Motörhead's Mikkey Dee on Lemmy's Health, the Motörhead Cruise, and the Key to Success
Courtesy of Mongrel Media
There's something fascinating about Motörhead's longevity. Nearly 40 years ago, the English band fused together heavy metal and punk -- fueled by healthy doses of whiskey -- to become one of the early pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Few bands have survived for so long without displaying a distinct evolution in sound or style, or ever-changing show themes or concepts that keeps veteran fans on their toes and rallies new ones. Yes, heavy metal fans value consistency, and Motörhead serves up boatloads. The band fell into stride a long time ago, but they aren't aiming to release the next break-out album or try a new crazy stage show -- they're just looking to reinforce their own classic Motörhead sound. As drummer Mikkey Dee says, "The perfect Motörhead album is a record that sounds like everything we've done, but is new."
The band helped revolutionize heavy metal in the late 1970s and early 1980s with such albums as Overkill and Ace of Spades, then sparked and fueled the speed and thrash metal scene for generations of bands to come. Lead singer, bassist and songwriter Lemmy Kilmister has a name that's synonymous with being invincible, while guitarist Phil Campbell began playing guitar professionally at age 13. Rounding out the lineup is Mikkey Dee, who solidified his legendary percussion skills before he even joined Motörhead with gigs in King Diamond and Dokken.
Motörhead's evolution is making sure that their music is what Dee calls "transparent and written as a soundtrack to life." If life was lived at no less than 126 decibels. That mentality always seems to work for them: 2013's Aftershock, their 21st album, marked Motörhead's biggest selling first week and highest U.S. chart debut numbers to date. If you haven't heard it, get a taste with such tracks as "Lost Women Blues" and "Death Machine." Just delicious.
The power trio has sold more than 30 million albums with their unique dynamic, and spurred an array of hits over the years that have been featured in movies ranging from Superbad to Hellraiser III to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. At the end of 2013 they had to cancel their tour due to Lemmy's health concerns after he collapsed on stage. But now the band is back in the touring saddle, booking shows at Coachella this year, as well as their first stab at the increasingly popular concert cruises. Motörhead's Motorboat (already dubbed "The Loudest Boat In The World") will set sail to Key West this September alongside Megadeth, Anthrax, Zakk Wylde, Danko Jones and more.
Up on the Sun spoke with drummer Mikkey Dee the day before they kicked off their new tour in L.A. -- it was eight months since they had played on stage, the longest in Dee's entire career. We chatted about the secret to success, generational music, and the Motörhead cruise.
Up on the Sun: How are you guys doing today?
Mikkey Dee: Great! We're actually rehearsing right now for our kick-off show tomorrow in L.A. There's a lot of excitement and tension around here!
Why do you think Motörhead has achieved such longevity?
I think it's just that; the music is great, timeless and appeals to a wide range of music fans. With Motörhead, we never try to sound like something other than ourselves. We represent that solid, classic, good songwriting, rock 'n' roll. Hard and heavy, bluesy rock 'n' roll. We're uncompromising and make music that stands the test of time. The majority of people who are into great music like what's not fake or trendy; our music is transparent and written to be a soundtrack to life. Plus, we're three guys who are very close and comfortable with each other. We're inspired by ourselves, the way we write music, tour, and record. Get along as a family. An album reflects what's going on in the band, especially during touring, while touring reflects what the last album was like.