Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy (born December 24, 1945, in Stoke-on-Trent, UK – December 28, 2015), was an English singer and bass guitarist and was known for being the founding member of the English heavy metal band Motörhead. He appears in Guitar Hero Metallica when you play the song Ace of Spades by Motörhead. After playing the song, Lemmy can be purchased for $2000. He can be used for lead and bass guitar, as well as the drums and vocals. Another one of his songs appears in Guitar Hero.
When Lemmy was three months of age, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother settled in Newcastle-under-Lyme then moved on to Madeley, Staffordshire.
At the age of 10, his mother married George Willis, who had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom he didn't get along. The family moved to a farm in Benllech, Anglesey, North Wales and it was during this time that he started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls and horses. He attended Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones school in Amlwch, where he was nick-named Lemmy, although he is unsure why, and it would later be claimed that it originated from the phrase "lemmy (lend me) a quid till Friday" because of his habit of borrowing money from people to feed his addiction to fruit machines.
He saw The Beatles perform at the Cavern Club when he was 16, then played guitar along to their first album, learning the chords. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon. Upon leaving school and with his family relocated in Conwy, Lemmy undertook menial jobs including working at the local Hotpoint factory while also playing guitar for local bands, such as The Sundowners, and spending time at a horse riding school. At the age of 17, he met a holidaying girl named Cathy and he followed her to Stockport where she had his son, Sean. Sean was put up for adoption.
Recording and performing careerEdit
In Stockport he joined local bands The Rainmakers then The Motown Sect, who enjoyed three years playing northern clubs. Wanting to progress further, in 1965 he joined The Rockin' Vickers who signed a deal with CBS and released three singles and toured Europe, reportedly being the first British band to visit Yugoslavia. With the band living in a Manchester flat, he had a relationship with a girl named Tracy who bore him a son, Paul, although it wouldn't be until the boy was 6 that Lemmy had any involvement with the child.
Wanting to progress even further, Lemmy relocated to London in 1967. Sharing a flat with Noel Redding, he got a job as a roadie for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In 1968 he joined Sam Gopal and recorded the album Escalator and the single "Horse". After meeting Simon King in a Chelsea shopping centre during 1969, he joined the band Opal Butterfly, but the band soon folded, having previously failed to raise enough interest with their preceding CBS singles.
At this point Lemmy thought about changing his legal name to his stepfather's surname of Willis, but with his actual father's surname of Kilmister, he decided changing his birth certificate and passport would be too much hassle, so he did not bother. An attempted reconciliation in 1970 between Lemmy and his birth father broke down, with Lemmy describing him as a "nasty little weasel".
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. His 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.
In 1975, Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind after he was arrested at Canadian customs on drug possession charges; he spent five days in prison. He 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 Motörhead - 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 fans and, eventually, to fans of the punk rock scene. In fact, he 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 — 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. Motörhead 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 Motörhead'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 Motörhead later released on their eponymous single, and in their album March ör Die, released the year after) "Desire", "I Don't Want to Change the World", and the single "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 Motörhead. Lemmy published his autobiography, White Line Fever, in November 2002. In 2005, Motörhead won their first Grammy in the "Best Metal Performance" category with their cover of Metallica's "Whiplash". He lives in a two room flat in Los Angeles, two blocks away from his favourite hangout, the Rainbow Bar and Grill (after which Ritchie Blackmore named the band he formed after quitting Deep Purple, on a side note).
An officially licensed Lemmy figurine has been produced. Available as a "regular" or "special" edition, Lemmy recalls:
- "I had to stand on this platform while the camera went around and did the hologram thing and then they made the model, only smaller. They said it's an action figure, and I said, 'So, you're gonna put a dick on it?' They said, 'No.' I said, 'Well, then it's not going to get much action then, is it?' A bad name for it, right?"
Lemmy collected Nazi memorabilia, and had an Iron Cross encrusted on his bass, which led to accusations of Nazi sympathies. However, he considered himself an anarchist or libertarian, and that he wass "anti-communism, fascism, any extreme," saying that "government causes more problems than it solves". According to Keith Emerson's autobiography, two of Lemmy's Hitlerjugend knives were given to Emerson during Lemmy's time spent as a roadie for The Nice. Emerson used these knives many times as keyholders when playing the Hammond Organ during concerts with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Image and celebrity statusEdit
Dave Grohl, on his Probot website, summarises the musicians he worked with. For Lemmy's entry he wrote:
- "We recorded his track in Los Angeles in maybe two takes about a year and a half ago. Until then I'd never met what I'd call a real rock 'n' roll hero before. Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy's the king of rock 'n' roll - he told me he never considered Motörhead a metal band, he was quite adamant. Lemmy's a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend. No one else comes close."
In a Channel 4 documentary called "Motörhead: Live Fast, Die Old", broadcast on 22 August 2005, it was claimed that Lemmy "had bedded" in excess of 2,000 women. Maxim magazine has Lemmy at number 8 on its top ten "Living Sex Legends" list, as they claim that he has slept with around 1200 women.
In the documentary he explained that while in school he noticed a pupil who had brought a guitar to school and had been "surrounded by chicks". His mother had a guitar, which he then took to school, even though he could not play, and was himself surrounded by girls: "In those days just having a guitar was enough... that was it".
During Lemmy's time with Hawkwind, he developed an appetite for amphetamine and LSD and was to become renowned for his use of amphetamine. Before joining Hawkwind, he recalled Dik Mik, a former Hawkwind sound technician, visiting his squat in the middle of the night and taking speed with him. In Lemmy's own words:
- "I first got into speed because it was a utilitarian drug and kept you awake when you needed to be awake, when otherwise you'd just be flat out on your back. If you drive to Glasgow for nine hours in the back of a sweaty truck you don't really feel like going onstage feeling all bright and breezy... It's the only drug I've found that I can get on with, and I've tried them all — except smack and morphine: I've never fixed anything."
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.
In November 2005, he was invited to the Welsh Assembly as a guest speaker by Tory Welsh assembly member William Graham. He was asked to express his views on the detrimental effects of drugs. However he shocked the Assembly Members and Welsh public when he called for the legalization of heroin: "I have never had heroin but since I moved to London from north Wales in '67 I have mixed with junkies on a casual and almost daily basis," he said. "I also lived with a young woman who tried heroin just to see what it was like. It killed her three years later. I hate the idea even as I say it, but I do believe the only way to treat heroin is to legalize it." He stated that legalization would eradicate the drug dealer from society.
Illness and DeathEdit
As he grew older he used less alcohol and drugs as he suffered from diabetes and hypertension. In 2013 he had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator fitted. He referred to his continuing drug use as "dogged insolence in the face of mounting opposition to the contrary".
On 28 December 2015, four days after his 70th birthday, Lemmy died at his home in Los Angeles at 16:00 PST, from prostate cancer, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia. Motörhead announced his death on their official Facebook page later that day. According to the band, his cancer had only been diagnosed two days prior to his death. His manager, Todd Singerman, later revealed:
- "He (Lemmy) gets home (from tour), we have a big birthday party for him at the Whisky A Go Go. His friends came down and played. Two days later I could tell he wasn't feeling good so we took him to the hospital, they release him, then after the brain scan they found the cancer in his brain and his neck... The doctor comes with the result a couple of days later and says... it's terminal."
Lemmy's doctor had given him between two and six months to live. Although his manager had planned to keep the news private until his eventual death, Lemmy strongly encouraged him to make the diagnosis public in early 2016, but he died before a press release could be drafted. Following the terminal diagnosis, Rainbow Bar owner Mikael Maglieri brought a video game machine that Lemmy was fond of playing at the establishment over to his apartment so he could continue playing it from his bedside.
Lemmy positioned his microphone in an uncommonly high position, angled so that he appeared to be looking up at the sky rather than at the audience. He said that it was for "personal comfort, that's all. It's also one way of avoiding seeing the audience. In the days when we only had ten people and a dog, it was a way of avoiding seeing that we only had ten people and a dog".
He used Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003 bass guitars almost exclusively since his Hawkwind days, although some of these instruments had been modified with the installation of Gibson Thunderbird pickups in the neck position. Rickenbacker produced a 50-bass run of Lemmy Kilmister signature basses, the 4004LK, which is fitted with three pickups, gold hardware, and elaborate wood carving in the shape of oak leaves. Later Lemmy had taken to using a customised 4004.
He used hot-rodded Marshall JMP Superbass II amplifiers from the later 1960s/early 1970s. Each amp, with a nominal output of 100 watts, was used with a 4x12 speaker cab and a custom-made 4x15 cab. He used two such stacks, one on each side of the drum riser. For many years the amps were nicknamed "No Remorse", "Killer" (left side amp) or "Murder One" (right side amp) with appropriate nameplates. "No Remorse" was subsequently replaced by a new amp nicknamed "Marsha" when, as Kilmister said in an October 2004 interview, it "blew up". "Killer" and "Murder One" were believed to have been destroyed in Argentina when all the other equipment was stolen but this was later proven to be untrue. In 2006 Marshall Amplification designed new, prototype versions of "Murder One" which were then put into production, whilst the original amplifier was retired. A limited number of these bass heads have been released by Marshall in 2008 as the "1992LEM", a signature series copy of Lemmy's 1992 100 Watt Super Bass Head, "Murder One".
The phrase "everything louder than everyone else" summed up Lemmy's sonic approach, as he played at the loudest possible levels. He used the bridge pickup exclusively (giving his bass sound more definition) and turned all the tone and volume knobs on the bass up full. On the amplifiers, he turned the bass and treble off, and the midrange up all the way, with the volume and presence up to the 3:00 position. The result was a biting midrange sound which was somewhat distorted but not "fuzzed out" or "blurry", a formula well-suited to his use of open-string drones and power chords. In the 1990s, after a Motörhead show at Hultsfred, Sweden, a radio reporter asked Lemmy "If you were to play here again in ten years, how do you think you would sound?" Lemmy replied "Same, but louder..."
Lemmy occasionally played electric or acoustic guitar, notably on the acoustic song "I Ain't No Nice Guy" from Motörhead's March ör Die album, the title track on 1996's Overnight Sensation, "Limb from Limb" on Overkill, "Boogeyman" on Rock 'n' Roll, and a mouth harp on "Whorehouse Blues" from the Inferno album.
In September 2006, his Rickenbacker bass was featured in the Bang Your Head exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.