Five years ago, James Michael had all but given up the dream of being a 'rock star.' After a failed attempt as a solo artist, James had become content with working behind the scenes for other musicians, producing and writing for legends like Meatloaf and (more recently) the Scorpions.
But out of nowhere, James Michael found himself thrust into the spotlight, as the frontman of Sixx: A.M., touring the US for the first annual (Motley) Cruefest, as Nikki Sixx's mere 'soundtrack' to his autobiography ("The Heroin Diaries") became a hit that no one really expected.
That was four years ago. James is now enjoying the fact that Sixx: A.M. has another hit on their hands, as "This Is Gonna Hurt" (released May 3, 2011) debuted in Billboard's Top 10 album chart. However, this time, don't expect to see Sixx: A.M. hitting the road anytime soon, as both Nikki Sixx and Dj Ashba, have tours coming up with both of their respective, 'main' bands. Aside from the CD's tie in with Nikki's photography book (of the same name), the group have been discussing some alternate ways to promote "This Is Gonna Hurt."
While James is in the midst of writing for a myriad of other projects, he took the time to call us here, at RockMusicStar.com, to catch us up on what he's been doing, and what lies head for Sixx: A.M..
RockMusicStar: You just released "This Is Gonna Hurt" last week, and it debuted in Billboard's Top 10. Congratulations!
James Michael: Thanks man! It's just been a great week. I really had no idea how this was going to be received and we've all been just thrilled with the response so far. The single, "Lies of the Beautiful People," really shot up the charts, and has done really well. People are really connecting with the message of this record, so we couldn't be happier.
RMS: Being that Nikki Sixx and Dj Ashba have such demanding, high profile gigs with Motley and GNR, were you confident that a second Sixx: A.M. CD was even going to happen?
JM: No. In fact, I think that once we all got off of the road on Cruefest 1, there was some discussion right away, about the fact that the record had been successful, and that we should do another record. At that time, we weren't sure if we even wanted to make another record. It really took us awhile to wrap our heads around why Sixx: A.M. should make another record. That was the first hurdle.
It took us awhile to figure out what our purpose was going to be for this new record. Once we started talking about Nikki's photography, and just about the imagery, and the messages (they sent), it just became a mission for us. At that point, all expectations for the record, just went away. Our goal just became to make the most incredible record that we could. We knew that we had to do something special, to follow up the "Heroin Diaries soundtrack." To do a record without a purpose, just didn't make any sense to any of us.
RMS: From what I've heard and read online from Nikki Sixx, the band doesn't have any plans to tour, in support of the CD.
JM: At this point, we have no tour plans. That kind of plays into what Sixx: A.M. is all about. We're an unconventional band. We're kind of the band that isn't a band. We're not the type of band that's going to get into the record cycle/tour cycle/record cycle/tour cycle. That's just not what we're all about. That's not what motivates us. As you pointed out, both of my band mates are in bands that do a lot of touring. This whole project is not based on that.
That being said, we LOVED touring on the first record. To get out and play these songs live, would be just an absolute thrill. And the response to the record so far, has just been incredible. I know that all three of us have the desire to do it, to get out there and bring this record to life. I would never say never. We certainly have intentions on doing something unique around this record, I just don't know what it is. And it won't be just your typical tour.
RMS: With this day and age of music, with downloading taking away from album sales, it seems touring is more important than ever, in order to make or break a record. Are you concerned that by not touring, it may affect the overall success of "This Is Gonna Hurt?"
JM: I wouldn't say that it is a 'concern.' All of us have day jobs. I produce records for a living, and write songs for other artists for a living, and those guys play in other bands. Nikki's got his radio show, so none of us do this (Sixx: A.M.) because we need to make a living. We do this because we love what this project represents.
A lot of bands will just get out on the road, and they'll just pound it. But for us, that's why we're doing a documentary, that's why we're attaching this to a book, and finding other ways to reach the audience. We're in a new world now. We're not in the same music business we were 5 or 10 years ago. There are new ways to find an audience and connect with them. That's what we're exploring, and it's exciting.
RMS: On to the record itself, I'm really digging what I'm hearing. However, I did notice some changes you made this time around, with no commentary from Nikki and no instrumentals. Was it a conscience effort to NOT have those elements on the new CD, or was it just due to the evolution of your song writing?
JM: I think both. It was deliberate in the sense that we didn't want to get known for one type of thing. Our own goal in making this record, was to push our own boundaries, and redefine Sixx: A.M. If we do another record, we'll do the same thing. As we got deeper into the heart and the soul, and the message of this record, there was a less of a desire to go into that tongue & cheek instrumental stuff. So I think we just naturally progressed. We certainly talked about it at one point, of whether or not we were going to do any instrumentals on this record. But with the stories we were trying to tell with this record, it just didn't seem appropriate.
RMS: Not everyone might be aware, but you and DJ have been an integral part of Motley Crue's recording process, ever since "Red, White & Crue." How does it feel to be a "ghost member" of Motley Crue, in the studio?
JM: It's really cool. I'm very proud to part of Motley Crue history in whatever way I can be. But because their career is so vast, and spans such an amazing amount of time, even through I've been integrally involved in a few of their records, I still feel like a blip on their radar. One small part of a vast career, that I'm proud to be a part of.
I think in moving forward, we've actually talked about doing some more writing for the next record. I would certainly be excited to be involved in any way that I can. The most exciting thing about it is that the Motley Crue fans are so devoted. They have been incredibly supportive of Sixx: A.M. They just stick with this band. Anything that you do with Motley Crue, people are going to be there to support it and get enthusiastic about it.
RMS: In a recent interview, Vince Neil stated that he really enjoyed the recording process of "Saints of Los Angeles" because when he went in to record his vocal tracks, there were already full/complete vocals laid down, and all he had to do was copy what was already recorded. So I have to ask, when you recorded the original vocal tracks, did you sing the songs like Vince Neil or was that Vince Neil singing like you?
JM: (Laughs) I have a pretty broad range and my voice is pretty versatile, but when you're writing songs and singing guide vocals for an artist, you have to be careful not to do, in this case, too much of a Vince Neil impression. Number one, it can come off as unbelievable. You also don't want to step on another singer's toes. You want to present it in a way that's gonna make them listen to it, and go, "Wow. I can really turn this into something."
RMS: To wrap things up, could you leave a message to our readers here at RockMusicStar.com?
JM: I'm real excited to share this record, and the book and the imagery. I think the message of these songs and what we're trying to convey to people is already starting to permeate. I'm just thrilled to be able to share these songs, and I hope the experience of this music and the book changes people's lives, like the process of making the record changed our lives.
For more, check out www.sixxammusic.com