'You've got the gig': Motorhead 1976-1982


‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke looks back on his time in the band
By Peter Lindblad
[Ed. note - Please forgive the lack of umlaut]

The classic Motorhead lineup
Accustomed to sleeping in and not receiving unexpected visitors in the morning, as is the way with most rock and roll artists who do not subscribe to the “early to bed, early to rise” ethos, “Fast” Eddie Clarke had no intention of getting dressed to see who was calling on him at such an ungodly hour.
One Saturday well before noon in the winter of 1976, the guitarist, irritable and cranky, got up to see who had disturbed his rest. Had he known who was waiting for him on the other side, his mood would have brightened considerably.
“There’s a knock at my door, and I say, ‘What the f**k is this?’” recalls Clarke. “And so I go to the front door, and Lemmy [Kilmister] is standing there, and he’s got a bullet belt in one hand and a leather jacket in the other. And he hands them to me and he says, ‘You’ve got the gig.’”
Clarke was as surprised as anybody to hear those words come out of Lemmy’s mutton-chop framed mouth. Just like that, he’d been hired to play alongside Larry Wallis as a second guitar slinger for Motorhead, then a dirty, brash wild bunch of rock and roll outlaws dead set on building the fastest, loudest chopper of grimy, rumbling, vice-ridden proto-thrash metal nastiness that anyone had ever seen, and nobody would dare categorize it as street-legal. Before Clarke could recover from the shock, however, Lemmy was gone.
“And then he turns around and walks off (laughs),” said Clarke. “So I’m standing there in me underpants holding a bullet belt with this leather jacket, and I just say, ‘Oh, f**king great!’ I mean, I really was over the moon."
A week earlier, Clarke’s mood wasn’t so elevated. His audition for these holy sonic terrors had ended rather unceremoniously with him slipping out the door before things got worse.
“I did the audition with them,” remembers Clarke. “And Larry came down, because Larry, who was in the Pink Fairies, was the guitarist then. And he wasn’t getting on with anybody. He didn’t even talk to me. He just came in, plugged in and played the same song for half an hour. And I said, ‘Oh, bloody hell. I haven’t got this gig, have I?’ And he and Lemmy went outside and they were having words, and it’s all getting a bit tense. So I packed up me guitar and I went home, and I left Phil [“Philthy Animal” Taylor, the band’s drummer] and them there to play on. I paid the bill on the way out, though (laughs) for the rehearsal. And then I didn’t hear anything.”
That is until Lemmy showed up on his doorstep. Soon after, Wallis would leave, having rejoined a reunited Pink Fairies lineup that intended to get back to touring. All that remained then was Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie and “Philthy Animal” – the classic Motorhead lineup that would shake the earth from 1977 through 1982 with rumbling, fire-breathing touchstone LPs Motorhead (1977), Overkill (1979), Bomber (1979), Ace of Spades (1980), No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith (1981, a live album that reached #1 on the U.K. album charts) and Iron Fist (1982), the threesome’s swan song.
“Those were great days, man. They were great. I mean, there were some tough times, obviously. Motorhead was a special time for me. I mean, we were like brothers. We went through so much shit together,” said Clarke.
As siblings often do, the three had their differences, and in 1982, as Motorhead was touring America, simmering tensions bubbled over and Clarke was dismissed. Shell-shocked by the turn of events, Clarke took the first plane back to England. Back on his native soil, the exiled Clarke, still reeling from his abrupt firing, attempted to regroup, even as a growing substance abuse problem was threatening to consume him. Unbeknownst to Clarke, his next project was waiting for him at – of all places – Motorhead’s office, and it would yield an under-the-radar classic heavy metal album, Fastway’s self-titled debut.
Still, although Clarke would later experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions with Fastway, it was nothing compared to what awaited him as a member of one of the most notorious acts in metal history, Motorhead.
Life Before Motorhead
A child of the 1950s, Clarke was born in Twickenham, London to a family that immersed itself in music and did what it could to see that Clarke took an interest in it.
“My parents played a lot of music,” said Clarke. “I was lucky because they played all the old 45s they used to get, but my sister also, she was playing things like ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and Paul Anka’s ‘Diana.’ And my parents were playing a lot of the MGM stuff. So they were quite musical. There was always music going on, even though I wasn’t particularly involved in it. My dad did take me out when I was about eight or 10, he took me down to the little record shop down here, and he said, ‘Right, pick yourself out a tune.’ So the guy in the record shop played some singles, and the one I picked was Jerry Keller, ‘Here Comes Summer.’ I remember that, going back to the ‘50s.”
Near where Clarke grew up, the musical scene of the West London area exploded with vibrant creativity and an adventurous, hedonistic spirit in the 1960s.
“As I got older, living where I was in west London, well, of course, we had the Rolling Stones kicking off here up the road,” recalled Clarke. “We had Eel Pie Island just down the road here, where John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers were playing and Pink Floyd played there. Then the Cream started up over here and Fleetwood Mac – all going on in this area. So I got to walk out the door and there was a gig to go to. And I think that helped a lot. You know, I was on the front door of it all, and of course, when I realized how much people liked that, I thought, ‘Well, I’d fancy doing that.’ And I got really heavily into Eric Clapton when he was with the Yardbirds, and we used to go to the Rolling Stones, but we’re going back a few years now (laughs). That’s going back to ’63 or ’64. And the Yardbirds, of course … Eric Clapton is playing his Telecaster up there, and all this great stuff like ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and all these great blues, and I loved them to bits. And so of course, I wanted to play like that, so I started learning those tunes.”
Through the prism of the British blues boom of the ‘60s, Clarke got an education in American blues. “I was actually learning American blues tunes, but I was learning them third-hand, because they liked to copy the guys in America and I was copying them. So I was kind of like the third generation, and I had my own take on it, which I think gave me my  … I like to think I had a little bit of my own style, and I developed out of that.”
A quick study, Clarke cycled through various local bands – the Bitter End being one of them – by the age of 15. The neighbors were not so accepting of Clarke’s musical escapades.
“I was very fortunate, and then of course, there was a little band at school … we had a little band together,” said Clarke. “We used to play in me dad’s garage, and all the neighbors used to throw stones on the roof to get us to shut up (laughs). But I loved the guitar. I used to get up in the morning before I went to school, and the first thing I’d do is get clean out of bed, put my feet on the floor, and grab the guitar and have a quick five minutes on the guitar.”
Clarke’s development allowed him a chance to turn professional with Curtis Knight’s band, Zeus. As lead guitarist, Clarke helped Zeus record the album The Second Coming at Olympic Studios. He even wrote the music that backed Knight’s lyrics on a song called “The Confession” and continued on with Zeus through the making of Sea of Time. But then, Clarke got together Allan Callan, a guitarist friend of his, and keyboardist Nicky Hogarth and drummer Chris Perry for a jam session at Command Studios in Piccadilly that resulted in a record contract with Anchor Records. Calling themselves Blue Goose, Clarke, Hogarth and Perry abandoned Zeus, and Knight, to concentrate on their new project. It wouldn’t last.
Arguments erupted and Clarke left Blue Goose, going on to form another band called Continuous Performance that went nowhere and another act with Hogarth, bassist Tony Cussons and drummer Terry Slater that also flamed out. Frustrated by what seemed like a stalled career, Clarke went to work re-fitting a houseboat as he attempted to get his solo career off the ground.
“I was working and I was doing my solo album,” said Clarke. “I was working building a houseboat on the river Thames. And the money I was earning I was putting into my solo album, to record my solo album.”
Through various jobs, he had gained other skills, some of which would make him a more attractive candidate for hire than simply his guitar-playing ability.
“The reason why I started working was I had to get an amplifier became my little one use to blow up all the time,” said Clarke. “And I used to stick a screwdriver in the back and go bang! And then it would start working again. So I went to get this job fixing televisions. And the guy said, ‘Why do you want this job?’ I said, ‘We’ll, I’ve got this amplifier that keeps blowing up and I need a new one,’ and being in Motorhead, we didn’t have any money for repairs. Well, I’ll tell you, it did come in handy. It did come in handy. It helped me to no end. So, it was a great career move at the time. I didn’t realize what a great career move it was, but later on in life, it turned out to be a winner, you know.”
So was the gig working on that houseboat, through which he made a contact that would lead him to Motorhead. It was Phil Taylor.

Getting Stiffed
Lemmy, having played in Hawkwind, was certainly well-known around the haunts Clarke used to frequent. He remembers seeing Lemmy once at a party before the days of Motorhead, though Clarke didn’t get an introduction.
“So, he came in. Nobody spoke to him,” said Clarke. “But he plugged in and started playing … and I thought that he was playing rhythm guitar. I thought, ‘Oh, he keeps it together well,’ because he keeps the songs up, where other bassists are just jamming. And then I started to [see him] a little bit about, because where we started hanging out, Lemmy was always around. He’s one of these guys who’s always around. He was always around the scene, you know.”
But, it was Taylor who first made contact with Clarke.
“What happened was, I met Phil first,” recounted Clarke. “And I met Phil and Phil had gotten into Motorhead. And then Phil contacted me, and he said, ‘Look, we’re looking for a second guitarist. Would you fancy it?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ because I wasn’t doing anything. I was working and I was doing my solo album. So, I said, ‘Yeah, fine.’ And I didn’t hear any more from Phil.”
Communication having broken down between him and Taylor, Clarke kept plugging away at finishing up the houseboat, while also taking in some of the local nightlife.
Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Taylor and 'Fast' Eddie Clarke
“Quite by chance, I picked up this bird at [this place] called the Greyhound in Fulham,” said Clarke. “It was a real big gig back in the ‘70s. I picked up this bird there, and she stayed over with me that night. And I brought her to work the next day, and she happened to work at the rehearsal room in the King’s Road in Chelsea. So I took her to work that morning. It was 11 o’clock. She had to open the doors. And who walks in? Lemmy (laughs). I said, ‘Hey, Lemmy. I’m supposed to be auditioning for your band.’ He said, ‘Oh, are you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah Lemmy.’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah.’ So I said, ‘Well, can I put it together?’ And it all seemed to come together. He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So, he gave me his number, and I had to organize the rehearsals. I had to pay for them, because they didn’t have any money. And I had a car, so I went and picked them up, put all their gear in the car and then dropped it off and went back to get the rest of the gear. So that was the first time I ever really had a chat with Lemmy. He seemed fine. He was one of these guys who, because he liked a bit of speed, wouldn’t sleep much. He was always on the go. Not to put too fine a point on it, and of course, I became a speed freak as well after that. He was already a speed freak. So we were speed freaks together.”
Before the sharing of drugs commenced, however, there was the little matter of Clarke’s audition. Having passed the test, Clarke soon took over as sole guitarist for Motorhead, with Wallis quitting. What Clarke wasn’t prepared for was the struggle that lay ahead.
“It was like that, it was like that, because nobody liked us,” said Clarke. “Of course, we were all wearing bullet belts and a lot of Hell’s Angels used to come to our shows. People were generally a bit scared of us. They never knew what was going to happen, you know. Although we were fine, everything was fine, but people conceived us as being … and they didn’t like our music either, because they didn’t conceive it as music. It wasn’t considered music. It hadn’t happened yet. We were sort of breaking new ground with this (makes loud guitar-like noise) and so people were actually working against us all the time. And it was difficult the first year, but the thing was solid, man. The plans were there. We’d turn up in Shitsville, Birmingham or wherever, and there’d be 30 kids there, but they were diehard fans. And Lemmy said to me, ‘Don’t worry, man. Those kids are going to go away and the next time, they’re going to bring their mates with them. The next time there’ll be 60.’”
Kilmister’s confidence was a calming influence on Clarke, whose patience was tested by the band’s poverty and a troublesome incident with Stiff Records after recording the single “Leaving Here” in December, 1976 for the label.
“Lemmy kept us all going on that, and it was true,” said Clarke. “We had quite a following in a year. But then we had this deal with Stiff Records, and we did a recording for Stiff. We didn’t have any money, so we borrowed the money and we got into all sorts of trouble, and then Stiff Records didn’t put the f**king record out. They said we’re not putting the record out because we want to put it on this Stiff compilation, which f**king finished us. We were f**king done. We were relying on that to give us a bit of a profile and get us some shows, ‘cause we didn’t have a pot to piss in. We were living off porridge and pancakes. It was one of them. And so, Stiff Records really f**ked us over. I f**king hate that label – we all, the three of us do. It was supposed to be an independent label, and sh*tsville. They really did bad by us.”
‘ … On Our Way’
“We are Motorhead … and we play rock and roll!” growls Lemmy, the way he usually does when introducing a Motorhead show. In 1976, Motorhead wasn’t playing rock and roll for very many people, and the sparsely attended gigs were demoralizing to Clarke and Taylor. In fact, it got so bad that breaking up the band seemed the only logical option.
“We were on the verge of breaking up, and we had more gig to do,” said Clarke. “It was the Marquee, and Phil said, if nobody turns up, we might as well break up after this gig. And I said, ‘Shove off.’ And he said, ‘Well, what’s the point of going on?’ I said, ‘What are you going to do anyway?’ (laughs) It wasn’t as if we had anything else to do, you know what I mean. Phil was adamant, though.”
If this was to be the end for Motorhead, they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and record this final sendoff for posterity. “So what we tried to do was, we tried to get a mobile (recording studio) down to the Marquee,” said Clarke. “Well, it turned out, the Marquee had a recording studio linked up to the gig and they said they would do it, but it would cost … I don’t know, a thousand pounds or something, which was like the f**king king’s ransom. So Lemmy knew this guy, Ted Carroll, from Chiswick Records. He said, ‘Look, how about recording the band at the Marquee, ‘cause we’re thinking of breaking up. It’d be nice to have something to remember us by.’ And he said, ‘I can’t do that. It’s too expensive,’ because nobody had any money in the ‘70s. Those were poor times. He said, ‘But, I’ll pay for you to do a single.’”
That offer turned out to be a stay of execution of sorts.
“So after the f**king Marquee gig, we got Speedy Keen from Thunderclap Newman. He was going to produce it. He drove us down to this studio in Kent (Escape Studios), with a budget to do it … we had two days in there,” said Clarke. “And I said to the guy – ‘cause I’d done some stuff with Curtis Knight, and we’d done an album in 24 hours – ‘Look, we can do an album in this time.’ I said … ‘cause I noticed when we’d done stuff back at the pub, we’d only have to play it once. And they all go, ‘Okay, okay.’ So we laid all the backing tracks down, and then we did all the guitars and the vocals … you know, we had 24 hours and we had the whole thing down.”
When Carroll visited Motorhead to get a listen to what was supposed to be a single, Clarke and company presented all that they had done – 11 raw, unfinished tracks of cyclonic rock and roll fury, to be augmented later by two more cuts. “So when the record guy came over to hear it, we said well, we’ve got a bit more than a single,” said Clarke. “We’ve got an album. And of course, he said, ‘Wow!’ And when we played it to him, he loved it. He loved it. That was the first album, the black one [1977’s Motorhead]. And he loved it, this guy loved it. He was over the moon. And then of course, he put in a bit more money. We remixed a couple of tracks in Olympic Studios, and then we were on our way. We were on our way. There were some things that were to happen later on that would almost sidetrack us, but that’s what saved us from breaking up.”
Any thoughts of throwing in the towel were now erased completely from their minds. “It was a great thing, because we had nothing better to do … nothing” said Clarke. “And we really worked hard at it. People had pissed on us so much that we were like, ‘Well, f**k ‘em. We’ll show ‘em. We’re not going to die. We’re going to stay here and dig in.’ You’ve got to get that kind of mentality going, that sort of siege mentality.”
Clarke wasn’t the sort to throw up his hands and walk away. His background as a laborer would suggest he’d stay until the job was done. And as it turned out, Clarke was the perfect fit for Motorhead for that reason and many others. One was his look; the other was his take-charge attitude.
“Well, I had long hair and tight trousers and boots,” said Clarke, talking about the clothes he wore before joining Motorhead. “I used to wear boots and all that. But the leather jacket always eluded me. I never had enough money to buy one. And the bullet belt was a new thing for me. I didn’t know anything about the bullet belt. But I wasn’t a pansy. I was a pretty tough guy anyway, so the clothes were helpful. I think Phil had already assessed that, that I would fit in, because I was running things with this boat we were building. I was running the show. So, of course, I had to tell people what to do and people got a bit short with me. I had to deal with them, you know. And I think Phil thought that was something that would be good … I wasn’t a pansy, you know.”
The word “pansy” is not one that comes to mind when describing anybody in Motorhead. Still, there were cracks in their sneering veneer that implied a weakening of the bonds between them. After the untamed and savage Motorhead LP shot up to #43 on the U.K. charts, the band toured with Hawkwind, before embarking on the “Beyond the Threshold of Pain” tour with the Count Bishops. At home, management issues would rear up, with Tony Secunda taking over the reins. Meanwhile, as turmoil swirled within Motorhead, Clarke and Taylor branched off and formed The Muggers with Keen and Billy Rath.
Nobody was playing taps for Motorhead, though. In the summer of 1978, the band changed management again, opting to return to Douglas Smith. It was Smith who brokered a singles deal with Bronze Records that would lead to Motorhead recording “Louie, Louie.” The track charted at #68 in the U.K., giving them more momentum. In fact, it lead to their initial performance on the “Top of the Pops” TV show in England, the first of many.
“Well, we did that seven times,” said Clarke, who was not exactly comfortable doing the program. “We became the BBC’s pet band. Yeah, we were always on ‘Top of the Pops.’ Never sold any records, though, because of it, but we were always on ‘Top of the Pops.’ I think it’s because they liked to show that they could have a moody, ‘out there’ band, you know, to get a bit of credibility. What do you do? So, yeah, we did it. I mean, ‘Top of the Pops’ is the worst show. I mean, however much I drank, I could never do it without feeling like a complete prick. You stand there, and there’s an audience, and you’re miming it, and you’re thinking, ‘God, I’m f**king miming this.’ – yeah, really difficult stuff. I hated all that, you know. Lem and Phil didn’t mind so much, ‘cause Lemmy’s a real showman. I don’t care about all that, but I used to love Lemmy for that.”
Emboldened by the success of “Louie, Louie,” Bronze gave Motorhead a little more rope, extending their deal so that the band could record an album at Bronze’s studios. As Motorhead is wont to do, they left their mark there and they fought like brothers while doing so.
“Well, Overkill was our first time in a proper studio with an album deal,” said Clarke. “And we had a studio, Bronze Studios in London, and we were like, ‘Oh.’ And of course, we were just trying to get our band sounding great. We had a few bashes there. One of the bashes we had was we were so f**king drunk that Phil got sick on the ceiling – in the corridor. It was quite funny. You had these little couple of steps you had to go down, and when you went in the door, you went up again. Well, he managed to throw up and it hit the ceiling (laughs). We did have some fun. We had a few fights, me and Phil. We had our differences. We had our moments. But it was just that thing when we played Overkill, man, you know on the big speakers, with the double bass drums … I mean nobody had really done that then, not in that way. That’s why we did three endings. We did it with three endings, you know. I said, ‘Hey, let’s f**king do three endings here,’ you know. ‘We can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Why not? We’re Motorhead. We can do anything.’ And we did, and it was brilliant.”
With help from producer Jimmy Miller – whose resume had included the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street and Goats Head Soup LPs – Motorhead birthed the explosive, unrelenting Overkill, the first Motorhead LP to rocket into the U.K. Top 40 album chart and what many consider the band’s finest hour. In anticipation of the record’s release, the group … well, they mimed the flying-at-unsafe-speeds single “Overkill” on “Top of the Pops.” Those were heady days, indeed, for Motorhead.
“See that was finished in the beginning of ’79,” recalls Clarke, “because we started it in the end of ’78, end of Christmas. And then we did the show at Hammersmith November the fifth. That was also a great time, that Hammersmith Odeon [performance]. That’s like Mecca, do you know what I mean? And it was fantastic making it there. And then we did Overkill. And then straight after that … that was ’79, the beginning of ’79, we toured with Overkill, with the Girlschool thing and all that, and did some gigs in France and all that. But the record company wanted another album by the end of the summer.”
The beast had to be fed, after all. More food would be thrown down its gullet in the form of Bomber, Overkill’s hastily thrown together follow-up. Luckily, Motorhead was a well-oiled machine at this point, and with the threesome on fire in the studio, Bomber, when released, dropped a devastating payload of thermonuclear proto-speed metal on a world that had already been blown away by Overkill. Few bands have ever had a hot streak like the one Motorhead was on.
“For once, we sat down and we went into the rehearsal studio, and came out about a week later and said we’ve got all the tunes,” said Clarke. “It was brilliant man. Things like ‘Stone Dead Forever’ … I mean fantastic. So that has another thing going for it. It was just there. It was right in front of us and we just grabbed it – just fantastic.
Last bombing run
Ask Clarke to choose which album he favors, and he’ll answer with a shrug of the shoulders.
Bomber and Overkill are my favorites,” said Clarke. “I don’t know. Between the two, I’m not sure which one. I mean, there are some fabulous tracks on Bomber. Don’t get me wrong, Ace of Spades is … well, Ace of Spades is Ace of Spades. But, you know, I’m looking for something else, because that was kind of a hit record. I mean, Overkill had that … it was one of those that was just blown out. And so was Bomber. I have difficulty choosing between the two of them. They were my two favorite albums.”
And that period of the band’s history – including, of course, the Ace of Spades album – is considered by many as Motorhead’s golden age. In live settings, Motorhead took no prisoners, thrilling audiences with visceral, explosive performances and a bit of theatricality.
“The fans definitely did take to it, ‘cause the bomber … we put the bomber up in the truck, the lighting truck, the bomber came down,” said Clarke. “So, of course, the kids really appreciated that. It really was picking up speed now. It was actually on a chain hoist that would come up and down and it looked fantastic. It was an old World War II bomber, you know, come right down and touch the top of our heads and then it would go back up, and it just looked fantastic. And the kids just couldn’t believe it. I mean, the kids loved it.”
Not everyone was convinced of Motorhead’s brilliance, however. “Obviously, the critics were still telling us we were the worst band in the world, that we were f**king noisy,” said Clarke. “And if you’re a muso lover – you know what I mean – you won’t like Motorhead because we’re just so noisy and awful. But the fans loved it. But of course what happened was – it was really quite funny actually – when we did No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith, that same band that was titled ‘the worst band in the world’ … the same journalists, for the same paper said it was the best f**king live album ever. Now how is that possible when six months ago you were telling us that we were the worst band in the world? But it’s funny how people’s attitudes change, isn’t it?”
So it was within Motorhead as well. Where ideas flowed during the accelerated recording sessions of Overkill and Bomber, Clarke remembers Ace of Spades being a bit of a chore to complete.
“We were flowing,” said Clarke. “I mean we went from Overkill straight into Bomber, and we had the bomber itself, and it was just flying along. And then Ace of Spades just followed onto that. Ace of Spades was the first … well, it was the first time we had to think a little more. What we did were rehearsals. We did a sort of demo recording, an 8-track demo recording of the rehearsals. And then we worked on those, so more work had to go into the writing of that, whereas with the other ones, we just went in and banged it out. So that was the first sign that ideas were starting to get difficult, because you get a band like Motorhead, you don’t have many options. So it’s quite difficult coming up with new material all the time because you tend to be standing on your own toes. But we got through Ace of Spades, we got through it, and it was great. The “Ace of Spades” track just killed everybody, everything’s going great … it was just another step up the ladder. We did four Hammersmith Odeons, and it was f**king brilliant.”
Motorhead - Ace of Spades cover
Even the photography sessions – which can sometimes be tedious – for the cover of Ace of Spades were a blast. “Well, I loved it. We all loved it, because before that, we’d done the thing with Girlschool, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (EP), where we dressed up like Al Capone. You know, we had machine guns, and it was brilliant,” said Clarke. “And we loved that, because we were sort of in the groove then. Photo shoots are normally a horrible thing to do, like videos. When you’re playing another part, it’s actually great, so we were really ready for it. We got all our stuff, we were all grooming beards for a few days to get a bit of stubble, you’ve got the cape out like Clint Eastwood, you’ve got the tablecloth out, you know what I mean? And we really prepared for it, and it was quite lucky because we did it in a place in north London. And it’s a sand quarry. Fortunately, the sun was shining. It all came out rather well. A lot of people say, ‘Where did you do that?’ And they think it’s like New Mexico or something. No, we did it in the north of London. And they go, ‘You’re f**king joking.’ It was one of those. It really was.”
The good times would, however, come to an end. Iron Fist was a bit of step backward for the band, and Clarke was eventually left to fend for himself on the fateful North American tour that ended so abruptly for the guitarist. Clarke went back to England and eventually formed Fastway, which released its first album in decades earlier this year. 
Looking back on it all, he still feels great affection for Lemmy and fondly recalls the heady excitement of Motorhead’s success.
“Lemmy was my friend for a lot of the time, especially in the beginning,” said Clarke. “In the beginning, I remember he said to me once … we did the first couple of shows we ever did in ’76, and we had some bad reviews, and I was teed off a bit. And he said to me, ‘Look, man. You’re going to get a lot of this. You really just have to ignore them and carry on. I’ve had loads of them in my lifetime,’ he said. ‘You just have to ignore them and carry on, ‘cause people are going to write that shit.’ And that was the nice thing about working with Lem, because I was a bit of a greenhorn, so having Lemmy give me a few pointers here and there was quite helpful. It got you through the hard times when people are putting you down and you go and do a bad gig and you feel like hanging yourself, you know. Lemmy was always there.”
It’s hard to imagine a world without him … and Motorhead, of course.

CD Review: Lita Ford - "Living like a Runaway"


CD Review: Lita Ford – “Living like a Runaway”
SPV/Steamhammer
All Access Review: B+
Lita Ford - Living like a Runaway 2012
The recent upheaval in Lita Ford’s personal life certainly has tongues wagging. And while gossipy fishwives may prattle on about the details of her messy divorce from Jim Gillette, former singer for the glam-metal dandies Nitro and a one-time Ford collaborator, the rest of the metal community better not sleep on what is undoubtedly the most personal record of her career, Living like a Runaway.
Coming off 2009’s delightfully sinful, and uncharacteristically heavy, Wicked Wonderland, Ford casts aside the S&M trappings and sexual bravado of that record to unburden the heavy emotional baggage she’s obviously been carrying around for way too long. Living like a Runaway is the best kind of therapy, comprised of some of the strongest and most daring material of her career. Nowhere to be found is the cute, cuddly pop-metal of her breakout 1980s hit “Kiss Me Deadly.” Instead, the defiant Ford – never a shrinking violet – works out her issues in a clutch of fierce, swaggering rockers like the blazing single “Branded” and its slithering, nastier cousins “Hate” and “The Mask” that, for all their righteous anger and seductively metallic grooves, still boast gripping hooks galore. Lighter and more introspective is the autobiographical title track, which features a nimble-fingered guitar lead and wistfully nostalgic lyrics that speak to Ford’s restless nature. And the soul-baring “Mother” is such a frank and affecting acoustically-sketched letter from Ford to her children that it’s almost hard to get through. But, it bears out, in stark detail, how the wounds of divorce heal so slowly.
The bandages are ripped off on Living like a Runaway, and yet for all its bluster and ballsy attitude, “Relentless” ought to have a chorus that isn’t so feathery and disappointingly lightweight. Still, for the most part, producer and co-conspirator Gary Hoey, Ford’s secret weapon, helps her stay focused on grinding out the kind of tough, meaty riffs and high-flying solos that make “Devil in My Head” such a brawling and candid exploration on the dual nature of man … or, in this case, woman. Though Ford can’t help dipping her toes in the somewhat clich├ęd and dated piece of ‘80s metal that is “Asylum,” its spandex-sporting kin “Love 2 Hate You” embeds wonderfully melodic hooks in a sparkling, yet bittersweet, chorus that serves to remind everyone that Ford still knows her way around a pop song.
In the past, Ford may have lived her life like a runaway, detached and isolated like a troubled young girl who’s left home and hasn’t a clue where to go or what to do next. Perhaps her time in the raw, adolescent punk girl group The Runaways was, in and of itself, a similarly confusing exile. Whatever the case, Ford, who’s been smashing her pretty blonde head against heavy metal’s glass ceiling for years, has turned her present inner turmoil outward and it fuels some of the edgiest, most provocative music she’s ever produced.
-            Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Whitechapel - Whitechapel


CD Review: Whitechapel - Whitechapel
Metal Blade

All Access Review: A-

Whitechapel - Whitechapel 2012
Someday, a happier Phil Bozeman might be moved to pen a charming children’s book full of goodness and light-hearted mirth. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, however, as the superhuman, almost bestial lead vocalist and resident wordsmith for deathcore warriors Whitechapel has a spleen full of hate-filled bile built up inside that is just begging to be vented. And he expels gallons of it on the Tennessee band’s hotly anticipated new June 18 release for Metal Blade, a seething emotional cauldron of intensely hostile and dense, aggressively dynamic metal that’s saturated with starry atmospherics and resigned to the idea that “the world will rot from the inside out,” as Bozeman demonically growls in the brutally heavy chorus to “Section 8.”
As the decomposition eats away at mankind, Whitechapel will serenade the apocalypse with darkly melodic passages, a dizzying array of riffs and violent, death-obsessed imagery. A parade of exquisite misery and pain, expressed so vividly in Bozeman’s full-throated roar, this scary self-titled effort signifies just how anxious Whitechapel is to escape the restrictive extreme music ghetto they’ve been locked up in since their screaming, agonized birth. “Section 8” is their cry of freedom. A nightmarish frenzy of angry guitars and furious blast beats – courtesy of clever new drummer Ben Harclerode – that pummel and attack from all angles, “Section 8” shifts tempos seamlessly, slowing to a bulldozing crawl and then accelerating to breakneck speeds before exhaling its last breath. Similar in how it switches directions, the expansive first single, “Hate Creation,” does a swan dive into a swirling vortex of guttural, hellish vocals and layers of evil-sounding guitars created by Ben Savage, Zach Householder and Alex Wade. Regaining its footing, Whitechapel floats through little mystical episodes that vanish like mirages when a blazing sonic holocaust – stoked by Sepultura-like tribal percussive chanting from Bozeman – scorches the song’s sacred earth.
More curious, however, are “The Night Remains” and the epic closer “Possibilities of an Impossible Existence,” the former a mysterious, shadowy presence bringing destructive grooves and oddly intoxicating guitar hemlock and the latter a burnt offering of relentless heaviness and decayed beauty. Punctuated by a morose piano outro that serves as an exhausted epithet for this asylum of insane thrash, paralyzing breakdowns, and vigorous, charging rhythms, “Possibilities of an Impossible Existence” is the last monolithic structure standing on Whitechapel, an album that survives massive, devouring conflagrations like “Make it Bleed” and the politically-charged screed “Faces,” while also absorbing the booming guns of the chugging battleship “I, Dementia.” If this record is any indication, Whitechapel may just be deathcore’s greatest hope for crossover success … and Bozeman would be its messiah.

-            Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Rush - Clockwork Angels

CD Review: Rush - Clockwork Angels 
Roadrunner Records
All Access Review: A-
Rush - Clockwork Angels 2012
Revolution is in the air again for Rush, lo these many years since the people of the Solar Federation were freed from 2112’s dystopian, artless existence and the fascist Priests of the Temples of Syrinx were removed from power. Flexing his literary muscles, Neil Peart spins an epic yarn of adventure and wonder throughout the new Rush sci-fi concept album Clockwork Angels, a work of grandiose progressive-rock architecture that’s suffused with steampunk imagery and traffics in many of the same themes that dominated 2112 – namely, the insidious nature of repressive, totalitarian rule and the subtle erosion of individual freedoms that occurs under such governance. Somewhere, Ayn Rand is … well, barely cracking a smile.
Peart’s protagonist is a boy who fantasizes of escaping a peaceful, idyllic rural paradise to explore the world and find the famous City of Gold: Cibola. “I can’t stop thinking big,” the child exclaims in the mystical chorus to “Caravan.” Neither can Rush, apparently. A wonderfully constructed maze of rampaging, complex riffage, melodic magic and quick-shifting rhythms and tempos that introduces Clockwork Angels, “Caravan” rolls on into the roaring maw of “BU2B.” One of the heaviest tracks Rush has ever produced, along with the grotesquely sinister and oily “Carnies” that also inhabits the record, “BU2B” introduces us to the Watchmaker, the supposedly benevolent dictator whose orders are carried out by the Regulators, the suppliers of energy to a populace taught to “believe in what we’re told.” Is the narrative starting to sound familiar? It should.
As our hero encounters a dangerous anarchist, joins a carnival, finds love and loses it by idealizing “a goddess, with wings on her heels” in the tender and reflective “Halo Effect,” and then survives a desert of extreme cold and snow only to narrowly avoid death in a disaster at sea, Rush builds strong citadels of sonic grandeur and intricate machinery on Clockwork Angels. From the sublime acoustic artistry and sweeping, gorgeously arranged strings – erected by arranger/conductor David Campbell – of “Halo Effect” to the swirling mystery and renegade guitars of “Seven Cities of Gold” and the big-hearted emotions and dramatic swells of “The Wreckers,” Clockwork Angels is both beautiful and majestic.
Alex Lifeson’s fretwork is breathtakingly here, balancing expressive solos with the desire to sculpt the muscular, driving riffs of “Headlong Flight” and weave acoustic gold in the delicate, affecting dreaminess of post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd in “The Garden.” Pushed to the forefront, Lee’s bass is propulsive and elastic, contorting itself into impossible shapes, all the while never letting the integrity of the song be compromised. And as for Peart, his wizardry has never been more potent or as unpredictable, that technical precision of his always one step away from devolving into controlled chaos. Witness the dizzying instrumental passage near the end of “Caravan” to get an idea of just how incredibly powerful and dynamic the trio’s interplay can be when Rush is at the top of their game. If not for the overwhelming production values actually weakening the sound quality and clarity of the record rather than strengthening it, Clockwork Angels might be deemed one of Rush’s finest albums, even if the threesome, on the rarest of occasions, appears slightly tentative and uncertain as to how to take songs to the next level. As it is, Clockwork Angels is still undeniably a classic.

-            Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Bachman & Turner - Live at the Roseland Ballroom, NYC


CD Review: Bachman & Turner - Live at the Roseland Ballroom, NYC
Eagle Records
B+
Bachman & Turner 2012
Hard hats in hand, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner went back to work a few years ago after a long layoff. The driving forces behind ‘70s blue-collar rockers Bachman-Turner Overdrive had mothballed BTO in 2005, before reuniting as Bachman & Turner with a self-titled album that turned back the clock to 1973 and displayed the kind of industrious riffs, lovably gruff melodies and tight, rugged hooks that made workingman’s anthems of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” “Let it Ride,” “Roll on Down the Highway” and “Takin’ Care of Business” – all of them steeped in Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, bologna sandwiches and blind optimism. The hit factory they’d shut down was back up and running, and they didn’t need a bailout to get the assembly line running at peak efficiency, as it did at the Roseland Ballroom.
If only the rest of the world gave a damn about good, honest songwriting and no-frills, guitar-driven rock and roll. Rolling up their sleeves, Bachman & Turner rumbled into the Roseland in New York City on November 16, 2010 and stubbornly plowed through a slew of hard-hitting classics and new sonic brawls without regard for what’s trendy or fashionable these days. And they do more than just punch a clock on this warm-sounding double-CD live recording – a DVD/Blu-ray release is also scheduled – of that comeback show. Starting with a rigorous, triumphant run through “Let it Roll,” Disc 1 pounds away at a brick wall of indifference with swinging sledgehammers “Rock is My Life” and “Not Fragile,” two of the toughest, most defiant songs in their catalog. Feeling bluesy, Bachman & Turner add just a touch of jazzy sophistication to “Moonlight Rider.” One of the pair’s more recent concoctions, it slides smoothly and effortlessly into the light neon glow and cocktail-hour meditation of “Lookin’ Out For #1” and the soulful, closing-time feel of Disc 2’s “Blue Collar,” while the understated pop brilliance of “Hey You” – its chorus building into something unexpectedly heady and exhilarating – shines perhaps even brighter than it did in the ‘70s.
Although their slinky, low-down reading of Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over” wins points for its restless energy, there is a sluggishness that hits Bachman & Turner at precisely the wrong time. Just as they’re about to go out in a blaze of glory with “Roll on Down the Highway” and “Takin’ Care of Business,” the band – comprised also of drummer Marc LaFrance and guitarists Brent Howard Knudsen and Mick Dalla-Vee – struggles to get on the same page and maintain a lively pace. All of a sudden, they’re running in quicksand and drowning in it when they should be galloping toward the finish line, too eager to settle into that mythical pocket and never quite finding that open stretch of road to let the engine out.
It’s not age that’s slowing them down. Bachman still nestles those economical, searing guitar leads of his perfectly within the open cracks of a song and Turner’s booming bass sounds as vigorous and powerful as ever when they grind their way through the punishing “Four Wheel Drive” and the piston-pumping dynamo “Slave to the Rhythm.” And their spitfire version of the Guess Who classic “American Woman” snarls with primal energy. In a sense, BTO is a bit like AC/DC, doing what they do so simply that they seem to hit the spot every time they pick up their instruments. Maybe they’ve lost some of their relevance, but that’s only because the music industry is wandering in the wilderness. If there were more bands like BTO, it might not be in the mess it’s in today.

-            Peter Lindblad

Kill Devil Hill unleashes its 'War Machine'


New metal act features legendary drummer Vinny Appice, ex-Pantera and Down bassist Rex Brown
By Peter Lindblad
Kill Devil Hill's new S/T release in 2012
A sonic voyage of the damned replete with eerie, hell-spawned imagery, doom-laden riffs and apocalyptically heavy grooves, Kill Devil Hill’s self-titled debut LP is the product of fiendish musical minds. Priests might be tempted to conduct an exorcism for its creators, but ex-Black Sabbath and Dio drummer Vinny Appice – the guiding force behind the new fearsome foursome Kill Devil Hill, which counts former Pantera and Down bassist Rex Brown among its members – wouldn’t be a good candidate for such an ordeal. He’s not at all evil and there’s no demon inside him trying to consume his soul. At least on the phone he didn’t seem to be tortured by such things. His biggest worry was a distracting girlfriend causing him to lose focus and prevent him from providing an articulate accounting of the group’s mission.
Augmented by newcomers Dewey Bragg, the powerful singer whose huge vocal roar sounds as if it could swallow the earth in one big gulp, and guitar wizard Mark Zavon, Kill Devil Hill sets out to dig up the remains of early Black Sabbath and “Man in the Box”-era Alice in Chains on its gothic first album, which drops May 22 via SPV/Steamhammer. Reanimating their bodies with darkly contoured melodies and skin-piercing hooks laid over the solidifying cement of Brown’s thick bass and Appice’s punishing, dynamic drumming, tracks like the devastatingly serpentine “Rise From the Shadows,” the haunting “Up in Flames” and the truly spooky “Gates of Hell” capture the sludgy creepiness of Sabbath in their prime. Meanwhile, the aggressive, gripping battle cry “War Machine” could be the soundtrack for the inevitable faceoff between heaven’s angels and Lucifer’s legions. A wicked seductress covered in stained-glass guitars and garish lingerie, “Voodoo Doll” is a head-spinning den of sin and iniquity, and “Old Man” sees deep inside your soul and castigates your wickedness with a brutal chorus and bloody, chopping riffs.
Kill Devil Hill has arrived and not a moment too soon. A massive, gloomy fortress of heavy metal that ought to be sitting on a mountain surrounded by towering pine trees, Kill Devil Hill’s latest is a powerhouse record and a warning to anyone who would doubt the abilities of Appice and Brown to reinvent themselves. Appice talked about Kill Devil Hill and touched on his days with Sabbath and Dio in this recent interview.
This new project you’ve got is something else. Explain to me how Kill Devil Hill got started.
Vinny Appice: Well, actually, it was a funny way it started. We came off the “Heaven and Hell” tour and I had to have shoulder surgery because I was killing my shoulder on the giant drum set. So what I did was, right before the shoulder surgery, I recorded 13 drum tracks for this download thing on the Internet. And then right after I did that, this hospital called and said, “We can get you in early. Why don’t you come down and we can do the surgery next week.” So I had these drum tracks and then after the surgery, I’m in a sling. I can’t play. So after the surgery, I’m in this sling. And I’m sitting there and I’m going, “I can’t play. I can’t do anything,” ‘cause the sling was going to be six weeks and I couldn’t play the drums for a couple months. So I listened to the drum tracks one morning, and I said, “Wow, these are really cool!” So I called Jimmy Bain (former bassist for Rainbow and Dio), a good friend, and he came over. So I said, “Why don’t you play to these and do what you do?” So he started playing, loves it and then I got word that there was this guitar player, Mark Zavon, who lives close by to me. And I thought, “Well, this will be a good way to see how he works and how he plays.”
So I invited him down one day and I engineered it, laid guitars down on some of the stuff Jimmy did, and it was really taking shape. Mark had a lot of great ideas, and I said, “Well, this is cool. Do you know any good singers?” And he played me a CD of Dewey, Dewey Bragg, of the song “Hangman,” which is on our record. I had never heard of the guy. I loved the way he sounded, loved his voice, it’s modern, it sounds cool and dark. So that’s how it came about. And eventually, it didn’t work out with Jimmy. We tried a couple other people, and I heard Rex was looking for something, so I knew Rex from way back, and I called Rex and messengered him some of the songs. He loved ‘em, played bass on ‘em on the demos and we thought, “This is really cool. This is really taking shape now.” We were able to get a deal with those demos, and Rex committed to the band. And we started grouping everybody’s ideas together, writing more songs, and then that’s the way it came together in a pretty interesting way. It all started with some drums.
Some of the songs you’ve been involved with over the years, have they started with drums or is that an unusual situation?
VA: Well, “War Machine” … it’s almost the real drum track that I played. I played that tempo, and I went, “Boom.” I started with a fill … the fill is not on the record, it just slams in. And those parts, I would play 16 bars and then I would change. And then, I would go back to the feel. And I was playing it in my head, like it was a song. And a lot of “War Machine” is almost identical to the track I played originally. And a couple of them are like that. Some of the rest are newer that we wrote later on. So it was interesting that they were written with the drums.
Talking about your past with Rex, I was reading an interview with him in Revolver magazine about him and Phil [Anselmo, from Pantera] would sit behind Geezer Butler’s rig on the Dehumanizer tour and watch you drum while smoking a joint. Do you remember much of that at all?
VA: Yeah, it was Black Sabbath and Pantera. We played a number of festivals together and they would go on, and then we’d go on. And they’d all be sitting by the side of the stage or behind Geezer’s amp, and they would watch us play because they were big Sabbath fans. And he said, “I was watching you, man, beating the sh*t out of those drums.” And they were always there; Phil was great. They loved Sabbath, so it was cool and it gave us energy. There they are over there watching us play, so we got off on it, too. It was pretty funny.
What were your impressions of Pantera back then?
VA: They were just bad-ass, man – a powerful, strong band. So much energy … they just slammed it to the wall. So I enjoyed them and I watched them, too, before we went on those shows when we arrived on time, I was watching Pantera. So, they were awesome, man … absolutely – slamming it to the wall.
Did you have any inkling back then that you could one day work with Rex or any of those guys?
VA: I never thought about it. I just liked the way Rex played. That’s one thing that stood out was his sound. It was so big and hip and really the foundation under the band. I always liked the way he played. He reminded me of someone between Geezer and Jimmy Bain. And I loved the sound, and I never thought that we’d play together. I just thought, well, it’s a little bit different types of music, you know – good friends, good buddies, but I hadn’t really thought about it. I admired the way they played, and especially Rex.
And then you guys reconnected a bit on the “Heaven and Hell” tour, which Down played on.
VA: Yeah, Down opened for us. We played a lot of dates together, and we went down to Australia, and it was cool. It was cool hanging out. It was a great tour and successful, so it was cool hanging out with friends and being out on tour for that long. There was even talk of, at one time after Ronnie passed away, if we were going to continue, what singers we could use. Phil’s name popped up as a possibility to make another record, but that never happened.
Wow, that would have been something.
VA: Yeah, great to think of it now.
Just before the interview, I was listening to the new album a bit and thinking about Dehumanizer, and I went back and listened to that a little bit. I saw a few similarities. Do you see anything in Kill Devil Hill that relates to Dehumanizer?
VA: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying … like the guitars, very heavy and very heavy riffs, and the drum sounds are a little bigger on Dehumanizer. There are some similarities to it. And I think there are some similarities with the old style Sabbath, the early Sabbath. And then there’s a little bit of Dio in there, too. Dewey is a very melodic singer, very heavy and dark. But then he hits on those melodies. Some of them remind me of what Ronnie had done. So it was kind of a combination of those things, and some of it’s like Alice in Chains. It reminds me a lot of Alice in Chains and Pantera. There are a lot of little ingredients in there, you know. And it wasn’t like we sat there and said, “Let’s do this so that it sounds like this.” It just happened that way with all the bands and the combination of them.
You mentioned the Alice in Chains comparison that’s come up a bit in regard to Kill Devil Hill. I know Rex was saying in Revolver that he thought Kill Devil Hill was much heavier. That definitely seems to come across in the record.
VA: Well, it does, because the thing with Alice in Chains is, the drums never really played anything more than the feel of the song. I don’t play that way. I play with the riffs more. I think the parts with Alice in Chains … they’re a heavy band, but the harmonies sound more Alice in Chains-y than the band. The band is a little bit heavier, a little more aggressive, but the harmonies in the vocals are what remind you a little bit of Alice in Chains.
Talking about the harmonies and the guitar player, Mark, maybe you haven’t exactly discovered this talent, but as big as your names are – those of yours and Rex – it does seem like he and Dewey are really strong up-and-coming musicians I would think.
Vinny Appice 2012
VA: Yeah, you’re right. When I first got together with Mark and he plugged into … we didn’t have any amps, he plugged into the sound board. I just had a little studio. He plugged in with some pedal things and he got a great sound. And I went, “Yeah, this is cool.” And with Mark, he reminds me of Tony Iommi because he plays good chords, heavy chords. A lot of players are into shredding all the time. They don’t learn how to play chords and the feel, steady, and to make it sound big and heavy. Mark did that I noticed and then we played together live and I noticed that, too. And he’s a great guitar player and he can shred, man. He can shred with the best of them. He’s a killer guitar player, and he’s a great guy. That’s what was important. I was looking for somebody I could work with first. And then he came down, and I went, “Man, he’s f**king awesome.” He’s a great guy, he became a great friend and he’s so into it and so passionate about music, you know. And that could be because he’s always dreamed about something bigger and this is his opportunity to shine. So it just worked out great, and then when we went to do the album, he wanted to do different things on the guitar – some of them I didn’t agree with, but I let him do them, and the outcome was incredible. He did a great job, all those doubling things and effects.
And Dewey … the same thing. He was a guy where all we had to do was come up with some cool, heavy riffs, and we give ‘em to Dewey and he comes up with these great little hooks. And if he didn’t, we’d help him. Mark was a great help, working with the vocals and lyrics, and even me … I’d say, “Why don’t you try something like this, something simple” and so we all threw in together, but Dewey was mainly able to come up with all this stuff. And he looks the part. He’s real … yeah, it’s amazing, and he’s got a great sound to his voice. It was just exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want an ‘80s singer or anything like that. It was supposed to be something new, with some roots to it. So, yeah, it just happened to be assembled, and that’s why I like the way the band came together. It’s not a paper band like, “Let’s get this guy from this band, and this guy from this band,” and it looks good on paper and then you do an album or two and then the band breaks up. It came together and fell together like a band should. And Rex and I want to keep it going. We want to build a career with this band. We think it’s a great band. We have fun together, we play live together, it’s fun, we jam and musically it’s awesome.
That, I think, is great news to everybody because the new album is really something. I just reviewed it and I was blown away by it.
VA: Yeah, and you know, it was produced by us and Warren Riker (Down, Corrosion of Conformity, Sublime, Cathedral). We had a lot of problems along the way, but we sorted them out and we needed somebody to mix it. It was supposed to be mixed and it wasn’t mixed on time, and we were kind of stuck. And then somehow, Rex mentioned this Jay Rustin guy, and we went, “Whoa, look at the credits that Jay Rustin has,” and he just did the last Anthrax release, so we met with Jay and got to know him and he just made it sparkle. And he just gave the whole thing this great … he took all the recordings of all the tracks and just made it happen, made it sonically sound really thick, a nice-sounding record. Jay did a great job. Now if we could only pay him (laughs). If could only make some more money and pay him, that would be great.
I was wondering if you could touch on some of the individual songs on the album. You talked about “War Machine” and that’s such a great opener, really heavy, it’s got that kind of hornets’ nest of guitars that it kicks up. It sounds like that was one of the first songs that you came up with.
VA: Yeah, it was one of the first songs. Like I said, that was a drum track – “boom dap boom, boom dap boom.” That whole thing was a drum track. And then Mark came over and started playing some stuff to it, and then he said, “Let me take it home and work on it.” And then he took it home, and the next day, he put all these guitars on, which was basically the song. And it was like, “F**k man, that kicks ass.” And then Dewey got to it and wrote the lyrics … I think between Mark and Dewey, they wrote lyrics. I’m not sure who wrote that one. And then the melody was there, Dewey came up with the melody and it just came together, like “Whoa, this kicks butt.” So that was a burner, out the door. Great opener, like you said.
I wanted to get your thoughts, too, on “Gates of Hell” and “Rise From the Shadows.” “Gates of Hell” was kind of unusual. In a weird way, it reminded me of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” a real twisted bit of psychedelia.
VA: Yeah, well, you know what? As far as lyrically and stuff, I don’t get into that. It’s the weirdest thing: I don’t hear lyrics. I hear them, but I don’t follow them in the song. And I played with Dio for years and I was with Ronnie for years, and he’d say, “Here’s what I’m trying to say in this song.” And I didn’t hear it until he told me what they were. So he would tell me the lyrics, and he would do that sometimes. “Here I’m doing this and there I’m doing that …” But I don’t hear lyrics. I’m so honed in on the riffs and the band, and I see songs differently, which is good because that’s not my thing. I’m good at what I do. So lyrically, I kind of know where it’s going and the feel, and I hear the words, but I don’t know exactly what he’s saying. And that’s just the way my ears hear. I mean, “Rainbow in the Dark” … how many times did I play that song – three million times or something – and I still don’t know what it’s about. I know some of the lyrics, but that’s about it.
So, “Gates of Hell” was something Mark and I started jamming on. He did these things and had some verses, and the next day we came in and listened to it, and we did this and there were some parts that were missing. Eventually, we added another part, and we thought, “Don’t go to the chorus after the first verse” because it’s such a giveaway to go the chorus. Let’s build it up and then it hangs and drops. And then they’re listening and “Oh sh*t,” now there’s the second verse. And it’s the second verse that goes to the chorus, so it was different things like that. I was just aware when we made the record and wrote these songs to keep … the only thing I thought of was to keep the listener interested by not doing too many verses or [making] the verses long. Ronnie always said, “You don’t want them to figure out where the next part of the song’s going to go.” And you want to keep a little bit of guessing going on in there. Instead of the song going right in on one, you might have done three bars instead of four, so when it comes in, it’s unexpected. So that’s the only thing I was aware of. For some of them that went long, we shortened things up a little bit or [came up with] odd changes or odd fills, a couple fills that are like three bars. See, I like all that weird sh*t and messing things up – that’s my drumming (laughs). “Gates of Hell” is a real moody son of a bitch, and Dewey does some great vocals in it and a great guitar solo and Rex’s bass goes to a dark place.
It’s very sinister. It definitely reminds me of that first Sabbath album. It’s kind of disturbing and unsettling.
VA: The other one, “Up in Flames,” you know we had that. Me and Mark jammed on that, and then similar to “Gates of Hell,” we wanted to keep it up a little more, so on that one, I actually thought of Ringo. And I thought, “Ringo would play this simple” – doo bap, doo doo bap, doo bap, doo doo doo doo [descending] – so I just kept it simple. It was kind of a Ringo effect. I thought Ringo played great, you know.
Was Ringo’s drumming influential for you?
VA: No, not really. It wasn’t influential, but now, when I listen to the Beatles’ stuff, when somebody plays parts of songs and not just beats, then I’m very impressed by that. Anybody can play the beats of a song. When you listen to Beatles songs, there’s a stop, there’s a part where Ringo just plays the toms, there are parts where he maybe just plays the bells … he’s so creative. And that’s what Bill Ward did in the early Sabbath stuff. He didn’t just play beats, he played parts. And that’s impressive when drummers create parts to play musically instead of trying to shred.
As far as playing together with Rex, what do you like about playing with him the most?
VA: It’s cool. First, I love the sound. It’s a giant, giant sound. And then, he doesn’t play busy. You know, he plays solid, and it allows me to go crazy sometimes. So Rex is not a real busy bass player. He’ll play some licks here and there, but then he’ll lay it down. He lays a great foundation and then I’m able to lay into that foundation and I’m able to go a little crazy with crazy fills and stuff, like I’ve always done my whole life. So it works well together, and then when we get down a riff, I’m just locking in with him and it’s huge. And then I just beat the sh*t out of the drums as much as I can and he plays like that, too. The cool thing is we’re both in sync, you know.
You mentioned that you and Rex want to make this a career band. Where do you envision it going?
VA: Hopefully, to a higher level. I won’t say the top, that’s hard. But the fun thing is, it is fun and it’s fun to create. So to have fun and have success on top of it is wonderful. So we hope to build it and tour bigger tours, build up a great fan base and make great music. I’ve done it before, but not with my own band. So this is totally something new for me.
Do you feel a greater sense of ownership with this group than past bands you’ve been with?
VA: Oh, absolutely. Just the way it was with Sabbath and Dio, they’d say, “You’re rehearsing from here to here, flying out here and going to the gigs. Here’s the tour.” Everything was laid out with decisions. Musically, with Dio I was involved more with the ideas and some of the songwriting. And then Sabbath, you know, it was mainly just ideas, ‘cause it was Sabbath, you know? I’d always put my opinion in with some of the things and try to be a part of the band that way. And this is totally different. There are a lot of decisions to be made. I never did this before, so now it is like, when the band makes money, you make money. When the band loses money, you’re part of the loss. So it’s a whole different animal, and I’ve never really done it this way before. It’s like owning your own company. It’s a lot more work.
You mentioned songwriting. Tell me some of the things you learned from your Sabbath experience and with Ronnie that crop up on this record.
VA: Well, like I said from Ronnie, it was try the unexpected. You don’t want the listener to go, “Ah, now I know what’s going into the next part,” and it does. It’s like sometimes when you hear records, they go back and forth, with something in between that. It might be an odd bar or something, or an odd change, a couple chords or hangs, or whatever it is. And then it goes to something that’s anticipated. So a lot of that stuff came from Ron, and Sabbath was more of watching Tony and Geezer play, how they played and how at times Geezer sometimes followed Tony on the riffs and then he wouldn’t follow Tony on the riffs. Tony would be riffing and Geezer would play something else to counter it. And I learned from Sabbath that there was no rest between the songs (laughs). It was like some of the songs were just heavy riffs that would breathe a lot. And in Black Sabbath there was no reason to have to go impress anybody ‘cause they were Sabbath! They breathed and they lived and they crawled. And it was interesting. Sabbath was more just observing stuff. “Why is Tony going there?” Things like that. And then you get it. “Oh, man. That’s weird.” And some of the harmonies Geezer and Tony would play – different notes, changes in chords and sh*t … like, “Whoa!”
How long did it take you to feel like you fit in with Sabbath?
VA: Well, when on the first tour for Heaven and Hell, I fell into that and it was just basically they wanted to continue the tour. So I came in and learned the songs quick, and they were happy with it. They were happy with the feel, and as it went along, there were very few things that were said. Like I never sat down with the whole band and discussed musically what we would do. It was like they just liked the way I played. And only very minor things, like Tony would say it would be interesting to do this or do this a little more open … there wasn’t a lot of stuff. So, I assumed they liked the way I played. And as it went along, when I didn’t have to think about parts of the songs, I became more “Vinnie” in the songs and they liked it. So probably midway through that tour, I felt like, “Yeah, it’s cool.” And then when we did “Mob Rules,” as we wrote “Mob Rules” and recorded it … because we did that before the album released. There are two versions of “Mob Rules,” one that’s for the “Heavy Metal” movie, and when I heard that, I thought, “Oh sh*t, this rocks.” I heard the sound through it, and I thought, “I’m going to fit in real well.”
I know you did some Kill Devil Hill shows in April of 2011, and I was going to ask you what the plans were to tour and what the crowd reaction was like back then.
VA: Yeah, when we toured last year, there wasn’t a big buzz on the band. We weren’t doing interviews. The record wasn’t even … it was recorded, it wasn’t mixed. So we just went out and did the tour, and people in some of the places knew me and Rex were in a band, so they came down. Some of the places didn’t know who the hell was in the band. Some of the places were full, some of the places were … well, there weren’t a lot of people there. But no matter where we played, we started playing and people came to the front and then they took the songs … the thing about these songs is they’re very grasp-able. The riffs are there and they repeat and the harmonies and the vocals. It’s got hooks – there’s a lot of hooks – and it’s heavy and it’s easy to grasp.
Can you imagine when Rush went out for the first time, playing some of those songs and nobody had heard them, but they repeated one riff and the songs are six minutes long. Our songs are more grasp-able, where people can say, “Oh yeah, I get it.” And then when we go to the second chorus, then they get it. It went over well, man, because people had never heard these songs. Now we’ve noticed there are more people at the shows because the re’s a buzz and they’re all waiting for the album, but they grasp these songs. They get it. It’s cool. They get the vibe of the band.

'Fast' Eddie Clarke talks Fastway's new album


Legendary guitarist revives classic metal band 
By Peter Lindblad
The Fastway lineup of 2012
Way back in 1990, Fastway released the abysmal Bad Bad Girls, the overly slick follow-up to the similarly over-produced On Target. For more than 20 years, “Fast” Eddie Clarke – clean and sober for years now after protracted and scary battles with drug and alcohol addictions – has longed to redeem the bluesy metal band he founded with UFO bassist Pete Way in 1982 after getting booted out of Motorhead. And he’s finally done it.
Eat Dog Eat, released in April, is a rousing reminder of just how tight and tough Fastway was when they recorded their screaming fireball of a self-titled debut, the rugged, energetic 1983 classic Fastway. Built with powerful, rock-solid guitar riffs and fluid, economical soloing from Clarke, plus singer Toby Jepson’s expansive howl and Matt E.’s blue-collar drumming, Eat Dog Eat is the album Fastway should have made in the ‘80s. Deeply spiritual in spots, with a surprisingly beautiful acoustic-guitar piece – don’t worry, it eventually turns electric and heavy – that comes out of nowhere, Dog Eat Dog is the early contender for comeback album of the year. Clarke discussed the record and his colorful past in a recent interview.
Listening to the new album, Fastway sounds as good as ever these days.
“Fast” Eddie Clarke: Yeah, I’m really chuffed with it. I must admit I think it’s turned out much better than I at first anticipated. We were trying to get that old-fashioned … not old-fashioned, but that old style feel to it, and it seems to have worked out. We seem to have managed it. And it was by accident, really, because we didn’t actually plan it, but that’s what we wanted. And it just seemed to happen, you know. I was using exactly the same set-up I had 25 years ago, you know, 30 years ago. I was using the same amp, the same guitar, and I’m the same sort of person, just a bit older. So I think that’s the mainstay of it that has kept it kind of honest, and then, of course, Toby comes over the top. He’s done a real good job of it I think.
He’s a really good singer, really diverse and really fits the material well.
Clarke: Yeah, well, we lumped it all together. It was kind of like one of those things where we started writing the record, right, and I mean we sat here in this little studio down in the garden here, and we sat down there … I think we had about three sessions down there. We were just so honest. It was one of those things where you just pick up the guitar and you say, “Oh, how about this one?” And he says, “Yeah, that’s great man.” And it was just one after another. And they just kept coming out. I haven’t had that since the first Fastway album or the Overkill and Bomber albums with Motorhead. You know, that thing where you’ve got so much inside you that it just falls out, you know.
I guess that’s what every musician hopes to feel.
Clarke: Oh, you dream of it. You do, because you think of things like … well, Ace of Spades is okay, but once we got to Iron Fist, we were struggling, you know, with Motorhead. And then, unfortunately, with Fastway, I mean, once we got to the second record, we were struggling. You know, I mean we got away with the second record, although I thought the production lacked on All Fired Up. Some of the songs could have been, should have been better; they should have been stronger, to match up with the first record. And of course, by the time we got to the third one, we were basket cases. The producer had taken over and the record company put strings on it. Oh, it was just dreadful that third Fastway album. I mean, I’m still paying for it (laughs).
You’ve got to go with your gut.
Clarke: Right, but we did have a bit of luck there. We followed it up with Trick or Treat, so that was kind of good, because we went back to our roots more or less. And so, I sort of thought we were coming back together on that one, but the third album was very strange – very strange record all around because we had Terry Manning from the Eliminator album, a top engineer. And he had all these ideas. He wanted to be like Mutt Lange as a record producer. So he put Fairlight drums on it, computer drums, and it all got a bit over the top. And of course, by then, it was out of my hands. Because the second record didn’t do too well, they kind of wrestled the reins from me. Another time, I was kind of bungled all then with the record company and the management having their say. All they care about is money. Well, you know what they’re like? They’re used to business. They want success at any cost, where my motto has always been: if you get success, great, but you must stick to your guns. So, it did f**k me up a bit, and that’s when I really started drinking heavily. I was drinking heavily before, but then I really started drinking heavily (laughs).
Tell me about “Leave the Light On.”
Clarke: We had one in the bag, which was “Leave the Light On,” which was brilliant. We didn’t have any vocals for it, we didn’t have any lead parts, but we just had the backing track, which was the riff and everything. And we played it, and we said, “That’s not bad, is it?” So we stuck a vocal on it. I did some guitar parts and we livened it up, and it turned out to be one of the best tracks on the album. Yeah, but the one we chose, we said, “Which one should we leave off? Let’s leave that one off.” Funny thing is, the first Fastway album, if we’d had 11 songs, the one we would have left off would have been … “Say What You Will.” Yeah, can you believe that?
“Leave the Light On” really sounds like classic Fastway.
The nice thing about that was, when Toby did the vocal, I said, “Oh, this is really starting to sound great.” And then I put the guitars on it, it was like, “Oh, wow!” It was one of those. It was like (snaps fingers three times) … a revelation, because we went up to the studio for just a couple of days to do the mixing and put the guitars and vocals on. It was one of those where you’re doing it, and you’re thinking, “I think we’ve got a real big one here.” (laughs) It’s was just, “Whoa, we really have something here.” And it’s all overshadowed, because of course, the other ten tracks by then had become old hat, because we’d listened to them for 12 months … well, it was about eight months actually. But it took so long to get a record deal. It’s tough out there, isn’t it?
Talk about a couple other tracks on the new record: “Deliver Me” and I think “Dead and Gone” is a different one for you.
Well, “Deliver Me” was kind of the first one out of the bag. We’d come up with that riff and we were sitting there, and I said to the other two, “I’ve got this riff, and I kind of see it a bit like this,” and I started playing it, and so … because we were in the studio, we put the drums down … using that program you get, we put a little drum thing together and stuck it down. And [Toby] was so taken with it, he said, “Man, I’ve got to sing on this.” So, he started singing almost immediately. Before we knew it, in a couple of hours, we had a really good sounding, sort of Zeppelin-esque riff going on. Brilliant, you know? And I think that was one of the sort of catalysts for the rest of the stuff, because you get one groove on you and it inspires you to do more, you know, and dig a bit deeper. But then, after we’d got all that, Toby had this idea. He said, “I’ve got this sort of acoustic thing I’ve been mulling around. He said, ‘I’ve called it ‘Dead and Gone’ for now.” And I said, “Well go on. Let’s have a listen.” Well, he played it, and actually, I said, “I love it.” It’s nice and simple. It’s acoustic. I’ve never had acoustic. I said, “As long as we put something on the other end of it …” (laughs) We can’t have an acoustic track on the album because I don’t like acoustic … well, I’ve never had an acoustic track on a “Fast” Eddie album. Can you imagine Motorhead … although, I think Motorhead did do an acoustic blues on one of their more recent albums. We always said acoustic songs and love songs are a definite no-no. And so we developed the idea of two verses and got the choruses sorted out. Then, I said look, why don’t we save it up there, and then we’ll go into this. And I just went straight into this riff, and whack! That’ll do. And we just built it from there, and it was a bit like “Say You Will” [from the first Fastway album] really because we needed something for the heavy bit. And for me, as you say, it’s an unusual track because it’s a bit of a departure, but it’s a big departure from what I’ve ever done before that. So, it checks the box for me. The list is getting about this big (laughs). I should stop before I start. (laughs)
Looking back on the album, what is it you like most about it?
I like the ease with which it came together and the enjoyment. We really didn’t have any real stress involved. It was a real enjoyable experience, and of course, I haven’t been in the studio for 20 years.