When Nikki Sixx, James Michael and Dj Ashba get together, something special happens. The last time the supergroup aligned as Sixx:A.M., their first album, 2007’s The Heroin DiariesSoundtrack gave birth to the single, “Life Is Beautiful,” which became radio’s most-played rocksong of 2008. They joined the Crüe Fest tour and played for more than half a million rock fanswith Michael at the mic, Dj on guitar and Sixx on bass. Recently, they rejoined to create This Is Gonna Hurt, their second album and the second soundtrack to a New York Times best selling book by Nikki Sixx. The 11-track companion CD hits stores May 3rd.
THIS IS GONNA HURT: Music, Photography And Life Through The Distorted Lens Of Nikki Sixx, (William Morrow/Harper Collins 4/12/11) was the first step in Sixx photographing thosewho represented unconventional beauty and the exploration of beauty and the decisions wemake about our own and others. For the book and the bands’ documentaries, which premieredon Hulu, Sixx photographed and interviewed amputees, obese women posing naked and a manwho “society has labeled as freaks,” says Sixx.
Frontman James Michael is a producer, who has worked with artists ranging from Meat Loafto Papa Roach to Alanis Morisette. Guitarist Dj Ashba is a composer and producer who hasworked with Neil Diamond, Run-DMC, and Drowning Pool, among others, and who was alsorecently appointed lead guitarist in Guns N’ Roses. And then, of course, there’s Sixx—cofounderof the legendary Mötley Crüe, bestselling author, radio personality (www.SixxSense.com),photographer, clothing entrepreneur, and philanthropist, among many, many other things.
What brought these three friends together again to make their second record, This Is GonnaHurt (Eleven Seven Music, out May 3), is their friendship and a kindred spirit in the themes ofSixx’s latest NY Times Bestseller, also called THIS IS GONNA HURT, where he presents hisphotography in public for the first time.
The idea for the album came one day when Michael stopped by Sixx’s Funny Farm photo studio.The pair were looking through some of the bassist’s recent pictures, which depicted peoplemissing limbs, some who were incredibly overweight and prostitutes who all engage with Nikki forphotographs included in the book THIS IS GONNA HURT. Michael and Ashba were struck bySixx’s ability to capture beauty in situations where society judges it as other than. It made themthink about their own assumptions and feelings and as they do, the group got together and wroteand recorded songs about the experience.
Michael says, “The way Nikki had set the surroundings, you realize the photo subject has suchan incredible story to tell. It was very thoughtful and very beautiful and I believe he was takinga picture of the person inside, even though the outside was not what we’re used to seeing and certainly didn’t fit the average person’s concept of what beautiful is. When I listen to the finished record, it’s these images I see.”
“The idea is to show the truth about how people do judge others and how they turn a blind eyeto people that are different,” explains Ashba. “It’s basically a wakeup call. Hopefully people get it and it will sink in.”
“The title came quickly,” Michael says of This Is Gonna Hurt. “It just seemed so appropriate forwhat we were going to embark on. It was gonna hurt us to make this record and to discuss thesetopics. It was a painful experience but also something that ended up being pretty beautiful in the end.”
Of course, this journey is one the band has embarked on before. When they made The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, they presented the horrors of addiction with the caveat that there was alwayshope. Their song “Life Is Beautiful,” with its infectious chorus and pleading melody, struck an immediate chord with thousands of people. “Almost the minute it went to radio, we were getting Facebook and Myspace messages every single day saying, ‘This song literally saved my life.Thank you so much,’” Michael says. “Or posts like, ‘My husband or my wife was a drug addict, and this song helped me through his or her addiction.’ To this day we get messages like that.
Oddly, the concept of This Is Gonna Hurt’s lead single, “Lies of the Beautiful People” (co-written with Rob Zombie guitarist John 5), which is already a top 5 rock track, came togetherwhen looking at another medium that affects thousands upon thousands of people: People’sMost Beautiful People list. Sixx had just left a photo session to get some gas when he walkedinto a convenience store and saw the issue. It hit him immediately. “I was just ashamed thatthere’s even such a list out there,” he says. “And I thought to myself, the people I was shootingwere so rich and so full of stories and life and it was so not superficial. Even though what Iwas photographing was their outsides, really what I was trying to capture was their insides. Iremember sitting down with the guys, and I talked about that moment, and I said, ‘It’s like the liesof the beautiful people.’ And a light went on for all of us.”
“I don’t care if you’re a supermodel or an amputee or a tattooed rock star or an accountant—justdon’t judge us on the outside,” Sixx continues. “Can you please just judge us by who we are anddon’t make a list that some teenage girl has to look at and go, ‘This is what I have to live up to?’I don’t look the way I look because I do it to shock you or because I’m a rock star; I do it becausethis is who I am. All I ask is to accept me for who I am, for my failures and for everything that Isucceeded at, but inside I’m a good person and I judge people by how good they are, and who Iallow in or not allow in my life. That’s what that song for us is.”
Other sources for inspiration on the record came from outside of the photography studio as well.The laidback, feel-good rocker “It Sure Feels Right” hit Nikki one day as he was driving in LosAngeles, the city he’s lived his entire adult life in, and realizing that no matter how hard things get things always work out and how happy he is to live there. And the album’s final song, “Skin,”came to Michael one night when he was playing the piano apart from the band. After working onThis Is Gonna Hurt for eight months straight, he was overcome by the subject matter he’d been singing about and was inspired to write a piano ballad just making sense of it all. He sent it to Sixx, who said, “Dude, this wraps up everything in a nutshell.” It’s possibly the most personal musical experience Michael has had since starting Sixx:A.M.
In the end, the group defied all odds and made a second record that built on the sound and positive message of The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack—not because the needed to, but because they wanted to.
“I think this record ended up affecting all of us on a much deeper level than we thought it would,”Michael says. “The album is about being honest with yourself. When you sit down and start really acknowledging who you are and how you behave towards other people and how you judge other people, it’s gonna be painful. This is gonna hurt.”
“DJ’s a great guitarist. He came up with some pretty cool ideas, some stuff I wouldn’t think of. And James Michael is just an all-around good songwriter. He writes some great songs.”—Mick Mars, about writing music with DJ Ashba and James Michael (Sixx:AM)