Lemmy (Interview)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)

You can hear the entire interview if you like. Either stream online in RealAudio or download an Mp3 version.

CLICK HERE to listen online in RealAudio

CLICK HERE to download the Mp3 version (21 megs)

What a year for concerts. I had not seen Hawkwind since 1995 in the US and Motorhead since 1996. Little did I know what an adventure my trip to London to see the Hawkwind Reunion show and the 25th anniversary Motorhead concert in one week would be. It turned out that just a month after these shows Motorhead were coming to Denmark, so I decided to see if it would be possible to interview Lemmy. I have been a big Motorhead fan since back in 1979 when I first picked up The Golden Years EP and subsequently everything else. Gilbert, my old heavy metal buddy from high school and college, and I saw Motorhead opening for Ozzy Ozbourne at the County Coliseum in El Paso, Texas in June of 1981. We actually spoke with Fast Eddie and Lemmy on the side of the stage after their set. It was quite a thrill. Now, some 19 years later, I got to speak with the man himself again.

Nalle, a friend of my friend Ralph, works for Kobenhavns Radio and ask if he could tag a long. We arrived at 17:00 as suggested and ended up waiting until after 19:30 before we could speak with Lemmy. We heard part of the soundcheck and were pretty much switching from roaming around backstage and sitting and waiting. We would walk by Lemmy's dressing room, where he had the door open and he was just sitting there playing computerized chess and drinking his Jack Daniel's and coke (very slowly). We finally got to see him (not sure why he did not want to talk to us earlier, knowing we were just sitting there but perhaps he was not mentally ready). Here is what was said:

Scott Heller: Let's start with the Hawkestra.

Lemmy Kilmister: Oh, what a bloody disaster. The worst thing I have ever been involved in. I don't know how Brock could have let it slide so bad. He didn't seem to know what he is doing anymore. I don't know what's up.

SH: Did you do anything special to get prepared for the event, such as listen to Space Ritual or Doremi?

LK: I know the songs, its him that has forgotten them.

SH: How forgot them?

LK: Dave Brock. He had rearranged all the old songs and made them into medleys, you know, a greatest hits, the kiss of fucking death, the medley. That is what he does. In the middle of Master of the Universe he's got a section of Time We Left... and I didn't learn it like that. I learned it as two great songs, not 1½ bad ones. It was his idea to put Sam Fox on to sing Master of the Universe. This is such an unbelievable idea, I can't even grasp it. I just don't understand that at all. I don't know what he was thinking, do you?

SH: I have no idea.. The only entertaining thing was when she was making the pelvic thrusts at you and you were smiling.

LK: It was funny ain't it.

SH: It sounds like it was not a good memory.

LK: No, I have known Sam for years. She is not the one to be singing Master of the Universe.

SH: It was interesting how the event went through all the different line ups and different people coming and going. Did you particularly talk with Huw Lloyd Langton? He really seem to be pissed or something as his performance was really poor compared to what he has done.

LK: There was lots of corundum in my songs. He was not in the band when I was, so he shouldn't be on my songs. There is enormous twiddle factor in Huw. He plays too twiddly for me. I can't see him on the songs we used to do. Brock used to do the lead, but fat chance of him doing any now, but he doesn't seem to give a shit. I think it overwhelmed him in a way. There is too much shit to organize so he couldn't do it and he didn't delegate any of it, so there you go... too bad.

SH: Did you talk with any of the old guys like Del and people you used to play with?

LK: Yeah, of course I did, man. What did you expect? They brought Del all the way from Canada for that.

SH: I am sorry to hear that the HW thing was such a fiasco for you. You had 4 rehearsals.

LK: I did two... but none of them prepared me for the horror that was the reality!

SH: Do you think they will go ahead with the video release of the event?

LK: I am sure they will.

SH: I guess this means you don't really plan on playing with Hawkwind again.

LK: Not unless they rehearse it properly and get it right. I won't do that again that's for sure.

SH: What can you remember about the first Motorhead concert 25 years ago?

LK: It was awful. The Lemmy, Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox line up was pretty bad, you know. We were doing a lot of covers and supporting Greenslade of all things. I had this blue painted skull (real skull) on my amp. It didn't help. It was terrible.

SH: Have you ever heard any recordings from that concert?

LK: No. There weren't any. If I do find any, I'll burn them!! It was truly awful.

SH: I had traveled all the way to London to see the Motorhead gig as well as the Hawkestra. I had been a fan of Motorhead since 1979.

LK: The Motorhead gig wasn't that great either and people said the Motorhead gig was fantastic. It wasn't, we played like a bunch of cunts. you know. Best thing on there was Brian May!

SH: It was just unfortunate that you could not hear him play.

LK: Well, he was shot to the front and was really getting into it. Good for Brian I say. He's been off the road a long time.

Nalle: So he is a fan of Motorhead, Brian May?

LK: Yeah.

Nalle: I think that is funny.

LK: Why? Can't you think of two different kinds of music at the same time?

SH: When you were putting together the 25th anniversary concert in London, did you try to get hold of some of the guys who weren't there like Philthy?

LK: Philthy, can't get out of America and get back in, as he's there illegal.

SH: What is Phil doing these days?

LK: I think he is a crack dealer.

Nalle: So he's not playing drums.

LK: No.

SH: Larry Wallis or Brian Robertson.

LK: Brian Robertson was not a great asset to Motorhead. He was a great asset in Thin Lizzy but didn't do shit with us. He was good on one show and we did a good album and then fucked up so badly, it is unbearable to think about. It's like Wurzel, he fucked up as well. He was there. He looked awful, he looked like a little old man. It's a drag you know.

SH: I remember reading an interview with Brian Roberston saying that parts of being in Motorhead were really great but you drove him to drink too much.

LK: Oh, yeah right. Brian, we drove him to drink too much (Lemmy laughs).

SH: He said Motorhead drove him to become a worse alcoholic.

LK: He was a worse alcoholic but he was that before he joined Motorhead. That is half the reason we asked him to join, as he was alcoholic.

SH: Has Motorhead always been super loud from the beginning?

LK: I like it loud.

SH: Was Hawkwind especially loud?

LK: They were when I was in the band. I was brought up on people like the WHO and Hendrix. It helps you to see the iguanas in your eyeballs!

SH: I read that you have a book coming out in January called White Line Fever.

LK: Supposedly. Yeah.

SH: How did that come together?

LK: It was just people going, do a book, you'll make a lot of money. Deathbed. That is when you should be writing your book, when you're dying, but then you don't have time. So I better do it now. It is just a bunch of interviews so she collated and edited it you know. This girl, Janus Garza.

SH: Does it go through your whole musical history like the Rocking Vicars, Sam Gopal.

LK: The book's about me, so yeah, it goes through all of it. Childhood, the lot.

SH: Speaking of Sam Gopal, a friend of mine (Ketil), was there any jam connection with Sam gopal and Jimi Hendrix or...

LK: Not Sam and Jimi.

SH: Did you know that he has a new CD out now?

LK: No. Does he really?

SH: He has Pete Clark from Clark Hutchinson playing with him.

LK: Oh, he's got them back. They were in the original band.

SH: No, he has only one of them.

LK: Pete??

SH: Yeah. Funny how after 30 years another CD comes out.

LK: So they finally got along, enough to make an album.

SH: I was not sure if you had heard that.

LK: Not sure if I really want to. Sam was really hard to play with.. His instrument (tablas)... ok now maybe it's different, because you can amplify differently, but at the time, amplifying tablas was like a fucking nightmare.

SH: Did Sam Gopal play a lot of concerts?

LK: We did the Blue show at the Speak and when we got a standing ovation, we thought that's it, we're stars. We played about three other shows in around London, which were awful, then we went to Munich and played for a week at the Blow up club, which was even worse and then we came home and broke up. (Laughs)

SH: So not a lot of concerts. I guess no one recorded any of these concerts.

LK: I would hope not, sincerely.

Nalle: Is there a lot of regrets?

LK: No, I don't regret anything. Its all part of lifes mixed tapestry. It is just you have to know when you fucked up. Get up out of the shit and brush yourself off and start again. I am quite pleased with what we have done with Motorhead. But before that, oh and with Hawkwind... but before that it was a shambles.

SH: When you were in Hawkwind, you toured a lot.

LK: The same as you do in Motorhead. Real bands do tour. If you don't tour, then you are just some guys who get together in the studio now and again. You have to take it to the people and see if they return it to you.

SH: Well, that's rock and roll.

LK: Well, I am rock and roll and rock and roll is me.

SH: A friend of mine (Carl A) who is a bass player wanted to know what pick ups you used in your bass before the signature model came out?

LK: Ahh. I had several. I tried Bartolini's, they weren't bad. I tried the original bass that I swore by for years had a Gibson Thunderbird pick up on it. You can't get them now. What else did I use... let's see. These were the most important. I tried Fender and they didn't work. The thing is with Rickenbacher back in those days is that you had to replace the stock pickups. But they're good now.

SH: You have a great sound now.

LK: That is a motherfucker that bass. The Signature only.

SH: Looks like they did a fantastic job with it.

LK: Yeah, I designed it. So I said wire all the controls into one switch and they said I can't do that. And I said, why not? Its a signature model and it's my signature.

SH: Do you remember sitting in the balcony at the Academy of Music with a guy with a big black afro and amazing amounts of Hawkwind knowledge?

LK: No, I don't remember it at all, but I will take his word for it.. You weren't suppose to remember much in those days.. that was the idea... not remembering it. It was a funny show though as Kohutek was suppose to come over the comet and we had all these guests like Focus and Alice Cooper and it was quite fun. Stevie Wonder. And we all went onto the roof to see this fucking special manifestation and the thing went over and you couldn't see it. It was too far away and it was cloudy as well, so we were fucked. We are all standing there. Should we go in again.

SH: Do you remember playing here in Copenhagen with Hawkwind at a place called Huset?

LK: Yeah. I remember it vaguely. That was a big tour. We played five gigs in Denmark at that time. We played Kolding, Århus and two other.

SH: Maybe Ålborg or Espberg or Odsense.

LK: Yeah. Espberg and Odense, that's it. In gymnasiums and stuff. Denmark didn't really understand about rock and roll. We were playing on the floors, no stage in a gymnasium. That was in Odense. Amazing... and it was Hawkwind as well. It would have been bad enough if it was Motorhead, cause at least you recognize some semblance of music you had always heard but HW must have been the rats ass to them. I wonder how we got out of the country alive really. Burned as witches.

SH: Do you remember anything about the HW recording sessions. I had read, for instance, that for Doremi, that the songs had developed out of longer jams that were recorded.

LK: The only thing I remember about Doremi is that we recorded it at the barn, before they modernized it, with mattresses on the walls and things. But it was a good sound. It was just not very well recorded. It was all thin and tinny. It was not as good as In Search of Space, but then I wasn't on that.

SH: Have you heard any of these EMI remasters of the Hawkwind CDs?

LK: No.

SH: Because... the Space Ritual and X In Search of Space, done by Paul...

LK: Did they do Doremi?

SH: Yeah. The sound was greatly improved. You could really hear the subtle synthesizer sounds that were often buried in the mix and the bass was much more... not clean. But powerful.

LK: You'd have a lot of trouble making it clean!

SH: Back to Motorhead then. How do you decide which older songs to play? Damage Case really surprised me in London.

LK: Yeah... we are doing that one tonight. We are doing another old one tonight. I'm not going to tell you which one it was.

SH: Have you ever played Stone Dead Forever with Phil and Mikkey?

LK: Yeah... it didn't work out really. Some lineups can play a song and others can't. Like... that's why we have trouble with Another Perfect Day. We played Shine for a bit but it never really sounded right.

SH: I know some people who think that APD is one of the best Motorhead LPs.

LK: Mikkey can't play the Philthy bit because Philthy was not like a very good drummer and Micky can't go down to that level and play it. He plays his version which is super slick. And it doesn't really work.

SH: Did you like Another Perfect Day as a songwriting LP?

LK: Yeah. It was outrageous the way it was panned. That shows you how much the critics know doesn't it. Now 20 years later the same critics are saying, Oh what a diamond in the rough and all that bullshit... as usual... fucking assholes with hindsight. Everyone is fucking clever with hindsight.

SH: Does the lawn still die if Motorhead moves in next door?

LK: I pinched that line from Dr. Hook and the Medicine show. So much for originality.

SH: What is your opinion about the chaos with the US election, since you live in the US now?

LK: It's joke.They can't run an election between two fucking people. Its not that difficult is it. I looked at that form and I can see which one it is. Hole... right. They were talking about a woman who was passing out the voting forms and telling people that God wants you to vote for George Bush. And they talk about unbiased. Even if he does, I will make up my own fucking mind, if you don't mind!

SH: The US has become a very strange model of democracy.

LK: It has become a caricature of itself.

Nalle: How is it to live in the US? I have never been there but it seems like a semi-fascist country.

LK: Yeah. It is. the people don't realize it 'cause they keep telling themselves that God wants them to be that way... and GOD is the fascist of them all. I am the POPE and you will obey. I just don't care. America is like... a mess. It's got nobody to fight now, the people can't rise up against the enemy anymore, you see... because there isn't one. I mean, Saddam Hussein, they had an enemy there for a minute, but they stopped like 50 miles short of Mayday.

SH: I wonder when they will start spending money on reforming the schools and giving everyone health care.

LK: Oh, they will never do that.. There may be a revolution of sorts in America because the people are just sick of it. But then again... the people are so fucking spineless. You know the boss is the boss and that's it. Yes sir. I am sure you know best sir. We know what's best for you.

(We had quite a diversion here and Lemmy gave his opinions about gourmet cooking, modern art, and wine. Quite some good laughs.)

SH: Germany seems to be your biggest market?

LK: Yeah. They buy a lot of records down there. It is bigger than it seems in relation to area. They buy a lot of albums and they are loyal as well. They have found that they can like the new thing and continue to like the old thing as well, where as Britain and America can't do that. Have to throw everything out and go with the new thing for the three weeks of it's life.

Nalle: You were on tour with Nashville Pussy and you collaborated with their new album.

LK: I did not collaborate on anything with the new album.

Nalle: But you were on the cover. Sitting in the electric chair. And you ask for Corey as your last wish.

LK: No. The last wish was hold my hand.

Nalle: How was the tour? I spoke with them last year and they were very excited going on tour with Motorhead.

LK: They were great and then they fired Corey, so they're fucked, 'cause she was the part you know of. It was both their faults. They should have shut up and let the band be the most important thing instead of petty differences and rivalries. It is always difficult to get people to do that. They don't understand how it is when the band is gone 'cause when you are in the band, no matter how bad off you are with the other people, it is still one going thing and you're still famous right. And you think... well, when I leave, everybody will like me just as much as when I was in the band. I am part of the band that they liked so much now. So they will stick with me and you leave and... nobody gives a fuck about you. I learned that a long fucking time ago man.

Nalle: Is this a business of bitterness (rock and roll)?

LK: No... its not, it's a business of joy mostly. But now and again you have to have bitterness to remind you of how joyful you are. That's how it works.

Nalle: There are a lot of sharks out there.

LK: Without any manure you get no flowers, see what I mean?

SH: You have had a lot of ups and downs with record companies. But I guess dealing with Sony and March or Die must have been the worst.

LK: They were fucking the worst. The were the pits. We got a Grammy for our first record for them and we were suppose to be a spent force, whom they were picking up out of the kindness of their hearts. We got nominated for this Grammy and when I went along to the ceremonies, the guy from Sony never even came out to say hello to me. Because we are Motorhead... too bad for him. I see that Mariah Carey left him and smashed his house and his car and that. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

SH: Did you ever perform with Shonen Knife?

LK: No, just showed up on one of their records. I believe I was suppose to when they played the Roxy in Hollywood but I didn't do it in the end. Actually, I think they canceled out. They did alright for three small Japanese girls. I meet them. They are so funny, little tiny people.

SH: Do you have any surprises for your 55th birthday in London? I remember Metallica came out dressed up as Lemmy for your 50th.

LK: Not a very good disguise. They had the tattoo on the wrong arm... everyone of them! That was nice of them to do that. They are one of the few bands that have shown any respect at all. Physically... they interrupted their album recordings. Flew down their own equipment on their own money. Great. I like Metallica. I think they are an excellent band. I think that people overlook them now. I think they have become too successful for their own good. But they are right about that Napster bullshit. That fucking idiot from Limp Bizkit. Yeah... please come steal my money.

SH: There is quite an argument about Napster.

LK: Not from my side. You want to put out free records. You destroy my career. I can't get paid for my work If you have the plumber come in and fix the pipes and when he's leaving you say bye and thanks a lot. He wants his money. I want mine.

Nalle: Don't you think that is because of the industry.

LK: I say fuck the industry. I always have. But you pay me for what I do. If I sit around for years and years and write songs, 'cause it is a craft you know. It is not just throw away shit. The record companies make it throw away. But it isn't. You know every song I have done I am fairly proud of, some less than others but all the same. If I stay up all night writing a song and you go to sleep, I get paid and you don't! That is the story right there.

SH: I think it will take a year or so to see if the major artists do sell less CDs.

LK: Of course they will, if you can get it for free, why would you buy it.

SH: But what you are getting for free is sub-quality.

LK: It is?

SH: Yes. These compressed music format files don't sound like the CD.

LK: I don't know. I don't have a computer.

SH: So... you have to have someone play you a Motorhead song from Napster. The people who are the real fans are going to buy the CDs.

LK: So why do they download it in the first place?

SH: Because they want to hear it first. Right now.

LK: It's going to replace a lot of sales and we don't have that many sales to start with. I don't know.

Well, that was the end of our discussion and I got an autograph on my No Class 7" with Lemmy on the cover and he told me the girl with him on the cover was a girlfriend of his girlfriend at the time. What a fantastic guy to talk to. Very down to earth, open and quite a good memory about the past considering the alcoholic and drug past of the bands he has been in. I hope you enjoyed the chat with Lemmy.

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