By: Rob Cavuoto
A father says to his son, “It’s going to be tough in this recession.” The son says “Tell me something I don’t know.” The father says “Your mum’s ass can take my whole fist!” – As told by Lemmy.
I know using a dirty joke is not the most conventional way to start an interview, but Motörhead is not your conventional band. They’re anything but conventional. For the past 35 years they’ve done things their way with no regrets, no excuses and no apologies, blazing their own trail for better or worse. At the helm of Motörhead is Lemmy Kilmister, who’s notorious for being a hell raiser and his music is reflective of that demeanor.
At 65, he is the driving force who is committed to keeping Motörhead alive and focused. Without his musical integrity Motörhead would be nowhere. Though Lemmy may seem like a very intimidating person, he appears to be well-grounded and down to earth with a great sense of humor and smart comedic wit. All of which have helped him in his career about not taking himself too serious.
High on the heels of his 20th and biggest selling CD, The World is Yours, and his #1 charting DVD documentary, Lemmy and the boys, Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums) are at the tail end the first leg of their 35th Anniversary tour with no signs of slowing down or saying farewell.
I caught up with Lemmy just hours before hitting the stage at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey during Motörhead’s 35th Anniversary Tour to chat about Motörhead what it’s really like to just be Lemmy.
Rob Cavuoto: Congratulation on the success of your DVD Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch, with it hitting #1 on the Billboard DVD Top 100.
Lemmy: Thanks, there mustn’t been any other DVDs on that week.
Rob: I heard your new CD The World Is Yours was selling great, with 100,000 copies so far.
Lemmy: Apparently it sold more than any of our other CDs.
Rob: Your career in Motörhead spans 35 years and you’ve always stayed true to you musical style and its integrity. Was there ever a point when you questioned the band’s direction and considered altering your style to fit the era, like with commercial rock or grunge?
Lemmy: No, not at all. We’ve done some different stuff in our time but always framed it within Motörhead. Like what we did on 1916 where we used cellos, violins and pianos. The songs sound like Motorhead because that’s who we are. It’d be stupid to say, let’s make major changes ‘cause we don’t want to. We’re Motörhead and we play Motörhead music and why would we want to play anything else?
Rob: After 20 LPs what’s the motivation to continue to write new music when so many other band just go out and play their hits as a nostalgia act?
Lemmy: The only nostalgia in this band is me and there’s no nostalgia being made [Laughing]. Anything I make comes out as Motörhead music.
Rob: The new CD visits more of your rock roots with smooth chord progressions. Was this approach of creating a straight ahead rock n roll CD intentional?
Lemmy: I was influenced by the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry, you may not be able to hear it all time, but it’s in there. Influences are not always apparent. Eddie Cochran was also an influence on this CD.
Rob: I thought Cameron Webb did a fantastic job with production on The World is Yours.
Lemmy: Man is he good! He really did a good job. He produced our last four CDs.
Rob: With 20 LPs of material how do you pick a set list?
Lemmy: We fight! [Laughing]. We know what we have to play. We have to play “Overkill,” “Ace of Spades” and “Killed by Death.” We put “The Chase is Better than the Catch” back in the set and I chose “We are Motorhead” just for this tour. There are also two songs from the new CD; “Get Back in Line” and “I Know How to Die.”
Rob: Many bands are now playing an entire LP on the year its anniversary, any plans to do so and if so which would you choose Orgasmatron for its 25 anniversary?
Lemmy: Never even thought of it. Shit has it been that long? No plans to do that.
Rob: What do you attribute to the longevity of Motörhead?
Lemmy: Not dying, that’s the secret to longevity! If you believe in what you do, it’s easy to keep going. It’s not a problem. I’ll never consider giving up. For one thing, I’m not qualified to do anything else [Laughing].
Rob: Any plans to ever reunite with Phil “Philthy” Taylor and Fast Eddie Clarke from the original line-up?
Lemmy: No, because these two guys with me now have been with me longer than the original two. Phil has been with me for 26-27 years and Mikkey over 19 years. They played “Ace of Spade” more often than “those two.” They played “Overkill” more often than “those two.”
Why should I put Phil and Mikkey on hold to go off with guys who probably can’t play them as well? They’ve been out of practice. It’s ridiculous to think of it. Then I would be a nostalgia act. I’m all for the now and the future.
Rob: Do you still talk with Phil and Fast Eddie?
Lemmy: Now and then. I like Phil, he was my best mate. Eddie was kind of a friend except he was always complaining about something. It got kinda tedious. Last time he left, we laid low. Before, one of us would go off and bring him back. It was a shame he shouldn’t have done that, we had a lot going for us back then. He should have stuck though it. It was the Wendy O. William thing and I couldn’t understand that (reference: recording “Stand by Your Man,” a cover version of the Tammy Wynette with Wendy O. Williams).
He just gave up on it because Wendy wasn’t immediately perfect on it, she just needed to go through it a few times and he left the band over it. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I think he was expecting to be talked back in. Phil came in the room and said Eddie’s left again, I said whose turn is it to go talk to him [Laughing]. I said fuck it, I’m not doing it. That’s the way it went, wrong decision on his part.
Rob: What do you want to be remembered for?
Lemmy: For being a decent person, that’s about it really. I mean you got to keep your integrity ‘cause in that end that’s all you’ve got. If you sell your heart then you’re really a whore.
Rob: What do you want it to say on your tombstone?
Lemmy: “I told you I was ill” – just like Spike Milligan [Laughing]. There was great gravestone in Glasgow I read once. It was a dentist and it said, “Stranger approach this grave with gravity, Thomas McSwine is filling his last cavity” [Laughing]. Maybe “Fuck You”, would be good!
Rob: What is the best thing about being Lemmy?
Lemmy: That I don’t have to apologize!
Rob: What is the biggest compliment someone can pay you?
Lemmy: That I’m good at what I do. That’s what you are looking for, self-satisfaction; the acceptance of your peers. It’s really nice to get any kind of compliment because we went so long without any. It’s a nice place to be where we’re at. Were at the top of the second echelon, which is fine, and we get to do what we like.
Rob: What would you have done if you never picked up the bass?
Lemmy: I’d be in jail! I’d be scratching off the numbers of days on my cell wall. [Laughing] Most people in bands would be, since there not qualified for anything else. They’d be doing something horrible and illegal.
Rob: You’ve never put together a fake Farewell Tour, is that because you are holding true to your integrity?
Lemmy: We’re not ready to do a farewell yet. I don’t know if we will do it eventually, ’cause we never felt like we should say farewell, ‘cause we’re still going. It’s pathetic for bands to be announcing a third and fourth farewell tour.
Rob: You come across on stage and in the videos as a very intimidating person, yet in the documentary you also seem to have a great sense of humor. How important is it to have a sense of humor in this business?
Lemmy: It’s only because I have this face, it’s God given. It’s not like anything I created. I grew the moustache cause my hair was receding and I had to replace it somehow [Pulling his hat back and laughing].
Just read the lyric to our songs, they are all tongue and cheek. I crack myself up sometime. In the studio I nearly fell off my chair writing, “I Won’t Pay Your Price” off of Overkill “Don’t stop me dontcha even try/Gonna stick my finger in your eye.” It’s an old one now but back then it was really funny. “Killed by Death” was a great title, it cracked me up. We’re pretty good with that stuff.
The British have a much more accessible sense of humor. Americans are really serious about themselves sometimes. In life, we’re all gonna die, laugh while you’re here, it’s the best exercise for your face. Cheer yourself up; don’t be so deadly serious all the time worrying about your next career move, fuck it. You know what your next career move is, just do it! Hopefully they’ll like it too, if not, too bad. If they do like it, it’s a bonus.
Rob: Give me one more joke to end the interview.
Lemmy: An inspector at a hospital for the criminally insane goes out to the garden for a smoke. While out there he can’t help but notice the two acre garden full of gazebos, streams, flower beds, and beautiful manicured lawn. In the garden he sees a man working. He says “Pardon me my good man, is this all your work? These gardens are beautiful.” The man replies, “I’ve done it all myself from scratch.” He says to the man are you from town, he says no, I’m an inmate here.
The inspector says, “This is beautiful and fantastic. I can’t believe that an inmate for the criminally insane could do such amazing work. This is a true commune of nature.” The inmate says, “I have been cured for a long time but they won’t let me go.” The inspector says, “Tell you what my good man, I’m going to see that you get out of here this very day! Any person that could put his soul into this wonderful creation should be able to walk the streets without causing harm to his fellow man.”
The inmate asks “Would you really do that?” “Of course” says the inspector! As the inspector turns and walks away, this large brick comes flying out of nowhere and hits him right in the back of the head. The inmate calls out and says “You won’t forget now will you?”