Q&A With Nikki Sixx: "After You Hit People With The Two By Four, Then You Say, 'Life Is Beautiful.' "
Nikki Sixx's 2008 bestseller The Heroin Diaries compiled a year of journals from the most gruesome point of his addiction to the opiate. But the Mötley Crüe bassist's second book, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens Of Nikki Sixx, picks the story up 20 years later and includes Sixx's photographs of amputees, prostitutes, addicts, the homeless, and Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.
Sixx's journals this time around address everything from guitarist Mick Mars's hip replacement and lead singer Vince Neil's grouchiness to Sixx's views on growing old and his heart-to-heart talks with Lemmy of Motorhead fame. If Sixx revealed himself to be an ambitious and dark wit in his first book, this new volume shows him to be an optimist who is nonetheless clued in to the absurdities of playing in a rock band for the better part of 30 years.
Along with a book tour and an appearance by Mötley Crüe at the Bamboozle Festival this weekend, Sixx continues to record with his other band, Sixx: A.M., and host a nightly radio show. We talked to Sixx about This is Gonna Hurt, photography, writing, and a good review from a fancy critic in The Atlantic.
How did the new book come about?
The concept was to do a coffee table book, mostly photography, a little bit of an introduction. I started writing about it and figuring it out. I started diving into where I came from and why I saw life differently and why a lot of the subject matter that I have chosen, what it means to me, why I see the beauty in it.
Even though it's not only a book of photography, you do get huge chunks of my work in there and you get to follow along where I came from and where I'm at now and what I see, especially socially. My interpretation is that we're in a very dangerous place right now, especially for young people.
It almost seems like you've become an advocate.
I had finished a photo session with this girl, Amy Purdy. She's an All-American girl, athletic, beautiful on all accounts. One day she finds out she has viral meningitis and they take both of her legs and roll her out of the hospital. She had to start over and change her perspective, because society doesn't deem a double amputee beautiful. She's gone on to teach veterans how to turn their lives around, how to become athletic, how to continue to lead whole lives.
I was so inspired I wrote the song "Lies of the Beautiful People" with the guys in [Sixx A.M.] right after that. We started writing about how you can do better with your life, how you can take advantage of every disadvantage, how you're not a misfit. We were like, you can do anything with your life, no matter what hand you're dealt--or even if you lose your hands.
I've learned how to understand, how to filter this stuff. The Heroin Diaries was a lot of me discovering about myself by going back and reading those diaries. [This is Gonna Hurt] is an extension of that, using photography as a way to help get out the message.
Did you have additional old diaries to work with on This Is Gonna Hurt?
They're newer entries. I continue to journal daily and I've been writing journals for years. Obviously, my life is very different than it was during The Heroin Diaries period, but I struggle like everybody else does. You know, I'm a parent of four.
Speaking of The Heroin Diaries, how do you feel when people ask you to share the details of the way you used to live? Do you ever get tired of those questions?
It depends. To me it's a story of addiction and recovery. If it's only about the addiction part, it's not that interesting. If we're talking about the recovery, that's exciting.
You know, the idea behind hitting somebody with a two by four is to get their attention. The Heroin Diaries was done to get people's attention. It would have been easier to call it The Rock Star Diaries, but we put it out there: The Heroin Diaries.
After you hit people with the two by four, then you say, "Life is beautiful." That's where I was coming from.
Your descriptions of paranoia and psychosis are pretty accurate.
They were because I was living it. It's definitely turned out to be a more important book than I realized. I just ran into someone 30 minutes ago who said her son read the book and thanked me--just this lady on the street. She said her son will never do drugs because of that book. It's interesting, the impact that we can have on people. Moving forward as I write, that will be something I look at with a little more responsibility. I'm not saying you have to completely grow up and clean up, but maybe you can put a little bit of medicine in the poison.
The literary critic B.R. Myers gave The Heroin Diaries a good blurb in the Atlantic magazine last month. I was curious if you had heard about that.
No, I hadn't.
He called you "a refreshingly sane-seeming young man, self-critical and with a dazzlingly wide range of interests."
(Laughs) That's fantastic. I love that.
Mötley Crüe performs at The Bamboozle on Sunday, May 1; Sixx will appear at the Columbus Circle Borders on Tuesday, May 3