“Alt-rockers should emulate motörhead”The 69-year-old Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister has been filling stadiums with his high-octane brand of rock for four decades
Ian Fraser Kilmister, aka Lemmy, is sitting in a spartan room backstage at The Zenith concert venue in Munich, Germany. On the table is a silver dagger and a slot machine, into which he is feeding coins. The Motörhead frontman has pulled his cavalry hat down over his face, but his trademark facial hair makes him unmistakable.
The 69-year-old singer and bassist from near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England, has been filling stadiums with his high-octane brand of rock for four decades. His band has lived through disco, punk, grunge and is still going strong, albeit with a few line-up changes. Tonight’s concert sold out weeks ago, with fans turning up in their droves to hear raucous live renditions of hits like Ace Of Spades, Shoot You In The Back and Overkill along with song’s from Motörhead’s huge back catalogue, including latest album, Aftershock, the band’s 21st, which reached number 22 in The Billboard 200 album chart in America.
Motörhead’s 22nd studio album, Bad Magic, comes out on August 28.
THE RED BULLETIN: Who did you want to rebel against when you formed Motörhead in 1975?
LEMMY KILMISTER: Everyone, really. My parents, the people next door, politicians. My attitude hasn’t changed.
You looked pretty different back then.
I used to wear an old army surplus jacket and I grew my hair down to my arse. I grew up in England just after the war; rock ’n’ roll hadn’t been invented yet. When we were teenagers, we had to listen to the music our parents listened to, which was s–t, obviously. But then Chuck Berry and Elvis appeared and we all thought, “Wow! This is what we’ve been waiting for.”
This year you celebrate 40 years of Motörhead. How does a band stay successful for so long?
By ignoring trends.
Is it as simple as that?
Yep. You shouldn’t over-interpret rock. Theory, emotions, all that s–t. We play loud and fast. People come to our concerts. End of story.
You’ve filled huge venues all over the world, from Japan to Argentina, and you were one of the first Western rock bands to play in communist Yugoslavia. Have you ever wondered why people with such different cultural backgrounds go wild for the same music?
It’s because rock is international. You hear the music and a flash of lightning shoots up your spine. We play three chords and people go wild.
How do your Japanese contingent of fans compare to those in the UK?
You have no idea! Japanese rock fans are crazy. They give themselves Elvis quiffs. They have the perfect hair for it. And the women! [He imitates his press officer] “Lemmy, er, when you’re done with her, can we have you in the backstage area?”
What is it that women love about rock stars?
They ooze stardom. OK, so some people only want to sleep with good-looking guys too. I’m not as good-looking as I used to be. But women still come backstage after my shows. They have this look in their eye, you know. I can cope with that.
Why have you never married?
I’ve never found a woman who can stop me looking at other women [laughs]. It’s odd, actually. But we’ve been on tour for 40 years. That’s not ideal for a stable relationship.
We have a theory about Motörhead’s success: you embody the image of a rocker at a time when there are too few rebels…
That’s right. There are no young rock stars any more. At least not any that make you go, “Wow!” The youngsters today all play alternative rock. What a load of s–t! Alternative. Alternative to what? They should emulate us. No one’s going to outdo us.
You turn 70 this year. How do you stop yourself becoming stuffy with age?
You don’t have any more concrete advice?
Hmm… You have an office job, don’t you?
Grow your hair long.
I don’t think anyone in our office will care.
Do it anyway. You’ll be surprised at how many people it still pisses off.