The gospel according to Nikki Sixx

a portrait of nikki sixx with a camera in front of his face

Nikki Sixx might not have written the Guide To Rock’N’Roll Debauchery, but he’s lived several of its chapters. As the bassist, songwriter and leader of Mötley Crüe, he spent a large chunk of the 1980s in a haze of heroin and booze. That the band managed to sell millions of albums despite the abuse they inflicted on themselves is remarkable, though not as remarkable as the fact that they all survived the decade relatively unscathed.

Sixx’s unstinting excess and subsequent recovery have been documented in the iconic Crüe biography The Dirt, as well as his own memoirs, The Heroin Diaries, based on journals he kept through the 80s and 90s and recently updated for a tenth anniversary edition. Today, he’s clean, sober and happily married to wife number three, model Courtney Sixx. And while he’s emphatic that Mötley Crüe are part of his past, the 58-year-old isn’t hanging up his biker boots just yet – his next project is a stage musical version of The Heroin Diaries.

You can create your own destiny

In the late 70s, me and a guy named Lizzie Grey started a band called London. I wanted us to be less like Mott The Hoople and T.Rex, more like the Pistols and Sabbath – I wanted it to have some teeth. But at some point I decided to leave the band. I told Lizzie, and we were both really bummed because we were best friends. I remember going home and thinking, ‘What have I done?’ I had a plan – Mötley Crüe – but I didn’t know it was going to happen. So we did the only thing we could. We made it happen.

All the great rock’n’roll bands are a gang

Mötley Crüe were a gang, one hundred per cent. And gangs can turn on themselves. Power struggles, misunderstandings, built-up youthful anger, angst. All that great stuff that we love. That was rock’n’roll.

Never take ‘no’ for an answer

In Mötley Crüe, everybody said ‘no’ to us about everything. The way we looked, the way we sounded, our ideas, what we did live. It was: ‘No, no, no.’ That just made us more determined. If Tommy had a crazy idea, I’d be, like, ‘Let’s fucking go for it!’ That’s something I love about being in a dysfunctional fucking heavy metal band.

Wild side: causing the worldwide Elnet shortage, 1987

Wild side: causing the worldwide Elnet shortage, 1987 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Friendship is worth fighting for. Even if it’s your friends you’re fighting

This is a true story: we went out one night, Tommy and me and Vince, and Tommy and Vince started fighting like they always used to. I was between them trying split it up, going, “Come on guys!’ And this guy comes up and he’s like, ‘Fuck you guys, you look like a bunch of faggots.’ And Tommy, Vince and me all turned and jumped on the guy and beat the shit out of him. And then the two of them turned back around and finished fighting with each other. Then afterwards everybody started laughing and we went and did shots of whiskey. It’s that shit that you look back on and go, ‘Man, it was great.’

Look out for the quiet ones

Mick Mars was definitely a lot more chilled than the rest of us. He was a little bit older, had a bit more life experience. But don’t let Mick Mars fool you, let me tell you. He had his fair share of debauchery. But that’s a conversation you’ll have to have with Mick.

You can be born an addict

I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t been successful, would I have gone over that line as a drug addict? Would I have gone as far as I did? I come from a family with those characteristics, and you see how addictions are carried on. You can’t put it to the test, but the chances are that I probably would have been.

The romance of drugs is an illusion

I never had a deathwish back when I was taking drugs. But I didn’t think I was indestructible either. I just didn’t care. I honestly believe I was depressed. I didn’t feel I had anything to live for. I remember being so out of my mind on drugs, I thought, ‘I’m just gonna kill myself.’ But there’s a difference between having a suicidal thought and acting on it. When that dark thing pops up in your head, you either bat it away or randomly just act on it. The fact I was so messed up and never acted on those thoughts is pretty mindblowing. I eventually got on anti-depressants, which helped turn my life around.

The past is a great place to visit. But I wouldn’t want to live there

I always kept diaries throughout everything – in journals, on scraps of paper, anywhere. As sick as it sounds, the diaries were the only person I could talk to that really understood how it felt. I recently updated The Heroin Diaries with an extra hundred pages. From this point I can see myself growing up, and also as a grown up looking back on it. It reminded me how dark and repetitive my life was back then: wake up, do drugs, pass out, wake up, do drugs pass out. It’s a beautiful reminder of a horrible time. I quit journaling the way I used to, which was three or four times a day, a couple of years ago. It might be cos my life is fucking boring these days.

Show’s over: Crüe sign their Cessation Of Touring agreement, 2014

Show’s over: Crüe sign their Cessation Of Touring agreement, 2014 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Myth-making is fine, but never forget the music

When Hammer Of The Gods came out, it was, like, ‘Oh god, did this really happen?’ All the folklore and things that happened around Led Zeppelin started to merge with the music and the musicianship. That’s not to say that those things didn’t happen to us, but people overlook the important things: all those melody lines, the choruses, the guitar and drums parts, the vocal arrangements, the lyrics. There’s been frustration at times because of that.

Rock stars shouldn’t act

I’m speaking for myself here. I remember a couple of times in our videos, the director would say: ‘Okay, act like there’s a lion flying out of the ceiling.’ I can’t do that. I’m a bass player.

Whoring yourself out is never worth it

I never want to do things just to put my name on them. You’ll never see Nikki Sixx’s burger restaurant. The only reason there’d be a burger restaurant is if I was so into burgers that that’s all I could imagine doing. And I can’t imagine that.

You’re either a helicopter or a tank

I have a theory that there are two kinds of people. You have tanks. Tanks are on the ground, driving around blowing shit up, making a lot of noise. But you eventually run off a cliff cos you can’t see where you’re going because you’re in a goddamn tank. Helicopters are up above everything, you can see everybody, you have a clear vision, you can take care of business. Some musicians don’t have the ability to be a helicopter, the ones that do who are able to elevate their art and their craft and evolve. Me? I’m a helicopter missing a rudder. The tanks are gonna blow me up eventually.

Families have a lot to answer for

I believe that when I was very young, there was some sort of cord cut between me and my mom and my dad. There was always something missing. It’s like having a hole in your stomach that you can’t fill up. My father left us when I was a kid. When got a little older I was, like, ‘How can you have left me behind? I’m going to show you!’ I really let him know – we sold a hundred and fifty million records, we did a lot of cool shit. And you know what, it didn’t fill that hole in my stomach.

Sometimes you just have to get over shit

My dad died many years ago. What I would say to him now is, ‘I don’t know you, so I’m not going to judge you.’ I have no idea what it was like for him and my mom in the 50s and 60s, trying to survive. My mom wasn’t the easiest character to get along with. I used to blame him, now I’m just like, ‘I wish I had a relationship with him.’ I’m not going to walk around for the rest of my life feeling depressed. My dad left, my mom left, I was a fucking junkie, I’ve been divorced twice. Now I’m married to my very best friend, for the first time since I was very young I’m not in a band, I have a nice life. I’m in a place I’ve never been in my life. The point is, you’ve just got to fucking move on.

Music is the drug I keep going back to

Music has been the one constant love throughout my life. I was watching this documentary on Rolling Stone magazine, and Ike and Tina Turner were performing Come Together, the Beatles song. And the bass part starts, then the struggle between that and the kick and the snare. And the guitar starts and Tina comes in with those vocals. And I went, ‘There it fucking is, man.’ I don’t care what genre it is – thrash metal, pop, disco, R&B. You get a musician up there who is real and primal, it’s the greatest thing. It’s like sex. It’s so fucking beautiful.

Don’t let time slow you down

I’m in my 50s, but I’ve still got plenty to do and plenty of time to do it in. I’m curious to see where my brain will take me creatively. I’ve quit the radio show I do, Sixx Sense, but I’m writing another book. It won’t be another tell-all, even though it’s fun to hear musicians bitching about each other. I’m working on the movie version of The Dirt with Netflix – we’ve got a killer script. And we’re working on the Broadway version of The Heroin Diaries, which will be phenomenal. It definitely won’t be Rock Of Ages: The Smack Years. But I don’t see a tour bus in my life right now. I have an opportunity to create something that’s even bigger than rock’n’roll.

I’d make a good talk show host

That’s the one big ambition I’ve got left. I’d love to do my own talk show, interview people. Hopefully the hologram thing will be happening, cos there’s a lot of dead guys I want to talk to.

The Heroin Diaries Tenth Anniversary Edition is out now.

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Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.