If there’s one person more iconic than anyone in the world of punk, metal and rock and roll, that person is Lemmy Kilmister. The Jimi Hendrix roadie turned Hawkwind member turned Motorhead bassist/frontman has forged his own path for the last 40 or so years. Now Lemmy is the subject of a documentary, making its world premiere tonight at SXSW. We caught up with co-directors Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver to talk to them about what making the film was like, what would surprise us about Lemmy, and their plans for the film.
What led you to make a film about Lemmy?
Wes: In the fall of 2006, I had gotten a hold of Fool’s Paradise, the record by The Head Cat, Lemmy’s rockabilly band, which also features Danny B. Harvey on guitar and Slim Jim from the Stray Cats on drums. I was addicted to it, and sort of fascinated by it. These are the songs that Lemmy grew up on, stuff by Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, etc., and they were all delivered with a noticeable sort of affection for the material. I had just interviewed him shortly before that, and had had a great chat with him. So when Greg and I sat down to brainstorm about the next documentary we were gonna start, Lemmy was the first thought I had. And of course, it was perfect. He’s a perfect subject.
Greg: Wes had the idea and I said ‘hell yeah!” The hardest part of good ideas is seeing them through to the end. Three years later and I’m damn proud that we pulled it off.
Was there an instant rapport between you and him, or did it take a while for him to let you in, so to speak?
Greg: He was very open in our interviews from day one. It was surprising at first, but then you realize that’s just how he is. He’s the exact opposite of a politician where you can see the wheels spinning in their head as they force out the most ridiculous non-response to an answer in an interview. Lemmy shocks you faster than most people can even think of what to say, so it has to be genuine
Was it hard to get him to focus?
Wes: Not really. If he didn’t want to be filmed, he let us know. If he’s gonna take the time to do something, he’s gonna do it right.
Greg: When we could pull him away from the video game at the Rainbow Bar & Grill he would focus for sure. The hard part is communicating with him when he’s playing the game or his fruit machine backstage. Its actually awesome to see how focused he gets on his games.
How much access did he give you?
Wes: Pretty much full access.
Everyone from Metallica to Billy Bob Thornton appear in the film. How easy was it to get them to appear in it?
Wes: It was pretty easy to get most of the folks in the film. I mean, when you represent Lemmy, people take your phone calls. Dave Grohl, probably the nicest guy in rock and roll, said yes instantly, and Metallica did the same. Some took longer than others, for scheduling reasons, and some had to be talked into it, like Captain Sensible of The Damned, who ended up giving us gold
Greg: I think the only folks that didn’t appear in the film are the ones who are dead. Nuff said.
You traveled the globe making this documentary, from Finland to the Rainbow and back. What was the one ‘holy shit, I can’t believe we’re doing this’ moment that stood out above the rest?
Wes: There’s so many of ‘em. Flying to Moscow in a plane with the entire band and crew. Standing onstage at Hammersmith. Playing video games on Lem’s couch and him getting mad at me because I wasn’t taking the game seriously. Sharing Arby’s in the studio. Listening to records together. I’m not even thinking of the really good examples, but the whole experience has been surreal, being a kid who grew up worshipping metal and taping Headbanger’s Ball every Saturday night on the VCR. The whole thing, every part of it, is extremely surreal to me. I feel incredibly lucky. We’ve had some of the best experiences of our life making this movie, truly, great life experiences, for which we can’t thank Lem enough. One of the best things was forming friendships with both the band and the road crew, friendships that I expect to last a lifetime.
Greg: Shooting on stage with Lemmy during “Overkill” is always a ‘holy shit’ moment for me.
What’s one thing we would really be surprised to know about Lemmy that you learned throughout the course of the documentary?
Wes: Tons of shit, some that we can talk about, some of that we’ll never talk about. One of the funniest things is Lem’s love for Kinder Eggs, these milk chocolate eggs with little toys inside of them. They’re made in Europe and are actually on the band’s rider there, and they have these little toys that you have to put together. Lem doesn’t eat the chocolate, he just likes to build the toys. I was pretty shocked at just how much he knows about the world wars, and how much he likes Pat Benatar.
Greg: That he let us make such a personal film about him. I never expected him to give it up like he did.
What’s next for you guys?
Wes: I’m working on a documentary on the great Ian McLagan, probably rock’s greatest B3 player and the former keys man for The Faces and The Small Faces. Mac is an amazing guy, with an incredible history: He’s played and recorded with everyone from the Stones and Springsteen to Howlin’ Wolf and Dylan, and he’s got incredible stories. He’s a great man, with an incredible history, and I can’t wait to get that out there.
Greg: After SXSW I go home for 1 day and then head straight to France to finish up a film I’ve been shooting about an amazing man named Michael Burn MC. If you think Lemmy is the Forrest Gump of rock & roll, Micky is the Forrest Gump of the entire 20th Century! This guy hung out with Hitler, fought against Hitler, helped save Audrey Hepburn’s life, and dated England’s most notorious double agent Guy Burgess. And that’s just part of his story! I feel really blessed with the projects that have come my way. I’ve spent some serious time shooting conference rooms and toiletry product shots for corporate hotel videos, so I feel I deserve the adventures that are finally coming my way!
Is it your goal to sell the film while you’re at SXSW?
Wes: Our goal is to give birth to this baby we’ve been carrying for three years, to feel that fuckin’ release and have a great time, drink and party and enjoy some Motorhead, but, yeah, of course, in between all of that we’ll be taking some pretty serious business meetings and lunches, and trying to sort out the future of the film. Note to all interested distributors, sales reps and everyone else: We will be taking all meetings at Guero’s on Congress, and the queso, tacos and beers are on you!
Greg: Tacos, Lone Star and queso are my personal goals. Selling the film would be awesome, but you can’t expect or plan for anything, just hope for the best as we’ve been doing for the past three years. It’s been an awesome adventure every step of the way, and SXSW is the next part of our adventure that I can’t wait for!
The Lemmy Movie premieres at the Paramount Theatre tonight (3/15) at 6:45 followed by a Q&A with Lemmy, Olliver and Orshsoski. On Tuesday 3/16, Motorhead play at Stubb’s BBQ with The Sword and Year Long Disaster. Lemmy gives a keynote at the Austin Convention Center from 5-6 pm on Wednesday, 3/17, which will be followed by a performance at the Austin Music Hall. There will be an encore screening of Lemmy during the music fest on Friday, 3/19 at the Paramoung Theatre at 9:15, followed by a Q&A with Lemmy, Olliver and Orshoski.