Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons’ new album, We’re The Bastards, arrived on November 13th via Nuclear Blast (order here). The group didn’t only release their full-length sophomore effort during a pandemic, but they recorded the record while in isolation due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We caught up with frontman Neil Starr as he discussed the experience of spending a year with his bandmates without ever seeing them in person to create a new album along with photo and video shoots to support the new record.
What was the experience like for you to work on the new album, We’re the Bastards, during the lockdown?
It was a little different to what we would normally do. I guess, a normal recording situation for us would be that we’re all in the studio together, but we actually recorded this album during the lockdown. So there was only Todd Campbell the producer who was our guitar player and one other person at the same time. So yeah, a little bit different from that point of view, but we’re just grateful that we still got to go ahead and record the album because I know a lot of people weren’t that lucky. We were lucky that our guitarist has a studio of his own, so we could still go ahead as planned.
With such a different experience, how would you compare this album to your full-length debut, The Age Of Absurdity?
The recording experience was completely different. I mean, the debut obviously is our first album, so everything’s kind of brand new for us as an experience. We went to a really famous studio in Wales called Rockfield Studios, where a lot of amazing bands have recorded some of the most amazing records over the years. So, we were staying there whilst we recorded the drums, we were all actually living at that studio and we recorded it with a separate producer. This time around being the producer was our guitar player, so it’s kind of pretty much as far apart as you can get, but both experiences were great. And we feel comfortable recording with our guitar player and we felt comfortable on the first album and so it’s kind of similar from that point of view, it didn’t feel like hard work at all. It just felt like good fun both times, but yeah. Different because we couldn’t all be together this time to do it. This time around with the recording, we also had the knowledge that there were certain songs on the first album that were a little bit different in genre than what maybe people would expect from Phil Campbell coming from his Motorhead background. So then putting those on the first album where, I wouldn’t say risky, but it just wasn’t something we knew was going to be popular with our fans and having already done that on the first album and had great feedback on songs like Dark Days, which are a bit more bluesy. We knew this time around that doing these kinds of songs were going to be fine and obviously enjoyed by the people that are going to listen to them because we’ve already released those types of songs before. So yeah, that was definitely something that was different this time around too. We knew in advance the people were open and happy to hear slight variations on the styles and music we’re playing, not just sticking to one super fast song or whatever.
Yeah, of course, I am sure a number of people expected to hear a Motorhead version 2.0 or something, but it’s good that you guys formulated your own brand and style. Speaking of style, what was the experience making the video for “Son Of A Gun” during a pandemic?
Yeah. Again a first time having that kind of experience. Because again, we did it in isolation. So as you can see in the video there’s never any shots of us all together and that’s because we literally filmed it all separately, all in the same place, but we weren’t there at the same time. So again, it was different from that point of view because normally we’re all there together and that this whole lockdown thing has obviously given that feeling of being together impossible. It was cool though. The video we did for that song, we did a video with those guys on the last album too. So again we knew they were on our page, that they would get our idea of what we wanted to do for the video. So it was a very, again, a very comfortable and easy going thing. But again, strange because I literally haven’t seen Phil in 2020 and I’ve done a video shoot with, I’ve done an album with him, I’ve done photo shoot and none of us, we haven’t seen each other. It’s been a bit surreal, just all we’ve had is conversations on the phone, haven’t actually physically seen each other for the entire year. So, a bit weird
The magic of technology and the illusion to make it look like you were all together.
Yeah. Photoshop for the photo shoot was pretty cool. I mean, we just have to make it work, what else can we do? We have to just try and do what we can do because the last thing we wanted to do was have another area of the band be affected by COVID. We already can’t gig like everyone else, so it would have been an even tougher pill to swallow if we couldn’t have recorded and got new music out. I guess it’s not ideal the way that things are happening right now, but I would 100% rather do it this way than not do it at all. So.
Exactly. We have to move forward one way or the other.
Yeah, I 100% agree.
Now, in the beginning when you guys formed, what was the transition to performing Motorhead songs live to creating your own music?
The turning point was basically the unfortunate time that Lemmy passed away. Up until then we were just doing it, I mean, we still do it purely for fun, don’t get me wrong. But the reason the band started was just because we had this jam one time and everyone enjoyed it so Phil was keen to do it again. And so we just played a few shows here and there when Motorhead had a bit of downtime. When Lemmy passed away, I think Phil took some time out at that point to reflect on everything and obviously losing his best friend was one of the toughest times that he’s ever gone through, I’m sure. But he decided that he wanted to continue with music and I guess a huge part of that is because he gets to enjoy this current experience with all of his sons. Obviously I’m not his son but the rest of the band are his sons. I think that was really for him, the main motivation, because I think he had a lot of fun playing with his sons on stage and so he kind of said to us all, if we want to carry on, he would love to and if we do carry on, let’s write some songs of our own and see how it goes. We kind of wrote the first EP quickly and got something out as quick as we could just to show people that we can and do write our own songs now. And haven’t, we looked back since.
Speaking of Lemmy, this year marks five years since his passing. Do you guys have any special livestream events planned or a mix of something like a memory of Lemmy mixed with a celebration of the new album?
I don’t know if well… because Phil’s manager still does stuff. They’re still active behind the scenes with that side of things. And I guess at some point they may well try to do some things you never know, but not that I’ve heard of. There’s no plans for anything. I don’t think from our point of view that that would happen. We’re doing some festival shows in Europe next summer, to kind of give things a different flavor, we’re going to play Motorhead songs at certain festivals, just to mix things up a little bit and do something a little bit different. So I don’t think that’s specifically been because of any particular anniversary of Lemmy’s passing, but next summer in Europe there’ll be a few of the festivals where we’ll play an exclusive Motorhead set of songs. It will be obviously very different to what we’ve been doing for the last few years. I know that people love the fact that they still get to see Phil play live and they still get to see Mickey D play live with Scorpions and things. I think to hear a member of the band still playing some of those songs, because the Motorhead fans do enjoy that and they do appreciate that Phil takes the effort and has got the desire to still play those songs for them because he knows how much those songs mean to those dedicated fans. So it was something that you wanted to do and yeah, we were all really, really up for the idea because they’re really good songs, some really good fun to play. It’s not something I ever thought I’d do in my life, to be singing those songs where I feel grateful that I’m in that position.
How has it been for you working with Phil Campbell and his family?
It’s been cool. Really, really good. I guess for me, it’s been particularly awesome because not only is he a legend of the music scene, but the coolest thing for me is that he kind of gave me his trust and said he’s liked what I’ve done in the past with my singing. So for me to just take control of the lyrics and take control of the melodies and that he had faith in me to do good stuff. So that’s been the one thing that’s been the coolest for me is that somebody who’s been there and done all of that for 40 years with Motorhead has had the confidence in me to deliver something good for music that the rest of those guys are writing. So yeah it’s been absolutely cool. I’ve known his sons for a long time and so we’re all really good friends. So again, that’s a nice aspect to have that we’re all now experiencing all these awesome things and recording albums together. It’s really nice.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add?
Well, I want to say, first of all, that people just try and stay positive, try and focus on the good things that are happening rather than to lean on any negative stuff because obviously it’s easy. The easiest thing to do is for us to get into that rut of looking at the negatives, because there’s so many of them and so try and stay positive. We all, us included, we miss watching bands live, we miss playing live and yeah, we’re all going through this together so we’re all one big family and we can get through it and hopefully you’ll like the new album and if anyone is buying it or plans on buying it, thank you so much for your support. And hopefully, we’ll hopefully see you a show, we haven’t actually made over to America yet. I don’t know how difficult that’s going to become, even worse now, possibly with the actual restrictions and things. But we will do our best to try and do some shows over in America, if we can and because we do have a lot of messages coming through from on your side of the world, asking us when we can do shows. So yeah, it would be amazing. Personally, it would be amazing. I know the band would definitely love to do it. So, fingers crossed we can get out there and actually play some live shows for everyone.