Lemmy Kilmister is God. But don’t take my word for it.
Fan #1: The man’s the modern Jesus!
Fan #2: Without Lemmy there’d be no Metallica, no Megadeath, no Slayer, nothing. There wouldn’t be any of the heavy metal we have today.
Fan #3: Rock and Roll is Lemmy! Lemmy is Rock and Roll!
Fan #4: Lemmy is God! If they drop a nuclear bomb on this planet, Lemmy and cockroaches is all that’s gonna survive.
Filmmakers Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski followed Lemmy Kilmister around for three years. The followed him to Motörhead gigs in Germany, Finland, and Russia. They found his side gig the Head Cat [a rockabilly trio with Stray Cat Slim Jim Phantom and guitarist Danny B. Harvey] at a show in Green Bay, Wisconsin casino. They caught him playing bass with punkers The Damned. They captured many anecdotes from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Alice Cooper, wrestler Triple H, Joan Jett, Jason Newstead, Mick Jones and Tony James. Oddly enough, they didn’t talk much with fellow bandmembers Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee. But they do have featurettes on both band members of the bonus disc.
Influences: Little Richard, The Beatles, Elvis. He saw the Beatles at the Cavern in Liverpool, before they ever had a record out. He always thought the Beatles were the best band in the world. He lived on a farm in North Wales, not too far from Liverpool. He said that every summer the girls would come out to see a guy named Billy Fury, but when the Beatles came around that all changed. Buddy Holly is in there somewhere too. He said Little Richard had the most outrageous voice in rock and roll – “the best vocal ever in rock and roll.”
How does a Rock and Roll God live? He lives alone in a two-room, rent-controlled apartment just off the Sunset Strip. His apartment is literally stuffed with World War II memorabilia, Motörhead stuff, all kinds of rock and roll stuff, and knives…lots and lots of knives. Knives are all over the walls. Swords – lots of swords and daggers. And lots of Nazi stuff…everywhere! As Lemmy would put it, “it’s a fucking museum.” Where could one usually find Lemmy? When he’s not on the road, you’ll find him at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset, at end of the bar, chain smoking Marlboros, drinking Jack and Cokes and playing the trivia games. Nikki Sixx from Motley Crüe described Lemmy’s fixation on trivia games as a weird sort of “heavy metal meditation.” Lemmy is a Rainbow fixture. The dude loves his video games.
Dave Navarro [Jane’s Addiction]: “The Sunset Strip has seen a whole lot of different movements and genres and musical versions of the same thing basically. We had a bunch of different musical movements, and first of all Motörhead is one of those bands that transcends movements. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the community, in the rock culture, Motörhead is still hailed as being like…king. When he moved to LA and became part of the scene, he was already embraced. It was basically his throne was waiting for him.”
Cool Part #1: Lemmy shops for the Beatles Mono Box at Amoeba Music on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. It’s one of my favorite places to buy music. He goes to the front counter and asks about the Mono Box. The poor guy behind the counter said “no,” but as Lemmy’s browsing through Pat Benatar CDs [?!?], the guy from behind the counter appears behind him and tells him the owner is going to sell him her copy, “in the name of rock and roll.” That’s one way to get a customer to keep coming back…
Lemmy has a weakness for country music. He tells Billy Bob Thornton the best harmonies in the world are by “country girls.” “The chorus will come in – the stuff will make you fucking cry.”
Lemmy’s look: It’s a cross-between a biker and a German World War II field marshal. He loves that German WW II-era aesthetic. Why the Nazi/German look? Because the aesthetic is cool to him. He says that if the Israelis had cooler looking gear he’d wear that, but they don’t. When asked if he’s a Nazi, he responds by saying he’s had six black girlfriends. He designs his own boots. Again, he goes for the military look. His bootmaker calls it a “western jackboot” with a squared-off nose, kind of like a cavalry boot.
Reverend Horton Heat: “He’s Black Bart meets Mad Max.”
Lars Frederikson [Rancid]: “Lemmy’s like a fucking radioactive cowboy.”
Duff McKagan: “A hard rock Johnny Cash.”
Mike Inez [Alice in Chains]: “World War II chic.”
Alice Cooper: He’s Captain Hook.
Ozzy Osbourne: “He’s just Lemmy. You just take him or you fuckin’ don’t, and he don’t give a flying shit whether you do or not.”
Cool Part #2: The filmmakers visited Lemmy’s school in Wales. The students know who Lemmy is. They knew he got expelled from there. In the music room, one student starts banging out Ace of Spades on the piano. The room was full of kids singing along.
When asked about the most prized possession in the apartment, Lemmy said it was his son, Paul. Then they started telling some weird stories – how they met [during a drug deal – Paul was six], how Paul’s mom lost her virginity to John Lennon, how Paul and Lemmy traded girlfriends…very strange. He has another son whom he’s never met – he doesn’t want to ruin the guy’s life by letting him know who his real father is.
There’s a five-minute blurb about Hawkwind, the progressive space rock band Lemmy played in prior to Motörhead. Jarvis Cocker described Hawkwind as a prog-rock group that punkswere allowed to like. Their musical themes were mostly in science fiction. Hawkwind leading light Dave Brock described Lemmy and another bandmate [Dik Mik] as being grumpy as they were the band’s speed freaks. Flute/sax player Nik Turner described Hawkwind as trance-like, and every gig was like a drug dealer’s convention. Hawkwind was touring in the States when Lemmy was busted for possession of amphetamines [at first they thought it was cocaine] after he entered Canada, and spent two days in jail. They’d gotten him out of jail, flew him to Toronto, did a gig and then fired him for being unreliable. Lemmy thinks the only reason they posted his bail was because his replacement hadn’t arrived yet. Nik Turner said Lemmy was hard to work with because everybody in the band did different drugs. He did psychedelics, Lemmy was a speedfreak.
As for his family life, Lemmy’s father was a vicar. He didn’t stick around after Lemmy was born. When asked about the important people in his life, he mentioned his mother and his grandmother. They were the ones who raised him. About his father, he said “I never missed my father because I never had one. He was just a miserable little dickhead with glasses, and all he ever did for me was walk out on me.” I wonder if that is the source of his antipathy toward religion.
His partying ways: Reverend Horton Heat tells of how he tried to keep up with Lemmy in drinking alcohol. He ended up going to the hospital the next day. He says [with a smile on his face] that Lemmy gave him alcohol poisoning. Mike Inez told a story of how Lemmy would crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels and hand it to him. He’d take a sip from the bottle and pass it to Zakk Wylde. After he passed the bottle to Zakk, Lemmy would crack open another bottle of Jack and hand it to Mike Inez. Lemmy treats drinking Jack Daniels the same way others would treat drinking beer. He thinks speed is much better for you than cocaine. He also related that dropping acid would have the same effect on you two days in a row only if you double the dose. As a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, he’d score acid for Jimi. If he got ten hits of acid, Jimi would take seven and let Lemmy keep the rest. He hates heroin. He’s never done it, but several people he knew did, and they’re not around to talk about it.
He’s quite the World War II historian. His manager recalls a story of him and Lemmy watching a World War II documentary, and Lemmy points out a detail the documentarians got wrong. The manager was skeptical, so Lemmy pulled out three books to show the aircraft being discussed wasn’t even built during the time the documentary was talking about. The film goes on to show him visiting these guys in Corona, California who restore WWII-era vehicles. They show him a German tank they restored that was a Czech design. He identified it as being a Skoda design with a 75 mm gun. Not a “tank” per se, it was a tank destroyer.
Dave Grohl: “Fuck Keith Richards. “Fuck all those dudes that fuckin’ survived the Sixties that are fuckin’ flyin’ around on Lear Jets, you know, livin’ up their gunslinger reputation as they fuck supermodels in the most expensive hotel in Paris. You know what Lemmy’s doin’? Lemmy’s probably drinkin’ Jack and Cokes and writing another record…”
Guitarist Phil Campbell, who has been with Motörhead forever, confessed he got Lemmy’s autograph when he was twelve years old. Lemmy was with Hawkwind at the time. He was the only one in the band who signed autographs after a show. Who knew Phil Campbell would be playing in a band with Lemmy for over 25 years…
Live bits: Lemmy on-stage with Metallica in Nashville, playing Damage Case. The band performs a sound check plying the acoustic Whorehouse Blues. Then of course, there’s Ace of Spades. The band play a little bit of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever during a sound check before Lemmy brings everything to a halt because he can’t hear his vocals. There’s a bit where Lemmy and Dave Grohl are in a Van Nuys studio recording a version of Chuck Berry’s Run Run Rudolph. That’s it for the movie, but there’s plenty of live footage in the DVD extras. There’s a full set played in Berlin.
The Motörhead Sound: “Everything Louder than Everything Else…”
Lemmy is not a proper bass player. He doesn’t play single notes; he plays chords, and very loudly. He’s more like a rhythm guitarist, only his axe of choice is a Rickenbacker bass. An enduring image of how loud the band plays comes from drummer Mikkey Dee. They’re doing a sound check, and he’s plugging his ears. He plays with these guys every night, so if he’s plugging his ears, you know it’s loud.
Slash: “Everything about Lemmy’s playing sets him apart from other bass players, for that matter any other musicians now that I think about it. I think the biggest thing is the Rickenbacker and the Marshalls. That’s the sound that I don’t think anybody I’ve ever heard create on bass, and he plays it a lot like some heavy metal guitar players play. He doesn’t play guitar on bass but it almost sounds like guitar.”
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp: “It’s the aural equivalent of being in a sandstorm.” I rather like that description… :-)
When asked by a Finnish TV interviewer about his most proud accomplishment, Lemmy gives a short answer: “Survival, I think.” Not so much physical survival, but that Motorhead has been around for so long it confounds those critics in the mid-1970s that said the band was crap and wouldn’t survive very long. It’s as if every year the band is around, they’re giving the music press the finger.
What’s refreshing about the documentary is that Lemmy is very candid about what he does and how he lives. He makes no apologies for anything. He just does what he does, but he’s not on any kind of star trip while doing it. He loves his fans and his fans love him. He takes the time to sign autographs or take pictures with fans. When he’s taking a picture with a fan, he tells him “don’t smile, it isn’t cool.” Normally I wouldn’t want to meet any rock star, but with Lemmy I think I’d make an exception. I wouldn’t want to party with him though…
Any regrets? “None. Life’s too short.”
Motörhead’s appeal: They do what they want, when they want, and they don’t care what you think of them. If you like what they do – great! If you don’t? Fuck off!
This package doesn’t end with just the documentary. There are lots of extras on the second disc. There’s a nine-minute blurb about the making of the movie. You get to watch the band record Motörizer. You get to see Metallica throw a 50th birthday party bash in 1995, with Metallica [who renamed themselves The Lemmies for the occasion] playing Motörhead songs. Marshall built a custom amp modeled after Lemmy’s “Murder One” amp. There’s a clip of him test-driving the new setup.
Cool Part #3: There is a short about Motörhead’s road crew. As Lemmy was once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, he has a soft spot for them. [We Are] The Road Crew is his homage to them. Motörhead’s road crew is Lemmy’s extended family, as seen in an extended feature about them. Many of these guys have been with Motörhead forever. At the end of the feature, the road crew gets together and THEY play [We Are] The Road Crew. And these guys were smokin’. Lemmy’s bass tech plays just like Lemmy.
The final Cool Part: The story of the beginning of Motörhead, as told by Fast Eddie Clark. The whole segment is priceless, especially Fast Eddie’s dissertation on why speed is the best drug to take to play live music. He was very matter-of-fact that what he was saying wasn’t an advertisement for speed, but he ran down the pitfalls of various drugs [pot, cocaine, alcohol] for playing live music, and why speed was the best.
Lemmy is very entertaining. Even if you aren’t a fan, I think you’d like it. Here's a taste of the movie - enjoy!