Gettin' personal with Motorhead
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Dan Quinajon
I was excited when I got my copy of Motorhead's latest release,
"Hammered" (Metal-Is Records, a division of Sanctuary Records), as I
knew that this could only mean one thing-- another tour! I have grown up with
their music, which provides just the right background for tuning up my chopper
or blasting down the highway in my car or annoying my parents.... Wait a second,
that's not true, my folks introduced me to rock and roll. My mother frequented
many of the same London clubs where Lemmy performed. But then, that's another
Lemmy makes Los Angeles his home now, but he was already out on the road on the
East Coast when he called me one sunny Saturday afternoon. I was nervous. I
always had the impression that the members of Motorhead, particularly Lemmy,
were rough characters, the kind you wouldn't want to mess with even on a good
day. He was upbeat, fresh from sound check and ready to open my mind.
"I was in Hawkwind originally and a couple of local bands in London,''
Lemmy told me about his beginnings.
Lemmy started playing music in 1964 with the Rainmakers and the Motown Sect in
Blackpool, England. From there, he played with a number of groups, such as
Rockin' Vicars, Gopal's Dream and Opal Butterfly, and even did a stint as a
roadie for Jimi Hendrix. In 1971, he became the bassist for the prog-rock band,
Hawkwind and stayed with them for four years.
After parting ways with Hawkwind, Lemmy decided to form Bastard, quickly
changing the name to Motorhead. The group revolved through several lineup
changes until it solidified into the trio of vocalist/bassist Lemmy, guitarist
"Fast" Eddie Clarke and drummer Philthy Animal (Philip Taylor).
"Actually, I skipped over the members because they were only with the band
for about three months in the beginning," Lemmy replies when I ask him
about how he selected the group's players. "Philthy Animal Taylor, I chose
him because he had car, you see, that's why I chose him. He could give me a lift
back down to the studio. He kept telling me he could play drums. The drummer we
had wasn't working out too well, so he gave me a ride down there, no windshield
in the car though and that was was a cold journey, and we got down there and he
was great. And then we got Eddie because Phil knew him from when he was painting
a houseboat with him.''
Motorhead went through two label changes before putting forth
"Overkill" and earning a spot on the Top 40 in 1979. By 1980, they
released "Ace of Spades" in the United States, but it was mostly
overlooked. Immensely popular in the U.K. and Europe, Motorhead grew slowly on
America, gradually developing a solid fan base. The band kept recording and
touring, while members came and went. In the '90s, the current form of Motorhead
took shape with Lemmy, guitarist Philip Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee.
Lemmy's real name is Ian Fraiser Kilmister and I dare to ask him how he got his
"I dunno, I think it's a Welsh insult,'' he quips.
I had read that he got the name Motorhead from one of the last songs he did with
Hawkwind, but I wanted Lemmy to clarify this.
"It's a song about being a speed freak," Lemmy says. "It's old
American slang for speed freak, it can apply to either a motorist or a biker or
"It makes me think of motorcycles," I reply.
"Well, let me put it this way, I don't have a motorbike, so guess,"
"Were you musical as a child?" I ask.
"No, not much. I used to ride horses a lot," Lemmy says. "There
wasn't much music then, rock and roll and that sort of thing.''
Growing up on a farm, Lemmy was born in between musical eras, just at the onset
of rock. I find this interesting, as it shows just how original his ideas are. I
then ask him about his father.
"He was a padre, but he left when I was three months old. I didn't remember
him,'' Lemmy confides. "My mother brought me up until I was nine and then
"Were your parents supportive of your pursuit of a career in music?" I
"Not really. My mother used to slip me the occasional sneaky fiver. But my
father was dead against it," he says. "My step-father's dead now. My
mum's still alive. She's quite pleased now.''
Living on a farm helped Lemmy with his writing and life on the road.
"It taught me to be alone and not mind it. 'Cause a lot of people need the
sound of other human voices telling them they exist," Lemmy explains.
I want to know if his education was also a factor, so I ask Lemmy if he went
through the traditional English school system.
"There might be some differences of opinion there," he states.
"Did you complete your education then?" I venture.
"No, I got fired, expelled.'' Lemmy didn't waste anytime though, he went
straight to work, "I had to, no money coming in."
Then he shares a story, "For about two weeks I was a housepainter for this
homosexual landlord of a bed and breakfast place. But luckily he fancied my
partner more than me, so I was off the hook. He had the most wonderful name for
a homosexual that you ever heard in your life, his name was Alex Brownsword. I
couldn't have made that up."
We both chuckle, as the man's name sounds like something straight out of a
Lemmy continues, "I worked at a riding school teaching kids to ride and
that's about it.''
I ask him what he does when he's not playing music.
"I chase women mostly. And I catch them," Lemmy teases. "I read
all the time, science fiction, documentary, history and stuff. Reading's good.
Reading's the only thing that lets you use your imagination.''
The band writes like many other groups, with the exception of Lemmy.
"We all write the music, but I write all the lyrics," Lemmy says.
"Do you write the lyrics before or after you hear the music?" I
"I usually write under the clock in the studio," Lemmy admits.
"What do you think of today's scene?" I go on.
"Not much,'' Lemmy laughs. "I mean there was not much going on when I
was growing up. When I was 14, I had the Beatles, you know, it's about
difference. There's a lot more out there than you'll ever hear on American
That leads me to ask the world traveler what country he feels has the best music
"America probably, but you don't hear it on the radio, all you hear is this
rap rubbish. Britney bloody Spears. I mean, she's all right, she's not bad for
what she is, but she is what she is," Lemmy replies.
I agree that the selection of our radio stations is pretty poor.
"It's abysmal, man, it's the worst it's ever been, American radio. When we
first came over there, even in 1973, it was amazing, radio was fantastic. Now
it's garbage," Lemmy states. "In those days, you'd get a blues station
that would play good shit all night, nowadays you don't even have a blues
station. You've got country stations, Mexican stations and that's about it. The
rock stations are fucking appalling. The classic rock stations play the same 10
songs by the same 18 bands. It's terrible.''
On to happier things, I ask him about the crowd's response during the current
"They're great, they go nuts," Lemmy bubbles. "I think that's the
only reason we could keep going, our recording success has not been that great.
We've never been in the top 100 in America, but we can go down and there will
always be a lot of people turn out to see us play because we're good.''
I hate to admit it, but I tell Lemmy that the last time I saw him was when he
appeared with Metallica at Lollapalooza at Irvine Meadows (now Verizon
"That was a lot of fun. They're really good guys," he remembers. I've
checked out the Motorhead Web site and I know that some bands are very Internet
active and others are not, so I want his take on things.
"I don't have a computer, so I don't really have an opinion." Lemmy
pauses and adds, "I think it's a good way to put your hand up and say hey,
here I am.''
During our conversation, there's one thing I keep noticing that I didn't
expect-- humor. Lemmy has an excellent sense of humor, so much so that I have to
remark on it.
"You have to have when you've had the career I've had." Lemmy goes on
to discuss the humor in his lyrics. I feel that much of it is underneath
his lines, but Lemmy corrects me, "There's a lot of humor that's on the
surface actually. I mean, like 'Doctor Love' on the new album, that's quite
humorous. 'They call me Doctor Love,' 'I'd love to love you, baby,' you know.''
Wrapping up so Lemmy can relax before his show, I ask him what the future holds.
"Ruling the world and making a hundred million dollars before I'm a year
older, but I don't think that's really going to happen," Lemmy laughs.
A few weeks later, I caught Motorhead's show at the House of Blues in Anaheim
and had the pleasure to meet with Lemmy face to face. The performance was
all-out no-holds-barred rock and roll and the club had a rough crowd to match.
On stage, Lemmy was a growling, snarling grizzly who gave his fans his all,
including some harsh humor, while garnering a healthy dose of respect. Off
stage, Lemmy was akin to a teddy bear-- charming and personable, quick to joke
and smile, appreciative of my time, as I was of his. It just shows that you
can't always judge people by first appearances, especially in the entertainment
industry. Did I mention Lemmy gives good hugs???
Find out more about Motorhead by visiting