On the eve of the release of MOTORHEAD’s twenty third album, ‘Kiss of Death’, back in 2006 Vive Le Punk caught up with the living legend himself: LEMMY…
Entering the Kensington hotel room that is Lemmy’s lair can be a somewhat intimidating experience. Dressed completely in black and already on his second bottle of Jack Daniels of the day ("I don’t get pissed anymore. I just drink it because I like the taste"), the Motorhead frontman is strictly from the no bullshit school of rock. He says what he means, he says it once and you either get with the programme or get out! Luckily for me, discovering the ‘Overkill’ album at an early age and an overall knowledge about all things Motorhead saves me any embarrassment…
TALES OF GLORY
Lemmy has certainly paid his dues. What is the worst job the rock legend has ever had? "Making parts for washing machines in a factory. It was unbearable, I just screamed my head off ’til they fired me."
Since the ’60s he’s been living his rock ‘n’ roll dream but his early bands such as Opal Butterfly, Sam Gopal’s Dream and The Rockin’ Vicars were a very different, less aggressive style than what he is famed for. A stint as roadie for Hendrix in ’67 must have been quite an experience too. He then went on to join and enjoy success with the seminal space rockers Hawkwind in ’71.
After being kicked out of Hawkwind in 1975 for "taking the wrong drugs", he formed Bastard, who would quickly be humorously renamed Motorhead, the last Hawkwind song Lemmy wrote. Taking on vocal and bass duties this was his band and would see a list of musicians come and go. The classic early eighties line-up, that saw Motorhead at the peak of their success, was Lemmy (bass/lead vocals), Fast Eddie Clarke (guitar/backing vocals) and Philthy Animal Taylor (drums).
Numerous members, including Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson and Taylor were kicked out at various times because they couldn’t play or didn’t learn their parts. "That’s the unforgiveable", Lemmy states bluntly: "Robbo got the sack because he couldn’t fucking play. For whatever reason, as it happens it was because he was drinking too much, he couldn’t deliver his gig. You can do what the fuck you like, you can snort fucking Harpic for all I care as long as you can deliver on the stage."
Lemmy settled on the current Motorhead line-up of Lemmy, Phil Campbell (guitar) and Michael "Mikkey Dee" Delaouglou (drums) in 1995. His unstoppable musical juggernaut would define the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll with fast, heavy and raw tales of debauchery and carnage.
BUILT FOR SPEED
Back in the late ’70s and ’80s, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and the mighty Motorhead were only a handful of bands that were accepted by both metallers and punks.
"It was because we sounded like a punk band but looked like a heavy metal band! That’s why we were called heavy metal, because we had long hair. Otherwise we’d have been put in the punk bracket. The Ramones managed it. Some people call them heavy metal. I thought we had a lot in common with The Ramones. There was three of us, four of them. None of them had red hair. (laughs)"
As well as his closeness with The Ramones, Lemmy was good friends with The Damned too and he guested on bass on the band’s 1979 cover of ‘Ballroom Blitz’. "The silly rock ‘n’ roll brothers. The Damned were extremely silly, no, well Captain (Sensible, singer/guitarist) was extremely silly. A couple of their bass players became silly or had silliness thrust upon them."
ON YOUR FEET OR ON YOUR KNEES
With the recent release of the anthology ‘Lemmy- Damage Case’, some of the best tracks spanning his entire career have been compiled. Lemmy has stuck to Motorhead’s classic sound, despite the rising and falling of numerous trends in music.
"I never paid any attention. I was only interested in my band, the rest of them can go fuck themselves. You have to be like that or you can’t survive it. We never move far out of the mould, we just do the occasional freak out. But we had a good idea at the beginning, why fuck with it? About every eight years it becomes okay to like Motorhead again you know? We seem to be in the middle of one of those little lifts."
In a musical climate where bands shoot themselves in the foot by exploring too many different styles and not managing to develop their own sound, you know where you are with Motorhead. Lemmy doesn’t think much of bands that jump on bandwagons.
"Well you see all these bands that do that and they always fuck up. People just leave them." No one leaves Motorhead, fans are fans for life. Despite this, Lemmy flatly states, "nearly all of our albums are fucking underrated". Who can argue with that?
DEAD MAN’S HAND
A track that got them credit was the 100mph punk/metal hybrid and rock classic ‘Ace Of Spades’, released in 1980. "It was just all about gambling. A lot of my songs are like that. Think of a title and then all the clichés I can get in there. I never thought it was anything special that song but everyone else did."
Although when he wrote the song, it didn’t strike Lemmy as being one which could blow up like it did, the 1980 single would go on to become their most famous song. "We were lucky that we got famous for a good song. We got stuck with a good ‘un. Imagine being The Bay City Rollers and having to play those shit songs for the rest of your lives."
With their lyrical content ranging from womanising, gambling and rock ‘n’ roll to anti-religion anthems, Motorhead songs are always about the excessive, sleazier and darker sides of life. "Well it’s no fun singing about the light side," Lemmy reasons. As regards to songs about women and his numerous encounters he simply jokes, "It’s my dearest closest thing, you know? It’s my career actually, music is just a sideline."
His ‘sideline’ has made him an iconic figure and a rock ‘n’ roll hero. "I just happen to be the last one," he claims, smiling.
ALL THE ACES
Lemmy’s own heroes are from a very different era of rockstar. "I go all the way back, I remember Elvis’ first record coming out. That was my first." It didn’t upset the young Lemmy too much that Elvis never played the UK. "He got off a plane in Glasgow for an hour, got back on it and fucked off. Elvis wasn’t the best of them, he was just the best looking. He defined the look of rock ‘n’ roll but we never thought he was the end of it all as far as records went. Little Richard was magic."
SHOOT YOU IN THE BACK
Self-proclaimed anarchist Lemmy is still very suspicious about the music industry and is aware that great talents and artists can be conned if they aren’t careful. "This is the only business where you can get cheated this bad by the record company or the management. Although, if it does go wrong, they’ll keep managing you and see if they can get anymore out of you. The Musician’s Union in this country isn’t worth fuck all." Fuck the business, for the booted man in black, it’s all about the music… and the women.
FAST AND LOOSE
Lemmy has never been one for the white picket fence and 2.4 children. The call of rock ‘n’ roll is just too loud and appealing for him to ever turn his back on. Has he never thought of settling down with a special lady?
"I’ve thought about it. I didn’t do it though. It looks like hell to me. I get bored real swift. I can’t be sitting there looking at the same face over the cornflakes for the rest of my life. I just can’t imagine it. I’m not going to get married and pretend because that’s bollocks. If you get married, fucking stay that way. I’ve just never found anybody who makes me stop looking at all the other birds basically."
LIVE TO WIN
Winning a Grammy in 2004 and celebrating their thirtieth anniversary last year has only pushed Lemmy to keep striving for more. One of his tattoos reads, ‘Born to lose- live to win’. There’s still fire (or should that be whiskey and smoke?) in Lemmy’s veins. Thoughts of calling it a day have never crossed his mind.
"No. Never. If you knock it on the head you’ve definitely got fuck all. Stay together and you’ve got a chance."
‘Kiss Of Death’, Motorhead’s 23rd album to date (yes, you read that right) is out this month and sees Lemmy, Campbell and Mikkey Dee back on top form with some classic Motorhead blitzes and a few surprises, such as the whiskey soaked ballad, ‘God Was Never On Your Side’.
With Motorhead’s new album ready to rip, he’s not even taking a breath: "Well I’m doing a solo album right now which has two tracks with The Reverend Horton Heat, two tracks with Skew Siskin, two tracks with The Damned and a track with Dave Grohl. I’ve got another couple to do yet." The as yet untitled solo album is sure to see him doing what he does. Lemmy is rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll.
NO SLEEP ‘TIL BRIXTON
Although the power rock trio can now tour in comfort, Lemmy remembers the days of piling into the back of a van for months on end. "I did my van thing. In the back in my sleeping bag with the fucking flash light shoved in your gob trying to read."
Lemmy’s itching to head out with the new material and with more classics than a Ferrari collector. "About seven months a year we tour. I like it. I spend more time on the road than I do in my house so it’s fair I suppose."
"It’s a great life and I recommend it. The taxman can’t find you and the fucking woman with the bad news can’t find you."
And before we know it our time is up and as eight members of a BBC camera crew sheepishly creep into the room to film yet another interview with Lemmy, he wishes me farewell with "Take it easy Eugene". The man is a legend. Long may his glass remain full.
‘Kiss of Death’ is out now on SPV. Motorhead’s most recent studio album, last year’s ‘Motorizer’, is out now on SPV.
Eugene Big Cheese
TEAR YA’ DOWN
Deluded do-gooder frontmen and lying politicians make Lemmy’s blood boil…
"Bono is the most insincere motherfucker I’ve heard for a long time. Actually I take that back. I think he’s sincere but misguided. A guy having dinner with George Bush is not my idea of a good lad. Fucking hell. You can find better ways of helping the poor in the world than talking to George Bush. He’s never going to do anything for anyone. Neither is Tony Blair for that matter. That fucking smiling twat. I hate all politicians. From the far left to the far right and everything in between- they’re all lying bastards. It’s like the Irish say, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, you always end up with the government. As soon as they become the government they change."
A brief history of the legend that is Lemmy Kilmister…
1945- Born in Stoke.
1967- Worked as a roadie for Hendrix for six months.
1971- Joined London space rockers Hawkwind.
1972- Hawkwind reach No. 3 in the UK charts with the ‘Silver Machine’ single.
1975- Lemmy is thrown out of Hawkwind for copious amphetamine use. Forms Motorhead.
1980- Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ reached No.15 in the UK singles chart.
1981- Live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ hits No.1 in the UK charts and Motorhead reach the peak of their mainstream fame.
1982- Motorhead release a cover of the Tammy Wynette classic ‘Stand By Your Man’, with Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics. This lead to the departure of Fast Eddie Clarke who felt it was a compromise of the band’s principles.
1984- Motorhead played ‘Ace Of Spades’ on an episode of the sitcom ‘The Young Ones’. Drummer Taylor left after the recording and was replaced by former Saxon sticksman Pete Gill.
1991- Lemmy writes lyrics for the Ozzy tracks ‘Desire’, ‘I Don’t Want To Change The World’ and the hit ‘Mama I’m Coming Home’. Mmm, royalties.
1992- Motorhead release ‘Hellraiser’, co-written by Ozzy and used in the film ‘Hellraier III: Hell On Earth’.
1995- Guitarist Wurzel leaves and Motorhead revert to a trio rather than a quartet for the first time in over a decade and were re-energised. Lemmy celebrated his 50th birthday.
2001- Motorhead’s song ‘The Game’ from the album ‘Hammered’ is started to be used as WWE wrestler Triple H’s intro music.
2004- Lemmy guests on Dave Grohl’s Probot side-project on vocals and bass on the track ‘Shake Your Blood’.
2005- Motorhead pick up their first Grammy Award. It is for their cover of Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ and wins them ‘Best Metal Performance’. The same year Motorhead and Motley Crue perform a joint encore in Perth Australia of The Sex Pistols song ‘Anarchy in the UK’.
2006- ‘Lemmy- Damage Case’, a compilation spanning Lemmy’s career, and ‘Kiss of Death’, Motorhead’s 23rd studio album, are both unleashed on the world. Lemmy gets stuck into recording a new solo album with a number of special guests