LEMMY Remembered On 75th Birthday - "Our Integrity Is The Only Thing You Have That You Can Take To Your Grave - If You Sell Out, Then You’re Fucked"
December 23, 2020, 3 weeks ago
Way back in 2006, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles was honored to get Lemmy to help celebrate our magazine’s hundredth issue, ‘cos hell, over a 30 year career as Motörhead, and seven or so more in the biz back to Hawkwind and Sam Gopal, Lemmy’s issued over a hundred things himself. Then again, he’s also got a hundred issues himself, mostly with myriad facets of world wrongs, many of which were addressed on the gritty Motörhead album, Kiss Of Death, released in 2006. Check out Martin's retro piece below ... and yes, he made that cake!!
“There’s always plenty of injustice, you know?” quips Lemmy, asked about coming up with his superlative lyrics, great Motorhead album after great Motörhead album. “No problem there (laughs). I write about the usual, like war and sex and murder, to like… playing in a band.”
A chat with Lem is always a bit of a hard nut to crack. Fact is, the band – for 20 odd years, consisting of Phil Campbell on guitar, Mikkey Dee on drums and Lemmy Kilmister on destructo-bass and vocal threats – has written only at one high level for a good half dozen albums in a row, even if those records stick very tightly to a formula, a bloody good one, but a formula all the same.
“It’s just more recent,” deadpans Lem in agreement, addressing Kiss Of Death. “It’s a Motörhead album, you know what I mean? It’s not that different. There are a couple of surprises on it, like guests and things. The title - that was one of Phil’s. It was good enough, a good catch phrase there. I don’t know, I don’t define these records; I let them stand on their own, on the music. I think the more you analyze music, you kill it.”
“The writing is about the same,” continues Lemmy. “It’s about three ways. The songs are all brand new. I mean, I write the lyrics in the studio mostly, under the clock (laughs). Phil is playing very well on this album though. He deserves special mention. That’s probably the most different thing about the album; Phil is playing really weird solos, really good. It was remarkably easy, this one, actually. Cameron (Webb – producer) is very good. He really knows how to drag it out of us all right.”
As usual - almost frustratingly like clockwork – a new Motörhead album is getting effusive, completely positive reviews. “Thank you, practice makes perfect,” laughs Lemmy. “You see, these recent albums are classics to come - they just haven’t had time to get there.”
Kiss Of Death features another violent Joe Petagno painting, the band’s anachronistic death mask slavering away amidst a battery of artillery. “He’s brilliant,” comments Lem on Joe. “He’s got a book out now called Orgasmatron; you should pick that up if you can, it’s brilliant. And he did the logo, of course. Joe’s very odd. Most people who listen to Motörhead for more than two years will become kind of odd, you know? He’s American, but he lives in Denmark, and he has for years now. He does advertising stuff for a living, and we are his pressure cooker valve. We let him go nuts for a while; he enjoys himself. I usually just ring him up and say, ‘Send us a few drawings, Joe.’ He’s a Capricorn like me; you know, he’s paranoid and pretty quick (laughs).”
Petagno is legendary in art circles for keeping all of his paintings, but Lemmy’s got one. “I only asked him for the one. I’m sure he would give me another one if I asked him for one, but he likes to keep them. And that’s good, he should keep them; it’s his life.” Adds Lem about the band’s tusked mascot, and whether it’s got any sort of narrative or persona to it, “Well, it’s never spoken to me. Not like, one-on-one, you know? But I think it’s more a symbol with an attitude. I’m sure it’s screaming ‘Fuck you’ if you could hear it.”
Surprisingly, Kiss Of Death contains a new recording of mid-years chestnut ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’ “It wasn’t supposed to be on the album,” reveals Lemmy. “It’s the fucking record company. I’ve already had words with them about that. It won’t be on the second printing. So you’ve got a collector’s edition. It’s only going to be on the one press. It won’t be on the album. I think this making of bonus tracks… they should be on an extra disc; I don’t think they should be part of the album. Because we weren’t planning to do this album with ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’ on it. It’s bullshit. We were told it was going to be on the Japanese as an extra. In Europe they put fucking ‘Whiplash’ on it. I’ve been hopping up and down over it, on the phone.”
“Gold? There are a lot of references to gold?” queries Lemmy, asked about the track ‘Trigger’ and its few curious references to gold. “Oh, I must’ve been in a gold mood. I’ve written about silver before; maybe it was gold’s turn. I don’t really know. It’s about chasing a girl, obviously. And never mind the fact that I usually can’t be bothered, but in your case, I’ll make an exception, I’ll pull your trigger, you know?
‘Kingdom Of The Worm’, those are the best lyrics on the album, I think. I like the time signature. I think that’s my favourite track. ‘Living In The Past’ is also a good riff. I mean, you can’t get away from good riffs on this album; that certainly is true. And ‘Living In The Past’ is actually my best doom vocals on the album. Thou shalt not, you know?”
I wondered if after such an exasperatingly rich run of killer Motörhead albums, Lemmy is feeling satisfied with his lot. Turns out there are a few more boxes to tick on his great ledger. “Well, we’ve never played in Africa or China or Thailand or places like that. I’d like to do that before we go. I’d like to have a giant hit in America before we go, but I don’t see that happening. Because we’re never even in the top hundred here, you know? Other than that, I’m pretty satisfied with my life. I’m doing my solo album right now; it’s taking a long time. I’ve been doing that for 2 ½ years. In between Motörhead, there isn’t much time for anything else. I’m playing with four different bands so far, I’ve got two tracks with The Damned, two tracks with the Reverend Horton Heat, two tracks with Skew Siskin, and a track with Dave Grohl. So it’s not really like Motörhead, right? And I’m going to do a thing with Joan Jett soon. Plus I’m going to try nail Jeff Beck to the wall, because I’ve been wanting to play with him.”
Ah yes, Jeff Beck, legendary as a shy, reclusive guy… “Oh, he’s just fucking awkward, you know? (laughs). I’ve known Jeff a long time and he’s always been the same. He’d rather be under a car covered in shit than playing music. It’s kind of difficult to pin him down (laughs).”
Part way through the ramp up to this record, Lemmy had to battle a bogus internet post that “quoted him” as being gay. “Bisexual it was,” corrects Kilmister. “I called the guy. I said, ‘How are you going to go out and get some new software with both your knees with a fucking screwdriver through them?’ And he printed an apology; he printed a retraction. You can’t have assholes like that running around shooting their mouth off. It’s like, if it was true you know, I wouldn’t care, but anyway, it’s an invasion of privacy. I emailed him, yeah; that was his chosen medium, right? But I mean, people were laughing about it all over the world. So I just had to remind him who was, you know… the big bad wolf.”
“I like doing interviews if they’re good questions,” reflects Lemmy, as I try to figure out just what the guy likes to talk about, if not the records, this being merely the latest of a half dozen chats o’er the years between us. “If someone has done their homework, and they don’t want you to do all the work for them… because you get some people that say, ‘So, tell me about ‘Ace Of Spades’.’ Oh, fuck off. I mean, there are only a certain amount of things you can say about fucking one song.”
Have you been in situations where you’re in some TV studio at eight in the morning, and it’s driving you crazy, sitting with some TV host who’s quite obviously no member of the Motorheadbangers?
“Well, I won’t go there at eight in the morning. I’ll probably kill somebody (laughs). Especially in TV. No, I usually breeze through it; it’s certainly not something new to me. I’ve never walked out of an interview. Except me and Phil did once, because this chick was really a pain in the ass, and she insisted on doing an interview in the bathroom for some reason, and it was very echo-y. You can imagine all the tiles and all that, and the hallway. And she said, ‘Did you ever do anything really funny in an interview?’ And Phil said, ‘Yeah, well, me and Lem once got up and walked out of an interview and never came back.’ And then we got up and walked out and we never went back (laughs). And one time we were waiting for a radio guy, in Glasgow, Scotland, and me and Eddie missed a sound check, to go and do this fucking interview because it was so deathly important. And this guy kept us waiting for half an hour, so we put the fire hose inside the fucking studio, shut the door and turned it on and left.”
Picked up any new World War II goodies since we last talked?
“Yes, quite a lot of it actually. I’m sick of fucking collecting it. If I had known there was this much shit to collect, I wouldn’t have started (laughs). I can hardly fucking move in my apartment. What an advantage, you know? (laughs).”
Do you feel you have the collector gene? Is it a sickness? “Well it’s kind of a benign sickness. It’s a nice thing to collect stuff. I think most people collect something, even if they don’t realize they’re doing it. Most people have a thing they will buy if they come across it. A friend of mine used to collect elephants. And another one, it was frogs. I mean, it’s much better to have a place full of World War II stuff than a fucking apartment full of frogs, believe me.”
Have you thought about where it goes after you’re gone? “Yeah, I have thought about it. Because nobody I know… I mean, my son is going to get most of it anyway. But he’s not got any interest in the thing itself, so I think I’ll just put him onto a good dealer who can consign or sell it for him.”
Asked about nicest items acquired as of late, Lemmy goes with “a beautiful Luftwaffe sword, a Damascus steel blade, and I just got a dagger, which is a Damascus blade and an ivory handle. And a friend of mine in Germany gave me his uncle’s old sword, which was prewar, with a Second World War blade on that. That’s a beautiful piece too. They look like they were made yesterday; it’s incredible.”
Figuring it’s time to let Lemmy off the hook (he’s got the BW&BK cake in the fridge and has already had a piece – maybe it’s time for another?), I ask if he’s STILL one of the good guys. I mean, Lemmy’s lyrics have always been about how bad he is, Kiss Of Death chock full of more o’ the same…
“Oh yeah, but it’s like a joke, isn’t it?” counters Lem. “Nobody’s that bad, are they? It would be a full-time job and cost a lot of money to be that bad, you know.”
So you do consider yourselves honouable guys?
“Yes, I do. Because it’s like the only thing you have that you can take to your grave, you know: our integrity. If you sell out, then you’re fucked. I believe so, anyway.”
Lemmy at 100!
Is aging a bad topic with you?
“No, I don’t care, you know? I’m all right.”
No big health problems right now?
“No, no small ones either.”
The foot healed up OK?
“Yeah, that was three years ago.”
(Note: copies of BW&BK #100 are still available. Email email@example.com for more information!)