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Lemmy Kilmister Stares Down Age 70: 'How Did That Happen to Me?'

Motorhead singer-bassist gets healthy, switches from whiskey to moscato, to prepare for summer tour

June 30, 2014 12:15 PM ET
Lemmy Kilmister Motorhead
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead.
Neil Lupin/Redferns via Getty Images

Lemmy Kilmister has already spent enough time at home, sidelined for nearly a year by a small avalanche of health issues: heart trouble, diabetes, surgery and more. Now the Motörhead frontman is back, following up on the band's acclaimed Coachella sets with a tour of European festivals that features dates as far east as Moscow's Crocus City Hall and as far west as London's Hyde Park.

Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister on Life as Jimi Hendrix's Roadie

At 68, the iconic hard rock pirate is anxious to return to the stage and finally perform more from the band's newest album, Aftershock, which got some of the best sales and reviews of their career. "I've still got a few bugs in me," Lemmy told Rolling Stone with a laugh. "Don't look forward to my demise just yet."

At Hyde Park, Motorhead will be appearing with Black Sabbath, eight years after a 2006 performance featuring Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. Lemmy can still remember seeing Mick Jagger and company perform there in 1968, only days after the death of Brian Jones: "I went to go see the Rolling Stones in the park and they were awful, completely out of tune. Jagger wore a frock."

But of all the dates ahead of him, the frontman and bassist is most eager for his return to Wacken, Germany, where last year his poor health forced Motörhead to cut their set short. "I felt really bad about that, but there was nothing I could do," he said. "I'm looking forward to making that right."

Following that aborted gig, the singer went through surgery to implant a defibrillator and forced himself to give up cigarettes and cut down on his drinking. Recovering at a new condo in L.A., one of his most frequent guests turned out to be Slash, who went through his own heart trouble as a result of his self-destructive days in Guns N' Roses. "He was at my house more than he's ever been before, encouraging me. He's a really fucking good guy," Lemmy said of the guitarist.

Rockers Going Strong After 70

Earlier this year, sitting in his trailer during the second weekend of Coachella, the relatively healthy frontman relaxed before his set as friends lined up to say hello. A row of his black cavalry jackets were hung nearby, and a cane adorned with a silver eagle's head, a gift from guitarist Phil Campbell, was mounted on the wall.

Lemmy's usual tumbler of Jack and Coke was gone, replaced by a glass of pink moscato wine. Although he would go on to win over an audience of people less than half his age and is looking forward to playing those summer festivals, he admitted that at some point Motorhead might become less of a touring entity and focus more on studio work.

Until then, though, he will continue performing for – in Lemmy's words – "as long as I can." Why? "Because you kind of owe it to the people that put you up here. You should deliver. But if I can't deliver, I'm never going to be a figurehead up there and just play for money. I could never do that. I've seen people do it, and it's just frightful.

"I'm old, you know," he eventually admits. "In two years I'm 70, which is ridiculous. How did that happen to me?"

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