Hard rock will probably never have an icon as enduring as Lemmy Kilmister. As the mutton-chopped frontman for Motorhead, ejected bass player for Hawkwind, hard-drinkin', toy-collecting composer of the immortal Ace of Spades (theme song of Montreal's own Zombie Nightmare) and cab driver of the apocalypse, Lemmy has acquired an almost supernatural status in the rock pantheon. Two young fans - Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver - were brave enough to approach him with the idea of making a documentary, and lived to tell the tale.
How did you go about approaching Lemmy with this doc idea? At any
point did he get uncomfortable being filmed?
WES ORSHOSKI: We approached his manager, Todd Singerman, who with the band's creative consultant, Steffan Chirazi, sort of interviewed Greg and I over the phone a couple times... We sort of auditioned for them and for Lemmy. Both Todd and Steffan told us that like four or five people had approached them in the previous two years about the idea, but all had been turned down. I think it was a combination of our personalities, passion and experience that eventually won them and Lem over..... Was he uncomfortable... Well, he wasn't shy about telling us to "fuck off with the cameras," but in general, he's a pro. But he is very much how people perceive him, at least in the way that he's an old school, badass guy who definitely never aspired to have cameras in his face.
How long did it take to get all the interviewees to come on board?
WO: Some were super easy to arrange... We emailed Dave Grohl's management two or three days before we wanted to interview him (in Newcastle, England, no less), and he said yes immediately. Others took quite a lot of nagging, persuading and downright begging. It was really special to score an interview with Stacia, one of Lemmy's former Hawkwind bandmates. She is completely removed from the music industry, and was quite shy. And for years people have asked her to take part in Hawkwind documentary, to which she almost always declines. After she surprisingly showed up at a gig in Berlin, I basically spent five hours sweet-talking her into doing our interview. She's a super cool and talented woman, and a full-time painters these days. You can check out her work at www.staciablake.com. I also had to basically beg Captain Sensible of the Damned, who kept complaining that his memory was sort of unreliable. But in the end he was awesome on camera, one of my favorites in fact.
What was your approach to the filming: Did you go in with any kind of mandate, or pre-conceived idea of the story you wanted to tell, and did that change throughout the course of shooting?
WO: These are the exact words we told Lemmy the first day we met him: "We want to make an honest, true portrait of your life." We had some ideas, but we really were letting the story unfold. And then as shooting went on, we made all these plans on how we would finish the film, and all these ideas for new scenes, and almost every single one of them never materialized for one reason or another.
How important was it to you that the film appeal to non-Motorhead fans? Were there any structural decisions you made in order to broaden the appeal?
WO: Not, really, structurally, not intentionally, anyway. I mean, I
think Greg and I both wanted it to come off more as a proper film, and
less a run of the mill rock doc. One of things I'm really proud of is
how we open the film... people don't really know what they're seeing, or
what they're hearing, and there's kind of fun payoff to it that is
uncommon to rock docs. But one of our goals from the start was to
straddle the line between satisfying fans and introducing Lem to the
people who either only know him for "Ace of Spades," or those who don't
know him at all. And I'm proud to say that we accomplished that, based
on the feedback we've gotten in the media and at other film festivals.
Was there anything totally surprising you learned about Lemmy while making the film?
WO: Lots of things, some not suitable for print. One thing I will say is that although he has this reputation as being a ferocious, biker-like beast of a man, he's actually a really sweet, caring person, whether or not he shows it. I think he cares for people more than they would ever assume he does. And he's probably a lot more emotionally vulnerable than people might suspect. He's probably going to give me shit for saying that.
It seems there are a lot of tough dudes out there who collect toys. Why do you think that is?
WO: Don't know, maybe cause the tough guys are really teddybears at heart. hahahaha.
What is the enduring appeal of Lemmy?
WO: Lemmy has lived, and continues to live his life in a way that we all wish we could: He does what he wants when he wants to do it. He has been uncompromising in his life. He has remained true to himself, and that's a hard thing to pull off for more than 50 years.