NIKKI SIXX - THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC OF MÖTLEY CRüE
by Jack Wellington
Most rock music fans simply enjoy listening to music – others delve in much deeper – learning about the history of the band, digging into the lyrics for the true depth of the artist’s meaning behind each song. Few fans investigate even further – behind the music – finding the source of the band’s “sound” through writers and producers.
The true diehard Mötley Crüe fan knows that the depths of the Crüe’s music resides in the co-founder of the band – Nikki Sixx (musician, songwriter, lyricist, author, photographer, radio host, fashion designer, philanthropist, and of course, bassist). Sixx’s talent is undeniable, as witnessed by the Crüe’s many hit songs that Sixx authored including “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Dr. Feelgood”, “Wild Side”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Live Wire”, “Hooligans’s Holiday”, and the song that was inspired by Sixx’s heroin overdose in which he was revived by a paramedic who happened to be a fan, “Kickstart My Heart”.
Nikki Sixx was born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna, Jr. on Dec. 11, 1958, after his father, whom he inherited his Italian-American ancestry. Nikki suffered a tough upbringing, after his father left the family – Sixx was raised by his single mother Deana Richards who later abandoned him, too. Nikki moved in and out several times of his grandparents’ home, falling in with the wrong crowd, becoming a teenage vandal, and finally getting expelled from school for selling drugs. At this point in his teenage life, his grandparents sent him to live with his mother in Seattle, which became the time of his life in which he learned how to play bass guitar.
By the age of seventeen, Nikki found his first true love – music – and moved to L.A. where he joined the group Sister, led by Blackie Lawless, and shortly after formed the group London in 1978, which would go on to feature Izzy Stradlin (Guns N’ Roses), Fred Coury (Cinderella), and Sixx’s former bandmate from the band Sister, Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.).
Only a couple of years later, in 1981, Nikki co-founded Mötley Crüe with drummer Tommy Lee, writing legendary rock hits with the band over the next two decades. During the band’s fame and fortune, Sixx fell in love for the second time… with heroin. And somehow, through the pain and paranoia of drug addiction, Sixx continued making music, really good music… relying upon his God-given talent.
When the Crüe took a hiatus in 2002, Sixx took on the side project bands Brides of Destruction for a couple of years, and Sixx:A.M. in 2007. By 2008, Sixx:A.M. was touring as part of Mötley Crüe’s “Crüe Fest”, but it was Sixx:A.M.’s debut album, “The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack” that hit the perfect chord with radio, with the release of the hit song, “Life Is Beautiful”. Three EP’s followed: X-Mas In Hell (2008), Life Is Beautiful (2008), and 7 (2011), with the band’s most recent studio album also released in 2011: This Is Gonna Hurt.
Sixx:A.M.’s first studio album release was a soundtrack to Sixx’s life, of which he became a New York Times bestselling author twice over with his books “The Heroin Diaries” (’07) and “The Dirt – Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band” (’01) ( that he co-authored with his Mötley Crüe bandmates.
2011, Nikki Sixx is clean. Many would believe his time with fame would be over, yet Sixx’s talent continued to evolve into the realm of photography with his book that coincided with the band’s second studio release: This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx, his groundbreaking book and recording – exploring beauty and our own perceptions of ourselves and the beauty of others – based upon his journals, observations, and for the first time in print, his photographs. Through his lens, Sixx tells tales for the voices of the unique, the freaks, the rarely beautiful – from brothels to crack houses and staged photo shoots at his Funny Farm photography studio. Nikki displayed his perceptions of beautiful for the world to enjoy. In and around his photography are his very personal journals – from discussing his institutionalized sister he barely knew growing up, to his relationship and eventual breakup with Kat Von D (TLC reality television’s L.A. Ink tattoo artist).
After decades of legendary music and becoming a New York Times bestseller twice, Sixx found time to launch his own clothing line in 2006 with Kelly Gray, the former co-president and house model of St. John. Sixx designed first for men and then expanded into women’s apparel. Sixx also grabbed the ears of many through his syndicated rock/alternative music radio programs “Sixx Sense” and “The Side Show Countdown” – both hosted by Sixx and his co-host Kerri Kasem, daughter of the famous radio personality – Casey Kasem.
The rocker has a heart and is a philanthropist at the end of the day, founding “Running Wild in the Night”, a fundraising initiative for Covenant House, a nonprofit charity that comes to the aid of the homeless youth. Sixx knows firsthand what it’s like to have to fend for yourself on the streets, also donating a portion of the profits from Sixx:A.M.’s album The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack and autobiographical book.
I tried like hell to die, and now it’s like I’m scratching and clawing to be alive,” Sixx says, talking about his new lease on life. “I want to be alive. I want to fucking inspire people. The great thing about death is that once you’ve faced it, you’re no longer afraid of it. I’m so inspired to do better with my life and to take on challenges.
Now in his third decade with Mötley Crüe, Sixx tours once again, but this time with fellow legendary rockers, KISS. Simply dubbed, “The Tour”, the 40-date North American tour kicks off in Bristow, VA, on July 20th, with both bands joining musical forces and each playing 90-minute sets. “The Tour” hits Vegas on August 11th, 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Arts Center.
Today, Nikki Sixx is a family man, driven by his many side projects, continuing down his straight and not-so-narrow path, striving to remain clean and free from drugs as a father of four.