Motorhead Rocks The Abyss
By Melanie "Sass" Falina
"I like being called a rock star, I like being a rock star. And I'm entirely gracious, I think," said Motorhead's Lemmy Kilminster as I teased him a little during our interview. But if anyone has earned such a title - it's certainly the 60-year-old Motorhead front man. How many men in rock are known instantly by only their first name? And just how hard could your daddy rock at age 60?
Triumphantly celebrating their 30 th anniversary this year, their first Grammy award, and last June's release, Inferno - which has been called one of the band's best albums ever, Lemmy, Mikkey Dee, and Phil Campbell have no intentions of putting out the flame.
Having begun touring abroad in 2004 in support of Inferno, Motorhead had to postpone the American leg of their tour due to a foot injury suffered by Lemmy. "I got a blister on my foot. We were flying a lot, you know, in and out of pressure, and also I was wearing these tight, pointy boots. Not really smart. And I got this big blister on the end of my foot and it went infected. So I had to get off it, lay down for a bit and be pumped full of antibiotics. It's not very romantic," chuckles Lemmy. "But I didn't want to lose the foot. As soon as it gets infected it becomes 100% more serious."
Now with a healthy foot, Lemmy and company 'kicked' off their tour early this March with openers, and fellow rock veterans, Corrosion of Conformity. "I'm very pleased to be going back into America. It's been nearly two years on since we've been on tour in the States, so it's great."
One song Motorhead will not be performing on the tour however is the song that just recently won them their first Grammy award, their rendition of Metallica's 'Whiplash.' "It's a novelty kind of thing. We did it for a tribute album."
Motorhead combined forces with producer extraordinaire Bob Kulick, the reigning king of tribute projects, on the Metallica cover. "Yeah, the poor devil didn't even get to go [to the Grammies]," Lemmy says of Kulick. "I would have really liked to have taken him, and you don't get two tickets. You know, you don't get to take your girlfriend, it's like Nazi Germany."
"We've done a lot of work with Bob, actually. We've done a lot of these tribute things he's done. We did an AC/DC one. A Queen one, I did 'Tie Your Mother Down,'which is not a good idea in retrospect. Tie your mother down - not a good idea really," he laughs, "Thought of that sooner we could have gotten away from home sooner."
Another recent collaboration was during the recording process of Inferno; Motorhead hooked up with guitar-god Steve Vai. "See, just when you thought we were predictable. Yeah, I was going into the Rainbow and he was coming out. And I said, 'Hello Steve,' and he said, "Hello Lem, what are you doing?' And I said we were doing a new album and he said, 'Well, if you want me to play a couple tracks.' And like a fool he gave me his number."
"Really nice guy too, super easy to work with," Lemmy comments on Vai. "None of this pompous shit, you know. 'I'm going to soak my hands for half an hour,' - none of that."
So, now finally in the States, what are Motorhead's plans for this tour? "Well, Phil's going to have breast implants and Mikkey's going to explode on the encore every night." chuckles Lemmy.
Big booms and big boobs aside, Motorhead fans can expect the solid rock and roll shows they're used to. "Well, you know, apart from a few songs off the new album - I mean we did an acoustic song, acoustic blues, we do that on stage. Apart from that it's going to be more or less business as usual except we try to pull out a couple new things for the 30 th anniversary tour, obviously."
Did Lemmy have any idea when forming Motorhead that after three decades they'd be going strong? "Well no, it never crosses your mind, does it? I was 30-years-old when we started so you say to yourself, 'two years - tops, if we're lucky.' And then you get a real job. It seems like the day before yesterday that we started."
Prior to Motorhead's birth, back in1967 Lemmy worked briefly as a roadie to Jimi Hendrix. I asked Lemmy what he remembered the most about Hendrix from his personal experiences. "How much acid he could stand without actually exploding," he laughs. "Because that was when everyone was doing acid, right? And he certainly was, and I certainly was. The first time I ever did it was when I was working for him. And it was an enlightening experience. Not like the experiences now, I think this generation must have a really bad time, generally, because it's not that optimistic of an outlook. Not like it was then, we were certain we were the best generation ever, and we were going to just cure all known diseases, et cetera."
"[Now a days] they're trying to be cool, what the matter with you? Jump up and down! Although, I have to say the new generation - these 15 year olds who are coming to our gigs are really jumping up and down, it's great. Our music is really young music. If you didn't know who it was and you heard it, you'd think it was a new band, as old as we are. I think it was the generation right after mine that got stuck with that nose in the air stuff."
At one point, I said to the funny, down-to-earth rock legend, "Ok, I have a weird question for you."
"I'll give you a weird answer," he replied.
Lemmy, with his trademark setup of having his microphone considerably higher than his mouth, I wondered if that ever hurt his neck, and why he liked having it up so high.
"It's just a personal comfort thing. It's more comfortable for me, and it's easier for me to hit the high notes. It's just that, personal, you know. And also, I don't have to look at the audience. I wasn't uncomfortable from the audience; I was uncomfortable from the lack of it in the beginning. There were just two guys in the dark, you know," he chuckles.
So what has over 30 years in the music business taught Lemmy Kilminster about life? "The most important thing I've learned is that people all over the world are exactly the same, they're just trying to get along without getting fucking killed or arrested. And if everyone could realize that we can stop fighting. We're just fucking murderers disguised as military leaders - I just don't get it. We should have gotten past that by now." Lemmy continues: "It would have been a hell of a population explosion without World War II, I suppose, so it goes both ways."
"And [religion's] a problem we don't seem able to shake. I still don't believe that people go for that fucking patched together, cobbled story. It's not even a good plot, really. It's a very unhappy ending," he laughs. "And the Virgin gets pregnant by a ghost, and then she goes back and says, 'I'm still a virgin, darling, but I'm pregnant,' and he says, 'Ok.' Brilliant! All holy books say 'thou shalt not kill,' but it's all open to interpretation and so ambiguous."
Another tender topic of conversation with Kilminster is the recent death of Pantera and Damageplan founder and guitarist, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. "I knew him quite well. I sold him a bass guitar once. He's been a friend of ours for years ever since Pantera came out with us. I've know him and got to know Vinnie as well. Fucking terrible thing, you know. As long as you don't have a decent gun law here, it's going to happen. It's only because he's a rock star that it came to our attention, but people are getting shot like that every day. I really miss him, it's a shame. As long as you can buy a gun under the counter in a pawnshop - then you're in the shit, because that means any looney can get one. That guy that shot Dime was a looney; fucking idiot. And because his mind's all fucked up this guy has to die? If he couldn't have gotten a gun, what would he have done, thrown rocks at him?"
Motorhead has had their own share of fanatics, but thankfully not on such a cataclysmic level. "We do get obsessive ones who are a bit strange, yeah. There's one that dresses exactly like me, head to toe, mustache the same. And I'm sure if he could have moles grafted onto his face he would have. That's kind of a compliment, and then you start to think, 'Wait a minute.'"
Before signing off, I asked Lemmy what his favorite song is to play right now. "I like playing most of them. There are only a couple we do that we have to do that I don't like. That goes in and out, you go around again, you start to like them again. I'm really enjoying playing 'Ace of Spades' again. It's a good song - we got lucky. It could have been a turkey, we could have been stuck doing a fucking turkey for the rest of our lives," he laughs.
"It's been a long time - since 1980. It's a long time since we did the original. When Brian Robertson was with us he wouldn't play it anyway, so we got a break there. Apart from that we've always played it since. I'll tell you one I never get sick of is, 'Killed By Death.' It's a great song because there are so many bits in it. If you don't like this bit you go into the next bit and enjoy that."
Motorhead will be playing Chicago's House of Blues on March 19 and March 21, 2005.
Melanie "Sass" Falina