Life is good for the Smoking Section. A month ago, at the premiere of the new Dylan doc, we asked the Strokes, "Why doesn't someone film you guys on the road?" There was no answer, so for eight days in October, we joined them on their first-ever South American tour – also their first gigs in more than fourteen months. The Strokes slayed audiences in Brazil with new songs from the upcoming First Impressions of Earth, like "Heart in a Cage," "Razor Blade" and the album's hot single, "Jukebox." Opening most nights were the Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire. After South America, frontman Win Butler tells us AF will return to Montreal to start on their second album in an abandoned church they just bought. The Kings head home to Nashville to work on their third album with producer Ethan Johns. "It shall be called ¡Yo Vengo!," says singer Caleb Followill. "Inspired by a Mexican midget porn star who ejaculates prematurely" (he kids). Our tour wound down with a marathon game of Texas Holdem. Stroke Julian Casablancas took the final hand, going all in with 127 Camel cigarettes and winning with pocket kings.
Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx is finally going to Bangkok. "I tried to go in '87, and our management wouldn't let me," he tells the Smoking Section. "They said, 'Bottom line, Nikki — you'll die. We know you.'" But instead of traveling to Thailand to slam dope, Sixx will now be shooting photos for National Geographic. Sixx's Nikon D2X is permanently slung around his neck, and a bunch of his pics — from landscapes to self-portraits — are popping up on nikkisixx.net. He's also building an enormous photo studio and video-editing facility at home in L.A. One of Sixx's first tasks will be to transfer footage from the good or days. "Tommy [Lee] had these old Betamax cameras," says Sixx. "I found, like, thirty tapes! One was called 'Mick Pissing on an Old Lady's Leg in Italy' and another 'Robbing Grave in England.'" Lee suffered second-degree burns after a staging snafu on October 12th, but Sixx reports he'll be fine: "Vince tore up his calf, Mick has the degenerative bone disease and then Tommy. Everyone's taking bets on when I go down."
"I've found my true calling in life," says Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson. "Working with cats from my childhood." Inspired by the album Jack White made for Loretta Lynn and Rick Rubin's rescuing of Johnny Cash in the Nineties, ?uestlove wants to return Al Green to his soul-tastic Seventies glory. "Before soul got Katrina'd by disco in 1977," as ?uestlove puts it. Recently, he spent six hours in a New York studio with Green, jamming and plotting an album. How'd it go? "This record would have been the logical follow-up to The Belle Album, if disco had never existed," says ?uestlove. Stay tuned.
This story is from the November 17th, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone.