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Nikki Sixx talks about coming to terms with his challenging childhood and moving beyond it

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Motley Crue bassist and songwriter Nikki Sixx talks about his new book, The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx, and talks about his difficult childhood, forgiving his parents and moving beyond that to become who he is. He also talks about the rewards and the challenges of finding sobriety.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

LYNDSEY PARKER: Obviously, you're the author or co-author of two epic, explosive rock and roll books already, "The Dirt," which is the best tell-all rock and roll book of all time. And of course, the "Heroin Diaries" as well. So the obvious first question is having told so much of your story already in those two books, what made you feel like you needed to go back to all the pre-Crüe stuff--

NIKKI SIXX: Right.

LYNDSEY PARKER: --for "The First 21?"

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah, that's a good question. I am by nature kind of like a documentarian. I want to trace from my birth to when I changed my name. You know, it's a mic drop.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Well, the last time I interviewed you, which was, I believe it was last year, it was about the activism you were doing you know, regarding the opioid crisis. And there's a line in this book "The First 21" which I'm going to read here that is early on in the book that really stuck with me. And you say, "You might think that when you get clean, life swells up into a big bowl of cherries but the opposite happens. When you get off drugs or whatever band-aids you've been using to cover your wounds, you start to hurt and ask the hard questions." So I'm very curious that yeah, did you have some kind of floodgate opening once you were clean and sober? What questions were you asking, like did stuff that you sort of suppressed about your father leaving, about your childhood?

NIKKI SIXX: I got sober, we did the "Dr. Feelgood" album, and then we were talking about doing the follow-up record. And I remember Bob Rock calling me and says, so what are you going to write about now, Sixx? Like everything's great. Then I go, externally but I still lay my head down in a 10,000 square-foot jail cell. So I was working through it. I did so much therapy. Oh my God, I think I was a therapy junkie.

And this book gave me an opportunity to really look at my family, and my life, and maybe have some empathy like for my dad. You know, finding out that my dad left right around the time that my sister Lisa who was born with Down syndrome, was sent to a home, and no one in my family has yet said that's why he left. My uncle said something made Frank, my dad, made him really angry and he left. And you know, my part of that is, yeah but he left me behind. So how do I have empathy, and how do I try to look at it from a 10,000-foot view?

LYNDSEY PARKER: The story about your sister, Lisa, the one you just mentioned, the one who had Down syndrome, I mean, you didn't know like you never knew her. This was like a piece of the puzzle that you didn't put into the puzzle until--

NIKKI SIXX: Till later.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Yeah.

NIKKI SIXX: The doctor said she should not come home. I'm two I think. My dad and my mom decided to bring her home and take care of her. So she was with us in San Jose, California where I was born, my sister was born, for 11 months. And you know, I kind of like dug into this a little bit and I'm like so do I have some like, could have I done something different, could have I? You know but every time I talk to family members. It was like, you can't go see Lisa because it upsets her. I also have like a lot of regrets around that you know but I realized I got a lot of wrong information.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Right.

NIKKI SIXX: That was an opportunity in this book to clarify.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Well, I'm wondering what kind of closure or sense of peace or whatever that might have brought you because you'd grown up your whole life thinking maybe in more black and white like my dad's a jerk, and he left me. And then you have, you realize it's a little more complex than that. How did you react to that? I imagine there might be part that's anger, feeling you were deceived, lied to but maybe there was a part that kind of like was a relief at the same time?

NIKKI SIXX: It opened up the floodgates in a lot of ways. About four years ago, I was at my aunt and uncle's house when I said you know, can I just like ask you something, my mom said-- this is my mom's sister, Arlene-- said that my dad was an alcoholic and a womanizer and a drug addict and he was a bad guy. So that's what I thought. Nobody ever contested that. And then so I asked them, I said, what was my dad like as far as these things?

And my uncle and my aunt go, I don't think I ever saw your dad even have a beer. I was like, boom, are you f-ing kidding me? And you know, I was not hard because I didn't want to go at it this way but I could have just slayed my mom in this book. It's not necessary. She's passed away. God bless her, she did the best she could. I guess in the '60s you know, my mom was pretty [BLEEP] wild. Had me at 17. You know, it is what it is, man. That's my story and turned it into I guess, I turned lemons into lemonade.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Absolutely. So as you mentioned, the book ends with you changing your name, you had your father's name, you legally changed it to Nikki Sixx. That started your whole new life, your new chapter. But it ends with you trying to reach out to your dad.

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah.

LYNDSEY PARKER: On the surface to ask for some money because you were in a bad spot. But as you say in the book, probably beneath that, you were also looking for connection. You find out that he has passed away.

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Kind of a loaded question but I imagine it's a question you thought about, what do you think would have happened if he were still alive, and you know, he had answered the phone?

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Do you think you might have been able-- have you thought about like if your relationship could have been revived or if you would have found this stuff out sooner, what are your thoughts when you think about what could have been?

NIKKI SIXX: You know, I think I was in an explosive time in my life. Depending on how that conversation went with him, it would have been like I miss you so much, you're my son, I want to help you. I'm going to come to LA, I want to see you. I'd have been like, wow. You know but that conversation never happened. I'm sure he loved his son. But the question is did he love me enough to go against my mom? You know, so you know, we don't know.

I'm OK leaving some of these Is not dotted and Ts not crossed because I don't want to make up stuff. It's OK, I think a lot of people that have talked to me after they read the book have said, man, I just so can see parts of my family in there. Or well, what my dad did for our family and you know, blah, blah, blah. So I'm enjoying this because it's not a rock and roll tale.

LYNDSEY PARKER: In the book, you talk about how you feel you may have inherited your father's coldness, or what you perceived to be his coldness at the time. But you know, from all I've ever observed, you've always been a very involved and loving father. And you recently became a father again.

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah.

LYNDSEY PARKER: So congratulations on that. So I'm curious about how you did break that cycle given that you had this, for lack of a better word, baggage from your own experience with your father.

NIKKI SIXX: Yeah.

LYNDSEY PARKER: How, you know, that is a very common thing if someone's been abused or neglected--

NIKKI SIXX: Pass it on.

LYNDSEY PARKER: --it happens. How did you not?

NIKKI SIXX: Sobriety changed my life. It opened a lot of doors for me. And they were more doors that included work it's like, oh my God, I've been tired since I'm 13. All I do is work, and I love it but you know, when you get sober, well, I've got to look at that, and I'm going to need to kind of look at that. I didn't want to carry that forward.

You know, I always say to some friends that have struggled or are struggling, just give your life to sobriety for one solid year. Do all the hard work, do the therapy. You know, whatever it takes, and you will be amazed at what your life turns out to be.