PHIL CAMPBELL – Taking Aim
Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, frontman of hard rock trio Motörhead, died on December 28th, 2015 at the age of 70 following a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. The bassist / vocalist had learnt of his condition just two days prior.
Guitarist Phil Campbell’s 2016 activity has largely consisted of namesake outfit Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, formerly known as Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band. Sons Todd, Tyla and Dane occupy the guitar, bass and drum positions respectively, with Dopamine vocalist Neil Starr standing behind the microphone. Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons was formed prior to Lemmy’s passing, however.
“It’s not new, no,” Phil clarifies. “It’s four years old, the band. Basically, when my eldest son had a big birthday party, we hired a band and everything. We were all there, and just borrowed their instruments for a few songs. Neil was there, too – Neil Starr, our vocalist. All of the boys have known him for years, through his bands. We played a few songs, and after that, we did some festivals for fun. We did Bloodstock two or three years ago, and bits and pieces. After Lemmy sadly passed away, obviously I’ve got more time now. We changed the name, and we’ve written our own material and stuff, basically. Yeah though, the band is four years old. It has the same members and everything – we just changed the name. It’s not something that I put together since Lemmy passed away; we’ve been doing it since years before. Now obviously, there’s a bit more time to do stuff.”
Consideration wasn’t lent towards retiring following Lemmy’s passing. “We were so busy with Motörhead, anyway, so I knew that things were gonna change,” the axeman concedes. “Yeah, I could’ve retired. I could’ve semi-retired. I guess I make the schedules I wanna do now, instead of everyone else making the schedules and stuff. It’s not quite so busy, but we’ve still got tons of work on. I can do as little or as much now as I want, really. All of the boys, they’re all professional musicians in the band now. Nobody’s got jobs and everything, so it’s working really good. We’ve got the Muni (Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd, Wales) on New Years Eve as well, which is local – if there’s anyone local out there. That’s gonna be fun.”
Performing alongside his three sons is a pleasurable experience for Phil. “It’s a lot of fun,” he enthuses. “Basically, they were all born four years apart each. They were always grabbing instruments and cheap, plastic guitars, or banging on a drum or something, when they were two or three. I used to play in punk bands when I had down-time with Motörhead, with some of my mates. I’d take them along to the pubs sometimes, when there were afternoon gigs. The four-year-old kid would be playing the drums, or something like that. They’re all incredible musicians; they blow me away. It’s amazing, like, but it’s good. I don’t know what you’d expect as an answer for that question, really. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a privilege, and a blessing.”
The trio argue like all brothers do, but no disagreement is left to simmer. “It’s the same,” the composer observes. “They’re pretty good; if there’s something, it gets sorted out within a few minutes.”
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons became a more serious affair following Lemmy’s passing. “It is a bit more serious, now,” Phil confirms. “As you said, it wasn’t not serious then, but it was trying to fit things in. Todd and Dane are in Straight Lines, Tyla is in The People The Poet. They’ve all had gigs coming up, and different things going on. We’ve got a little bit more time now though, because Motörhead were either recording or on the road for many days of the year. So, we were restricted then. There’s not so much restriction now.”
A fresh proposition, music fans are naturally curious as to the stylings of the assortment. “I don’t know,” the axe-slinger muses. “It’s up to the fans to do it. It’s just good music, I think. I really don’t like pigeon-holing, and putting music into categories. It’s definitely rock music. I wouldn’t call it heavy metal. I never liked that term, particularly, but it’s good and hard, driving music I think. This EP has one softer track on it, and we’ll see what comes up in the future. It’s just music; you like it, or you don’t like it. I’m too close to it to respond, really. I just think that a good song is a good song, whatever it sounds like. I don’t like categorising stuff.”
An array of artists and bands musically influence Phil. “There’s millions of them, isn’t there?,” he replies. “There’s loads. There’s too many to say, really. I couldn’t think off the top of my head. There’s just amazing musicians around; if you go to Brazil, by the traffic lights you can see a guy playing a guitar on a one-legged bike while bloody tossing fireworks in the air and catching them. That’s real talent (laughs). Yeah, there’s a lot about. I just try to listen to different things, but mostly older stuff. There’s plenty of stuff out there – you’ve just got to find it.”
‘Older stuff’ doesn’t encompass 60s offerings, however. “Not 60s, no,” Phil dismisses. “The 60s is no good for me. I start from the 70s. There’s good and bad in every year, but I was a bit young for the 60s. I listened to the 60s which was before my time, and I wasn’t that keen on it.”
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons is a lighter premise in comparison to Motörhead. “Most things are gonna be lighter than Motörhead,” the musician laughs. “We’re not trying to be Motörhead. There’s never gonna be another Motörhead. I’m not trying to be Motörhead, and this band is certainly not Motörhead. It’s different. There’s a different dynamic. There’s different people in there, but it’s gonna have similarities now and again, so there you go.”
Nowadays, Phil doesn’t have to argue his musical opinions so vehemently. “I could do whatever I wanted in Motörhead, but I’d have to fight for it sometimes big time,” he remembers. “I wrote nearly all of the material for Motörhead since I joined with Lem and Mik (Mikkey Dee, drums), but most of the music stuff was mine. Lem did all of the lyrics. He came up with his own songs and his own riffs but the bulk of it was mine, so there’s not much difference, really. I’ve got a bit more clout in doing this. I don’t have to fight for it.
“In Motörhead, most of the time I got my way in the end, but it might have taken three days of fighting for it (laughs). Now I can fight for it though, and it will sort itself out in 20 minutes or whatever. With music, if you’re passionate about music… We all are. We’re not doing it just to pretend to be rock stars, or for the money, or anything. We want to write good songs, and if one of my kids thinks they have a better idea than me or a riff that I’ve got is really shit, they’re gonna say so. Good music is written with passion. When you don’t have the passion and listen to everyone else, that’s when it turns to shit, which happens to so many people these days.”
Writing is a collaborative affair for Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons. “We don’t jam much,” the mainman divulges. “We have ideas – we all have some ideas. I record stuff on my phone, and we have our own really good recording studio. Yeah, we just put down a song and it’s just a five-way thing. At the moment, Neil’s doing all of the lyrics and all of the melodies. He’s doing an amazing job of singing. We’ll try to work on a song at first, and then Neil will listen to it and see what he thinks. Neil’s fantastic with it, though.”
Neil’s lyrical meanderings can be found in the likes of ‘Big Mouth’, featured on the band’s November 2016 self-titled EP. “I don’t write the lyrics, so I don’t know what Neil was thinking,” Phil admits. “That’s a question that I’ve been asked a few times. I don’t know what Neil was thinking of with ‘Big Mouth’. You’ll have to ask Neil when you see him. I wouldn’t like to say the wrong thing (laughs). I really haven’t got a clue, but it’s a great song. It’s got a good punk feel, but it’s not my department, so I can’t help you on that one. Todd came up with the main riff on that, the opening riff. Todd came up with the chorus riff, and then I came up with the verse riff. I can’t remember who came up with the other little bit, but we were all there when we were doing it, like. Everything is written by the five of us; every song is written by the five members.”
A full-length studio album from Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons is in the works. “Yeah, we will make one,” the performer discloses. “I’ve been working on my solo record for the last two years, so I sort of put that on hold a bit until we got this EP out. We’re just installing a new desk in our studio (Stomp Box Recording Studios in Pontyclun, Wales), so from January onwards, I’m gonna be working on my solo record. I’m gonna be doing more stuff on it, and also we’ll be working on The Bastard Sons’ full album as well. It’s gonna take a while yet. We just wanted to put out an EP, a really good representation of us. I’m really pleased with it, the EP. It’s been finished for like two, three months or something, and I’m not fed up with it yet. It’s great; it has great songs, great production, and great playing. The mix is fantastic, so I hope everyone enjoys it.”
Nothing has been completed with regards to Phil’s solo studio opus. “There’s nothing finished yet, no,” he shares. “I’ve got about eight songs down, but they’re all rough, and I’ve got another 20 riffs on my phone. I’ve got some big names waiting to appear and work on stuff as we speak – some singers, especially – but I don’t want to say anything like who they are yet. I don’t want to jinx it, so you’ll have to wait.”
The appearance of Slipknot percussionist Chris Fehn can be confirmed, however, who recorded his parts on February 7th, 2016 – one day prior to Slipknot performing at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales. “Chris Fehn is on there, yeah,” the axeman tells. “He did some great drumming on one track, so he’s down, yeah. He’s locked in. That’s in the can, and there’s other stuff almost in the can. I’m really lucky. A lot of my heroes and really fantastic musicians I’ve looked up to over the years are all excited to be a part of my solo record. The Bastard Sons will be playing on it, as well. They’ll all be doing bits and pieces, but it’s still an open book at the moment, a lot of it. I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but it’s like making your own food, innit? Your own meal, your own recipe like. We’ll see what happens.”
In a separate interview, Phil expressed hopes for the likes of Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford and Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane to record guest appearances. “We’re working on it now, yeah,” he updates. “It’s just the time factor and getting the right songs to each person, but yeah, that’s still on the cards.”
In addition, the songwriter hopes to issue his debut solo jaunt during 2017. “I’d like to think it’d come out by this time next year, but if it’s not ready then it’s gonna have to be the following year,” he cautions. “I’m not gonna go for any deadlines. When I’m happy with it, then it’ll be done. It all depends on everyone’s availability, but I’m gonna try to step it up a gear next year. I don’t know. 15-20% of it is kind of done like. The ground work’s done for it, so we’ll see.”
And as well, a book offering is in the pipeline. “I can’t do that now until… It’s not gonna be about my life,” Phil explains. “It’s just gonna be about the funny and outrageous shit that I’ve been a part of and witnessed. That’s gonna have to wait until I get this new album out, until I get the two records out. So 2018, I’ll probably spend most of that year doing that. I’ve prepared, though; I’ve got everything in place for a book and I’ll probably prepare it even more next year, and get it into place. Then I’ll take a month or two off with whomever I’m doing the book with, because there’s someone who’s gonna help me write the book and sort that out.
“So, that won’t be out until 2018, 2019, but it has to come out because it’s so funny. It will be, the stories. It’s just gonna be 30 or 40 amazing things that will put a smile on people’s faces. It won’t be about what school I went to, or that boring crap. It won’t be an autobiography, no.”
The axe-slinger rules out the possibility of an autobiography. “Boring,” he reckons. “Too boring, mun. With most autobiographies, in the first three chapters you wanna kill yourself because it’s so boring. No, I don’t wanna do that. I just want the funny shit to come out.”
November 2002 Lemmy autobiography White Line Fever was a great read, but felt short in areas. “He had to cram a lot in,” Phil submits. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there when he was writing the book – he wrote it with Janiss Garza. You couldn’t put everything into the one book, but it was a good read I think, yeah. It was a decent read. It’s well worth reading, but there was so much more they could have put in there. For what it was though, it was fantastic like.”
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons was released on November 18th, 2016 via Motörhead Music.
Interview published in November 2016.
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