Interview with Phil Campbell Motorhead
Motorhead recently came to San Francisco with the Dropkick Murphys in tow to distribute their timeless original brand of rock 'n' roll to the masses. While basking in the San Francisco smog, we grabbed Phil Campbell, Motorhead's mainstay guitarist, for a half-hour babble about the band and his own life and influences.
K2K: How long have you been in the band yourself?
PC: 15 years.
K2K: What happened to Wurzel?
PC: He got fed up, I think, and his girlfriend was giving him a lot of negative feeling. He was getting unhappy with the band. I think he decided to listen to her rather than to us.
K2K: Who joined Motorhead first you or Wurzel?
PC: We both joined at the same time.
K2K: ... and then Philthy (Phil Taylor, original drummer) came back for a bit?
PC: Yeah. Philthy came back after Peter Gill left and he just... the first two CDs, his drumming was pretty good and we thought, "Oh, we could just get back into it now and we'll be back up to top form." But he just kept going down and down. It was a shame. He's a nice guy, but he just couldn't manage it in the end. The drumming... we gave him a couple of years to get better. It was something we thought really hard about because he is a very nice guy. He's a lunatic, but a nice guy. But, if you can't manage to drum for a band, then you just can't do it.
K2K: Does anybody ever see Fast Eddie Clark (original guitarist) anymore?
PC: He came onstage with us a couple of years ago in London, just for one song. My son came on and played as well. I think more people recognized my son than him though. I don't know what he's doing now exactly. I think he's pretty sober now.
K2K: Is there a bitter thing between you guys?
PC: No, no. There was no fight when I joined. It was all patched up by then.
(editor's note: This is in reference to the split of Fast Eddie from Motorhead due to Lemmy's choosing to record a song with Wendy O. Williams, against Fast Eddie's wishes.)
K2K: Your sound seemed to change once you joined.
PC: Yeah, well, different members in the band and all. Brian Robertson did the one album "Another Perfect Day". I think it was a pretty good album but, in terms of all the overdubbed guitar. He spent his time dancing on pedals.
K2K: What kind of equipment do you use?
PC: My guitars my main one is a Lag Explorer, it's a French company. I use a Claymore Custom. Kramer guitars. Gallien-Kruger amplifiers. Marshall amplifiers. Depends on what I want to use. I have 19 stacks all together.
K2K: How do you feel about using those guitars as opposed to standards like Gibson or Fender?
PC: A lot better. The guitar I play now is an Explorer which I've been playing on for about 5 or 6 years I guess. I would put that guitar up against any guitar in the world. It's great.
K2K: Did you ever have the preferences towards Charvels or Jacksons that they used to push back in the "hair-metal" days?
PC: Nah. I used to play Les Pauls a lot. I also used to play a guitar which folded up into a little case in 30 seconds and stayed perfectly in tune. It was called Progression. But we lost that at an airport. I have a Bender Distortocaster. It was what I played at Lemmy's birthday party. It's a Salvador Dali shaped Strat. I think there's a picture of it on Snakebite Love [CD]. That's pretty funny.
K2K: How's the reception been for the last couple of albums radio and record sales?
PC: I don't know. People tell us that they hear us on the radio occasionally. It's always "Ace Of Spades." I love playing that song live, but there's so much other good material. I believe that the new double live album has sold more than Snakebite Love already in three or four weeks.
K2K: Why so many live albums?
PC: This is the first one in 10 years.
K2K: It seems like I've seen several live albums now.
PC: They're not official ones. These records companies keep putting them out. There was the Hammersmith album in 1980. Then in 1988 was with me, Wurzel and Philthy. And then now with Mikkey. Because Mikkey's done four albums with us now, so we thought it was about time for people to hear the live recordings of the songs we did with Mikkey.
K2K: Why is Bastards [CD] so hard to get?
PC: Because it was released by a German dance label, which is a shame because it's the greatest album we've ever recorded. The songwriting, the production, the playing, the effort we put into it. I think it's perfect. There's two dodgy guitar solos by Wurzel in it, but the rest of it is amazing. It was done by a gentleman who offered us more money than another company. We were told not to sign with them because they were shit and he offered us a lot of money. We did it and we were proved wrong. I don't even think it was released here in the States.
K2K: Are you going to re-release it?
PC: Yeah, I'd like to. It's something that we were thinking about. Not to remix it, leave it as it is. I don't know what we signed contractually, but we could buy it back or whatever. I threw the guy from the record company out as well. It was six months after it was released in Germany. It was a big day. He was this big huge guy. He comes into the dressing room and he's talking to me and Mikkey and he's calling me Mikkey and Mikkey Phil. I said, "You don't even fucking know nothing about this fucking band. You don't even know who you're talking to. How can we put our confidence in you to sell our record?" So I kicked the chair out from under him and this 300 pound guy just hit the deck. "Get out of my fucking room," I yelled. That was the last time I saw him. It just goes to show that it's so difficult to get band members name's right six months after you know.
K2K: Snakebite Love is reputed to be the best CD that you've done, although I would argue that Bastards is. How are the sales on that?
PC: I don't know the sales on that. Nothing more, nothing less than usual. I think that the title track on that is great. Lemmy won't sing it live though. He says it's too low and he can't get the power out.
K2K: What direction will the next studio CD be?
PC: We've already got about four or five songs written for it although no titles or anything yet. We just have the music for it really. We're going to go to the studio in Germany and write some more and record some more stuff. We'll have another album out, hopefully, by the end of the year. God knows what direction it will be. It's just what we feel like at the time.
K2K: What kind of music do you like outside of what you play? What do you listen to in your off-time?
PC: Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Madonna, Focus, Satriani, Vai. I would say quieter music. I like something that's not knocking my head off too much.
K2K: If you weren't doing Motorhead, what kind of music would you be playing right now?
PC: I guess it would be really diverse. Something like Motorhead and like Satriani type. Stranger, I guess. Country and Western.
K2K: Have you ever tried to achieve being a "radio" band or just remain more a "rebel" band?
PC: I don't see us being a hit radio band. It would be nice to get more airplay. Some of our material is played more often on the radio. I don't care that much. It's not going to stop us.
K2K: What is your most receptive audience American or European?
PC: I want to say, we did some shows in Greece before Christmas and they were completely wild. It could be because we hadn't played there in ten years. South America was crazy. We played to 60,000 in South America.
K2K: It seems that a lot to do with Motorhead always refers back to Germany be it recording or Lemmy's fascination with WWII German collectibles or whatnot what's the connection?
PC: Germany is a big country with a big stronghold of hard rock fans. There's a lot of venues there. This is the first album that we've recorded in Germany is the live one. They've been really good to us. We've achieved a lot there. The last bunch of albums we've recorded in Los Angeles but we're going to try doing this next one at a remote studio about 45 minutes outside of Hamburg with less distractions. But, if it gets too boring, I'm off. I'm back off to Los Angeles to do it.
K2K: Where do you all live?
PC: Mikkey lives in Gothamberg in Sweden. I live in Wales. Lemmy lives in Los Angeles. You can get anywhere on an airplane in 12 hours.
K2K: Was it just Lemmy who moved to Los Angeles or all of you?
PC: Just Lemmy. Mikkey lived in Los Angeles for 9 years. He only recently moved back to Sweden. There was a point that I was spending more time in LA than home.
K2K: Mikkey came from Dokken and King Diamond. How did you get him to Motorhead, which is such a different style of music?
PC: First of all, King Diamond supported us in Europe when I first joined. Me and Lemmy thought he was an excellent drummer then and kept in touch. Then he joined Dokken for four years but they only did one album and weren't really doing very much. When Philthy went, Tommy Aldridge did one album March Or Die and then we got Mikkey. Not many people know that Tommy Aldridge did that album. Did you know that there is a 20-CD set of Motorhead coming out? Castle is the record company, from England. So they'll be hearing from my lawyer very soon. But, 20 CDs! That's going to cost about $250. or something like that.
K2K: What are your favorite songs to play? Do you get sick of any?
PC: Motorhead songs? I don't really get sick of them because we put so much energy into them. We enjoy them all. It's difficult to choose a set list because people would be disappointed when they're counting on they're favorites. We've probably got enough material to play for about four hours of just good stuff if we had the physical energy, which we don't. An hour and a half is more than enough for us. We're exhausted and can't wait to get off the stage.
K2K: Is there a formula for how you choose your set list?
PC: Yeah, we change it around for every tour. We try not to keep it too pedestrian. We see how the audience reaction is and then change it.
K2K: Why don't you ever play "Love Me Like A Reptile"?
PC: It just doesn't seem to fit into the set. It doesn't quite qualify for the live thing.
K2K: What other bands have you been in?
PC: I was in a band called Persian Risk in Wales, a band that I formed. With a singer who went and joined the Tygers Of Pan Tang. John Deveril. He turned out to be a right cunt.
K2K: I was just listening to Tygers on the way to this interview. Both Crazy Nights and Spellbound albums. The one with John Sykes on guitar and the one before.
PC: Yeah, the other guitarist Rob Weir couldn't play. He was terrible. But John Sykes is good. I remember when I picked up John (Deveril) for rehearsal one night and he said "Listen Phil, I've just been over to audition and I'm joining Tygers Of Pan Tang." I said, "Oh great John. There's no point in rehearsing then. Let's go have a drink." So we picked up all the other members and we're in this club and there's a band playing and I said, "Listen, why don't we ask the guys in the band if we could just go and play a couple of numbers." Because it would be the last time we would all play together and all. John said, "Oh I don't know. I don't think the record company would like it." I told him, "Fuck you!". So, now fifteen years later I'm traveling around the world and he's sitting at home doing nothing. They didn't last because they didn't think they were any good in the end.
K2K: Although Lemmy "is" Motorhead, Lemmy has said that you're the heart and soul of the band.
PC: That's a nice compliment. There was an interview in England for The Daily Express. They asked Lemmy's three favorite bands and guitarists and Lemmy had said Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and me. I photocopied it and sent it to everyone I know. He doesn't try to dictate at all. It's all an equal musical and business partnership. We all earn the same money.
K2K: Is anyone in the band sports-minded?
PC: Mikkey plays ice hockey. I watch my nightly football. I'd like to get a football team together but we can never seem to get it together.
K2K: How did you get your record deal with CMC?
PC: They're great. No complaints at all. Tom Lipsky is the owner and he said to keep recording Motorhead as long we're existing.
K2K: Do any of you guys ever do anything online?
PC: I answer questions online. The Motorhead official website. I don't know the site address offhand, my son types it all in.
K2K: How old is your son?
PC: 16. My oldest one. He's the guitar-player. His band has supported Motorhead. The band is Psycho Squad. They recorded a demo CD. They are like Silverchair and Hendrix.
K2K: What is his name?
PC: Todd Rundgren Campbell. Todd's my hero. [Todd Rundgren is the prominent Beatlesque musician, producer, arranger]
K2K: What is the wildest story from the road?
PC: One time the bus left me behind at Penn Station in New York. I had no money. I had nothing on me. I just hung out with the bums for about 12 hours and I had to get to Boston the next day. Even the bums were keeping away from me because I was so smelly. I had a paper cup. I remember walking up to this water fountain with my paper cup and I drank the water. I kept the paper cup because it was the only thing I had that was of any use. I finally got in contact with the boys and they organized a train for me after. I was so hungry. I fell asleep on the train. I woke up and I saw this big fat woman eating a sandwich. I got up and I almost went up to say, "Excuse me, could I just have a little bit?". There's more to it than that, but that was the most exciting part of it.
K2K: So you've lived the homeless life for at least 12 hours?
PC: At least. Yeah.
That concluded our chat with Phil Campbell as he was being called off to the dressing room before the show started.
Written by Phil Anderson