Motoring along

Legendary rocker Lemmy talks to Steve Lee about why the buzz of playing live has changed but he still won’t give up

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Living legend; maverick; the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll – all are terms which, with startling regularity, are associated with the man known as Lemmy – and with good reason. When Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister formed Motörhead back in 1975 he was already a veteran of the music scene, with stints as bassist for Hawkwind and a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. Since then he’s been delivering devastatingly visceral, thundering rock as the frontman of Motörhead.

On the eve of yet another UK tour, the man who says “I’ve always known what I wanted to do and always done exactly that” appears in no mood to mellow or compromise one iota.

“Fashion’s something for people with too much time on their hands,” he explains with a gruff bark. “And I’ve never been bothered about categorisations like rock or heavy metal. It’s all about the listener’s ear. There’s only two types of music in the world – music you like and music you don’t.”

Although he’s now a long-term resident of Los Angeles, Motörhead will embark on what is now becoming a traditional pre-Christmas tour, this time accompanied by punk legends the UK Subs. So, with Subs frontman Charlie Harper another inhabitant of that category titled “stoic survivor”, has Lemmy finally met his match?

“Well, he’s the only guy around, now Ronnie’s [James Dio] gone, who’s older than me,” laughs the 65 year- old. The law of averages dictates that the paths of Motörhead and the UK Subs – both battle-hardened tour veterans – must have already crossed but, surprisingly, this isn’t the case. And what’s even more astonishing, Lemmy has never seen his fellow stalwarts play live. Surely this isn’t statistically possible? “I know, all the years I’ve known Charlie and I’ve never got to see his band.”

With so many years of experience under their belts, you do have to wonder if live music can hold that same buzz that it offered all those years ago when his first band The Rockin’ Vickers began cranking up the amps.
“It’s not the same as when I started,” he confesses, honest as ever, “because 50 years is a long time to get the same buzz, right? If there’s thousands of people in the crowd, it’s great, but not the same.”

Motörhead’s more of a job, then? “No,” he shoots back, lightning fast. “It’s my life.”
It’s been a hedonistic life too, by anyone’s standards, punctuated by a fair share of drink and drugs. So, though admittedly a little worn, to what does Lemmy owe his remarkable longevity? Is it genetic? “It must be,” he claims, offering a filthy, guttural laugh. “And down to a lot of dumb luck, I’m guessing.”

But does the man who attempted but ultimately failed to teach Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious to play “properly” see new bands emerging with a similar attitude to his?

“You really have to work to be this defiant,” he rasps. “Most bands these days seem happy to live mainly on a computer and, you know, that just isn’t the place for rock ‘n’ roll.”
So with over 35 years of Motörhead in the can and his place secured in the pantheon of rock gods, does the great man envisage a time when he won’t be fronting what’s likely the loudest band on the planet?

“Well, yeah,” he says, sounding suddenly sanguine. Then, following a dramatic pause, he adds:?“Playing’s hard when you’re f***ing dead.”

Motörhead 6 Nov, Liverpool Mountford Hall; 11 Nov, Manchester Apollo

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