It’s summertime (allegedly), and the Motörhead juggernaut is back in action, marking their return with the release of a new live album, Better Motörhead Than Dead, and a world tour. Classic Rock caught up with Lemmy at his central London hotel, where on a rare day off he took time out to talk to us about sex, drugs, death and Gordon Brown.
In his early 60s and still a fixture on the summer festival circuit, the Motörhead mainman dispels some favourite rumours about drink, drugs and death.
What do you normally do on a day off?
Not much, actually. Just glad to have a lay down. There’s a little casino attached to the hotel so I go down there. Then I go to Stringfellows now and again.
Where are you touring at the moment?
We’re going to Japan tomorrow. We’re doing festivals.
Is that a good market for you?
It might be better this time; we haven’t been there for a couple of years. We’re never going to be flavour of the month in a place like Japan because they like pretty American boys. But we can sell a few, yeah.
I like Japan, it’s a good place to visit. It’s interesting because they’ve got no similarities to us at all. It’s always good to find out the mind-set of someone who grew up without Christian guilt [laughs].
Why release a live album now?
Why not, y’know? [laughs]
Well it must have been a challenge to better No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, which is such an iconic album.
I know it is. But it’s not the best.
So why are people so fanatical about it?
'Cos it was our first live album. One of the few albums from a metal band that went straight in at No.1.
If a kid had enough money for only one Motörhead live album, which would you recommend?
I’d say get Louder Than Everyone Else, because it’s today’s band and it’s value for money.
The Motörhead logo has become something of a high-street emblem; how do you feel about everyone from pop stars to chavvy housewives wearing a T-shirt with it on?
As long as people buy the albums [laughs]. You say housewives; some of them were kids when we started. So that don’t matter. I mean, there’s 60-year-old geezers who are fans of ours. That’s no problem. But if everybody who bought a Motörhead T-shirt bought an album I’d be well off.
You obviously know about the recent sad death of Kelly Johnson?
Yeah. I was going to go to the funeral but we were in Berlin at the time.
You must have plenty of fond memories of Kelly and Girlschool.
I was crazy about Kelly. But that’s not the point, is it? It was a terrible thing. She was a great guitar player. Really exceptional. On a good day she was fucking brilliant. If you listen to the solos in The Hunter and Don’t Call It Love, fucking amazing. All the girls were with her right until the end.
Do you think about death?
No. When it comes it comes. Why would you spend time worrying about something that’s fucking inevitable? You just have to adopt, adapt and improve.
Are you still writing material for other people?
Occasionally. I did some things for Doro Pesch. That’s the last thing, I think.
Have you stopped working with Ozzy?
I did write a couple of things for the last album but he didn’t use them.
When I last spoke to Jimmy Page he said he was really impressed with the acoustic number [Whorehouse Blues] you played at the Classic Rock Awards, and he wanted to know if you were going to do any more stuff like that in the future.
Yeah, might do. I don’t mess about with Motörhead though; that number was a flash-in-the-pan thing. I might do some on my solo album.
Would you consider doing an unplugged session with Motörhead?
We’ve never been invited have we? [laughs] You know MTV. We couldn’t do it on tour because people would throw rocks at us; they want it loud.
What’s the best rumour that you’ve heard about yourself?
Oh death, definitely [laughs]. A French magazine printed my obituary.
How did you die?
I dunno, it was in French. Bound to be a drug overdose, innit?
Would you describe yourself as a drug addict or an alcoholic?
I don’t think I’m either. I’ve spent extended amounts of time without drugs or alcohol. Doesn’t bother me that much, except if you give up speed you sleep a lot, that’s all.
So the story that you went to a doctor and he told you if you stopped taking speed you would die isn’t true?
No, that’s bollocks. He told me I couldn’t give blood.
What are your goals and dreams for Motörhead now?
I’d like to have another number one album, as anybody who’s making albums would.
How do you see yourself achieving that?
There’s probably no way. I mean, we’d have to get played on the radio, for a start, and that’s almost fucking impossible.
Haven’t you been approached to re-form the old Motörhead line-up?_ _
A couple of times, but I always say no because these guys have been with me longer than Eddie [Clarke] and Phil [Taylor]. They’ve been through an equal amount of hard times. And why should I put them on hold to put something together that probably wouldn’t work?
Do Motörhead still pull groupies?
Well, the level of security is so fucking ridiculous that you can’t get a bird backstage half of the time and we can’t go out and find them anymore. It’s like a fucking military operation, which I hate.
Finally, what keeps you motivated?
Rock’n’roll – the thing itself. It’s such a good life. Travelling around and being adored; it ain’t that hard, is it?
THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS
When not pursuing a relentless three-man crusade to make the planet’s music lovers’ ears bleed copiously, Lemmy indulges in some rather more subdued, rootsy rock’n’roll in his side project The Head Cat, comprised of Lemmy (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica), Danny B. Harvey (guitar, keyboards, bass), Slim Jim Phantom (drums) and Serbian Djordje Stijepovic on stand-up bass.