By Jeb Wright
Motorhead is celebrating their second consecutive number one charting live album in Germany. The rest of Europe is boosting The World is Ours Vol 2 – Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else up the charts as well.
Perhaps this will be the album to crack the band in America after thirty plus years of trying. It is a given that the release will top Vol 1’s career best USA chart entry of #97, giving Motorhead hope that one day the USA will embrace their talents.
Motorhead is a live band and this is a perfect tribute to what makes them so special. They have their own unique look, sound and bass player. No one is quite like Lemmy, a fact proven by the fact that he has had his own rock-u-mentary made about his life.
Classic Rock Revisited caught up with Lemmy to talk about the new CD/DVD as well as their fans getting the band’s mascot, Snaggletooth, tattooed on their head, his use of drugs and booze and if Lemmy would consider authoring a guide book to the world’s best strip clubs.
Lemmy, a man in need of only one name, is the living embodiment of the term ‘Rock God’. Enjoy this candid interview with the most honest rock and rollers around.
Jeb: I was looking at your website and I saw these people with tattoos of the Motorhead logo and symbols on them. There are people who even have Snaggletooth on the back of their head. I want to know if you ever feel guilty because you’re keeping these people from getting decent jobs.
Lemmy: [laughter] I think by the time they grow up the world will have loosened up. At one time a girl couldn’t get a job at a strip joint if she had a tattoo. Now it is no longer that way. Things have loosened up over the past few years. The one thing I won’t do is anything on the face. These people ask me to sign their face because they are going to get a tattoo of it and I say no.
Jeb: Lets’ talk about The World is Ours Vol 2 – Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else. I have never been to the Wacken Festival. It just looks amazing on the DVD. Tell me what is unique about Wacken?
Lemmy: It is one of the oldest festivals in Germany; it’s been around a long time. We played there early on when it was only one day and now it is four or five days. There were only a few thousand people in the old days and now it’s 85,000. I’ve got a plaque from them for Motorhead being the band that has played Wacken the most times.
Jeb: I’ve seen your apartment in your movie. Where are you going to find room to display it?
Lemmy: Well, I’ve got to move some things around.
Jeb: Do you ever get used to being recorded and filmed live? Is it a different experience?
Lemmy: I don’t do anything different. I don’t even think about it. I don’t even realize it, in a way, because I just shut it out. You’ve got to do the show the same way you always do it.
Jeb: No extra jitters?
Lemmy: There are no jitters anyway; I’ve been doing this a long time.
Jeb: Has anyone ever counted how many shows Motorhead has played?
Lemmy: I don’t know how many but I’m sure somebody in the fan club knows.
Jeb: Speaking of the fans, they are rabid about your career. Being in the Motorhead fan club is not like being in the Britney Spears fan club.
Lemmy: Yeah, there are no tits.
Jeb: True, but I mean they are not there because it’s the in thing to do. They really love the band.
Lemmy: There is a sense of underdog there that is always good.
Jeb: Do you still consider yourself the underdog?
Lemmy: In America, yeah. We don’t sell out in America and we are still third on the bill on most tours. There is still something to fight for.
Jeb: Has the exposure you’ve personally received with your movie helped you and the band or just you?
Lemmy: If it helps me it helps the band, you know. We still don’t get enough credit so we are still the fucking underdog, though. The first time we ever got into the American charts was with our last album and that was only number 97.
Jeb: I think the fans like that as they are giving the system the finger. If you ever get higher than 97 you might be in trouble.
Lemmy: They might need to rethink it. The might commit suicide if we get too successful.
Jeb: Some performers go back and scrutinize their performance when it is going to come out on a DVD. Do you do that or is it what you see is what you get?
Lemmy: What you see is what you get. It is supposed to be live, right? It’s as simple as that, you know.
Jeb: There are three different shows on the DVD. There is Wacken then the Sonisphere and then Live in Rio. No matter what show, you guys rock out and put it all out there.
Lemmy: These are the best things invented for music [DVDs and Blu-Rays] because you really feel like you are out in the crowd.
Jeb: One of the shows you have chicks on stage breathing fire.
Lemmy: Yeah, I know; that’s always good, isn’t it? I think that was at Sonisphere. These two chicks came on and asked if they could do that. We said they could because they had been on stages before.
Jeb: They came to you. You’re a lucky bastard.
Lemmy: Oh we didn’t get to fuck them; they just breathed fire, that’s all.
Jeb: You don’t depend on the lights or the showmanship. Did record companies ever try to get you to be more gimmicky on stage?
Lemmy: No, we can’t afford to do that in America, anyway. If you’re third on the bill you don’t get to do that. If it is one of our own shows then we play at smaller places, so there isn’t room for a lot of that stuff. We found ourselves having to stand on the music alone, which we have done so far.
Jeb: When you play big festivals there are Metal bands from different generations. Some of the new bands are more about the show than the music.
Lemmy: That’s because people applaud pyro. That encourages bands to do that. It seems someone is always wanting to light a match. The girls breathing fire is different because they have tits and things. Most of our audience is boys, so it is a bit of a treat for the guys. They’ve been standing there all day, very often in the rain, especially in Europe. It is just a bit of a treat.
Jeb: There are rumors that the next Motorhead album will be all covers.
Lemmy: We did discuss it, but we haven’t come to a concrete decision on it. It would be fun to do. The three of us are very different when it comes to music, so it would be a very diverse album. We’d make them all into Motorhead songs, anyway. We’ve done covers before.
Jeb: Tell me about Head Cat with Slim Jim of the Stray Cats.
Lemmy: That is a great band. We play a lot of the old stuff. I met Jim back in 1977 when the Stray Cats moved to England. I met them almost immediately after they moved there. I was on stage with them back then a couple of times.
Jeb: Brian Setzer is a great player. People think Rockability is easy music, but nothing about what he does is easy.
Lemmy: He is a great player. There is nothing easy about any music, really. You have to learn it. That is why a lot of bands these days fall on their ass on their second album. They don’t have any ideas. People at the record company control them and they tell them what kind of material they want them to do. They give it to them half the time. When it comes to the second album, the record company lets them sink or swim. They sink.
Jeb: How did Motorhead avoid that?
Lemmy: Nobody was that interested in us. We were not a great investment because we were doing no business. A couple of people had ideas for us but I never liked any of them. We just did what we wanted.
Jeb: You play bass like a rhythm guitar.
Lemmy: Oh yeah, completely. I’ve learned a bit more bass on it as the years went by. When I first joined Hawkwind I didn’t know how to play bass at all because I’d never played one before in my life. I learned on stage.
Jeb: The way you play bass really attributes to the Motorhead sound. So many times if the guitar drops out to play a solo then the entire sound of a three-piece band drops out.
Lemmy: I always hated it when a band went to a solo and everything fucking just died. I hated that so I made sure that would never happen to us.
Jeb: Do you have any new music?
Lemmy: Not yet. We will just go into the studio a month before we do the next album and just write.
Jeb: Even with different musicians in the band you’ve retained a Motorhead sound. After 30, or 40 years, how do you keep from running out of ideas?
Lemmy: I only play one way, so if we have an idea that is outside of that, then, by the time we are finished with it, it sounds like us. We’ve done off the wall stuff, like 1916 and we did, ”I Ain't No Nice Guy” and we did some tracks that were absolutely not normal for us, but they sounded good.
Jeb: Going way back, you spent time with Jimi Hendrix. You were roommates with Noel Redding. Did you know him early on?
Lemmy: I knew his roadie. He was the only guy I knew in London when I was going down there, so I called him up and asked him if I could sleep on his floor. He told me to come over. I went over there and he was sharing the place with Noel. I didn’t know that Noel was staying there. I wasn’t that impressed with Noel, to be honest. If I had walked in there and he was sharing the place with Jimi or Mitch [Mitchell] then I might have been more impressed. Jimi was the best player, especially when it came to the solo. He left everybody else stranded.
Jeb: Did you ever get to play music with Jimi?
Lemmy: I jammed with him once at a rehearsal when Noel didn’t show up. It was just the blues and it only lasted about ten minutes.
Jeb: You have your own Lemmy figurine. I understand that you had to pose for it.
Lemmy: They did an all-around thing with the camera, where they went around my entire body so it would be just like me. The funny thing is that they did a gold one, they did a silver one and they did three different natural ones, with different guitars and they did a black one, as well, which seemed a bit strange to me. My face is black; the guitar is black and everything. It was pretty weird.
Jeb: Do you ever just look at these people and think, “Why do you want to make a figurine of me?”
Lemmy: Yeah, all the time.
Jeb: There is going to be a Motorhead phone and ear buds.
Lemmy: I have not heard about that. If they make a Motorhead phone then they need to make sure that it calls the wrong number all the time [laughter].
Jeb: You have been in videos, movies and TV shows; do you like acting?
Lemmy: It is fucking tedious. You have to be there at five in the morning and you have to hang out with fucking actors all day. Then, at four in the afternoon, they say, “Oh we don’t need you today.” That’s great. I really need more of that in my life, right?
Jeb: You could pass the time better now. You have Motorhead beer, wine and vodka.
Lemmy: Soon we will have bourbon.
Jeb: Do you taste test these products?
Lemmy: Yes. I didn’t taste the red wine because I don’t like that, but I tasted the rosé, the vodka and the whiskey. Most of this stuff is bought by the fans, so it has to be good. There is a review of the wine with people’s name on it. They said Slayer’s wasn’t bad, but Gene Simmons was terrible. You get a lock of Gene’s hair with every bottle. That’s really what you need, isn’t it? I think he needs to be holding on to all of the hair he can.
Jeb: Before you were fired by Hawkwind did you ever think that you were going to move on and lead your own band?
Lemmy: I got fired. I wasn’t thinking about leaving them; I would have never left them. It was a great band to be in, onstage at least. I didn’t get on with a couple of them off stage, but that didn’t matter because we didn’t spend all of our time together, obviously. I really enjoyed being on stage with that band; it was great. I really found myself as an instrumentalist in Hawkwind. Before that I was just a guitar player who was pretending to be good when actually I was no good at all. In Hawkwind, I became a good bass player. It was where I learned that I was good at something.
Jeb: Was it out of vengeance that you put Motorhead together?
Lemmy: No, but what was I going to do? I had to put another band together, didn’t I? I was so sick of getting fired that I decided to put my own band together so I couldn’t be fired ever again.
Jeb: You worked with Dave Edmunds early on.
Lemmy: He is one of the best producers in the world. I wish he would do more producing. He produced the first four tracks we ever did, but then he signed to Swan Song, which was Led Zeppelin’s label and they had other plans for him. He had a lot of pressure on him to drop what he was doing with us, and let’s face it, it was not the biggest thing that he ever did, and get on with what he was doing with them. He helped himself. If it were left to him, then he would have finished with us, but he had a lot of pressure.
Jeb: I love the new band but I have to say I miss Fast Eddie [Clarke] being in the band. What was your first impression of him?
Lemmy: My first impression was, more or less, “He has long hair.” He was great on guitar too, so that was a bonus.
Jeb: He told me that you were playing “Stand by Your Man” over and over on the bus when he was mad about you recording that song with Wendy O’ Williams. He thought you were taunting him.
Lemmy: He left the band over that song. I was playing it because I had to listen to it because it wasn’t the final mix and I had to listen to it a lot. Actually, when we recorded that song we weren’t on a bus. We went to Toronto and we made the record there. So, that’s bullshit.
Jeb: Well, people sometimes have different memories.
Lemmy: That’s very true. If you’ve ever come across someone who is close to you and you both recall an event, then you sometimes discover you both have different memories of it; that’s really weird.
Jeb: How does the classic band compare to the current band? I think the last few studio albums, in some ways, are better than the classics.
Lemmy: This band is tighter, but I don’t know if there is as much feel. We were very sloppy before and now we are not sloppy. Then again, sometimes the old band was tight. Any band I’ve ever had has been very good at timekeeping; we don’t vary, very much. We used to jam in the studio to get song ideas, but on stage it was very to formula.
Jeb: A lot of your songs have a lot of anger to them.
Lemmy: Some of them are very angry.
Jeb: You travel the world and see every walk of life there is. Does the injustice in the world get to you and inspire your lyrics?
Lemmy: There is no shortage of injustice in the world, believe me. Look at this country, the medical monster charges people so much when they are ill that people actually commit suicide because they can’t pay any bills. People are homeless because they are sick. What the fuck is that? I think that’s really weird, don’t you?
Jeb: Especially when we are a country where it does not have to be that way.
Lemmy: You’re the only one that has guns available on a day-to-day basis as well. I suppose the medical association feels justified.
Jeb: In all seriousness, if you went to the doctor and he said, “Lemmy, you have ruined your liver. Quit drinking or you will die.” Would you quit?
Lemmy: Well, you have to if something like that happens, don’t you. You can stop drinking, smoking or doing drugs if you want too. The trouble is that people stop doing something and they don’t really want to stop doing it, so they go back to it.
Jeb: At your age, have you outgrown the speed usage?
Lemmy: You’d be surprised. I don’t talk about drugs, you know.
Jeb: People often don’t understand how easy a touring musician can get drugs.
Lemmy: It’s just good old fashioned greed. The demand is there, so someone will always be around to fulfill it. There is a demand for child porn on the internet and there is always some bastard that will do it. If somebody wants dope, then someone will bring it to them because they make money at it. The art crowd does as much dope as we do. I don’t see anything wrong with smoking a bit of dope, as it has been proven to be fucking harmless. They are always tossing out the dangers of marijuana on TV, it’s ridiculous.
Jeb: I remember smoking pot years ago and watching Refer Madness.
Lemmy: It is fucking hilarious.
Jeb: Bands are famous for pulling pranks. What is the best prank your band has pulled on you?
Lemmy: They haven’t really. I’m employing them so… Oddly enough, they really haven’t.
Jeb: Have you done any to them?
Lemmy: I don’t do them much, but Phil [Campbell] does. Phil is the best one for that. One time when we were on tour with Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell and Testament, Phil hired a horse for the day. We had to shoot it full of tranquilizers to get him to be around loud music. First comes Mikkey [Dee] dressed in one of those things where your legs are the donkey’s legs. He is dressed up like a gaucho sitting on a donkey with a sombrero and a mustache. First, he goes hopping across the stage, and then Phil, who’s wearing a dress and a purple wig, comes on stage on horseback. I was dressed as an Arab. We ran onstage when Testament was playing and then turned around and ran back off again. Chuck Billy said on microphone, “I’ll never top this.”
Jeb: My last one is a money making idea for you. You’ve been to a lot of tittie bars over the years.
Lemmy: I certainly have.
Jeb: You need to write a book called, “Lemmy’s Guide to Strip Clubs.”
Lemmy: Right. The problem is that they close so often. They close and they reopen as something else. By the time you put the first book out you would be out of date from last year.
Jeb: Is there anything else you want to say about The World is Ours Vol 2 – Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else before we go?
Lemmy: This one has just gone into the German charts at number one. It went into the Amazon UK charts at number two. I never thought we’d have another hit like that, but we’ve had one now, so that’s good. All of those Europeans can’t be wrong. Hopefully, it will work over here too.
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