There’s a special buzz when you speak to Philip Anthony Campbell. This is the man who joined Motörhead in 1984 and was there until the end. Sixteen albums later and the passing of his great friend Lemmy left Phil admittedly with a struggle to adjust. After all, this was a band that spelisteninnt a large amount of time on the road. But there was light at the end of the tunnel, and with the passage of time has come Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons.
Formed in 2016 with sons Todd, Tyla, Dane, and vocalist Neil Starr, PCATBS is now a force to be reckoned with in the world of Heavy Rock and Metal, and on the eve of their third album release, MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings caught up with Phil at his home on a typically wet Welsh summer’s day to talk Kings of the Asylum, their 2023 festival schedule, and the forthcoming autumn tour across Europe and the UK.
I’m in Newport and typically make a remark about a “lovely sunny Welsh day.”
“Are you being sarcastic?” says Phil in his relaxed style. “I guess I am,” I say, given that the rain is battering down.
Phil is taking a breather between tours. The Bastard Sons have been jetting across Europe throughout the summer at a rate that is enough to make you tired just reading the itinerary. “I’m just enjoying a little break now after all the intense summer festival touring,” Phil says.
“Aeroplanes and aeroplanes and airports all the time. But it was good. It was good fun. We have a little break now before we’ve got a show in Crumlin, which is not that far from you.”
The launch of Kings Of The Asylum takes place at the intimate setting of The Patriot, Home of Rock, Crumlin, not far from Newport. For more details, visit The Patriot website.
After the release show, the band have a couple of weeks off before three weeks in Europe, a small break and then their extensive UK tour at the end of the year.”
Tyler Campbell posted on his social media recently that the band has played 21 festivals during the summer. That must have been exhausting. “Absolutely,” Phil says. “We’d be lucky if we got two days in the middle of the week off. Sometimes, we’d fly out on the day. It all depends on flight availability and where the festival was. So, sometimes we’d fly out the same day as the festival, but that would be really early.
“You must allow for flight delays even in this day and age. It’s a real pain, but what can you do? Yeah, it was successful, though. We went down great every night, wherever we played. It was fantastic, really.”
Reading through the list of festivals, you can’t help but be struck by the variety and size of the festivals that the band played. From Wacken through to much smaller festivals, The Bastard Sons have done them all this year.
“Yeah, there’s lots of smaller ones in places you’ve never believed, like just little German villages or Polish villages in the middle of nowhere. But then they get 5,000 or 10,000 people turn up. We did the two stadium shows with Guns N’ Roses, which was fantastic as well. They were in the middle of it all.
“We did the total extremes. We played close to Vlad the Impaler’s Castle in Transylvania as well, so all kinds of shows.”
The band’s album launch is in the intimate setting of The Patriot in Crumlin. After so many years of touring playing arenas followed by 200-capacity shows, does Phil have a preference?
“Well, we know we’re going to get a good crowd anyway, especially at the Patriot. I’ve been up there a few times, and the staff and the owner, Ange, have always been really good to me.
“You know, sometimes the small, sweaty gigs are just as great as the big stadium gigs. You feed off the crowd. It’s nice to play places where you get a comfortable dressing room and stuff, and that doesn’t always happen. You know, sometimes you’re in a bloody tent.
“But we usually get a great crowd and a great response. So, it makes it all worthwhile. But I’m quite looking forward to The Patriot. We’ll be playing more of the new material. Hopefully, we’ll be doing three or four songs from the new album. So that’ll be great.”
It should be a great night, alright, and with The Patriot’s famous warm welcome assured, it’s one I’m looking forward to covering. Talking of live shows, I was at Chepstow Castle on Bank Holiday Monday to see Phil and the boys support Hawkwind.
Both bands put on excellent shows, and as I chat with Phil, I wonder how he felt it went. “We had a good crowd there,” he says. “A lot of people turned up just to see us.”
From the number of PCATBS shirts in the crowd, he’s not wrong. “I’ve never even been to Chepstow Castle before,” he says, “so it was a good experience. The dressing room was built about 1,000 years ago, but it was great. It was bloody huge. The fireplace was bigger than some of the clubs we’ve played. It was a good night.”
I thought that the band were on fire, although the headliners put on an incredible show. Phil watched a couple of songs before heading home. I’ve seen him join Hawkwind on stage at the Royal Albert Hall and the Tramshed in Cardiff, so I was surprised when he didn’t appear this time.
He laughs, “Well, they didn’t ask me this time. But it worked out fine, and I watched them for a couple of songs. They sounded good, and the lights are always good.”
We move on to the new album. I’ve already said that I think Kings Of The Asylum is the band’s strongest album to date. As a Patreon of the band, you get plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, which has whetted the anticipation as the record was written and completed.
How did Phil find the writing and recording process this time around?
“We did a different approach on this one,” Phil explains. “We would get to the studio, and we’d write a song on a Monday, and on a Tuesday, we would get the drums recorded. Then, by the end of the week, we would have everything recorded.
“Then, the following week, we would repeat the process. This went on for a couple of months. But it was good there, so everything was really fresh in our minds, and we were open to all ideas. We were just messing with things.
“I must say I think this is the strongest produced album we’ve had. Todd did an amazing job on this. I mean, just the opening sound, the bass on Hammer And Dance, sends chills down my spine, just the rumble and that tone. I think the material is more focused as well.”
Kings Of The Asylum is certainly the natural step in the evolution of a band who are rapidly evolving with their own sound. “It’s more what I want us to sound like,” Phil says. “It’s a more focused album, and the tone and the production is out of this world. I’m really proud of it. And all the reviews have been brilliant as well, including yours. That was a good one.”
If you could see me at that point, I think I’d have been blushing!
As we spoke mere hours before the album was released, we moved on to expectations for release day. Given the length of time that Phil has been in the music business and the number of albums that he’s been involved with, I wondered if he still got the buzz from release day and the new album hitting the shops, or does it feel, as some musicians have told me, a little old because it was written and recorded some time ago.
“I hadn’t listened to the album in full for quite a while,” he says, “and then we had the listening party for the Patreons of the band the other day, who came along to hear the album and take part in the video. That really brought it back to me how good the album is. It sounded fantastic, so yes, I’m excited for the release of this.
“But I know what you mean because sometimes it can be a year after you’ve written it, and you could be sick of it by then! But luckily, we’ve done a great album with no filler tracks. They all stand out in their own right. Every song. I’m really proud of it, yeah.”
For a man who has been involved in some seminal Motörhead releases, think Orgasmatron, 1916, We Are Motörhead, Aftershock, etc., there remains a pride about a new piece of work that is both heartening and refreshing to hear.
Kings Of The Asylum is a genuinely stunning album.
When the band’s second album, We’re The Bastards, was released, we were living in different times. The band were unable to tour it when it was released, and I recall photographing the band at the Thekla in Bristol wearing a facemask to comply with the requirements at the time.
With Kings Of The Asylum, PCATBS will be able to follow up the release with a tour, which includes those weeks in Europe and the UK shows.
Phil agrees that this is a better time. He recalls getting up at 6:00 am to go shopping to avoid everyone else during the pandemic. He is pleased that things are back to normal. “Exactly that, yeah. They [the songs] are going to be fresh for us, so we’re going to be really excited about playing on everything, and we’ll be able to get straight out and start doing them. You know, instead of having to wait for three or four months or whatever it was.”
At this point, the line develops a bit of a lag, so as we head to an earlier conclusion than perhaps expected, I ask Phil about singer Joel Peters.
Kings Of The Asylum sees Joel make his debut for the band, and he does a fine job. During the listening party, I noted that he’s now interacting with the crowd in a very confident and comfortable manner. When we were doing the video recording, he was very much involved in whipping up that crowd response.
“Yeah, he’s fantastic,” says Phil. “You know, considering I only got him in the band because he lived the closest, he lived in Bristol! I’m just joking. I always joked with him about that, but he has some extreme tones, and he fits in so well with us.
“For this album, when it came time, we sent him all the music, and he just got on with it. I knew Todd would get the best out of him. You knew those two would work well together. There are great melodies, and some of the harmonies on the album are brilliant. There are lots of subtleties on the album, and I think you need to listen to it through a proper set of headphones to appreciate some of that.”
Phil is clearly enamoured with the production that Todd has done on the album. “Todd’s done one of the best jobs of his life on this record,” he says. “He was focused on the sound we were trying to achieve as a band. I think we’ve got our direction a bit better now on this album. We created a more unique sound for ourselves.”
As our line broke up, it was time to prematurely curtail the interview. It’s great to hear a true rock legend so excited about the new album, and with that album launch party to get stuck into next week, followed by those two tours, these are exciting times for a man who has seen it all.
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons – Kings Of The Asylum is available from here.