w/ Morbid Angel
Tues May 14,
Catwalk, $28 adv/$30 door.
In 1982, I sent a letter to Motörhead's management asking if the band's frontman, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, could possibly take 20 minutes out of a recording session for an interview. I was a 15-year-old Motörfreak in London writing for my school magazine, Hollyvine. Thanks to the release of Ace of Spades 18 months earlier, Motörhead was the biggest band in the land. And Lemmy, in white cowboy boots, bullet belt, and muttonchops--10 solid feet of pure rock icon--was the biggest man among men.
Lemmy not only agreed to talk to my poxy, photocopied, stapled-together school rag (circulation approx. 350) but also invited me to the studio for a preview of the album they were recording, Another Perfect Day. And when my "photographer" (read: Motörmate with a 35mm camera) and I got there, instead of patronizing us with Cokes and a smile, Lemmy shoved giant tumblers of vodka and orange juice into our hands, invited me to sit in the producer's chair by the mixing desk, and showed me where the volume control was in case I wanted it louder. He asked me what I thought! My opinion! We stayed in the studio for four hours, and the whole experience was truly life-changing.
Today, Lemmy remains the coolest rock icon in the world. A road veteran of approximately 40 years, he's always been a man who never gave a damn about money (he continues to live in the same L.A. apartment he's had for 13-odd years) or the "business" bullshit. Despite being ripped off (his old manager in the U.K. used him like an Enron employee), Lemmy remains wonderfully unembittered. Mention the thieves to him and he'll just say, "Yeah but it's only money.... They have to LIVE with what they've done, I don't!"
In a sea of clichéd musical sycophants, he's never been one to pucker up and wear the brown lipstick just to cultivate a corporate hit. It's this defiant attitude that's created the eclectic Motöraudience, a wonderful stew of punks and rockers, alternatives and indie kids.
Lemmy's also more "punk" than 99 percent of the punk bands out there. He loves both the Ramones (note the Motörhead song titled "Ramones") and the Damned (they collaborated in '77, and the band remains a great favorite of his), and he loves telling the tale of running into Sid Vicious on a London street one day in 1977.
"'Lemmy, I've joined a band called the Sex Pistols as their bass player!'" he told me of their conversation. "That's great, Sid," Lemmy said at the time, "but the problem is, y'can't fuckin' play bass!'"
Lemmy refuses to be controlled, even when there's a possibility of his health being impacted by his protracted rock 'n' roll lifestyle. A couple of years ago he was ordered to bed for two weeks in Italy (this after refusing the hospital, instead insisting on a hotel room, as "the maids and food were better-looking") before being diagnosed as diabetic. "It's all right," he told me at the time, "it's the good kind. I only have to take a pill a day." The next time I saw him, the old bastard was fitter, faster, and firmer than I was, dutifully defying doctors' orders not to drink and looking a far happier man for it.
Lemmy and I have hung out in tour buses, where he turns the back lounge into a mobile historical archive, with memorabilia from the Titanic and all the world wars. We've spent time in his L.A. apartment, where there's always a stiff drink and a mountain of reading material amid the dusty old tapes and potted plants. And we've hung back at shows, where he'll often sit pre-gig, ciggy alight and a book open, receiving guests with deadpan wit and a bottomless glass, a true Renaissance man who was never anything but. Add to all of these images a comfortable flow of attractive female friends ("Some people think I'm sexist!" he once roared. "I love women, I respect women, I've played with women, and I was bloody well raised by women!"), and it's easy to see why the man's a giant among men.
Two years ago, I came across photos from that Hollyvine story in a box. So when Motörhead came through town a few weeks later, I figured I'd go down and give Lemmy one of them. He took it, grinned slightly, looked up and said dryly, "Ah-HA! Look what I did, it was all my fault!" He was right. Lemmy's response that night back in 1982 had convinced me to abandon plans for going to a university and instead become a rock writer. Why? Because I thought they were all noble road warriors like him.
But now, after 19 years of writing about music, I can tell you that Lemmy is the only one.