Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons
We're The Bastards
There is no easy course to triumph and glory in rock’n’roll. Even for bands with a natural gift for making the ground shake, hard work and many gallons of blood, sweat and tears go into making the magic happen. Even then, it’s always down to the people to decide who rocks and who doesn’t. And the people have declared that PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS are the real fucking deal.
Formed in the aftermath of MOTÖRHEAD’s dissolution, following the death of Lemmy Kilmister in 2016, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS were always going to draw a crowd at any discerning rock or metal festival. Led by one of the genre’s most respected guitarists and completed by his sons Todd (guitar), Tyla (bass) and Dane (drums) and powerhouse frontman Neil Starr, the band emerged onto the 2017 touring circuit powered by a huge amount of good will, a smattering of MOTÖRHEAD covers and a handful of new songs that crackled with passion and swagger. Landing themselves a prestigious support slot on GUNS N’ ROSES 2017 summer stadium run, the BASTARD SONS hit the ground running.
“Phil could easily have done something else,” says Neil Starr. “He could’ve joined another band or even just stopped, but he wasn’t daunted by the prospect of starting another band because it didn’t make any difference to him – he just wanted to enjoy playing music with his sons. Even when he was still in MOTÖRHEAD, he really enjoyed playing music with his sons. So really, from the start, we’ve just done our own thing and enjoyed it.”
Whether it was the promise of hearing a few old Lemmy gems or simply that PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS were too good to ignore, the response to those early shows was uniformly ecstatic and extremely rowdy. By the time the BASTARD SONS released their debut album, “The Age Of Absurdity”, in January 2018, this honest rock ‘n’ roll enterprise had organically blossomed into a pretty big deal. The album garnered widespread great reviews, picking up a trophy for ‘Best Debut Album’ at Metal Hammer Germany’s 2018 awards
“It’s been amazing how much people have enjoyed the songs,” Starr grins. “We basically wrote the album we wanted to write. We had no preconceptions, we just wanted to write good songs. We’ve never had any expectations, so maybe that’s liberating in a way. We’ve just written some songs, played some shows and had a good time. We knew people would check us out, but we’ve seen over the years that people are there for our songs as well. At the start, I guess a lot of people came to hear MOTÖRHEAD songs, but now they’re singing all the words to our songs and that’s great. So we have that backbone of support there.”
Fast forward to 2020 and, just like everyone else, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS had to cancel a lot of carefully-laid plans when the global pandemic descended on us all. But as if to confirm their absolute dedication to blowing people’s heads off with thunderous rock’n’roll, the band refused to cancel plans to record a follow-up to their widely lauded debut. Recorded and engineered during lockdown by guitarist Todd Campbell, the second BASTARD SONS album may be just the tonic people need right now. It’s called “We’re The Bastards” and it’s bigger, better and even more raucously uplifting than its predecessor. In fact, it’s the sound of a great band hitting their stride and buzzing with confidence.
“It’s definitely great to know that we have an audience now,” says Starr. “We know there are people that want to hear it, but the truth is that we just had fun with it. Once again, we made the record we wanted to make and it’s been really exciting. Also, we really wanted to do something in lockdown, because there was nothing else happening! We’ve got a studio in Wales that Todd owns, so we said ‘Let’s do what we can and make the best of a bad situation’.”
Kicking off with the anthemic bluster of its title track, “We’re The Bastards” is instantly recognizable as the work of the band that brought us previous ragers like ‘Ringleader’ and ‘Get On Your Knees’. But it’s also a much more diverse and adventurous affair, as Starr and the Campbells expand their vision to include a greater sense of dynamics and atmosphere and even. Contrasting the expected fiery, bellow-along gems like ‘Son Of A Gun’ and ‘Bite My Tongue’, the swaggering, bluesy ‘Born To Roam’ and the hazy stoner rock stomp of ‘Desert Song’ point to an instinctive grasp of Americana’s influence on heavy rock. Similarly, there’s a world of difference between something as gritty and gung-ho as the two-minute ‘Destroyed’ and the spacious and epic grunge squall of closer ‘Waves’. But the BASTARD SONS’ self-evident shared chemistry and abundant charisma ensure that everything slots neatly into place on a wonderfully cohesive piece of work that feels like a sincere celebration of rock’s uplifting power.
“When we did the first album there were a couple of songs where we thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know how this is going to go down,’” Starr notes. “There’s a song called ‘Dark Days’ on the first album and we really liked it, but we didn’t even know if it would make the album until we finished recording it! It was maybe a bit too different from what people probably wanted to hear, but it turned out to be a fan favorite. So this time we knew that writing stuff like that wasn’t risky in any way. So songs like ‘Born To Roam’ are kind of in that vein. They’re not typical, fast rock’n’roll songs. Last time we weren’t sure, but now we know we can do all of those things.”
One of the most explosive album openers in recent memory, “We’re The Bastards” neatly encapsulates the BASTARD SONS philosophy while also being a very obvious and magnificent instant live favourite. Neil Starr admits that there was only ever one possible option for the new album’s title, even if he can’t take credit for it himself!
“Yeah, that was basically the only one on the list. Everyone agreed it was perfect for the album title,” he recalls. “The funny thing for me is that on this album and the last album I had complete control, lyrically and melody-wise. But when Todd sent me the music for that song, he said ‘I’ve got a melody idea and some words for the chorus…’ Then he sent me the chorus down the phone, singing those words, and I just knew people would love it. As soon as I heard it, I knew there was no changing it! So I wrote the rest of the words, based around that idea of camaraderie, the fans and the crew and the band together. It’s going to go down really well and become a bit of an anthem, I think! They probably won’t play it on the radio, but then we’ve got ‘bastard’ in the band name, so we’re not doing ourselves any favors anyway, ha ha ha!“
One enormous favor the band have done themselves this time around is nominating guitarist Todd Campbell to record and engineer the new material at his studio in Wales. “We’re The Bastards” sounds absolutely huge and wonderfully vibrant and alive: a dazzling showcase for the talent in the BASTARD SONS ranks. Mixed and mastered by Soren Anderson (GLENN HUGHES/ THE DEAD DAISIES/ THE ANSWER) it’s such a powerful and convincing leap forward for all concerned that we can only imagine how frustrating it is to be releasing it into such a strange, gig-less world. This is music that demands to be recreated amid the chaos and joy of a live show. Eventually, of course, it will be.
“It’s definitely a weird time to be releasing it, because we haven’t had any rehearsals, which is usually what happens,” says Starr. “It’s a strange time and we’re not 100% sure when touring is going to happen. It would be sad to not be able to tour the album for a while, but we’re just pleased that we could record it. We didn’t want to delay releasing it. We can still make physical copies and stream it everywhere, so there’s no reason to delay it. Worst case scenario is that people can have longer to get familiar with it, so when we do come out it’ll be even better!”
Proving that their acclaimed debut was no fluke and deftly capturing the sizzling essence of their celebrated live shows via their strongest and most exhilarating material to date, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS will be ready for action whenever the music industry starter’s pistol is fired. In the meantime, “We’re The Bastards” is exactly the turbocharged kick up the arse we all need while we wait for our rock’n’roll family to be reunited. Play it loud and be ready!
“The good thing about this genre is that people are very supportive,” Starr concludes. “If you put on great shows, people will come and see you again. If you put a good amount of effort into everything and try to give them something good, they appreciate it. Our fans are going to want vinyl and stuff, you know? So hopefully we’ll have a few cool colors on offer! The fan base will stick by you, even if they don’t have the money they used to have, even in tough times. It’s such a cool scene to be in. It’s unique, I think. We’re very happy and proud to be part of it.”
1 - We're The Bastards
2 - Son Of A Gun
3 - Promises Are Poison
4 - Born To Roam
5 - Animals
6 - Bite My Tongue
7 - Desert Song
8 - Keep Your Jacket On
9 - Lie To Me
10 - Riding Straight To Hell
11 - Hate Machine
12 - Destroyed
13 - Waves
14 - Big Mouth (Live) (bonus)
15 - Freak Show (Live) (bonus)
16 - Dark Days (Live) (bonus)
17 - Rock 'n' Roll (Live) (bonus)