At the start of the great 2010 documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker. 51% Son Of A Bitch, delirious fans are recorded proclaiming that Lemmy is “God” and “Jesus”. Lots of rock stars are worshipped, but few become actual deities while they’re still alive.
“We put the teaser online two years before the film came out,” says co-director Wes Orshoski, “and fans got really pissed at having to wait. Sometimes they’d be hilarious: someone might berate you for taking so long to finish the film, and then end the email with ‘LEMMY IS GOD!’ ‘Lemmy is God!’ was in most of their emails…”
“He did become known as this mythical figure,” says PR Nik Moore. “When in reality, he did what you or I wanted to do when we were 14 or 16, and then just carried on!”
Recalls film-maker Björn Tagemose, who cast Lemmy in the forthcoming rock-movie Gutterdämmerung: “Slash, who was very close to Lemmy, wrote to me and said Lemmy was omnipresent in rock’n’roll. That’s the best way to describe him: an omnipresent force.”
Wes confirms that part of the appeal of making Lemmy was to capture the man behind the myth. “We achieved that most successfully by interviewing Lem with his son, Paul Inder-Kilmister. No one had ever seen them together before – at least not on this level. But Lemmy was never fake. He was just himself, which is one of the things I admired and loved about him.”
“He was everything you expect,” smiles Björn. “I expected a girl near him, Jack Daniel’s and a fruit machine. And that’s exactly how it was when I walked in. But he never tried to become a rock’n’roll god, he was just born that way.”
One moment in Lemmy sums up the man’s attitude to being God. He shows the camera his own action figure (a symbol of immortality if ever there was one), then jokes it’s best to keep the box sealed, because one day, “it might be worth as much as $5!” Wes sheds further light on this attitude: “We were trying to find the money to finish the film and asked Lemmy if we could sell t-shirts to promote it. We wanted ‘Lemmy is God’ shirts; he shot that down, saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about that for the rest of my life.’”
Of course, being seen as a god probably makes it 100 times harder to face up to health issues. “In interviews,” Nik says, “Lemmy dismissed health with a joke; he saw it as irrelevant. I think it irritated him that he wasn’t as young as he was, so when people persevered with the topic he’d get a little shirty.
“About eight years ago,” he adds, “I opened his fridge and saw 12 bottles of rosé. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve been diagnosed as mildly diabetic. The doctor said I can’t drink alcohol, so I just have wine during the day and Jack at night.’ That was Lemmy logic! He tried to accommodate – or maybe ignore – the health thing, but when it started to affect his performance, he was really upset. Playing live was the one thing he’d always lived for, so yeah, that cut him to the quick. It was like, ‘Oh, this is fucking ridiculous.’”
Björn recalls the opening track on Motörhead’s final album, Bad Magic. “He sings ‘Victory or die!’ with such power, even though you know it was recorded in 2015 when he was a lot weaker. The only thing he got wrong was the ‘or’: he had ‘victory and death’. Two weeks before he died, he stood onstage while everyone shouted ‘Lemmy!’ like he was a Roman emperor. He looked death in the face without blinking. Death is omnipresent in his lyrics and there’s no fear in the way he embraces that.”
Seeing as rock fans are arguably more likely to be secular than fans of other genres, perhaps Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister was as close to a real god as most of us were willing to accept.
“The Scandinavians and Vikings saw gods as more symbolic,” offers Björn. “Even back in Greek mythology, a god didn’t have to be in the sky: they could be walking among us. That’s what made Lemmy stand out more than any other artist in our era. He was special.”
Videogame designer Tim Schafer immortalised Lemmy in 2009’s Brütal Legend
How did you come up with his character, The Kill Master?
Tim: “It was just wanting to have Lemmy in the game, then figuring out where he’d fit in. Everyone’s music has different properties; Rob Halford plays General Lionwhyte, whose voice is a weapon. If The Kill Master was going to have a bass, we decided it’d be healing, because of that low, rumbly feeling when it shakes your bones. We gave him a motorcycle with a huge amp on the back!”
**What was it like recording his dialogue?
**“Some people who worked with him on Scarface: The World Is Yours told us, ‘Just turn on the microphone when he gets there. He’ll talk, drink and smoke, then just start doing the dialogue, and you’ve gotta be ready. So we did that.”
Did it work?
“He came in and immediately offered me a drink. And I said, ‘Of course, do you need anything else? Some water?’ Then I remembered him saying that W.C. Fields line: ‘I don’t drink water – fish fuck in it!’ And we sat there, drinking and talking. He did all his lines in one take. He was done in 20 minutes!”