Following fits and starts and a bit of expected drama while plans were being laid down, tonight at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, it’s the fans that make out most as Mötley Crüe and Poison, with the New York Dolls, bring one of the most-anticipated rock shows of the summer to town.
Boston Examiner caught up with Crüe co-founder Nikki Sixx to talk about the tour, his new book and what it’s like to branch out as an artist — but first, he wanted to make it clear that his band should not be put into the same category as the hair-metal scene that pervaded Los Angeles in the mid-’80s onward.
“We came out in ’81; we were really half-punk/half-metal with a bit of pop thrown in there,” Sixx said. “We didn’t fit the L.A. scene, there was nothing like us; in our audience we had these degenerates from the Valley that were trying to find their next band that they could relate to because the Dead Kennedys weren’t around anymore, Fear was just a shadow of itself and there was nothing happening in L.A.
“We were really about Van Halen meets the New York Dolls or Black Sabbath meets the Ramones, so when bands came up behind us and we got lumped in with them, we really didn’t like it.”
That was right around the time when the higher the hair, the more caked on the makeup and the tighter the spandex, the better the chance that MTV would put an act’s video in high rotation. It wasn’t a surprise when a Warrant song would rise up the charts along with a Crüe single — and it’s something that haunts Sixx to this day.
“You’ll see like these ’80s rock ballads collections and they call us up and want us to be on it,” he said. “Are you on [expletive] glue?! It really is this thing where we really don’t have anything to do with that — for us it’s always been about sticking to our original path.”
It was a surprise then when the tour with Poison was announced, first at a solo show by Bret Michaels, which was then disavowed by Mötley’s management, and then again by Michaels on an interview show.
“Everything was fine, until Bret went on Piers Morgan and announced the tour when he knew he was supposed to do it with Mötley Crüe,” Sixx said. “It was a Mötley Crüe tour with the New York Dolls and Poison supporting, and that really pissed off my band. We didn’t want the tour, because of the reasons not personally, but because of keeping things segregated and then when he went and took it into his own hands that it was like his idea — yeah.”
“He was the one on the phone that told me he wanted to do it because his band needs credibility and Mötley Crüe is a credible band — it pissed us off, because we were sucker-punched.”
So why even bother? It was the result of a fan poll the band took, Sixx said, that led to the decision. Well, kind of. Poison was actually the third choice.
“The fans chose Guns ‘N Roses first, Def Leppard second and Poison third and we’re like, “Really?” he said. “We talked to Guns ‘N Roses, talked to Def Leppard, talked to Poison who was available and the other two weren’t. It just worked out.”
Sixx stresses that now, with the jaunt well under way, “everything is fine,” mainly because it’s the audience who benefits.
“In the end, what happens internally, politically, [expletive] like that, it might be frustrating, but in the end it really does matter what are the fans getting?” he said. “We feel like they’re getting the real deal with the New York Dolls, we feel like they’re getting to see Poison; they’ve got four or five hit songs and they’ve got some great cover songs they’ve done. They get 45 to 50 minutes and are giving the fans a really great show and then you got Mötley.
“In the end, everybody does win.”
Sixx might as well include himself in the win column, as the tour with Mötley Crüe is just one of the many projects he has going on. Back in May he was in town to do a packed book signing at the Walnut Street Barnes & Noble for his third best-seller, This is Gonna Hurt, which explores his photographic side, featuring pictures of everyone from his bandmates to homeless addicts to the obscenely obese. He provides a running narrative for much of it. Some of it is stream of consciousness while much of it is a more linear narrative.
Some of it is disturbing, but Sixx says he looks at what is beautiful through his lens and is completely honest about it.
“One time I was with somebody and we went some place very nice and I always have my camera with me, and they said, “You didn’t take one single picture.” And I said, “I didn’t see anything that evoked any kind of emotion.” And they said, “What about me?” And I said, “Exactly.”
“That relationship didn’t last.”
Joking (or not) aside, Sixx is all about finding what catches his emotion the best — not in the conventional sense, and he uses a flower as an example.
“I’m able to look at a beautiful, full-bloom rose in my driveway and look right next to it and see a withered dead one — and I see them the same,” he said. “I photograph them both, and say, ‘Look how beautiful the decay is,’ because that’s actually a representation of what we all have to face.”
Like the last book Sixx wrote, The Heroin Diaries, there is a soundtrack in tandem with This is Gonna Hurt, courtesy of Sixx; A.M., a musical outing with guitarist DJ Ashba (A) and James Michael (M) which has picked up traction as a separate entity.
“It blew up and we had such a great experience with it event though it was a lot of struggle and we didn’t want to tour, then the touring happened and then we didn’t think we’d do a second record and then we did because we love each other so much and love making the music,” Sixx said. “(This time) it wasn’t inspired just by the photography, but the state of mind and everything that happened. I started getting inspired by the songs and going and doing other photography and bringing it back to the band and it creating more conversation about feelings and social commentary and what is beauty?”
“It exploded into this really beautiful thing.”
Years and years of drug and alcohol abuse have given way to ten years of sobriety, which Sixx credits not for the things he is pursuing, but that they are actually being completed, because when he’s sober, there have been loads of ideas, but substance which distract from bringing them to fruition.
“That’s the biggest problem with being a creative person,” he said. “God, if I could tell you how many songs I’ve written in my life, and how many have been finished, you’d be shocked — it’s in the thousands. When you’re loaded, it’s hard to even just be in a rock band. Most people go, “I’m so tired, we went out and toured.” And I go, “That’s it?” Oh yeah, that’s right, because you’re partying every night to fill your hours, while all my hours are filled with creative endeavors.”