FASTWAY (Live at O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., October 28, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess and Rebecca Burgess

As one third of the classic Motörhead lineup FAST EDDIE CLARKE was responsible for the timeless albums Overkill, Bomber and Ace of Spades as well as the UK No. 1 album, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith. He’s been away for a few years but now he’s back and about to head out on the road in the UK with his band Fastway along with Girlschool as special guests of Saxon. Mick Burgess called up Fast Eddie and found him in a very chatty, jovial mood talking about his time in Motörhead, forming Fastway and getting back out on tour.

In a few days you’ll be hitting the road as special guest for Saxon with your band Fastway. Are you looking forward to touring the UK again?

I haven’t been in Newcastle for so long. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a long, long time.

It’s been quite a while since you last toured. Why is the time right now for you now to get back out on the road?

We did a few shows back in 2008 at a couple of festivals and that is about it. I think I’ve decided to come and play now because of the demise of Lemmy and Phil Taylor. That really upset me. It rocked me and I thought that I should try and get out somewhere this year if I can. I was all over the place when they went but I thought it’d be nice if I played some shows again. When a friend of mine suggested a tour with Saxon and Girlschool with Fastway in the middle it sounded like a whole family affair and a lot of fun. Saxon supported us on the Bomber tour and Girlschool on the Overkill tour and we’ve all been supporting each other ever since. It just seemed like a really family thing to do. Someone put it to Biff and he thought it was a great idea and the girls were on board so here we are. I’m over the moon about it. Obviously I haven’t been out on the road for a long time so it’ll be nice to have a partisan audience who won’t be too hard on me and I won’t have to wear a crash helmet. I am a little nervous. I have to be honest but I’m very excited.

There’s been a few changes in members over the road since you started Fastway back in the early ’80s. Who’s in the current line up?

I’m back with Toby because we did those few gigs together and we also did the album in 2011 called Eat Dog Eat but Toby instead of going out on the road with Fastway decided to reform his band the Little Angels. That really upset me somewhat as I was hoping we were going to tour the album together. I absolutely loved the album and wanted to play those songs live.

What about your drummer and bassist?

We also have Steve Strange on drums, who’s an agent in the business and has worked with Coldplay. He actually worked with me in the old days and he wanted to keep his hand in. What made it happen really was Steve, as he’s in the business and could make a few phone calls and set things up. He has all the contacts so all I have to do is tip up with my guitar. We also have John McManus on bass from the Mama’s Boys. They supported us in the early ’80s when we supported Ratt in The States so we go back a long way.

Toby Jepson seemed like a strange choice at first, being known as the singer in the Pop Rock band Little Angels but you really brought the best out of him and he’s matured into a fine singer. How did you coax that performance out of him?

I think so. The trouble with Toby is that everything else he does, he doesn’t sound that good but when he works with me his vocals seem to go up a gear. He sounds like a really great singer on Eat Dog Eat. When I listen to the album I just don’t know why he didn’t want to tour it. I did have a right crack at him at the time but he’s got the chance to put it right now. All the things I said back then I still stand by those and I do think Toby made a huge mistake but he is a nice bloke and we do get on but people make their choices for different reasons but at least we’re doing it now.

Will you playing a few songs from Eat Dog Eat then?

We’ll probably only do Deliver Me as we only have 40 minutes but we have played a couple of the others live before. We want to be comfortable and don’t want to try out too much new stuff in our short set. There’s so many good songs on that album. When I put it on I just love it. It hurts me that nobody got to hear it. Sick As A Dog, Leave The Light On and Who Do You Believe, which I think is quite Zeppelin-esq would work really well on stage. Hopefully this tour will lead to other stuff and maybe we’ll save those for when we can play a longer set. I’m using these shows to see if I still love it and want to go out and do more as it’s been so long.

Will you be playing a few from across your Fastway catalogue too?

We’ll be doing Easy Livin’ and Another Day from the first album and Telephone from the second one. We’ll probably do Say What You Will and Hest as well. I love that one, it’s a great one to play. There’s not a lot of time really but we’ll do as much as we can in the time we have.

There’ll be a fair few hoping for a Motörhead song or two. Will you be doing any or do you see Fastway as a totally separate entity from your Motörhead days?

We want to keep Fastway separate to Motörhead and I don’t want to be disrespectful to the boys. I don’t actually think Toby would be that good singing Motörhead songs anyway.

You’re on this tour with Girlschool with whom you had a huge hit with The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre as Headgirl. Poor Phil Taylor had to sit out those sessions due to a neck injury. What happened there?

He broke his neck in Ireland. It was about 5:00 in the morning and we were all drunk and I’d just gone to bed. Phil was hanging around with one of the roadies and they did this thing where they lifted each other above their heads. The roadie picked Phil up over his head then fell over backwards and dropped him on his head and smashed his head. Phil was taken to hospital and he was lying there unable to move. We thought he was gone for good. It was a really worrying time. They kept him in for a few days until he made some progress and they let him out so long as he kept this neck brace on and provided he didn’t do anything stupid he should make a full recovery. On the cover of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre record they drew a bow tie on his neck brace. Years later he had this big ball on the back of his neck. Where the crack had been there had been something the size of a golf ball that grew bigger and became the size of a tennis ball. He was thinking of tattooing a face on it. He was as mad as a March hare.

You also each recorded a cover of the other bands song with you doing Girlschool’s Emergency and Girlschool covering Bomber. Who’s idea was it to cover each other’s songs?

I’m not sure. I can’t claim any credit for that. It might have been a management thing or maybe the label suggested it. It was probably the label as they were always trying to find ways of making a few quid.

What are the chances of you joining Girlschool on stage during this tour for a run through that together?

There might be a few surprises later on. We are discussing a couple of possibilities of maybe doing something. With Biff’s ties ups with Motörhead and the girls too we’ll have to wait and see what happens. We haven’t finalised anything yet but we are trying to do something. There’ll definitely be some form of tribute but I’m not sure what just yet.

You’d initially formed Fastway with UFO’s Pete Way but he soon left. Why did Pete move on so quickly?

We did have some trouble with his record company, Chrysalis. They were being really awkward. I invited them down to the studio to hear our demos and they said they couldn’t make it. Then I invited them to rehearsals and some showcases and they didn’t show up. CBS came down and said they’d sign us tomorrow. I told both labels that the first one with the cheque on the table could have the band. CBS wrote the cheque and got the band. I think Chrysalis got the hump and that freaked Pete out a bit and then Pete got the offer from Ozzy to tour with him and that was it. We did three demos together at that stage. I think the Ozzy offer did it though. I don’t know why Sharon did that as she knew he was in my band. I was good friends with Ozzy too but I think maybe Sharon was getting at me for leaving Motörhead and she does like to wade into other people’s arguments. They sacked him after the first three shows too which was a horrible thing to do and ruined Pete’s career and it affected mine too as without Pete it never felt quite right after that.

It seemed strange at the time as you and Pete seemed to go so well together?

It was so easy working with Pete, we really got on like a house on fire and we were such good friends. I just couldn’t understand it, he never told anyone, he just didn’t show up at rehearsals one day and I didn’t see him again for five years when I bumped into him in the street in London. I really didn’t know what happened, Pete was a bit strange like that, he just doesn’t like confrontation. He once told me a story from back in his UFO days. He told his wife that he was going out to get a paper. The band’s van was waiting at the end of the road and they took him off on a European tour for a couple of months. He’s a lovely bloke though and one of the nicest people I know.

Getting in Humble Pie’s Jerry Shirley on the drums was an inspired choice. Were you a big fan of Humble Pie back in the early days?

I was a huge Humble Pie fan and Rockin’ the Fillmore is my all-time favourite album. Pete had a mate who knew him and he said that Jerry was painting and decorating in Farnborough. I thought that must be a joke, surely he wouldn’t be out of the music business doing decorating. We did have people send in loads of tapes to us which was quite good fun but when I got his number I called him up and met him in a pub and he was all covered in paint. He wasn’t doing anything and he said he’d do it but we had to beg, steal and borrow the money to get his drums back out of storage. Once Jerry was on board we knew we had something special.

You brought in a previously unknown singer, Dave King to front the band. You must have had a fair few big name singers you could have called up. What made you go for Dave?

There weren’t really any big named singers about at that time. We received loads of tapes all the time and Pete used to come around to my house all the time and we’d go through them. He’d turn up with a Special Brew in one hand and a bag of tapes in the other and we’d sit down and listen to them. We tried out a few and it didn’t work out. Pete turned up one day with two tapes in his hand and said that he’d found two Robert Plants. We listened to them and they were fantastic. The only trouble with one of them was that he lived in Australia. The other one was Dave King. He had that real edge to his voice. We liked it a lot. We called him and he came over and the rest is history. That’s when we did the demos and CBS were interested and Pete cleared off just as we were getting going.

Your debut album raised a few eyebrows when it came out. I guess many people were expecting Motörhead Mark II but you produced a fine Blues based Hard Rock album. Were you looking to show a totally different side to your playing than you were able to do with Motörhead?

At the time I’d felt really betrayed by Phil and Lemmy. I said to them if they were going to do the thing with Wendy O’Williams then I was leaving. I didn’t expect them to go and do it and tell me to get lost. When I went back to them the following day I said that it was ridiculous but they told me where to go. I thought we were brothers. Motörhead was my band too. I left with nothing. I got no money, no instruments, nothing. I didn’t have a pot to pee in. I just thought I’d break my ties with all that Heavy Metal stuff, I dumped my leather jacket and decided to do something that was more Blues based. I often look back and wonder what happened to my hair and leather jacket and I think in the haze of it all going on I lost faith with them and just wanted to do something else. I actually thought I’d die in Motörhead, I never thought I’d leave Motörhead.

Legendary producer Eddie Kramer of KISS, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin fame produced your first two albums. What did you learn from working from him?

He was great on the first album but awful on the second. I was warned that he’d be like that on the second one so I told the band this but they were adamant they wanted Eddie Kramer. He was really into what he was doing on the first album and got a great result but he just didn’t seem bothered with the second one and there’s no comparison between the two. All Fired Up had a terrible sound. The band was a democracy and I was outvoted. As we were so successful with the first record he started making demands and doing stuff behind our back. He was thinking about everything other than the record. So the second album wasn’t a very pleasant experience for us especially after the first had done so well.

Your old mate Lemmy came in to sing, Laugh At The Devil on your solo album It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over. That made a lot of people very happy and sounded like classic Motörhead. Did you always stay on good terms after you left Motörhead or did you need time apart before you could reconcile?

I didn’t have a problem with Lemmy or Phil. I was more than happy to talk to them but Phil wouldn’t talk to me at all. Lemmy was very off and the management handed me my ticket home from New York and that was it. With Lemmy it was OK. At the time me and Pete were doing great with Fastway and everybody wanted to talk about that. When we went to the Reading Festival to see the Michael Schenker Group, Twisted Sisters were also on the bill and Pete Way had been doing some work with them. We were in the backstage area and everyone was coming over wanting an interview. I think Lemmy must have thought what on earth I was doing. I got up on stage with Twisted Sister and Pete and I looked over and there was Lemmy on stage as well. It was only a few months after I’d left but we had a lot of fun doing that and we had a drink afterwards and I think that certainly helped. We were fine. I think we already were but Phil was pretty bitter. He wanted Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy in Motörhead and that’s who came in after I left.

What did you make of Another Perfect Day, the album Motörhead did with Brian Robertson after you’d left?

I thought it sounded like Thin Lizzy. There was nothing really original about it. I didn’t really care and didn’t listen to it that much. I was pretty furious about it at the time. Phil actually called around to my house a couple of years later and he said sorry for everything that had happened which was fair enough so we patched things up after that and were on good terms again right up until he died last year.

Overkill, Bomber and Ace of Spades in particular came to define you as a band and still after 35 years are still the benchmark for Motörhead and indeed Hard Rock itself.

I can write tunes. Lemmy and I had a real good writing relationship. We wrote some great songs and we didn’t find it too difficult to do that. I think I am still writing some good licks and there’s a few on Eat Dog Eat. I’m very proud of those songs that I’ve written and I’m glad that people still love them today.

When these shows with Saxon and Girlschool are done what are you planning next?

I’m not too sure really. I’ll do these shows, see how they go and how I feel afterwards and then if all goes well I might play more next year but we’ll have to wait and see.

Fastway featuring former Motörhead lead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke is on tour with Saxon and Girlschool. The tour starts at the O2 Academy, Newcastle on 28th October.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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