On the eve of the announcement of their big summer tour and the band’s first new album in a decade, Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx took some time out to talk to us about the new record, band relations and the state of rock & roll.
Tell me about the new record.
It’s called Saints of Los Angeles. Mick Mars and I started writing about four months ago. I had done a record with James Michael and DJ Ash for my side project, and we had such an amazing chemistry together that me and Mick and James and DJ were just on a songwriting mission from hell. It was amazing. We brought in another friend called Marty Frederickson. Doing the whole Heroin Diaries project really helped me to focus on a specific issue. Like, instead of writing a love song, make it about a moment. Make it about the kiss. So for this, what we really wanted to do is take the concept of the autobiography, The Dirt, and make it into songs. I was really trying lyrically to do that, and to work so closely with Mick and really develop the phenomenal songs working with James and Marty and DJ Ash. For the first record we’ve done in ten years, it’s really, really, really good. I got to tell ya. I’m very excited.
Is the sound similar to any previous Mötley Crüe records that you could compare it to?
You know, there’s a sound with Mötley Crüe, and it comes with Vince’s voice, which is such an important part of the show, and Mick’s guitar. And the way Tommy and me play together is an important part of it. When we’re all together, it really is Mötley Crüe, but we’ve done albums, like Generation Swine, where we went left of center just to see what it felt like. But this album feels a little truer our core. You hear something like “Saints of Los Angeles” and you don’t go, “Who’s this? It kind of sounds like Mötley Crüe.” You go, “Fuck, new Mötley Crüe!” It would be like AC/DC coming on the radio with a new record, or Aerosmith. You either like the band or you don’t like the band. It’s not the band trying to make you like them. It’s the band doing what they do. And that’s our strong point.
Where was it recorded?
We recorded it all out in Los Angeles in different studios. Today, that whole thing about spending $2,000 an hour in some recording studio is ridiculous. We don’t do that anymore. We own our own equipment. It’s small, it’s compact. You get in, you get out. I’m not into sitting there and fidgeting at a console for days about a guitar sound. I mean, you plug it in, it sounds fuckin’ good, and you go. Rock & roll is dirty, and it’s bad, and it’s either clever or it’s not clever.
Do you and Mick still write the same way you did twenty years ago?
Absolutely. He has a bunch of riffs, I have a bunch of riffs. I usually stop him half way through his riff, and go, “Change that note, and change that note.” And then I play, and I ask, “What about this part?” and he goes, “What if you changed that part?” and I go, “Good idea.” And I just start singing something over it, and there’s some naughty little lyric with some sarcasm dripping off of it. Like, “Don’t go away mad, just go away” just came in one minute. It will kick-start my heart. It just comes. It seems that the times that we try so hard to craft stuff, it ends up sounding processed.
Did you feel reenergized as a band after that last tour?
Yeah. But the truth is bands run in cycles, and you have highs, and you have lows. And I think that was the beginning of a high. I think that we will be running on full tilt here for a while, because it feels so good. It’s nice to have that catalogue of music, and it’s nice to have the legacy. I think rock and roll is gonna be back in a big fucking way here. You have so many options out there, from video games to the Internet. You’re on your iPhone, and you’re watching YouTube videos. What’s going to make someone go out and go to a show? It takes a lot to get me to leave my house to go see something. But if you have to give 100 percent, like with Alice Cooper and Bowie and Slade — those fucking bands gave 150 percent. It was about fashion, it was about music, it was about pushing the envelope. You got to give people a lot to make them really want to come out and see you and buy your records and say, “I fucking dig this band because they give me something.”
Do you feel any pressure because it’s the first record with the original lineup in 10 years?
You know what? I never even thought about that until this interview. But you don’t even think about it because we’ve been making music and going on tour and writing songs and doing shows. I guess it would seem like it would create pressure, but it doesn’t really.
Just to dispel all the rumors: Tommy Lee is back in the band?
Yeah, Tommy’s in the band. It’s the original band and we got rid of the external problems. Now the band is a band, and we don’t have outside problems.
Are you guys getting along well?
Yeah, we always get along when we don’t have all those fucking people from the outside trying to push and pull and do the things they do.
What’s the tone of the record? Are you laughing at your past or is it more a cautionary tale?
It’s a very light record in the sense that it’s not heavy subject matter, but that comes from demented souls, you know? We think that the stuff we did is dark, so it’ll come across like that on the record.
I think Mötley Crüe is entering a period where they are now a classic band. Do you agree?
I’m seeing it. I think we’re still like a band that goes out and tears it up and I don’t really pay attention. That’s my fucking problem. Someone goes to me the other day, “I don’t think you’ve realized what you’ve done” and I go, “What do you mean?” and he says “Well, you just walk around the streets like you’re just some guy” and I say, “Well I am some guy!” and he goes “No dude, you don’t understand. You guys are becoming those guys that you grew up with!” And I’m like, “Oh! Well that’s kind of cool.” So yeah, it’s kind of cool.