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 Diaries Soundtrack gave birth to the single, “Life Is Beautiful,” which became radio’s most-played rock song of 2008. They joined the Crüe Fest tour and played for more than half a million rock fans with 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 those who represented unconventional beauty and the exploration of beauty and the decisions we make about our own and others. For the book and the bands’ documentaries, which premiered on Hulu, Sixx photographed and interviewed amputees, obese women posing naked and a man who “society has labeled as freaks,” says Sixx.
The story of the making of This Is Gonna Hurt, the CD, can be viewed by watching THIS IS GONNA HURT: THE DOCUMENTARIES FROM NIKKI SIXX AND SIXX:A.M. premiering on Hulu (http://www.hulu.com/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-documentaries).
Frontman James Michael is a producer, who has worked with artists ranging from Meat Loaf to Papa Roach to Alanis Morisette. Guitarist Dj Ashba is a composer and producer who has worked with Neil Diamond, Run-DMC, and Drowning Pool, among others, and who was also recently appointed lead guitarist in Guns N’ Roses. And then, of course, there’s Sixx—cofounder of 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 Gonna Hurt (Eleven Seven Music, out May 3), is their friendship and a kindred spirit in the themes of Sixx’s latest NY Times Bestseller, also called THIS IS GONNA HURT, where he presents his photography 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 people missing limbs, some who were incredibly overweight and prostitutes who all engage with Nikki for photographs included in the book THIS IS GONNA HURT. Michael and Ashba were struck by Sixx’s ability to capture beauty in situations where society judges it as other than. It made them think about their own assumptions and feelings and as they do, the group got together and wrote and recorded songs about the experience.
Michael says, “The way Nikki had set the surroundings, you realize the photo subject has such an incredible story to tell. It was very thoughtful and very beautiful and I believe he was taking a 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 eye to 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 for what we were going to embark on. It was gonna hurt us to make this record and to discuss these topics. It was a painful experience but also something that ended up being 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 always hope. 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 together when looking at another medium that affects thousands upon thousands of people: People’s Most Beautiful People list. Sixx had just left a photo session to get some gas when he walked into a convenience store and saw the issue. It hit him immediately. “I was just ashamed that there’s even such a list out there,” he says. “And I thought to myself, the people I was shooting were so rich and so full of stories and life and it was so not superficial. Even though what I was photographing was their outsides, really what I was trying to capture was their insides. I remember sitting down with the guys, and I talked about that moment, and I said, ‘It’s like the lies of 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—just don’t judge us on the outside,” Sixx continues. “Can you please just judge us by who we are and don’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 because this is who I am. All I ask is to accept me for who I am, for my failures and for everything that I succeeded at, but inside I’m a good person and I judge people by how good they are, and who I allow 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 Los Angeles, 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 on This 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.”