Friday, April 29, 2011
~ A few months back I interviewed Lemmy from Motorhead for the cover of Bass Player magazine. That issue is on the stands now. Lemmy is a huge influence on me, and it was an honor to get this opportunity. Thanks to Lemmy for taking the time and Brian Fox at Bass Player for making it happen. Due to editing restrictions, some elements on the interview got clipped, so I am posting the interview in it's entirety now. Enjoy!
Blasko: Lemmy, I would just like to start off by saying what an honor and a privilege it is to interview you today for Bass Player. I was lucky enough to convince the magazine that I was the right guy to pull off this interview…
Lemmy: Ha-ha, you probably are man.
Blasko: Was there a defining moment in your life when you decided you wanted to play Rock ‘n Roll for a living?
Lemmy: When I saw how many chicks you could get. I was watching this show that used to be on English TV in the 50’s and 60’s called 'Oh Boy!'. It was a live kinda show that always had these visiting singers. They had Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent on one night and they were both fucking great and they were surrounded by screaming women who appeared to be tearing their clothes off. And then I thought, hey that’s the job for me ya know? That was the very moment right there.
Blasko: I had heard that you were able to see the Beatles before they even had a record deal. Musically speaking, were they a heavy influence on you as well?
Lemmy: I was way into Rock ‘n Roll before that. I mean Little Richard, Elvis, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, and Ricky Nelson. I was into those guys long before the Beatles.
Blasko: As a songwriter outside of Motorhead, is there someone living or dead that you would or would have liked to collaborate with?
Lemmy: There are a few of them. Kurt Cobain for one. Lennon and McCartney of course, although you really couldn’t write with them could you? I mean you would end up being beaten to death by the awe of it all. That girl from Evanescence, I would like to collaborate with her. I bet she is a really good writer.
Blasko: Your band Motorhead is one of the worlds most consistent and reliable Rock ‘n Roll bands. You are about to release your 20th studio album*, which is a fucking tremendous achievement. *(The World is Yours available worldwide Feb 8, 2011). There has never been a time when you have changed direction to fit into current trends. Motorhead fans get 100 percent from you on every album and every tour. What would you credit as the secret to the bands “never say die” work ethic?
Lemmy: Well that’s just it, never say die ya know? I mean for one thing, and you have to realize this, I am not qualified to do anything else. I am not going to suddenly quit and become an eye surgeon any time soon. And if I quit, the other thing is… They said we were going to be finished in six months at the beginning of the band. Well, I can’t let all those bastards be right. I would rather die, than let them be right. So here we still are, and now they’re all gone.
Blasko: Sure, but there are numerous musicians that have dedicated their lives to Rock ‘n Roll, however they don’t produce nearly as much material as you do: 20 studio albums, 5 live albums, 8 compilations, 4 ep’s and 21 singles. There has to be a pretty strong amount of love for what you do as well?
Lemmy: Well yeah of course. I always loved Rock ‘n Roll from the first day I heard any. I knew that it was me. It was like an invocation, like being called to the priesthood.
Blasko: Was the writing and recording process any different on the new album “The World is Yours” in relation to any previous ones?
Lemmy: No, it was just the same really.
Blasko: So what continues to inspire you?
Lemmy: One of the factors is that not enough people have heard us yet. We aren’t selling a ton of records, but I will keep on making ‘em until they do buy them. So if they want us to stop making records, all they need to do is give us a number one hit (laughs). Well, that’s not totally true. I mean it is one thing, but really I just enjoy doing it. I love doing it. It’s my life.
Blasko: Sure that makes sense, but do you ever get to a point where you think, “fuck, do I have to play Ace of Spades again”?
Lemmy: I used to get that moment a couple of times, but I killed it. Ace of Spades has been really good to us and it is in fact a very good song. It’s one of the best that I ever wrote. So I suppose you have to put up with it because everybody wants to hear it every night. And you have to realize that just because you have played it every night, they haven’t heard it in this place every night. In a small town on one night it may be the first time that someone has ever seen us, and they have to hear Ace Of Spades because it’s part of our fabric. It wouldn’t be fair not to play it.
Blasko: Speaking of Ace of Spades, the bass intro riff is legendary. As much as say, “Smoke on the Water” or “Paranoid” in my opinion. You’re mid range driven tone and hard-hitting pick style is uniquely undisputed. I assume some of the origin comes from your history as a guitar player, but for readers that maybe don’t know can you explain a little about how your style came to be what it is today.
Lemmy: Well as a bass player my idol was always John Entwistle from the Who, and he had this tone too if you remember. A little bit deeper, but still very much the same. They were one of the best bands I have ever heard in my life. But Entwistle didn’t have to cheat ya see, because he didn’t have to sing. He didn’t have to sing and play the bass line as well. But also as you said, like a guitar player, I like to be heard. I don’t like to be mumbling away in the background. You know, I am a front man. I didn’t get into this thing to be not noticed.
Blasko: You have been very loyal to Marshall and Rickenbacker for as long as I can remember. I suppose if it ain’t broken why fix it, but is there any particular reason you gravitated to those companies?
Lemmy: Marshall because I saw The Who using them and they sounded wonderful, and when I was working for Hendrix he was using them as well, and I thought 2 out of 3 ain't bad. I always liked Marshal anyway. I got my first stack when I was with Hawkwind and it sounded fantastic to me. Like ya said, why fix it?
And the Rickenbacker I just got it for the shape. It was just so wild. The neck was just so skinny as well. I am a guitarist turned bass player don’t forget so it was easier for me to play a Rick because of the thin neck. When I first started Playing Rickenbacker you had to change the pick-ups because the old toasters were no good. They were to trebly. I used to replace them with a few different ones. The original one I had I replaced the pick-up with a Gibson Thunderbird one. That was a great sound, but I wore it out. I killed it. Now Rickenbacker is using much better pick-ups. I don’t have to switch them out anymore.
Blasko: Can you give me a little insight into the history, death and eventual resurrection of your amp Murder One?
Lemmy: Well Murder One we had to lose for a while so that Marshall could copy it. They lost the blueprints to the original. My amps were mostly from the 70’s. The JMP Super Bass 2’s which is quite an exotic animal now a days. You can’t find those things anymore. They are like antiques. Now Marshall has started to make the Lemmy stack and so they copied the Murder One. They are very good amps and I use them quite a bit. For the cabs I use 4 x 15’s flat front and 4 x 12’s flat front in each stack. I have 2 stacks on stage.
Blasko: Wow, that is some serious power.
Lemmy: Yeah it is. That’s what I was after.
Blasko: Personally, I have never worn earplugs in rehearsals or live, and I will probably be worse off for that decision in the long run, but I subscribe to the notion that “ it doesn’t hurt if you like what you are listening to”. Have you ever had your hearing checked?
Lemmy: No, I don’t understand that. If you can’t handle it, stop doing it. What you said is a true statement. If you like the material, than the volume is immaterial. It doesn’t matter. Rock and roll is supposed to be loud by its very nature. What’s the point of quiet rock n roll? That’s fucking nonsense.
Blasko: “Everything Louder than Everything Else” then becomes quite the appropriate slogan. Motorhead is notoriously one of the loudest bands ever. I once heard a story, and I am paraphrasing, but it went something like this… You were at a sound check, and you asked the monitor engineer if he could hear the deafening volume that was coming from your monitors. He looked at you kinda curiously, and your response was “Great, now fucking turn it up’! Is that close to how that story goes?
Lemmy: (laughs) Yes, that’s pretty much it. I think that bit is in the movie*. *(Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker 51% Son of a Bitch, in theaters now and due out on video Feb 22, 2011).
Blasko: The movie is out now, and hopefully by the time this issue comes out that more people will have seen it. I was fortunate enough to see an advance copy of it, and I thought it was incredible by the way. I don’t even have a question here; I just wanted to say I thought it was awesome.
Lemmy: Well, thank you.
Blasko: You may be too deep in it to see Motorhead from an outside perspective as I do, but Motorhead is probably the most significant brands in Rock N Roll. Whether it’s the logo, the song titles the record covers or the band members nicknames, it all comprises one complete vision and presentation. How much forethought went into the Motorhead branding?
Lemmy: Back in the 60’s almost every band had a distinctive way of writing their band name. You know, the Yardbirds, the Beatles or the Who all had their specific logos on their kick drums and record covers. That’s where I come from. As a band ya gotta stand out… ya gotta be customized.
Blasko: Where did the concept of the Motorhead logo originate?
Lemmy: I designed all that, and I still do today. I have all the initial ideas, but we don’t always use them if they are too silly.
Blasko: You have one of the most recognizable looks in rock n roll. So much so, it has been immortalized in video games and cartoons just to name a few. I don’t get the impression it is anything short of 100 percent genuine, but in terms of branding a self-image, how important do you think it was to your career?
Lemmy: Very! It was essential. You see that every night with Ozzy don’t you? You would recognize that guy from 30 miles away.
Blasko: Well, to me that’s the school that I come from. Everything has an identifiable look. Something where you take one look at it and go “yup, that’s me”! And today, I feel that a lot of that has been lost. Nothing makes noise anymore. Nothing stands out.
Lemmy: That’s because there are no heroes anymore. That’s the problem. People are too scared to be heroes.
Blasko: What wisdom can you share with the aspiring rock stars reading this magazine right now?
Lemmy: I’ll tell ya what wisdom I can give ‘em… nothing. And I’ll tell ya why. It’s because the problems I encountered on my way up this ladder they aren’t ever going to experience. They will have their own problems because they are in this time. I never came across their problems because I was in that time. So they are going to have to make their own mistakes and figure out a way to cope with them. And even if I gave them all my advice from chapters 1 through 56 it still wouldn’t help them. There is no real advice you can give to anyone about anything. If you want to do something enough, you will just cope with it ya know? Stop waiting on a bail out clause from someone else’s advice, because that won’t help. It won’t be a cushion, and it certainly won’t help you avoid anything in the future. My advice may end up just causing confusion (laughs).
Blasko: Lemmy, I have just one last question for you. If Little Richard is one of the originators of Rock ‘n Roll, and Motorhead is one of the kings of Rock ‘n Roll, what is the future of Rock ‘n Roll?
Lemmy: I have no idea. I hope it cure’s up a bit though, because it been pretty miserable for a long time.