A four year labor of love for its filmmakers, Lemmy: 49% Mother f**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch is finally seeing the light of day. The documentary about the Motorhead frontman, co-directed by Gregg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, is premiering tomorrow (21) in New York and Los Angeles and will be playing in limited release around the country until its release on DVD on Tuesday, February 25th. On the eve of its release, Metal Insider caught up with the filmmakers to talk to them about what’s changed since the film’s unveiling last year at SXSW.
You’ve been finished with the film for almost a year now, and the metal community has known about it much longer than that via the trailer. Why did it take so long for it to get out there, and was it frustrating to have to sit on it for so long?
Greg Olliver: We were never sitting—but it certainly was frustrating that it took so long to make, although I think it was for the best. A film like this couldn’t have been rushed, and it seems the audience has been appreciating that now that they can finally see it. I’m still learning stuff about Lemmy that I wish we could have put into the film.
Wes Orshoski: People don’t understand what goes into rolling out a film, it ain’t like you finish it on a Tuesday and you put it out on a Wednesday. The cutting of the bonus features, which fans are gonna freak over—there’s four and a half hours of them—plus the fine-tuning of the film itself and the actual licensing of the film took months and months. It was frustrating, yeah, but we’ve been working on it every day for years, so we’ve been making progress the whole way. It’s weird, because we’ve had these releases dates on the calendar for months, and amazing that they’re finally here, that the film is actually finally out in the U.S. theaters.
Since we last spoke to you about the film, it’s been showing at festivals and recently had it’s debut in Los Angeles. What have some of the high points been since you completed the film?
Wes: One of the highest highs came at the world premiere in Austin at South by Southwest last year. The head of the film festival there, Janet Pierson, helped us organize nothing short of a Lemmy spectacle at the Paramount Theatre, and it was amazing, to finally sit with people who had been DYING to see the film for two or three years, and to hear them laugh, cheer, stand up and clap and even yelp. It was totally surreal. And, thank God, it’s been par for the course. Nine of 10 people really love our film. We’ve been really lucky—not that we haven’t worked our asses off.
Greg: We’ve had some fantastic screenings. Berlin was amazing, with Lemmy playing the after-party, the L.A. premiere was fantastic since we finally got to have our Hollywood blow-out, although the pinnacle I think came in Santiago, Chile, where our entire audience was made up of long-haired, leather-wearing heavy-metal warlords who went bananas for the film and then took us out to drink in a heavy metal cave where the smoke was so thick we could barely see. They treated us like gods down there, and now I cant wait to go back.
Have you continued your relationship with Lemmy since the film was completed?
Greg: Lem’s actually sleeping on my couch right now. And, yeah, just cuz the film is completed doesn’t mean we are done working on it. Wes and I have literally been working on this movie seven days a week for the past few months and will continue to do so for a while to promote it and sell it, etc. We were actually complaining to Lemmy the other day about how hard the work is and he just smiled and said, “This was all your idea and your fault.”
Wes: I could be wrong here, but I almost feel as though we’re kind of closer to Lem now, for a couple of reasons. We were these two guys who came out of nowhere with all these lofty ambitions, and not only did we make good on all our promises to him, but he likes the film, and he’s proud of it. And in places like America it’s finally giving him the respect that is long overdue. That doesn’t mean he won’t give me shit endlessly over certain things, like he did Friday night. But, yeah, it’s almost like we accomplished something incredibly hard to accomplish together, we saw it through—together.
Did he give you any advice/feedback about the film when you were shooting it, and has he said anything since it came out?
Greg: There was always advice whether we wanted it or not. Mostly, “You’ve shot enough of that,” or, “It’s too dark. You won’t get an exposure with that camera so don’t bother.” Ultimately though he’s been very happy with the film.
Wes: Oh, man, he sure did, but it usually had to do with lighting. He doesn’t like bright lights. Except for the Motorhead Stage Fright DVD, you won’t see a lot of bright lights hitting Lemmy at a Motorhead show. He hates bright lights, so he was constantly trying to get us to turn down or turn off lights, acting as though he knew better than us, when really he just didn’t want the damned things shining in his eyes. It was pretty funny, almost a running a joke. We would play him scenes that we were cutting along the way, and he seemed to really love it. Ya gotta remember, a guy like Lemmy and a band like Motorhead have had a lot people over the years come around and promise that they’d do this and that, and then they disappear, I think he was delighted that it was actually happening.
This was the first movie you’ve co-directed. What advice do you have for budding filmmmakers?
Greg: Dear Budding Filmmaker, Don’t bother. It’s too damn hard.
Wes: If you don’t love it, then don’t bother. If you don’t really, really want it, then the stress and the daily nightmares, and especially the money stress, and the stress it puts on a relationship will crush you. You gotta have tunnel vision and you have to be stubborn and almost foolish enough to not be deterred. It’s the same thing that any young musician needs: perseverance and complete self-belief, and super thick skin.
What’s next for you and Greg? Have any other musicians contacted you that have seen Lemmy asking about working with you?
Greg: It sounds crazy, but Celine Dion will not stop calling us. Other than that we’ve been talking to a few other folks that we are dying to work with… and really can’t wait for the next adventure (after a long nap).
Wes: We’ve got a few things in the works, but nothing we want any thieving bastards out there to know about yet.