The Motorhead Motorboat: 'Hard Rock Hell with hot tubs & a hard on'

High On Fire’s Matt Pike is standing at the bar, smoking and telling anyone who’ll listen – in this case me and some dude from Vegas who won his ticket in a local radio competition, plus $1500 spending money (“It was all gone, man, before I even stepped on the boat…” he says ruefully) – that usually on cruises like this, on this very boat in fact, you can pay $45 a day for a “drink as much as you like” option.

That option is not available on Motorboat.

“Cos metalheads can drink, man,” he says. “Your average metalhead could drink 200 bucks a day, easy. And that’s how the cruise makes all its money - from the bar and there.” He gestures behind him to the relatively empty casino. When Classic Rock later bumps into Lemmy playing the slot machines (two at a time, his skinny legs akimbo, smoking as he does so) he is in good cheer: “I just won eight grand in 15 minutes!” he says. If Motorboat’s gonna make any money, at this rate, we better all get drinking.

OK, backup: on September 22, 1300 heavy metal fans set sail from Miami on the Motorhead Motorboat, a chartered cruise headlined by Motorhead, and also featuring Anthrax, Down, Zakk Wylde, Testament and many more, bound for Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Megadeth were also supposed to appear but, just 12 days before the ship was due to depart, Dave Mustaine cancelled due to illness. Their spot is filled by Metal Allegiance – including Megadeth’s own David Ellefson and Chris Broderick - alongside Phil Anselmo, Joey Belladonna, Chuck Billy, Jon Donais and Scott Ian, Mark Zavon, Frank Bello, Rex Brown, David Ellefson and Charlie Benante and Mike Portnoy on drums.

We are there to interview Lemmy. He is on good form.

The boat, meanwhile, is a metalhead’s dream. Think Hard Rock Hell-with-hot-tubs. On the high seas. With a hard on. Except unlike HRH, there’s no escape. For anyone. The bands are here all day and night, so there is a whole load of extra curricular fun to be had, from bumping into Lemmy waiting for the lift, to watching Scott Ian do a spoken word set (this one mostly themed around the first time he met Lemmy and tried to match him drink for drink. I won’t spoil the ending but it involves someone soiling themselves and it wasn’t Lemmy), to Black Sabbath Yoga, Beer and Bingo sessions run by the bands, a Belly Flop contest judged by members of Megadeth and an impromptu 2am gig to celebrate Johnny Tempesta’s 50th with stars like Mike Portnoy, Joey Belladonna and Charlie Benante causing a nuisance in the main atrium ploughing their way through Def Leppard, Journey and Rush classics, like some demented covers band at a Satanic wedding fair_. _

If you want to read the full story - plus full interview with Motorhead – you’ll have to get the next issue of Classic Rock. Until then, here’s what we learned:

1. Don’t fuck with bikini-clad metal chicks.

What do you mean “WHAT bikini-clad metalchicks?” Check that video again. You probably missed this:

2. Lemmy’s Looking Better

I mean, he still looks like a 68 year old man who’s just recovered from a serious illness – he’s skinny, always has been, but has lost some of that barrel-chestedness he used to have – but what can you seriously expect? He’s not there because someone’s forcing him, he’s there because this is what he does. And he’s still hungry – rightly proud of Aftershock and keen to tour it. (They play just Lost Woman Blues from the album, but only because they had no time to rehearse.) How would he sum up the last year in Motorhead? “Pretty good actually,” he says. “Apart from the illness I had, but that’s not Motorhead, that’s me. Motorhead’s been going from strength to strength…”

3. Motorhead has a truly international audience.

This cruise has the most international passengers of any cruise that Carnival has done. There’s Brazilians, Japanese, Germans, Mexicans, Scousers. It’s properly exotic. It may say ‘Motorhead, England’ on their t-shirts but t’Head are no Little Englanders. “We’re a cultural phenomenon!” says Lemmy and he’s only half joking.

4. Working without email or phone is now impossible.

No mobile reception means it’s that rare thing – an experience you can’t brag about on Facebook. And even laptops get jet lag. This is a screen grab from mine, with work from yesterday, today and… Tomorrow?

5. Anthrax are on fire right now.

Last album Worship Music was amazing and, on both nights that they play, they bring the house down. Scott Ian dedicates their cover of TNT to Malcolm Young as the news breaks that he’s definitely retired for good and Joey Belladonna suddenly sounds like Bon Scott, just as he often invokes Dio. Joey is our new hero.

6. Scott Ian, meanwhile, shoots lazers from his eyes. Look!

7. Photography is harder than it looks.

Get a decent camera, switch it to auto focus, press a button – it can’t be hard, can it? Hmm.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s the worst picture of Mikkey Dee I’ve ever seen.” But it’s not. It’s pin sharp, man. That’s what he actually LOOKS like mid-solo. C’mon: I was on A BOAT. Anyway THIS, on the other hand, is ART.

8. Down are much more fun than they have any right to be

Guitarists Pepper Keenan and Bobby Landgraf throw themselves around the stage with glee, while Phil Anselmo is becoming a funny and amiable elder statesman, far removed from the thuggish young firebrand who oozed threat and breathed danger. We like cuddly Phil.

All that said, THAT stare can still stop you in your tracks.

9. Metalheads + sun + hot tubs + buckets of beers and tequila = cod lesbian tit-licking selfies and high-fiving husbands.

I tried not to look but the alternative was watching Kill Devil Hill. You see my predicament:

10. Discovery Of The Week: Wilson 

Five dudes from Detroit whose debut album is called Full Blast Fuckery and features songs like I Can Beat Your Dad, Viking Pussies Fuck Off and College Gangbang. So sensitive acoustic ballads, yeah? Er, no: a fucking full-on onslaught from start to finish, but with choruses and dynamics and guitar solos. Singer Chad once described their music as “gnarly juggernaut of the keg party, rock’n’roll”. Whatever that means.

I see them twice over the week – once on the first night where they play on the deck, the second in the Starlight bar playing to about 20 people, the band dressed in drag, determined still to put on a show (see gallery below). A version of AC/DC’s Back In Black crushes any resistance. In fact they could be one of those bands that cross generations. Take your teenage daughter to see them, sing along with College Gangbang toget- Ah, hang on. Scratch that. Go yourself. They’re too good to leave to the kids anyway.

11. Danko Jones should be huge

In person, Danko Jones is a funny, reasonable, polite man. On stage he’s Muhammad Ali-meets-Denis Leary. With a Gibson SG. Barrelling through a set in the Starlight lounge, Danko Jones (the band) are – like their hosts – a punk metal power-trio in love with rock’n’nroll, all fighting talk, fuck-off choruses and furious pace. You can see why Motorhead love them. They should be bigger in the UK. Classic Rock should write about them more. (I never got one picture of them in focus…)

12. The guide books (and Google Image search) tell you that Cozumel looks like this:

I hired a scooter and drove round the island. It actually looked like THIS:

Which is fine. In my mind, that’s more metal anyway. And it doesn’t really matter. Because guess what the Motorboaters did after three days of solid drinking and listening to heavy metal? They fell off the boat into the first available bar and listened to more heavy metal. That’s hardcore.

Read our profile on Lemmy from the Motorboat.

Lead picture: Enzo Mazzeo. (Other, more rubbish, pics by Scott Rowley)

Scott Rowley
Content Director, Music

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, responsible for the editorial strategy of online and print brands like Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar etc. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock magazine for 10 years and Editor of Total Guitar for 4 years and has contributed to The Big Issue, Esquire and more. Scott wrote chapters for two of legendary sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson's books (For The Love Of Vinyl, 2009, and Gathering Storm, 2015). He regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie