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Back Stories | My 2011 Interview With Lemmy from Motörhead

The rock icon talks the glories of Abba, going for broke and leaving the gas on.

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Photo by Rama.

Like any music journalist, I’ve been asked the same question countless times: Who are the coolest rock stars you’ve interviewed? Lemmy from Motörhead is always close to the top of the list. Mostly because, well, he was freaking Lemmy, dude. But also because when I talked to him in 2011 shortly after his 65th birthday, he was everything I wanted him to be: Gruff and sharp, honest and revealing, pulling no punches and brooking no crapulence. I could have sworn I had already shared this interview, but I searched the site and couldn’t find it. So here it is — augmented with some quotes that didn’t make the cut back in the day. Enjoy.


Q: Who would win a fight between Lemmy and God? A: It’s a trick question; Lemmy IS God! Old joke, I know. But to generations of worshipful metalheads, it’s the gospel truth.

And fair enough. Granted, nobody thinks the Motörhead singer-bassist Ian (Lemmy) Kilmister — an unrepentant speed demon, slot-machine junkie and self-confessed lover of all women — is a candidate for canonization. But look beyond his warts and you’ll notice some suspiciously divine qualities:

• He is immortal — or darn close. Despite a life of overkill and a decade of diabetes, the 65-year-old rocker claims he has “the liver of a newborn child” (just don’t ask where he got it).

• He is infallible — or consistent, anyway. The Wörld is Yours, his 21st studio album in 35 years, delivers another thundering blast of swaggering power-trio riff-metal courtesy of guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee. Front and centre, as always, you’ll find Lemmy preaching to the choir, wailing about death and rock and hypocrisy and greed in his raggedly glorious Ace of Spades howl.

• He is everywhere. Along with the album and accompanying world tour, he is also front and centre in the doc Lemmy: 49% Motherf—er. 51% Son of a B—-. The rudely revealing work follows him from stage to studio to his surprisingly humble Hollywood apartment stuffed Hoarders-style with weapons and war memorabilia.

• He is a man of the people. Amid a schedule crammed with interviews, the straight shooter took time before a San Diego soundcheck to discuss the glories of Abba, going for broke and whether he left the gas on.

Congrats on turning 65. Were you as surprised as everyone else?
Yeah, probably. But I didn’t plan on dying to fulfil everybody’s expectations.

Are you going to take advantage of seniors’ discounts?
No, I’m spending more. I was in Las Vegas on my birthday, wasting money. I’m trying to get rid of it before I go. I ain’t paying no death duties; I’m going to die broke.

On the new song Get Back in Line, you say, “These days most things suck.” When were the good old days for you?
The Beatles era. But there’s been a lot of good old days. Nowadays, it just seems too regimented — so many rules and restrictions. You can’t even take a shit without somebody putting the finger on you. It’s really weird that people have let themselves be put in this corral. America was built on revolution. What fucking happened to that spirit? It’s gone.

If you were in charge, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Sack everybody and start again. I’d take the money away from the big corporations and hand it out to smaller people. Having everything owned by 10 people isn’t good.

What’s the secret to writing a Motörhead song?
You just need a hook line. You can sing about the moon in June if you’ve got a good hook. The best example is Abba. They may not be your kind of band, but you’ll find yourself singing their songs. You can’t get them out of your head once you hear them.

Did you put more time into some of the songs on the new album than you usually do?
No. It was the same plan: I wrote them all in the studio under the clock. That’s how I’ve worked for a long time now.

Some people complain your albums all sound the same.
Well, it’s the same band, isn’t it? It would sound sort of the same. We do the occasional left-field thing — we’ve put loads of ballads on our albums — but people don’t notice them. It’s weird.

Are you happy with the documentary? Is there anything you wish they hadn’t shown?
No, it’s the truth. I don’t mind the truth. We could all do with a bit more of the truth.

How do you get along with your neighbours?
Very well. I’ve got a great neighbour. She’s 74 years old and used to dance in a cage at the Whisky. But I’m not there seven months of the year.

If that place goes up in flames, what are you grabbing on the way out?
What you can, I suppose. The stuff nearest the door. Though I’d probably try and save it all like the idiot I am, you know. I just bought a large Imperial-era hunting dagger.

Are you more at home on the road?
Always have been. Home is just where you leave your shit. On the bus, where I am now, is where I really live.

How much of your hearing do you have left?
Well, I can hear you asking me about it, can’t I?

What do you think about while you’re singing Ace of Spades for the billionth time?
All kinds of things. You wouldn’t believe the rubbish that goes through your head — ‘Did I turn the gas off?’ and shit like that.

You must have had chances to cash in on being Lemmy. Have you never been tempted?
No. I’m not stupid. I value my integrity. There’s some lines you just can’t cross. Several people have said I should do a reality show. What the fuck are you going to do with that? I live alone. Are you gonna film me playing video games for an hour? Arresting television, that.

How rich would you be if you never took drugs?
Richer.

Have you cut down on your intake of anything?
Well, I don’t talk about drugs, but the drinking is still the same.

Doesn’t your doctor tell you to stop?
I had a checkup two years ago and the guy said I had the liver of a newborn child. And the lungs are OK, which is amazing.

How the hell did that happen?
Well, I’m in control. I always was a control freak, you know.