Interview with Lemmy Kilmister
Dateline: 5/1/98

MB: So, you’ve been involved in music for over two decades now. Where do you see yourself at this point in your career?

LK: Hmm… Los Angeles? I don’t really look from the outside of my life, I’m too busy being in it, you know. I mean, nothing changes for me, you know. I don’t see the time going by. I’m just doing what I do. I’m in a band because that’s what I want to do. And I’m doing it, and I’m doing it quite well. So I don’t have any aspirations of doing anything else. It’s really simple.

MB: What was it that originally got you interested in music?

LK: Rock-N-Roll in general, I suppose. Little Richard, Elvis, all those guys. And then the Beatles. They came later.

MB: Was there a moment in time when you just decided, "You know, that’s it. That’s what I want to do with my life."?

LK: I think it was more like several moments while I was wandering around one year. Would have been around 1959. I was professional by 1964.

MB: How do think things have changed the most over the years?

LK: It’s like another planet, you know. There’s no resemblance whatsoever to the world we came out of. I mean, we didn't even have cassette players then. You had this thing like a suitcase that weighted about one hundred and forty pounds. And then you’d buy tapes, big reel to reel things, you know. And you’d wrap them around you. There were no microphones on drums. There was no P.A. You didn’t carry a P.A. with you. You used the house P.A. You went through one amplifier. One thirty watt amp. No mics on the drums. Never heard of it for years, you know.

MB: You’ve accomplished a lot over the years. What’s the one thing you are most proud of accomplishing?

LK: When we made a tape for a kid and brought him out of a coma.

MB: Wow.

LK: Back in, what was it, 1980 I think. Or ’81. This kid was in a hospital after his back was crushed, in a coma. And we made a tape, you know. All three of us going, wake up and all that type of stuff. And he woke up. I don’t know if it was just our tape, but it’s a nice feeling.

MB: That’s amazing.

LK: Yeah.

MB: Out of all the songs that you’ve ever written, if you had to pick out a handful that meant the most to you, which ones would you pick?

LK: Well, "Ace Of Spades", obviously. Because it’s clothed my back for the last twenty years. And "Bomber" and "Love Me Forever". "1916", "Don’t Lie To Me". Three more? "Overnight Sensation", definitely "Sacrifice", "Over Your Shoulder", and probably "Love Me Like a Reptile" and "Another Perfect Day". That’s enough to be proud of, then?

MB: Oh, yeah. After recording as many albums as you have, how do you stay motivated to keep going… writing new stuff?

LK: Well, because it’s new stuff. I mean, if we were just rewriting the old stuff over and over like some bands do, you know what I mean, I wouldn’t even bother. But every album we make is something completely different that nobody really thought we could even do, you know. So I’m quite happy. And we keep bringing the changes. We had organ on this album, and we had harmonica for the first time on the last one, you know. And we are a good band, too, I think.

MB: I don’t think there’s any denying that. What made this album special for you to record?

LK: Phil Campbell, actually. He hasn’t been like that since Bastards. No, it’s like every album is different, you know what I mean. It’s just like… I don’t know. It’s almost like re-inventing the band every time you do an album, really. I mean, we aren’t bored with it yet, you know.

MB: Did you do anything really different than you did for Overnight Sensation, as far as the process you used?

LK: Well, it’s always different. We went in with less songs prepared this time, because I was sick for part of the rehearsal time. So I went in blind, you know. Writing frantically on bits of paper all over the studio. So it was more under the hammer. But then, as we’ve seen in the past, Motorhead works better under the hammer, you know.

MB: You’ve been credited with influencing so many musicians over the years. How much does it mean to you to know that you’ve had such a great impact on the music community?

LK: The only time it really came home to me was when it was my birthday, and Metallica came down on an unexpected trip. They dressed up like me, and did three quarters of an hour of Motorhead songs, none of which I remembered. So they were doing them better than me. That was the biggest compliment anybody has ever paid me. That really… that’s enough, you know. That was great.

MB: They seem to love covering your songs. It seems like they’ve done a couple handfuls of them.

LK: Yeah. Maybe they’ll bring me in some cash. I saw them. They are doing well, too. Obviously those were the ones that they played in the garage early on.

MB: What would you say is your biggest influence when you are writing music?

LK: Injustice. That’s why I usually write. There’s enough injustice to keep me writing the rest of my life. In fact, it’s getting worse, not better.

MB: There are a bunch of songs on this album that fit that. Especially "Take The Blame".

LK: You like that one, huh?

MB: Oh, yeah.

LK: That’s a good old classic Motorhead number.

MB: Anybody in particular motivate that? Or just politicians in general?

LK: Probably just your government, you know. Anybody’s government. I mean, look at them messing things up. It’s incredible, you know. Like this guy goes out from the UN to be like a referee for the WWF. It’s a joke. They should just bang their heads together instead of waffling all the time. I mean, how much do you think he’ll cost the US taxpayers to get Saddam Hussein out, you know. And all the kids out there in the gulf shitting themselves, you know. And all the kids for Saddam Hussein lining up to get floored. What for? He’s going to make chemical weapons if he wants to make them. And if he doesn’t make them in this country, he’ll make them in another. You can’t stop somebody from doing that. It’s pointless. It’s just like, "Save the right wing for Clinton to go out with a bang." I hate politicians.

MB: What do you feel about all the coverage of his sex scandal?

LK: Oh, it’s of supreme indifference to me. I think he should be impeached for his bad taste in women. I mean, if he’s the President, and those are the best he can come up with… Paula Jones looks like a woodpecker. She’s that ugly. She smiles and the room fills up with teeth. It’s a pretty sad story that that’s the best that the young, ageless, vibrant President can do for a quick knee-trembler in the Oval office. He should be ashamed of himself. He was like Nixon, he should have died in jail for getting caught. How do you end up getting caught if you’re the President. You know what I mean? The CIA is working for you. How could you get caught, you know?

MB: He must’ve found his way on to somebody’s bad list.

LK: Yeah, well, he hired G. Gordon Liddy. The man is more interested in a wheelbarrow full of horse shit than twenty-five yards, you know.

MB: I heard that you are a bit of a poet, too, besides music.

LK: Well, lyrics and poetry are a lot a like. Quite a bit of my lyrics could stand on their own as poetry. Especially songs like "1916" and "Love Me Forever", you know. Stuff like that.

MB: Have you ever thought of publishing a book?

LK: Yeah, I’ve started sort of doing a biography, right now. So, I suppose I could put out a small companion volume, you know.

MB: I know that you have a fascination with WWII history.

LK: Yeah.

MB: How did you first become interested in that? And how important is it to you?

LK: Well, I was born the year it ended, don’t forget. So it’s a lot more personal to me than to you, you know. I mean, to you, it’s like way past in the gulfs of time. For me, it’s like only over my shoulder, you know. And back then all the guys where coming home and bringing medals back and stuff like that. So it’s just natural for me to be interested in it, because it is the most important thing that we ever happened to us. That war killed a lot of people.

MB: Do you feel it’s important to have an outlet like that? You know, something else you can focus on.

LK: How do you mean? Like a hobby?

MB: Yeah.

LK: Well, everybody’s got a hobby, whether they admit it or not. Everybody’s got something that they collect, or get out when everybody else has gone home to look at. Some people build model airplanes. Some people collect postcards that sort of thing. I like the military. It’s a pity I can’t get a hold of a tank. I should get a Tiger tank and go to the Rainbow in it. I’d like see them give me a ticket in that thing.

MB: What would you say is the most prized piece in your collection?

LK: I have a small square flag that was Hitler’s personal standard. It was a funeral sash, and token, you know. And that came from the Brown House in Munich at the end of the war. So it was virgin. It’s a real piece of the stuff. So I’m quite pleased with that. But I have a lot of good stuff, you know. I have a lot of nice flags. I like the flags. I like flags very much. The bad guys always have the best stuff. You ever notice that?

MB: Oh, yeah.

LK: The Confederates, Napoleon, Hitler…. I mean, the British army - just awful stuff. Shapeless, baggy old shorts, you know. Big flat caps, look like a mailman, you know. The US wasn’t much better. But at least they had clothes made to fit people. The Germans had the black and silver SS uniform. There’s no contest really. I mean, everybody secretly wants to put that uniform on if there interested in military at all, you know. Everybody wants one. They’ll hang it in their closet in secret, you know. Dressing up at night and the like. I mean, who wants to dress up in the Egyptian army uniform, or an Israeli army uniform? Who needs it? Combat fatigues with boots.

MB: Speaking of Germany, I know you’ve worked with a band called Skew Siskin.

LK: Yeah.

MB: What’s it been like working with them? And what first interested you in the band?

LK: I was doing this thing for a magazine where they played me ten records, you know what I mean? So I reviewed them, and I said, "I’d like to keep this one." Because it was so good, you know. And then I went to Berlin and worked with them on a couple of songs. One of them is on the new album. Me singing with them, and playing bass. I really think they are an excellent Rock-N-Roll band. And there are not enough bands like them. They should be encouraged. Like Skunk Anansie from England, you know. You’ve heard of them, have ya?

MB: Yeah, I have, as a matter of fact.

LK: They are an excellent, excellent band. Especially live. That’s the thing with a band, if it doesn’t do it live, there isn’t a band. It’s like pieces in the studio, you know what I mean?

MB: Oh, yeah. I brought them (Skew Siskin) up because I’m going to be doing a feature on them, too.

LK: Oh, good.

MB: And they had showed me some pictures of you playing with them.

LK: Skew Siskin, you mean?

MB: Yeah.

LK: Yeah, we have some video clips, too.

MB: I know you grew up in England, but you’ve lived over here in the US for a while now.

LK: Eight years, yeah.

MB: What do you see as the biggest difference between the two?

LK: Well, two peoples divided by a common language, you know. I don’t know, really. It’s completely different, you know. There’s not much in common. I mean, their basic outlook and mindset is really different. The British are trying to get over losing India, and you’re trying to acquire it, you know. So it’s like very different altogether. And England is like the past, you know. And in America, it’s more part of the future. You know what I mean?

MB: Oh, yeah.

LK: And I don’t know how long that future is going to be. Because it seems to me that America is very extreme, you know. There are extremely good people, and extremely bad people. And there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground at the moment. I think the bad people have the edge. They usually do in any country, you know. But it’s a shame because this is paradise, man. This country is paradise. I don’t know. Where are you phoning from? Where are you?

MB: Just a little bit south of Buffalo, New York.

LK: Oh, okay. So it’s not as much like paradise up there. But like California and Arizona, you know. Those states. And New Mexico. It’s especially like living in paradise. And these people screw it up all the time. You know, like twenty million cars. There are more cars than there are people. It seems kind of ridiculous, you know. Smog it up. Screw it up. Pour concrete over it and put holes in it for the trees. Buffalo isn’t that great of an environmental success either, is it?

MB: Definitely not.

LK: Yeah, we were there last year. I mean, a clear day, you could see your furniture.

MB: How do you feel that your music has changed the most over the years?

LK: Well, we’ve gotten better at it. Obviously, because you do with age. You get smarter, you know. But whether you use that smart or not is another thing. But I think we are making better albums now than we ever have. It’s just that we have all the past that drags us down all the time, you know. I think if people would listen to us like we were a new band, more people would buy our albums. It’s just that we’ve been around so long, and people know the old ones, you know.

MB: Oh, yeah. It seems like your last couple of albums have had a lot more diversity.

LK: Right. Well, the last six actually.

MB: If you could go back in time and undue one thing that you’ve done in the past, is there anything you’d like to erase? Make like it never happened?

LK: Not really. I don’t think so. I’d like to undo my girlfriend’s death on heroin. That would probably be the thing to undo. But you can’t, really. You can’t go back anyway.

MB: No.

LK: There is no back. You just have to grin and bear it, miserable life.

MB: Yeah. I know there’s always a lot of people curious as to why you started using the Rickenbacker bass that you use?

LK: It was because I was a guitar player turned bass player. So I liked the skinny neck, you know. And I liked the weird shape, too. I mean, it had nothing to do with the sound of the thing, because it sounds awful. But I decided to fix the pick-ups, you know. So I thought to give it some thunderbird pick-ups on the original one, and it sounded like a monster, you know. And it’s all one piece of wood that’s connected right through the body. And I liked that, too. It’s sturdy. So you can throw it down, it bounces, and it doesn’t break.

MB: So it was more the appearance of it, than the function of it.

LK: Yeah, right. The same reason I bought the Gibson Thunderbird bass. But the neck on that is so long, you have to be a giant to play it, you know. I sold that to Dimebag Darrell whose arms are even shorter than mine. So I don’t know what he’s going to do with it. Probably use it as a doorstop, maybe. Or sell it at an auction.

MB: There are also a lot of people curious as to why you decided to shave your mustache off awhile ago?

LK: Oh, you know, twenty-six years is long enough for a mustache. I mean, I might grow it again, you know. I might grow just one side of it. Then I can do double acts, you know. Phil would make more money because they’d think it was somebody else in there.

MB: I know you guys just played a couple of dates with Judas Priest out in LA.

LK: Yeah.

MB: Do you have any summer tour plans lined up?

LK: Well, hopefully we are going to do a tour in the summer with them. Possibly with Iron Maiden, as well. Which would be a good show, right?

MB: Oh, yeah.

LK: I’m going to work on it, you know. Because, as usual, all the managements are fighting like cats and dogs, you know. It’s just very depressing. I was talking to Steve Harris, and I said, "Jeez, why don’t we just put them in a room and let them fight and just go out on tour, you know. We could have it done by the time they finish working out all the ins and outs. We could be home and finished."

MB: Sounds like a good idea.

LK: Yeah, really. It’s incredible. They screw up more things than you guys will ever know. You’ll never know what goes down. You know what I mean? You hear about decisions three weeks later. So it’s too late for you to do anything, you know. And they decide on something that goes completely against your beliefs, which is amazing. And then everybody thinks that’s your opinion - your idea. I mean our management isn’t bad. But Iron Maiden’s manager is a bit of a dickhead, you know. He wants to put W.A.S.P. on the bill, and I’m not going to play with W.A.S.P. again. I served my time on the W.A.S.P tour.

MB: I know that didn’t end very well at all.

LK: Well, you know, Blackie messed it up for everybody. I mean, everybody else got along alright except for Blackie, you know. It’s like he wanted to impress on everybody that he was the star of the show. And, of course, when we walked off the tour, all the promoters cancelled him out. It must have been very depressing for him. Suddenly you find that you’re not the pop giant that you thought you were. He was just really unnecessarily insulting, you know. I just didn’t need it. Why should I put up with him. He’s a whipper snapper, as far as I’m concerned, you know. He’s just like ten years off, and that’s the best thing he can do?

MB: Who would you say has had the biggest impact on your life and why?

LK: Probably the English teacher at my school. She made me interested in words, you know. Because without that, I would have never… I would have just been another moron down at the filling station, you know. It was a great thing that she did for me. Because she saw I was good at it. And she encouraged me. Which is a rare thing among teaching personnel these days, you know. She’d work alongside me and teach me things. I passed the matriculation level exam, the graduation exam, at the age of thirteen, you know. So I was always good at English. And that’s a great blessing, you know. Reading and writing is a great blessing, because in this country, half the people can’t read or write. It’s unbelievable. Fifty percent of this country is functioning illiterate. I mean, you’ve got no business being illiterate. You are the richest country in the world. How can they do that? They graduate people out of school illiterate.

MB: Do you feel the schools are at fault for that?

LK: Yes, I do. I also feel the administration is, for not making them do better. They also pay teachers almost nothing, right? I mean, they are taking guns to school, now. Which is insane behavior. I mean, we’ve lost it now, you know. If they are taking guns to school, then how can a teacher have any authority unless he’s got a gun, too. I don’t see much hope for it, really. It’s too late. I mean, there are too many guns out there. You are never going to get them all back. It’s an evil thing, that gun thing. Because you don’t need a gun for your day to day life. If the criminals didn’t have them, the police wouldn’t need them. Because in England, the police don’t have them, you know.

MB: Why do you think it’s like that in America, as compared to somewhere like England?

LK: Oh, I think people think they are like Jesse James, really. General Custer’s last living legacy, you know. Shoot everybody and live happily ever after.

MB: Too many movies.

LK: Well, see, Custer is still actually considered a hero.

MB: That’s kind of ironic isn’t it?

LK: Yeah, ain’t it. Indians called him "squaw killer" because he used to attack the villages where there were only women and children. Easy victory, you know. He invented scalping, didn’t he? Oh, it might not have been him. But the white man invented scalping.

MB: That’s kind of been twisted through history, too.

LK: Yeah, really. Blame the Indians, you know. They can’t answer back. They’re on their reservation. On the pit of gravel we gave them. You know what I mean?

MB: If you had to describe your philosophy on life, how would you break it down?

LK: It’s very simple. Do what feels like it’s a good idea until it stops feeling like a good idea. Then move on to something else. If you look at it yourself as if it’s a good enough idea to get through your life, do it your whole life and then die. And don’t hurt anybody doing it… If possible.

MB: So, chase after what you really love, basically.

LK: Yeah. Do what you really need to do, you know. There are some things you need to do, and there are some thing you do because you like to do, you know. Do what you need to do. Do what you are supposed to do, yeah?

MB: Oh, yeah. Do you ever see yourself doing anything besides music?

LK: Well, I was going to be a horse breeder when I was a younger, you know. But then I heard Rock-N-Roll, and that took me away from it. If I was in a state where I couldn’t actually play anymore with the band, I’d probably get a ranch and breed horses. That’s a pretty good life, too. I’d be out there in a motorized wheel chair, you know.

MB: Chasing the horses around. If you could give one piece of advice to young musicians coming up today, what would you tell them?

LK: Don’t listen to people outside the band telling you what you should and should not do to ensure success. Because they don’t know. Nobody knows. Success is like mail, it comes or it doesn’t come, you know. There’s nothing you can do to hasten in it or make it happen. It ain’t gonna happen that way. If you are good enough, hopefully you will be successful. To what extent, we don’t know. But at least you’ll have a chance. You can’t bend what you’re doing into something else in order to get success, because then you are not doing what you are supposed to do. Then you’re doing another thing which is not what you were supposed to do in the first place, you know. The thing that you love most often gets taken away from you for expedience in money. And I don’t think that’s a good enough reason.

MB: Do you think that when it comes to music especially, that it’s important that you don’t give in, but that you go after…

LK: Don’t give in. Why should you give in anyway? They don’t know any better than you about anything. Especially not about music, you know.

MB: Absolutely. I have a couple of questions suggested by a Yugoslavian colleague of mine, if that’s alright?

LK: Okay.

MB: You had said once that you were very interested in Yugoslavian history and the president, Tito.

LK: I had dinner with him in 1965. We were the first band that played behind the Iron Curtain when I was in the River and Back and the Rocking Vicar. We were over there. And I think England got the Red Army Orchestra or something. We did four or five shows. We had dinner with Tito and had our pictures taken with tractors, and that type of thing.

MB: What do you think of the situation over there now?

LK: Oh, it’s a mess. I mean, the guy, those guys are being prosecuted like they think it’s Nuremberg all over again, you know. But it isn’t. They’ll never get those guys. They’ll get the few guys that are set up. The scapegoats, you know. That’s what they went and actually did. I mean, they didn’t even indict the president, you know. He’s the guy that you should indict. That’s where America falls on its ass. So self-righteous and so sure it’s true and real, and, you know, vibrant and everything. That everything it does is right. It’s going to be terrible shock when it finds out that it isn’t.

MB: Yeah. You were in Budapest last summer for the Pepsi Festival.

LK: Yeah.

MB: My colleague was curious if you were aware of what a great deal of Motorhead fans that there were in Serbia, and if you ever thought that you might play there?

LK: Well, we’ve played there before. We use to play in Yugoslavia all the time until it blew up, you know. We used to go there quite a lot. We use to play in Serbia and Croatia and Slovenia.

MB: Do you ever see yourself going back?

LK: Oh, yeah. I mean, there’s not that much Rock-N-Roll going on in Yugoslavia, right now.

MB: That’s for sure. I know you have an official web site, how involved are you in that? And how do you feel about the Internet as a way to let people know what’s going on with the band?

LK: Well, it’s okay for that. But, I think the Internet itself is death, you know. The world’s going to end up with everybody sitting in their room punching keyboards, you know. The death of contact between actual human beings. But, then again, I’m probably getting a bit old and doomy, you know. But I do think it’s going to make a lot of people… I mean, all these people with these spiffy names probably have coke-bottle glasses, buckteeth, and a cork leg, you know. Besides the sluts and all of that.

MB: Yeah, that would be very bad. Well, that’s pretty much all the questions I have. Do you have anything you’d like to add on?

LK: Yeah. If you are riding your bicycle at night, wear white. Because it make you easier to hit. Hmm… Just to say good luck to everybody, and don’t throw things at me on stage. Because I’ll leave and it will be your fault. And then I hope the rest of the audience punches the righteous shit out of you for stopping their show. Good luck in the States, and see you on tour as soon as we can, you know. Come and see us. Because if people would come in larger numbers, then we could sell more tickets. Then people would put us in bigger venues, and you could finally have a real Motorhead show with the Bomber and everything. America has never seen the real Motorhead show.

MB: That would be great. Well, thanks for the interview.

LK: Alright, man.

MB: Have a great Friday the thirteenth.

LK: Oh, is it? Today?

MB: Today.

LK: Oh, great. Thanks for telling me that. I wouldn’t have even known.