Gettin' personal with Motorhead
By Naughty Mickie 
Photos by Dan Quinajon

Lemmy from MotorheadI 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 story...

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 moniker.

"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 the drug.''

"It makes me think of motorcycles," I reply.

"Well, let me put it this way, I don't have a motorbike, so guess," laughs Lemmy.

"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 she remarried.''

"Were your parents supportive of your pursuit of a career in music?" I query.

"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."

Motorhead 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 British comedy.

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 wonder.

"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 radio.''

That leads me to ask the world traveler what country he feels has the best music today.

"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 tour.

"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 Amphitheatre).

"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???

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Twitter: @myMotorhead

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