Lemmy once tried to kick Tenacious D off a Motorhead show...so they snuck on stage and played anyway

Tenacious D on the cover of Metal Hammer, and Lemmy
(Image credit: Tenacious D: Future (photo by Travis Shinn); Lemmy: Getty)

In the latest issue of Metal Hammer - fastidiously-edited by none other than Tenacious D - the guys discuss their rise from a plucky folk-music duo slogging it out in L.A.coffee houses to headlining massive European metal festivals backed by a full band. Along the way, they’ve struck friendships - and frequently jammed with - some of the most influential artists in metal and rock. Not all metal luminaries, however, warmed up to them so easily. As the lads exclusively tell Metal Hammer, things got off to a rocky start with one iconic frontman in particular.

“Look, we love Lemmy....we love Motörhead,” says Jack Black, beginning what promises to be a  yarn of epic proportions. 

“Rest in peace,” says Kyle Gass. “You’re our Ace of Spades, Lem Lem.”

On the heels of these stipulations, we get down to business.

“I was doing a video game called Brutal Legend,” explains Jack. “That was a heavy metal video game and Kyle had a part in it, too. We thought it would be a great way to promote the game to write a song about a roadie. The video game features a heavy metal roadie and he was based kind of on Lemmy and a couple of different characters. My character looked like a big, buff kind of version of me.  So we wrote this rad song about the legend of the roadie!”

The breathtakingly NSFW video for Roadie features comedian Danny McBride as the titular character, a brash and grizzled road dog who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Motörhead frontman. By the end of the video, the roadie has devolved from a stoic and capable stagehand into a sleazy and dysfunctional tornado of every backstage vice imaginable.

With the song done (it wouldn't officially appear until Tenacious D's 2012 album, Rize Of The Fenix), they needed to take it one step further. “We just need to play it somewhere,” explains Jack, “and I want to be the roadie. So I got a muscle suit so I could look like a fucking badass roadie. Next, we needed a big rock band where I could come out and be a roadie — just be part of the road crew. The plan was that Motörhead was playing in L.A. and we asked our manager to see if he could get us a spot to open for Motörhead. And also, I want to pretend to be their roadie.”

With the song released in 2012, this would likely have been Motörhead’s March 11, 2011 show at Club Nokia, in Los Angeles, which was their only headlining L.A. show in 2011. In 2012, the band toured the US as part of Gigantour and later the Mayhem Festival. 

“It was a weird ask,” Jack acknowledges. “Our manager talked to Lemmy’s manager and Lemmy’s manager was like, (gruff, Cockney accent) 'Havin’ trouble selling tickets here in L.A. That sounds good. We could use a little bump. We could use that bump to sell some tix!’ So we got the gig and we got there and I’m out there fucking tying wires and doing shit and pointing to roadies and going, (gravelly biker voice), ‘Hey, are we movin’ this shit or what?’ The audience doesn’t really know that it’s fucking me because I’ve got this muscle suit and I’m in character.”

As well as things were going, they were about to come crashing down. “Then we get the word that Lemmy said, ‘No! I don’t want nobody opening! Fuck sake! Who the fuck? Who said OK to this? No! Absolutely fucking not! I don’t need ‘em, I don’t want ‘em!’ 

“We were like, ‘Oh, fuck...Lemmy hates us. He’s not gonna let us do the thing!’ I think what it really was was that he was just pissed that the show didn’t sell out and he didn’t want to admit that we actually were helping.”

“He might’ve been drinking a bit,” offers Kyle.

“Maybe," says Jack. “Whatever the case was, I was like, ‘Fuck! Dude, we came all the way out here, I’m in my fucking muscle suit, we can’t go on, we can’t open if he doesn’t want us to!' Motörhead’s manager was like, ‘Just go, just go. He’s not gonna even know you went on.’”

There’s a bit of very genuine, sentimental laughter between the guys as they describe running on stage and opening the show without Lemmy realising it was happening. 

Jack says, “We were like, ‘Fuck it, here we go!’ We went out there and I did some more roadie-ing and then I took the mic and went, ‘Check, check... one two...’ then Kyle just fucking strummed the opening riff and we played Roadie. Years later, at fucking Dave Grohl’s forty-fifth birthday, he was like, ‘It’s my birthday, I want to fucking play the Staples Center’, one of those big fucking megadomes in L.A., and he was like, 'I’m gonna throw a forty-fifth birthday party for myself and I’m gonna have the concert of the century.' And Lemmy was there and we didn’t mention the fucking thing that went down, but it was rad to see him again.“

On a ten-point scale of difficulty, opening for Motörhead against Lemmy’s wishes without him knowing about it ranks around 13/10.

Read more from Jack Black and Kyle Gass in the epic, Tenacious D-edited new Metal Hammer, out now. Order your copy here.

The latest issue of Metal Hammer

(Image credit: Future)
Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.