–This is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx (2011, HarperCollinsPublishers)

Nikki Sixx This is Gonna Hurts Book Cover

–This is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx (2011, HarperCollinsPublishers)

My favorite Twilight Zone episode is called “The Eye of the Beholder.” In it, the protagonist, a young blond woman named Janet Tyler, undergoes her 11th plastic surgery to repair her grotesque and deformed face. Her face is completely bandaged, but the doctors and nurses surrounding her are also wearing masks or are otherwise hidden from the camera. Eventually, her bandages are removed to reveal her beautiful (to us), Marilyn Monroe-like face, but the doctors complain that she has undergone no change at all. The camera pans back to reveal that the hospital staff bears bloated facial features and protruding, pig-like snouts. In this society, Janet is the grotesque freak, proving that beauty is all a matter of perspective.

This is precisely the premise of Nikki Sixx’s second book, This is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx. The Motley Crue/Sixx A.M. bassist devotes these pages to displaying his collection of unique photography and offering personal insights on life and the popular (mis?)conception of beauty. Throughout This is Gonna Hurt, Sixx argues, quite convincingly, that beauty can and should be seen in the most unusual of things and places. From the mysterious beauty of the black rose to the subtle grace of an elderly homeless woman on the streets of Moscow, Sixx wants us to look beyond the superficial exterior of what society tells us is beautiful. Many of his photographs and personal anecdotes champion the inner strength, dignity, and yes, divine transcendence of the outcasts, the oppressed, the crippled and the “freaks” of society. Sixx wants his readers to not just sympathize, but to empathize with all our fellow humans and look beyond the exterior to reveal the hidden beauty beneath.

Much like with his first book, The Heroin Diaries, Sixx is writing and sharing photos from a very personal place. But this book focuses more on his lifelong quest for creativity than trying to exorcise his most insidious demons. He explains about how as a young boy he would walk down the street with his mother, holding hands, and he would see an amputee walking by. He would smile at the amputee and stare. “Stop staring,” his mother would say. Sixx responded with a simple, “But why? She’s beautiful.” It is moving anecdotes like this that reveal Sixx’s authenticity and honesty, that he’s not just trying to appeal to people’s sentimentality by presenting an altruistic persona. His well-written and engaging stories explain how he traded in his substance abuse for an insatiable quest for art, namely, photography and music. During off days on Motley Crue tours he will often scour the streets of Vancouver, or L.A., or Moscow looking for the “dregs of society” to photograph. Indeed, he will often risk his own safety to venture deep into the seediest ghetto or skid row looking for addicts, homeless people and prostitutes to photograph. His efforts do not seem exploitative: he earnestly wants to champion the worth and beauty of all humanity.

Sixx spends a good chunk of these pages describing the ups and downs of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, from the grind of spending months on the road to the thrill of writing new music. He is forthright in his appraisals of his fellow Motley Crue and Sixx A.M. bandmates’ personalities and talents, but neither is he overly harsh or disrespectful, unlike other rock autobiographers. He also writes about his passionate but short-lived relationship with famed tattoo artist Kat Von D, who clearly holds a permanent death clutch on Sixx’s heart. Perhaps most impressively, Sixx reveals a profound sense of self-knowledge and self-critique that is rare among humans in general, much less hugely successful rock stars. He is well aware of his mistakes and shortcomings, and he wants to live each to the day to the fullest and be the best, most creative person he can be.

Many of the photographs presented in this book would be considered disturbing by many. For myself, someone who’s always been fixated on classical beauty and symmetry in nature and art, a lot of these images can be hard to look at. That’s Sixx’s point, and it’s well taken. I will let you check out the book and see for yourself rather than try to describe them all. These coffee table-type photo/text books are very popular, but I would always like to see more in-depth stories and text rather than tons of large photo spreads. Obviously, sharing his exquisite photography is his primary purpose for the book, so these criticisms are minor.

Nikki Sixx hopes this work will inspire someone to create something beautiful of their own, to make a positive difference in the world. After reading this, I was determined to review it, so I suppose he’s already succeeded in some small way. This is Gonna Hurt does not hurt nearly as bad as the title implies, and it’s a fantastic and joyful read on any lazy afternoon or evening. Like Motley Crue once sang, “Take me to the top, and throw me off,” just to get up and try all over again. Thank you for the inspiration, Mr. Sixx.–Jonathan Kollnot

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on June 14, 2013.

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