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Interview: Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons


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For famed Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell, the evening of Thursday, 11th August 2016 must have been a duplicitous and bittersweet affair.

(Marianne Harris)

It began at exactly 5pm, when the rock n’ roll veteran officially got Derbyshire’s Bloodstock Festival underway by cutting the ribbon to open the Lemmy Bar. Named after the late front-man of legendary rock trio Motörhead – and a friend that had been at Campbell’s side in the band for almost 32 years – the moment was one of solemn reflection for everyone in attendance, fans and musicians alike.

“It’s difficult. There’s been nothing enjoyable about it since Lem passed away, basically,” Phil recalls less than two hours later, sat at a table with son Tyla by his side.

“It’s got to be done though, the guy needs to be recognised. Not that he wasn’t recognised, but it’s just nice to pay tribute to the man. It’s difficult for me, it’s still sinking in.

“With Motörhead, it was the three of us [Phil, Lemmy and drummer Mikkey Dee]; we used to argue like hell.

“Lem was the main guy in Motörhead, but we all had total artistic freedom. I wrote 70% of the music since I joined Motörhead. It was just a different dynamic. Motörhead was fantastic; we used to argue because we cared about the music. If we didn’t care about it, we’d just say ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll play that,’ but we actually cared. That’s why all our albums are good; there’s very few filler songs. And that’s why I’m sitting here now with the respect of a couple thousand rock fans.”

The professional relationship of Phil Campbell and Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister began in 1984, when the former first joined Motörhead as their new guitarist. But the two first met years before this: back when the band was yet to exist and Lemmy was still playing bass for ‘70s psychedelic rockers Hawkwind.

“I was twelve,” Phil says.

“He gave me his autograph on a programme, I’ve still got it at home. He was the only member of Hawkwind that came out of the Cardiff Capital Theatre to sign autographs, so I thought ‘This guy’s pretty cool.’”

While it began as an evening of solemn reflection and loving tributes, a party atmosphere would soon descend upon Bloodstock’s home of Catton Park.

Phil’s new band, the Bastard Sons, hit the festival’s Sophie Lancaster Stage at 9pm and partied into the night with a mix of original songs and covers of classics by Motörhead, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath.

The group is a family affair for Phil, who is joined in the band by his sons Tyla, Dane and Todd. They’ve been performing together on and off for three years and, until very recently, were referred to as “Phil Campbell’s All-Starr Band”.

According to Tyla, they changed their name “just because a lot of people were genuinely expecting an ‘all-star band’ and [Phil] playing with actual famous people, when that isn’t the case.

“So we tried to think of funny names, and then Neil [Starr, vocalist] came up with ‘The Bastard Sons’. It was initially a joke, and my mother wasn’t too happy about the name change,” he laughs.

“But I think it’ll be good for the party, rock n’ roll vibe. It suits us better.”

After years of playing shows, the Bastard Sons will soon be making their studio debut, as they are preparing to unleash their first EP.

“We just finished recording that,” says Tyla. “We’ve just got to add tambourines and stuff like that.”

“It should be out in time for our tour in November,” Phil adds.

The Bastard Sons have been giving fans a small taster of the upcoming EP throughout the summer, opening their sets with the original track ‘Big Mouth’.

“It’s quite a varied EP,” Tyla continues, “We’ve got one that can stick; a bluesy number. ‘Big Mouth’ is a party song as well.”

“If we could pick one track, ‘Big Mouth’ would be great,” Phil adds, “if we could put one song out to promote us, it’d be ‘Big Mouth’.”

And the EP might not be the end of the story. A full-length debut album could be on the cards for Phil Campbell’s new group, and it might be coming pretty soon.

“We’ll probably start writing it next year,” Tyler predicts, although his father doesn’t seem to be looking that distant into the future yet.

“We’re talking too far ahead now. We’ll be flipping burgers if [the EP] doesn’t sell,” he interjects with a laugh.

His hesitancy is very easy to understand when you consider that the guitarist has other, exciting things scheduled; predominantly, a solo record which has been in the works for quite some time.

But the schedule for the album seems to be very loose: “When it’s done, it’s done,” Campbell simply says.

All that is known about the record is that it is going to feature a flurry of all-star musicians, the only one that has been confirmed so far being Chris Fehn, one of the drummers in modern metal prodigy Slipknot.

“He drummed on one track,” says Phil, [Slipknot] were playing Cardiff. And then he came up the day before, tracked his drums and then went back to London.”

Outside of this, however, its production is steeped in mystery, but Phil promises that “there are going to be a few surprises on the album.”

When asked if he could say more about it, his response was a resounding “No.”

Being busy non-stop with both upcoming solo material and his touring with the Bastard Sons, Phil Campbell is clearly at a point of turnaround in his life. He bade farewell to his time in Motörhead with Lemmy’s memorialisation at Bloodstock, and has truly turned to the future with new bandmates, new songs and new goals in mind.

Fans, colleagues and friends can only wish him all the best as he explores these uncharted and mysterious, but also thrilling, avenues.

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons’ debut EP has been given the tentative release date of November 2016.

Read more about Phil Campbell, the Bastard Sons and the Lemmy Bar in our full Bloodstock Festival review.

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