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By Sarah L. Myers
New York, USA

Having just celebrated their 35th year anniversary, with no plans to slow it down anytime soon, Motorhead are what most bands aspire to be - ageless, badass, rebellious, sexually deviant, and loud-as-hell rock n' rollers. I flew down to Austin to interview Lemmy, and spent three straight days immersed in all things Motorhead. I'd interviewed him twice before, but this time it was just the two of us. His rock n' roll icon status melted with the ice in our Jack and Cokes as we spent an hour chatting comfortably in his massive suite. There's nothing you can't talk to him about, and you'll never stop learning from him.

Lemmy was already a rock god. Now he's a movie star. "Lemmy: The Movie" premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, bringing Motorhead fever to a festival that typically boasts the "best new thing" in music. I talked to Lemmy about the film, and his relationship with his son, Paul, who he met when the boy was six years old. I asked him if he thinks Motorhead has gained respect after 35 years, and found out what he does for entertainment on the road. Standing on an album cover, or in front of 100,000 fans, or here, on a balcony in Austin, Texas, Lemmy is rock n' roll.

THIRSTY: You went back to Russia last year after a decade-long absence. How was that?

Lemmy: Great. It's in the movie. The show's in Moscow, there's bits of it in the movie at the end.

THIRSTY: Why hadn't you guys gone back for so long?

Lemmy: I don't know, you know what I mean? To go over there, you really should work for the mafia, cause they're the only people who can afford to save their money over there to come for it, you know? Otherwise you're in the back of a van, temperature's - I mean, it was 30 below in Moscow. Fucking 30 below! I mean, spit froze before it hit the sidewalk, right? It's fucking, it's chilly. I mean, the Russian fans are doing better than the Bulgarian fans. We've only been there twice in our lives! And better than the Chinese fans, if there are any, because we've never been there. You just have to go where you can, you know what I mean? We always do Britain and Europe in the fall anyway, and we do festivals in Europe in the summer. So the rest of the year, it's like, if you're not doing an album which we do every other year really, then you try to do South America, where we go quite a bit as well. But Australia gets neglected because it's so fucking far away, you know? (And) if you go to Australia, you've got to go to New Zealand. And possibly Japan on the way back, you know.

THIRSTY: Why have you never played China?

Lemmy: Never had the offers, I suppose. It's only been a gig place for the last about five years, ten years. Before that there was nothing.

THIRSTY: You're coming up on the 35th anniversary of Motorhead. What plans do you have?

Lemmy: None. Hopefully. I'm kind of tired of being celebrated for being old. I'd rather be, I'm sure if we put a record out anonymously under another name and see how that did. But you can't disguise these fucking vocals, you know? Actually we did a new Head Cat album, do you want to hear it? And, you know, I don't care about celebrating for 35 years, what the fuck is that, you know? Who cares? Are they any good is the point. It's looks better in Roman numerals. XXXV.

THIRSTY: I watched this video of you from about 25 years ago, answering the question 'what does heavy metal mean to you?' And you said it meant never having your actual music reviewed, just how loud you played it and what you look like. Do you think you've finally gained the respect that you didn't have before?

Lemmy: No. We've gained acceptance, but not respect. Because the Grammy we got in 2005 was for a cover of somebody's else's song. They'd never heard a Motorhead song obviously, you know. They never thought it was worthwhile, which I think the lot of them are, you know. We've done three consistently really good albums, the last three. So that really pissed me off, you know. I'm standing there with a Grammy, what did I get this for? For a bad cover of Whiplash? And all the shit we've done over the years, you know, and not a single thing for that. So fuck 'em.

THIRSTY: Do you have any thoughts of why that is?

Lemmy: Yeah, you know, we're unclean as far as they're concerned. We're the fucking, we're the unmentionables aren't we? We're the real rock n' roll. Then you get poncers like Bruce Springsteen, you know, gets all the awards innit? And he's not really, I don't hear him as rock n' roll. He's been lucky he's had a couple of good songs, that's all. You know most of his albums are filler. You know, I don't think he's good at all. But that's the sort of person that they launch on to. "Let's give all nine awards to this guy!" That's just fucking stupid, that's just obvious nepotism.

THIRSTY: He seems to attach himself to certain movements.

Lemmy: Idiot, I think is the word you want.

THIRSTY: I think that's really interesting because Motorhead is so political, and you have so much more to say, but it's delivered in a different way.

Lemmy: We're very political. I hate the lot of them.

THIRSTY: Maybe that's the difference. You don't embrace any particular party or persuasion.

Lemmy: I can't imagine why any rock band would embrace any political movement. Fuck that shit, you're supposed to run straight from that! You're supposed to want to get rid of all that shit. And if you've got music in there as well, just use what you've got, you know?

THIRSTY: The Anvil movie was a big hit, and I'm sure your film will be huge as well. Now the Runaways film is out.

Lemmy: That's a good movie. I went to the premiere the other night. It's really good. The guy they got playing Kim Fowley is fucking outstanding. He's just nuts. The chick playing Joan Jett is very good. They've got Dakota Fanning playing Cherrie! It's funny because she's not very pretty. Cherrie was. Cherrie was at the premiere, she looked alright, you know, but her sister looks better. She was there, too. They used to be identical, but now they're not.

(credit: Jackie Roman)

THIRSTY: Would you want there to be a Motorhead movie?

Lemmy: I don't know about that. Who would play me? Anthony Hopkins? (laughs)

THIRSTY: The movie is showing tomorrow night at the Paramount, and you also did a big question and answer session at the convention center. How did that go?

Lemmy: Good, I thought. "Make them laugh, make them laugh!" You know?

THIRSTY: I want to go back to what we were talking about when I got here, which was your audience. Last night (at Austin Music Hall), in comparison to at Stubbs.

Lemmy: It was like night and day, wasn't it?

THIRSTY: Does that affect your performance at all?

Lemmy: Oh, yeah. If you get nothing back, you slowly give nothing out. And we got nothing from that crowd except like the first two rows, the down home fans, you know. The rest of them were like art students or something!

THIRSTY: I was watching from upstairs and I could see those four or five people right up front and it was like you were performing just to them.

Lemmy: Well, you got to pick out the people, you know? I mean, the rest of them.. There were a few, you know,

THIRSTY: Do you find yourself being compared to people like Ozzy Osbourne?

You must have Adobe Flash Player to use this function.

Lemmy: Oh, no, not really. I mean, we're different from everybody really, and this and that whole thing, so called. Cause we look like metal and we sound like punk, you know? So, there you go. Except we can play!

THIRSTY: I talked to Paul about that yesterday, about the categorization of rock n' roll, and he was saying that Motorhead doesn't really fit with anybody.

Lemmy: After 35 years don't we deserve our own category!

THIRSTY: Or lack thereof! No, you're a rock n' roll band! You say it every night when you play.

(credit: Jackie Roman)

Lemmy: Yeah, that's right!

THIRSTY: He just had a book come out, "I Am Ozzy."

Lemmy: We ought to write one...

"we are Motorhead and we're going to kick
your ass in!"

Just to make sure they haven't forgotten.

THIRSTY: Going back to the film, when I interviewed you last year, I asked what is the most revealing thing about yourself in the movie? At the time you said it was the view of your inner ear! (laughs) What are you thinking now that it's out?

Lemmy: Oh, it's ok. I'm not embarrassed by it, you know? That's cool. The Cory Parks bit was really nice. I'll leave you to discover what that was. She tells a little story. Apart from that, it's ok, you know what I mean? It covers most aspects, like the comedy, (puts on an affected voice) the yearning for social change, all that shit you know? We're suddenly in the barricades, you know!

THIRSTY: I also asked Paul about your relationship with him when he was a teenager, and how you became close.

Lemmy: He was imprisoned by his mother in the dark tower! He had to let himself down by his hair!

THIRSTY: He described this moment with you onstage, when you're playing together, and the audience receded in the background, and you guys have this eye contact going. It was just this little moment.

Lemmy: I remember the first time he came up and played. He's been up a few times since then.

You must have Adobe Flash Player to use this function.

Lemmy: I've always thought he was a good kid, you know, ever since he was like six or something, when I first met him. I met him at a dope deal, you know. I was in the kitchen waiting for this guy to arrive with the hash, you know. And this little kid comes in going, like, "daddy", right? "My mommy's in the next room." And sure enough, there she was! The center of conversation. His mother used to lock him in the fucking house when she went out. She was very possessive. She dressed him up as a rock star from the age of five onwards. Little studded jeans and shit. She had him like busking in the street with a pig-nose amplifier when he was seven. That's in the movie, too, though, you know. It's really nuts. And she tried to get him married to a person of her choice, you know. Tried to direct his life at all times, you know. And I suppose you would get like that being brought up by yourself. My mom was a bit like that. She brought me up on her own. Turned out alright.

THIRSTY: Do you have a favorite memory with him from the time you started getting close? When he was a teenager?

Lemmy: Oh no, it was before that. It was when I realized he was a better guitar player than me and he was ten! You know? (laughs) He's a wizard guitar player, you know. He really is. He plays like Hendrix.

THIRSTY: He said he's producing now, too. And managing a couple of bands.

Lemmy: That's always been his first love. Producing. He's not a road person in particular. He liked it but he wasn't, like, dramatically drawn to it.

THIRSTY: How was the tour with Joan Jett?

Lemmy: Great, you know. We've always liked them. Alice Cooper and Joan Jett, that's a good bill.

(credit: Jackie Roman)

THIRSTY: That wasn't in the States though.

Lemmy: No, it was in Britain.

THIRSTY: And you've known all of them for a long time.

Lemmy: Oh, a donkey's years, yeah. Yeah, I met Alice in 1973. And I met Joan in 1976, I think it was, when they first came to Britain. And she wore my bullet belt onstage! (laughs) I don't know if I ever...I had to fight to get it back.

THIRSTY: I'm sure people are always trying to snake things from you.

Lemmy: Oh, that's ok, you know. I've become adept at snaking them back! I love Joanie though. Joanie's great. And she really stuck it up the ass of all the critics, too.

THIRSTY: Do you think she's like the female Lemmy?

Lemmy: Kind of, yeah, I suppose. Cause she was the most unlikely to succeed, you know. And then bingo! I love that shit, you know. "How you doing?" "Oh, I'm doing fine! I've got records out and everything and my band's got more than we can do! And you? Fired again? Is that right?" (laughs) They don't fucking teach you to write that shit!

THIRSTY: I met Joan at CBGB's just before it closed.

Lemmy: CBGB's was fucking awful! Hellhole!

THIRSTY: What strikes me most about Motorhead is how cross-generational your appeal is. At the Stubb's show there was a nine-year-old kid on his father's shoulders. And then there was a guy in the second row that was probably 70.

Lemmy: Well some of them are bringing their kids because they like it, and bringing their kids because they want their kids to like it but some of them really aren't. Some of them are just kids on their own. The biggest freaks at the front were girls. (Talking about Austin Music Hall show). Two teenage girls, they were really going for it. In front of Phil, they were.

THIRSTY: Go figure.

Lemmy: Yeah, right. (laughs)

THIRSTY: The first time I interviewed you, you said the only newer band you liked was Evanescence, which got a huge response.

Lemmy: Well, Skunk Anansie reformed. They're back together playing again. They've done some really good stuff. There's only three new tracks on the album. They're really good.

THIRSTY: What else are you listening to right now?

Lemmy: Oh, I don't know, just stuff. I don't listen to a lot of music. I just put the TV on when I get in, you know. "Law & Order: SVU", that's me. I have a sneaking desire for Mariska Hargitay. Jayne Mansfield's daughter. She looks as if she has almost the chest her mother had. It's hard to tell under those clothes, you know. Being a hard-bitten police woman. And it's not the uniform, cause she doesn't wear one. She's plain clothes, you know.

THIRSTY: What else do you do to entertain yourself on the road?

Lemmy: I still occasionally chase women. We went out to that strip club last night. It's quite a good one, that one. We went to a couple of others the first couple of days and they weren't very good, you know. "Weight Watchers Weekly", you know? (laughs)

THIRSTY: Do you think at this point rock n' roll had begun redeeming itself?

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Lemmy: Rock n' roll always comes back, you know. Ther's no fighitng it. And these people think they can kill rock n' roll they might as well try and stop the flood, you know. There's no way. It always comes back because there's always people who want to hear loud, raucous music, you know. It's exciting, you know. And all the shit that these magazines like is not exciting. Like, Jesus, Radiohead, you know. Fuck me, you know. Coldplay. Jesus. These are not rock bands. These are sub-emo, you know. I mean, they did some good stuff. Fair enough. But it's not rock n' roll. I know fucking rock n' roll when I hear it. I've been listening to it since I was 12, you know? So fuck off!

THIRSTY: I've been to a stadium show and there are some bands that can reach that person in the back of the room, but there's also shows where there's a guy eating nachos next to you. It's not exciting!

Lemmy: High-fiving each other all the fucking time! It's like Blue Oyster Cult, you know. They used to, you know, offstage they wear cardigans. And they're all about five foot two, you know. Eric Bloom, fair enough. But the rest of them dressed in cardigans. I couldn't believe it. These are old men!

THIRSTY: Your music has been licensed for so many things, and the name Motorhead itself just implies a type of lifestyle. Do you consider your band a brand?

Lemmy: No, I don't, you know. It probably is, you know, but I don't think of it like that. I don't think like that. All I think about is "my band, fuck you." You know. Cause I've often said that I only care about my band, the rest of you can go fuck yourselves, you know? (laughs)

THIRSTY: You told me before that you wanted Motorhead condoms? Still doing that?

Lemmy: We used to have them! We used to do them! "Go to bed with Motorhead!" In the 1980s we used to do them. Very funny. It was before AIDS, you know. I mean, you have a selection of condoms now. Then it was a sin, you know. So then it was more fun to sell them you know, cause people disapproved highly, you know. "Go to bed with Motorhead!" That's good. Now we sell, now they have thongs.

(credit: Jackie Roman)

THIRSTY: People can shoot them up on stage to you!

Lemmy: That's a thought! Hasn't thought of that one.

THIRSTY: Tell me about some of the gifts you get from your fans.

Lemmy: Yeah, I do. Some great stuff, too. I've got a couple of dolls. In Japan they do that. They make dolls of you. I've got four of those I think, yeah, four of those. One clean shaven, three with beard.

THIRSTY: I asked Paul about some of the misconceptions about you. I know one of the biggest is that you are a Nazi. Can you talk about that?

Lemmy: Well, the last time somebody wrote on the Internet that said I was a Nazi, there was a flood of protest. Hundreds of kids wrote in and said, 'no he isn't.' Which is nice, very good, you know. Very good. I don't have a computer myself. Well, I do now, somebody gave me one in Germany but I haven't plugged it in yet. I don't know how to use it. I'm a fucking dummy in this computer age.

THIRSTY: So you enjoy the pageantry of it, the regalia. It's very regal, in a way.

Lemmy: Yeah. I've got the other hat, too. (gets up to grab his WWII hat) Great hat, innit? The funny thing is, if they ever have a go at me, I'll say, "oh, do you know where thishat's from?" They say no. I'll say, "it's from 1976. So bite that, motherfucker," you know.

THIRSTY: Johnny Thunders used to wear those hats, and it was never a big deal.

Lemmy: Yeah, all the time. But it wasn't on the Internet that people were Nazis back then! (laughs) I don't know, people are so scared of the Nazis. They aught to stop worrying about the Nazis. They're gone, you know. The Nazis are over. You should worry about your government that's in place now. That's what you should worry about.

THIRSTY: Can I ask you about that? How do you feel about what's happening today?

Lemmy: Well, Obama should have been a bit more subtle before he got the job, you know, cause he talked up a good talk, you know, and now he's not walking the walk really. I think he's trying, I can say that. I think he's trying very hard, but he's getting socked by the Republicans all the time and it's just fucking him, you know. And he hasn't got the balls to fire him. He should just clean house, you know. I don't know how desperate he's going to have to be before he does it. But it's going to be too late if he doesn't do it soon.

THIRSTY: People always say it's because he didn't have the right type of experience and that he was such a young Senator.

Lemmy: He didn't have the experience of being a bastard. That's what it is, you know. That's what it comes down to. And there are no bigger bastards than the republican party, you know.

(credit: Jackie Roman)

THIRSTY: Have you been exploring Austin since you've been down here? Have you had a chance to walk around?

Lemmy: Well, I can't go out too much this week cause it's all...I get mobbed. I'm going out shopping today.

THIRSTY: You are approached a lot, but for the most part people leave you alone, too.

Lemmy: Not this week! It's souvenir time, you know. Can I have your leg, you know? (laughs)

THIRSTY: Has anybody ever given you a leg?

Lemmy: No, never a leg, no. I've gotten a hand, a mechanical hand. I've had a head, given to me to me by this Bulgarian guy.

THIRSTY: I heard that you've gotten a mirror of yourself, made with all broken glass?

Lemmy: No, he said it was a mosiac but it isn't. What he's done is, he's done it on glass and then he's broken it. It's very cleverly done though.

THIRSTY: Do you watch a lot of rock n' roll documentaries?

Lemmy: Yeah, I suppose I watch a few, yeah. I mean, a good one is great, you know. The trouble is that there aren't any good ones. "The Kids Are Alright", the Who one, that's fucking excellent. And "Be Very Careful of Where You Put Your Foot", and Hendrix, you know? And "Monterey" is great. The best of Monterey ever caught on film. "Woodstock" was a big let down, you know. Cause they put it on, and at the end, people were going home, you know?

THIRSTY: Do you like any of the Sex Pistols films?

Lemmy: Yeah, the one of the first tour. That's quite funny. There's not a lot of music in it, mind you. But it's funny to see all them old faces. Sue Catwoman and all them. I used to like a lot of them cause they were great. And then some of them died, you know. Smack again.

THIRSTY: And you had a history with Sid Vicious.

Lemmy: Oh, yeah. For a little while. He was here and gone. He used to sleep on our couch. He used to come around with Viv of The Slits.

THIRSTY: The Slits are touring now too.

Lemmy: I know! They were fucking awful then, I don't know what they're like now. And New York would be one of the places where they'd be lionized, isn't it? The Slits. I mean, back then it was a joke. I used to fuck the drummer, you know. Palmolive. Spanish girl, she could hardly speak English. And then Viv was with Sid now and again.

THIRSTY: I want to talk to you about your humor. You're known for being pretty razor sharp and witty. What do you watch? You must be a huge "Family Guy" fan.

Lemmy: Yeah, yeah. But not "American Dad". "Family Guy" is great though. It's so offensive, it's terrible! (laughs) The James Woods one is good. And the one where Lois is running for mayor. That's good, too. I don't know. There's so many of them.

THIRSTY: Do you still watch "The Simpsons"?

Lemmy: No, I never watched "The Simpsons" much.

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(Motorhead) were in the comic book, "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror". We were in that. I wrote a story for them and they put it in there. Well, they said they put it in there. I never read it so I wouldn't know! Anyway, let me play you some of this new Head Cat stuff...


Previous Thirsty interviews with Lemmy: September 2008 and July 2007




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