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First Time I Interviewed A Rock Star Was A Disaster

by Mark Campbell about a month ago in metal

The heavy metal frontman didn’t like my questions

Heavy metal legend Lemmy, frontman of Motörhead. He died in Los Angeles in 2015.

Motörhead, one of the greatest heavy metal rock bands in the world, were playing the northern English seaside town of Southport. It was September 26, 1987.

I had been a reporter on the town’s newspaper for only two months. After the gig, I would interview larger than life frontman Lemmy. It would not go well.

Southport was my nearest town. I’d grown up in a rural village seven miles away and had studied for a year to be a journalist. Now I was two months into my first job, trying to find my feet, blagging my way into launching and writing a music column and reviewing my first gig.

Motörhead. I didn’t know too much about them, but two colleagues of mine who were also new to the job were tagging along. We’d all agreed to chip in whatever we could to the new music column, Soundcheck, and hadn’t really agreed who was taking the lead that night.

It turned out, it wouldn’t be me.

Before the internet

So why didn’t I know too much about such a famous band? Because we didn't have the internet back then. I’d just started to get into rock music but Motörhead hadn’t yet been on my radar, despite the years of success they’d enjoyed.

In those days, you did your research by reading the news, the music press in this case, and by phoning anyone who might know more, to pick their brains.

To be honest, I hadn’t prepared well for this one.

The three of us got our customary free entry into the gig — a huge perk of the job which allowed me to see countless amazing concerts over the years I never would have been able to afford tickets for.

We missed the support band, a lot of journalists often do. I made a habit fairly soon in my career not to do this, because there was often impressive, emerging talent to witness. That night though, we were in the bar.

We drank and we drank some more. We were young, were were earning money for the first time. It wasn’t much, but what else were we going to spend it on? None of us had girlfriends at the time.

Then there was a buzz, the lights were dimming, excitement and anticipation palpably rising. The main act was appearing. It was time to witness the legends who were Motörhead.

Cheers and chairs

If you’re familiar with the band, and Lemmy’s singing (shouting)-up-to-the-microphone style, you’ll know that one word could always be associated with Motörhead — noise.

It was incredible. I’d never heard a band so loud. I’m sure the speakers were cranked up to 11 but even so…

Ah, but somehow I’d worked my way to the front of the hall. I was standing on chairs. Why they’d been put there for metal fans, I’ll never know. I was jumping on the chairs, with frenzy, rocking my heart out alongside the big, hairy metalheads. I must have stood out a mile.

I was having fun, I was really getting into this. I was a little bit drunk.

After five or six songs, I felt a tug on my arm. My mates, my reporter colleagues, were heading out of the hall in search of another bar.

Had they heard enough already? Who was I to argue? A bar sounded a good idea. We agreed to head back into the venue around encore time, we’d have enough material to write a review, especially if we managed to get a few words from the band afterwards.

Sorted.

So we drank and we drank. And we returned. The internet now tells me that the band finished that night with Killed By Death and Overkill. If those titles sound bad news, they were nothing compared to what was coming next.

By Lance Anderson on Unsplash

The gig finished, we staggered over to the venue manager and asked if we could interview the band. In those days, this was a common request and almost always granted.

Imagine these days if you went to a gig featuring a mainstream artist and asked afterwards if you could pop into their dressing room for a chat!

Security worries alone would prevent it, although quite a few have latched on to the idea that they can charge ten times the price of a ticket for a ‘meet and greet’ photo opportunity afterwards.

But this was 1987. Myself and my two colleagues were shown the way to a tiny room where Motörhead had just come off stage.

The interview

Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and Phil “Wizzö Campbell were downing tins of beer and towelling down sweat, with adrenaline racing from performing a high octane set.

I don’t remember all of what happened next, but I recall the most pertinent moments.

I recall Lemmy staring at us, having invited us into their room, wondering what the hell he’d let himself in for. None of us looked like heavy metal fans. He could probably smell that we’d spent most of the gig in a bar.

But on with the questions. One of us held the notebook, writing down Lemmy’s answers to our questions. No voice recording technology for us. We’d all chip in with questions until the interview reached a natural conclusion, or we were told to get out.

I held back as the other two asked their questions and were given answers. Then I interrupted the flow with my first offering. I cannot remember this or any question I asked, but I will always remember Lemmy’s reply.

“That’s a f***ing stupid question,” he snarled.

That took me aback, but I couldn’t lose face in front of such exaggerated machismo. I listened as my reporter mates asked more of the band. I went in for another try.

“That’s a f***ing stupid question,” Lemmy replied.

Did he just have it in for me?! What the hell had I done to upset him? Was I really asking stupid questions, or was he just being a d**k?

More questions from the others. Ha! One of my colleagues received the same reply. It WASN’T just me after all!

Buoyed by this, recognising Lemmy’s banter as being straight from the rock’n’roll hall of fame, I weighed in with three more, quick-fire questions.

“That’s a f***ing stupid question.” Three times.

I believe I kept quiet from that point on. The interview was wrapped up and we went in the direction of another bar.

By Bank Phrom on Unsplash

The next day in the office, I wasn't the one who wrote up the review. I didn’t really have anything to contribute. I was raging inside about how Lemmy had treated me, but was also privately concerned that maybe I HAD just asked f***ing stupid questions after all, and wasn’t cut out for this new job.

Perhaps my questions had been TOO GOOD, he just didn’t want to answer them for fear of unveiling secrets?

Or maybe I’d just drank too many beers (the most likely reason).

My ears pricked up at the sound of my name. The news editor was shouting me. “Mark, can you ring the manager of Southport Theatre please, we need this now for the front page.”

“What’s the story?” I asked.

“Apparently the first four rows of seats were trashed by heavy metal fans jumping on them last night…”

Footnote

Unperturbed by this experience, I went on to enjoy a 30-year career as a journalist, throughout that time interviewing countless famous musicians, none of whom were as rude to me as Lemmy was! Rock'n'Roll...

metal
Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell
Read next: Jay Z: From Worst to Best
Mark Campbell

Journalist and blogger for 30 years, on a mission to inform, educate and entertain, specialist subjects Environment, Sport, Home Business, Writing and Music.

See all posts by Mark Campbell

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