DJ ASHBA (SIXX:A.M.) Interview

DJ Ashba
Photo: Dustin Jack Photography

He’s wasted no time since leaving Guns N’ Roses, teaming up again with Nikki Sixx and James Michael in Sixx:AM, to release the first part of a double album this week. Mick Burgess caught up with Dj Ashba ahead of the release to talk about the making of Prayers For The Damned Vol.1

In a couple of weeks your latest album Prayers For The Damned will be released. Are you excited at finally getting your new music out?

We’re so excited as we’ve worked so hard on these two albums and have really sunk our hearts and souls into these records and we couldn’t be more excited to finally see peoples reaction and get these into the hands of all of our fans.

When did you start the writing process for the album?

We actually wrote and recorded everything in 9 months and just finished a couple of months ago. We worked around the clock. I also designed the artwork for both covers. So absolutely everything from start to finish was done in 9 months on both albums.

Have you all contributed to the song writing process?

Right from the early days we’ve always sat around together and written every single song like that. It’s just how we’ve always done it. Almost 10 years later nothing’s changed. In the past we were always out on tour, me with Guns, Nikki with Motley and James was producing so every spare moment we got we’d write together. For the Modern Vintage record we’d record bits and pieces here and there when we got the chance but this time we made the point that we’d do this full time and commit ourselves to making two of the best albums that we could possibly make. We were in there every morning together writing and recording. There’s always been this magic when the 3 of us get into a room together. The songs just happen and it sounds like Sixx:A.M. when we all get together. It’s just a cool, cool magical thing. It’s pretty neat.

Rise is a hugely impressive opener with a big multilayered Queen style intro. I take it Queen was a big influence on you growing up?

Queen was a huge influence on all three of us and we found out during the making of Modern Vintage where we went back and got inspired by who inspired us and we found out what big old fans we all were. Queen was one of the main inspirations for all of us.

Better Man is an absolute killer ballad and James Michael puts in the performance of his career. What’s the story behind that song?

Better Man is about exactly what it says. It’s basically about every day when you wake up you try to do something a little better than the day before. That can be something like being nicer to people or cutting back on cigarettes or stopping someone from doing something bad. It’s just about being a better man, it’s a very personal song. A lot of our songs on the album like Rise, are very global in their message but this one is something much more personal that everybody out there can relate to and I think everybody would like to be a little better than the way they are right now.

Rise of the Melancholy Empire is a huge way to close the record and what a great solo you lay down there. How did you create that solo?

I created it the same way I go about creating every solo. I try to take the storyline and melody from James and I try to take the audience on another journey and loop back round and hand the song back to James again. I’ve never seen a guitar solo as a place where I go “look at me, look at me”. I’m big on melody and it’d mean more to me if someone walks away after listening to my solo humming my solo rather than if I played a million miles an hour and they said, “how did he do that?” I want people to understand what I’m doing, not confuse them. For me, I think the best thing a guitarist can do when creating a solo is have some restraint and write for the song, whether that’s playing a million miles an hour or that’s standing up as a guitar player and going, maybe this song doesn’t need a guitar solo. I think if you can do that then you know you are writing for the song.

Prayers For The Damned is volume 1 of a double album. Why a double album rather than two separate self-contained albums?

Because that was exactly our intention. When a lot of people do a double album they’ll go to make one kick ass album and have a couple of songs left over and they’ll polish those songs off and say let’s throw them onto a double record. When I bought double albums in the past I always thought they packed all their great songs onto the first record and the second one was kind of crap. We went in with that in mind and we wanted to do the opposite and make the second record even better than the first one so people will be totally blown away by it. This is truly a double, double album. We went in with the intention of making two single albums that complimented each other.

Is the second part already written, recorded and ready for release?

Everything is all done and it’s ready to go. We’re planning on releasing it in September or October this year. It’s kind of cool the way we’re doing it as we put everything we had into making this record and these songs are pretty deep with deep messages. I’ve recorded more guitar tracks on every song on these two records. We did that for a reason as this record has two listening experiences. You can blast it out on your radio and it sounds awesome. Then you can put it through headphones and you’ll hear these little things that you hadn’t noticed before and every time you listen to it you’ll hear things you didn’t pick up on the first time. We wanted people to be able to absorb what we put into this record before hitting them with another one.

There’s been big changes in both your career and Nikki’s career this year with you leaving Guns N’ Roses and Nikki, calling it a day with Motley Crue. Is your primary focus now Sixx:A.M.?

Definitely yes, that is all we’re focussing on and it’s a great feeling. I have been blessed in the past. I’ve had some great opportunities that I’m very grateful for but I’m a songwriter and I need to keep creating as do Nikki and James. We’re already working on songs for the next, next album. I’ve been very blessed but I finally get to get back to doing what I really love to do and what I’m really passionate about and that’s Sixx:A.M.

With Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, you were quite tied to the musical styles you could explore and didn’t really have much scope to venture beyond those boundaries. Do you feel that now the sky really is the limit to where you can go with your creativity?

Absolutely yes and that’s always been the case with Sixx:A.M. I had the opportunities to do these other gigs and shows and when we’d get back together we’d always go “Man I wish we could do this together as a living”. At that time it wasn’t really a band, it was more of a side project and it was basically our escape, our therapy. We were best friends and songwriters and we just got together to write music and we never imagined it was going to turn into this, never in a million years. It’s very cool that we could leave two of the very biggest bands in the world and now focus on a band like this. It’s a dream come true.

What about plans for touring. Do you hope to tour more extensively now?

Absolutely, now that we are doing this full time now, we can take this show on the road and take it all over. That’s why we did a double album so we can go out on tour longer and don’t have to break the tour to go and make another record. We hope to spend two solid years touring.

The band features the core of you, Nikki and James Michael. You also added Dustin Steinke as drummer to your touring band. How did you end up working with Dustin?

He was in a band called Bleeker Ridge from Canada and James was producing them and we were just finishing Modern Vintage and were about to go out on tour and at that time we didn’t have a drummer. We’ve always had drummers fill in along the way. James said that he was working with this drummer who was incredible and it would be awesome if he could tour with us. So we took him out on the Modern Vintage tour and we were blown away by his playing. We’ve also got two incredible backing singers, Amber Vanbuskirk and Melissa Harding who really bring something to the band. We wanted to capture this magic that we had on our new record. The songs are a little heavier and a little more energetic so that’s the difference with this record is that we brought in Dustin, Amber and Melissa to make this record and capture what we’ve been doing live.

Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 by Sixx:A.M. is out on 29th April.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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