Nikki Sixx, SIXX:A.M. and What the Future Holds – Bass Musician Magazine, May 2016 Issue…
From being one of the most iconic figures in 80’s hard rock, to a best selling author, Nikki Sixx is one of the rock bass communities living legends. Starting off in 1981 with Mötley Crüe with a career that would span 34 years, and over 100 million records sold, Nikki was cementing his legacy as one of the arena rock bass greats. In December of 2015, the band officially retired, but that has not slowed down Mr. Sixx one bit whatsoever. With his iconic book, “The Heroin Diaries” in the works to becoming a broadway play, his incredibly popular show “Sixx Sense” on iHeart radio, and his personal band SIXX:A.M. gearing up for a summer tour cycle, the man shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Nikki was kind enough to share his thoughts on basses, road survival, introspection, and what the future holds for SIXX:A.M. and the man himself.
2016 so far has been a pretty busy and significant year for you, the most significant being your book “The Heroin Diaries” being made into a Broadway play. How did this come about?
We started working on “The Heroin Diaries” being turned into a play about two years ago and we’ve been through many drafts on the script and we’re pretty far down the road. Now it gets into things like financing and availability of venue, so I think that we’ve had a couple table reads, and I think we’re getting closer and it’s looking like 2017 might be the year, which ironically would coincide with the release of “The Heroin Diaries” book and album – the 10 year anniversary.
You have played many basses throughout the years, most notably your PJ Spectors and your Gibson Thunderbirds and respective signature models. I have noticed on social media how enamored you are with you new signature Schecter “SIXX BASS”. What made you feel that this was “the one” after all these years.
I feel that my love affair with the Gibson Thunderbird was starting to kind of be tainted. The quality of the instrument that Gibson was delivering wasn’t was it used to be – I had ones from the 70’s and I was always in love with it, and the ones they came out with in the 80’s had a really nice sound. The necks were so great and the bodies were strong. I came out with my own version, The Blackbird, and in the beginning they were fantastic and then they just kind of started to not deliver… not such a quality instrument. I went to go talk to everyone at Schecter and I showed them my favorite basses that I had in my collection, one of them being a 1959 P Bass, one being my old Spector that I ended up recording the whole “Dr. Feelgood” album with. We came up with a wonderful instrument; it answers every question that I’m looking for in recording and playing live.
Apart from basses being the same, what is the biggest difference sonically for you in your setup between Mötley Crüe and SIXX:A.M.?
The instruments and the amps are actually exactly the same, it’s just the songs that are different… and I think I obviously play differently in each band.
Sixx Sense on iHeart Radio has been a hit with listeners, do you feel that your career as a performer and showman helped prepare you for a life behind the microphone?
I think what helped me behind the microphone was whenever I was interviewed by people that were truly interested in what I was doing, whether it was books, photography, music, and I love the opportunity to try to help other artists get exposure. So for me its two things, you know? One is I get to help musicians, and especially new musicians coming out, or musicians who have spent a lot of time making records, I want to help get them exposure. The other thing is I just enjoy hanging out with musicians. Sometimes at the studio, its just like a really cool hang.
SIXX:A.M. is gearing up for about 2 months of touring starting April 30th, what are some helpful tips for tour survival you would give to aspiring bass players?
One of the greatest things that’s happened to me is I got an acoustic bass recently, probably within the last 6 months. It’s a Warwick Acoustic Bass and I play every day and I think just playing your instrument is the best thing that you can do. Bass isn’t the easiest instrument to just sit around and play because its not really easy to hear, so you need to plug it into an amp, or some version of something, and putting headphones on, so having the acoustic bass around, I find myself just picking it up throughout the day and just practicing. Running scales, writing songs on it. I think that’s the best thing you can do – find a way to play your instrument every single day.
SIXX:A.M. has a very different sound from the Crüe, how would you say you approach your role as a bassist differently for this band?
Mötley Crüe’s style is a lot more four-on-the-floor and I attack the bass more, like a punk rock rhythm guitar player but with SIXX:A.M. it’s a lot more progressive. It pushes me beyond my actual comfort zone, so when I was doing both bands it was very difficult for me to switch back and forth. Now that I can just focus on SIXX:A.M., I think my bass playing has opened up a lot.
I saw recently on CNN that you embrace social media as a form of communication, what are some ways you think you were able to view it as a positive that other bass players could adopt?
I mean social media is a great way to stay connected with musicians that you like, products that you like. I spend a lot of time watching other bass players, taking lessons online, and I get tweets from them, I get updates from them, and I go to their Facebook page and follow up on stuff, and I think that’s the best advice I could give. Use it for a way to educate yourself.
What is the writing process like for SIXX:A.M.? How does it differ from your work with MC?
With SIXX:A.M., we all three sit in a circle and we write and once we’ve got the song together, James starts to put together the skeleton of it and we start filling in the pieces – adding the meat, adding the skin. With Mötley Crüe, originally I would write the majority of the music, and as the years went we co-wrote with each other and outside. It’s just a completely different process.
Now that Mötley Crüe has said their farewells, what are you most excited about for the future?
I’m really proud of what we did in Mötley Crüe, I can’t thank the other guys enough for the great opportunity. I got to tour the world a million times and play in front of all of those fans, but we had all agreed that it was time to move forward separately and I’m excited to see what everybody else is going to do. My future right now is focused on SIXX:A.M.
Over the span of your career, what do you feel has been the greatest area of growth for you as a bassist?
I think my greatest growth comes around writing albums and writing music, because when you tour you play the same songs basically over and over and over, and I think that my bass gets worse the more that I tour. So I find now that writing music, we just got done writing a double album, it pushes you and you find out things about yourself. I recently switched to a lighter gauge bass pick which is allowing me more freedom. I don’t play as hard in SIXX:A.M. as I did in Mötley Crüe, so it allows me to do a lot of different picking styles.
Any final pieces of advice you would want to give to a young bass player trying to make it in today’s music industry climate?
I would suggest you learn the law, study great song writers, and practice to a metronome.