Born to Raise Hell

I had an interesting conversation with Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, frontman of the seminal punk-metal crossover band, Motörhead, about all sorts of topics. Here are some excerpts, condensed and summarised for your reading pleasure.


Overnight Sensation, the band's latest album, "was recorded under a bit of pressure," since at the time of conception, Motörhead didn't have any new material written. It took the band about five weeks to write it and about five weeks to record it. There will be a tour in support of this album. The tour will start in November in Illinois and work around the country. The band plans to tour most of next year.

I asked Lemmy what it felt like to be an icon in Rock 'n' Roll, and it was obvious that he relishes his successes. He said that after all these years, it starts "to feel the same" but when they're touring "it's different because it's a different place every night. Even if it's the same place, it feels different because things have changed."

The conversation was highly interesting because Lemmy is extremely opinionated. This enabled us to talk about everything from the music industry to more controversial topics such as gun control and drugs, with some humorous moments interspersed in between.

Lemmy's view about the the music industry is that "it sucks. It always did and always will. People with no artistic talent will pass off their work as having talent." But he thinks that's okay in a sense since "everyone's trying to make a living. Everyone's trying to survive." The problem is that if you maintain this as your solo motivation "there's no ambition to gain artistic talent and it becomes an issue of sell, sell, sell." Lemmy went on to add "I don't think of myself as an artist. Rock 'n' roll is joy and art isn't always. It could be, but it could boring as hell."

On the topic of the Sex Pistols reunion tour, he said he didn't have a chance to see them but he doesn't think they've "sold out": "Selling out is a very abused term. But that's why they did what they did in 1977 and there's nothing wrong with them doing it now."

When the topic of the current elections came up, Lemmy referred to the two frontrunners as "both smiling assholes. The system doesn't favour anybody but the frontrunners." He thinks people should learn to "rule themselves", an opinion I share as an anarchist. Lemmy favours a "creative anarchy" and thinks that "government causes more problems than it solves."

On the topic of authors and books, Lemmy's favourites include Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick ("he's great!"), J. G. Ballard, and Len Deighton. He has a soft spot for Len Deighton's two Bernard Sampson trilogies (Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match, continued with Spy Hook, Spy Line, and Spy Sinker), which Lemmy thinks is an amazing piece of work" since they all "fit together as one." Lemmy also reads a lot of documentaries concerning the topic of war, particularly World War I and II. Why about war? "Because it's the most popular pastime in the world. Everybody seems to be doing it. I like the big ones because it shows man at his worst."

Lemmy doesn't think it's a bad thing that the metal scene isn't "accepted" by people in general: "If they accept it it's dead. Your parents have to hate the music you listen to." He did say that he likes playing in countries like South America where "the people still believe in rock 'n' roll."

Speaking about the group Fastway that included Motörhead's first guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke, Lemmy said: "They're gone a long time. The band was alright. I didn't think the album was very good. They had a lousy singer. But Eddie's has always been a good player."

Explaining how he could do speed for 30 years and not go crazy, he said "it takes concentration and willingness to experiment. Each to his own, you know? What's normal for me isn't normal for everyone. You need to find your drug of choice and stick with that."

With regards to the war on drugs, Lemmy thinks the government should give up because "the war has been lost. There are more drugs now than before the war started." He believes that "you have to regulate drugs. You can't just let people do what they want. You have to make sure the drug is pure and make sure they don't cause other problems. It makes sense to regulate."

While he loves America and thinks "it's a great country", he also thinks "it's fucking itself. It has these terrible bureaucrats and all they do is follow the book." He thinks America "spends too much on defense, on a mythical enemy. What about the people starving on the streets?"

Lemmy was at his most eloquent when he spoke about gun control, and I'm lifting this stuff from the PR info I got since I think it says it better than our conversation: "The hunting thing in America, it's unbelievable---they dress up like the SAS to kill a deer! They hide in trees with camouflage uniforms on them, they have telescopic rifles---Jesus Christ, you know what I mean? The deer has got its fur on it and four hoofs on it! And they make a big deal out of killing the poor bastard thing. They should get on their knees and apologise for having that much of an advantage." When queried about needing guns to mount a revolution against a government, he said "the English have brought their government down without any guns several times. All it takes is a sex scandal. You just need a dick and a woman." Lemmy did acknowledge however the situation has gone a bit too far and "it's possible you can't take all the guns away."

Future plans for Motörhead include constant touring and making more albums in their no-holds-barred style. Be sure to catch them on tour.


Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org || October 29, 1996