Phil Campbell - Autumn 2018

It’s feeling very Autumnal in Blackpool today. Though 2018 presented the UK with the hottest and longest summer since 1976, sadly it’s becoming a distant memory. The Sunshine Coast of the North West of England is today subjected to high winds and torrential rain. But it’s easy to ignore this, to put adverse weather neatly to one side when we are simply looking forward to one of the most anticipated tours of 2018: Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Phil was the guitarist in Motörhead for 32 years and with that band he created some of the most powerful and iconic music the world of rock has ever had the good fortune to embrace. He’s now in a band with his sons Todd (Guitar, harmonica), Tyla (bass) and Dane (drums) and honorary family member Neil Starr (vocals). Together – as a family – they have created one on the most important albums of recent times: The Age Of Absurdity. It’s a record that provides a hugely infectious classic rock experience in the most upbeat and uplifting way. Of course Phil’s influence results in music that can’t at the very least tip its hat to the spirit of Motörhead but at the same time it creates something unique, fresh and a sound which is also not Motorhead. This is about family and 5 incredibly gifted musicians unleashing a brand of rock which is simply them. It’s their sound and their own path they are forging. The Phil Campbell we meet tonight is a man who is still is on a high and reeling from his band’s show at yesterday’s Hard Rock Hell festival and his awarding of Axeman Of The Year. Despite such a successful career he continues to be excited about what the future offers: the 25 date tour upon which he has just embarked and also the events which have now been added to the band’s calendar for 2019 : dates with Slash and joining Megadeth on their Mega cruise. In an effort to brave the Blackpool elements, Phil joins us tonight at the Waterloo Music Bar, perhaps the best new Live music venue in the UK, in attire perhaps less befitting his legendary persona. A woolly hat and a ‘Del Boy’-style coat aren’t necessarily the ‘go to’ clothing choices expected of artists who have inspired a generation, but Phil is completely forgiven for doing so. As the wind howls outside, we make ourselves comfortable and ready ourselves to talk about the latest album, the winter tour and new music…. 

You’ve just come from Hard Rock Hell, the first of 25 shows that you’ll be performing over November and early December. How was the festival, especially in terms of kicking off your run of live shows?  

It was good! It was one of the best shows we’ve done! It was a packed, packed room, the crowd were really loud, we played good and we the could watch Michael Schenker afterwards.

Are events like this great opportunity to catch up with old friends? I’ve seen the photos you’ve shared with people like Saxon’s Biff Byford.

Yes, that’s probably where you seen everyone – unless you’re touring with them. A lot of us speak on the phone every couple of weeks or whatever, or insult each other by text! It was great because we all picked up awards. Ben Ward was there, our agent, from Orange Goblin: they got the Stoner Band award, Nigel (Glockler) Saxon’s drummer got an award which is good, Saxon got an award and I won an award and I picked up an award for Dave Brock (Hawkwind) as well. I won the Axeman of the Year Award. (Saxon received The Metal Maniacs Award, Nigel Glockler won Tub Thumper 2018 and Biff Byford received The Legend Award – Ed)

How does it feel to be recognised in this way, especially when there were so many incredible guitarists nominated?

Well, Michael Schenker was in the category as well (laughs!). It’s great. It’s lovely. I don’t seriously think I’m the best axeman in the world but it’s a good compliment and I try to do my style of playing as best as I can most nights. So it’s always good and better than a kick in the teeth isn’t it!

So we are here in Blackpool and today is the start of your headline tour where you have 24 shows with only a few days off. 

Don’t remind me!

How do you prepare for and survive the tour as intense as this?

You panic and you barely survive it (laughs!). What I do is I just take each day at a time and enjoy it. There’s loads of hanging around and stuff, and I’m getting on a bit now so I sleep half the day because I need to. It’s good to see the boys getting on big stages because they’ve been fantastic musicians since they were young. They’ve played stadiums and we’ve got a tour with Slash next year.

You are of course in a band with your sons. As a member of Motörhead, and the heavy touring schedule that you had, was hard to be away from family?

It was. Oh yes, of course. I missed one birth, I missed a graduation, I missed lots of stuff. Besides doing at least 150 gigs a year, we’d put an album out every 2 years and then we’d have 6 or 8 weeks trying to write the album and then another 4 or 5 weeks recording it. So it was a constant thing. I remember that I got on the train once on 24th December and I overslept and woke up in Swansea instead of Cardiff, and it cost me 50 quid in a cab (laughs!).

Yes, that hurts doesn’t it!

It hurt at the time. It was many years ago and would be about 100 quid now!

How is being in a band with family different to being a band with friends and non-family musicians? Can you fall out and to make up more easily? Is it easier to express yourself? Easier to say exactly what you think? Because I guess families can do that.

It’s just a different dynamic obviously because it’s different people in the band but everyone contributes to the writing and stuff, and when you’re in the band and on the road and everything, you’ve got to compromise. Sometimes someone will do something, you’ve got to think ‘that’s just him’, they’re not steam or whatever. Nobody’s perfect and that’s the thing: you’ve got to say it’s okay. I mean I used to go nuts sometimes at Lem. Lemmy and Mick would just say ‘that’s okay, that’s just Phil being Phil’. Lemmy would do his things and Mick (Dee, drummer) would do his and you’ve got to put up with it. But we (the family) get on really well and that’s good.

I know they’re all grown up now but as their dad do you still have the last word?

It depends on the situation!

Let’s move on to the music. Your album The Age of Absurdity is absolutely fantastic. The band have created a stunning, first-class album. How did you come up with the title?

Todd came up with it and then Neil started writing some serious lyrics. We put the music together and I think Neil came up with the lyrics later. A few of the songs like Dark Days and High Road, they are kind of a bit of a say on the state of the world we live in. So it’s quite dark some of it, but it’s still a good rock ‘n’ roll album. We won Debut Album Of The Year debut for it!

And quite rightly so! 

I was especially pleased for the boys.

The album does of course have many classic rock elements yet it’s also a very modern sounding record. You mentioned the track Dark Days which even has a Southern rock feel to it. What was your vision for this record? 

We just write to try and make a record where each song is really good. There’s no big plan like ‘Oh, it’s got to have this theme’.  Sometimes people want to do that but for this record we had a little theme like a sinister element to it but you just try to write each so that people are getting their money’s worth who buy it: 10 or 11 songs on it which are all good instead of 3 (good) songs. So many bands have done that where they’ve had 1 hit on 1 album, 1 really good song, 2 quite good songs and 8 pieces of crap – filler songs. That’s not the right way to go about it. It’s got my influences and the good thing about this is that it’s got 2 generations of influences. So that if we mix my boys influences and mine when we’re writing you get the best of both worlds, rather just than mine.

As we approach the end of 2018, what does the New Year hold for the band and might this include new music?

I’m trying to finish off my solo record now which hopefully I can put out in the summer, and then we are going to do a bunch of summer festivals and probably do another UK or European tour at some point and we are playing on the Megadeth Cruise in Los Angeles. We also have the UK tour with Slash who I have been friends with for 25 years, so it will be pretty busy!

As our conversation draws to a close, it’s with the greatest respect that we reflect on how Phil continues move forward with absolute passion for his craft. Extensive tours and new albums continue to beckon. It’s no wonder that he has to steel sleep where ever he can. Check out the video to Dark Days below.