice? I've seen it happen. Is it the end-all-be-all if it doesn't? No. The end-all is how great our music is and the legacy we create, and that we continue to spread that positive message. People come to our shows, they cry, they sing every single word, and they have our lyrics tattooed on them. My friend, who has seen hundreds of bands, came to see [Sixx:A.M.], and he goes, 'I've never seen anything like this.' Our audience is between 20 and 25 years old. They're not Mötley fans. God bless Mötley fans — and you're welcome — but we're our own band. Why would we want to be Mötley Jr.?"
There's no way to escape the Mötley legacy, and with Focus Features going into production on the film take on The Dirt, a version of the man born in California as Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. will live large on screen. The bassist hopes the resultant flick turns out to be an unholy marriage of Boogie Nights and Goodfellas, maybe, in an edgy indie way. And then, Sixx concludes with a chuckle, "I look forward to watching it on the bus with Sixx:A.M. and going, 'Hey, guys, did you know I was in another band?' "
Sixx:A.M. play the Best Buy Theater on April 27. For tickets and additional information, click here.
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