Serena French, fashion editor, spoke with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx on behalf of the of the New York Post. Portions of the interview appear below.
SF: I was wondering, with the book [“This Is Gonna Hurt”] out now for a couple of months, whether you had heard from other people having a similar experience with an institutionalized sibling.
NIKKI: I think that’s not uncommon for [those who grew up during] the 1960s. I’m coming to hear that story more often than not, where I thought I was alone with that. I’ve heard amazing stories, fantastic stories. Ones like that, then I’ve heard where people have said their parents took a different road, and you know, have dealt with something that was almost impossible to deal with. And in the late ’50s, early ’60s, there wasn’t a lot of information on how to deal with people as far as taking care of somebody in your home, in your life, without having any kind of supervision. I became a lot more forgiving through the writing of my book of the situation, where for years I carried around a lot of resentment.
SF: You’ve wrestled with abandonment issues — you write about that in your book. What impact does that have?
NIKKI: I’m not a psychiatrist. I’ve definitely been through enough therapy to kind of have a pretty firm grip that you do get to a place in your life where you go: You know what? Shitty stuff happens, man. Sometimes bad stuff happens to good people, and sometimes good stuff happens to bad people, [laughs] and it’s kind of life. At some point you put the bags down and go, “I’m tired of carrying this.” And you look for solutions, and sometimes, you don’t even get any. You don’t even get any resolution — you just gotta move on, man. Gotta keep moving. Gotta let it go. And I tell you, there’s a freedom in that.
SF: You’ve written about her before in “The Dirt,” so why revisit it and dedicate this book to her?
NIKKI: There was a difference in “The Dirt,” where it was the story of a band, a gang, four characters, colorful characters, that came from all these different places, and it was sort of a backdrop of my life, part of my life. But when you’re writing your own book — as an actual writer — and you sit there and struggle with every single word and issue, all the feelings come up. It is part of my reality; I couldn’t leave it out.
SF: Is it because of her connection to your photography?
NIKKI: I think there was a huge connection to my photography and my studio. My studio, Funny Farm, is — some people call it a very dark place. People come to it, they say, God, it’s like Bela Lugosi’s living room. It’s a tomb. And I say, God, to me it just feels like home. As an artist, there’s this part of me that’s like, what does this mean? What does all this mean? Because you see, I did all this. This wasn’t done for me. My life isn’t done by a designer. I didn’t go to a tattoo shop and say, I want to look a certain way to fit a certain mold. I did everything in my life to myself — including stick the needles in my arm. Nobody held me down and did it. So then you have to become responsible for your own actions. Or you have to try to have an understanding of, what does this mean? That I stand naked in front of the mirror and see that my body is tattooed from head to toe: What does this mean? What was I saying? What was I saying with my studio like this? What am I saying when I shoot these pictures? What am I saying when I say, “If you want to live life on your own terms, you’ve got to be willing to crash and burn” on “Primal Scream.” Self-analysis, you know.
SF: Do you know Alexander McQueen, the designer?
NIKKI: Yes, very well.
SF: Have you seen the show [of McQueen’s work] at the Met?
NIKKI: No, I want to so badly. I’ve seen pictures, and it’s just unbelievable.
SF: It’s a beautiful show, beautifully presented. I think you’d really enjoy it.
NIKKI: Yes, the stuff that I’ve seen is unbelievable. As cliché as it, some of my favorite things are my Alexander McQueen scarves, that I cherish, and they always hang out of my back pocket on stage. And every now and then someone in the front row will get really close to grabbing ’em, and I’m like, you know this could end up really bad for you. I don’t care about anything else — you can take my guitar, anything. Not that. I really did look up to him as an artist.
SF: There’s an interesting quote from McQueen in the exhibit: “I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.”
NIKKI: Wow, love it.
SF: So it seems similar to the mission you had with this book.
NIKKI: Yes, yes.
SF: And anecdotally, you’re talking about feedback you’re getting from kids and then your fans, and you’re connected to them quite a bit on social media.
NIKKI: It’s so heartwarming to me. I have [so many] suitcases and boxes full of letters that I can’t get to read ’em all. I will eventually. Unbelievable letters from these book signings. Just blows my mind, and the stuff that people post even on Twitter and Facebook. It really gives me hope. Like David Bowie gave me hope when I was a kid, I feel like there’s some kid getting some hope from this. It touches a lot of senses. It touches your eyes and your ears, and it touches your skin and it touches your heart. You can taste it, you can smell it. The book and the album, it’s real. And I struggle with anger and I struggle with being snarky and sarcastic and biting the very hand that feeds sometimes because I’m just like, “Really? You guys really don’t get it?” and then I realize that’s what drives me. I love it when people draw lines in the sand. And even though I wanna be fuckin’ Zen-Buddha-all-got-it-fuckin’-together guy, I still love a fist fight.
SF: But you choose to exercise it — through the arts, let’s say.
NIKKI: [cackles] Mostly.
SF: So in the book, you’re not only challenging the idea of what’s beautiful, but you’re also in search of some sort of authenticity, would you say?
NIKKI: I think I always am. I struggle with what I think reality is, you know, and I always have. It’s great being sober and a father because I am so opened to so many things. My kids were with me on the road, and there was something on TV and I said [to my 17-year-old daughter] — with my nose in the air — Ugh, I can’t believe you’re watching this. And she says, “Why? I think it’s funny.” And I said, “Oh, actually, it is funny,” and then I sit down with her and I enjoyed watching some stupidity. So I guess it’s this thing with me where I take myself very seriously; at the same time, I’ve realized that it’s not always so serious. So as long as I’m in turmoil, there’s some hope for me as an artist. Maybe my last breath, God’s gonna say, “OK, here’s some Zoloft, you’re good.” Until then, I think it’s not gonna be easy. I just don’t think it’s gonna be easy.
I was in a recent show and I won’t name the city and I said to my singer — it was between songs — and I said, I fucking hate this place! Every guy’s got a white shirt with a gold chain. It might as well fuckin’ be — it’s Ed Hardy land! This is the antithesis. This is everything I hate. This is the arm pit of the fucking world. This is the anticreative fucking centerpiece of everything. I hate this place.” And he’s like, “Oh.” And I’m like, I can’t help it, I’m a fucking art snob, I’m a snob. And I’m always going to be that guy in a band. I write, and then I try to work it out, and then I try to become peaceful, but then I get engaged in anarchy and then I become humorous, and it’s like this weird — I’m not sure where my head’s at. I’m somewhere between William Burroughs, Hemingway and a high school dropout. It’s like a fuckin’ mess [laughs]. I just wanna go to sleep [laughs].
SF: You’ve been doing photography for 12 years now — you picked it up in place of your addictions, yes? Congratulations, by the way, on your 10-year [sober] mark.
NIKKI: Thank you, thank you — I love that. You know, I think that anything I do, I do with addictive behavior, and I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I should get an award for that. I used to be like, Ok, I’m overdoing it [laughs]. I’m overdoing it. I’m into gardening. I’m overdoing it. I have five thousand gardenias. I’m like, no, I should get an award for that. Because I’m an overachiever [laughs] in my f¤-¤-¤-¤in’ weird way. And it’s fantastic. So if I go into photography, I’m an overachiever, or a writer, and a songwriter and a father and a lover, and I love being all — all that there is and soaking it all up, you know? It’s really quite wonderful. Thank God there’s a program for people like me, and other addicts, because we do need to keep it in check.
SF: [Motley Crue guitarist] Mick Mars doesn’t subscribe to that view [programs and therapy]. It’s like, you just decide to stop, and you just stop.
NIKKI: Yeah, yeah. I do know a lot of people like that, but you know, those of us that love to diagnose other people also like to diagnose ourselves. So it could be actually very exciting, because every single day you learn something new. In my case, every time I stumble upon a new verb or noun, I think I wrote it, and then I have to write a book about it — and everything becomes very exciting. In my heart, everything’s very exciting, very creative — and that’s, like, an ongoing thing. Kind of like puppy love with creativity.
SF: [Are] you a bit of a drama queen?
NIKKI: I’m a full drama queen. I love that! A full drama queen!
Read Serena French’s entire interview with Nikki Sixx by clicking here.