Alan recalls legendary Lemmy tales as Gunslinger and Ace Of Spades embark on their final UK shows…
Words: Steve Göldby
Alan Davey headlines Beermageddon this weekend with his Motörhead tribute act, Ace Of Spades, and if you can’t make it to Stoke Prior Sports & Country Club, you’ll be well advised to catch them between now and January as these are the last gigs the Lemmy-endorsed three-piece will be playing.
Alan is taking Ace Of Spades on the road this Autumn and Winter due to huge demand since his mentor sadly passed away in late December 2015 and the whole set is made up of songs from the Fast Eddie Clarke/Phil Taylor era.
There’s another huge bonus for Motörheadbangers attending Beermageddon as key members of Lemmy’s old crew have reunited to work the Ace Of Spades gig on Sunday and this promises to be a poignant occasion.
“I’d like to do one big ‘goodbye – this is the end of Ace Of Spades’, in London,” says Alan and talks are in progress to make this happen before Alan takes his career to a completely different level in 2018 and beyond.
Alan recalls with fondness his first meeting with Lemmy:
“It was at Lomas Studios in 1985, I think, maybe late 84. Eddie was there but I don’t know why and I’ve never been able to figure out why in my memory he was there because he wasn’t in the band in 84. Perhaps they were doing some one-off thing but I can’t exactly remember.
“But I do remember clearly Eddie was eyeing up my girlfriend at the time, a lot, but I can’t remember why he was there.”
It’s possible that Eddie’s post-Motörhead band, Fastway, were recording in the same studio as Lemmy, Phil Taylor and Brian Robertson and whatever the reason Eddie was in the same studio as his old band, it led to a long lasting friendship.
“I do keep in contact with Eddie by email every now and again and I sent him our Ace Of Spades setlist and said ‘if you’re ever near any of these places we are playing and you fancy coming up for half-an-hour, come up’ because our guitarist had already said ‘I’d gladly give up my guitar and stack just to watch you two play together’.”
With Lucas Fox, Motörhead’s first drummer…
That guitarist is former Motörheadache six-stringer Neil Archer who, along with drummer Magpie, receives glowing praise from Alan a little further into our conversation, but back to Lemmy. Alan continues:
“The first thing he asked me was ‘so how come you ended up playing bass like me then?’
“So I told him about when my Mum and Dad bought me a guitar when I was 14 and I went ‘plinkety-plonk’ on it a few times and put it down and never picked it up again and I had no interest in playing music whatsoever, playing the guitar.
“Then my brother, Andrew, he got ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’, Lemmy’s first Hawkwind album, and ‘Time We Left This World Today’ came on where he plays that big bass solo with all the rip-roaring chords and bending the hell out of the strings and all the rest of it and something just ignited inside me – ‘I have got to make that sound, whatever that is, I have got to play that instrument’ – something just went bang!
“So I took the record to a music shop about a mile away from where we lived, he put it on and I said ‘what’s that instrument?’
“The guy sort of frowned and looked at it and said ‘well I think it’s a bass but who the hell is playing it because it’s very unusual?’
“So I said ‘have you got a bass – I want a bass’, and he just happened to have a Sunburst Hondo II Rickenbacker copy on the wall for ninety-nine quid so I had that and just went home and just started strumming on the thing. I didn’t have any lessons and all I saw on Top Of The Pops was guitarists strumming on their guitars or playing lead guitar; they never show the bass player, do they…
“So I just started strumming on it and playing lead on it and doing it all wrong… I didn’t want lessons because I thought I was doing all right without it and then I started working out what Lemmy was doing on Hawkwind stuff and three months later it suddenly clicked – ‘hang on a minute, he’s doing this anyway so I’m doing it right’. I didn’t listen to any other bass player at the time so I’m learning myself all right because I’m playing what Lemmy’s doing.
On stage together at Wembley…
“So I told Lemmy this story and he actually, while I was telling it, he started welling up, his eyes got all watery and a tear went down his left eye and I stopped, and I was like, ‘are you all right?’
“And he was like, ‘I never thought in a million years that anyone would ever be influenced by me that much to play bass like me,’ because he wasn’t confident about what he was doing either, I don’t think, because what he was doing was so off-the-wall, he was like ‘are people laughing at what I’m doing?’ Maybe that crossed his mind, but of course what he was doing was spectacular.
“He said: ‘I’ve watched you play now and you’ve completely nailed my style, the whole rhythm thing; the nuance of what you are doing is perfect. You’ve obviously studied me really hard.’
“I did – I can play ‘Space Ritual’ note-for-note, if you want, and he was quite touched by it and it gave him a bit of a boost at the same time as well.
“‘And you’ve got yourself in Hawkwind as well; that’s amazing’, and we shook hands and he pulled me in and gave me a big hug and we were close ever since. I think I sort of gave his ego a little bit of a boost there – ‘someone is actually that influenced by me’.
“He wasn’t such a big egoist himself to think ‘I’m great’. He wasn’t that sort of man, he was quite a humble guy really, a very humble, nice, down-to-earth man.
“We kept in touch regular. I used to give him a call every sort of three months where he lived round the corner from The Rainbow, especially around 2006 when I kind of half left/half got fired from Hawkwind. He always said: ‘Don’t ever ask about the money, because you’ll get fired’.
“So I called him up one time and told him I got fired and the first thing he said was: ‘You didn’t ask about the money, did you Al?’
“‘Yes, I asked to see the accounts… and I got fired…’
“And since he died, I’ve had close friends of his contact me on Facebook and say he never had nothing but good things to say about me, they’ve all said it, all his friends, real glowing stuff, and I didn’t know this and that upset me even more.
“I didn’t even know he thought that much about me… not really… we were mates and we were close and we had a good laugh whenever we were together but to actually talk about me in such a nice way without me realising… when you find that out after he’d died makes it worse… you get upset even more…”
On stage together at Wembley…
The iconic Motörhead founder also provided Alan with plenty of advice regarding technicalities and equipment.
“I didn’t actually go out to copy Lemmy. I just played it all wrong in the first place, just like Lemmy did as well. That’s just how I did it, which is why it’s so natural for me to play like that. It’s no effort to me but a lot of people struggle with it; they don’t get the rhythm right and all the weird kind of up and down strokes that make it ping back on the string that makes it punch.
“Lemmy advised me to use 105 to 45 stainless steel strings. You can really bend the shit out of them but I think towards the later times Lemmy was on the 105 to 50s because he wasn’t bending so much because of his arthritis in his fingers and he was using heavier picks too; towards the end he was strumming less chords and playing more notes so he got more sound out of the heavier strings.
“When I watched him play ‘Damage Case’ at Wembley… I always stand in my same spot, Lemmy’s side near the mixing desk, get a big ear full of bass all the time, because what I like about ‘Damage Case’ was that chord sequence he played was magical and it was upsetting to hear him just play the notes…”
Wembley, November 2014 was the last time Alan saw Motörhead play and also the last Motörhead gig that we ever reviewed on MetalTalk and we both agreed that it was a very good, memorable performance.
“Maybe it was because he knew I was watching him like a hawk… if Lemmy was watching me, I’d play blinders too so maybe it was vice-versa, his prodigy is watching him so he thinks he has to pull it out a little more.
“I hadn’t seen him play for about three years actually. He played in Ipswich and I was so looking forward to seeing him, seeing Tim, seeing the crew and I got the flu and didn’t go. I thought ‘I can’t go and see Lemmy with the flu’ because if I give him the flu… I know what that’s like, to get the flu on the road when you’re singing a lot, so I didn’t go. It was so annoying because I hadn’t got the flu for two years and then I get it the day before Lemmy is playing down the road.
“So I hadn’t seen him for about three years and the last time he saw me I still had long hair and I walked into his dressing room at Wembley at about 4.00pm and he looks at me and squints and says ‘Yes, it is Alan… I’ve just been watching the snooker…'”
Lemmy takes a break from watching the snooker…
Lemmy, renowned for his sense of humour, made that comment in reference to Alan’s hairless pate and it wasn’t the only time that he made the Gunslinger founder crease up with laughter.
“I may be the only person in the world ever to have received a sick note from Lemmy,” Alan proudly proclaims.
“I phoned him up and said we are doing Hammersmith, bring your bass, bring your gear and we’ll have a blowout, but he didn’t actually turn out and I got this…”
“And here’s another one I got – he was obviously in a hurry…”
Alan is also the proud owner of some very special Motörhead artefacts including the plectrum Lemmy used on the ‘Orgasmatron’ album and the harmonica he played on ‘Whorehouse Blues’.
Next year Alan will be spending time close to the place Lemmy made his home as Los Angeles based Cleopatra Records have just signed him to a major deal. Alan takes up the story:
“Cleopatra have signed me for ten years and they want me to do music for their movies – I’ve done music for three of their movies now – they want new albums out of me…
“And all the Psychedelic Warlords gigs I did doing ‘Space Ritual’, ‘Hall Of The Mountain Grill’ and ‘Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters’, people were blown away by those. Hawkwind fans don’t care about the split, they just love what we do, whatever it is.
“Some bikers were in tears, old bikers who said they never thought they’d hear ‘Space Ritual’ again live like that. They told me: ‘I shut my eyes and it was just lke being back there’.
“In fact, the ‘Captain Lockheed…’ one, a lot of people said: ‘You’ve actually made that better’, and it should be like that really, if you’re going to do something like that, do it better.
“So they’re going to release them. I did twenty-four track live recordings and I gave them to their mixing guy, Jürgen Engler, who is the singer of Die Krupps. There’s no timescale for the release but it will probably be sometime next year.
“We’re planning to do a new Gunslinger album. I’ve already got the songs written and I’ve done a couple of demos for them. These are songs that me and my cousin, Nigel Potter, wrote in 1981. We’ve got about thirty Gunslinger songs that nobody has ever heard yet. They’ve just been sitting around.
“There’s one called ‘Stone Scared’ and another called ‘Living Like A Viking’ and I did the demos and said ‘do you want some more?’ and they said ‘no need, not if they’re all like that’. They were shocked and asked ‘how did you write so many songs that are all so different and all sound like Gunslinger?’
“So we’ve got three or four albums of just the old stuff left and I’m also putting three or four new ones on the releases too.”
Gunslinger’s one and only studio album to date, ‘Earthquake In E Minor’, was originally released in March 2008 but as part of the Cleopatra deal is now set for a re-boot, included in a package that Cleopatra are releasing in February which will also contain ‘Unlawful Odds’, the live Gunslinger album that came out through Flicknife Records in 2011. Alan continues:
“The package that Cleopatra are releasing in February includes ‘Earthquake In E Minor’, and it was all remastered by Jürgen and the difference is incredible, huge in comparison to when it was done here, plus there’s eight unreleased tracks on it, three or four completely new tracks and three live tracks that I did with the Meads Of Asphodel guys and they sound great, so a lot of interesting stuff on there that’s unheard, eight or nine extra songs and an old Gunslinger song called ‘You’re My Leo’ that was supposed to go on ‘Earthquake In E Minor’ that for some reason got lost in the files in the computer and got forgotten about.
“I found it recently and the guys at Cleopatra asked me to do a new mix of it for an addition to the box set and the guy who’s designed the box set has done a great job. It’s a great cover.
“There’s also going to another Sputnik Stan. I’ve already got a folder with lots of songs and ideas in it and I’ve got the narration for the opening of it all sorted out because at the end, he actually meets up with the aliens who he’s giving all the junk to, bad boy that he is.
“So he’s met with the aliens and now they’re exchanging something for the junk he’s given them. They’re going to give him something he shouldn’t have… Houston will not be amused when they find out what he’s going to get…
“So I’m working on it and I’ve got some of the songs sorted out and the humour will still be there. It’s in the pipeline.
“But back to the box set and it’s a big gatefold package that includes the whole history of Gunslinger written by Nigel and myself with stories like how we were a traffic hazard.
“Police had to come and stop the gig because every time someone opened the door to go in and out of the pub, we were so loud that people who were driving past were swerving because we were so loud. There’s all kinds of stories like that; it’s a nice, funny, concise history of how it all started.”
It’s impossible to say just what the end net result of the ten year Cleopatra deal will be but it most certainly goes beyond what we have already touched on above.
“What Cleopatra have basically done is taken on, and I didn’t realise, but I’ve done twenty-two solo albums; including the Bedouin stuff, Gunslinger and my own personal solo stuff, there’s twenty-two of them and a lot of them have sold out, gone, but people still want them and especially in America.
“I haven’t really sold much in America because I did them all on my own, did it all mail order and maybe if I had a thousand printed up, maybe fifty would go to America because of the import costs and people don’t trust imports and things don’t arrive, or when they do they’re damaged and it puts people off.
“So they’re going to reissue my entire back catalogue over there and get it into Japan and Germany and all these places as well and Gunslinger is the first thing they are putting out.”
Ironically enough, twenty-two is exactly the same number of studio albums that Motörhead produced thoughout their forty year career.
It’s Gunslinger who Alan will next be seen playing live with after Ace Of Spades wrap up in January. The four Gunslinger gigs that are already scheduled for the UK, along with the thirteen Ace Of Spades dates, which will be the final shows Alan will play in his country of birth. Plans have already been announced to take Gunslinger on the road in America which means Alan will be travelling backwards and forwards across the Atlantic several times a year which means that along with the mass of studio mixing and producing he’ll be doing, there will no time to arrange or play UK gigs anymore.
About to disappear in smoke…
This means that the seventeen planned gigs will be his very last in Blighty. Alan released a public statement regarding this in the last few days, saying:
“I know this will be disappointing for some of you but I really do love writing, mixing and producing music for film and TV more these days but I’ll still be recording solo albums.
“I’m working on a new Bedouin album right now with Michelle Jimenez-Alder on vocals and next year I’ll be working on a new Gunslinger studio album of new and old songs Nigel Potter and I wrote in 1981-82 and ‘Sputnik Stan Vol.2’ is also an ongoing project at the moment.”
Bedouin is Alan’s own Middle-Eastern flavoured hard-rock group and were originally active between 1998 and 2003, formed after Alan’s first stint with Hawkwind after he became unhappy with the musical direction of the band.
Bedouin had been the name of an Alan Davey solo album and came into existence following a Hawkwind tour of Greece. They toured the UK and Europe for several years, releasing one studio album and a live album and new material featuring Jimenez-Alder is an exciting prospect. Just wait until you hear this lady’s voice.
Whether Bedouin ever play live again remains to be seen but what is for sure is that Alan’s current focus is opening up doors that remained previously out of reach.
“The last time we holidayed in Tombstone, we met the guy there who does Doc Holliday. He’s really good at it, he really looks the part, acts the part, does the accent, everything, he’s really good. He even has a real low diet so he looks skinny like Doc Holliday did. His name’s Stephen Keith and he’s a professional actor.
“It turns out he’s a Michael Moorcock fan and so even in Tombstone I got recognised. He’s got ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ and ‘The Chronicle Of The Black Sword’ and he knew me from that and we were out with him one evening and he said: ‘The guy from the Tombstone movie is in the saloon down the road – do you want me to introduce you to him?’
“And it’s one my favourite movies, so he introduced us and his name is Peter Sherayko and he played Texas Jack in the movie. People who are into Westerns will know who he is. My wife had a tattoo done a couple of years before of ‘Tombstone’ with the three bullet holes for each of the Clanton boys and he was amazed and we started drinking bourbon and knocking it back and getting on well and we ended up becoming friends with him.
Alan’s wife Sarah with Peter Sherayko…
“Next day he was doing a gun show because he supplies Hollywood with all the guns and saddles and if someone needs a bar, he’s got the bar, the optics rails, the mirrors, the tables, the chairs and it’s all authentic stuff. His company is called Caravan West Productions and he makes his own movies as well, so when we left I gave him one of my CD’s, ‘Al Chemical’s Lysergic Orchestra Vol.2’, which is all about Death Valley, a place that inspired me, and he sends me a message a couple of months later saying he really liked it.
“So last year when we were there, in April, he invited us to his ranch which was really cool because he’s quite a well known Hollywood actor and we there at eleven in the morning drinking bourbon with him.
“And he showed us round all these big containers he’s got – he’s got a container full of guns from Flintlocks all the way to Winchester rifles and he let me shoot an 1870 Winchester, a proper one, a 44-40 calibre, and it was like shooting cream, no kickback at all, nothing. It was fantastic.
“Then he says he’s doing a documentary next year about ghost towns in California and Nevada and he wants me to do the music for it so that’s something else I’m going to be doing while I’m over there next year.
“So I’ll be going over there for a month to visit and hang out with him and get the vibe of these ghost towns. All these doors are opening over there so I’ll be going backwards and forwards quite a lot I imagine.
“He’s a nice guy, a little bit like Lemmy in that he’s always got a joke, he’s always funny. Lemmy sometimes reminded me of a cross between Windsor Davies and Tommy Cooper, he’s always got a joke and he’s always funny.”
Which led to the question, what was the funniest thing Lemmy ever said to him? After some debate over whether it was fit for public consumption, Alan resumed, with a smile.
“One of the people who was backstage with us, his girlfriend wears a colostomy bag and he was talking about it and how ill she is and how serious it was and right in the midst of this very serious conversation, Lemmy says: ‘So, has she got matching shoes with that bag then?’
“I was laughing and sniggering for a good five minutes and Lemmy looks at me and says: ‘Al, your imagination is way too good. You’re picturing those shoes, aren’t you.’ He knew me too well…
“Another funny story he told me once was that he used to go into hotels and as soon as he got in the room, and this was every hotel, he’d empty the entire mini-bar into a carrier bag really quickly and you’ve got the old windows with the lip sticking up and he’d hang it out the window, close the window and ring room service and tell them ‘there’s nothing in the mini-bar – it’s empty – come up and have a look’. And they’d come up and say ‘sorry about that’ and then fill it up and of course, he wouldn’t touch it – he’d just drink what was in the bag hanging out of the window. Pretty savvy, eh.”
But not every Motörhead story has a funny ending, especially this final tale that Alan tells with a real sense of sadness.
“If you play the first Motörhead album, not ‘On Parole’, the first with Eddie and Phil, then you listen to ‘Overkill’ straight afterwards, the sound quality and all that, so I suddenly thought ‘hang on a minute, isn’t it about time this album got remixed, done properly?’ So I phoned Doug Smith up and put it to him and he said ‘yeah, I think I know what you mean, let me speak to Ted Carroll’.”
Ted Carroll was the owner of Camden based Chiswick Records, Motörhead’s first record label, and they came back about a week later and said they thought it was a great idea and it was a great time to do it.
“So they went to the studio where all the tapes were held and stored and a new owner had taken it over and had binned all the tapes in a skip, the whole lot. Loads of other bands too; there might have been some early Damned recordings even.
“He didn’t even bother to contact the people involved to see if they wanted the tapes. He couldn’t be bothered – he just binned them in a skip. I was furious. How can you bin something so spectacular like that? Motörhead’s first album – binned in a skip, and what Paul Cobbald and I could have done with that, it would have ended up sounding like ‘Overkill’ with those songs, ‘Vibrator’, ‘Keep Us On The Road’, ‘The Watcher’… I could already hear what it was going to sound like, but it’s not to be, just because some arsehole couldn’t be bothered to contact the people who owned the tapes.”
A few moments of reflection follow as we consider what might have been and Alan once again comes to terms with his disappointment over not being able to do something wonderful for his old friend and mentor.
But at least the future is bright for clean-living Alan who has amassed a staggering two hundred and fifty or so production credits, over two hundred songwriting credits and appeared on over seventy albums.
The live future is all about Gunslinger and the line-up is still to be decided but while we await an announcement on that, Ace Of Spades go into their very final gigs with a solid and definitive three-pronged attack and Alan speaks in glowing terms about his two bandmates, guitarist Neil Archer and drummer Magpie.
Ace Of Spades: Magpie, Alan, Neil…
“Neil’s a nice guy; a really nice chap. He’s nailed all Eddie’s solos. It’s fantastic… you know, I thought he’ll probably nail the odd bit here and there, the odd riff you know, but he’s doing note-for-note all Eddie’s solos. It really does sound authentic. Neil’s a nice chap…
“And so is our drummer Magpie, who nearly became Motörhead drummer. He did some demos for ‘March Or Die’ with Wurzel. He’s a great timekeeper, that’s one thing about Magpie, because I’m a bit of a clock, a digital clock, and when the drummer slows down, I hate it, I really hate it because the whole audience, at that point, drops down in energy and they won’t know why.
“But Magpie is such a good timekeeper and I love it and I love playing with the pair of them. The first song we played, it was just like ‘click, bang!’, it was brilliant and I was very happy it worked out so quickly and easily with them two. It was great.”
So London venues and promoters wanting to book that very special, last Ace Of Spades gig, get in touch here and we’ll pass you over to Alan and hopefully we’ll be able to all pay tribute to Lemmy in a way he would have totally approved of.
In the meantime, you can start planning which venue is best for you to catch Ace Of Spades and Gunslinger on their very final UK dates.
Ace Of Spades tour dates:
Sunday 27th August: Beermageddon, Stoke Priory
Thursday 2nd November: River Rooms, Stourbridge
Saturday 4th November: Cutler’s Arms, Rotherham
Friday 17th November: Zanzibar Club, Liverpool
Saturday 18th November: Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool
Friday 24th November: The Rigger, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
Saturday 25th November: The Station, Cannock
Friday 1st December: The Iron Road, Evesham
Sunday 3rd December: The Diamond, Sutton In Ashfield
Saturday 16th December: The Windmill Inn, Ashford
Friday 12th January: Mr Kyps, Poole
Saturday 13th January: The Fleece, Bristol
Gunslinger tour dates:
Friday 13th October: Club 85, Hitchin
Saturday 14th October: Venue 77, Ipswich
Friday 20th October: The Rigger, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
Saturday 21st October: The Doghouse, Nottingham