Lemmy: "I watch TV, I play a bit of music and I chase women"
The leader of the pack himself, Lemmy Kilmister, gives the lowdown on the new album, being a movie star, the evils of the music industry and having no regrets
Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy, should require absolutely no introduction. One of the most popular, identifiable and charismatic musicians the world has to offer, his group Motörhead were once memorably dismissed by the NME as “the worst band in the world”.
But despite a slew of line-up changes, Motörhead are still going strong after 35 years, their current line-up – completed by guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – intact since slimming down to a three-piece following the rancorous departure of guitarist Würzel in 1995.
After surviving several turbulent periods, Motörhead have hit a rich run of form with their last four albums, the most recent of which, The World Is Yours, is attached to this very magazine. In 2010, thanks additionally to appearances in various TV adverts and sheer dogged persistence, Motörhead have never been more famous. Their distinctive logo can be seen emblazoned across chests in most high street precincts (“I’m sure half of the people that wear Motörhead T-shirts haven’t any idea who we are,” observes Lem) and for all his protestations, Lemmy has overturned the odds to become a living legend.
We love Lemmy because he is a purist – he doesn’t even own a computer. Musically, the same ethos applies; the simpler the better. Cut the crap and just get on with it.
Lemmy’s almost-65 years on this planet are celebrated in the brilliantly titled new movie Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch. We caught up with him on a cold Sunday night in London during downtime as Motörhead filmed a promo video for their new single, Get Back In Line.
Congratulations on the new album, which is a worthy successor to 2008’s Motörizer.
Thank you very much. And let us not forget that Motörizer was a worthy successor to Kiss Of Death . We seem to be able to keep on putting them out, and they don’t sound the same.
Motörizer was the first of the group’s albums to make it into the US Top 100, peaking at #89.
What Motörizer achieved was a good start.
So what sort of ambitions do you have for The Wörld Is Yours?
Oh, I don’t know. I try not to hold myself up to those things because I’ve been disappointed so many times, as you and your readers will recall. I’m just grateful that we are still going, and that we seem to have attained a level in America that will allow us to tour there on our own [as headliners], you know, as opposed to tagging along with other bands. And of course I’m really pleased that we have made a comeback in England because for a while there things didn’t too look good. I just want to get to some other places before I have to give it up. I’d like to get to China and Africa and to India because we’ve never played any of those places.
You address the band’s aforementioned mid-80s slump in this magazine’s closing speech, but to what do you attribute Motörhead’s current renaissance?
I think we finally convinced everybody that the band was more exotic than it was, due to the fact that I no longer lived here.
You’re being facetious, right?
No, I mean every word. My moving to America had everything to do with the fact that we turned the situation around. Do you think we’d have won a Grammy had I not been based in the States [Motörhead triumphed in the Best Metal Performance category for a version of Metallica’s Whiplash in 2005]? That would never have happened. The band would have been gone by 1993. We were doing no business at all. The albums used to go into the chart at around Number 73 and then drop straight out again. We were dead in the water.
People tend to forget the amount of rebuilding that went on within the Motörhead machine when Phil Campbell and Würzel joined the band in 1984.
At one point, just for one day, Motörhead was myself and [drummer] Phil Taylor. And then Phil left, so it was just me. I went up to audition those two and it was supposed to be a shoot-out between them, and Phil [Campbell] had to ask Würzel to tune his guitar for him as he didn’t know how to do it [laughs uproariously]. It was a pity about [what happened with] Würzel. We talked him back into the band twice when he tried to leave, but eventually he believed the word of his girlfriend at the time… ‘The band would be nothing without you’. Silly boy. People leave famous bands and expect to continue to be famous. But it just doesn’t work like that, as he found out to his cost.
At least you are back on good terms again with Würzel after his acrimonious departure in 1995. He’s jammed onstage with Motörhead on several occasions since leaving the band.
[Nodding] We’ve been friends again for a long time. It’s just a shame that he’s sick and miserable now, living in a council estate. I worry about him.
Anyway, after 20 studio albums…
[Interrupting] … Is that how many it is? You’ve counted, right?
The Wörld Is Yours is indeed the band’s 20th to date. Having been so prolific over such a long, sustained period of time, is it hard to come up with fresh material?
If anything, it’s getting easier.
That’s odd; you’d expect the opposite.
Exactly, you would. You’d think: ‘All of the riffs have been used now’ but that’s not true, they haven’t. Having Mikkey in the band is useful. If you write with the drummer that makes things a lot broader. A riff on its own isn’t much use to most drummers but Mikkey’s so great, he’s got real legs, that he brings a song to life.
Obviously, every song is different... But can you explain the process behind a Motörhead composition coming to life, from a basic kernel of an idea, to the finished work?
Well, those two [Phil and Mikkey] usually put down a riff, though occasionally I’ll provide the riff. Sometimes we’ll play around with it together till it’s ready. But mostly it’s down to those two. Then I come in and mess it up for them. They get all outraged and say: ‘It’s our song, how could you?’ The problem is that they don’t think like a vocalist, you see? If it was up to them, each song would be a guitar solo, with an occasional drum solo thrown in, just to make things interesting.
Was that also how it worked with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and Philthy Animal, or afterwards with Brian Robertson?
Yeah, more or less. All that’s really changed is the personalities that are involved. Phil [Campbell] is not like Eddie, and God forbid he’d be like Brian Robertson. What’s Robbo doing now, do you know?
Yes, he’s completed a solo record.
Is it out yet?
No. But apparently it does feature a few re-recordings of old Thin Lizzy songs.
[Witheringly] Oh dear. It’s not as though the man can’t write. Brian’s a great musician, but he’s wasted it all. It’s incredible, man. All that shit about being dressed differently [to the rest of the band]; all the wearing of the stupid shorts, it was just to get at me. Or to make sure everybody knew he wasn’t in Motörhead, just a featured guest artiste, doing us a favour from his great heights as a Thin Lizzy guitar player. But that was a long time ago. He also got fired by Statetrooper… how about that, eh? It’s one thing to be fired out of Motörhead, but getting fired by Statetrooper [a band that Robbo formed with ex-Michael Schenker Group singer Gary Barden], that’s something else altogether.
Where, when and how do you tend to get your best ideas? Is there a most productive set of circumstances?
No. Songs are like postcards, they arrive from all places and without warning. And when they do so you don’t ask questions, you’re just grateful they came. That’s why some of the all time greats were jotted down on beer mats or cigarette packets. You don’t always have your journal with you at the time [laughs].
Do you ever write on the road?
No. A lot of people do, but that doesn’t really work for me. We work better under the knife, in the studio, with the clock ticking. You know: ‘We’ve got to hurry’.
You find that adds a little spice to proceedings?
Yeah, it probably does. We’ve always done our best work like that. Even when we were broke, you only had that much time because it was all you could afford. I remember when we did Orgasmatron [in 1986], it was still being finished as the next band was wheeling its gear into the studio.
You have strayed from people’s expectations in the past but working within certain well established parameters, do you ever feel constrained in Motörhead?
No, not really. The thing is that we can do anything we like. I don’t give a fuck if somebody else doesn’t like it.
The title track to the 1916 album, or I Ain’t No Nice Guy from March Ör Die, are examples of those boundaries being shattered…
[Interrupting] I don’t feel any obligation to stay where the fans would like us to remain. Nothing like that; none at all. I don’t owe any fucker anything. I give them my music because I like to play it. If they like it too, that’s just a bonus. I play for me, and that’s because musicians are very selfish people. Almost as selfish as actors. And journalists [chuckles mischievously].
When will your much-vaunted solo album be released?
[Throws his hands in the air] I don’t have the time. I’ve got my side-band The Head Cat [more of which later] going as well, it’s just silly. I like to get home [from tour] and actually have a few days off now and again.
How much progress have you made on the solo album?
I’ve got a track down with Joan Jett [ex-Runaways guitarist], and another with Dave Grohl [of the Foo Fighters]. There are two with Reverend Horton Heat and two more with [German metalheads] Skew Siskin. We’ve also done a couple of songs with The Damned. So that’s about nine tracks. I probably need two more and it’s done.
So maybe we’ll get to hear it within the next year?
Maybe, we’ll see. I’ve worked on it for so long that I’m starting to think it’s fucking irrelevant [laughs].
The Wörld Is Yours is your fourth album with Cameron Webb, a producer whose career began with Limp Bizkit but whose CV now also includes Social Distortion, Danzig, 30 Seconds To Mars, Pennywise and Sum 41. How has he become such an important part of Motörhead’s creative team?
Because he’s excellent, it’s as simple as that. As producers go, he’s top of the scale. He’s worked with a lot of bands that don’t sound like us at all, so he’s versatile; he can produce anything and he’s great with ProTools which saves so much time. In the past [if there was a mistake] you had to re-record the whole track. Now you don’t, of course.
There’s some colourful footage in the new movie Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch that shows Motörhead recording in the studio with Cameron. He seems to have no problem arguing with the artistes that he records.
That’s true, and heated debate is very important. It’s one of the reasons that the collaboration between us works so well. Most producers think it’s their album; people like Rick Rubin and... what’s the guy that used to work with Metallica on their albums?
Yeah, that’s him. Those two seem to think the artistes are there for them, instead of the other way around.
Some of the new album was recorded in Wales whilst Phil Campbell spent time with his dying father. That must have been pretty traumatic.
It certainly was for Phil, yeah.
The rest of the record was done in California. Did the change of locations present any difficulties?
Not really, because we always do our parts separately, see? We put the drums down and then we do the guitars, then the bass and finally the vocals. Sometimes when we record, Phil goes in during the afternoon and I’m there in the evening. So it was the same set of circumstances as usual, only with more distance thrown in. We sent things to one another via the internet, which really helped.
According to the press release, the album is a reminder that you should never stop questioning or critiquing a society that will chew you up and spit you out if given half a chance.
That’s right, and it’s so true. Once you attract their attention they’ve got you. By all means be subversive, but there’s no point in being obvious about it. People argue with cops: That’s fucking stupid. Just smile to their faces and carry on doing what you were doing.
This is the first of the band’s albums to be released by its own label, Motörhead Music, with Classic Rock allowing its readers the first opportunity to hear it via this very magazine.
[Frowning] And you didn’t even pay us, did you?
It’s a business model that your good friend Slash has already used. Do you have any opinions on that?
Opinions on what?
I meant releasing music in that way...
Well, why not? We’ve tried all the other ways of doing it and none of those worked, did they? [Laughs heartily]. No, I like Classic Rock. I’ve read it since the very start… though I don’t know why I’m NOT ON THE MAILING LIST ANYMORE!
You are well known for your dislike of the music business.
No shit, Sherlock. Well, do you like it?
No, of course not; it’s infamous for eating you up and shitting you out.
Well, any business does that. The difference is that this one wants all of your money. They want to steal it all. They won’t take fifty per cent and let you have the rest. Remember that guy in Badfinger [the Beatles-approved 60s Welsh pop group], Pete Ham, who committed suicide [in 1975]? The industry drove him to hang himself. And then the other guy, Tom Evans, he went and did the exact same thing [eight years later, in 1983]. That’s how bad it was. It’s not that bad any more because all of the record companies are going out of business. In ten years they’ll be gone, they just didn’t see the changes coming.
I recently saw gigs by Alter Bridge and Stone Sour during which their singers almost encouraged the audiences to download their music online. What Myles Kennedy told the crowd in Bristol was something along the lines of: We don’t care if you steal our music, just so long as it gets heard.
There are so many bands out there vying for attention, to a certain extent I can understand why he would say that.
You do, really? In the past from the stage you’ve encouraged fans to steal Motörhead’s records, but from record stores – the distinction being that you’d still get paid.
The thing that people have to understand about downloading your favourite band’s music without paying for it is that if you keep on doing it, in six months your favourite band will have to stop playing. They won’t be able to afford to keep going. That, and fees for touring, are the only ways we get paid these days. And from the touring profits we also have to pay hire of the hall and PA and a support band. So if you want to kill your favourite band, go ahead and illegally download their music.
Does it make you think that rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have a long-term future?
Oh no, it’ll always have a future. People will always want to hear it and musicians will want to play it. Some scabby 16 year old from a secondary modern somewhere, he’ll want to get fucked just as much as everybody else. There’s no instrument in the world that’s better to pose with than an electric guitar. You cannot pose with a tuba. Neither can you pose with a mandolin, I’m sorry it just isn’t that masculine.
You remain firm friends with Ozzy Osbourne, of course…
Yeah, I played a gig with him in Japan just the other day.
Can you describe your current relationship with Sharon Osbourne, who managed Motörhead during the 1990s?
The band has been through a few ups and down with Sharon, but we’re fine. She’s great. I saw her save Ozzy’s life when we toured the States together and ever since I’ve had a very big respect for her. She took guys on at their own game and just fucked them – they would run screaming from the room. In full flow she’s quite a sight to see. Put it this way: I’m glad she likes me.
Are you surprised by the way she has been able to reinvent herself as a worldwide celebrity?
Not really. She saw her chance and took it, and why not? She’s not going to be a rock ‘n’ roll manager forever; like everyone else, she needs something to fall back on. That TV show [The Osbournes] was what did it. Was it twenty million upfront they got for the second series? What’s not to like about that?
Well, the invasion of one’s privacy for a start. What were your thoughts when the idea of a making movie about you was raised? You must have had misgivings?
Oh yeah [emits a fruity chuckle], no end of them. These two guys [Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski] were really keen to do it so we let them make a pilot. They followed me around for about a week. And what they showed us was really well done; well shot and edited. So we said yeah, fucking go for it. Then they spent the next two years on the road with us, which was slightly disconcerting. I almost killed one of them a few times.
Making such a movie could have been perceived as an exercise in self aggrandizement.
[Slightly huffily] It’s not that. They asked to do it. I’m not putting it out: They are. I’d never have made a film about me. As long as they didn’t expect me to shit on the people I know or tell tales on the chicks I’ve been with, I didn’t see any reason why not to go along with it. And I think it turned out quite well, it’s not too embarrassing. I saw it down in Austin, Texas, and I didn’t have to leave the theatre or anything.
Have you seen any of the other recent rock ‘n’ roll films? The Anvil one? Saxon’s Heavy Metal Thunder – The Movie? Or Iron Maiden’s Flight 666?
No. It’s not that I’m disinterested but nobody has sent me a free copy. I don’t earn much and I don’t go to the stores to browse. I watch TV, I play a bit of music and I chase women, basically. Ozzy will be the next one, though…
The moviemakers were granted plenty of access.
Yeah, well, once we’d agreed to do it that was the whole point, wasn’t it?
It’s a very revealing movie.
So which bits did you like best? [Offers a cigarette…]
No thanks. Well, getting to see your bachelor pad in LA, for starters. It’s amazing, like a museum to your life.
[Nodding] No shit. In fact, I’ve been to museums that have fewer exhibits.
The scene in your flat with your son, Paul Inder, is quite touching.
He’s a good boy, you know. Paul’s an amazing musician; he plays like a demon, actually sounds like Hendrix.
He seemed gobsmacked to learn from an apparent throwaway comment that he is your “most valuable possession”.
I thought that he knew that, but obviously not. If only for that respect, that he learned how I feel about him, the film was good.
Do you perhaps wish that you were more able to express your feelings?
Well, I do really. It’s a guy thing. Boys tend to take things like that the wrong way, don’t they? It’s just the way somebody is built. I’m sure everyone has got things they don’t share with anybody. You can’t be reaching out all the time; or if you do, you won’t be able to see your hand anymore. You certainly get your fingers bitten enough.
Is it a generational thing, though? Would you like to be in better contact with, for wont of a better term, your feminine side?
[Drily] I’ve been in contact with my feminine side for a long time. And with several other people’s feminine sides.
Another highlight of the movie is seeing you riding around in the turret of a German tank, in full uniform.
That’s the smallest tank they ever built, you know? It was the tank killer, with the Howitzer on the front.
It’s a given that you are a fan of such things, obviously, but I was surprised by the almost encyclopedic extent of your military knowledge. You knew more about that tank than the guys that were driving it.
Well, if you collect something then you have to learn about it. Shooting that clip was a funny experience. We drove down to a big ranch in Pomona, down in the south of Los Angeles. The place is full of trucks and tanks that are being restored. There was this big fuck off personnel carrier with a gun on the front and they asked, ‘Who wants to go for a ride?’ The guys I went with were all dressed as SS men, sporting machine guns, and we drove down to the freeway and back, this fucking great camouflaged vehicle going ‘Grrrrrrrr’… guys in their cars going past were incredulous; their faces were fucking magic. It was great fun.
I’m sure until their appearance in the film a lot of people won’t even have known of The Head Cat, a rockabilly side-band with ex-Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom and guitarist Danny B Harvey.
You might well be right. So that would be another reason for making the movie. In fact, we’ve just finished a new album.
Is there any possibility that band might play in the UK?
I don’t know, see, because it’s expensive to do that. And it’s something that we do primarily for fun.
The movie’s ‘talking heads’ – people like Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper, Slash and Ozzy – say some lovely things about you. Do you actually enjoy your legendary status or sometimes think it’s a bit surreal and daft?
It’s daft. You’ve interviewed me for many years now… you know I don’t take that stuff too seriously. I don’t think I’m that important, I’m just some bozo that got lucky. I got turfed out of this terrible place that I lived in [Britain] and ended up living in this really nice place [Los Angeles, just down the road from the Rainbow Bar And Grill].
Do the demands of the fans sometimes get you down?
No. I can handle it. It’s fine. I quite like people, mostly. You can’t like them all. The human race isn’t wholly likable. If somebody stops me and wants to chat for five minutes and get a photograph, I don’t mind. It’s when there are two hundred of them that things get a bit tricky. When I go to the Rainbow I don’t take no fucking bodyguard.
I loved the movie’s quote from Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction/Red Hot Chili Peppers fame: “The first time I met Lemmy he said, ‘Hello’ and offered me crystal meth.”
Well, he looked like he needed a bit of a pick-me-up.
The footage of you playing Damage Case on stage with Metallica is another terrific moment. You seem to have a real connection with those guys.
Yeah, although we don’t see enough of one another because they’re in ’Frisco and I’m in LA. There’s always been something special ever since Lars [Ulrich] and [late bass player] Cliff Burton came to my hotel room before Metallica even existed [in the early ’80s] and Lars introduced himself to me in his ever-modest way with the words: ‘I’m the head of your West Coast Fan Club’. We later found out there was only him and Cliff in it. He tried to keep up with me in the drinking stakes, which was very bad news. We used a photograph of him from that night, covered in vomit, on one an album sleeve… it might have been No Sleep At All. He’s the one captioned: ‘Recognise anybody?’ But Metallica are a great fucking band, man. They’re truly one of the best bands ever, Some Kind Of Monster aside. Every band has problems, but you know who I hated most in that movie? The fucking psychiatrist.
You mean Phil Towle, the so-called Performance Enhancement Coach?
That’s him. I wanted to wring his fucking neck every five minutes. He was just draining their money away. ‘Do you want me to be around a while longer?’ ‘Yeah, sure we do’. He wouldn’t go away till their bread was gone. Cunt. But because they were American and they’d been brought up that way, they fell for it. It was a shame. America is a funny place for things like that; people can’t sort their own problems out.
It’s also great to see all those kids at your old school, Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones in Anglesey, singing Ace Of Spades and flashing Devil signs at the camera. That must have made you smile?
Yeah, it did, but that kid on the piano wasn’t too great though, was he? Keep on taking the tablets [laughs].
As the movie’s end credits rolled the first time you saw it, what were your thoughts?
I liked it. It was always going to be handy to have just as some sort of a diary. I’ve got all the outtakes, too. It was flattering that somebody would want to have done it. I can think of a lot better subjects than myself.
Does it successfully debunk the mythology surrounding you?
[Laughing]: Possibly, but it also created more of the same.
One perennial allegation is the belief that you are some sort of deranged Nazi sympathizer.
That’s ridiculous; as I say in the film I’ve had a string of black girlfriends. I’m the worst fucking Nazi you ever met. You couldn’t have taken my girlfriends to meet the Führer. ‘This is Sheryl’ … ‘Hi y’all’. It just wouldn’t work. The Nazis were a bunch of cunts, everyone knows that.
That final statement makes your fascination with Hitler that much harder to justify.
Those that knew him say he was the most boring man in the world, but he was actually a great employer. He gave lots of time off and when the holidays came around he paid for it all. By all accounts he was a great boss… So long as you were Aryan. Children loved him. He’d sit around playing trains with them and making all the choo-choo noises. The thing that people always miss is that Hitler was not a monster, he was a man like everybody else, with all the prejudices and weaknesses of any other, only his were amplified into philosophies that led a nation into war. I mean, answer me this, how many Germans do you think would have exterminated Jews if he hadn’t said so?
Are you sure about that? Because Hitler didn’t kill a single Jew. It was all those fellas that were prepared to submerge their humanity to do to those terrible things [on his behalf] because the government said so. How many people do you think there are in this country that would do that?
That’s a damned good question.
Yes. How about that? How many people would have collaborated with him had he won the Battle Of Britain? How many jobsworths do you know who would love to put on that uniform, strut about and order people around?
There must be quite a few.
You’re kidding me; there are loads. Everybody points their fingers at the filthy Nazis, but you don’t have to wear a uniform to be a Nazis – they’re still everywhere.
The new advert for Kronenbourg 1664, in which Motörhead perform a slowed down, bluesy version of Ace Of Spades, is all over our TV screens, and it’s very cool.
Thanks. It’s good work, isn’t it?
But my understanding is that you don’t drink beer; you’re purely a spirits man?
I do drink beer, but not much of it, and not that [brand]. If I drink beer I drink MGD [Miller Genuine Draft]. Over here in the UK I used to drink Special Brew because it’s so fierce. Once you get used to Special Brew you can’t drink anything else; I don’t know why they call it ‘tramp’s beer’, it’s expensive – but it’s good.
The advert is highly visible; that won’t do you any harm, will it?
[Laughing]: No, it won’t not unless they send me some crates of Kronenbourg 1664. I could always pass ’em onto my mates if they did.
That song, Ace Of Spades, has served you very well. It’s in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 videogame…
[Nodding and cutting in]: … It’s also in Rock Band 2.
It has almost taken on a life of its own.
What can I say? We got lucky. We got famous for a good song. Imagine being in the Bay City Rollers, playing that shit and wearing tartan trousers for the rest of your days [laughs].
Your most recent interview with Classic Rock offered a remarkable quote: “I believe in moderation in everything”. For those that didn’t see that story, could you elaborate?
Well, of course I believe in moderation – everything else will kill you. There are enough dead bodies stacked up; casualties amassed in the name of the drug scene. That’s why I never did heroin. Heroin is what kills people, I never saw anybody die from anything else.
In that interview you imply that you are slowing down a little – that you cannot do the things you once used to.
‘Slowing down’ isn’t the way I’d put it. I prefer thinning out: getting rid of the stuff that’s no longer necessary. You have to get hold of this fact, I’m 65 this Christmas. You can’t do that shit forever. [Makes coughing noise] Oh, he’s gone. People seem to think you’re fucking immortal if you don’t die young, but nobody’s immortal. I’m going to cash in my chips just like everybody else. I’m just… like Steven Tyler said, sick and tired of being sick and tired.
When you turn 65 on Christmas Eve, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards will both be two years older than you. They are constantly asked how much longer they can keep doing this.
It’s such a dumb question, isn’t it? How long do you think you’re going to be alive for? Nobody has any idea.
But there will surely come a point when the mind will be willing, but the body unable?
When that happens, I’ll stop. It hasn’t happened yet.
Are you thinking one more album, two albums… or perhaps more?
I don’t think like that. I feel alright today, so I’ll carry on. It’s a simple as that.
Does working so closely with Phil, who is 49, and Mikkey, a mere 46, help to keep you young?
[Laughing]: Mikkey is a mere child. And yes, it probably did at the beginning. When Würzel and Phil joined, that was a great time in this band’s history. Going to America with them for the first time, showing them the sights of New York and the places I’d seen many times was fantastic because they were so impressed. But it doesn’t feel as though they’re much younger than me now.
Every night, from the stage, you call Mikkey “the greatest drummer in the world”.
Yeah I do. Well, you’d be hard pushed to find a better one. I sincerely believe that.
As musicians are he and Phil, and yourself, undervalued for being in a band like Motörhead?
Oh yeah, definitely. Heavy metal breeds the best guitar players in the world, there’s no doubt about that, just like country music breeds the best singers. It’s just a fact. The harmonies in country are unbelievable, especially with a girl singer. There are great singers in heavy metal too. There are also great guitarists, great bass players and great drummers that get no credit at all. None whatever. And yet you read a serious magazine telling you what a great musician somebody is, it won’t be a guy from a rock ‘n’ roll band…
It’s Phil that I feel the most sorry for because he gets overlooked the most. He really is an outstanding guitar player. He comes up with things that will send chills down your backbone, even at my age. Unlike a lot of those mainstream pop/ rock bands, when we’re onstage we don’t have to rely upon fireworks that shoot two hundred feet up in the air. We used to use them, don’t get me wrong. But when the money [to pay for them] ran out, you must rely upon your musicianship. And we’re fucking good, man. I don’t care what anybody says. Especially at what we do. And nobody else does it. I’ve said it many times but it’s true: When Motörhead leaves, there will be a hole there that just can’t be filled. That’s fine with me; it means I’ve achieved what I set out to do – which was to make an unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll band.
How odd was it for you last September when Mikkey was temporarily replaced on tour by ex-Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum in order to appear in The Celebrity Jungle, Swedish TV’s local version of I’m A Celebrity… Get me Out Of Here?
Matt filled in and he was great. He’s a fun guy. He put a new angle on things. Having been with Mikkey so long, of course it was strange; you get used to him being there and there’s a perfectly reasonable tendency to think, ‘No one else could do this’. But Matt could do it.
Presumably you tuned in to The Celebrity Jungle to watch Mikkey being forced to eat crocodile scrotums?
No, it was a deep-fried gecko that he ate, I think, also a horrible beetle. You would never, ever get me on one of those shows.
Watching your friend going through such trials, it must have given you a laugh?
Oh yeah, me and Phil were helpless on the floor. ‘He’s gonna eat a gecko, you’re fucking joking...’ Because Mikkey hates creepy crawlies.
Was somebody to leave now, would that be it for Motörhead?
Not unless it was me. And even then, if the other two decided they wanted to carry on I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Phil [Taylor] and Eddie [Clarke] left and we carried on without them; it was a bit of a wrench but nobody’s irreplaceable. A lot of the fans thought that Phil and Eddie were irreplaceable, and a lot of them left when those two departed, but they ended up coming back to us. This is certainly the best Motörhead there’s ever been, there’s no doubt about that. I know how good everybody [from that line-up] was, and I do miss that version of Motörhead, but this Motörhead is much better; we’re a lot more versatile than we used to be in the early days of the band.
As a completely self-made man who has done things the hard way, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
Just surviving this far, I think.
There must be something that makes you intensely proud?
Probably keeping Motörhead together. It wasn’t easy all the time. Then again, I guess it wasn’t that difficult either. [He falls silent for a moment]. If I had to name something, my only real achievement is Motörhead. That and persuading people that I can play the bass, when really it’s touch and go [laughs]. I cheat a lot, you know.
Are you one of those guys that look back and says, ‘No regrets’?
[Nodding enthusiastically] Oh yeah, it’s always too late for that. You’ve already made that mistake. Just learn from it and move on because time is short: Short for all of us.
This article originally appeared in the Classic Rock Presents Motörhead - The World Is Yours special collectors pack.
To read about Motörhead taking to the waves on their infamous Motörboat cruise, then click on the link below.