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?