Interview with Lemmy Kilmister-2-96

I have to admit it - I've been a huge Motorhead fan forever. Their fan club, The Motorheadbangers, even inspired my nickname. I first heard them, and Ozzy's first solo album, and all kinds of other music that wound up changing my life, when I visited the UK in summer of 1980.

The first time I met Lemmy was on their first US tour supporting Ozzy on his first US tour on June 18, 1981. It changed me, and my whole direction in life, forever. This is a very long-winded backstory, so bear with me.

Rewind to Fall, 1980. I was a stoner back then, metal was just coming out, and I hadn't discovered punk yet. Those days, I hung out with a bunch of pretty violent crowd who were wannabe bikers, but genuine meth heads. I met this guy Greg, who was a friend of a friend and was super into Ozzy. Like everyone in that circle, he dealt a little bit. We hit it off instantly, because he had painted the Master of Reality logo on a sleeveless jean jacket, and my jacket had the Motorhead logo on it. I turned Greg on to Ozzy's Blizzard of Ozz LP, which hadn't been released in the US yet, and we became best bros for a bit - we smoked tons of weed and did mountains of crank. The the annual Colorado winter dispersion happened, and I didn't see him again.

The next spring, I was walking on 13th St around Downing, and I saw Greg's Master of Reality jacket laying in the street. I knew he would die before he surrendered his jacket, so I imagined all kinds of horrible fates that would have induced Greg to have left his jacket abandoned in the street. Then they announced Ozzy was coming to the Rainbow Music Hall - with special guests Motorhead - in June. I bought my ticket right away. It was general admission was there by 10 AM and was about 20th in line. I knew that if Greg was still alive, he would be at this show, so I brought his vest. Around 11:30, this guy Paul from Motorhead's crew started walking down the line, asking if anyone had any Wiz. I didn't know what that was until he explained that that's English for speed. I was devastated that I didn't, he told everyone that if they came across any, to beat on the door of the bus. About 20 minutes later, Greg shows up and he has at least a quarter ounce of really good crank. I give him his vest, he can't believe someone found it, and the next thing we know, we're standing at the door of Motorhead's bus.

This is about to become epic. I'm 18 years old. Lemmy is my idol. I love speed. We knock on Destiny's Door. Paul the Roadie opens the door, and we step into The Bus. He leads us to the rear, where there is a mirror-topped coffee table with padded leather edges. Lemmy is there. Paul asks how much Wiz we have. Greg says, about a half ounce. Paul gives Greg a couple hundred bucks and we dump the crank on the table. Greg starts laying rails. Lemmy asks us if we've heard the new Pat Travers album. Of course we haven't, because it hasn't been released yet. Lemmy has a pre-release copy of Crash and Burn. He plays it loud. We do a lot of lines. We talk about God knows what. Lemmy signs my jacket the first time. Phil and Eddy drop in and do a few lines. They are all super cool, just act like real people and treat us as equals, too, even though we're two eighteen year old morons. They don't throw us off the bus until it's time for them to go onstage. We end up in the 4th row, and it is a magnificent show. Motorhead tears it up - it's the Ace of Spades tour and they shred. Ozzy does the best show I ever saw him do - he actually hits notes, and works for his applause - this is the first (and likely last) time he's done a small hall tour, and he has to work to win the crowd over. He basically plays the entire Blizzard album, plus a couple Sabbath songs for the encore.

My God, just thinking of that show, the experience, thirty-five years later, still sends chills down my spine. I've seen a lot of shows, met a lot of my idols, since then, but this was the first truly classic show I ever saw. And now, close to half the people who played that stage Randy Rhoades, Phil Taylor, and now Lemmy, are silent forever.

Lemmy taught me that our idols are human too, and that those worthy of our adulation owe it to us to treat us as equals. I learned in June of 1981 that everything was possible, and somewhere in my meth-addled brain, I decided at that moment to become part of the rock'n'roll world. I didn't have a clue how to make that happen, but I knew I would. And I did for a long time. Thank you Lemmy.

Since then, I crossed paths with Lemmy on many subsequent tours, and even randomly ran into him in London. All that time, regardless how my personal tastes evolved, my respect for Lemmy only increased. I was devastated to hear of his sudden death. That's right - death, not passing. He wasn't a kidney stone!

I interviewed him at the Ogden in February 1996 for the short-lived and now-defunct Color Red. He had two more interviews scheduled, so I had to keep it short and to the point. As a long-time fan, I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask him, and I think we nailed the interview. Unfortunately, when the interview was almost finished, I realized that the tape player had been on pause the whole time. There was no time to start over, and the magic would have been gone a second time around anyway. I spent the rest of the night racking my brain trying to remember exactly what was said. I corroborated this version with the people that were with me, and it's pretty damn close to his exact words, but by no means all he had to say...pity.

This was never published in the now-defunct Color Red.

Again, pity it was never published. And again, thank you Lemmy, for teaching me that dreams can come true, if you have enough Wiz! I will remember you forever.
TH: Since you have two more interviews after this one, I'll skip the history part.
LK: Thank you.
TH: What influenced you to start playing rock'n'roll?
LK: Early rock'n'roll-Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard.
TH: What about blues.
LK: Blues, sure. Jimmy Reed, stuff nobody nowadays remembers or has ever heard of.
TH. I haven't.
LK: See?
TH: What new stuff do you like?
LK: You should see Speedball-they're really good.
TH: You were born in Wales-are you Welsh?
LK: As far as I can tell, I'm part English, part Scottish and a little bit French.
TH: Do you identify with your Celtic background?
LK: Fuck no-the world's too small for that nationalistic shit.Being from this country or that country. that's the cause of all the shit that's going on right now. I'm a fucking citizen of the world. Just because you were born on a lousy piece of ground doesn't mean you have to fucking stay there. If you were born on an airplane, would you have to fly all the fucking time? We're breeding war and pestilence on the entire fucking planet.
TH: So I gather you're not optimistic about the future?
LK: Fuck no-are you? We're spreading fucking disease and pestilence all over the world-we can't even get along with our fucking neighbors and we want to go to fucking Mars to spread or disease there. If there is any fucking intelligent life out there, they should blow us to hell to keep us from spreading. We are the ugliest, most useless form of life there's ever been. We burn and destroy our entire planet and then want to go find new ones to ruin. We should step aside and let the fucking rats or ants take over-they're better organized!
TH: Are you religious?
LK: Fuck no-it's a load of crap-
TH: What do you think is the best Motorhead album?
LK: What do you think is the best Motorhead album? What kind of question is that? It's like asking a carpenter which cabinet is the best one he's made!
TH: It seems like you are playing a lot more chords on the newer albums-do you feel your bass style is evolving?
LK: What do you mean more chords? Listen to the first album-its about 70 percent chords! I don't think I'm playing any differently.
TH: You co-write a song on the new Ozzy album (Ozzmosis). How did that come about?
LK: I wrote two songs on that album-one they didn't fucking credit me for! And I did four on No More Tears So that's six. Ozzy and I are old friends and he asked me to give him some songs for the new album-I gave him ten, he used two. It's not a very inspiring album, I didn't think, especially after No More Tears, did you?
TH: It doesn't break a lot of new ground...
LK:They had too much material. Most albums aren't that good because they have too little material, but Ozzy had so many songs, they couldn't decide what to put on it.
TH: Do you get approached to do a lot of collaborations?
LK: No, I did it with Ozzy, it's a way to keep the wolf from the door.
TH: You're a real survivor.
LK: I guess you could say that...
TH: How do you manage to maintain this lifestyle of self-abuse?
LK: Drugs!
TH: I guess I can skip that question then. But a lot of artists these days are working out five hours a day and shit.
LK: Bollocks! Those musicians should fucking play harder when they're onstage and they wouldn't have to punish themselves like that.
TH: You pretty much pioneered the whole "Death Metal" voice and persona.
LK: I guess I did. I didn't set out to pioneer anything-I just sing that way, cause I don't give a shit. The only time I ever really tried to sing was on Orgasmatron and I gave up on it after that and went back to not giving a shit.
TH: Does it frustrate you that a lot of younger bands are more successful playing music like Motorheads than Motorhead?
LK: I'm all for anyone who can make a living in this dirty business.
TH: You really stand alone as a bassist. Has anyone influenced your style? Hendrix?
LK: Well, Hendrix influenced everyone. He totally changed the sound of rock. The way he hit the guitar may have influenced me some. John Entwhistle influenced me a lot. Pete Townshend maybe more, the way he hits his guitar. Townshend is way underrated as a guitarist. The Who were a huge influence in England in the '60s. And Paul McCartney-he's a brilliant bassist. He can play either way, because when you're left-handed and you borrow your mate's guitar, you have to play with the strings upside down, so if you're any good, you learn to play with either a left-hand or a right hand guitar, strung either way. Hendrix could do that too-it's fucking amazing.
TH: Dick Dale strings his guitar upside down, too. Are you into him?
LK: Fuck no-are you?
TH: He's a really good at what he does.
LK: Well he bloody well ought to be, he's been playing the same song for thirty fucking years!
TH: Is there an animal you identify with the most?
LK: An animal, let's see. Horses.
TH: Horses-why?
LK: Because they're so fucking big and strong and contrary. A horse will step right on your foot and then he'll take the weight off the other three legs and he knows exactly what he's doing! Or you'll put a saddle on and they'll puff up their bellies and then when you're riding them they'll suck it back in and the saddle just slides off to one side and you go off with it. I love horses. They're wonderful animals.
TH: What do you think the best thing Motorhead has going for it?
LK: The fact that we don't give a fuck about what the best thing Motorhead has going for it!
TH: That makes me kind of reluctant to ask this next question...
LK: Go on, ask it!
TH: What do you think the worst thing is Motorhead has going for it?
LK: The fact that we don't give a fuck what the worst thing Motorhead has going for it!
TH: How have you changed the way you record your albums over the years?
LK: Well, back then we used to play and they'd put mics in front of our amps and they'd run it to tape and now we play and they put mics in front of our amps and they run it...(laughs) I'm sorry!
TH: The reason I'm asking is that the earlier albums are so much muddier than the new ones, I'm just wondering how you've made them sound so much cleaner.
LK: The technology has changed so much in the last fifteen years, it's another fucking world from what it used to be. The first time I recorded it was on three tracks-one for drums, one for bass, one for guitar.
TH: Now you probably use that many for bass alone.
LK: Two for bass- a direct line and a mic on the amp. No digital shit, no compressors. We try to use as little of that crap as possible.
TH: You live in LA now?
LK: I've been there for six years.
TH: Why did you move there?
LK: The weather's twice as good, the chicks wear half the clothes, everything's cheap-why wouldn't I move there?
(I notice he's reading a biography of Hitler, he also always wears an old Iron Cross)
TH: Why are you interested in Hitler?
LK: He changed the fucking world we live in. I'm interested in anyone, so-called "good" or "bad" who can change the world. Think about it-one man-he changed everything for millions and millions of people-changed the way we look at everything. How can you not be interested in Hitler-he made the world we live in...
Copyright 1996 Tom Headbanger

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