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SoulMonster

2014.10.07 - Interview with Dj in Guitar International

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2014.10.07 - Interview with Dj in Guitar International

Post by Soulmonster on Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:53 pm

Ashba of Sixx A.M. – Modern Vintage is a Celebration CD about Enjoying Life

By: Robert Cavuoto


Sixx A.M.’s highly anticipated third CD, Modern Vintage is due out October 7, 2014.

Where the band’s first two CDs focused on providing the sound track to Nikki Sixx’s book, The Heroin Diaries and a voice to his unique photos in, This is Gonna Hurt, this CD is a bit of a departure for the band. Its far more upbeat, a celebration of sorts for enjoying life.

With Motley Crue’s final days approaching, Sixx A.M. will hopefully pick up and blaze a new musical trail. The band is comprised of James Michael [vocals], DJ Ashba [guitar] and Nikki Sixx [bass].

I had the opportunity to hear Modern Vintage weeks before anyone else and really think it will find a sweet spot in Motley fans, as well as Sixx A.M. fans.

Guitarist, DJ Ashba, gave me his personal insights into Modern Vintage, how Sixx A.M. is finding their own voice, and the status of the next Guns N’ Roses CD.

******

Robert Cavuoto: How did the band approach writing this CD versus the two previous ones?

DJ Ashba: The only difference was not to limit ourselves. Not focus on writing to a specific message, book, or photo. Not stick to one subject. Let’s just open the doors and be as free and push ourselves musically as hard as we can.

Robert: I thought the band sounded tighter, and the CD more cohesive.

DJ Ashba: Thank you.

Robert: Tell me about the importance of finding Sixx: A.M.’s voice and style.

DJ Ashba: It just happens when all three of us get in a room together. There’s a certain overtone to everything we write, and I don’t know what that is, but it became the sound of Sixx: A.M.

Its probably the hardest thing to do nowadays with so many bands out there. If you go back and listen to all the albums, every song definitely has distinct overtones of what the band sounds like.

Robert: I didn’t think this CD was as dark as the first two, it’s more upbeat.

DJ Ashba: It’s much more of a celebration record, and that’s what we kind of wanted to write. We realize that with our first two albums, we were touching on really heavy stuff, and with this we tried to have a good time. Let’s enjoy life now. Let’s make a more happy record.

Robert: Is it difficult to not sound like Motley Crue when you have Nikki at the helm?

DJ Ashba: Not really, because when all three of us co-wrote Saints of Los Angeles– going from Sixx: A.M. it’s a completely different genres of music. Writing a Motley song is way different than writing a Sixx: A.M. song or a Guns N’ Roses song. It’s a completely different world.

When we sit to write Sixx: A.M., it sounds like Sixx: A.M. And when we all three sit down to write a Motley song, it definitely sounds like Motley. That’s never been a challenge to us.
Bed (credit Paul Brown)

Bed – SIX A.M.

Robert: Do you have to get into a certain headspace when you’re sitting down to write for Motley?

DJ Ashba: When writing a Motley song I dissect the band sounds, I did my homework, as a songwriter should.

You go through all the albums. You listen to how Tommy Lee played the drums. What are his signature skills? Where’s Vince Neil’s voice at its strongest? What key, what range? What different signature licks or riffs does Mick Mars have? You start breaking down the bass parts. How does Nikki play bass?

You take all four of those ingredients, and that’s why it sounds like Motley Crue. You can do that with any band. Everybody is unique in every band situation, so once you figure out each person’s individual style and focus on that when you’re writing, it’s real easy to recreate a song that sounds like that band would have written.

Robert: Nikki is an amazing songwriter. He wrote the biggest hard rock hits in the ‘80s. What have you learned from him from him in a writing perspective?

DJ Ashba: You know, to be honest, I’ve learned more about the business side of things from Nikki than writing.

We became songwriters and partners probably 10 years ago, if not longer. He approached me when I was in a band called Operator and were getting ready to sign a deal on Interscope, and he asked if I would join him up at Funny Farm Studio, which is a studio he had in Calabasas, to be his writing partner. We went out there and started writing and producing other bands, such as Drowning Pool and different artists at the time. That’s how Sixx: A.M. started.

We never set out to do a band together. We were just songwriting partners, and we’d write for other people. We’d be sitting on some song that we wrote that nobody had ever heard yet. We still have a pile of songs from those days. Through those, a lot of the songs from The Heroin Diaries were created and later became Sixx: A.M. songs.
SIXX(credit Paul Brown)

SIX A.M. – photo credit: Paul Brown

Robert: Do you foresee Sixx: A.M being Nikki’s full-time band now that Crue is retiring?

DJ Ashba: Yeah, I think so, and think he’s mentioned it too. I know we’re all three super passionate about Sixx: A.M. He still has quite a bit of touring left with Motley; I think another year-and-a half to two years. It’s a long tour from my understanding.

Our goal is to keep Sixx: A.M. alive and keep putting out records that top the last record. We have a lot to say with Sixx: A.M.

Robert: You’ve really explored different genre of music for this new CD?

DJ Ashba: I love the fact that we were brave enough to dive into certain pools where not many bands would want to swim. For instance, “Before It’s Over” is a genre of music that I’ve always loved, but a lot of young kids probably are not even familiar with, which is called ragtime. It’s kind of lost music.

When is the last time you heard a ragtime song or heard a song that sounded like ragtime?

I think that’s what’s cool about Sixx: A.M. We’re a band that isn’t afraid to go to those places where most rock bands probably wouldn’t want to do it or wouldn’t think about doing it or couldn’t get away with doing it. We are lucky enough to have a fan base that is very accepting, and they kind of like that. We wanted it to be very authentic, but with a modern edge on it. I’m really proud of that song.

Robert: Nikki has tweeted that there’s a Sixx A.M. show on October 7th, can we expect more?

DJ Ashba: Yeah, we have one show for iHeartRadio, a private show, but I think it’s getting blasted out to pretty much the world.

That’s really all that we know about right now. But, there’s talk about doing some dates. Nothing specific yet, but I know one of our big goals is to get out there, at some point, and tour the shit out of it.

Robert: When you’re playing with Guns N’ Roses or Sixx: A.M., what are a few things about the way you approach guitar playing, that you make it your own?

DJ Ashba: I’ve always had my own sound. It’s the same way with Sixx: A.M.

You can go back to demo tapes in the ’90s. And even though I wasn’t a pro player yet, I still had a certain sound that sounds like I play today. It’s a unique sound.

When you hear me solo, I just have a certain style of playing that’s my sound. With Guns, I approach that very differently. It’s me playing the early stuff, so it’s going to sound like me playing it. I try and stay as true to what was originally written as possible. That’s what I would want from anybody who stepped in those shoes.

The songs are so classic, the solos are so classic, I really try and stay as true to those as possible.PromoImage

Sixx: A.M. it’s more the future. It’s the new songs where I can put in my style and that’s what I’m excited about.

Robert: I speak with a lot of musicians, like yourself, who are doing double and triple duty in the music business. Keeping their hand in a lot of different projects, is that the norm working with bands nowadays?

DJ Ashba: I think it’s more accepted these days. Back in the day, if you played in two different bands, it was frowned upon. I think Dave Grohl kind of broke that mold a little bit.

Robert: I had two favorite songs on the CD: “Miracle,” and “Stars.” Could you tell me a little bit about some of them?

DJ Ashba: We all love disco and punk songs, so with “Miracle”, its real nightclub-dance. Again, were touching on a different genre of music, not ragtime, but disco. So how many albums do you hear that have a ragtime song and a disco song and it all sounds cohesive?

It’s a really challenging thing to do, but it’s fun. And that’s what makes the challenge fun is a band like us, we’re not afraid to go after that. I could hear it at a modern day. I plan on going back and really studying that too.

Robert: What about “Stars,” can you give me some insight into that one as well?

DJ Ashba: “Stars” is one of my favorite songs on the record. The whole intro is a trick on the guitar, like taking a razor blade and scraping the strings with it putting it through an envelope filter pedal. It just gives us this helicopter kind of sound and this kind of evil-type sound.

I was doing stuff like that way back in Beautiful Creatures. I loved to get very experimental with the guitars, and tones and sounds. So, on this album, I resorted to quite a bit of those tricks that I stumbled upon back in Beautiful Creatures. It kind of went back to my roots as a guitar player and pulled some those tricks and fun things into this new album.

Robert: One of the songs I really liked, too, was “Get You Some,” but the lyrics never provide an answer to what you are getting. What are we getting? [Laughter]

DJ Ashba: Well, you have to ask Nikki.

Robert: I’ll ask next time I talk to him.

DJ Ashba: We just leave it open. Everybody has their own interpretation of what that song means. The lyrics on that song are just so like back-alley, seedy, and sort of sleazy. I don’t even really know what kind of genre we call this, but it’s just one of those things that had such a cool feel to it – so unique sounding. It’s very laid back.

Robert: You also snuck in a Cars tune, “Drive.” You had so many great original songs, why did you add a cover tune?

DJ Ashba: Because we’ve never done one. When “Drive” came up, we were like, “Wow, I wonder if we can make “Drive” sound like something Sixx: A.M. would write. We just thought we could put a really unique take on it. I think it keeps the integrity of the original songs on the CD.

Robert: Can we expect a Guns N’ Roses CD anytime soon?

DJ Ashba: Well, we hope so. That’s our main focus. Lack of songs is not our problem. It’s just getting into the studio. And there’s been more and more talk about getting in there before the end of the year, which I’m really excited about.

A machine like Sixx: A.M. isn’t as nearly as hard to move as a machine like Guns N’ Roses with eight guys. It just takes a little more to turn the wheel.

The stuff I’ve written sounds like classic Guns N’ Roses. It’s very much what I grew up on, what I loved about the band. So that’s kind of the direction that my songs.

Axl, of course, has, I believe, two complete albums worth of songs already recorded and probably a shit-load of other stuff I’ve never heard. He’s played me quite a bit of stuff that’s phenomenal, and, hopefully, I can get my hands on it and put my little stamp on it, before all is said and done.
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