IRON FIST
Total Guitar|January 2020
Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell hits up some famous friends for his solo debut...
Phil Campbel
I had the chance to spread my wings a bit more,” says Phil Campbell of the new music that makes up his first solo record Old Lions Still Roar. Truth be told, the man sat with Total Guitar today will always be predominantly known as Motörhead’s longest-serving guitarist, who, upon joining in 1984, would stay by Lemmy’s side to the very end. His latest recordings, however, show a different side to the all-guns-blazing approach he’s long embodied – delving into new worlds of country rock, piano ballads and film score instrumentals...

“Lemmy never gave me any limitations as such, but in Motörhead there was only so far you could stray,” shrugs Campbell, admitting his old band knew exactly how to play to their strengths. “It was all about that one sound. So a lot of the cleaner melodies and piano-led parts had been bouncing around my head for quite a few years. I was determined to get them out. That diversity also makes for an interesting album, you know?”

What are the main guitars we’re hearing on Old Lions Still Roar?

“A lot of it was actually my 80s sunburst Tokai Les Paul, I decided to get that out of retirement! There was also a silverburst I used a lot too, as well as a Framus Panthera and an odd-shaped guitar made by a Swiss company called Relish. They’re supposed to be easy for changing strings, but my tech tells me they’re not actually that easy… but they still sound good, like. I didn’t use anything too vintagey, there were only about six guitars in the rack in the control room. But I own a fair amount of stuff, I have a black 1956 Custom and a ’57 black with the Bigsby, ‘The Fretless Wonder’. I also have a ’64 Firebird that belonged to Val McCallum who was Jackson Browne’s player, so I do have a fair amount of vintage stuff lying around.”

Would we be right in guessing the amp tones were mainly coming from Marshalls?

“I have a stack of Marshall heads in my studio. It’s all stuff I used with Motörhead, one or two are from the 70s, there’s also a Randy Rhoads and loads of other bits. Unfortunately I didn’t really keep a diary on what got used per song. Todd, my eldest boy, produced the album – he’d use a mixture of the different heads I had lying around.

I also had a Bogner Uberschall in there, so that got blended into the mix too. Beyond that, there’s not many effects. I used the bogstandard Jim Dunlop wah and one of the MXR green delay pedals. There was an MXR Micro Amp for an extra push here and there, nothing fancy beyond that really. I generally use Seymour Duncan pickups, a 59 and a JB, which is what I mainly used in Motörhead. That sound is my comfort zone.”

Instead of coming in full-throttle, it’s interesting you chose to start the album with an acoustic track...

“It’s a 1946 Gibson acoustic, that one. I’ve never changed the tuning – it’s in one of the Jimmy Page ones, from The Rain Song, I think. I didn’t want to mess with the tension of the neck. It’s so beautiful and came in its original case. I didn’t even use a pick, I decided to strum with my fingernails for that one.”

The album also ends with some acoustic parts, courtesy of Joe Satriani. How did that instrumental come about?

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