It’s been 10 years since the publication of his best-selling memoir The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star, and a relaxed Nikki Sixx is driving to the Sixx Sense studios in Los Angeles to record his syndicated radio show.
"We’re going to run through a bunch music for 'Sixx Picks,'” he explains, “It’s focused on bands that are just kind of bubbling under, and need a shot. Today is a good day.”
With an expanded edition set for release October 24, The Heroin Diaries remains a potent read. Initially scribbled into journals and onto paper scraps, it’s a retching reminder of the period when a “good day” for the then-Mötley Crüe bassist meant he didn’t wind up barricaded in the closet of his California mansion, delusional from a constant heroin-cocaine cocktail, and surrounded by guns. It’s a ferociously fascinating bullet of a book, and as searing a portrait of addiction as rock memoir has produced. Each entry is punctuated with paranoia and pain.
There’s a pregnant pause—followed by an incredulous “no”—when I ask the happily married 58-year-old if he can believe he’s still alive.
“Reading [The Heroin Diaries] for the audiobook was really harrowing. I'd written the words down, and gone over them 10 years ago, but to actually read the whole book from top to bottom, it brought up a lot of feelings, a lot of feelings of gratitude."
An overdose just before Christmas in 1987 saw Sixx declared legally dead, and Los Angeles radio immediately broadcast his demise. After a miraculous revival, he famously barged from the hospital and hitched a ride home with a pair of mourning teenage fans.
At the time, Sixx says he likely laughed the experience off. But today, that perspective proves chilling. “My oldest son is 26 years old, and I have three other kids. None of them would have been born if I’d died. Dr. Feelgood would have never happened, and I wonder, about some of the artists that have passed away. What could they have brought to the table?”
Of course, those days weren’t all dark. “Being in Mötley Crüe,” Sixx says, “was one of the funnest times of my life. The earlier days were so reckless, and we weren't a malicious band. We were just, say, adventurous,” Sixx says.
“We loved the idea of when people said ‘no’ to something, trying to figure out a way to do it, whether it was our stage productions, our albums, or even changing our logo every time.”
But fans familiar with the band’s dynamic won’t be surprised to learn that after their final show on New Year’s Eve of 2015, Nikki Sixx skipped the after party, and there were no sentimental goodbyes. Now clean for over 15 years, he revels in his freedom and sobriety.
“Drinking and doing drugs for so much of my youth, I was able to write a bunch of songs, and be in a band, and then do a tour. But I look back, and I go, 'that's it?'” Now, he explains, “Any given week, I'm working on photography, working on books, working on the [Heroin Diaries] Broadway play, and doing my radio show. It just goes to show how much time, wasted time, goes into addiction.”
Talking with Sixx, it’s clear he’s done wasting time. And while he describes the idea of curators, gallery owners, and art collectors scrutinizing his shots as “a little scary,” he’s particularly enthusiastic when discussing his recent exhibit at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles. “I sent them 200 photos—and I didn't even think I had that many good photos! Because your heart and soul is bare when it's on a wall. It’s like an isolated vocal track. There's no cheating.”
Titled Conversations with Angels, the collection is focused primarily on subjects—homeless people, runaways, addicts—living on the ragged fringe. Because while he’s long past the wanton self-destruction which defined his much of his early life, Sixx remains energized when speaking for the abandoned and invisible.
“I talk to the people a lot on the street, and I try to get as much as information as possible, because even if I don't tell anyone their story, I hope I'm capturing the truth in the photo.” As with The Heroin Diaries, the proceeds from the Leica Gallery exhibit will go towards facilities at Covenant House California, Los Angeles, which provides services for homeless and at-risk youth.
So, all in all, Nikki Sixx is happy and healthy. But diehard fans will appreciate catching a glimpse of the rock star who raised hell during the glory days of MTV who isn’t actually that tough.
All it takes is one question about a story from Mötley Crüe’s biography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. Namely, why did they think wiping their dicks with a shared burrito would keep ladies from catching them cheating?
“I have no idea?” he laughs, “Talk about youth gone crazy. We were always kind of up to something, and the burrito story was one that we told, and kind of forgot about. It brings that ridiculous smirk on my face, where I'm like, yeah, we were pretty young and pretty dumb. But how much fun did we have?"