Lemmy (born Ian Fraser Kilmister on 24 December 1945, also known as Ian Willis, Lemmy Kilmister, and Lemmy von MotÃ¶rhead), is an English singer and bass guitarist, most famous for being the founding member of the hard rock/speed metal band MotÃ¶rhead. His appearance, facial moles, mutton chops (sideburn-moustache combination), and gravelly voice, have made him an instantly recognizable cult figure. Lemmy is considered one of the great heavy metal musicians.
Lemmy was born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, England and raised in Anglesey, North Wales. His father, a clergyman, left the family when Lemmy was three months old. Whereas the notes in the Motorhead Videography claim his nickname is meaningless and was acquired from his Welsh friends as a child, the press have reported that it is because he "was always trying to cadge money from family and friends" as in "Lemme a fiver" (misquoted as "Lemme borrow a tenner".
Early years: 1960s
Lemmy spent the 1960s as a guitarist in a number of obscure bands (such as Rainmakers, Motown Sect, Opal Butterfly, Sam Gopal, and The Rockin' Vickers) as well as working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix in 1967, and also as a roadie for The Nice, where he gave Keith Emerson his trademark knife.
: 1971 â 1975
In 1971, Lemmy joined the space rock band, Hawkwind
, who were based in Ladbroke Grove, London
. He had little experience as a bass guitarist, but quickly developed a distinctive style that was strongly shaped by his early experience as a rhythm guitarist, often using double stops and chords rather than the single notes preferred by most bassists. Lemmy's bass work was a fundamental part of the Hawkwind
sound during his tenure, perhaps best documented on Space Ritual
. He also provided lead vocals on a number of songs, including the band's biggest UK chart single, "Silver
Machine", which reached No.3 in 1972.
MotÃ¶rhead 1975 â present
In 1975 Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind
after he was arrested at Canadian customs on possession charges; he spent five days in prison. Lemmy went on to form a new band with guitarist Larry Wallis (former member of the Pink Fairies
, Steve Took's Shagrat and UFO
) and drummer Lucas Fox. Lemmy's connection with Took (formerly of T Rex) was not limited to Wallis, as they were personal friends and Took was the stepfather to Lemmy's son, Paul. This new band was originally called Bastard
. When his manager informed him that a band by that name will never get a slot on "Top of the Pops", Lemmy changed the band's name to MotÃ¶rhead - the title of the last song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind
Soon after, both Wallis and Fox were replaced with guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil "Philthy Animal
" Taylor, and with this line-up the band began to achieve success. The band's sound appealed to both Lemmy's original heavy metal fans, as well as to fans of the nascent punk rock scene. In fact, Lemmy asserts that he generally feels more kinship with punks than with heavy metal; he even played with The Damned for a handful of gigs when they had no regular bassist â and Lemmy's guttural vocals were unique in the world of rock at that time. The band's success peaked between 1980 and 1981 with a number of UK chart hits, including the classic single "Ace
of Spades" (still a crowd favourite today) and the #1 live album No Sleep
'til Hammersmith. MotÃ¶rhead have since gone on to become one of the most influential bands in the heavy metal music genre, and although Lemmy is the only constant member, are still performing and releasing records to this day. Despite MotÃ¶rhead's many member changes over their 30 year history, the current lineup of Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee has remained constant since 1995.
Lemmy has also worked with a number of other musicians over his career, and occasionally guests with Hawkwind
. He was brought in as a songwriter for Ozzy Osbourne
's 1991 No More
Tears album, providing lyrics for the tracks "Hellraiser", (which MotÃ¶rhead later released on their "Hellraiser" single) "Desire
", "I Don't Want to Change the World", and the massive hit "Mama I'm Coming Home
". Lemmy has noted in several magazine and television interviews that he made more money from the royalties of that one song than he had in his entire time with MotÃ¶rhead. Lemmy published his autobiography, White Line Fever in November
2002. In 2005 MotÃ¶rhead won their first Grammy, beating out such modern contemporaries like Slipknot, Killswitch Engage
, and Cradle of Filth, in the Best Metal
Performance category with their cover of Metallica
Film and television career
Lemmy has made a number of appearances in film and television, including the 1990 science fiction film Hardware and the 1987 comedy Eat the Rich, for which MotÃ¶rhead also recorded the soundtracks. In the 1994
comedy Airheads (in which he is credited as "Lemmy von MotÃ¶rhead"). One scene involving Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi, has Brendan Fraser's character, "Chazz" Chester Darvey talking to an undercover cop who is pretending to be a record executive â Chazz asks him, "Who'd win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God
?", the cop replies, "Lemmy", to which Rex, played by Steve Buscemi, imitates a game show buzzer and the cop quickly changes his answer to "... God
!". Rex replies saying, "Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy is God
". Lemmy appears in the film and shouts out (truthfully) that he edited his school newspaper as other people in the crowd admit geeky pastimes in their youth. Lemmy has also appeared in several movies from the Troma studio.
Having a predilection for self-deprecating parody, he once appeared in an advertisement for Kit Kat
chocolate bars, miming a piece of chamber music on the violin, in an upper-class tea-room. Lemmy also appeared on an intro scene on The Drew Carey Show in which MotÃ¶rhead plays outside Drew's home, startling him awake. Lemmy is one of very few musicians to have been mentioned on Beavis and Butt-Head
who was not made fun of. Upon seeing him appear in a video for a group that was not MotÃ¶rhead, Butthead exclaims, "He's Lemmy. He can be in any damn video he wants to!".
MotÃ¶rhead performed the entrance theme song "The Game" for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s Triple H (who at one point wore his mustache and sideburns like Lemmy as a tribute), as well as "Line in the Sand" for Triple H's now defunct wrestling stable, Evolution
. In 2006, they once again provided theme music for WWE as they recorded the song "King
of Kings" for Triple H on the Wreckless Intent CD.
During Lemmy's time with Hawkwind
, he developed an appetite for speed and acid and was to become renowned for his use of speed. Before joining Hawkwind
, Lemmy recalled Dik Mik, a former Hawkwind
sound technician, visiting his squat in the middle of the night and taking speed with him. They became interested in how long "you could make the human body jump about without stopping", which they did for a few months, until Mik ran out of money and wanted to return to Hawkwind
, taking Lemmy with him.
Lemmy collects Nazi memorabilia, and has an Iron Cross
encrusted on his bass, which has led to accusations of right-wing extremist tendencies; however, Lemmy considers himself an anarchist, saying that "government causes more problems than it solves" and that he is "anti-communism, fascism, any extreme." According to Keith Emerson as written in his autobiography, two of Lemmy's Hitlerjugend knives were gifted to Keith Emerson himself during Lemmy's time spent as a roadie for The Nice. Emerson used these knives many times as "keyholders" during his famous wrestling sessions with the Hammond Organ during the shows with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.