In the documentary « Lemmy : The Movie », Mikkey Dee states “we are not faking it”. Motörhead is a band that takes full responsibility for itself. Motörhead will not hide the fact they made a load of cash via a Kronenbourg commercial. Motörhead are not afraid of clichés either.
As we entered the backstage area, we are not greeted by the Phil Campbell we are expecting to meet, but rather the perfect image of a rock star in all of its glory and excesses. There is nothing missing from this picture besides perfect a line of coke on the coffee table. To start off the guitarist, already dressed in his elegant scene attire, genuinely asks “you don’t intend to take any pictures, right? I haven’t shaved!”. He is holding a glass of white wine in one hand and a suggestively dressed young lady no older than twenty-five years of age in the other. Basically, this is the whole package. Ironically, we were intending on asking Phil about the fact that “Lemmy: The Movie” breaks down some of these rock’n’roll clichés. Then Phil offers us some beers from the heavy buffet (thank you Kronenbourg). When someone offers you a drink from Motörhead, they stick to it and it’s a question of honour.
The interview was going well until we asked what seemed to be a somewhat insignificant question that we had almost removed from the list. Without taking into account Phil Campbell’s damaged ego (an ego that comes out various times throughout the interview), he drops a bombshell answer in which he expresses his displeasure with the directors of “Lemmy: The Movie”. Alright, enough with the teasing: here is the interview held only a few hours before the band were playing the Halle Tony Garnier.
"I prefer to be the only guitar player. It’s much more fun and it makes me a better performer; I’ve got to run more on the stage. I much prefer it. I couldn’t go back to a situation where there would be another guitar player."
Apparently The Wörld Is Yours was released in UK through an exclusive publishing deal with Classic Rock magazine. What was the purpose of this move?
I don’t know! We’ve never done it before. We thought it would good if the magazine supported us. But it’s no big deal. Anyway you can buy it in the shops now.
You’ve lost your father during the making of the album. Do you think this very sad event have had any impact on the album from a musical point of view?
Yeah, I like to think so. I came back from Los Angeles to be with him. I got to see him every morning before going into the studio in Wales to record the guitars. And then I was coming back to see him at night. In Los Angeles there a lot of distraction but this time I was just focusing on two things: my father and the guitar. So probably it has had an impact on the album. Who knows? I’m happy with the guitar playing on it anyway.
There’s a video clip for the song “Get Back In Line”. In the video we see you, Lemmy and Mikkey coming into a casino full of antipathetic business men and you guys just break everything. You guys must have had a blast shooting this scene!
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. In the first part of the video we’re playing in London on the top of a building and it was so cold! We were freezing! It was the idea of the people who made the video and it turned out pretty good in the end. I think it’s quite reasonable, quite decent. Do you want a beer? We got Kronenbourg!
Ok, why not. Thank you! What’s the message behind this video clip? Is it that business is anti-Rock’n’Roll and should have nothing to with music?
Bankers in London they just like to line their own pockets. They don’t give a shit about anyone else. There are always exceptions to the rule, but it’s a fun concept for a video and there’s fucking shit for business men.
Record companies actually are having a hard time doing business nowadays because of the internet and the new consumer’s behaviours. Many bands are beginning to promote and sell their albums on their own. Do you think this is a good thing?
If it works for some bands, yeah. Every situation will be different. We don’t sell our albums on the merchandise because we’re lucky enough to have fans who go out and buy it. But the record companies take most of the profit anyway. So this is a good thing that the record companies are having a hard time with it. They have had a good time for many many years, but now tables have turned a bit and it’s better for the musicians.
In The World Is Yours booklet there are some strange naive drawings. Who did them?
Lem did them.
What is the meaning of these?
(Phil makes a sign to express silliness) Ask him, I don’t know! (Laughs) He gets bored at night when he can’t sleep. (Laughs)
"If it was up to me, the setlist would be totally different! (Phil points out the wall that separates us from Lemmy’s dressing room) I’m getting too old to fucking argue! "
It’s been fifteen years that your the only guitar player in Motörhead but at one point you had a second guitar player by your side in the band for a bit less that ten years. What situation puts you more at your ease?
Yeah I prefer to be the only guitar player. It’s much more fun and it makes me a better performer; I’ve got to run more on the stage. I much prefer it. I couldn’t go back to a situation where there would be another guitar player. We had fun at the time with Würzel but it was his decision to leave. And it will never happen again now. It’s always going to be just the three of us.
We never heard yourself playing in any other band than Motörhead, although I know you had a band prior to joining Motörhead called Persian...
Persian Risk, yeah. We made a couple of albums...
But aren’t you at all interested in doing your own side project like many musicians do? Even Lemmy have his own project Headcat…
Yeah, I’m trying to do my solo record. I’m doing my book too. I played on other people albums. I played on Girlschool’s latest album, I played on Crucified Barbara’s album... But it’s just a question of finding the time. We’re so busy with Motörhead! But I’m doing my book at the moment; it’s going to contain a lot of funny stories. And the album is coming really slow but it’ll be out one day.
Is it going to be a book about your life?
It’s a book about all the fucking unbelievable shit that goes down on the road ! (Laughs) Funny stuff, yeah. It’s not going to be about my life’s story, that’s boring! But we don’t know yet when it’s going to be released. We’re starting it now but I guess we can expect it to be out in about three years.
Motörhead did a slow bluesy version of Ace Of Spades for a Kornenbourg commercial. Lemmy doesn’t seem too convinced by this rearrangement; he says it’s a bit too slow. What’s your opinion about it? Do you enjoy this type of exercise?
It was different. It was a bit slow rearrangement. I don’t know if I like it or hate it. It’s hard to tell. I haven’t made up my mind yet. But it was fun and they paid us a shit load of money and now I got a fridge full of Kronenbourg. (laughs) So, it’s not too bad!
We asked Lemmy if the band would do an acoustic album in the vein of “Whorehouse Blues” and he said that he thought about it and that he had to talk to you guys about it. So did he talk to you about it yet?
I had the idea! I had the idea to do an acoustic album. We might also do a cover album. Our next album might be this album of cover. We’ve done loads of these. We’ve done “Cat Scratch Fever”, we’ve done “Shoot ‘Em Down” by Twisted Sister, “Hellraiser” by Ozzy, “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols, we got “Rockaway Beach” by the Ramones and more. But this album is just an idea for the future, we don’t know yet what’s going to be on it.
The band’s been lately criticised for a kind of routine and automatisms in your live shows. Do you think that the regularity of the touring and recording have had an influence on your shows in some ways?
No, we just go out and have fun and do the best we can every night. We don’t take much notice of other bands. What they do, they are in charge of that and what we do is us. We just try to write the best music we can and play it live. We have fun. It’s fun every day. If you don’t have fun every day you can die in this business!
With so many albums it must be complicated to build a setlist for the shows...
You guys have to choose from so many classics but don’t you want to throw a little bit more of lesser known songs in?
If it was up to me, the setlist would be totally different! (Phil points out the wall that separates us from Lemmy’s dressing room) I’m getting too old to fucking argue! We could do four or five hours sets really, to keep everyone happy, but it’s not going to happen.
Why wouldn’t you do four hours sets?
If you were my age you wouldn’t ask that! (Laughs)
"They spent three years following me around and Mikkey around, all of us, you know, three fucking years and the biggest shot they got of me is laying down to sleep in the bus with Familly Guy on the TV! (Laughs) [...] What a bunch of cunts!"
We learned it in Lemmy : The Movie, and we actually experienced it ourselves in backstage during the Hellfest this year : people should never try to bother Lemmy while he is playing games. Has this happened to you while you didn’t know his kind of addiction to games?
I knew about it from day one. After my audition, I didn’t know anyone in London and he took me to a club. There were no people there. He bought me a drink so I sat down. He sat next to me for like two minutes and then he started to play on a machine. Then I was sitting by myself thinking he was going to come back. But he was there for three hours on the fucking machine! I interrupted him many times to talk to him but he doesn’t like to be bothered really. (laughs)
You and Mikkey rarely appear in the movie. How come? You’ve been his bandmates for so long…
Speak to the movie people! That’s what we’re pissed off about. They spent three years following me around and Mikkey around, all of us, you know, three fucking years and the biggest shot they got of me is laying down to sleep in the bus with Familly Guy on the TV! (Laughs) The movie’s about Lem but it’s really insulting to us. What a bunch of cunts!
There a scene in the movie which is striking: we see Lemmy in his little apartment saying that he doesn’t want to change it because it would be difficult to find a cheaper one. We’re very far from the rockstars clichés. Maybe this is a naïve question but: Motörhead doesn’t pay well or what?
You know, I’ve got a hotel, I’ve got two houses, I’ve got a cabin... Mikkey’s got big houses, Lamborginies and everything... It’s just that Lem like that apartment because it’s close to the Rainbow! He can walk up to the Rainbow on Sunset Strip. But, yeah, it pays really well!
Here is a stupid question now: why do you always wear a bonnet on stage?
Because when you’re on stage you hair gets sweaty and shit like that. I’ve always done it, you know. I prefer this rather than having my fucking hair falling around, getting in my eyes and shit.
After the interview we asked Phil to take part in our custom of signing a strange object (in this case a computer mouse). He accepted and told us the following: "The hardest thing I have ever had to sign was a clitoris. 'Phillip Anthony Campbell', it took me three weeks! (Laughs)"
Interview conducted by Spaceman & Metal'O Phil at the Halle Tony Garnier in Lyon on december 14th, 2010.
Transcription : Spaceman
This post is also available in: French