language in paragraph 24, beginning “Sixx: They were new wave.”)
By Christa Titus
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Talk with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars, even on the phone, and you’ll witness an infamous dynamic in action.
Sixx, known as the driven, visionary bandleader, is as articulate as he is passionate about any topic you raise. Mars is equally knowledgeable, but softer-spoken and more direct. Their responses are a study in contrasts, reflecting the range of perspectives within the band. They also help to make sense of the group’s at-times combustive relationships.
As Motley Crue prepared for the June 24 release of “Saints of Los Angeles,” the first studio album in more than a decade featuring the band’s original members (drummer Tommy Lee and singer Vince Neil round out the lineup), and the July 1 opening of its 40-plus-city Crue Fest tour, Sixx and Mars got on the phone with Billboard. They discussed Motley’s past and present with the same boldness that has made them superstars.
Q: Motley Crue’s new album, “Saints of Los Angeles,” is loosely based on your autobiography “The Dirt” (co-written with Neil Strauss and a 2001 New York Times best-seller). Why that approach?
Mick Mars: I think that we all pretty much thought it was a good thing to do, the right thing to do, to tie everything together, to put everything in a package that would make sense to everybody. Because to people that read “The Dirt” and they heard (“Saints of Los Angeles”) and listened to the lyrics, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that was from ‘The Dirt’ ” and that kind of a thing.
Nikki Sixx: It was loosely based on, thematically, on our story, but, in essence, isn’t that what all songwriters do? They write about their experience. When you spread (ours) over a full album, you get this sort of story of like, “Wow.” Where it started, where it was and where it’s at now, and hopefully where it’s going.
Q: Why did the band form its own Motley Records label, which is releasing “Saints?”
Mars: We formed our own record label ... (to) be able to do it our way as opposed to someone dictating to us how it should be done. It was a good feeling, like Ray Charles when he was like, “You can have this, but I want my masters.” That was cool.
Sixx: Motley Records was sort of an emblem on a car. It was something we did when we were at Elektra. It was our way of saying, “We really are completely self-sufficient. You guys are a distribution source.”
But it wasn’t till later when we took the masters from Elektra and really started focusing on how to grow our asset, the asset of music ... and the only way to do that is to market it. And it’s not a bad word. It’s not a dirty word.
Q: How did you get the masters back?
Mars: They owed us a lot of money, in the eight-digit area. It was like, “We’ll forget this, we’ll take our masters, we’ll take seven figures instead of eight and give us our masters.”
So it was done like that, which was really good for us. You won’t hear our songs on K-tel or anything.
Q: Motley Records brings you full circle, back to when you self-released “Too Fast for Love” in 1981 on Leathur Records. How would you compare the Motley Crue of then with today?
Mars: We’re going to sell our albums in stores instead of out of the trunk of our car. (Laughs.) That was big, man ... (those days) were fun because we were up-and-coming. It’s like, “Wow, we sold 1,000 albums in one night, out of the trunk of our car? It’s all good.”
It was fun and learning and all that; we’re much more business-savvy now and see how everything really works so we can market ourselves better. We learned from those days, and we’re not so naive anymore.
Sixx: We went from an alley fight to a professional fighter. And back then we would use a switchblade to win the fight. Now the surgery’s done with precision from years and years and years of being in the ring. And we have the stamina, we have the experience, and we have the strength, and the only time that we fail is when we implode because we don’t work together.
And there’s the hinge, the hitch to this band -- some say being exciting, some say being dysfunctional and some say just being insane.
I never know what’s going to happen with this band no matter how I try to help steer it away from the rocks. There have been times when it must just be destiny for us just to crash into the rocks. But for some reason, it never sinks. We get really close, but we never sink.
Q: What made Motley Crue different from the other bands coming out of Los Angeles at the time?
Mars: They were all cheesy. One-hit wonders. They tried to write songs like we wrote them. There were record labels signing anybody and everybody that had any kind of a look or anything that was (like) Motley Crue.
Motley Crue had just taken off like a rocket, and all the record labels just kind of wrecked everything. Luckily there are hardly any record labels left, but there’s too much tease going on, because like I said, they were signing anybody and everybody, and they didn’t have songs.
I’m not trying to sound egotistical or anything by any means, but it’s the truth. It’s how I feel and what I know, what I see from those bands. They’re like nowhere. Either that or they’re playing little tiny clubs.
Sixx: They were new wave. They were punk. They was just rock. We didn’t give a f--k, and they all really cared. They all really wanted to s--k the corporate c--k, and we just didn’t give a f--k. We just wanted to play what we wanted to play.
I did not believe anybody was going to sign Motley Crue, and I did not care. ... So we just did it ourselves. We did what we wanted, we played what we wanted, we looked how we wanted to look.
Q: Looking over your career in Motley Crue, if you could do anything differently, would you change anything?
Mars: Probably not. I think that was of one of the things that kind of set us apart from everybody else, that everybody else followed. We’d come out with, I hate to say it, but stupid, big hair and lipstick and makeup and heavy eye shadow and all that kind of stuff, and everybody kind of followed suit. So it was new and it caught a lot of people’s eyes, and they were going, “Whoa! You see that new band Motley Crue, man? They’re rad!”
Sixx: Probably a lot. But mostly on a personal level. I think I would fight harder to be closer with my band once we became successful. Mostly when we’re on tour, and that’s when we become so close and so meshed in each other and so into each other’s lives, the music is just so important to us, and then we get home, and everyone has families and they have side projects and then one guy lives here and one guy lives over there and our schedules are off and it just isn’t that whole gang thing.
Q: What are your proudest moments with Motley Crue?
Mars: I think it’s, for me -- well, I can speak for a couple of us -- is when Nikki got clean and I got clean. That was just like the biggest step ever. But yes -- us getting clean from everything and seeing the world again, instead of through this haze. I think it made us a better person, because we did go through that, but we learned that’s not what we really wanted. So I guess that would be the proudest moment for me.
Q: Do you think Motley can go another 20 years?
Mars: No. (Laughs.) No. Only because in 20 years I’ll be 77. I don’t want to be on tour when I’m 77. That’s a bit too geezed-out to me.
I’m always going to be playing. Always, always, always. I don’t know how much I would be touring at that point, because I don’t think I’m going to make a very pretty old man. (Laughs.)
But I’ll always be writing and always be playing and writing for other bands or writing for Motley and just putting out records, if nothing else.
Sixx: I don’t even want to think about that. Gives me a headache. (Laughs.) I just want to have my camera bag and be in some dangerous situation in some foreign country taking pictures. That’s what I want to be doing in 20 years. ... (Laughs.) I’m just passionate about photography, passionate about art, the whole concept.
I can’t even imagine the idea of musicians on a stage playing their music for people in 20 years. It just seems there’s going to be another way to reach people. Look how much has happened in 10 years. Imagine 20 years. We might be able to dial up and have Nikki Sixx in your bedroom. Not that in 20 years I could do much damage. (Laughs.)