DJ Ashba Discusses New Sixx:A.M. Album ‘Modern Vintage’, Guitars, Recording and Playing Live
LegendaryRockInterviews — DJ Ashba has come a long way from the kid who left home at sixteen to where he is today with Sixx:A.M. & Guns N’ Roses! He has slugged it out from releasing his debut instrumental solo album in 1996, joining the BulletBoys two years later, he eventually hooked up with Joe Lesté of Bang Tango to form Beautiful Creatures who released one of the best rock albums of the decade in 2001 only to quit the group the following year.
In 2005, he started working with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, later forming Sixx:A.M. with vocalist James Michael. Sixx:A.M. has went on to release two full-length albums & three EP’s and are gearing up to release their third full-length album, ‘Modern Vintage’ on October 7th via Eleven Seven Music. Oh yeah, between all that he has ran a very successful multi-media company bearing his name, co-wrote all but one song on Mötley Crüe’s 2008 album ‘Saints Of Los Angeles’, lent his writing & producing talents to other recording artists and in 2009, DJ joined Guns N’ Roses.
Somehow, DJ found the time to call LRI and give us the low down on all things Sixx:A.M. as well as possible plans for recording and touring with Guns N’ Roses in 2015. This interview features a few ‘Spinal Tap’ moments thanks to the joys of cellular technology, a fire truck running hot to a call and DJ having the pleasure of a trash truck pull up beside him outside his hotel.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hello DJ!
DJ Ashba: Hey! How are you?
LRI: I’m good! How about yourself?
DJ: Nice! I’m good, sitting at the ocean in California!
LRI: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview today.
DJ: You are very welcome! Thank you guys!
LRI: Sixx:A.M. is just about a week away from the release of your new album ‘Modern Vintage’ as well as your first show in five years at iHeart Theater in Burbank, CA. What can fans expect with this album and from the show?
DJ started to answer but the call began breaking up. At this point he steps out of the hotel to get a better signal at which time I re-asked the question at his request.
DJ: With this album, I believe all of our albums have been incredibly diverse but this one more so than the last two. Only because we didn’t have a template to follow. It was a completely open canvas. So, what we did as a template is we asked ourselves “What got us into music? What inspired us to be musicians?” We went back & pulled out all of our old vinyl records and just started listening to, you know, just the sound that vinyl had & the journeys that those bands took you on, such as Queen, E.L.O., David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley & all these great artists from the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. You know, once we started listening to the albums we realized we, today, we look at these as rock records. If you go back, they were incredibly diverse & not one song was the same. So that kind of became the inspiration & we wanted to capture that spirit of what was so magical about how people make albums back then.
As far as the live show on October 7th, we are so excited because we haven’t been on stage together or in a real rehearsal room in five years. We are so excited about it that we’ve been on the phones non-stop with each other going “Oh my God! This is so trippy to re-learn these songs again!” We are very excited to jump into rehearsals tomorrow and to finally get to really jam as a band. You know, we just make records. We’ve never really considered ourselves a band. So getting in & jamming & really putting a show together is super exciting for us!
LRI: Who will be playing drums for the live show on October 7th?
DJ: Same guy who played drums on the ‘Modern Vintage’ album. His name is Jeff Fabb. He is actually out with Black Label Society right now. He is an incredible drummer. It was a lot of fun to work with him & we were really happy to have him on the record. He agreed to come in and do the show with us which just makes sense.
LRI: So, on the ‘Modern Vintage’ album, Jeff Fabb plays drums on the entire album whereas on the previous albums, all the drums were programmed, correct?
DJ: Yeah! Correct, correct. It was the first album where we actually felt it was important to capture that big album vibe we were going after. To bring in a live drummer, it really made a HUGE difference, you know, it gave the whole entire album and songs a new breath of fresh air which was really cool!
LRI: What guitars and amps did you use on ‘Modern Vintage’?
DJ: Very minimal, to be honest! We recorded basically straight into ProTools through an Eleven Rack. The key to what we do is, I always record direct signals… so at any given time we re-amp those direct signals through any kind of combo amp or tube amp that we want. We are never married to the tone. Of course, we have the tone I am recording with but we can always alter that all the way up to till the mixing stage is done.
As far as guitars go, 98% were all Les Paul’s. I used my signature model on a lot of stuff because it has the kill switch on it. You’ll hear it in ‘Stars’, on the beginning of the solo on ‘Stars’ and different things like that. I’ve used Les Paul’s on almost every single album we’ve ever done because there is just no better sounding guitar for recording.
As far as floor pedals go, I mainly just used an envelope filter for the beginning of ‘Stars’ & I used the Wah Pedal quite a bit. Any other type of effects where done in the box.
LRI: Any chance of Sixx:A.M. doing any late night TV shows in promotion of ‘Modern Vintage’?
DJ: God, I hope so! I miss Jimmy Fallon & Jimmy Kimmel has always been great to us. Both of them have always been super supportive and really cool to us. It’s been a while since I’ve been on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Hopefully we do. It’s weird, I just thought about that the other day, I was going “Wow! I hope we get to go do some of that stuff, that’d be a lot of fun!”
LRI: There is a bit of controversy brewing amongst Sixx:A.M. fans. Some are upset about the Digital Deluxe version that has four bonus track not being offered in a physical product. (At this point a fire truck goes screaming by with its siren on)
DJ: (Having issues hearing me due to fire truck) They are upset about what?
LRI: Will the Deluxe version with the four bonus tracks come out as a physical product or is it digital download only?
(At this point DJ loses signal & Jessica with 10th Street Entertainment has to re-connect us and I re-ask the question.)
DJ: Sorry about that!
LRI: Got to love technology!
DJ: Jessica is going to try and find out if the deluxe version will come out on CD for us. To be honest, I have no idea!
LRI: Will ‘Modern Vintage’ be released on vinyl?
DJ: The album, I believe we are putting out on vinyl. I believe we are actually doing all three albums on vinyl!
DJ: That’s the last I heard anyways! There is a fucking garbage truck right beside me because I am outside, go figure! (Laughs)
DJ: Yeah, right!
LRI: Were there any guest musicians on ‘Modern Vintage’ besides Jeff Fabb on drums?
DJ: No, there weren’t!
LRI: This will take you back to your early days. It has been reported that Mötley Crüe was your first concert back in 1987 on the “Girls, Girls, Girls” tour.
DJ: Yeah, yeah, that is true!
LRI: Does it ever seem surreal that you have written with Mötley Crüe, are in a band with Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and also in Guns N’ Roses, two of the biggest rock bands of my generation?
DJ: Not until you just mentioned it! (Laughs)
LRI: (Laughs) Sorry about that!
DJ: You know, it is one of those things that I don’t really think of it because I’m so busy with the scheduling and everything. When I do stop and someone does kind of go “Hey, wow!”, you know, I have to stop and think about it. It is very surreal. It’s like “Wow! That is crazy!” I guess I don’t stop and think about it too much. Yeah, I do realize how blessed I am! Absolutely nothing was handed to me. I had to work my ass off! At the same time, I couldn’t be in a better position. I am in a rare and unique position. I take it very serious & I do everything in my power to keep up with my crazy life. (Laughs)
LRI: Does Guns N’ Roses have any recording or touring plans in 2015?
DJ: We are planning on doing quite a bit of touring this coming year. The focus is getting in a studio and putting together what we all feel is the best Guns N’ Roses record. Lack of material is not an issue. We have tons of stuff. Axl has two full albums that he has recorded, he has played me a bunch of songs off of that, are incredible! I can’t wait to get in and kind of dive into those as well. I’ve written tons of songs & demoed up a bunch of stuff. I think it is just a matter of getting in & sifting through the piles of material.
LRI: With Nikki on tour with Mötley Crüe through the end of 2015. How does Sixx:A.M. plan to stay visible throughout the upcoming year because of not being able to tour due to Nikki’s commitments with Mötley Crüe?
DJ: On October 7th, there will be an announcement from Sixx:A.M. that should get all the fans pretty excited!
LRI: That is all I had to ask but is there anything else you’d like to mention or plug?
DJ: Ok, cool!
Jessica: Hey guys, I was able to get that answer for you before you go. The digital deluxe version will be available obviously online with the four bonus tracks. It is NOT going to be available on the CD, but the bonus tracks will be on the vinyl!
DJ: There you go!
LRI: Thank you for that info!
Jessica: Cool, thanks guys!
DJ: Thank you, talk to you soon!
Thanks to Legendary Rock Interviews