Phil Campbell: the family that plays together stays together

Phil Campbell wearing a nice hat
(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

It takes more than a global meltdown to slow Phil Campbell’s momentum. After all, this is the same guitarist who survived the potentially career-ending demise of Motorhead in 2015, coming back just months later as Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, flanked by his three offspring and with Neil Starr on vocals. 

And last spring, with most rockers making a dash for their LA survival bunkers, Campbell barely missed a beat, locking down at his home near Pontypridd in Wales to record his band’s second album, We’re The Bastards, as the world burned around him.


How pleased are you with We’re The Bastards? 

I’m over the moon. We hoped we could repeat that first album [2018’s The Age Of Absurdity], but it’s beyond all my expectations. Play it loud and it’ll knock your head off, this one. Todd’s production is slamming, really in-your-face. It’s been one hell of a year, so perhaps we can bring a bit of cheer. I hope this album will make people forget that all hell is breaking loose. 

Is there still Motorhead DNA in the new material? 

Oh yeah. I can’t just change my soul overnight. It gives a nod to Motorhead, but it’s a different dynamic. It’s a hard rock, classic rock album, with bits of metal in there. We’ve established our sound with this one. Because of all the generations in the band, we’re taking in all those different influences. 

Y’know, Neil, our singer, wouldn’t be able to tell you the name of a Sabbath album or the singer with Deep Purple. He wouldn’t have a clue. He comes from an entirely different musical viewpoint. They keep me on my toes. 

It’s a good album title

One of the boys came up with that. I wasn’t too sure myself initially. I’d come up with some flowery hippie ideas, and the boys told me: “They’re too poncy, dad.” But I think it’s great now. 

Don’t your sons mind being called bastards? 

Well I don’t actually call them bastards, I call them by their first names. Neil came up with that band name. My wife wasn’t pleased at all. She’s still not over the moon about it. But we played Wacken early on, we dropped the banner, and from that day we became Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons. 

It seems to have taken off. They’re even saying the name on certain radio stations now – after the watershed. We know we’re not going to sell as many records as Take That. We know our limitations.

How did you record an album during a pandemic? 

Well we’d thrashed out song ideas in January and February, then the shit hit the fan in March, didn’t it? Luckily we’ve got our own studio and it worked out great. We all went down separately. At most it was three of us there, socially distanced, and the studio would be scrubbed after every session. 

How strict are you with your sons on the road?

Well, as long as they’re not drunk before the show. Some of them may have a bottle of beer half an hour before they go on, which is totally acceptable. Y’know, with Motorhead, me and Lem, there was more than a bottle drunk. Different band, different days. 

How difficult has lockdown been for you personally? 

Not too bad, because I’m pretty lazy anyway. Time was always pretty precious with Motorhead, for thirty-odd years. Now I just walk the dog, read, catch up with TV. If I’d known it’d go on for a year or whatever I would have started learning the banjo or something. 

But it’s been a horrific year for so many people. Normally, if there’s something wrong in your life, as a parent or husband, you’ve got some degree of control to fix the situation. But with this you’re helpless. 

How about those who’ve argued against masks? 

I think they’re being totally ridiculous. With one cough, they say, five thousand droplets come out. I saw a video once of a guy talking in a pub, and they showed what was coming out every time he opened his mouth. So it’s just ridiculous. It’s discourteous. It’s dangerous. Why not put a mask on?

There’s been a few Motörhead reissues this year. Do you keep up with everything? 

I know what’s coming out and I put my input in. I’ve got the new Ace Of Spades box set, and it’s huge. Maybe it’ll turn a whole new generation on to Motorhead. Imagine hearing Ace Of Spades for the first time, y’know? 

What would Lemmy have made of the pandemic? 

I don’t think he would have wanted to tour. He might have just said fuck it, gone out and played. But when he saw people dropping, I think he’d have realised the danger. He was quite lazy as well. Lem liked to just stay home when he could. Go to the Rainbow [bar in LA, his regular haunt] and that’d be it. That’d be his day. 

He probably wouldn’t have been impressed by our politicians’ response to it. 

No, not at all. I don’t think anyone is. It’s just farcical. An absolute joke. It’s one bumble or cock-up after the other. They’re just lining their own pockets, keeping themselves in jobs – the usual stuff. 

Lemmy died around Christmas. Do you think of him more at that time of year? 

Nah, I think of him most days. Just being on the stage or the tour bus, coming down to use the toilet at five in the morning and Lem’s still awake. He’s always around, at the back of my head somewhere. 

How do you feel about turning sixty next May? 

It’s just a number. I don’t feel sixty. Apart from every now and again, when you have trouble getting up from the sofa.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.