Monday, October 5, 2009
A FEW QUESTIONS WITH LEMMY
“All businessmen are Cunts and apart from that you don’t have to know anything else.” Spoken like a true rock star.
Garbed in black and sitting in a slight haze of cigarette smoke, I sat down with Lemmy, one of Rock n’ Roll’s greatest legends. After thousands of shows, hundreds of tours and a voice that is unmistakable, he continues to live his life for the music and on the road. From breasts to business, action figures to acid, Lemmy’s reputation certainly precedes him.
How’s this tour been going so far?
Good, can’t complain. It’s been really good. We’ve been selling out with it. We’re booked in places that are too small, this is an example. So they had to put another show on, which is really dumb. They should have just moved us to a bigger venue.
Have you played in Calgary before?
Yeah, long time ago. About eight years, I think. Canada’s always been a good place for us.
What is it about coming to Canada that you enjoy?
I think it’s ‘cuz it’s so miserable in the winter they like to enjoy themselves when they finally get out of the snow.
What is about the most recent record, Motorizer, that really excites you?
This is the most popular record for years. People have actually gone out and bought it instead of just downloading it. We’ve got in the American top 100 for the first time...you know, number 89 and straight out again, but it was okay.
If you look back on your career from when you first started and where you are now. What would you say has changed with you the most? How have you grown and adapted to all this?
I don’t think I have really. I don’t see that change is always good. A lot of people think that change for some sake is good, but it’s not true you know. Sometimes the old shit is better and you invent yourself out of a good time. I think there’s a lot of that around. People think, “hey! New – young – great!” And it’s not always – sometimes it’s really shit. Like cassette players against vinyls, and then CDs which were indestructible and now we find out actually they’re not, so you get little machines to read your CDs. It’s the industry, you know, it’s inventing itself into new money. I don’t think that’s very clever. And recording isn’t much better. The only thing that’s better is protools and that’s about it.
My attitude hasn’t changed anyway. All businessmen are cunts and apart from that you don’t have to know anything else.
So you think you’ve pretty much stayed just you this entire time?
I’m happy with myself – well, almost.
What’s the best part of all this success? You are so identifiable – is that something you really love?
I think the action figure’s kinda funny. They did a black one you know. Black face, guitar everything. Why? It’s so strange, I mean, not that I mind being black, but I’m not, so you know...(laughs) I always wanted a deeper tan anyway. Life’s good, you know, more or less. I’m quite happy. I like to be on the road, the road is where I live ‘cuz I ain’t got no family. This is my family, really.
Did you grow up wanting to do this?
More or less. Ever since I first saw the show were chicks were screaming at people. That was it, that’s the job for me, and lo and behold it was.
Did you find it was a really difficult path upwards?
When you’re young you want it all instantly, and you don’t get it, so that’s a bit of a set back, but you get ever that. You get over anything, really. Whatever life throws at you, you learn to catch it or drop it.
What would you say to a lot of the younger bands who are aspiring to do what you’ve done?
I wouldn’t say anything to them except that you’ve got to make your own mistakes ‘cuz whatever obstacles they come up against aren’t the obstacles I’ve come up against. Advice from me would be no good whatsoever to them because they world’s changed since I was struggling.
Tell me about your creative process. Some bands are more one minded, but you’ve got a lot of content in your songs.
It’s mostly about war, sex and being on the road with the band, which is kind of easy. There’s injustice as well, there’s plenty of that – there will never be any shortage of that.
Was the song, “Don’t let Daddy Kiss Me” inspired by a true story?
It was a girl on tv who had been molested by her father ever since she was seven years old to the day before she got married. Unbelievable.
Does she know about the song you did about her?
Oh no, she was just on tv. I always thought that was the worst crime in the world because you rob their trust.
When you’re not touring and playing and soundchecking, is there anything you do that keeps you focused?
Chase women with big tits. (laughs) The look on your face there was magical.
Isn’t that enough? When you’re on the road all the time...no, it’s not my job, it’s my life...but when you go home you don’t go out much. I used to go out all the time but as you get older you get kind of bored with the endless successions of “hello there,” and “hey, what’s happening dude?” Beats me.
Do you feel that people look up to you and idolize you?
I’ve never understood that really. What you have to remember is that for us it’s another gig in a string of gigs but for them it’s the event of the year. Maybe nobody comes to that city or they only get four bands a year or something. So you gotta make allowances for that – you can’t be an asshole to your own fans. For one thing it’s dumb anyway and for another thing I couldn’t possibly do it because I remember what it was like to be “struck” you know so I like to be decent to them as much as I can. If there’s like 200 of them then it can get a bit sticky. If they come in threes and fives, you know, that’s fine.
You’ve always maintained that you guys are a rock band, not a metal band or anything else.
We were around before heavy metal. We were more punk than anything else, I would have said, with the speed of it all. We all got long hair so it was kinda confusing for them. Although they still called the Ramones a punk band and they had long hair. It’s American to punk with long hair. In England you have to have short hair and wear safety pins up your face.
Do you miss England?
No. What’s to miss? The rain? The attitude? Which is mainly, “we can’t get over losing India.”
No I don’t miss England much. I miss the cheese, you guys cannot make cheese. I knew about ten people, that’s it...and three of them have died, anyway, so...
Is there a particular gig our tour that stands out in your mind?
There’s hundreds of them, the amount of shows I’ve done. Thousands. Mostly in the interesting days when we were all on acid, but these are interesting days too, or we wouldn’t do it.
You’re a band that could be seen as somewhat more down to earth as opposed to a lot of the shock rock or glam bands who put on more of a theatrical show.
Yeah, without the pyros you’d lose it all, eh? Everybody’s doing what they’re doing. I see them as event bands – with all the sparks and swinging a cross with a rope around your neck – that’s more like a variety show or a circus show. We can’t afford it anyway (laughs) we’re fucking broke. We’re just breaking even on tour mostly. Occasionally we make a few bucks here and there, but not much.
But you guys had to add a second show for Calgary so that’s good.
Yeah, so that’s worth about another $2000 (laughs).
We know that many bands today view you as an inspiration, who inspires you?
Little Richard, Elvis, all the early stuff, Buddy Holly. All of them guys, the originals. And then The Beatles – the whole Liverpool scene was magic. You’ll never see a band with the top eight places in the billboard again.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Are you only drinking a coke? That’s not very rock n’ roll. Would you like a proper drink...
- Lindsay Thomas