It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that the world probably has enough Mötley Crüe biographies at this point. There was The Dirt, the Crüe’s immensely satisfying 2002 bio. And then three out of the four members wrote their own memoirs, which is probably a little excessive, but sure, why not? But at this point, with all due respect to the most umlauted band in pop metal, we got the idea. You guys have rocked hard and partied harder and you’re not afraid of being really, really gross. This Is Gonna Hurt, the newest memoir by Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx — the first being 2007‘s The Heroin Diaries — should have roughly as many surprises as a Chelsea Handler book about vodka and dwarfs. But somehow, miraculously, it doesn’t end up hitting the same chord changes of a standard Crüe tell-all. There are tales of drugs abuse, obviously, because Sixx has filled a landfill with syringes over the years. But there are also stories about his collection of human skulls and 17th century medical devices, and his adventures in mental hospitals and Thailand whorehouses, and his side career as a freak photographer, capturing intimate portraits (many of them featured in This Is Gonna Hurt) of double amputees, angry midgets, sexy fatties, and homeless addicts. It’s like an Aperture Monograph for people who know all the lyrics to “Girls Girls Girls.” I called Sixx while he was in the midst of a book tour, which he excitedly told me has been “very emotional.” During an appearance in LA, he said, there were “lots of people crying,” which isn’t behavior I would’ve expected from an audience of Nikki Sixx fans. Rock horns and boob-flashing, sure. But unabashed weeping? Sixx has some ‘splainin’ to do.
Eric Spitznagel: This Is Gonna Hurt has its own soundtrack, which went on sale earlier this week. Is it just mood music, or do certain chapters line up with certain songs?
Nikki Sixx: The songs are really about the essence of the book, and they actually do belong together. The music was inspired by the words and by the photography, and that would inspire me to go out and write more words and create more photos. It became this back-and-forth thing between me and the other guys in (my band) Sixx-AM. (Guitarist) DJ Ashba would look at one of the photos i’d taken and that might inspire a guitar solo. It was an interesting cross-pollination of inspiration.
Should we only listen to the Sixx-AM album while reading your book, or does it work with other media? Can I enjoy it while watching The Wizard of Oz?
I don’t know. That could be a very nice experiment. I can’t promise anything. If you really want to dig in deep, you have to get a copy on vinyl and play it backwards. That’s where the good stuff is.
One of the things I learned about you from reading This Is Gonna Hurt is that you collect archaic medical instruments. Do you have a favorite? What’s the crown jewel of your collection?
I like all of it. I have some bone saws and a few hypodermic needles that always make for interesting conversation starters.
Have you ever used the saws?
The bone saws? No, man! Never!
What if you’re having a party and one of your guests is like, “Aw shit, how long have I had this gangrenous foot?” You wouldn’t be tempted to break out the bone saw?
I can’t say I would. There’s plenty of things in my collection that could do some damage if you’re into self-mutilation. I have this thing that was used to hold a person’s head in place, lock them down for brain surgery. Corey Miller, a tattoo artist I know from LA, he gave me an amazing 1920s medical dentist chair. There are holes cut out of it for a man’s genitalia, so I guess you could slip your stuff into the hole and then they’d do some sort of horrible surgery on you. It’s actually pretty uncomfortable to look at and to sit in.
Are you like those obsessive toy collectors who don’t let visitors play with their toys because it’ll decrease the value?
Everything’s always out in the open. It’s all at the Funny Farm (photo and recording studio in Los Angeles), and you can see and touch everything. One time we were having a photo session and we broke for lunch, and one of the models pushed a bunch of skulls out of the way so she could put down her salad, and somebody said, “Those aren’t real human skulls, are they?” And I was like, “Of course they are!” That’s usually when everybody starts screaming.
Do your skulls have names?
A lot of them do, yeah.
Their real names or just names you gave them? Did you research their backstory and find out who they were before they ended up on your kitchen table, freaking out models?
No, no, man, nothing like that. I don’t have that kind of time. When I got them, they were just random numbers. I gave some of them names, and because I’ve been in a rock band for 30 years, I’ve forgotten most of them. Maurice is the best, because he came from a medical school and they put hinges in his jaw. His jaw is like a latch, and it opens up and you can store stuff inside. That’s where I keep all my petty cash.
The way you talk about the torture chairs and the bone saws and the petty cash skulls, this Funny Farm studio of yours sounds almost homey.
It is homey, at least to me. I like spending time there. The only place that gets a little creepy is the dark room. It smells horrible in there because I’ve got gallons of cyanide and silver nitrate. All the chemicals seep through the walls, and it gets pretty intense. There’s apparently a protocol for getting rid of your chemicals, which I’ve never followed. I thought using the sink was fine, but I just found out that’s a no-no. You’re supposed to dig a hole and pour it into the earth. And I’m like, what’s the difference? It’s gonna end up in Santa Monica whichever way you go.
You claim in the book that you sometimes take photos at shooting galleries. Do you mean like a firing range, or the carnival game?
No, no. [Laughs.] Shooting galleries are basically a safe place where people can shoot drugs and get fresh needles.
Oh yeah, that, uh, that was my third guess.
This is the best part of an interview, when the writer is being educated by the rock star about drug addiction.
It’s the only reason I got into journalism, to find out where to get clean needles.
Shooting galleries are actually a wonderful concept. It stops the spread of diseases, and keeps people in a safe environment. A more wonderful concept would be helping them get clean. But it’s definitely better than people using dirty needles.
As long as you’re willing to teach me about drugs, here’s something else I’ve been curious about. Elephant tranquilizers.
What can I tell you?
You mention getting high on elephant tranquilizers a few times in This Is Gonna Hurt. At first I thought you were kidding, but that’s a real recreational drug?
It is, man. Sad but true.
I can’t even wrap my head around that. If somebody walked into a room and said, “Let’s do some elephant tranquilizers,” I wouldn’t know where to begin.
That’s actually a good thing.
But I don’t want to look like an idiot. Say I wanted just a taste. Just enough elephant tranquilizer to take the edge off.
[Laughs.] Oh man, I don’t know.
What do I do exactly? Do I smoke it, snort it, get some circus intern to shoot it into my neck?
You snort it. It’s a powder. But I don’t know that much either. It was just around and available in the 70s, but then so were quaaludes. You kinda had your pick of everything. It’s not like that anymore. Which is one of the reasons I’m glad to be sober. It’s just sad when good drugs aren’t available.
Here’s another habit you might have to give up soon: tattoos.
Give up? Why would I give up tattoos?
Well, eventually you’re going to run out of flesh real estate.
There’s always someplace else you can go. Once you use up the good real estate, then you go into the bad parts of town. That’s where I’m at now. I’ve only got one ribcage left, and a little bit of a leg. It’s a funny thing, the prime real estate on your arms, which is what you usually get tattooed first, doesn’t hurt half as bad as when you start getting into places like your rib cage and your chest. I don’t love the pain. It hurts like hell, I’ll be honest with you. And the older you get, the more it hurts.
Now that so much of your body is covered in tattoos, do you have buyer’s remorse?
Not at all. I love the way my tattoos look. I especially love Japanese-style tattoos and being completely sleeved by them, so it’s not just these little individual and unrelated pieces but everything’s working together to create a larger design. I know some people who’ve gotten tattoos that they probably shouldn’t have, like the name of somebody they were dating, and that never ends well.
You don’t have anything like that?
Not one tattoo that you regret in hindsight? Nothing like “Saved By The Bell 4Ever”?
[Laughs.] Thankfully, no. And if I did, there are creative ways of covering that up.
Is there any part of your body that’s off limits?
For a tattoo? Not really.
What about… I don’t want to get too explicit here, but there are some nooks and crannies and creases and dark places that probably don’t need to be inked. Who’s going to know?
It doesn’t matter if anyone can see it, as long as you know. I get tattoos for me.
And your proctologist, apparently.
[Laughs.] Sure, him too.
Mötley Crüe is going on the road this summer. Are you and Tommy Lee planning any disgusting wagers for this tour?
No unusual wagers this time. We’ve got some things working against us in Mötley Crüe. Tommy’s sober and I have a girlfriend. We’re going to have to find some way to entertain ourselves. Maybe we’ll go back to burning down hotels like we did in the old days. That could be fun. Rock n’ roll arson has become a neglected art.
Vince Neil told me not long ago that he’s bored with boobs. Are you bored with boobs?
He’s bored with boobs? I’m so disappointed in him. And by the way, I think he’s lying. I don’t believe for a minute that Vince Neil is tired of boobs. I know plastic surgeons who aren’t bored with boobs. I think we need to have a band meeting ASAP. I’m worried.
I’m sorry I brought it up. I didn’t mean to rock the boat.
It’s okay, we’ve had a few close calls. Hopefully we’ll survive this one. No, in all seriousness, I’m just really excited to be back with the guys again. The other day I wrote what was probably my most honest Tweet ever. I just tweeted, “I’m in a band.” Isn’t that crazy? I forgot I was in a band.
You sure you’re off drugs?
Absolutely. I don’t have any of our gold or platinum records. There are no awards in my house. I just do what I do. I’m very much an artist in the sense that I’m always creating and living in the moment. So I was at band rehearsal and I look over and there’s Tommy and Vince and Mick. And we’re playing “Shout at the Devil” and I’m like, “I’m in a fucking band! I can’t fucking believe this!” I wonder if Keith Richards has those moments, where he’s rehearsing with Jagger and he thinks, “Holy shit, I’m in a band! This is bizarre.”
I think his thought process is more like, “Who are you people? How did I get here?”
And that’s why Keith is so rock n’ roll.
You were once pronounced dead after a heroin overdose in the late 80s. How many minutes were you gone exactly?
So roughly the length of a Ramones song?
[Laughs.] That’s right, yeah. That’s how I know how long it was. They actually played “I Wanna Be Sedated” while I was dead.
During those two minutes, did you get to meet Jesus and all your dead relatives?
No, but that would’ve been one hell of a movie.
So the experience didn’t make you more religious?
I’m not religious, but by nature I am spiritual. I’m an artist, and creativity seems to go hand in hand with spirituality. But I have a knee-jerk reaction against organized religions. Actually, I have knee-jerk reactions against anything that’s organized.
The next time you die, which I assume will be longer than two minutes, what’s the first thing on your agenda? Maybe track down some dead rock legends for a jam session?
Probably not, no. You see how much I have going on in my life right now. I’m a photographer, a clothing designer, I’m in two bands, I’m an author. So when that day comes, dude, and I’m dead and gone, I want a fucking nap. I don’t need to go jam with Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham. I need a goddamn nap.
So you’re in heaven and Jim Morrison’s knocking on your cloud door, and he’s like, “Hey man, Ronnie Van Zant and Brian Jones and I are starting a band. You in?” And you tell him….?
“I’ve been going full-tilt for like 90 years. I need at least a ten year break. Come back in a decade, Jim.”
What about Crüe fans who want to jam with you in the afterlife? Will you fulfill the rock fantasies of every angel who asks?
I’ll be like Gene Simmons from KISS. I’ll charge them to jam with me.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com.)