Phil Campbell of Motörhead

by Greg Prato

While the passing of iconic Motörhead growler/bassist Lemmy Kilmister hit the rock and metal world like a sledgehammer, it's hard to fathom how it must have affected his long-time band mates, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee. But both have found some solace through continuing on with music - Mikkey has joined the Scorpions, while Phil has formed a band with three of his sons - guitarist Todd, bassist Tyla, and drummer Dane - called Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons (singer Neil Starr is the only non-Campbell). And judging by the sound and direction of the group's debut recording, a five-song EP, Phil is continuing on in a similar direction of his former band.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): How does the songwriting in Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons compare to Motörhead?

Phil Campbell: It's all a collaboration. We have our own recording studio and rehearsal facility. My son, Todd, his actual name is Todd Rundgren Campbell - he hates me for it! I named him after Todd Rundgren, my hero, and he's now in his early 30s.

So yeah, we have our own recording studio a few miles down the road from our houses - we all live kind of locally. We just go down and blast it out. Todd actually had a lot to do with the writing on this. It's the same thing - it's just a band collaboration. Like with Motörhead, as well - we just used to write for the three of us. We didn't write for record companies, we didn't write for fans, we wanted it to be pure.

For instance, years ago, I used to do a guitar solo in Motörhead, and I'd say, "What did you think of that, guys?" And somebody would say, "Oh, that was really cool, Phil." And somebody would say, "Oh, that wasn't very good, Phil. You can do better than that." And then somebody else would say, "Yeah, that'll do." And in the end, you end up going, "Is it good? Is it crap?" Then I learned like, 25 years ago, to just go with your heart.

It's a good collaboration with the band now. Neil Starr has been amazing on the vocals and the melodies. We've been getting some amazing reviews for this EP. But the whole five of us, we all contributed. If somebody doesn't like something, they put their hand up and then we try to work it out. Which is good - it's fun.

Songfacts: Was Lemmy underrated as a lyricist?

Phil: Definitely, yeah. He never got the credit he deserved. I know you think he is, that's why you asked the question!

He knew he was, but he didn't care as long as some people understood what he was singing about. Lemmy just cared about his band, his music, and the fans. He wanted to look after the fans. We all wrote the music - it was the band's music - and Lem wrote all the lyrics. I was responsible for most of the riffs, basically. But it's all a melting pot, really. Everything got split equally.

I think he would have liked to have been accepted more for his lyrics, but he didn't lose any sleep over it. As long as Lem got his point across.

Songfacts: Did you ever collaborate with Lemmy on some of the lyrics?

Phil: I'd suggest stuff, and he'd give me a stare, and just go back down to his pen and paper. I knew I couldn't come up with anything close, anyway. It was best to just leave it to Lem.

He had a vision for the song lyric-wise. Most of the time, we did the music before, and Lem would work on some lyrics. Occasionally, he would have the total idea for a song - like "Orgasmatron." He would have the lyrics first. But when he was on a roll, it's no good messing with him - just let it flow as it was meant to be. And that's the spirit of rock n' roll, I think. You can't pussyfoot around rock n' roll. Do it how you think it should be. Some people are going to like it and some people won't like it, but as long as you get off on it, hopefully other people will see it the same.

Songfacts: What was the inspiration behind the song "Orgasmatron"?

Phil: I remember Lem had the lyrics done - he'd had them done for a few months in Los Angeles. I don't know who came up with the riff for that, actually. It was probably Lem came up with that one, and then I probably added some stuff. But Lem had a general idea for that one. That was his beast, or baby. The three verses from hell... after last night's election results, it's quite apt!

Songfacts: I've always wondered if the song title was inspired by the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper, as there was a device called an "orgasmatron" in it.

Phil: No. The three verses, one verse was about organized religion, one verse about politicians, and one verse about war. That's exactly what it's about. It had nothing to do with Woody Allen. Even though we did love Woody Allen - he made us laugh. But the song, that is exactly what it was about - the three verses.

Songfacts: What do you recall about "R.A.M.O.N.E.S."?

Phil: I came up with it. I did like a ZZ Top thing [sings slow riff], and then Lem says, "Let's double speed it up." So we did that. And then Lem said, "That sounds pretty good," and then he wrote the lyrics for "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." But originally, it was a ZZ Top groove, which I came up with.

Songfacts: "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me"?

Phil: Lyric-wise, it's about child molestation. It's not a good thing, but we just wrote a ballad about that, basically.

I actually feel asleep in the solo! Howard Benson [producer] will back me up on this. We'd been working on Bastards for months, and I was borrowing cool guitars from C.C. DeVille, and there was so much pressure on us. We were really intense on the writing and the production and the songwriting and the playing.

I was so tired that when I did the solo, I feel asleep, apparently, right before the end, and I played the last note, and Howard tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "OK Phil. The solo's great" - while I was asleep with my head on the table. My guitar is in the Nashville tuning in the second and third verses - odd little bits. But I'm really proud of that song. A fantastic song.

Songfacts: You mentioned admiring Todd Rundgren earlier. Who are some of your other favorite songwriters?

Phil: Neil Sedaka. I went to see Neil Sedaka in Beverly Hills two years ago, and it was fantastic. Carole King, the Eagles. Those are just a couple to blast off.

November 22, 2016.
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