More than six years sober, former Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx has long emerged from rock-star rock bottom. Still working the over-processed, jet-black hair, complete with black-on-black threads and requisite metal rocker accoutrement, he looks young and refreshed, unlike most of his over-50-and haggard contemporaries. He’s in control. In fact, his most recent tattoo barks directions to the dude at the morgue who will take over when he finally kicks the bucket: “Tag Here” is etched on his toe. But if Sixx can help it, he’s not kicking the bucket anytime soon. Though he is one lucky fuck, having escaped death by overdose twice. Sixx didn’t totally piss away his rocker hey day in a drugged stupor; he managed to chronicle his life and death(s) for his debut memoir, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star while deep in the throws of heroin, booze, coke, crack, pills, and loads of forgettable sex with nameless redheads. His latest band, Sixx A.M., has an album, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, and he’s promoting clothing line Royal Underground—so yeah, he’s a full-on brand à la Britney Spears. And you thought that shit was just for pop stars. Sixx is a piece of fine art, with ink adorning nearly his entire body. His first was a black rose inked at 17, and he also has the names of his children and his ex-wife Donna D’Errico branded on his body. “Sixx” is spelled out across the knuckles of his left fist, and his birth year, 1958, is on the right. The slew of others, Sixx doesn’t have the patience to explain: “The rest are the story of my life.” Covert book promotion.
Twice divorced with a discography of ex-lovers, it’s no surprise that “women” are his regrettable tattoos. (This, from the man who wrote the song “New Tattoo” about getting his woman painted on his arm.) Any glimpse into his next tattoo was shot down with: “Can’t tell you, ’cuz I don’t plan that far in the future.” It’s unclear where Sixx isn’t tattooed. He confirms the nether region is unscathed with his, “What do you think?” response. And in 2003, he reportedly had a left leg and his ass still ink-free. But a lot can happen in four years. Today, Sixx is a single dad, and instead of shooting smack between his toes, he’s kick-starting his heart for youngest daughter Frankie-Jean Mary (named after Sixx, who was born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna, Jr.). Apparently, sobriety sucked the Sikki out of Nikki.
Let’s get right into the debauchery. Since you personally know how vicious heroin addiction can be, how do you feel about people like Keith Richards, who seems to make it work and apparently lives well as a user?
I think there are people who have the ability to maintain, who don’t have problems and just live in excess. And there are people who have addictions and need to get treatment for that or they are going to either die from it or they are going to crash and burn and take a lot of people down with them. I’m in the latter category. I don’t know where Keith is at. He seems to be able to maintain quite well and I always say hats off to those people.
You have kids now, do they know about Sikki Nixx?
With my kids, we’re real open with each other. Obviously, with my youngest one, no. She’s six and a half. We don’t have that kind of ability yet to talk about anything too meaty. But as the kids get older and they ask, well, yeah.
I read Madonna and rapper Master P prefer that their kids not listen to their music, do you give yours free reign to know your musical past?
Yeah, of course. But they listen to a lot of different music. My youngest is into High School Musical 2 and my oldest one is into Animal Collective, so it’s a pretty wide range in our house.
So wait, Nikki Sixx is a High School Musical 2 fan?
Hey, you know, I actually watch it and I go, ‘Okay. It’s just like Fame was. There are great songs, there’s acting, there’s dancing, there’s singing. You know, this is pretty cool.’ Artists back in the old days—and I’m talking pre-’70s, ’60s, and ’50s— they would have to be able to dance, sing, act, you know, have a look and a presence. And then we got to this place where there are just singers and just actors. So it’s cool to see these young artists doing everything.
Back to the debauchery you write about in your book. How did you make it out of that house that was on complete lock down while you were high on drugs to then drive off in your Porsche, crash it and abandon it, and then be found alive, innocently hanging out in your house with a sling on your arm?
Uh, God. That was like ’84. How many years ago was that? Some things I remember, some I have to have my memory refreshed. How long do you consider yourself sober? Um. … Six and a half years. I got clean for quite a few years, during Dr. Feelgood, and then slipped off the wagon, and then was clean for a lot of years, and then slipped off the wagon. The last time I started down a path once again, I just checked myself into rehab and really gave up. That was when, for the very first time, I got it. There is always a part of you that likes to go, ‘Well someday I will.’ There was no more of the someday for me. I was interested in today. That has made it really easy for me to do a lot of what is important to me. Being an artist, being a songwriter, being an author, a photographer.
There aren’t many people who go in as deep as you who make it out. I was in deep. You have to do the work if you want to come out good. A lot of addicts will quit the drug, but they won’t quit the issue, whatever their issues are. It all goes back to my core issues that as a human being I need. I am not unique in my situation.
It seems the public always thought your best work came when you were sober, whereas people like Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, and Morrison didn’t make it past 27, so people then think the drugs made their music?
We’ll never know about these guys. People say drugs and alcohol are part of rock ‘n’ roll, and that worked out great for Jimi Hendrix, and Bon Scott is living proof that it works great. … But then what could Jimi Hendrix have done if he had stuck around? What would AC/DC have gone on to do with Bon as a singer and lyricist? What would Janis Joplin have done? I look at the new Sixx A.M. album and that is some of my best work. Dr. Feelgood is some of my best work. I feel like sobriety is probably the better path for me. I am not telling people not to drink or to do drugs either. I’m just sharing my experience.
That comment Alice Cooper wrote in the beginning of your book about thinking you wouldn’t live past your third album and how he thought you would die like Jim Morrison kind of breaks your heart, no?
Yeah, we started with it right away. Alice is a great guy. It was interesting for me to see that Alice saw that from afar. As an artist, he is very aware of what is going on. At the same time, it was interesting for me that he thought I reminded him of Jim Morrison. I was never a huge Doors fan, so I couldn’t see that.
Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper, and Gene Simmons make no apologies about being CEOs and branding their bands. Is it a delicate topic to put you in that corporate executive title?
It’s not delicate for me. I am the CEO of Mötley Crüe. I tell young artists not to sign with major record labels. They can distribute your records but do what you have to do to make money so you can make your own record. Record companies should never own the artist’s music; the artists should own it.
You have to be in charge of your brand. I get to make a decision on where I go. If I want to be a whore, I can be a whore. … Or I can make the right decisions. I don’t always make decisions based on money. We license our music away for free to skateboard companies and weird underground things, then other times we charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for our music. But I won’t ever allow the band to be on ’80s compilations. … Mötley Crüe has crossed many decades. Being in charge of your own career doesn’t make you less edgy; I think it makes you a little edgier. It’s edgy to stand up against the system. You’ve maintained the ’80s rock aesthetic nicely, but what’s up with these over-50 rockers, yourself not included, who dress like Boca Raton grandmothers? Yeah they are pulling that 1800s presidential look, with the wig and the blouses. I just wake up, and I look the same when I just got laid as I look when I go to court. I don’t ever look any different. I can’t clean up, but I can’t dirty down. I am sort of am what I am.
You’ve spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill, have you discovered you have a few things in common with the movers and shakers in the political world who also have a reputation for reckless behavior?
A lot of the politicians— and I will leave names out because I would rather they talk about their own recovery—have been very forthcoming with their addictions. But it’s their business, not mine. Working with some congressmen and being with conservatives and liberals … has been enlightening for me. They’re doing something politically incorrect by talking about treatment and talking about drugs and alcohol. Are you for or against methadone treatment? Methadone is just synthetic heroin. It’s just another masking tool. I think I am fan of complete recovery. That’s the only way for heroin addicts. If you want to be on methadone you are just going to be strung out on methadone and going to a methadone clinic for the rest of your life. If that’s what you think is better than buying a $20 bag of heroin, then that’s your choice. It’s the same fucking drug.
You took two decades to get to where you are in your sobriety, yet in your book you call out people who didn’t participate in your book as spineless. Do you think that’s a bit harsh if they aren’t quite on the same recovery schedule as you?
I’ll make it real simple. This book is about showing what its like to be a fly on the wall for addiction. The proceeds of the book go to Covenant House for kids out on the street who don’t have a hope in hell. So when people told me no, I could accept that. But the people who said yes and then had their managers call me to say, ‘Well they didn’t want to say yes to you because they feel bad. They know it is about charity and it’s about recovery, but they don’t really want anybody to know that they did it too.’ Well then you are a fucking spineless wonder to me. All I am saying is if it’s to help people, why don’t you rally around the subject?
A lot of people used to think that you were definitely one of those addicts who would die, is your sobriety now a big ‘fuck you’ to them?
I don’t know about a ‘fuck you’, but it’s definitely a ‘hell yeah.’