Nikki Sixx (born December 11, 1958) is an American bassist, author, photographer, and the main songwriter for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe. He has also played bass for glam metal band London, the experimental band 58, and the hard rock bands Brides of Destruction and, more recently, Sixx:A.M.

Early life

Sixx was born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna, Jr. on December 11, 1958 in San Jose, California.[1][2] He was partially raised by his single mother, Deana Richards, and by his grandparents after his father left the family. He moved in with his grandparents, while his mother toured with bands as a back-up singer. Sixx relocated several times while living with his grandparents.[3]

While living in Jerome, Idaho, Sixx became a teenage vandal, breaking into neighbors' homes, shoplifting, and being expelled from school for selling drugs. His grandparents sent him to live with his mother, who had moved to Seattle.[4] He lived there for a short time, and learned how to play the bass guitar having bought his first instrument with money earned from selling a prior guitar he had stolen.

At the age of 17, he struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles and working jobs at a liquor store and selling vacuums over the phone while he auditioned for bands. He auditioned for the band Sister, with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. before joining London, a local glam outfit whose lineup saw numerous changes and whose major claim to fame was that its singer, Nigel Benjamin, had sung with a late version of Mott the Hoople. Sixx soon left the band.

Mötley Crüe

In 1981, Sixx founded Mötley Crüe with drummer Tommy Lee, later being joined by guitarist Mick Mars through an ad in the local newspaper he was reading, then by singer Vince Neil with whom Tommy had attended high school. The band decided to self-record their debut album, Too Fast for Love, which was subsequently released in November 1981 on the band's own Leathür Records label. After signing with Elektra Records they re-released the album. The band then went on to record and release Shout at the Devil, raising the band to national fame. Like his bandmates, Nikki Sixx binged on alcohol, cocaine, and most notably heroin.

On the night of December 23, 1987, Sixx was declared dead for two minutes after a heroin overdose, only to be revived by paramedics with two adrenaline shots to the heart (this incident was the inspiration for the song "Kickstart my Heart"). In an interview, Sixx states that after he was declared dead, the ambulance arrived, but one of the paramedics in the ambulance was a Mötley Crüe fan. "Apparently, the paramedic took one look at me and said, 'He's not gonna die'". According to Sixx, this near-death experience had very little impact on him at the time, saying "I went home that night and snorted a long line of heroin and passed out." On an earlier trip to London, Sixx overdosed at a dealer's house and the dealer apparently tried to beat the life back into him with a bat. Afterwards, the dealer dumped Sixx into a nearby dumpster. Sixx recounted the incident in The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.

I had overdosed in London exactly a year earlier: Valentine's Day 1986. We had played the Hammersmith Odeon, and the second we left the stage I caught a taxi with Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks. He took me to a heroin apartment in a real shabby neighborhood. I was drunk and I remember I was very impressed that the dealer had clean needles. When he offered to shoot up for me, I let him. Big mistake. The problem with street drugs is you never really know exactly how potent they are from dealer to dealer, so I OD'd on the spot. My lips turned purple: I was gone. The story I heard was that the dealer grabbed his baseball bat and tried to beat the fucking life into me. He couldn't so he flung me over his shoulder to dump me in the trash, because nobody wants a dead rock star laying around. Then I came to...and I guess I had yet another dark secret to never tell anybody.[5]

This incident was the inspiration behind the lyric "Valentine's in London, found me in the trash" from the Mötley Crüe song "Dancing on Glass".

Soon after his overdose, he and his bandmates went into rehab. In 1989, the band produced their most successful record, Dr. Feelgood, with producer Bob Rock. The album stayed on the charts for 114 weeks after its release. When Mötley Crüe reformed at the end of 2004, Sixx declared himself sober.

Sixx wrote most of Mötley Crüe's material, including tracks such as "Live Wire", "Home Sweet Home", "Girls, Girls, Girls", "Kickstart My Heart" and "Dr. Feelgood". In the 1990s, all four members began contributing to the material on the albums.

In 2006 Mötley Crüe completed a reunion tour featuring all four original members and embarked on a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith, called "The Route of All Evil". On June 24, 2008, Mötley Crüe released their ninth studio album, Saints of Los Angeles, with Sixx credited as either writer or co-writer on all tracks.

Equipment

Signature basses

Nikki Sixx is most often seen playing Gibson Thunderbird basses. Between 2000 and 2003 Gibson produced the Nikki Sixx Signature Blackbird.[6]The Gibson Blackbird was to all intents and purposes a standard Thunderbird bass, but with a satin black finish, Iron Crosses on the fretboard instead of dots, an iron cross behind the classic Thunderbird logo, and Nikki Sixx's 'opti-grab' What also made this bass interesting was the lack of volume or tone controls, being replaced by a single on/off switch. Although subtle, this helped give this Blackbird more tone and a higher output. This model was discontinued in 2003, but has recently been put back in production as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird. [7] Cosmetically the Epiphone Blackbird is identical to the Gibson original, but with a bolt-on single ply neck, solid mahogany body, different pickups and lower grade parts and manufacturing. The Epiphone model still kept the 'opti-grab' and single on/off switch of the Gibson original.

In 2008 Gibson announced a 'limited run' new Nikki Sixx signature bass. Like the original it features a neck through design made of mahogany and walnut, with maple 'wings' to form the body. Unlike the original 'Blackbird' bass, a clear 'satin black cherry' finish is given to the instrument, with red 'slash' X's on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th frets. A mirror pickguard is also applied, with a red signature and two X's (6 x's on the whole bass) is also a new addition. Unlike the Gibson Blackbird, the new signature featured the Volume/ Tone controls, but retained the original 'opti-grab' and the on/off switch.[8]

Other basses

His inspiration to use the Gibson Thunderbird came from Pete "Overend" Watts of Mott the Hoople and John Entwistle of The Who. His first Gibson Thunderbird was a white 1976 model. He would light it on fire with pyro gel during early Mötley Crüe shows, (when they were still a club band) and it finally just disintegrated. He used Precision basses and Rickenbacker basses before he had his first Thunderbird.

Early on, he was sponsored by B.C. Rich, and used Mockingbird & Warlock basses (this can be seen in the videos for "Live Wire", "Looks That Kill" and the 1983 US Festival). He has also used B.C. Bich basses. When Gibson weren't making Thunderbird basses to his preferred specification, Hamer made Thunderbird style basses for him. Apparently the mid '70s Thunderbirds have the sound he was trying to emulate with the Hamer produced models. He used Hamer Thunderbirds during the tour for Theatre of Pain. After that he used Spector Basses during Girls, Girls, Girls and Dr. Feelgood. These Spector basses were shaped like Thunderbirds and usually commonly called Spectorbirds. Sixx owned at last five Spectorbirds. All five had an opti-grab, 1 volume knob, P & J pickups, 24 frets and Spector Basses "Crown" inlays. He used three during the tour for Girls, Girls, Girls, two black ones, both of which had the Gibson Thunderbird Non-Reverse body type. One had a large skull decal covering most of the body. He also used one in a buckeye burl finish with the reverse body style. It had an orange Harley Davidson Crüe sticker where the Thunderbird logo usually is. These all had black hardware. For Dr. Feelgood he used two Spectorbirds, one in sunburst and one in a natural finish. They both had gold hardware and the reverse body style.

During the 1990s, Sixx started using 12-string basses made in Japan by the Hiroshigi Kids Guitar Company; less than 30 were produced. He owns at least five of them: a black one with red lettering and white binding, a black one with gold binding, a black one with white lettering and white binding, a red one with "Helter Skelter" written on it, and a green one. The red and green ones have dragon inlays on the body. He also used 4 and 5 string Epiphone Non-Reverse Thunderbirds for the Generation Swine tour and would usually smash one after his bass solo. He has also used Ernie Ball Music Man 5-String basses, most notably while on tour with Brides of Destruction and the two newly recorded songs for the 1998 Mötley Crüe album, Greatest Hits.

He also has used Fender Precision Basses, particularly when smashing basses at the end of a set. They are usually black Squier Precision Basses with white pickguards. He previously used Ampeg amplifiers, but has switched to Basson amplifiers.

While recording The Heroin Diaries soundtrack, he used a '59 Fender Precision which was amplified through a '64 Fender Bassman. The '59 Fender Precision is also his favorite bass for recording in the studio.

Personal life

From December 1986 to September 1987, Sixx dated singer/actress/model Vanity. They had a rocky and drug-filled relationship, which is chronicled in Sixx's book The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. During this time, Vanity would tell the press that they were engaged, while Sixx would always deny her claim.

From May 1989 to November 1996, Sixx was married to former Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt; they had three children: Gunner Nicholas Sixx (b. January 25, 1991), Storm Brieann Sixx (b. April 14, 1994), and Decker Nilsson Sixx (b. May 23, 1995).

One month after