Nikki Sixx Spills 'Dirt' About Mötley Crüe Movie Soundtrack
The album's surprise "Like a Virgin" cover gives "a nod to Metallica."
The Dirt, the biopic based on Mötley Crüe's 2001 best-selling autobiography, is ready to roar March 22 on Netflix. Set in ’80s-era Los Angeles, the movie depicts the infamous foursome’s rise to success from broke nobodies to rock-star kings of sex- and drug-fueled debauchery, as well as various tragedies that occurred along the way. Starring in the Jeff Tremaine-directed film are Daniel Webber as singer Vince Neil, Iwan Rheon as guitarist Mick Mars, Douglas Booth as bassist Nikki Sixx and rapper Machine Gun Kelly as drummer Tommy Lee.
Sixx says that when he saw the first rough cut, it was like “a punch in the gut.” He remembers, “There’s so many ups and downs that I felt at the end of the movie, ‘Thank God, we survived.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, wait, that’s us!’ Like I forgot I was watching a movie about us.”
Some of the dire situations that the film depicts are Sixx’s dysfunctional home life, the 1984 car accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley while Neil was driving, Lee’s divorce from actress Heather Locklear and Mars being diagnosed with the degenerative disease ankylosing spondylitis. “What we each individually endured and put upon each other is unbelievably hard to watch sometimes,” says Sixx. “At the same time, it makes me really proud that we survived and that we climbed back up that mountain again and took it back to the top and went out on our terms.”
The hard-rock glam act officially called it a day when in January 2014 it signed a cessation of touring contact where all four members agreed they would not tour as Mötley Crüe beyond 2015. They then embarked on The Final Tour, which wrapped Dec. 31, 2015, in Los Angeles. However, the contract didn’t stipulate that the band could never record again, and The Dirt was a prime opportunity for new tunes. Neil revealed in a September 2018 tweet that the group was in the studio with producer Bob Rock, who helmed the act’s sole No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, 1989’s six-times platinum Dr. Feelgood. The result is three new songs that will be included on The Dirt’s soundtrack (arriving March 22 on Eleven Seven Music)... and a take on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” that bears no resemblance to its original pop incarnation.
Does Madonna know about Mötley recording the cover? “I don’t know. She will soon, I imagine,” muses Sixx. “Maybe we can get her in the video.”
Neil, Lee, Mars and Sixx compiled the soundtrack themselves.
Asked if the band worked with any music supervisors, Sixx deadpans, “What’s a music supervisor?” The group handled it because he doesn’t think anybody “knows Mötley Crüe better than Mötley Crüe.” When it came to putting it together, “it goes back to working with Jeff Tremaine, because he was a huge Mötley Crüe fan, and what songs were sort of being represented at that time in the movie.” He describes the set as leaning “a little more on the earlier side [of the band’s career], not just hits. There’s a lot of hits on it, but it doesn’t cover just that area. There’s a lot of B tracks and fan favorites.” For instance, “Live Wire,” an early single, “would be on a greatest-hits record, but it also plays a really important role in the storytelling of the band ’cuz that was a song that we did together, and it just solidified who we are.”
The band only intended to write one new song and wound up with three.
The foursome knew it wanted a title track for the movie. “We really only needed one song, but there were multiple songs [we came up with], and they were all called ‘The Dirt,’” recalls Sixx. “As we were working on them, some songs fell away, and we kind of boiled [it] down [to] these three songs, which was a surprise. I thought we were just going to get one out of it.” He said the label loved them but instructed the band to rewrite their choruses so they all didn’t say “the dirt.” Sixx agreed, but only changed the names. “I was just like, ‘They sing so good! Why have Vince re-sing this? It sings so good. The parts are so good.’ So I changed one to ‘Crash and Burn,’ and one’s called ‘Ride With the Devil,’ and then we got ‘The Dirt [Est. 1981].’” (The latter track is available for purchase today.)
Watch an exclusive clip of Mötley Crüe in the recording studio below:
At first, Sixx thought his idea to cover “Like a Virgin” was “horrible.”
The bassist says it came to him while he was taking a stroll with his dogs, which he does at the end of each day as part of his meditative practice. “When my mind’s open like that, these ideas pop in,” he observes. “And [it] popped in my head, and I sort of like looked up, as if to laugh at God, and went, ‘You’re pretty funny.’” Sixx felt it was “actually a really horrible idea.” When he told Rock, the producer replied, “Yeah, I don’t know. Good luck!” But Sixx impressed him and Lee with a rough demo he had cut, and the band completely renovated the track but left the lyrics intact. (“It was weird to hear Vince singing, ‘I’m like a virgin,’” he admits.) There’s a part of the song that “does this little gahnk-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-gahnk that Mick does, a bit of a nod to Metallica because [when] Metallica heard the Dr. Feelgood album, [they] used Bob Rock to make the Black Album,” says Sixx. “It’s kind of a nod back to those guys because we were workin’ with Bob again.”
The lyrics to “The Dirt” reflect the attitudes of the ’80s, not the millennium.
Kelly guests on the title track, where the lines he spits includes admiring a stripper’s assets — subject matter that was Mötley's forte in 1987 on Girls, Girls, Girls but isn’t heard much in current rock music. Sixx notes, “I think if we were to write a song about 2019, those lyrics wouldn’t be applicable because we’ve always written about what’s going on in our lives and what we’re observing. Now, we wouldn’t pull our punches and would have a more potent opinion on what’s happening socially or individually. In this case, we got to go back and explore what the band was like at the time, and lyrically, we didn’t really think, ‘Well, this is not popular right now. People don’t like this kind of stuff.’ What I’ve enjoyed is so many, especially females, that I’ve played it to, all have gone, ‘Thank God. Fuckin’ rock n’ roll.’ And it makes me really happy. I think there’s a little part of everybody that misses a little of that.”