LEMMY KILMISTER OF MOTORHEAD
INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY DAN LEVY
Why are you such the bad ass rock n’ roller?
Because it’s fun. Nobody ever offered me any real work.
You’ve been going at it a long time now.
Yeah, something like thirty years now.
Do you have any regrets?
None. Life’s too short. You can’t spend the rest of your life worried about the first half.
Right. I heard something a long time ago about Motorhead. You had a number one single, yet everyone in the band was still on the dole?
Yeah, it was the number one album. Straight ahead. It was a live album. We had a number one album and we were straight broke. We enjoyed that.
So it’s getting better?
Yeah, that was a long time ago. That was in ‘81.
Do you get respect now?
We always got respect. They just keep lickin’ n’ buyin’ albums.
What’s your motivation for kicking ass like you do?
(Laughs) I love it.
It’s very simple. Any musician that says they started to play for any other reason is full of shit. It’s to get laid. That’s all there is to it.
INTERVIEW WITH LEMMY KILMISTER
INTERVIEW BY COREY PARKS
INTRODUCTION BY COREY PARKS
I drove up to Lemmy’s place late one Friday afternoon to try and attempt to get as much of an interview as I could get. Dan told me that if I get more than five questions answered, I’d have done better than Olson. I couldn’t believe he sent Olson. bad idea. I mean, Olson, who I’m sure would have been quite toasty before he even got there, had to be coherent. If you’re hanging with Lemmy, he’s pounding Jack and Cokes and offers you one every time as well. Of course, you’re going to say, “Sure. Thanks, man.” I mean, it’s Lemmy! When are you ever going to be just hanging out with Lemmy, shooting the shit and having a drink. I’m surprised Olson even got the five questions in, because Olson was probably three sheets to the wind before he even remembered he had a tape recorder. Lucky, for me, I don’t drink anymore, and mine and Lem’s paths had crossed many years ago when my band did a U.S. tour supporting Motorhead. Lemmy has had a huge influence on my life, as well as any living soul who loves hard rock. He’s a dear friend who’s never changed who he is or what he does. He commands respect, at almost 60, still blows everyone out of the water. Just go to the next Motorhead show and you’ll see what I mean. He’s the hardest working man in rock n’ roll. Lemmy is the real deal. Bow to the one and only, Mr. Lemmy Ian Kilmister.
I want to start off by talking about “Inferno”. I think it’s one of the greatest Motorhead records to come out in the modern Motorhead era. How long did it take to record and write the material?
We never plan it. We always write under the gun. It took about three or four weeks in the studio writing and about six weeks to record it. We’re pretty quick.
Do you have any plans for any live show DVDs?
There’s actually one coming out now. It’s from a show in Dusseldorf, Germany. We recorded it with this guy that does the lights for Rammstein. He did all these amazing lighting effects on it. It should be good. It’s a good show, too.
What about a compilation with a collection of all the old videos?
There are no plans for that, but it’s something we should do. It’s about time someone gathered them all together. There’s tons of shit from years ago.
My friend raves about your book, “White Line Fever”. He says you talk about hating The Clash.
I never liked The Clash. I didn’t hate them. I just didn’t listen to them. I didn’t think they were doing anything new.
Did you ever hear any of Joe’s music that he made right before he died? It’s great.
I have to get a copy of that. I thought The Clash were posers. In ‘78, they went over to Northern Ireland, to Belfast. I’ll never forget it. They were in their overalls with Sandinistas written down the side. It was “solidarity with the socialist workers” and all this bullshit. Then there were pictures of them hiding behind the Royal Constabulary – the arch-conservatives. They were cowering behind the police station on Falls Road in Belfast, where all the shit happens. They’re all carrying these big coffins with Sandinistas written on the side of them. I thought, “There you go. Scared to death.” They’re not walking around going, “Hey, brother. Solidarity.” There was none of that going on. It was more like, “Policeman, protect me.”
How’s the book doing?
It’s doing well. It’s in five languages now. It’s in English, Italian, French, German and Finnish.
Yeah, go figure.
You have some big fans out in Helsinki, man.
Tell me about the writer of the book, Janiss Garza?
She used to write for “Rip” magazine. She writes freelance articles for magazines in New York and California. She’s been around a long time.
How long did it take to nail down the book?
In real time, it was about three months, but it took two years to do all the interviews because it was in between touring and everything else. That’s why it’s taking so long to get my solo album finished.
Tell me about your solo album?
It has two tracks of The Damned.
Which Damned songs did you do?
We did “Neat Neat Neat” and a new one that we wrote together. There are two Reverend Horton Heat tracks and one Dave Grohl track. There are also two Skew Siskin tracks.
How was it working with Nina?
She has an unbelievable voice. It’s just criminal. I’ve never seen a band that looks like that, ever in my life.
Did you sing a duet with her?
Yeah, on one track.
You and Nina sound so great together.
It’s going to be a good album.
How many songs have you done for it already?
What are you going to do for the rest of it?
I’m going to try to get a track on there with Joan Jett and possibly Rancid.
They’re a good band. I like Rancid.
Have you seen Lars lately?
No, I’ve talked to him. He’s seems all right. Why? What’s the story?
He’s trying to look exactly like you. We just did a Punk vs. Psychos Tour and we did a show with his band Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. The last time that I saw him he looked like every other dogpile punk rocker on the street, but now he’s got the full chops and mustache. He has his hair all slicked back. He’s wearing all black and a black leather vest. I said, “Hey Lem.”
Well, there’s flattery in imitation. I like his band. He doesn’t sound like me.
No, not at all. I like The Bastards, his side project. He’s definitely got some rock n’ roll in him.
I’ve never seen him live.
He’s got a good rapport with the crowd.
I’ve got a tape of some of their stuff from the last tour.
Are there any performers that you’re into?
I saw a good band from New York called Sex Slaves. They’re really good. They‘re outrageous on the stage. They’re real punk. I like that.
Who were your favorite punk bands in the ‘70s?
The Damned were my favorite, for sure. I always thought The Damned were the most punk. The Pistols were a rock band. The Damned were a punk band. They were nuts. They were all over the place.
What’s punk rock to you?
Well, we came up at the same time as punk. We kind of dove tailed with it. We were the only band with long hair that they’d come to see. We sounded punk. Once they go to the gig and realized that we had long hair, it was too late. We had them. Then they’d stay. Both audiences learned to live with each other. We still get a lot of punks at our shows. We get all kinds of people.
I know that the South has a league of Motorhead worshippers. They will follow you to the end.
They love it, and we love them. We have Germans that follow us, too. One of them, his name is Klaus, showed up at the airport in Brazil. He said, “I thought I’d come and see you play in Brazil. It’s going to be great fun.” They’re so earnest and loyal. The old German saying is, “Treuer ist treuer”. It means “Loyal is loyal.
How did Motorhead fit in the punk scene in ’77 when the Sex Pistols came out?
We came out in 1976. That band died very quickly. It lasted only six months. Then the punk thing hit. I went down to the Roxy in London where the punks all played. Johnny Thunders was playing with The Heartbreakers at the time. That was a good band. There were all these people with safety pins in their noses looking at me very strangely. Then I hear this voice behind me that says, “I used to love Hawkwind. I used to sell acid at your shows.” I look around and it’s Johnny Rotten. Then I remembered him. He used to have long hair. He used to run around in an old army coat and sell acid at our gigs. He was happy then. Which only goes to show. Where are your icons now?
You just did a Camp Freddy show with Steve Jones right?
Yeah, we did a great show at the Key Club and I sang “God Save The Queen” with Steve. The basic Camp Freddy band is Matt Sorum, Dave Navarro and Steve Jones, but all different people sing with them. When they did the show in Vegas, they had Joan Jett come up and do two songs. They had Lisa Marie Presley come out at the Avalon and sing with them. She did two Pat Benatar songs. She did “Heartbreaker” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. It was brilliant. Where else would you see that?
Really? Pat Benatar. That’s quite a range. How did she do?
She did all right. It was one of the best shows. I love Pat Benatar. She was the best.
Pat Benatar was hot.
She was very hot. No tits at all. No rib cage. She would just breathe in those notes and belt it out. She had the best ass.
She’s a looker.
She’s almost Oriental looking. She was fierce. That guitar player husband of hers, Eddie Cochrane, is fierce, too. He’s really good. We need to get Lita Ford and Joan Jett on a track for my album.
Tell me about growing up.
Well, I started out very, very small.
You were a Hendrix roadie. How did that come about?
I went down to London to make my fortune like Dick Whittington and his cat. The only guy I knew in London was Neville. I rang him up and I asked if I could sleep on his floor. He said, “Yeah, sure.” So I went over there. He was sharing a flat with Noel Redding, who was working for Hendrix as a roadie. A few weeks later, they need an extra geezer. In those days there wasn’t a road crew. There were only two of us looking after all of Hendrix’s shit. I wasn’t doing any technical shit. I was just lifting and carrying. Neville would plug it all in. We’d used the house PA. I don’t know how we ever did it. It always sounded great to me. It was just the house PA. No mikes on the drums.
There was no soundman?
There was none of that. That didn’t exist. We used the house PA for the vocals. No mikes on anything. You played how you sounded. That was it. It was normal for then. That’s how you did it. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been. There were no mikes on anything and no speakers at the side of the stage.
Were you playing bass when you were working for Hendrix?
When did you start playing?
In ‘71, I started playing bass.
Did you play guitar before that?
Yeah, I played guitar before that, but I was a really bad guitarist.
What kind of stuff were you into growing up?
The originals, like Little Richard and Elvis.
I was surprised that you’re a Little Richard fan.
He’s the best. Best rock n’ roll vocals ever.
Who else inspired you?
Eddie Cochran and Fats Domino. Fats Domino was great. I was inspired by all of the originals. It was like punk. They were there and gone in two years. Some were in jail. Elvis was in the army. Buddy Holly was dead. Two years and that was it. Buddy Holly was only around from ‘57 to Feb ‘59. Look at the influence he had in only two years. And then he was dead. Gone. They released records for five years after he died because they found songs he’d been recording on his tape recorder at home. We did three of those posthumous Buddy Holly songs on the CD with Slim Jim. We did “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “Learning The Game” and “Crying, Waiting, Hoping”. All three of those are posthumous Holly recordings. That’s why there’s only one verse in “Learning to Gain”. That’s all he put down.
How did you end up playing bass for Hawkwind?
I was selling dope in Kensington Market. Times were hard. [laughs] I met this guy DikMik, who was a speed freak. We discovered we had a mutual interest in finding out how long the human body could be made to jump about without stopping. So we chummed about for a while. He finally ran out of money. He was going to go and study meditation in India, and become a guru or something.
Minus the speed?
Oh yeah. It didn’t quite add up. And he was heading West, so he was going the wrong direction anyway. He came back when he ran out of money, so then he wanted another speed freak in the band. They were all speed freaks. So we show up to the show, and they were playing off the back of a truck. This was in 1971. I went to be the guitar player, but then they decided they weren’t going to get another guitar player. The guy left. It was acid burnout. They decided Dave would just take over the lead. But then the other bass player didn’t show up. Like a fucking idiot, he left his bass in the van. So someone said, “Who plays bass?” DikMik said, “He does.” And pointed at me. I was like, “You cunt.” I’d never played a bass in my life. Nick Turner comes over and says “Make some noises in ‘E’. This song is called “You Shouldn’t Do That”. And then he just walks away from me. That was really helpful. There was none of that old-fashioned shit like, “It’s two verses and a solo.” So I made some noises in ‘E’. I must have done all right. I was with them for 4 1/2 years.
How did you end up leaving Hawkwind?
I got fired.
I love this story.
I got fired in Canada. That was a saga.
Did you go to jail?
No, well, I was just on my way into jail, and I got bail. They flew me up to Toronto to do the show. I was fired at four in the morning after the show.
Why did they fire you?
For taking the wrong drugs, basically. They were so fucking cosmic. They didn’t rally around me when I needed some help.
I had a bit of the same experience myself.
Speed freaks are not respected, although they should be because they stay up later and make more music. It’s just like smokers. We pay more taxes, but what kind of respect do we get?
Acid just seems crazy to me on stage.
It was. Believe me. We were spiked with angel dust by two separate sets of people in Cleveland. One spiked us, and we threw all the drinks out. Then another bunch came in and spiked us as well. We went on stage, and it was hell. It was like, “I can make some noise. Good.” The first trip I ever took, Neville said, “Do you want to take some acid?” I’d already had five joints. So, I was like, “Sure.” It’s a new thing these people are doing. I’ll take some acid. So Neville gives me this little white pill. I just ate the thing because it looked so small. I found out later that he was going to get a knife to split it up into four pieces. It was white lightning. He turned around and did the Cheech and Chong thing. He just looked at me and said, “You just took the most drugs of your life.” I’ll give him one thing, though. He took another one and came with me. He did the right thing and tripped with me. It was my first trip. He said, “It changes your life.” And for 18 hours I was out there. It was incredible shit. Then I spent six hours coming down. We went to this swamp with a crocodile in it. We did all kinds of shit. We came down pretty good. Then we just decided to go out. We were young and foolish. We went to this speakeasy where the Knights were playing with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Neville was giving nitrous to the keyboard player. It was the first light show I’d ever seen. We were tripping out at 4 in the morning. In the old days, with that stuff you never had to come down. It was a magic carpet ride.
I’ve never done acid like that.
Now, everything is adulterated. It’s all cut with something bad. If I were taking acid or speed, I’d just take speed. Acid is different now. I always believed that acid could change the world if you just gave it to everyone and then saw who came back. It’d just knock the others out. You’d soon find out if you had a strong character or not.
There’s this stuff now called ayahuasca. It’s a root in Brazil. They discovered this root. A man said he was guided by this force into the middle of nowhere to this root. They take the root into this church setting. They set it up with women on one side and men on the other side. They drink it in this tea. They say you go on this trip. And it cures heroin addiction.
Then you get addicted to the root?
No, they say you go to the core of yourself. They say it’s not addictive. It’s not like acid.
Heroin is a cure for morphine addiction.
I know. It’s a bad deal. I thank God I never got on the methadone program. It goes into your bones.
It’s worse than heroin. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to make people any better off than the heroin.
If you could change anything about the music business, what would you change?
I’d make myself much richer.
Do you have any plans to slow down?
I don’t know why you would. As soon as you slow down, the fuckers catch up with you.
We don’t want that happening. Have you seen the Ramones documentary? It’s great. It was wild to see how Johnny was portrayed.
“The KKK took my baby away.”
Exactly! The whole story behind that is Joey wrote that song because Johnny stole his girlfriend.
Oh, yeah. “The KKK took my baby away.” Joey had a great sense of humor, man. What about, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”? Who was writing that? Nobody. Nobody would ever have written that but Joey. “I don’t wanna walk around with you. So why you wanna walk around with me?“ That’s just fucking brilliant.
Would you say The Ramones are in your top five favorite rock n’ roll bands?
Oh yeah. The Ramones can cheer my ass up no matter what’s going on. I can put on “Rocket to Russia” and be cheered up in three tracks. I can just listen to “I Wanna Be Sedated” and feel better.
I learned to play bass from listening to those Ramones records.
Yeah. You can tell.
Jeez, you really know how to make a girl feel special.
That’s great stuff! You don’t have to be Jaco Pastorius. You make it rock-n-roll. That’s the point.
The Ramones and AC/DC were it for me. Cliff [Williams] is the ultimate bass player. He knows how to hold down the bottom end. He knows how to be steady as a rock and make his guitar players look good. When the bass comes in on, “Walk All Over You” it makes you want to get up and shake your ass.
Exactly. It makes you want to get up and do anything, you know, just get up.
It’s almost like Chuck Berry being able to hold one note and make you drop to your knees.
Yeah, you’re right. It’s exciting. It’s not perfect playing or perfect instrumentally, but no one’s standing around looking at their feet. He’s doing the duck walk across the stage, and that’s exciting, too. You want to see a show. I don’t want to see some cunt in a plaid shirt looking at his feet. I want to see somebody who is filled with the joy of rock n’ roll.
I read somewhere that in Europe you’re top 10?
In Germany, yeah. We’ve been nominated for a Grammy, too.
Were you nominated for Best Metal?
Yeah, it was a cover of the Metallica song.
Okay, we played about a month of the Warped Tour this year, and you want to talk about a morale breaker. I don’t know what these bands are. There’s nothing punk or rock n’ roll about it. There aren’t even any good songs.
There’s nothing about it. It’s a waste of fucking space.
The state of music today is just so bad.
There are plenty of good bands around that you’re never going to hear on the radio or TV. There are a lot of great bands around just fighting to survive. The good thing is that the business is not going to be around anymore. Luckily, it’s cut it’s own throat and hasn’t even got the brains to see it’s doing it.
Fuckin-A, man. Is there anything you’d like to say to the folks?
Come and see us on tour if you want to see some real music instead of this freeze-dried crap you get on the radio. Whatever you say about Motorhead, you have to admit that we rock like shit. We are the real thing.