MOTÖRHEAD guitarist Phil Campbell has shot down a suggestion that the band's late mainman Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister was a Nazi sympathizer.
Lemmy had an extensive collection of military and particularly Nazi paraphernalia from World War II, and he had been known to wear Iron Crosses and hats from the German air force. However, he publicly condemned racism, claiming he "only collected the stuff" and "didn't collect the ideas." He explained in an interview: "I've got friends of all colors and religious persuasions. I ain't got a racist bone in my body."
After a MOTÖRHEAD fan from Venezuela praised Lemmy on Twitter on Friday (June 4),calling him "the best rocker in history" despite his "Nazi tendencies," Campbell chimed in, writing: "FYI, Lemmy DID NOT, have any Nazi tendencies. He was a historian."
A short time later, Lemmy's longtime bandmate in HEADCAT (formerly THE HEAD CAT),Slim Jim Phantom of THE STRAY CATS, also weighed in, tweeting: "Phil Campbell is 100% correct & I will vouch for this true statement all day long. Best, SJP". Campbell then thanked Slim Jim Phantom for his words of support, writing: "Thanks Jim, we should know."
In a 2017 interview with Billboard, MOTÖRHEAD drummer Mikkey Dee was asked what Lemmy might have said about the events that took place earlier that year in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee descended into violence that culminated in the death of activist Heather Heyer and injuries to almost two dozen others after a car rammed into a group of counter-protestors.
"Oh, he would have fucking hated it. I can totally speak for him there: He hated that shit," Dee said. "A lot of people judged him on the fact that he collected war stuff. A lot of people did not look behind the curtain. He hated fucking Nazis. He hated stupidity and he was fascinated by the stupidity of the human race. He would probably write some incredible lyrics about it — he thought it was so ridiculous."
More than a decade ago, DISTURBED frontman David Draiman, who is of Jewish descent and has spoken out against anti-Semitism for many years, had strong words for rock musicians who collect Nazi memorabilia. When asked in an interview with Revolver magazine about artists such as Lemmy and SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman who collected Nazi artifacts, Draiman said: "That's super-duper taboo and offensive to me. I don't understand the fascination. It's the most provocative imagery that you can brandish, and that's why people utilize it. And if that's their goal, I guess they're achieving it."
When told that Kilmister defended himself by saying he was just collecting artifacts of war history, Draiman replied: "I don't give a fuck who you are. If you're going to brandish Nazi symbolism, I'm going to have a problem with you because I don't understand how anybody could think it's okay to wear something on their body that symbolizes the annihilation and genocide of my people. I'm not okay with that and there is no excuse and there is no explanation."
Back in 2008, an investigation was reportedly launched into whether Lemmy committed a crime under German law by wearing what appeared to be a Nazi cap in a published photo. The picture in question appeared in a German newspaper prior to the band's July 5, 2008 "Wacken Rocks Seaside" concert in Aurich, Germany with MACHINE HEAD and SAXON.
All "anti-constitutional propaganda" — and specifically any attempt to propagate Nazism — is illegal under article 86 of the German Penal Code. Article 86a also prohibits all "anti-constitutional" symbols, including all Nazi insignia, flags, slogans and salutes.
Speaking to the New York Waste web site, Lemmy stated about his Nazi collection, "I don't only collect Nazi stuff, I collect objects from all the 'axis countries.' Also from countries who aren't even mentioned anymore as former part of the axis. Like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Hungary. Okay, in the end, they all said, 'We're no Nazis' when they saw that the Germans were losing it. But five years before that, they went, 'Yeah!'"
When asked where he gets the objects he collects, Lemmy replied: "The USA is a great place for collecting that shit, 'cause the GIs took everything back to America. They took fucking warehouses full of uniforms, Mercedes staff cars. One guy shipped a Focke Wulf 190 fighter home in pieces and rebuilt it in America. Now he owns the only fucking FW 190 in the world. I used to buy a couple of things in Germany, but now you can't take anymore knives or things back home in a plane. And it's become more relaxed to buy stuff like that [in Germany]. There's five or six stores in Hamburg especially. They're advertising it. What's the point, anyway? It's not a nationalistic kind of thing, I mean, what the fuck you're gonna do? Pretend it never happened? There's airplane model kits of Messerschmidt 109 fighters. Shouldn't you touch them?"
On the subject of whether people should wear uniforms, Lemmy stated: "I'll tell you something about history. From the beginning of time, the bad guys always had the best uniforms. Napoleon, the Confederates, the Nazis. They all had killer uniforms. I mean, the SS uniform is fucking brilliant! They were the rock stars of that time. What are you gonna do? They just look good. Don't tell me, I'm a Nazi 'cause I have uniforms. In 1967 I had my first black girlfriend and a lot more ever since then. I just don't understand racism; I never thought it was an option."
Lemmy, who celebrated his 70th birthday on December 24, 2015, learned two days later that he was afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer. He died two days later, on December 28, 2015, at his home in Los Angeles.