Known not only for his fiery stage presence and key songwriting contributions as bassist for Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx gained a notorious reputation for his off-stage antics as well, particularly his legendary appetite for drugs and debauchery. Sober now for several years, Sixx detailed many of these early escapades and horrors in his 2007 book The Heroin Diaries.
He returns — just in time before a major summer tour featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison, and the New York Dolls, which hits San Francisco June 15 — with the follow up, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through The Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx (William Morrow), a look at his post-addiction life that finds him a successful author, radio host, and of course, still rocking the stage as a member of the Crüe and Sixx: A.M.
The new book, which Sixx signs tonight (Thurs/14) at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, is a strikingly designed collection of attention grabbing and thought-provoking photos and essays, a body of work that covers a wide variety of subjects. When he came up with his first draft of the project, Sixx says that it wound up being 500 pages long — his passions for the book and subjects inspiring a flurry of writing that he eventually streamlined into the 200 page tome that was released earlier this week.
“I had this body of work from the last ten years as a photographer, and once I started talking about photography, it was really like peeling an onion; I started looking at a lot of social issues, a lot of issues of my own, where I came from, where I’m at and where I’m going,” says Sixx.
“It took a lot of trimming down and finding that thread — when I write I kind of just do this stream of consciousness writing, I’m really influenced by Beat Generation writers. I can really get lost in words, and sometimes that’s hard for a reader to follow, so it really took an editor to help me figure out the best way to deliver the message.”
That main message, which Sixx touches on throughout the book, is that he hopes to show people a different way of looking at life, that where mainstream society sees freaks and deformities, he sees through to the inner beauty.
Some of the images he captured while travelling the world on tour with Mötley Crüe; there are pictures of the band included, but the collection mainly focuses on his adventures offstage: exploring brothels in Germany, drug-infested alleys in Vancouver, gothic churches in St. Petersburg, Russia. Several images featured in the book were shot in his private photography studio, with models running the gamut from women who could be called obese to men with a variety of birth defects to a double amputee.
“For me, it’s all about seeing something and going for it, I wanted to push myself to the next level as a photographer,” says Sixx, who says that after working with the models, he often felt that they were the type of person that he — and others — should aspire to be.
In one passage of the book, he relates a story of visiting San Francisco a few years ago; while walking down by the waterfront and piers, he was approached by a large, African American homeless man, who said, “Hey Tattoo Man…you have any money?”
Sixx replied, “I’ll do you a favor if you do me one…don’t judge me by the color of my skin, ok?”
The man apologized, Sixx smiled and told him “It’s ok, happens all the time.”
The man’s response: “Yeah, me too.”
“That fit with what the overall message of This Is Gonna Hurt is all about, it really is in a nutshell what we do to each other as people, and this man who has been judged is whole life is judging another man. And I’m guilty of it too, it’s something I have to work on,” says Sixx.
With several book signings in the near future, the release of the book’s companion CD from Sixx: A.M., the summer Mötley Crüe tour, his radio show and new clothing line, Sixx certainly has his plate full; he admits to being a workaholic in the book, but it clearly brings him satisfaction and inspiration.
“I’m just so excited to get out there and see what kind of reaction that it raises in people,” says Sixx, who hopes that the book will inspire his fans to do something creative and fulfilling in their own lives. “Music will always be there, along with other creative outlets, whether its clothing design, or photography, or writing. For me, creativity is something anybody can do at any age — not have, do. Some people say, ‘Well I’m not a creative person’ — that’s not true. If you want to be creative you can be, you can pick up a guitar or a pen or whatever, and it’s sort of like being a magician — you just make stuff appear, it can come out of thin air. It’s amazing.”
6 p.m., purchase of book ($29.99) is required for admission.
1 Ferry Building, SF