As the lead guitarist in MOTÖRHEAD for over 30 years, Phil Campbell made his name crafting fast-paced rock & roll anthems in one of the most beloved hard rock bands of all-time, until the tragic passing of band frontman and rock icon Lemmy Kilmister brought things to an end in 2015. Now though, Campbell has returned with a brand new project, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS, which sees the axeman joined by his sons Todd (guitar), Dane (drums) and Tyla (bass), as well as former ATTACK! ATTACK! vocalist Neil Starr. Just ahead of the release of their debut album The Age Of Absurdity, we spoke to Campbell to find out a little bit more about how the project first came together and where they plan on taking things in the immediate future.
At the time of writing these questions, we’re just a few weeks out from the release of The Age of Absurdity – are you excited to finally be getting these songs out to people?
Phil: Yes, I’m very excited for the fans to hear it! We’ve had great reviews from the press so far which is always great, but I can’t wait for the fans to hear what we’ve been up to!
This being the debut full-length release from a brand new band, does the release of this record feel like a new beginning of sorts for you at all?
Phil: I wouldn’t say it was a new beginning of sorts, really. I’ve been used to recording albums every couple of years for the past 35 years! Of course it’s different not doing it with Lem and Mikkey, but it’s great being in the studio with my sons and Neil.
What was the overall songwriting process like for you and the band on this album?
Phil: I think we started riffing and writing songs during soundcheck on tour. We also had an acoustic on the tour bus and so we tried to come up with ideas in our spare time, but everyone chipped in on this album. Sometimes, I would come up with a riff, sometimes it would be Todd or Tyla, sometimes Dane would come up with a cool rhythm on the drums and we’d write something to that. Neil also plays guitar so we weren’t short of ideas!
The whole album’s produced by Romesh Dodangoda, who’s got a lot of work with contemporary acts like STONE BROKEN and FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND on his resume, and who you’ve worked with before on recording guitar parts for MOTÖRHEAD and such – how important to the creation of this record was he?
Phil: Romesh is a top class producer. Obviously I’ve worked with him before on The World Is Yours, but the boys have all worked with him over the years in different bands so it was just an obvious choice. He’s a very calm influence in the studio but is full of different ideas.
There seems to be a real mixture of styles on the record, from the quicker and more punk-sounding tracks like Dropping The Needle, to slower and more melodic songs like Dark Days and Into The Dark – how did you end up arriving at such a varied set of songs across this album and was it deliberate in any sense?
Phil: I think we just tried to write good songs at the end of the day and didn’t really think too much about styles. But listening back to the album, I think it’s a fantastic all-round rock record, something for everyone.
Going in to the creation of the record, were there any kind of specific influences you had in terms of your songwriting this time around?
Phil: I don’t think there were any specific influences, really. Basically, someone comes up with a riff, everyone likes the sound of that, then we continue writing that song!
Is there any particular track or moment on a track that stands out to you as being a personal highlight from this album?
Phil: I think Dark Days has gotta be up there for me as one of the best songs on the album. It’s got a great bluesy feel and when we recently played it live on tour with AIRBOURNE it went down a storm!
The significance of it should be fairly obvious to most people, but how far into the process did the idea of the HAWKWIND cover come about?
Phil: Well, we’ve been playing it live for a while now. I’ve always loved the song since it first came out and it is such a fun song to play live, so we thought “let’s put it on the record”. We asked Dave Brock of HAWKWIND if he would like to guest on the track and his reaction was, “Well, it’s raining today so I’ve got nothing to do so I’ll do it today”! He put down vocals, guitar and synth and it sounds great. We are very honoured to have him on the track!
How did the whole carnival aesthetic with the cover art for the album come about?
Phil: I think that was Todd’s idea, really. I have no idea where it came from, though but it seemed like a good theme to have for the album artwork.
Much of the press around the band so far has focused on the aspect of it being you and your three sons, plus Neil – what’s it actually like having that family dynamic within the band?
Phil: It’s like having a normal band to be honest, as being in a band is like a family anyway but this time it’s my actual family!
Given that PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS have only really been around since 2016, you’ve already had some pretty massive tour opportunities with the likes of GUNS N’ ROSES and SAXON amongst others – what would you say has been the highlight of everything you’ve accomplished so far with PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS?
Phil: I think the GUNS N’ ROSES shows were pretty special. They were such great fun to play! But I guess you could say that this album is the highlight of the band so far and hopefully there’s many more highlights to come!
What’s next in 2018 for PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS in terms of touring plans and such?
Phil: We are doing a month-long European tour in Feb/March, then doing 5 UK dates with Ugly Kid Joe in April. Then obviously we’ll do the festival circuit in the summer and September we are playing some places we haven’t played before like mainland Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. It’s gonna be a busy year!
Can we expect to see PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS out on a UK headline tour at some point during this year?
Phil: Hopefully towards the end of the year!
Is there any message you’d like to send to the readers of Distorted Sound Magazine who might be fans of your work and looking forward to the album release?
Phil: Everyone, make sure you go out and get The Age Of Absurdity on January 26th, you won’t be disappointed!
The Age of Absurdity is set for release on January 26th via Nuclear Blast Records.
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