Mayhem Music Magazine goes One on One with DJ Ashba, The Sixx AM guitarist opens up about the music, their fans, and his passion for playing in this interview

 

Mayhem Music Magazine:  You just played your first gig with Sixx:AM in five years, how did it feel to be performing with Nikki and Michael again?

DJ Ashba:  It felt great. It felt really good. It was like putting on an old glove, old pair of underwear. It was really good, man. It was one of those things that we don’t get a chance to play live ever and getting back onstage with these guys and pulling out songs like ‘Life Is Beautiful’ again, and playing that live again…it’s very cool.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  You also announced you’ll be doing a headlining tour with Apocalyptica for 2015, how excited are you to be taking Sixx:AM on the road?

DJ Ashba:  I’m super excited, you know. When we started off, we never planned on being a band.  Because of the fans, the demand of the fans has been so overwhelming, we literally have the best fan base a band can ever dream of having and because of them; we had no choice but to become a band. They kept buying our songs, buying our records, calling radio stations, and pushing our songs to number one. We keep putting out records and they keep us around.

The demand has been so great for us to tour. It’s really nice that finally three albums later be able to do a headlining tour.  We’re really excited to have Apocalyptica with us. We feel they’re doing something very similar to what we’re doing and thinking outside of the box.  Playing original music.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  When we first met, you use to talk about a new project you were forming with Nikki. It didn’t even have a name yet. Did you think that Sixx:AM would evolve into what it has all these  years later?

DJ Ashba:  It’s really a blessing. I had Danny Wimmer come up to me; he’s been a long time friend. He does like Rock on the Range and all those festivals, he said ”I don’t get it, you guys keep putting out albums, they keep going number one, and you guys don’t tour. What other band in history has ever done that?”  It’s kind of neat to see other people’s perspective.  We almost fought being a band because it was so far from our mind, like you said when we use to talk, there was no band name. It literally happened very organically. It’s really cool how it all has come together and unfolded.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  You just had your first in store signing. Looks like it went crazy with fans.

DJ Ashba:  We had people who drove from New York I heard. Drove for four or five days just to get there. These fans are just so incredible. Somehow we’ve connected on a very personal level with our music. There’s a bond there. There’s a really hardcore bond between Sixx:AM and the fan base. Our first in store signing ever and there were lines around the block. It was such a cool experience to be able to actually physically say hi to these people who are out there physically buying records. Not just downloading them or trying to download them for free. They’re driving four or five days to come and physically buy an album and just to shake your hand and say “hi”. Money can’t buy that. It’s such an incredible feeling.

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Mayhem Music Magazine:  With the ‘Heroin Diaries’ focusing on Nikki’s personal journey. “This is Gonna Hurt’ told you to look a little deeper than the surface. What vibe were you going for on ‘Modern Vintage’?

DJ Ashba:  This vibe, we wanted to do more of a celebration record. Going back and getting re-inspired by what got us into doing music in the first place. Once we went back and went “Hey, we all have Queen in common. We all have ELO in common. We all have Michael Jackson in common. We all have these bands in common. Why?” so we went back and really dissected those albums. You look back at like Queen and you’re like “Wow!  That’s a rock n roll record”. You go back and really listen to it and it’s so incredibly diverse. It’s more of an opera, more of a rock opera than just a rock record. You listen from one song to the next. There’s never going to be one song that sounds like the next. It really did take you on a journey and that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to make a record like that. We wanted to capture that spirit. I believe we did that.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  With all three of you busy working on other projects. How did you find time to write the material for Modern Vintage?

DJ Ashba:  I cloned myself. It’s like anything else. When you’re incredibly passionate about something you make the time. It doesn’t matter if you gotta sleep a couple hours less a night. Whatever you gotta do to dedicate yourself to whatever you’re involved in. There’d be times when I’d be out at rehearsals with Guns n Roses for five, six, seven hours and I would come home exhausted to my hotel and James would show up and we’d start recording until three in the morning. It was just one of those things where you just make it happen. Any free time you get, you dedicate to whatever it is you’re passionate about.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  Did the three of you get together and start writing the songs or did you write separately and send files back and forth?

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DJ Ashba:  We make it a point to always to sit in the same room. Face to face while writing Sixx:AM songs. We’ve done it since day one and it’s something we’ll always continue to do. It’s very important that we connect as friends before the music. Music brought us together but its sure not what holds us together. Our friendship has become so important and we don’t get to spend tons and tons of time together. So when it comes down to writing for all of us, because they’re so emotional and so personal, we have all got to be in a room writing new songs. When it comes to recording, that’s different. We make that happen. James is flying all over. Catching up with me and Nikki’s busy schedules. But the writing has always been the three of us in a room.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  I love the fact that Sixx:AM decided to cover the song ‘Drive’ by The Cars. How did that come about?

DJ Ashba:  We really felt strongly that it would be fun to see how we interpreted somebody else’s song. We know what Sixx:AM sound like. We know when we go to write a song, what its going to come out like. To interpret somebody else’s song was kind of a fun challenge for us. Sixx:AM is all about pushing the boundaries and we’re always up for a challenge. We all three are big fans were big fans of The Cars and it’s such a classic song. We realized a lot of our younger fan base might not have ever heard that song before or know who The Cars is. If you strip that song down and listen to just the lyrics. It very much could have been a Sixx:AM song. It’s very dark lyrics, very sad story. So we kind of just refocused the song on the lyrics. We broke it down to almost a piano ballad and just built it up from there. We wanted people to think that if they never heard the song before, that it was just another Sixx:AM song. At the same time paying homage to the original. It was a lot of fun and it was a challenge because the original doesn’t have a guitar solo in it. As you know, anytime you play with somebody elses song. You want to be careful and writing a guitar solo for that song was a bit tricky because I didn’t want to step on the song, I wanted to do the song justice and hopefully people dig it.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  In the past, the band has released acoustic version of certain songs. Will we be getting any acoustic versions of any of the songs on Modern Vintage?

DJ Ashba:  If you go to iTunes, the deluxe version has four extra songs on it that aren’t on the actual album. We re-did three of the songs on there. I think we did an acoustic version of ‘Stars’, ‘Before It’s Over’, and one other one. There’s a song that didn’t make the record, it was actually one of my favorite songs and we decided to save it as a bonus track. It’s called ‘Let It Haunt You’ and it’s awesome. I would say Michael Jackson influenced. It’s a really cool funk song like Nile Rogers style and its really cool.

 

Mayhem Music Magazine:  This time around on Modern Vintage, you went for several different guitar vibes throughout the album. Can you break down a few of these songs and what you personally wanted to achieve?

DJ Ashba:  ‘Stars’ I kind of reached back to my Beautiful Creature days. I kind of pulled out some of the guitar tricks I was playing around with back then. When it goes into the verses, I kind of pulled influences from Van Halen from titles like ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’. If you really listen to all the guitar work in it, it’s got a bit of Eddie influence in it. That was kind of the vibe I was going after. Very old school my old school. Back to my roots as a guitar player.

‘Gotta Get It Right’ was one of those songs I felt less is more. It was the last song written for the album. It’s just one of those stompers. Three chords very simple. I didn’t feel it needed a guitar solo. Big anthem type stomp song which is a lot of fun to have on the record.

When I sit down and we write the songs. It’s funny because the guitar is the last thing I worry about. Number one is let’s get the melody right, let’s get the song right. It’s fun for me because literally as we’re recording the song I basically hone in on the guitars and really almost define them right there on the spot. None of the solos are usually worked out ahead of time before we’re in there hitting record. It’s a much different approach to the way I do most records.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  Since we first met, you’ve formed Sixx:AM, started Ashba Media, Ashba Clothing, joined Guns n Roses, moved to Las Vegas, and got married. How do you find time to juggle all the things going on in your life?

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DJ Ashba:  I just love what I do. Everything I’m doing I’m super passionate about. Everything I feel goes hand in hand. I’m really excited the media company is going so well. The media company created the clothing company. The two bands I just couldn’t be more proud of being a part of so it’s really good.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  You previously released your Demented Series acoustic guitars through Ovation. Now you just released the DJ Ashba Signature Les Paul by Gibson. What changes did you make to this guitar to make it your own?

DJ Ashba:  Pretty much everything on the guitar was changed. When I would get Les Paul guitars my tech and me would literally gut them down to bare wood. Put brand new pick ups in it. Put new hardware on it. Rewire everything put new volume and tone pods in them. We customized them for years just to fit my playing style. We trimmed down the neck. We did a lot of work to them before they were ready to hit the stage. So when it became time when Gibson approached me to put out my own signature model. I was thrilled. We went thru the guitar in depth all the way down to putting on a compound radius on them. The things that have always bothered me about Les Paul, I fixed on my model. One of the biggest things was the fretting out problem. When you’re bending up a whole step or step and a half, Les Pauls were kind of known for fretting out. By putting a compound radius neck on them, which is what we did. It solved that problem. So Gibson actually has a huge machine that just reproduces the necks for these guitars. What that means is that it has a slight curve to the fret board and as you get down to the twelfth fret that curve flattens out. You can really get the action a lot lower and as you’re bending up it doesn’t fret out. It’s actually really cool.

Mayhem Music Magazine:  Sounds like you really dialed in your signature series Gibson. Any last words you want to leave for the fans?

DJ Ashba:  Definitely check out my clothing line (www.ashbaclothing.com) and go pick up Modern Vintage. Go to iTunes and get the Deluxe version. I highly recommend it because there’s four extra songs. I’m really happy to see the reaction of the fans and I’m excited to come out with our second single called ‘Stars’. We’re putting together the video for that right now. It’s just an exciting time.

 

We hope you enjoyed this interview with DJ Ashba of Sixx AM.  Be sure to check back for more music interviews

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