2013 was a rough year for Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. After being diagnosed with a troubling irregular heartbeat he was equipped with a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) which delivers a jolt of electricity to his heart if it detects cardiac arrhythmia. Following the procedure, Kilmister suffered some setbacks. He was diagnosed with diabetes, and he suffered a hematoma that concerned his doctors. So he canceled most of his European dates, stopped smoking, and began working out on an exercise bike.
While he’s still on the mend, the 68-year old rock 'n' roll veteran is well enough to gamble, rehearse, and sporadically tour, and he just returned from a triumphant performance on the first annual Motörboat, which also featured Anthrax, Testament, Down, High on Fire -- and an all-star jam by Metal Allegiance, a group composed of members of Pantera, Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament and the Winery Dogs.
In a phone interview with Kilmister that Yahoo Music conducted just days before Motörboat, Motörhead’s frontman said he was looking forward to hitting the ship’s casino when he wasn’t relaxing in his cabin, and he stressed that he wasn’t at all concerned about not being able to deliver a top-notch Motörhead gig even if he was a little tired before the gig.
“I’m always fine onstage,” he said. “The adrenaline takes over and all your aches and pains go away. I remember [the singer of the Tubes] Fee Waybill broke his leg at Hammersmith. He went on and finished the gig, and then he collapsed and had to roll back to the dressing room. When I’m performing I feel like I can do almost anything.”
Kilmister has never performed with a broken leg, but he once fell through the stage and damaged his hip; by the third song he was unable to move from the waist down. “I’ve smashed my hand on the bass and had it covered in blood a few times,” he said. “But that’s not bad for the length of time I’ve been doing this. The closest call we had was when we played the American Theater in Cleveland and a whole lighting box fell onto the stage and just missed our guitarist by inches. That could have been a disaster.”
Motörboat set sail from Miami on September 22 and stoppped over at ports in Key West, Florida and Cozumel near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula before returning home September 26. One of the original bands booked for the event, Megadeth, canceled 12 days before the cruise because frontman Dave Mustaine was ordered not to perform for eight weeks due to “complications arising from a previous cervical spine surgery,” read a statement.
Megadeth were replaced by Metal Allegiance, which included Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson and guitarist Chris Broderick. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, who played with the supergroup, had a blast during the set, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the cruise.
“That’s not work, that’s just straight up having fun, getting to f--k around with your friends and play cover songs really well with some of the actual dudes who made them,” Ian said. “Playing Pantera with [Anthrax drummer] Charlie [Benante], [Pantera bassist] Rex [Brown] and [vocalist] Phil [Anselmo] was f--king awesome. Those are songs that are meant to be played live and should never be sitting on a shelf so just the fact that we get to keep that s--t alive in some little way, shape, or form for people every once in a while is so much fun to do just for me as a Pantera fan.”
In addition to playing Pantera songs, Metal Allegiance performed numbers by KISS, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Thin Lizzy. “Doing ‘Jailbreak’ with [Anthrax vocalist] Joey [Belladonna] and [bassist] Frankie [Bello] and [Motörhead’s] Mikkey Dee on drums and Phil Campbell on guitar was amazing.”
Motörhead’s first show following a six-month break was July 4, 2014 at a festival in London’s Hyde Park that Black Sabbath headlined and which also featured Soundgarden, Faith No More, Soulfly, and Wolfmother. “There were 96,000 people there, and the show was a bit difficult for us,” adnitted Kilmister. “We’d been off the road a long time and we were a bit stiff onstage. But we got through it alright.”
Historically, one of the toughest, most hard-living, heavy-drinking musicians in the metal, Kilmister has curbed many of his indulgences since he fell ill. He gave up smoking and switched from his trademark Jack Daniels whiskey to vodka. “I found out vodka is a lot better for you than Jack Daniels,” he said. “I didn’t know that before. It’s made out of grain, where Jack is made out of corn, which is harder on your system. Grain is the purest you can get. But I don’t drink like I used to. I drink more wine than vodka now.”
An unexpected hindrance to Kilmister’s recovery came last year when he started becoming bloated and his blood sugar levels were unsettling. After a series of tests, doctors determined that Kilmister – the former icon of excess — had been binging on… blueberries.
“I would get these cravings, y’know?” he said. “They found out there’s something in the blueberries that isn’t good for me so I stopped and I got better. It’s crazy. You can’t drink anything but water and you can’t eat anything but fibrous bread. Getting old is a lot of fun, y’know?”
An expanded edition of Motörhead’s twenty-first studio album Aftershock came out August 26. The release includes and extra live CD recorded by producer Cameron Webb during an show at The Warfield in San Francisco on April 18, 2014.
At present, Kilmister is working on finishing his long-awaited solo album, which will include guest performances by Dave Grohl, Skunk Anansie vocalist Skin, Reverend Horton Heat, the Damned, and Joan Jett; plus a still-unannounced guest vocalist, who has been difficult to track down for a studio session, “It’ll be ready when it’s ready,” Kilmister said, adding the tentative title is False Teeth For the Deaf.
In additiion, Motörhead plan to tour in November and enter the studio in January to record the follow-up to Aftershock. “Our record company is always asking for more stuff,” Kilmister said. “They want to get the most out of me as possible before I die.”