Releasing records is a complicated business, we’re led to believe. Information has to be drip-fed and titles announced at key moments.
Unfortunately for the people who spent months strategising the release of Sixx:A.M.’s new album, that all went out of the window when the band went on Planet Rock radio to talk about what they’d been up to. Within moments, Nikki Sixx announced the title of the album, and the second of the two-part release due later this year.
He also swore live on-air. Perfect for a band interested in maintaining their rock & roll credibility; a head-in-the-hands moment for the presenter of the show and the band’s publicist.
“Well, it’s our record and I can talk about it if I want,” Sixx says, defiantly.
And he’s right. If anything, announcing the band’s album, Vol. 1 Prayers For The Damned and its logically titled follow-up - you’ve guessed it, Vol. 2 Prayers For The Damned - got fans more excited.
The band has been releasing music since recording the soundtrack to Sixx’s autobiography The Heroin Diaries in 2007.
Their second album, This Is Gonna Hurt, wasn’t released until 2011, while their third, Modern Vintage arrived in 2014.
“We’ve made two records in the time it normally takes Sixx:AM to make one. But it’s because we were hyper-focused,” says singer James Michael.
It’s easy now all three members are no longer involved with other bands. Sixx was bassist with Motley Crue until the pioneering hard rock band’s final-ever show last year. He had founded the band with Mick Mars and Tommy Lee in the early Eighties, but they decided to finally call it quits after several hiatuses and reformations.
“We were ready,” says Sixx. “We talked four or five years ago and set an exit date. We said what we needed to, and decided to take it round the world one more time. Plus, I was getting all these offers of tours and festivals with Sixx:AM, so I knew it was time to go for it.”
Sixx:A.M.’s guitarist Dj Ashba was a member of Guns N’ Roses between 2009 and 2015, but decided to drop out prior to the band reforming with old members.
“We did a 19-date tour, and at the end of each show fans would be crying, and every hair on my body would be standing on end,” he says. “But I realised in my heart that I’d been doing the wrong thing. I couldn’t be more happy to be true to my heart, and that’s playing songs I’ve written. There’s a big difference when you’re playing songs that someone else wrote. The pay’s great, of course, but it’s not about the money, that’s not why any of us go into this.”
Michael himself had been producing, mixing and co-writing for a number of artists, including Motley Crue, James Durbin, Papa Roach, Kelly Clarkson and Hinder, and also singing with alt-rock band Halestorm.
“It’s about having more time to focus,” says Ashba, “but I credit a lot of these albums to Monster energy drinks. They kept me going.”
They agree Prayers For The Damned is the first time the trio have made a Sixx:A.M. record knowing the band had a future.
“We never knew what it was prior to this,” says Michael. “It wasn’t until we toured the Modern Vintage album in 2014 that we realised the band is a must for us, it’s something we need to see through. At that point, our mentalities shifted and it’s no side-project any more.”
Not only have the band got two albums due for release this year, they’re also talking about the album that will follow.
“We feel like a new band again,” continues Michael. “We have played for some time, but we feel we have to pay our dues all over again, and we really want to conquer the world. We do have the luxury of having three records out already and a handful of hit songs with a big fan base.”
Ashba says the band’s newest music is their best, due to the fact the trio have been able to spend more time together working on it, and Vol. 2 will carry on from where Vol. 1 left off.
“We didn’t want to drop a double album out there,” says Sixx. “If you put out 22 songs on a record, is anyone really appreciating song 17? Or even song 12? For us, 11 per album is perfect, and it gives people a chance to fall in love with it a bit at a time.”
He’s particularly excited about a new record being released while the band are some way into their world tour, giving them more opportunities at their gigs, keeping it interesting for themselves and the fans.
“You have to worry about your fans and not your bank account,” continues Sixx. “People are telling us that rock music is dead, but we see that’s just not true, our fans tell us it’s not true. People have been saying rock’s dead since the Sixties.”
Ashba, meanwhile, says the biggest thing driving him forward this time around is that they have so much to prove.
“We’re leaving two of the biggest bands in the world to commit to this full time,” he says. “Motley Crue were insanely big, and Guns N’ Roses too. We could’ve carried on with those things but it’s in our nature to push hard and do something else.”
Vol. 1 is a heavy record, at least as heavy as anything Guns N’ Roses or Motley Crue ever released.
That, says Michael, is a reaction to global events - US politics making people volatile, angry and scared.
“This campaign is one of the most vicious, loudest elections I’ve ever seen. And there’s a reason for that. People, for better or for worse, are not satisfied. This is why people like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are making such waves. It’s not about whether you agree with them or not, it’s a reflection of how the world feels and a rejection of traditional politics.”
“You have to reflect on stuff internally, too,” says Sixx. “This is not a political album, and yes, we have songs like Rise, but there are other songs like Better Man that have nothing to do with politics. We are saying something, and that’s important for everyone.”
The most important thing for all of them seems to be the fact they’ve finally given their side-project a chance to become something more.
“There’s no more, ‘What if?’” says Michael, while Sixx adds there are no more obstacles in the band’s way either.
“It’s 10 years next year since we released our first record,” says Sixx. “And that’s significant. Here’s to 10 more.”
Sixx:A.M.’s new album Vol. 1 Prayers For The Damned is out now. They play Isle Of Wight and Download festivals in June.