Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Vault Date: March 28th, 2011
Nikki draws from his pain and sobriety for strength and inspiration in this raw and powerful new book and companion 11 track CD, This is Gonna Hurt. It’s a chilling and heavy take on the concept in which photography inspires music and music inspires photograph then blurring the line. The book and soundtrack both incorporate the stories behind the pictures and how they come to be, including interviews with the subjects so readers can see what life is like for whom society has labeled as freaks. Throughout the book, Nikki gives us a glimpse inside his sick and dirty mind and I had the opportunity to briefly enter it to better understand these inner workings…and leave unscathed…I think.
Rob: Tell me why it was important for you to write this book on your photography?
Nikki: Everything for me comes from honestly, brutally honest, most people don’t understand that and it’s hard for me to understand sometimes too. David Bowe once said that he didn’t understand his own music until 5 or 10 years after he recorded and released it. It almost feels that way with photography for me. You’re doing so much photography that you get the idea of doing a book on photography, at first you start to write it for yourself.
So you start writing and then that influences the photography. The photography then bleeds over into influencing DJ Ashba and Michael James (Sixx AM) when they write songs. Then the songs and words start to influence more photography. Then the songs start to merge and they merge back with the lyrics. Then, I’m like wow, I have to get a documentary crew and they have to document what is happening here. It is something magical and I don’t know what it is but I have to capture it. We are going to record it, write it, sing about it, talk about it, take picture of it, and make films about it. In the end its like I have given birth to the baby and you can tell me what it’s all about?
Somehow everything is connected to something else. It’s really painful to figure what this means. It’s like Psych 101 and I’m still trying to figure it out.
Rob: Most artist/photographer are never really satisfied with their work, they always think they can do better? Do think you will ever reach a point with your photography where you think you are successful or well received or just happy with the outcome?
Nikki: I don’t think I will be successful or well received. I’ll also never be satisfied. I don’t think I’m in the zone yet. I think I have moments and I feel as though I’m just getting started with photography. Musically I feel like I’m just getting started, creatively I’m just getting started, with Sixx A.M., I’m just getting started and with Motley Crue- I love being in the band. I’m so grateful for that band and can’t believe we still get to go on tour playing that song and able write new music. It’s like a brothership that I will never have with anyone else. The band has outlasted everything and that allows me to do all this other great stuff. I’m a creative person who is always creating. Sometimes I feel that my work is so fragments and I haven’t been able to glue it together. I have books by photographers and can’t help but notice how cohesive their work is, I ask myself, “why is my work not that cohesive?” I feel that my work is so all over the place and I’m so just always searching for the next frame. It’s about being vulnerable.
Rob: Vulnerable to criticism?
Nikki: Not so much that, because I really don’t care. I don’t care about the comments. I feel it’s very intrusive to opening it up. I had to really let it go. That’s what the book was about, to write about what is happening here.
Rob: What do you consider to be compliment regarding your photograph?
Nikki: (long pause) I don’t know (laughing). Maybe they love it or I hate it. I have so many people tell me that they don’t understand and I wish they could say that they hate it or just say they love it! I don’t understand the people who say, “I don’t understand it”. There is so much more to it, let’s go all the way to the left or to the right, I would just really hate to be vanilla.
Rob: Has there ever been a subject that was off limits to you? The reason I ask is in the book you have a shot of just a man’s legs and it is entitled (The End). Is the guy dead or alive? Are dead people off limits?
Nikki: No dead people are not off limits. What’s off limits to me is nudity of a woman from the waist down. The pictures that are a re-enactment of my sister Lisa, the models were nude and it was hard for me framing so I had to make the models turn a certain way. Not because I was worried about censorship, I just don’t like to see a woman’s pussy in the photo. I’m ok with amputations, disfigurement, nudity, transgender and death…I’m just not ok with that. I don’t think it belongs in the photograph. Funny from a guy in a band!
Rob: What do you say to the people who look at your photography and say you are exploiting handicapped people?
Nikki: Hmm, I haven’t heard one yet. I think the idea is to show people going through adversity to people who have not ever experience it. People who either A) can’t understand or B) don’t wanna understand or C) don’t think they can handle. We should be are grateful for our lives. And would we be grateful if we were confined to a wheelchair or lost our sight, would we be grateful if we were doused with battery acid or lost our arms or legs? That’s what I’m trying to show people.
Rob: Will you ever do a coffee table book of all your artwork?
Nikki: I think I have 4 or 5 coffee table books on photography that I can put out, solid books with no words.
Rob: In the book, you seem like you have a new lease on life and a positive attitude, yet the songs on the CD are a little dark and forbearing. What was there a reason for this?
Nikki: The book is me and the CD is us (Sixx Am). It’s an interpretation of the photography by me and then how it reflects on James and DJ in their experiences musically and lyrically. James and I wrote all the lyrics and we spent a lot of time talking about life. Things that we have both been through in life. That we both felt like outcasts at some points in our lives, the concept of being successful and always being told that you won’t be, couldn’t be and shouldn’t be successful. Those life struggles come out in the music as well as relationships with, fathers, mothers, girlfriends, wives, family. It’s really a life experience CD as well.
Rob: In the book, you mentioned when Kat Von D and you broke up, the loss felt like a thousand daggers in the heart. Does the artwork on the CD cover reflect how you were feeling?
Nikki: It has nothing to do with that with that relationship. It has to do with all relationships. To me, it’s what all human hearts and the spikes are all the different experiences. Each spike represents something in your life, this is when my father died or this is when a girl broke my heart or this is when I went through recovery. That’s how life is, its survival, and the heart is still beating.
Rob: In the book, you equate Motley as work and Sixx AM as fun? Do you ever think Motley could be fun again for you?
Nikki: I love Motley Crue, they are magical. Being in the band takes my breath away. I have only ever been in Motley and done a few side projects. Sixx AM is the passion project set up for failure, we don’t tour, we don’t think we are accessible; we are dark and off the beaten track. Motley Crue is this living breathing monster that has trampled its way through life and really doesn’t take any prisoner. We primarily seek and destroy. This dragon should have been slain a long time ago, how it’s still alive, I don’t know. I want to ride it until it drops. I won’t say it’s not fun, I would say it’s like going to war!
Rob: With the current music environment of no rock radio, file sharing, and the slumping record industry how do you measure success for Sixx AM?
Nikki: It already succeeds and failed at the same time. It is what it is. You have it, and that’s all I care about, and that you listen to it. That you have my book and you get to read it. You get to reflect on your own life. I don’t need anything more. That’s where we come from as a band. The only level of honest that we could have done is not to sell it as if we didn’t put it out. Same with my photography, I haven’t shared it with anybody for almost half a decade. Ifs it’s successful, I’m going to celebrate like a motherfucker. If it’s not then ok, because I don’t expect it to.