“We never saw it coming that Mick wasn’t going to be able to tour and was going to have to quit the band”: Nikki Sixx offers his own take on the Mötley Crüe drama

Nikki Sixx
(Image credit: Per Ole Hagen/Redferns via Getty)

One of the biggest guitar stories of 2022 – and, indeed, of 2023 – was the high-profile electric guitar personnel shakeup enacted by Mötley Crüe.

What first seemed to be a straightforward six-string swap turned into a bitter and protracted legal disagreement between outgoing guitarist Mick Mars – who first announced his retirement due to health reasons – and the band, who employed John 5 in his place.

Shortly after the swap, Mars sued the band alleging they conspired to fire him, and accused bass guitar player Nikki Sixx of miming his parts live onstage – accusations that the bassist strongly denied.

There have been various developments over the months, the most recent of which came from the Mars camp: in an extended interview with Rolling Stone, the guitarist claimed Mötley Crüe were “trying to take away my legacy”, and said he never wants to speak to his former bandmates again.

Now, in a new interview with Guitar World, Sixx has offered his own take on the Crüe drama, explaining how Mars’ decision to leave came completely out of the blue.

(from left) Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe perform onstage at Nationals Park on June 22, 2022 in Washington, DC

(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images/Live Nation)

When asked specifically about John 5’s appointment, Sixx discussed the circumstances surrounding the former Rob Zombie player’s recruitment, and noted the decision was made to fulfil tour commitments.

“We never saw it coming that Mick wasn’t going to be able to tour and was going to have to quit the band,” he explained. “In the middle – not even the middle – of a huge tour, we had to ask ourselves, 'Do we want to let the fans down? Do we want to let Live Nation down? Do we want to let Def Leppard down? Do we want to let ourselves down because an original member of our band can’t tour anymore?' We had to have a deep, deep look into what we were going to do.”

Sixx went on to describe John 5’s appointment as “a no-brainer in a horrible situation”, given their existing relationship to each other.

He continued, “[In regard to] John, knowing all the members of the band, and me having this relationship with him writing and as friends, and even being in the studio with him writing stuff with the band for The Dirt, it felt like a no-brainer in a horrible situation – something we did not ask for or want.

“And then it was just kind of obvious. If there was 'the guy', John was the guy. Like I said, we didn’t choose this, but since we had to be put in this position, we’re very happy with where we’re at right now.”

For Sixx, the swap has been a positive one – one he likens to “having your little brother right by your side” while on stage.

“John has the ability to play so precisely, and at the same time he keeps so much emotion in his playing,” Sixx enthused. “He obviously can play any style of music, and even blend them together. 

“As a collaborator, it’s amazing with John; you’re like, ‘Could you do…?’ And he’s like, ‘Yes.’ ‘Hey, could you do…?’ ‘Like this?’ He’s fun and exciting to hang out with – whether it’s his guitar playing, as a writer, and now on stage. It’s literally like having your little brother right by your side. It’s such a nice feeling.”

Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitar World, which features the full interview with Nikki Sixx and John 5.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.