Imagine the headspace of a man who played a pivotal role in a historical heavy music machine that ended with a sudden halt. A legacy was built that is hard to top, particularly when it was cultivated in pioneering fashion. Well, lead guitarist Phil Campbell has managed to do one better than his prior achievements and has now incarnated his most ideal version of post-Motörhead life.
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons were formed even before the legendary Motörhead vocalist/front-man Lemmy Kilmister passed away in 2015. Campbell loved jamming with his three sons and after initially performing cover songs, they decided to do it properly and make a name for themselves (we’ll get to how they got to that name a bit later). So, in November 2016, Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons released their self-titled debut EP, joined by their mate and former Attack! Attack! (UK) singer Neil Starr.
Fast forward a few years and the band have released a highly successful LP The Age of Absurdity, which has led Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons to win awards and play some pretty big shows. With a bit of a name for themselves now, they’re just about ready to release their sophomore LP We’re The Bastards and they’re pretty damn excited about it.
We got to speak to the Motörhead riff-master to learn more about the new album, what it’s like living his ultimate dream of playing rock and roll with his kids, and of course a couple of cheeky stories for the pool-room from his past life, in a band known across multiple generations around the world.
On the feeling in the Campbell camp, he says, “It’s exciting. We’ve done a cracking album and 13 brand new songs with the most amazing production.” The media have given strong praise already and the response to the already released singles and videos has given the band something to smile about.
It’s crazy where the band have got to, in such a short span of time – only a couple of years into their career, they’ve gotten some big opportunities. “We got a slot at Bloodstock Festival in the UK and then our friend Chris Jericho came and sang with us.” It seemed to all come in good time for Campbell. “I didn’t know what I was going to do for a while,” he said after Lemmy passed away.
“We decided we’d try to write some of our own songs and it all kind of took off from there. It’s a lot of fun with the boys, quite a unique dynamic I think.”
It really is, isn’t it? Transitioning from being in a band who’ve designed t-shirts that are considered vintage today, to playing with his sons in a rock and roll band – it all seems pretty fitting (like the t-shirt).
If you’ve heard any music from Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons you’ll hear that tuned down signature guitar that drives Motörhead, giving you an opportunity to continue hearing new riffs from the same machine as that of Campbell’s legendary speed-metal band. The musical influences of the other Campbell boys are audibly closer to that of their father and his genre-defining outfit. However, what you won’t hear in the band is a gruff, ciggie-and-whiskey-burned vocal effort, that you’re used to hearing with those unquestionably familiar riffs.
Simply from listening to Attack! Attack! (UK) before, you’ll realise front-man Neil Starr is certainly not trying to be the next Lemmy, and that’s because he’s going for something completely different and has an incomparable style, which really works for The Bastard Sons.
This is something Campbell would have taken some time to get used to. “Obviously, with different people in the band it’s going to be a bit different for us. It’s all good fun though, you know; [Neil’s] passionate about music and appreciates Motörhead.”
An EP and just about two LPs into the mix now, the band have definitely found comfort in their sound and have had the best time putting their latest effort together. “I guess we’ve matured a bit,” Campbell says reflectively. On the writing and recording process, “Todd (Campbell, guitarist) came in with about five or six songs, you know, kind of half completed. I came in with some songs and the others too, so we took some interesting riffs from soundchecks we did last year and put it all together.
“We knew we had to go and make somewhat of a better album than the first. I knew we’d have to push ourselves. We took our time to make it, we really wanted to write each song individually, make them the best songs they could be, and then shove them all together on the album, and put them in an interesting order.”
In terms of how they’ve come up with their name Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, you might have thought you knew where it came from if you’ve read Lemmy: The Definitive Biography by Mick Wall. In the bio, the iconic front-man once said, “I wanted to call the band Bastard but my manager wouldn’t let me.” Turns out, that’s not where Phil’s band name arose.
“It was actually one of the boys – I’m not too sure who came up with it, it might have been Neil. My wife wasn’t too happy with it, she’s still not,” he says cheekily. Thinking back on the question, he then recalls some history about Würzel (Michael Richard Burston) who played guitar in Motörhead until he passed away in 2011. “I think Würzel was in a band called Bastards, it was one of his bands before Motörhead, and we also did an album called Bastards, but I came up with that title,” he chuckles.
At this point in the fifty nine-year old’s life, you’d think playing guitar with his boys and messing around under a new moniker would be enough, particularly given the accolades he’s already earned over the years – but low and behold, Campbell just keeps on kicking goals, without much more left on the bucket-list to achieve.
“We’ve done some huge stadiums already with Guns N Roses, we’ve played to 150,000 people a bunch of times. We won the Debut Album of the Year Award from Metal Hammer in Germany, – so that was good.”
Makes you wonder what’s left for Campbell, but for a man who’s seen the world already from touring for years, he now wants his sons to experience that too. He aims to “just keep working and maybe play some places that they’ve never been to before.” The riff mastermind is also conscious of the boys’ own personal aspirations, “Personally I just want to see my boys happy.”
It’s a wholesome outset for Lemmy’s mate, whose revised career goals are tailored to his kids’ experiences. Campbell reflects on the somewhat less wholesome times in Australia with Motörhead. He recalls a mid 80s tour with mixed reactions from Aussie towns.
“Our ‘85/’86 for our Australian tour was unbelievable. It was like Beatlemania at the airport, so we thought it was going to be great,” the guitarist says with a laugh in his throat and a smile in his voice. He continued, “I think we played a place on Surfers [Paradise] called Bombay Rock and we had a great gig.” At least that’s what Phil thought anyway.
“We had like 1000 people there and then a 20-minute drive down the coast was the next gig, and there were only about 12 people there for the second gig.” Either everyone had caught the band the night before, or if you go with Phil’s interpretation, “We must’ve sounded fuckin’ awful the night before at Bombay Rock,” he giggles nostalgically.
It’s no secret that the Welshman liked to party back then, but those days are over for Campbell. “I worked out I roughly drank about two and a half times an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of alcohol so thought I’d better give it a rest.”
Wonder what Phil’s choice of poison was on the Gold Coast in the mid-80s? We’re thinking Foster’s – but we might have to face-check that one with him next time.
Nowadays, he lives a quiet life in Pontypridd in Wales. “I’m not very sociable really. I just walk my dogs, I go play snooker sometimes, if it’s safe to go out,” he says, alluding to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
We’re hoping that in a post-vaccine world, we can see Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons come down and play shows across Australia. “We want to play everywhere when all this crap’s over, and I think it’s about time we get down there as well. The boys have never been so they’re going to love it.”
He laughs at the thought of returning again with admiration for the country. “I know Australia has some hardcore rockers so it’s always a pleasure to come down.”
We’d better give the band a reason to come down sooner than later, so make sure you pre-order We’re The Bastards and give it a few spins. If it helps, Campbell reckons Lemmy would be nodding to the new record in the sky.
“Oh he’d love it I think, just up his alley. He’d be tapping away, with a couple of packs of smokes. He’d absolutely love it.”
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons’ We’re The Bastards is out on 13 November. Pre-order the album here.
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons – We’re the Bastards tracklisting
1. We’re The Bastards
2. Son Of A Gun
3. Promises Are Poison
4. Born To Roam
6. Bite My Tongue
7. Desert Song
8. Keep Your Jacket On
9. Lie To Me
10. Riding Straight To Hell
11. Hate Machine