An interview with Lemmy
By Martin Popoff
Talking to Lemmy is a bit like talking to Glenn Danzig. You get the sense that both guys would rather be elsewhere, and that your questions, for the most part, suck. Answers, subsequently, are clipped and, on Lemmy’s part, quip-filled, and as a result, you better have a ton of questions. Course it doesn’t help that Lemmy was on a cell phone. In a car (at least he wasn’t driving). Anyway, you also get the sense that Lemmy is trying to be cordial, that there’s a warmth there, and that if some sort of barrier around standard business that we gotta deal with can be gotten around, he’d almost talk to you as an equal. Or not. Who knows? Here goes.
You’re going out on tour now with Corrosion Of Conformity. Have you played with those guys before?
I think we have, back in the ’80s. It was a long time ago, I don’t remember. They’re supposed to be good though, right?
Anything new going on with the live show?
Well, we’ve changed the set list altogether. There are a few surprises. Three songs off the new album: “Tragedy,” “Whorehouse Blues,” and… I can’t fucking remember, “Killers,” right. We were doing “Life’s a Bitch.”
Where are you in the cycle for the next studio album?
Probably January or February next year, we’re going to start doing that. We never discuss what it’s going to be like though. “Whorehouse Blues” was spur of the moment. It’s just like, if it’s fun, we do it. If it isn’t, we stop. (laughs) That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be, you know?
What have you revived from the old catalog that’s now in the set?
A couple off of Another Perfect Day, which we haven’t done since Brian left.
How does Phil feel about that material, that smooth Brian Robertson style?
Oh, he can do it. It’s no problem for him. Phil’s very underrated as a guitar player.
Has your foot totally healed?
Seems to be. Put it this way, it isn’t getting any worse. (laughs) What happened was I got an infection. I just had to get off it for a while and eat antibiotics all day.
What’s the status of your solo album?
I’ve got eight songs right now, but they’re not all mixed yet, and I’ve got to find a few more people to play on it. All but one are originals so far. I might do a couple of covers later on. I’ve already got The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat.” It’s all different styles, stuff I can’t do in Motörhead, mostly. I’m probably going to use Phil and Mikkey on two different tracks, you know, Phil on one and Mikkey on one. It’s probably another year away.
Could you give me a little stylistic description of Inferno, versus the previous two, Hammered and We Are?
Well, I don’t think it’s all that different from We Are. Hammered was a bit of a departure. It wasn’t really us, but there are some good songs on it.
And what did producer Cameron Webb do for you versus Thom Panunzio?
Well, he was the first one to tell Mikkey to go back in and do it again. (laughs) And it was brand new, because we did the drums first, so he’s got the nerve, you know, to chase us around a bit. Which is what we fucking need. Because when you’re doing it yourself, you’re too lazy. And, of course, it’s always me louder than them. (laughs)
What are a couple of your favorite tracks on Inferno and why?
“Tragedy” and “In the Black,” both of them because they’ve got a really strange time signature. Especially the stuff Mikkey is doing on “Tragedy.” Very good.
You were saying that Cameron recorded Mikkey first?
Yeah, we always do that. Mikkey and Phil go in, and Mikkey plays drums and Phil plays rhythm guitar, and they just put the tracks down, you know? And the arrangements. Then Mikkey goes back to Sweden, because he’s got kids growing up. And me and Phil finish it off. And then Mikkey comes back for the mixing and complains about it all. (laughs)
Is there anything new you’ve done for either your bass playing or your vocals over the last few years? Are you adapting in any way recently?
Adapting to what?
I don’t know, just new things you’re bringing in, new musical influences…
Well, you see, you’ve got to remember, I was doing all these influences before I did Motörhead, because I was in bands doing harmony songs. You know, I used to do the high harmonies in Hawkwind, so it’s not much of an adaptation, more of a recollection.
Tell me a bit about your writing collaborations with Ozzy, how you worked together.
He has the track usually and he does “ay ow ow” over it, and then I write a vocal line over it. We don’t really sit around in our shirt sleeves until the early morning hours writing.
Will you be writing again with him?
I don’t know what’s in their heads. I think they’re doing an album right now, so we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve done three or four lyrics for him that he hasn’t used yet.
What are a few of the interesting business lessons you’ve learned over the years?
Read the small print and never trust a promoter. (laughs)
What do you do on the road to keep sane, to keep yourself mentally fit?
I don’t. I’m mentally unfit. That’s the secret. There’s no way of going on the road and being normal. I mean, what the fuck are you on the road for if you’re going to be normal? You’ve got to be fucking nuts to go there in the first place. I mean, to stay there, you’ve really gotta be tragic.
What thoughts went through your head winning a Grammy for “Whiplash,” your Metallica cover?
I thought it would be nice if we had one for one of our songs, you know? Apart from that, it’s nice to have it, I guess. The problem was, we had to fucking hang around all day, which is about as much fucking fun is going to the dentist. “I’d like to thank my mom, and God.”
What are one or two of the greatest records ever made?
What would you like, one or two?
Let’s go with three.
Okay, “Good Golly Miss Molly,” Little Richard, “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles from the live album, and Evanescence. To name but a few.
Do you have much of a music collection? Do you collect a lot of records?
I had my entire music collection stolen when I was living in London. I had a thousand albums and 600 singles stolen. And they were all original singles. I had shit like Roy Head on Backbeat Records, all very exotic. All of them were stolen. So I never really got into collecting records again. I’ve got a good selection, but I wouldn’t say I’m a collector.
Do you see anything new out of Phil or Mikkey in terms of their styles?
Well, Phil is always advancing; he’s very good. And Mikkey was perfect when he joined the band; he’s great. He takes some of the heat off me, you know?
And hitting the road again doesn’t scare you at all? Is this something you want to be doing for a number of years more?
Scare me? Going home scares me. The road is where I live. I live on the bus, that’s it.
You don’t like those four walls at home?
Well, why do that when you can have 150 fucking walls on tour?
Alright, Lemmy, we’ll let you go. Anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to get out there?
Well, Phil’s had his breast implants. I don’t know if you want to cover that.
No, he should uncover that, as part of the show.
Right, and he’s had his head pierced.