June 2020

Ace Of Spades

Words: Gabriel Knowles Images: Lemmy The Movie

Lemmy Kilmister is, quite possibly, the only true proponent of rock ‘n’ roll on the planet right now. The man most well known as the frontman and bassist of Motörhead is a throwback to the time before marketing mattered most – a Jack and Coke drinking, Marlboro smoking, straight talking rock star in the every sense of its definition. He also, quite literally, actually plays rock ‘n’ roll music with his rockabilly band The Head Cat. At 62 years of age Lemmy still tours and records non-stop, which for filmmakers Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski has its ups and downs as they spent three years documenting him. Gabriel Knowles talks to the two New Yorkers about working with one of music’s greatest characters.

“Greg and I were working on another project in 2006,” Orshoski explains of the project’s roots. “I have a past as a music journalist and I’d interviewed Lemmy for Billboard magazine and what interested me at the time from talking to him, wasn’t Motörhead even though they had Kiss Of Death out. It was that he’d just re-released this rockabilly record with The Head Cat. I couldn’t stop listening to it, man, it was all the songs he grew up loving like Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Kyle Perkins and it opened up a whole new realm in my head of who Lemmy is.”

“We’d made a pact while we were working on this other project and we happened to be in Ireland so we went to this pub to come up with ideas and it wad the very first idea that popped into my head. And it just became perfect the more we talked about it and even better as we worked on it because Lemmy is one of a kind. By the time we finished the film that point was driven home even more, how unique he is within that rock scene. I know it sounds cliched but he’s the last of a dying breed. He’s one of the last great rock stars.”

“He only does what he wants to do all of the time. You don’t know a single person like that who lives entirely by their own rules, it’s impossible to do that in todays society but he does it.”

And so with their subject locked in Olliver and Orshoski spent months trying to track the great man down for a meeting that, according to Olliver went surprisingly smoothly. “We met with him and his people to pitch him the idea so we had a business meeting at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Los Angeles. That meeting consisted of us all drinking heavily and listening to Lemmy tell stories and it went really well and he gave us the green light.”

“We spoke about five minutes of business and then we spent four hours straight drinking,” Orshoski adds, “Lemmy had to excuse himself at one point and Todd, his manager, said that’s the longest he’s ever seen him sit in a business meeting.”

While that very inability to sit still has seen Lemmy drive Motörhead for 35 years and exert a lasting influence over heavy metal, it’s not much good when you need him to stay put according to Olliver. “Lemmy’s always on the road, we shot so much stuff with him on the road we realised we needed some shots of him at home which was hard because those days are few and far between. He never has downtime, he comes home from touring for a few days and then he gets bored and goes and plays with his other band.”

Fortunately when it came time to call in the interviewees Lemmy’s four decades in the music industry, which included stints as Jimi Hendrix’s roadie and as a member of the pioneering space rockers Hawkwind, they had no problems.

“There’s some obvious people like Metallica, Guns N Roses and Dave Grohl that he and Motörhead have influenced. But we also tried to go outside the box, we got people like Jarvis Cocker and Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order. At one stage Peter Hook told us about how New Order would rip off Hawkwind.” Orshoski recounts.

But the hardest part for the filmmakers was yet to come, for they still had to show Lemmy the finished product.

“We had to take it to his apartment in Hollywood to show him. To be honest we were nervous because he can be so unpredictable with his moods and his mood dictates what he likes a lot of the time. He watched it and we were watching his face the whole time and he was smiling, laughing and miming himself in the movie. In the end he was really happy and gave us a big hand shake and said ‘good job boys!’.”

Lemmy The Movie

Lemmy premieres at the Sydney Film Festival on June 4

For your chance to win a double pass to Lemmy just email [email protected] and tell us what Lemmy’s real name is.

Next story: Unbridled Enthusiasm – Darren Knight