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Motorhead: The Kotori Interview
Is Rock and Roll Dying? Mikkey Dee of Motorhead Says No
They are Motorhead and they play rock and roll! While it's obvious that the best days to see Motorhead have passed, they still have a lot to offer when they play live. Motorhead concerts will always give you a good dose of rock 'n' roll at a time when rock music seems to be slowly fading away to commercial and vomit-inducing pop artists.
I got a chance to see the band play on their "World Is Yours" tour on February 2nd in San Francisco. Surprisingly, the opening band, Clutch, gave a powerful performance of stoner metal, and the pumped-up crowd turned the main floor into a giant drunken mosh pit.
When Motorhead entered the stage with wild energy, the crowd went into a head-banging frenzy. The band started the show with their classic song, "We Are Motorhead," followed by the lesser- known, "Stay Clean." Songs from their new album, however, got almost no playtime; it looked like they knew that their fans wanted to listen to their most classic songs, and that's what they played.
Their concert was like any other Motorhead concert I've seen; there was nothing new to expect. But being a veteran band of over 30 years, maybe it's better like this.
From the very beginning, Motorhead was an experimental band helping to create the hard rock and heavy metal genres. But ever since they started, they have been following a straight line. For example, you can always expect to see the same band members on stage. Their music, instruments, concert performances and albums never fluctuate, and instead keeps the same formula.
Fans never have to worry about Motorhead selling out or changing genres, because their songs will always have that characteristic "hard rock" quality, with the imposing sound of Lemmy's famously customized Rickenbacker bass, and hard lyrics about rock 'n' roll, gambling, and death.
Even though they stick with the same sound that they had in their early years, it works. It's something positive, unlike other bands who enter their old age and change their trajectory to do things more 'how it's supposed to be' for their age. Motorhead has always been doing rock 'n' roll, and that's what they continue to play.
We had a chance to interview Motorhead's drummer, Mikkey Dee, after their show at the Warfield. He spoke to Kotori about aging fans, touring, and the changing face of music.
You're touring on the road most of the time. After over 20 years touring with the band, does it ever get tiring, and how has playing with Motorhead changed?
Mikkey Dee: That's a long question. To make it a little short for you--yes, it changed over the years, but I think it has changed for the better. Pretty much everything that we did, we take a small step ahead. Obviously, it's still fun. It's hard sometimes, but, overall, it's easy to enjoy it. You can have your moments on tour where you might feel like you're struggling a bit, then it becomes fun. Otherwise we couldn't do it. It's hard work, but it's all good. It's hard to be on the road constantly. There's some other stuff you want to do sometimes, but you have to put things aside for touring. This is what we are, and what we do. It's like any other job. It has its ups and downs.
What's the craziest thing that has happened on tour?
MD: Not much. We haven't been out on tour that long. There's crazy stuff that happens every other day. Not much on this tour. We're just starting up on this one but we have just had some pleasant surprises. Lars Ulrich showed up in San Francisco. When people that we like show up at the show, it's always fun.
It seems like there are a lot of overly-produced bands created by labels that only do what the label wants, and less creative artists. What do you think about this system, and how has music changed? Do you think there is more corporate power and less artist control?
MD: No, not really. Of course it changed dramatically, you know. But I can't say that it has all gone to shit. It hasn't. It's a different way of promoting, like how you do your business and who you do your business with. Some of it is bad, but the internet is not bad; it's for a younger generation. It's harder in a lot of ways, but it's easier to be seen than when we started. You have to adjust a little bit. You cannot stay in 1975 or '85. You have to move on, at least in some different ways
Have you ever had any trouble with record companies or changed your music to fit their standards?
MD: We have had some big trouble over the years with some labels. As of now, we're in good shape. Now we are on EMI; it's just very positive. Only time will tell if they do a good job. We are working our ass off; we produce good albums. We are doing everything we should...we hope.
How has your music changed with the last album?
MD: That's impossible to say in words. It progressed a little bit with every album. What exactly is the difference, I can't say. It's almost impossible to talk about music like that. We haven't changed that much. I used to say that for every album, I'm happy if we take half a step ahead, as long as we move forward and not backwards. We are not standing still, but we should not take two or three steps ahead. It's not healthy, it's not good. People like Motorhead for Motorhead. We take a small step ahead in every album in the right direction.
Have you guys done any special shows?
MD: We did Conan O'Brien. That's a really good show. The response has been very excellent from it, which is good. It has been a while since we did such a big TV show over here; Conan seems more modern. The flavor-of-the month kind of bands do these types of shows, so we are not being requested that much.
Do you have any side projects in the works?
MD: We just have so much to do; there is no time. If you ask me personally, I could put so much together and do side projects, but unless I can go full on it, I am not going to do it. It's not going to be just for the hell for it. I have to put my soul into it, and really give it my all, and I can't do that. So there is no reason why I should do that, not yet
It's been so long since your guitarist Wurzel left the band, and it seems the trio format works for you. Have you ever thought about looking for another guitarist?
MD: Wurzel left in '95, that's an amazing sixteen years ago...it feels like yesterday. We have done so good as a three piece. You can actually hear what we play. It was a bit of a mess [with an extra guitarist]. I miss him as a person and as a friend, we all do. He was a fun guy. He was a rocking fellow, but musically no...we can't get much better.
What are some of your biggest influences?
MD: I have listened to music all my life. I have to go all the way back to Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix, and Cream. That was the earliest stuff I liked, like Black Sabbath. And today, there's so much good stuff out there, it's almost insane. And the sad part is, when you are touring as hard as we are, the music gets ahead a little bit. You don't have the energy of checking out new bands, it's really hard work, just to try to stay alive yourself. I can't say I've seen anything lately. We do run across them, you remember the name of some of the new young kids. There are so many good bands out there, and including some old bands that still rock out super hard. We played with Ozzy in Japan. It was fantastic. I haven't seen him for a few years live. He surprised me a lot on the show that he did.
Do you think the fan base for rock 'n' roll is fading away?
MD: No, no no. I spoke to a guy in Vegas, he was on about how big of a down draft we are in with Motorhead. I said, "You are a little bit wrong there. We have never gone away. We've done the exact same thing for 35 years, 23 with me." The only difference is the media. When certain music styles come around, the old styles have to give in. We are not getting the same exposure.
But, right now, I can't see anything specific coming up. There is not really any new style of music. So people tend to go back to the older stuff, the basic stuff. There is still more room in the media because if you release one good record after the other, and if you keep touring and sounding good on the road, you do get the attention of the media.
We are picking up a new generation. Three to four generations on the road, I see a lot of teenagers. They come for the first time, which is great, and I also see the old bastards still standing there with a spider web around their neck. It looks like we have a bit of a hail wind at the moment, but we are doing the same, and we have done the same. We have a very good album, but we have a good album out every other year, so people tend to go back to us.