Henry Yates  of Classic Rock spoke with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx about his new memoir, The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx, among other topics. Highlights from the interview appear below.

Classic Rock: What was it about rock’n roll that spoke to you? 

Nikki Sixx: I remember hearing someone say, “That heavy metal is going to turn you into a degenerate!” And I thought, “That sounds like a pretty good path, I think I’ll take that one.” Like, “You can have Donny and Marie, or you can have Aerosmith and the Sex Pistols.” Hmmm, let me think about this…

Classic Rock: What are your memories of being bullied at school? 

Nikki Sixx: We were living out in the middle of nowhere, in Anthony, New Mexico. And kids are kids. They can be cruel. I’m a father of five. I’ve seen it. It’s how humans are wired. When I finally fought back, I think two things happened. One is that I took control of the situation…The other was that I was willing to face the consequences. 

So when my grandfather picked me up and took me into the car, I thought I was dead meat, right? You can’t strike out, beat the sh-t out of other kids at school, because they’re just gonna go, “You’re the bad guy.” Not them. They’re the ones with the bloody nose, not you. But my grandfather, I remember he told me: “I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself.” That had a big effect for me. Standing up for myself. Standing up for what I believed in. You can go deeper. It was an important moment. 

Classic Rock: The book is subtitled How I Became Nikki Sixx. Do you see Nikki as a character, an alter ego? What is he? 

Nikki Sixx: No, Nikki Sixx is a breathing, living man. And Frank Feranna [Dana’s note: Sixx’s birth name, which he legally changed to Nikki Sixx] was a young boy…

…My twenty-year-old daughter, her name is Frankie. I have another daughter called Ruby, but her middle name is Feranna. For the book, I went back and talked to all my childhood friends, ex-bandmates, I even found my first girlfriend, which was mind-blowing. We got to reminisce. And it really did remind me that Frank was a dreamer – and Nikki Sixx was his assassin.

Classic Rock: Why did people find you so provocative? 

Nikki Sixx: I mean, I don’t think it helped how I dressed. Y’know, all the punks would go to the punk night there, right? And then you’ve got some crazy, glam, Johnny ThundersStiv Bators-looking “girl” – y’know, they’re gonna say shit. And that’s why I went there. I went there for that very reason. I don’t want to fit in. I just don’t want to. I’ve never understood the concept of fitting in. 

I think that’s why Mötley Crüe always changed our logo, changed our image, changed our sound, on every single album. And it’s why, when Mötley Crüe would play in the early days and people would flip us off and they didn’t get it – we loved it. We felt like we must have been doing the right thing. I still feel like an underdog – and I like it.

Classic Rock: Who was the best musician in Mötley Crüe? 

Nikki Sixx: They’re all really f–king good. Tommy [Lee] is a monster on drums. Mick [Mars] is one of my favorite guitar players. And Vince [Neil] has something that nobody else has. Isn’t that what you’re looking for – guys that don’t sound like anybody else? I’m not a great player. Like, if I really woodshed for six months, I’m okay. But if I was a different kind of bass player, it would offset the sound of the band. Mötley Crüe is an interesting band, because if you remove any one member, it completely changes the sound…

… A lot of times, Vince would tell me he struggled with the fact I put so many lyrics in a song. Shout At The Devil is a good example. And because of the way that Vince sang, that was what made his voice excel. His voice was kind of like a Gatling gun. Like, bap-bap-bap. I remember the first time the four of us ever played together, we ran Live Wire. I turned around to adjust my bass amp, and Tommy and I just gave each other a look: “Something’s happening here.”

Classic Rock: What did you want Mötley Crüe to be when you first started out?

Nikki Sixx: We didn’t want to be like anybody else. And we didn’t care if you liked us. We all emulate, of course. That’s human nature. You take a little of this, a little of that. But you’re also doing your own thing and going by your gut. We loved the angst of punk…

Classic Rock: 1989’s Dr. Feelgood was the band’s biggest seller – but do you think it’s your best album? 

Nikki Sixx: I think there’s some shining moments. I think all of our albums have really shining moments. Every album has the songs like Kickstart My Heart, Shout At The Devil, Live Wire or Wild Side. They all have ’em. But they’re albums. Even with my favorite bands, it’s more about the whole package. I listen to whole records. I don’t listen to singles. 

Kickstart My Heart is a really interesting song, though. I remember, it was hammered out on acoustic guitar. It was a bit more of a punk-rock idea. The lyric, I was being a bit snarky, because radio and MTV was starting to get more nervous and corporate. So the opening line was: ‘When I get high, I get high on speed’. But then, the next line was: ‘Top fuel funny car’s a drug for me’. So it was like, I got out of it, y’know? Like, just close enough but not too close to the flame. 

Classic Rock: Are you better friends with Vince, Mick and Tommy now than when you first started the band? 

Nikki Sixx: Well, we know each other so well. Do you know anybody you’ve been through as many highs and lows with as Mötley Crüe has for forty years?  don’t. I know all their strengths and weaknesses, and we try to be there for each other. But at the same time… somebody asked me the other day, “Do you guys all ride together on the same bus? Do you have the same dressing room?” And I thought, “Well, how sweet.” I don’t live with the band.

Classic Rock: Do you ever think it’s unfair that so many clean-living people die young, while you’re still fit and healthy at sixty-two? 

Nikki Sixx:

Y’know, I think this falls a little bit under the question you had earlier about lifestyle. A lot of people don’t realize this, but I’m 20 years sober. But before that, I had six years of sobriety. And before that, I had four years where I was clean, right? For those first [periods of sobriety], I went up and down. 

But I’m really looking at somewhere between twenty-five to thirty years of not sticking needles in and drinking alcohol and taking pills and stuff. I actually live a pretty clean lifestyle. But people don’t think that when I walk into the restaurant. People are always like, “Hey man! What’s happening? High five! Let me buy you a shot of Jack Daniel’s!” I’m like, “It’s been three decades!”

Classic Rock: What have been the high points of recent years? 

Nikki Sixx: Two things have really changed my life over the last few years. Firstly, there was The Dirt movie in 2019. Y’know, 73 million people or whatever it is now have seen that movie, and it’s made an impact on not only our fans but people who had heard of us, had maybe heard a song or two. Younger people, they don’t really see rock bands like that. The new rock bands… [laughs] well, it’s a different time. Probably rightfully so…

…and also The Stadium Tour. We didn’t think we would ever tour again, via our own decision. But when the offer came for stadiums and Def Leppard, it was like, “Well, you know what? I guess rules are meant to be broken, because this is going to be one hell of a celebration.”

Classic Rock: It feels like Mötley Crüe have said goodbye to us a few times now. Will this thing ever actually be over? 

Nikki Sixx: Well, eventually, one of us is going to die. I don’t know, man. I tell you what – since the pandemic, I am just living day by day. And s–t happens.

Read more at Classic Rock.

The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx can be ordered here.

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After wrapping a successful and uninterrupted fall 2021 tour, Alice Cooper recently announced a run of January and February dates ahead of a headline appearance on the Monsters Of Rock cruise, which takes place February 9th -14th. Cooper has confirmed a slate of new spring 2022 dates, begining March 18th in Connecticut and winding down on April 23rd in California. Support will come from Buckcherry on most dates, with Ace Frehley appearing on some shows.

Alice Cooper tour dates with Buckcherry:

Mar. 18 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino* 
Mar. 19 – Hanover, MD – The Hall at Live! Casino and Hotel 
Mar. 20 – Pittsburgh, PA – Heinz Hall 
Mar. 22 – Newark, NJ – New Jersey Performing Arts Center 
Mar. 23 – Wilkes-Barre, PA – Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza 
Mar. 25 – Erie, PA – Warner Theatre 
Mar. 26 – Toronto, ON – Meridian Hall 
Mar. 27 – Peterborough, ON – Memorial Centre 
Mar. 29 – South Bend, IN – Morris Performing Arts Center 
Mar. 30 – Davenport, IA – Adler Theatre 
Mar. 31 – Appleton, WI – Fox Cities Performing Arts Center 
Apr. 2 – Prior Lake, MN – Mystic Lake Casino Showroom 
Apr. 3 – Sioux Falls, SD – Washington Pavilion 
Apr. 4 – Ralston, NE – Ralston Arena 
Apr. 6 – Bismarck, ND – Bismarck Event Center 
Apr. 7 – Grand Forks, ND – Alerus Center 
Apr. 9 – Winnipeg, MB – Canada Life Centre 
Apr. 10 – Moose Jaw, SK – Mosaic Place 
Apr. 12 – Edmonton, AB – Northern Jubilee Auditorium 
Apr. 14 – Calgary, AB – Winsport Arena 
Apr. 15 – Penticton, BC – South Okanagan Events Center 
Apr. 16 – Abbotsford, BC – Abbotsford Ent & Sports Centre 
Apr. 19 – Portland, OR – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall 
Apr. 20 – Seattle, WA – McCaw Hall

* Buckcherry not appearing

With Ace Frehley:

Apr. 22 – Reno, NV – Grand Sierra Resort 
Apr. 23 – Paso Robles, CA – Vina Robles Amphitheatre

Alice’s universally acclaimed 2021 album, Detroit Stories is available through earMUSIC. The record is a celebration of the sound and spirit of the Golden Era of Detroit rock, and debuted on the Billboard album sales chart at No. 1 upon release in February.

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David Lee Roth has added four more shows to his upcoming Las Vegas residency.

In addition to playing at Mandalay Bay’s House Of Blues on December 31st, January 1st, 5th, 7th and 8th, the Van Halen singer will now also also perform on January 14th-15th and January 21st-22nd.

Roth Las Vegas residency dates are now as follows:

December 31st, 2021 
January 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 2022

Roth explained his decision to extend the residency in an audio message earlier today. He said (as transcribed by blabbermouth.net), “…David Lee here…I had no idea how many of you wanted to pay to see me go. [Laughs] So I’m putting more tickets on sale, instead of doing the wrong thing and pissing more people off. I have industry professionals now ringing in, telling me, ‘Dave, at your age, you should be in the middle of your third retirement. Did you watch Rocky movies? He’s on his seventh. Same guy, Rambo — fifth. He’s about 14 retirements ahead of you.’ Just when I get out, they drag me back in.

…I’m gonna extend my world goodbye tour of Las Vegas at the House Of Blues for two more weekends — like any good f–king barbecue. Just like you would, if you could.”

In early October Roth told the  Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I am throwing in the shoes. I’m retiring. This is the first, and only, official announcement. … You’ve got the news. Share it with the world.”

Read more, here.

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Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth has released a seven-minute video , which can be seen below, where the singer discusses how he was involved in helping to create the iconic red-white-and-black-striped pattern for guitarist Eddie Van Halen‘s “Frankenstein” guitar. Van Halen has held the copyright, for the design, since 2001.

In 2011, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History acquired the Frank 2 guitar played and made famous by Eddie Van Halen through a partnership donation with Fender Musical Instruments.

The guitar was made in 2006 as part of a joint venture between the artist and Fender to produce a limited-edition number of guitars for the EVH brand. Known as the Frankenstein Replica, or Frank 2, it is part of the museum’s Division of Culture and the Arts, which preserves a large and diverse collection of instruments.

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Steve Vai and Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group have announced his new studio album titled Inviolate which will be released digitally and on CD January 28th, 2022. The LP will follow on March 18th. Today, they present the song Little Pretty which can be previewed below. The recording is a dark-toned fusion-funk workout played almost exclusively on a Gretsch hollow body guitar. As for what led Vai to the unusual (at least for him) model, he says: “It’s on the wall with all the other guitars, and I’d always just look at it and go, ‘One day I’m going to play you…'” He continues, “In writing the chord changes for the solo section, and the solo itself, I dug deep into my academic music theory mind to create a set of chord changes where the harmonic atmosphere shifted on every change. The dense chord structures required a series of synthetic modes to navigate. This approach is along the lines of jazz and fusion players, but I knew I did not want it to sound anything like that and the solo had to be totally melodic. The results were pretty powerful in that the entire solo section evokes melodic atmospheric changes that shift dramatically but work together well.”

Over the course of a more than 40-year career, Vai has routinely transformed what would appear to be outrageously impossible into something very, very possible… and still also pretty outrageous. From his days as Frank Zappa’s “stunt guitar” player to his more recent expansive and exploratory solo work, Vai has continually challenged notions of traditional guitar playing and composition — and on more than one occasion even reimagined the very instrument itself.

Which, he’ll admit, is not necessarily his intention. “I don’t sit around and say, ‘Okay, what can I do now that pushes the boundaries?” Vai explains about his approach to the guitar. “What I do say to myself is, ‘Okay, Vai — what are you going to do now that’s going to interest you, that’s going to fascinate you, and that’s different than anything you’ve done before?” The answer to that question comes in the form of Vai’s newest and 10th solo album, Inviolate, a nine-song opus that does indeed push the boundaries of instrumental guitar music — this time out, Vai quite literally invented not just a new guitar, but also a new guitar-playing technique.

At the same time, Inviolate presents his most focused, streamlined and perhaps invigorating music in years. “It’s very ‘Vai,’ whatever that means,” he says, and then laughs. “Someone else might be better than me at explaining what that is. But it’s just very honest music. Because a lot of my records, they’re long and there’s a lot of concepts and playing around with stories. This one has none of that. This is nine pretty dense all-instrumental compositions that I wanted to capture and record so I could get out there and play them live for people.”

The album’s mesmeric opener, Teeth Of The Hydra, a sinuous, Latin-fusion-tinged composition that Vai wrote and recorded with a one-of-a-kind custom guitar he coined the Hydra. But calling the Hydra a mere guitar is selling it way, way, way short. Built in conjunction with the designers at Hoshino and based on a “steampunk motif” idea of Vai’s, the Hydra is a beast of an instrument — a one-bodied, two-headstock-ed, three-neck-ed creature that encompasses, among other things: seven- and 12-string guitars; a four-string bass; sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges; phase splitters; and much, much more. “It’s an incredibly-built machine,” Vai says. “I told the guys at Hoshino, ‘Anything that you think is conventional, don’t do that.’ This was an opportunity to exercise brutal creativity. And they went beyond.”

As did Vai in his performance. Throughout the track he employs the Hydra’s full range of tone and timbres to craft a guitar part that sounds, in its expansiveness and expressiveness, positively alive. “The interesting thing about the song and the guitar is that it all came at the same time,” Vai says. “It was one of those ‘inviolate’ inspirations — boom!”

That said, he continues, “I knew that I needed to create something with the Hydra that sounded like a real piece of music. It couldn’t be just a novelty. Because if you knew what my hands were doing, and how I’m using my left hand to create phrasings that work when I can’t pick a note because my right hand is off somewhere else…my god. But the finished piece had to stand on its own. It couldn’t sound like I was just trying to juggle stuff.”

Over the course of 2021, several of these compositions were shared publicly. Vai composed and recorded the song Knappsack, following his shoulder surgery, at a time when his right arm was in a sling (or, as his surgeon, Dr. Knapp, called it, a “knappsack”), and thus was able to use only his left hand when playing the piece. He released a one-handed performance video. He says with a laugh, “pretty soon after I started to see some clips of young kids pulling it off, too. It’s really fascinating.”

Those kids will likely face a greater challenge attempting to take on another Inviolate track, Candle Power. For this one, Vai not only set up parameters outside of his comfort zone (Strat-style guitar; clean tone; no whammy bar; no pick), but also — why not? — developed an entirely new guitar technique that he calls “joint shifting.” The core concept there, he explains, is to enact simultaneous multiple string bends in opposite directions, which “requires bending only the top joint of the finger independently from any other finger.” And while he acknowledges that bending multiple strings is not a new concept in and of itself, “I had not seen any of it done in the way I envisioned it,” he says.

Like KnappsackVai released Candle Power an accompanying performance video earlier in 2021. But he added a little something extra to the version that appears on Inviolate, with a newly recorded drum track from fellow Zappa alumnus Terry Bozzio (to that end, additional crack players who lent a hand to the record include bassists Bryan BellerPhilip Bynoe and Henrik Linder, keyboardist David Rosenthal and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta).

On Apollo In Color, Vai’s soaring runs on his Ibanez PIA signature guitar (the newly-designed model’s first appearance on a Vai studio album are surrounded by filigrees of sound played on all manner of exotic stringed instruments. “I thought, ‘Okay, what can I do to color this thing up?'” Vai says. “So, I pulled out all these little acoustic instruments I’ve collected through the years and I said, ‘I’m going to use every one of them somehow.'” These included a cavaquinho, a saz, a sitar, an oud and more. “Some of the instruments, I don’t even know their names,” Vai admits with a laugh.

In essence, it all comes down to finding your own voice, and then having the courage and conviction to follow your musical and creative instincts wherever they may take you — something Vai has never been shy about in his playing. “One of the great things about the guitar is you don’t need to be a virtuoso to express your creative vision,” he says. “I mean, Bob Dylan plays the guitar perfectly well for his expression. So does John McLaughlin. You just need to decide how much technique you want or need to get there. For myself, I came out of the chute wanting and needing it all. When it comes to my music, I don’t feel like I have to prove anything or conform to anything. I just love to think up creative ideas, and then use whatever skill I have to manifest them.”

“An inviolate inspiration is one that comes to you completely pure,” Vai explains. “It appears almost in its completeness, and there’s a recognition of it as being right for you — perfectly right for you. There’s no excuses in it. There’s no fantasy in it. There’s just a recognition of ‘yes.’ And then you capture that in a way that’s authentic to your unique creativity. Hopefully, that’s what I’ve done with this record.”

Inviolate track listing:

1. Teeth Of The Hydra 
2. Zeus In Chains 
3. Little Pretty 
4. Candle Power 
5. Apollo In Color 
6. Avalancha 
7. Greenish Blues 
8. Knappsack 
9. Sandman Cloud Mist

Vai will begin an extensive tour of the U.S., with 54 scheduled appearances on January 27th, 2022 at the House Of Blues in Las Vegas.  Vai will be joined by his long-tenured ensemble members Dave Weiner (guitar / keys), Philip Bynoe (bass), and Jeremy Colson (drums). Vai shares, “A performer thrives on performing. It’s been my life for the past 49 years, with the exception of the last two years, so we are chomping at the bit to get out there and play for people. A music concert has the ability to dissolve the many challenges we face, and celebrate one of the good things in life, live music.” 

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Iron Maiden will return to North America in 2022 to bring the Legacy Of The Beast world tour to yet more cities, many of which the band has not performed in for many years. The show has already been seen by almost two million people across the globe, being hailed by fans and media alike as the most extravagant and visually spectacular performance of the band’s career to date, with a decades-spanning set list of fan favorites. The 2022 tour, produced by Live Nation, will also include some songs from their new studio album “Senjutsu” being played live for the first time. Very special guests on the 2022 dates will be Trivium on all dates between El Paso and Spokane, and then Within Temptation on all dates from Sioux Falls to Tampa.

Registration for first access to tickets is open now via Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform and will run through 10:00 p.m. ET on December 5th. Verified Fan presale begins December 8th at 10 a.m. local. As always, there will be an exclusive pre-sale for Iron Maiden fan club members beginning December 7th at 10 a.m. local. All presales end on December 9 at 10 p.m. local. Any remaining tickets will go on sale on December 10th at 10 a.m. local time.

The band’s manager Rod Smallwood comments: “Next summer we will finally get to play the huge European stadium tour for the Legacy Of The Beast, and the new show will be even more spectacular. So, after our visit to Rock In Rio early September 2022, we decided to take it back to our fans in North America too, but in cities or venues we didn’t play in 2019, including some we haven’t visited in many years, like El Paso, Spokane, Sioux Falls, Columbus, Hamilton, Ottawa and Greensboro.

We’ll be making a couple of additions and changes to the production and setlist to include some songs from our new album, Senjutsu, and are making the 2022 version of Legacy Of The Beast even more spectacular than the acclaimed original show. You can be sure that we will still be featuring all the ‘hits’ and the key elements of the original tour like the Spitfire, Icarus, Hell, flamethrowers and pyro and the rest — but we will shake it up a bit and Trooper Eddie will have serious competition in the new Senjutsu’ world’ we are adding.”

Vocalist Bruce Dickinson adds, “We’re really looking forward to our return to North America so we can bring the Legacy Of The Beast show to places we didn’t get to in 2019 and to other cities we’ve not played for many years. I’m really excited about the new additions and changes to the stage production and we can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve got planned. The whole band has really enjoyed the Legacy tour and now we just can’t wait get back out on the road to play live, have fun and see everyone again.”

The Legacy Of The Beast tour production and set list is inspired by Maiden’s award-winning free to play mobile game of the same name which is available on iOS and Android platforms.

A Trooper VIP hospitality upgrade package is currently being planned and details will be announced closer to the tour dates for any fans who might want to enjoy additional at-show benefits.

North American dates:

Sep. 11 – El Paso, TX – Don Haskins Center 
Sep. 13 – Austin, TX – Moody Center 
Sep. 15 – Tulsa, OK – BOK Center 
Sep. 17 – Denver, CO – Ball Arena 
Sep. 19 – Salt Lake City, UT – Usana Amphitheatre 
Sep. 21 – Anaheim, CA – Honda Center 
Sep. 25 – Chula Vista, CA – North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre 
Sep. 27 – Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion 
Sep. 29 – Seattle, WA – Climate Pledge Arena 
Sep. 30 – Spokane, WA – Spokane Arena 
Oct. 3 – Sioux Falls, SD – Denny Sanford Premier Center 
Oct. 5 – Chicago, IL – United Center 
Oct. 7 – Columbus, OH – Nationwide Arena 
Oct. 9 – Detroit, MI – Little Caesars Arena 
Oct. 11 – Toronto, ON – Scotiabank Centre 
Oct. 12 – Hamilton, ON – Firstontario Centre 
Oct. 15 – Ottawa, ON – Canadian Tire Centre 
Oct. 17 – Worcester, MA – DCU Center 
Oct. 19 – Belmont Park, NY – UBS Arena 
Oct. 21 – Newark, NJ – Prudential Center 
Oct. 23 – Washington, DC – Capital One Arena 
Oct. 25 – Greensboro, NC – Greensboro Coliseum 
Oct. 27 – Tampa, FL – Amalie Arena

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