March 30, 1999
They're one of the most enduring, not to mention hardest working, bands in the business. Since 1975, "Headbangers" the world over have been listening to a unique brand of metal known as "Motorhead." Led by lead vocalist and bassist Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead and Co. have traveled the world, performing for tens of thousands of fans.
We spoke with Lemmy and Phil Campbell (vocalist, guitarist with Motorhead) about the group's history.
Q: Is it true that back in 1977 Motorhead was at the absolute bottom of Rock'n'Roll?
Q: You were sleeping in your van?
Lemmy: We couldn't get arrested.
Q: How did you keep going?
Lemmy: How could you stop? I never even considered giving up. Never.
Q: Does it ever get boring playing the same music night after night?
Lemmy: No. It's better than being a plumber. I'll tell you, I've been all over the world. I've had women that people only dream about. I've seen things that nobody is going to see. I grew up in a small village in North Wales and I've seen things they will never see.
Phil: It's better than sitting in an office. It's the best thing we could possibly do. We don't want to do anything else. I've seen the wildest things ever imaginable go down.
Lemmy: In another age, I would've run away and joined the circus, but, seeing as how it's this one, I joined a rock'n'roll band. I think it's one of the great lives left.
Q: Does it annoy you when newer groups will come along and sell millions of CD's
and play to capacity crowds?
Lemmy: If you let it bother you, you would give it up, wouldn't you? You think, well, when is it going to be my turn? It doesn't really matter. There's room for everybody. If they get lucky, I got nothing against them. Good luck to them. If they can make a buck, I don't care. I'd just like to make a buck, too. But, it doesn't bother me that they're doing it and I'm not. It's not their fault I'm not.
Phil: That's what keeps you going, because you never know. But, we enjoy it anyway, even if we knew there was no hope of us making any real money. We'd still be playing our music, regardless. That's what we want to do.
Q: Has your record company ever tried to change your music or image?
Phil: No. They know it's a waste of time asking us that.
Lemmy: We're not going to do it, you know. And there's been real complete freedom as far as image is concerned. It's funny for us in the States. We were too early for America at first. And then, we were too late to be in the New Wave, because we'd been around too long.
Q: To watch "Geraldo" is to believe that all metal musicians were devil worshipers.
Lemmy: That's obviously balderdash. I'm not even interested in idiots like that. If he's gonna drag in stuff like that, he's obviously brain dead.
Phil: It's like the PMRC. They don't worry us at all. It's all garbage. They're just all bored people who have nothing creative to do.
Q: What kind of music do you guys listen to offstage?
Lemmy: We listen to everything.
Phil: Fogelberg, Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Juice Newton, Joe Walsh, Everly Brothers. Generally, I don't listen to that much heavy stuff.
Q: Lemmy, you used to watch The Beatles at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. How
old were you?
Lemmy: I was 18.
Q: You said they were the greatest live group you'd ever seen.
Lemmy: You have to take that remark in context though. I was 18. I thought The Beatles were the best because they were good. They were really good. They weren't just impressive; they were good.
Q: What made them good?
Lemmy: They were special. Some people are. Some people aren't. Hendrix was. We are. I know we are. Those special things take a while to catch on, you know.
Q: You worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix for a year?
Lemmy: About six months.
Q: How did you get that job?
Lemmy: I was living with his bass player in a flat. I was sleeping on the floor 'cause I knew their roadie. He was sharing a flat with Noel Redding. So, when they needed an extra "humper," they put me in. I was at all the sessions for "Axis Bold As Love."
Q: What kind of guy was Jimi Hendrix?
Lemmy: Smashed out of his mind.
Q: All the time?
Lemmy: More or less. He was another one of those people. He'd just walk on stage and people would go "Ahhh." -- even on his bad nights. A lot of the time Hendrix was rubbish, the worst stuff you'd ever heard in your life. He'd be out of tune, stompin' on his fuzz box. He'd be terrible. But, he'd still command. Some people carry themselves.
Q: Are you able to write on the road?
Phil: We don't write anything on the road really. We just set aside a certain time to write, go into a rehearsal room, and just bang the songs off. When we're on the road, we don't write. We'd rather drink instead. We'd like to do it pretty quickly when we do have to write songs.
Lemmy: We always work in a panic. That's how we do it. Deadline, you know.
Gary James files his interviews from Syracuse, NY.