What more can be said about Lemmy Kilmister? Even though he prefers not being labeled as “metal,” Lemmy and Motörhead have served as an enormous influence in almost every metal and hard rock act to come out in the past three decades. The band’s music and his truly badass persona have made Lemmy an icon in the music world. The best way to explain it, really, is through this riddle made popular by the 90’s rock movie Airheads: Who would win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God? Trick question, Lemmy IS God!
So what better way to celebrate March Is Metal Month than by getting to talk with the legend himself? Lemmy took the time to discuss a number of topics with Metal Insider, including his new documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch, his response to being an enormous influence on the likes of Dave Grohl and Metallica, the problematic situation the recording industry has gotten themselves into, and how even after 36 years he has no plans of ever slowing down.
To further celebrate March is Metal Month, we’re giving away copies of The World Is Yours. Just leave a comment in the section below stating your favorite Motörhead song OTHER THAN “Ace of Spades,” and you’ll be registered to win both a CD/DVD copy of the album and a vinyl copy of the album, which is in stores now. We’ll pick a winner on April 1st (no foolin’!). Multiple entries will be disqualified.
The Wörld is Yours came out on your own label, Motörhead music. What was the reasoning behind forming your own label?
Well, we just finished with our label, and it’s the same people controlling it because it was an American label and German run except they went bankrupt in the end. They always treated us real good. So we kept the team on and we did our own little imprint for that album.
So there wasn’t any extra motive behind the move?
No, there was no conspiracy theory.
While on the subject of labels, what are your thoughts on the music industry these days?
Well, the music industry these days is dying, isn’t it? They have no idea what fucking happened to them. They don’t know what hit them. They couldn’t work with the internet, so they tried to prosecute it, which is really fucking dumb. And it seems that they keep fucking up. Every turn they make is the wrong turn. Soon they’re going to be out of business in ten years. And it’s all because of the internet.
Do you think it was was easier for up and coming bands to promote themselves back when Motörhead first started out, or is it easier now?
It’s the same. It’s always been the same. There’s always people robbing bands. Agents rob you. Managers rob you a lot of the time. We’ve got a good one now, but we’ve had a lot of bad ones. The fucking promoters rob you. They tell you that “it hasn’t sold out,” and you can see that it is. But what are you going to say? They’ve got all their guys with them, and there’s only five of you.
The documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch just recently has been released on DVD and Blu-ray after years in the making. How has becoming a subject of a movie been? Have you noticed any more of a reaction to you and the band?
Well, you can never tell. You’d like to think that it’s just because you’re good (laughs). But we might’ve reeled in a few more kids with the documentary. Yeah, I think so.
Anything you regret about the movie?
No, it’s great. I think they did a really good job. Did you like it?
I unfortunately I haven’t seen it yet. I really want to though, and I’ve been saving up to buy my own copy!
I’m sure you can get yourself on the mailing list. In fact, I’m sure our office would even send you one, actually.
So if I tell them “Lemmy said I can get a free copy,” you’ll vouch for me?
Yeah, you tell them that. That’s right, blame me! (laughs)
So for the most part, we don’t really see you acknowledge or actively listen to newer groups. Are there any bands in particular that you’ve been turned onto recently?
Yeah, there’s a few, but I mean “recently” for me means two or three years. One of the most exciting things to me was that Skunk Anansie got back together. Do you know who they are?
I can’t say I’ve heard of them.
Ah, well they broke up ten years ago and just reformed with all of the original members. And they’ve got some of the best music. Do you want me to tell you a couple of their album titles?
Yeah, the first album is called Paranoid And Suburnt. The second album is called Stoosh. And the third album is Post Orgasmic Chill (laughs). And the new album is called Wonderlustre.
What would you say is your favorite album of theirs?
Well, it’s of course between Paranoid And Sunburnt and Post Orgasmic Chill. They’re really fucking good man!
It’s just been announced that Motörhead will be playing a few dates with the Foo Fighters. You and Dave Grohl have been long time friends and admirers of each other, but how did a tour with both bands finally come to fruition?
Well, The Foo Fighters/Dave asked us to do the shows. So we said ‘yeah!’ I’m hoping there be some sort of collaboration because I really like playing with Dave. He’s like me, he’s fast and he’s good, and that’s always fun. I hate these people that take three hours to do a fucking solo, let alone three weeks sometimes.
After all these years, do you still get a kick when well known and popular musicians, like Dave Grohl and even Metallica, cite you and Motörhead as a major influence on them?
Well Metallica’s starting to feel the old age bite now, aren’t they? (laughing) They’ve been around a long time now. I mean, you can’t top Metallica. They’re really a fucking excellent band. I’m delighted that they said that I was one of their influences. Like, they have all of their influences, and you can’t hear the influences in them, which is great. They’ve become their own people, and that’s great. I like them a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time with those boys. There’s a clip of me jamming with them in Nashville, TN in the movie.
Do you have a favorite musician that you’ve jammed with or have gotten to meet in the past, or one that stands out?
Let me see now, let me think. Favorite musicians…You know I like Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top], though I’ve never played with him.
Didn’t you record the Christmas song “Run, Rudolph, Run” with Gibbons and Dave Grohl?
Oh yeah, we did that, but Billy wasn’t there. He put his lead on later. It was just me and Dave that did the tracks.
Oh I see. Well, is there anyone else that you’d like to meet or perform with that you haven’t yet?
Little Richard, but I think he’s passed it, cause I went to see him, and he does ten bars of “Good Golly Miss Molly” and then starts handing out bibles. It’s just kind of a drag. That is not the Little Richard I wish to see. I don’t care to hear about religion from anybody.
But you would get a free bible out of it though, and could choose what you’d want to do with it (laughs).
Yeah, I’d give it back to him (laughs). Do you remember that band Stryper?
Yeah! They use to throw bibles into the audience.
And the crowd threw them back at them. I thought that was fucking hilarious!
Actually, they recently came out with a covers album where they covered “Heaven And Hell,” which I just thought was pretty ironic.
(laughs) Yeah, emphasis on the “Heaven” and small h for “Hell.” (laughs)
I remember hearing in many of your past interviews how yo’’ve always considered Motörhead to be more of a rock n’ roll band than metal, even though the band has obviously been a huge early influence on heavy metal. Do you still have a hard time hearing Motörhead called “metal” or have you accepted that title?
Well, I don’t accept it because it isn’t true. I mean, we do a lot of things that a metal band could never do. I mean, like that acoustic version of “Ace Of Spades,” I’d like to see Dave try and do that. (laughs)
Believe it or not, Motörhead will be 40 in about four years, and you’re still constantly touring and putting out albums regularly. Have you thought about calling it a day or slowing down?
Why? Why would I do that? I mean, it’s fun to play at this volume and at this speed. We play slow songs too. What do you get if you retire? Then you definitely got nothing! And I still enjoy touring. I like being on the bus. I mean, the bus is where I fucking live. Home is where you leave your shit, but the bus is where I do all of my life.
While on the subject of touring, is there one city or town that you find the most fun to play in?
I don’t know. The first time you play in places is always great. Like, Russia was great. South America was really great the first time we got to play there. Australia is great. I like new places. I want to play in China, India and Africa before I die because that’s the only few places we haven’t. Once we play there we’ll have the whole set (laughs).
Have you noticed any big differences between touring today and when the band first started out? A lot of bands lately have been finding it harder to tour because of the latest economic problems. Have you found that to be the case?
Ah, that’s fucking bullshit. I mean, we’ve just sold out every place we’ve played in America, and this isn’t the first time. And the recession is reportedly biting everybody’s ass, yet all of these 17 year olds have found it possible to come to the shows, right? So I don’t know about this recession. I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. I think it’s an excuse for the businesses to downsize, as they say, and fire all of the people that they didn’t like (laughs). And I think the banks are really, really bad people, man! The banks are getting away with it. Nobody gets put in jail. The government bails them out. Then they say “sorry” and start doing the same thing again. It’s fucking disgraceful.
So in your entire career as a musician, is there one moment that you’ve experienced that stands out for you?
One of the defining moments was getting straight in at #1 with our live album in 1981. That was a big moment. And we got a Grammy in 2005, so that was big too. I mean, they managed to fuck it up by not giving it for one of our songs. I know it was a mercy fuck because we were 30 years old that year (laughs).
Well, I’m sure Metallica was honored that you won it for your cover of their song [“Whiplash”]!
Yeah, we’ve been nominated now twice because of Metallica songs! It’s getting a bit zany.
Where were you when you first found out about the live album debuting at #1 in Britain?
I was in New York City in bed at a hotel, at the Gramercy Park Hotel fast asleep. I gotten woken up by a call from the manager, and he said “Hey, you landed at number 1!” And I said “Call me back later” and went back to sleep, but once I put the phone down, I woke right up, and then I had to call him back on my dime to find out more about it (laughs).
Well Lemmy, I just wanted to take this moment to say that you for talking with us, as well as for all of the music and influence you’ve given to the metal and rock community.
Thank you, I appreciate it. Where are you out of?
I’m originally out of New Jersey.
Well next time we come through, come see us!
I’d love to! I’ve gotten the chance to catch Motörhead live during the Metal Masters Tour back in 2008 along with Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell and Testament. Great show!
That was a good tour. Did you hear about what we did to Testament in San Francisco?
I did! That was hysterical. Whose idea was it to do the prank?
(Laughs) Phil [Cambell, guitarist]. He rode in [on a horse wearing] on stage in a pink dress and purple wig. It was hysterical!
[picture via Metal Sucks]