Phil Campbell – MOTÖRHEAD – 02/22/2012

By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.


For nearly 40 years, the British heavy metal band, Motorhead, which features Lemmy Kilmister-vocals/bass, Phil Campbell-guitar and Mikkey Dee-drums, have been slaying audiences with their unique brand of no-frills, in-your-face rock n’ roll.  While the band had faced a great deal of adversity, dealing over the years with incompetent record companies, crooked accountants and greedy managers, Motorhead has not only managed to survive, but prosper as well. The band is currently more popular than ever, and are now regarded as rock royalty.

Currently, Motorhead is finishing up performing on the “Gigantour,” which also features Megadeth, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil. In addition, Motorhead has just recently released a stunning live CD/DVD package entitled, “The World is Ours – Vol 1.”  This package documents the band’s 2011 performance to a sold out and frantic crowd in Santiago, Chile. This release is a true must have for any fan of metal or classic rock.

Here at RockMusicStar, we had the honor of chatting with guitarist Phil Campbell.  During this conversation we discussed the new CD/DVD, future plans and much more.

RockMusicStar:  Phil, I want to start off  by discussing your new, live CD/DVD entitled, “The World is Ours-Vol 1.”  First, of all, is it correct to assume that there will be a Vol 2?

Phil Campbell:  Yes, there will eventually be a “….Volume 2” coming out.

RMS:  One of the things about the DVD that caught my attention right from the start, was the intensity of the crowd at the performance in Santiago, Chile.  I’ve been to many of your shows, and that crowd was unlike any I’ve ever seen before.  It’s almost as if they were on the verge of a riot.

PC:  Well, we always have a good response from the audience.  We rarely have an off show.  But, yeah this one was a little more ecstatic than most of the others.  But, it’s all good, as long as nobody gets hurt.

RMS:  Has Motorhead toured in South America before?

PC:  We’ve been going over there since that late 80’s.  So we’ve been there six or seven times.  So, it’s every couple of years.  But, as far as playing in Chile, it was our first or second time.

RMS:  Do you ever get concerned about you personal safety when you play in places such as third world countries?

PC:   Actually, we did have a bit of a riot one time.  I can’t remember exactly where it was, but it was somewhere in South America.  We played a set, and it was cut like 5 minutes short.  And the audience didn’t seem to like that.  So, we had to lock ourselves in the dressing room.

RMS:  Wow…Another interesting aspect of the DVD is the fact that it’s filmed in black and while.  With so many artists using technology to its fullest, and filming their concerts in high definition and some even in 3D, it’s interesting that you went in the opposite direction.  Whose idea was it to film in black and white?

PC:  I’m not sure who had the idea first.  But, we all love black and white video and photography.  You can capture a mood and can just get a stronger sense of perception.  I really like it myself.

RMS:  Yeah, I agree, it’s very cool that it’s filmed that way.  I think that it adds to the intensity of the performance.  One of the other noteworthy aspects of the DVD/CD was your guitar intro to the track, “The Thousand Names of God.”  I love your tone on it, and it really is rather unique.  Was this previously on a Motorhead CD that I missed?

PC:  I’m glad that you liked it.  No, you didn’t miss it, it was never on a CD.  It’s just something that I recorded (the keyboard part) at my studio at home. I was just tired of playing my guitar solo with nothing in the background.  I remember watching Heaven and Hell with Tony Iommi and he had some cool background stuff going on with his solos.  So, I wanted to do something similar to that.  But, yeah, I composed it all myself.

RMS:  It seems like it calms the audience down for a few minutes, then the onslaught starts up again.  Do you have any more material written in that style?

PC:  No, not really.  But, I do have various versions of that intro. But, yeah, we like to throw in various bits to briefly calm down things at times.  It’s the calm before the storm.

RMS: Have you ever considered doing a solo album?

PC:  Yes, I have thought about it a lot.  But I shelved it a couple years ago, because I’ve decided that I want to write a book about all the insane things that happen on tour. So, I’m trying to compile all of those stories and funny situations.  So, at this point, I’m working on that.  But, I’m a bit lazy, so it’s taken a while.  But as far as a solo record, I do have a studio at home, it’s just hard finding the time.  With Motorhead, we’ve been working so hard, for so long.

RMS:  Motorhead has pretty much been on the record, tour cycle non-stop since you joined the band, 28 years ago.  Seriously, have you ever had an extended break during your time in the band?

PC:  Not really.  We have never taken longer than a couple of months off.  We will have a little time off when this tour, the Gigantour finishes. And that will be nice.  But, we have decided to cut back a little bit, and enjoy the spoils of our hard work, before we get too old.

RMS:  Will Motorhead be touring this summer?

PC:  Yes, we will be on a festival tour of North America and then we will play some festivals in Europe, and then a full tour of the UK and Europe.

RMS:  Has there ever been talk of a farewell tour?

PC:  No, we don’t think of that stuff, we just carry on.

RMS:  Not too many bands tour North America in the middle of winter, even though this has been a relatively mild winter, has there been any difficultly in traveling to the gigs?

PC:  Yeah, we’ve been rather lucky, so far.  Everyone’s been able to make every show and we’ve seen quite a bit of snow.  We are just outside Seattle, and it’s getting much better and it should remain that way for the rest of the tour.  It’s going to be nice to get to some heat this week when we play in California.

RMS:  One of the things that you are notorious for is playing pranks on the other bands that you are touring with.  Has anything gone down on this tour yet?

PC:  Not yet, but I do have some things in mind.  I have two marshmallow guns that shoot miniature marshmallows.  You can put 15 in each barrel, so I think will give that a go in the next day or two.  But, I haven’t decided yet who the unlucky recipients are going to be just yet. But, there is no shortage of possible victims.

RMS: (laughs) Besides pulling off pranks, is there anything that you would still like to accomplish as a member of Motorhead?

PC:  I’ve accomplished way more than I ever thought that I could when I was a young kid learning the guitar.  We get great crowds every night, we’ve played some amazing concerts and places.  It’s nice that I got a “Grammy Award,” even if it wasn’t for our own song.  But we still got one, and I thought I would never have one of those on my mantle piece, along with several other awards.  So, there’s really nothing else that I desire to accomplish.  But, I think that our greatest accomplishment really is the fact that we are still going, and stronger than ever.  I’ve been with Lemmy for 28 years, so that’s the main accomplishment, and we’ve done it with maintaining our dignity, and we still have a bit of sanity left.  And people are still enjoying going to the shows. So, that’s really our greatest achievement, when looking back on it.  And just playing a good gig is satisfying to me, and just keeping it going.

RMS:  A lot can be said for that.  During the 28 years that you were in the band, was there ever a time when the band come close to breaking up?

PC:  No, not since, I’ve been with the band.

RMS:  Seriously, twenty-eight years is a long time to be in a band with someone.

PC:  Yeah, we’ve been together for so long, we know when someone needs their space.  We also try to have separate dressing rooms, just so we have a bit of space because we do travel on the same buses.  Sometimes, if you want to sleep and someone wants to bring in guests, or play guitar, it’s good to be able to be get away from one another for at least a few hours.  But we are all really good mates.

RMS:  What’s the writing process in the band like?  Does it start with a riff that you bring in?

PC:  Yeah, it’s sort of that way.  I will try to write as much of the music that I can, and then show it to the boys and then discuss what we like and don’t like.  It’s a three way writing process, really.  But, it kind of starts with me with the basics.

RMS:  Have you or Mikkey Dee ever helped or suggested lyrics to Lemmy?

PC:  No, we leave that up to Lem, he is the best at doing that.  That is his department.

RMS:  What is Lemmy like as the band leader?

PC:  He’s really cool.  When I joined the band, he said, “I trust you implicitly, Phil.” “The only thing I ask you is never wear shorts on stage.”  (laughs)  Because Brian Robertson, the guitarist right before me, decided that it was cool to go onstage wearing shorts.  So, that scared Lemmy a little bit.

RMS:  That’s hilarious.  I do remember seeing some pictures of Brian on stage with Motorhead and not really dressed like the way I would expect that guitarist of Motorhead to dress.

PC:  Yeah, it didn’t really go that well with the band’s image.  But, I’ve never worn shorts onstage.  I’ve worn them during sound checks, but never on stage.  And that’s the one rule, so I can deal with that.

RMS:  Do feel that Motorhead is more popular now than ever before, well at least during the time that you’ve been in the band?

PC:  Yes, I would say so.  We are doing very well, right now.

RMS:  Do you think that the movie, “Lemmy” helped the band reach more people?  It seems as if it is always on VH-1 Classics.

PC:  Yes, that all helps.  But, I think it all sort of started when we started doing songs for the WWE.  Then we had a song on the “Sponge Bob“ movie.  But all of that helped.  The “Lemmy” movie certainly didn’t do us any harm at all.  But, we had a huge upsurge in popularity way before that movie came out.  But, the WWE involved really did a lot for us.  Also, we were on Jay Leno back in the early days as well.  So, it’s really all of that.

RMS:  One of the things I’ve noticed, while being a fan of the band, is that every time I see you perform, you always have at least a couple different guitars.  Your guitar collection must be insane at this point.

PC:  Yeah, it’s about 260 guitars now.  And today I brought a new one.  I got a 1950’s, double Fender lap steel guitar.

RMS:  Wow, now that’s not something that you will be able to use in Motorhead, is it?

PC:  I’ll find a way to use it, maybe even on the next record, on bits and pieces.  Or maybe one of my kids will use it.  But, I really like collecting guitars.

RMS:  In addition to collecting guitars, you also have quite an impressive collection of watches.  How did that collection start?

PC:  Yeah, I have about 30 really nice watches.  I have to be careful when I go to a shopping mall because I’m drawn into the watch stores.  They seem to come to me and jump out.

RMS:  What is it about watches that appeals so much to you?

PC:  Well, it started because I always wanted a good Rolex watch.   And I bought my first one in Seattle about 15 years ago.  So, it started from there.  Eric Singer of KISS is a total watch egghead.  If you show him any watch, he’ll tell you when it was made, and what factory and any information that you wanted.  You get Eric started on watches and he will go on for hours, it’s really great talking to him about them.  Eric told me once, that he tries to wear at least three watches a day.

RMS:  I would just like to discuss the set list that you are currently playing on the Gigantour. You really seem to concentrate on the early material.  But, some of the music you recorded in the 90’s is equally as good.  Records such as “Bastards” and “Sacrifice” are brilliant and brutal.  Why aren’t some of those songs included in the set list?

PC:  Well, we use to play “Liar” off of “Bastards.” But, sometimes, Lem just doesn’t fancy singing them.  It’s very difficult trying to fit all of our good material in the set list when we play a 1 ½ hours.  But we used to play a lot of those songs, but they just kind of got phased out.  We will play songs for a couple of tours and then change it a bit, but we have to keep songs like, “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill” in every set list.  On this tour, we only have 50 minutes, so it was really difficult coming up with the set list.  But, we are going down well with what we are playing.  But, it’s a short set… and no time for even my guitar solo interlude that we discussed, unfortunately.

RMS:  That’s too bad, maybe during the summer tour you can bring that back.

PC:  Yeah, I’ll see what I can do.

RMS:  That would be great.  Phil, thank you for your time, and I’ll see you on that big festival tour this summer.

PC:  Ok, thank you.  I enjoyed the conversation.

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