Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years, it would safe to assume that you know the name Phil Campbell; after all, he was the guitarist for a small time band named Motörhead! After the unfortunate passing of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmeister in 2015 drew the curtain closed on the Motörhead chapter of his life, Phil decided to continue making music; this time, it just happened to be a lot closer to home.
Campbell has teamed up with his three sons Todd, Dane and Tyla, as well as close friend of the family Neil Starr (formerly of Attack! Attack! and Dopamine fame) to form Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, who release their self-titled debut EP in 2016. After the great success that the EP received, they followed it up by spending some time in the recording studio to record their debut album ‘The Age of Absurdity’, which is available for purchase via Nuclear Blast Records January 26th 2018.
Before you go ahead and read the interview, can I preface what lies beneath as one of the hardest interviews I have ever had to transcribe. The joy of interviewing two members simultaneously is complicated here, because the long-term friendship between the two has caused “professionalism” to fly right out the window… Transcribing two people talking isn’t all that difficult when they take turns responding; but if there was even one-fifth of the cheeky banter that took place over the thirty minute interview, it always makes for a time-consuming process. Enjoy the upcoming laughs!
OVERDRIVE was fortunate enough to get to speak to not only Campbell, but also Starr about the creation process behind the album, the upcoming release date but also how Starr came to join the band. After thanking both Campbell and Starr for taking the time out of their day to speak about the upcoming album, Campbell went on to mention that “we’re really excited about it and can’t wait for it to be released; all the feedback we’ve had so far from the press, the journalists and the others who have heard it has been amazing. We’re really proud of it and we’re hoping for good things. It is quite an exciting time for us!”
This presented the perfect opportunity for this interviewer to ask how Nuclear Blast were the label that said yes to releasing ‘The Age of Absurdity’; Starr mentioned that “it’s a label that’s obviously very well known, as well a label that we’re happy to be a part of; they’ve been very good to us so far! Every musician that we’ve spoken to who is part of Nuclear Blast has had nothing but amazing things to say about the label, so we’re excited to be a part of it and to let them be the ones who release our first album.” Campbell chimed in to add “they seem to be pushing the hell out of us; there are interviews every day, there are snippets of videos etc., so it’s not as if they’ve signed us and left us on the shelf. They’ve done the exact opposite, which is a great sign.” Starr continued to talk about the process that lead to Nuclear Blast being selected, explaining that “I reached out to a bunch of different labels with a business associate of mine, to say that we would be approaching a time where we would be putting an album together. Nuclear Blast was one of a bunch of labels who luckily for us, expressed an interest in talking about that further. Like I mentioned earlier, a bunch of people that Phil knows only had good things to say to him about the label, so it was all positive from the start regarding feedback for the label! We were happy that they were wanting to be a part of this and that they were as excited as us about working on the album; it was important to us to have a label that was 100% behind the band and they definitely are!” A man of few words at this stage, Campbell added that “my mates in Anthrax and Slayer didn’t have a bad thing to say about Nuclear Blast when I checked up on them, so I think we made a great choice.” Starr mentioned how “we had a few options; obviously we’ll never know how they would have panned out with someone else because we’ve taken this road, but we don’t regret it at this stage! They’ve definitely been good people to work with, plus all the people around the world who we speak to who work with Nuclear Blast are very helpful and very enthusiastic.” After Campbell chimed in with “they’ve got us working our asses right before Christmas”, Starr concluded the answer with “all we can ask for is that the label is as enthusiastic about the project as us; we’ve spent a lot of time, energy and emotion in writing the album, so it’s only fair that the people who are responsible for releasing the album are as enthusiastic as us.”
Speaking to Starr directly with this question, this interviewer wanted to touch back on how it first came about for Starr to join the band; was he approached to do vocals or did he have to audition for the position? Starr replied casually that “I had to buy in the band; it was sixty-five thousand pounds”, to which Campbell quipped “I wanted a new car”; Starr retorted with “I got into the band, Phil got a new car so everyone’s a winner here!” before getting serious and declaring “all jokes aside…it was thirty five thousand pounds.” before delivering his actual answer:
“I’ve known Phil’s sons a long time and Phil had come to see one of my old bands play a few times before…” before being interrupted by Phil who continued the banter by saying “I wouldn’t drive a car that cost sixty-five thousand!” This got a good laugh from both Starr and myself before Starr added that “Phil had seen me sing a few times, so I don’t know why he allowed me into the band; he knew what he was getting himself into! There was no audition though, there was a birthday party for Todd (the guitarist) about four years ago; Todd called me and asked if I minded singing a few songs at his party with himself, his dad and his brothers. So we did that and it was all just born from that point; we played a few songs and decided to do it again.”
Campbell had started to come out of his shell at this point and the banter started to really fly, as he stated that the only reason that Starr was in the band was because “Neil was the only vocalist available at the time; all the other good singers were busy!” before delivering nothing but praise for Starr as he continued, “It was great fun and Neil was the obvious choice; it just came naturally. We’ve all jammed together quite a bit over the years, plus Neil’s brother owned a van and Neil had his own PA which helped!” Starr playfully responded with “you forgot to mention I had my own ear plugs as well” before adding how “when we started, there was no stress about writing original material; we just started playing a few cover songs at Todd’s party and just thought that we’d do that again if Phil had a bit of time free from Motörhead’s schedule. We did a couple of gigs before deciding we’d head into the studio and hence where we are now.”
Campbell chimed in to mention that “four years later we played a couple of cover songs with Guns ‘N’ Roses in front of 100,000 people! When we started, we just wanted a fun band; as it got a bit more serious, we wrote our own stuff and everything was sounding good! We’re very excited to see where everything’s going to take us over the next few years.” After this interviewer mentioned how Me First And The Gimme Gimmes make a living off of playing nothing but covers, Starr mentioned that “if you enjoy doing it, there’s no issue. It’s a bit of a strange one for us, because for me singing it, it’s a cover; whereas with Phil playing it, it’s not a cover because most of the Motörhead songs we play. With the exception of Ace of Spades Phil would have wrote with Lem or Mikkey Dee.” Campbell added another two cents to the conversation, by stating that “for the first year or two that Neil sang for us, we were covering songs. A good song is a good song and Neil sings them all well; he puts his own mark on them and takes them up to another level, so people love it!” before asking whether anyone had ever covered any of Neil’s songs; Neil responded with “I don’t think anyone knows my songs…my mother might know one or two” which got some great laughs from both Campbell any myself.
After a small deviation away from questions to touch further on the one a day for a year ukulele covers that Starr uploaded the other year (keep your eyes out next Christmas for a vinyl pressing of at least some of these!), this interviewer wanted to know what it was like for Campbell to get to be performing music with his sons both in the studio and out on the road, after spending so many years away from them whilst performing with Motörhead; Campbell first responded with ”it’s not that strange actually” before going into greater detail:
“I was always performing music at home with my sons in my off time from Motörhead. Phil started picking up an instrument from an early age; roughly 5 or 6, plus we have done a few pub gigs together. Not to mention that we always have instruments at the house and studio; it’s great though to be writing songs and taking it to another level by playing for 100,000 people instead of like two or three visitors to the house. It’s just really cool actually, as it’s such a unique dynamic and I don’t know if anyone else is doing it to the scale that we are; I’m very proud of it! At the end of the day though, the music has to be right. Everyone in the band is so accomplished musically and they all know their shit; they’re all big music fans and great performers, so it’s like being in any other band. The sky is the limit at the moment; while we can still write great material and enjoy doing it, we’re going to keep doing it. This album is a whole new birth for us; the five-track EP last year was loved by everyone and it set us on a certain level. It’s all systems go in Wales at this stage.”
Before getting to the next question of the interview, there was a little bit more relaxed conversation being Campbell and myself; Campbell actually went to mention in detail how he has already appeared on the set of Neighbours during a dream sequence. Nothing else in this snippet of conversation can be delved into too much; not for a bad reason, but because Campbell didn’t want to ruin any future surprises that might happen…keep your eyes peeled on OVERDRIVE when Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons announce Australian shows and more clues will be revealed!
During the creation of ‘The Age of Absurdity’, not only did Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons get to work with Romesh Dodangoda, but they also got to record at the legendary Rockfield Studios; both Starr and Campbell chipped in with responses to these events. Starr started out by saying that “it was very relaxed; we’ve all known Romesh for quite a long time and we’ve all worked with him in various opportunities over the years. Phil has recorded guitars with him; I’ve recorded a couple of albums and he’s quite relaxed”, to which Campbell instantly agreed, adding that “he’s very aid back and knows what he is doing; he gets a bit sound!” Starr continued, mentioning how “getting to go to Rockfield was one to tick off the list; I’d never been there before and it’s such a legendary studio around the world (Campbell chimes in that he had never been there either) A lot of huge artists have recorded there and it was a very inspiring place to be; we’re just very fortunate to have all this talent and top class studio stuff on our doorstep. We’re very lucky that we don’t have to travel far to make a great sounding album!”
Speaking of things that took place relatively close to home during the creation of the debut album, ‘The Age of Absurdity’ was sent over to the one and only Abbey Road Studios for mastering; when being faced to answer a question seriously, Campbell playfully handballed it off to Starr to respond:
“I know Romesh has done a bunch of mastering in the past with other albums he’s worked on; he just has a book of places. If I could choose anywhere to go, it would be Abbey Road; we had 100% faith in Romesh to make the right choices for the album, so we naturally gave him the go ahead to contact them and book it in there. We know that he wants it to sound the best it can and that he isn’t going to compromise on the sound quality after investing so much time and effort into it! The name Abbey Road doesn’t need any introduction either, so it wasn’t as if we felt like we were taking a chance by going there; it’s an institution within itself.” Campbell chimed in very quickly to comment on the fact that “the sound at the end was huge, so full marks to everyone; Romesh know what he was doing and he chose well!”, before Starr continued to talk about the decision to book Romesh as he added “we had to faith in him as he is the producer of the album, so it was quite easy really. Once you’ve committed to going with that person to doing it, you know that you trust them.”
Considering there was such a huge talk about cover songs earlier, there had to be one more cover to touch on; being released as a bonus track, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons are releasing their own version of Silver Machine by Hawkwind. It gets a lot better though, as they secured the vocals/guitar of the one and only Dave Brock from Hawkwind! Directing this question at Campbell, this interviewer wanted to know what series of events led to such a high profile guest appearance:
“I’ve always loved the song; I persuaded Lem to play it with Motörhead for three or four years, maybe ten. I knew that Dave used to come to a couple of shows every couple of years and we actually did a show with Hawkwind. It’s such a good song; it’s a great rocker with a bit of a twist! We did a wonderful show at the legendary Roundhouse Arena in London with Hawkwind in the summer, as well as a show last year together in Devon; we have big respect for them and I think they have big respect for us. We been playing it live and still play it live now, but when we recorded it for a bonus track I just called Dave up. He called me back and he said ‘Well Phil, I’ve done it for you; it was raining today so I stayed in and put vocals, guitar and synth on for you.’ Maybe if it had been sunny, we might not have had it on, but it was raining so we got it (chuckles wryly) We struck absolute gold; it has that little comradery there so it gives us that sense of authenticity because of that. Plus I’m in awe that Dave played on one of our recordings; it was beautiful.”
MAKE SURE TO PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF ‘THE AGE OF ABSURDITY’ VIA ITUNES HERE!