Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx decided to turn the worst time of his life into one of the best things he feels he's ever done.
"The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star" is a book that chronicles Sixx's dark descent into addiction during a year-long period in 1986-87 and comes out simultaneously with an album of songs inspired by the tome. Proceeds from the project are going to Running Wild in the Night, a charity Sixx founded to raise money for a music program at Covenant House California, which assists runaways and other youth.
The book is unsparing and often sordid in its details -- so much so that you'd wonder why anyone would want to re-live it. But the 48-year-old musician, who suffered several relapses but has been clean since 2001, says the journey back there was wholly worthwhile.
"So much good art comes from pain," he explains, "and that's not to say, 'Well, let's all go take ourselves down this dark street so that we can become creative.' It's just to say that if that's where you went and you can turn it into a positive, then that works for everybody. I think it works out for me as an author, it works out for the reader, it works out for the message and it works out for raising awareness and money for a charity."
And, Sixx adds, he had no desire to sugarcoat the overall message.
"This is about brutal honesty," he says, "and laying it all out on the table so that there's no secrets, so that we can safely says, 'This is (messed) up. Don't go there. This is not the stairway to heaven -- this is definitely the highway to hell."
Sixx, who was born Frank Feranna, Jr., in San Jose, Calif., grew up rough, shuttled around the Southwest by his single mother, committing crimes and selling drugs until he was expelled from high school at age 17 and ran away to Los Angeles. And, in some ways, things weren't much better in Motley Crue; it was no longer a life of crime, but the quartet became as famous for its decadence -- chronicled in the lurid 2002 band biography "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band" -- as for its music.
While working on "The Heroin Diaries," however, Sixx says the impact of his youth became clear.
"I went from a dysfunctional childhood to one of the biggest bands in the world," he says, "and that even amplified the dysfunction that was still festering. Sold-out tours and platinum records and all the stuff that comes with fame -- none of it was filling the hole.
"In me being able to write the overview of everything, that really let me get some clarity on my life. I actually got to kind of close a chapter there."
Sixx launched "The Heroin Diaries" strictly as a book project a few years back, when he discovered the original diaries in a storage unit. He began reading them, quietly realizing, "wow, have I come along way in my life. I'm a father and I'm sober and my life is very, very blessed."
"When you're 20 years from heroin addiction, you can look back," says Sixx, who has four children from marriages to former Playboy Playmates Brandi Brandt and Donna D'Errico. "Sometimes you can almost laugh at the ridiculousness of where you were at, and at other times you can cry. It took me on a journey and re-opened my eyes to stuff I'd forgotten about.
"And I realized I could take people on a journey as well."
Rather than simply edit and release the diaries, however, Sixx decided to add some contemporary commentary -- and in doing that directed co-writer Ian Gittins to interview his Motley Crue bandmates, managers, record company executives, friends, ex-girlfriends (including onetime fiance Denise Matthews, aka Prince protege Vanity) and even family members for their perspectives. His only condition; "I didn't want anybody to pull any punches."
"People started talking -- 'Nikki was this.' 'Nikki was that.' 'I was scared.' 'I was mad.' 'I hated him.' 'I loved him,' whatever they wanted to say," "I said, 'That's pretty cool. I like that.' I snickered a little and never really got my feelings hurt. I mean, the more honest the better as far as I'm concerned."
Sixx wasn't thinking about a musical component of "The Heroin Diaries" until he showed the manuscript to collaborators James Michael and DJ Ashba. Sixx recalls that "They called me and said, 'My God, how about if we score an album to this? It would be like (Pink Floyd's) 'The Wall!' "
The result is a sprawling 13-song collection that runs the gamut from orchestrated bombast to stripped-down balladry, from metal to melodic. "It was a massive amount of work," Sixx notes. "It just came pouring out of us."
Sixx:AM has played one low-key show to promote "The Heroin Diaries," but Sixx says it's "too early" to think about a full tour or even a film or stage musical based on the book. Mostly he's focusing his attention on his clothing line, Royal Underground, and is planning to turn his attention back to Motley Crue in the near future.
The group is working an a film adaptation of "The Dirt," but Sixx notes that "some of the relationships we've started with directors have not quite panned out to be...the best thing for the project. I'm personally in no hurry to make a bad movie."
He is, however, hoping to get together with guitarist Mick Mars this fall to start going over material for a new Motley Crue album, the group's first since 2000, though relations with drummer Tommy Lee are rocky, and there have been reports he's quit the band again.
But throughout all that, Sixx plans to pay careful attention to how "The Heroin Diaries" is received.
"I'm not one to stand on soapboxes or preach or anything like that," Sixx says. "Whatever it takes for you to buy the book and read it, I endorse that.
"But one of my fantasies is that one day someone's going to be doing an interview like this, and they're gonna say 'I was homeless and strung out and I found this place called Covenant House and I got into the music program that this guy named Nikki Sixx had started, and it saved my life and I'm now making music for other people.
"That would be an amazing circle."
Nikki Sixx will sign copies of "The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star" at 12:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 24) at Borders Books & Music, 2300 Eureka Road, Taylor. Call (734) 374-5345 or visit www.bordersstores.com.
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