Liquid Metal host Jose Mangin opened Motorhead’s final performance on their 2015 Motorboat cruise with a line from the film Airheads. “Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?”
Of course, it’s a trick question: Lemmy is God.
But for a rock deity, he’s surprisingly down to earth and real. And I don’t just mean on a personal “he’s-such-a-nice-guy” level—although he was often seen frequenting the M/V Norwegian Sky’s casino, staked out at the slots of all places.
No, I noticed something more subtle than that. It started with the venue, which at 1,000 seats felt positively intimate for a band of Motorhead’s stature. Hell, they do have a cruise named for them, after all. But despite this close proximity to their fans, the element of celebrity —so prevalent in other musical genres— seemed completely absent. I saw no clambering for photos, no high pitched shrieks, no mad rush to grasp a bit of Lemmy’s garment like some kind of rough ’n’ ready Christ. There was very little US and THEM, which is usually highlighted when fan and band collide. Instead they’re just talented guys admired by a group of their peers. The first among dudes (and lady dudes), as it were.
“This song is about politicians and business men,” he spits before “Take The Blame” blows the place up. “Y’know, those c-nt’s who are stealing all your money. Just because you’ve got the power doesn’t mean you’ve got the right.” Such indignation! Motorhead’s staying power rests in the fact that they’ve somehow managed to remain a part of the scene that idolizes them. As long as that continues, they will continue to earn the warm affection enjoyed by only a precious few musicians.
I won’t bore you with a setlist. They played everything you wanted to hear, including “Metropolis,” “Over The Top,” and “Rock It,” to name just a few. Obviously there’s been much talk of Lemmy’s recent health scares, leading some to speculate whether he’s going to hang up his Rickenbacker in the near future. I don’t know any more than you, but I can say for certain that the band sounded as tight as ever. Lemmy’s still Lemmy, with thunder coming out of his fingers and a furious growl that makes Bob Dylan sound like a vocal coach.
Perhaps he seemed a little more raw, but that only enhanced the sound. The only noticeable sign of (slight) ill health was his stock-still stage presence. But let’s be real, when has appearance been the most important part of a Motorhead show? It sounded amazing. Mikkey Dee is a freaking octopus on the drums, and Phil Campbell is Lord Axman incarnate.
It was Campbell who was gracious enough to give us a few minutes of his time the afternoon before their big Motorboat finale. The two of us sat on a small balcony off the starboard side of the ship—his ship, Motorhead’s Motorboat.
VH1: How are you doing today, sir?
Not too bad. This is a nice place to do an interview. Could be worse.
Tell me about it! Well you are the man of the hour, I’ve never met anyone with a whole cruise named after their band. How did this all come about?
I have no idea, actually. Organized chaos. But it seems really worth while. We’re gonna do it again next year and keep on doing it.
What does it feel like to have an entire ship dedicated with your music, and decked out with references to you and filled with fans? it’s gotta be great, but it’s gotta be pretty surreal.
It is pretty surreal now. If it fucks up our name, we’ll go to mud. If it’s a success, it’ll be great. We’ll take the chance. Last year there were no problems. Well, I had one problem with some drunk guy who wanted me to try on a coat and I refused because it was horrible. But apart from that, everyone’s really nice people. It’s a good thing to take your boyfriend or girlfriend on. You know, save up a little bit of money and take them.
Is there anyone you really wanted to see perform?
Many of the times are clashing, although I did get to see my friends Budderside. They were amazing. I haven’t got time for Anthrax because we’ve just done three weeks with them. I would like to have seen most of the bands once, but it’s impossible.
How do you feel the fan reaction has been to Bad Magic?
We haven’t played anything off the new album yet, but we will in five weeks time when we do a European tour. We just didn’t get it together in time [for this], Lem wasn’t very well a few weeks ago. We were hoping to do some new material then, but we’re just glad that Lem is fine and fit now and able to do the shows. But we went to the Top 10 in 11 countries. Only for a week or so!
Was the recording process different than on previous albums?
It was, actually. Instead of going to rehearsals and putting it down on CD and then leaving it for six weeks, we went into the recording studio and as soon as we came up with something good it was down there. And if one of us wanted to do something we could just build on it straight away. It stayed fresh, so the momentum was there. It wasn’t like, “Aww, there’s that fuckin’ song from two months ago.” Some of it, we took stuff off, others we added stuff. I really think that’s the best way to work, I definitely want to do it again. It was probably cheaper for us as well. I don’t know, maybe not!
You’ve talked about doing a covers album in the past. Was the Rolling Stones cover of “Sympathy For The Devil” a sort of dry run for that?
Not really, no. We’ve always done the odd cover. We’ve been wanting to do [a whole album] for years. We shook hands on it two years ago, “The next album is going to be a covers album.” We’d choose four song each. I was looking forward to having Lemmy sing “Living On A Prayer.” (screeches and laughs) That would have been fucking insane. We did “Heroes” by David Bowie. It’s not on the album, but we recorded it.
I’d love to hear that. What would your four song choices be?
Oh, too many. I have no idea. An Eagles song, probably. Definitely and Eagles song. A James Taylor song, a Madonna song. Just to fuck with ’em. (laughs)
(laughs) A Justin Bieber song?
No, fuck off with that. We’ll go with Rammstein! (laughs)
You got Brian May to record some guitar work on “The Devil.” How did he come into the picture?
I pestered him for two years. I’ve been pestering him for many years to play with us. He’s always been too busy. He’s one of the busiest guys I know, with his animal rights campaigns and everything. He’s such a nice guy. So I ground him down and finally said, “I won’t pester you again for at least two years.” So I sent him the track I had in mind, and luckily he thought it was fantastic. So he went to his own studio and did a couple of bits. I jumped for joy when it was all signed, sealed and delivered. The guy’s amazing, a real sweetheart. I’m really pleased with that.
Do you have anyone else in mind you want to work with down the line?
There’s loads, but whether they want to do it or whether they can fit it in is another matter. It’s always good to have a new perspective on things. But we’ll see.
Is there anything else from Motorhead that we should be looking out for? We’ve already got the vibrators and whiskey…
We’ve got plenty of ideas, don’t worry. One thing at a time. It’s fun putting out different things. As long as it puts a smile on somebody’s face. Butt plugs, maybe? We’ll do fucking butt plugs next! (laughs) Magicians kits so you can make your drummer disappear (laughs). Or your singer disappear—I think most bands would buy one.