A lot of milestones have been thrown around lately in the Motorhead camp. Let’s look at the numbers: the band has been around for over 35 years, only now getting the mainstream recognition they have deserved since being credited as one of the godfathers of speed metal. Their latest record, The World Is Ours, was released a few weeks back; it is their 20th record. The head honcho, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, is celebrating his 65th birthday this year. Lemmy has no plans of retiring soon. Simply said, Motorhead is ageless.
It’s also been 10 years since I first discovered the band destined to become my musical heroes (I might be rounding up, but I can’t find any of the ol’ Livejournal or Xanga entries to back up that number). This past decade was a fragile montage of development on all fronts – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual – as I started priming myself for the brave new world that a college degree throws you into (or not – I’m pretty sure Lemmy isn’t the only high school dropout out with a success story). It was a time when friends, lovers and heroes were as fleeting as our daily perceptions of the world, though there were always a handful of those that stuck around longer than others. And like a best friend or first love that never had the proper chance to cut you off for your own good, Lemmy has been around through the best, worst, and everything that’s happened since.
I should disclose now that I have never tried to live my life as Lemmy would. No one should live as their heroes have. (This will come back to bite me a bit later in my tale, but that’s a story for another paragraph.) Living life like Lemmy would kill lesser men; the man’s blood has been confirmed “toxic” by at least one awe-stricken doctor. Fortunately, we don’t have to shotgun just about every drug and alcohol in existence to honor the Tao Te Lems:
- It’s important to live your life the way you want to (“Born To Raise Hell,” “Listen To Your Heart”) so long as you’re tried and true (“Stay Clean,” “One Short Life”).
- Honor those who defend such freedom (“Voices From The War,” “1916”) and spite those who would oppress it (“Stand,” “Just Cos’ You Got The Power”).
There are countless excerpts from lyrics that are their own diamonds of wisdom. The mainstream and history books may mostly know Lemmy as a god of Rock and Roll (or just “God,” if you’re in on the joke) but he is also a sage amongst lyricists. You wouldn’t think a song with a title like “One More Fucking Time” would pull on your heartstrings so severely, but it does:
“And if I would’ve been a bad man,
You would’ve seen the good in me.
You would’ve seen the other,
The good man I could be.
But since I am a good man,
The same was all the same.
Nothing I could do.”
One chunk of wisdom I’ve always kept close to me comes from the song “Stone Dead Forever” that started it all:
“Whatever happened to your life?”
Such a simple question has come in handy whenever life has needed some (re)examining. Thus, Lemmy ascended to a philosophical level equal to Socrates.
And so the world kept turning for about a decade. Lemmy and I got a little angrier, a little older, and arguably (for me, at least) a little wiser. Motorhead released some albums and did some tours while I paid some tuitions and did some jobs. First post-millennium decade has come and gone and we both made it out (physically) unscathed. 2011 was a new lease on our lives, and so the band declared, the world was ours.
Along with my best friend Eric Matthew Bryan, who I have to thank for making this all possible, letting me borrow his copy of Metallica’s Garage Inc that had their version of Motorhead’s “Stone Dead Forever” – it was time to meet the man himself. (Fun fact: we already had met Lemmy briefly, along with Motorhead spiritual progeny High On Fire, before a show to which we were denied entry. Eric’s dad’s van was also towed and we had to trek across West Hollywood trying to find it, but that’s another story I just told right here.) After waiting a bit for protocol and sound checks to run their courses, we met the man himself. And a man is what he is, nothing more.
One of the things that I always appreciated about Lemmy is the humility and modesty he carries with himself. Those words might seem like they’re not the right words to describe a god of Rock and Roll, but it should also be known that he never brought that title onto himself. Even his name, “Lemmy,” was given to him by other people. Any pretense to the man is artificial. This becomes quickly apparent when you meet him face to face.
As we were wrapping up our interview, I began to nervously pour my heart out to Lemmy, thanking him for helping me get through the best and worst of times. I then asked what any foolish fan would ask: if he had any advice, any wisdom to bestow upon us.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot. I always say, ‘I won’t give you any advice’ because what I encountered on my way through…you’re not gonna encounter it. It’s a different world now. It was a different planet then, you know? People fought differently, they acted differently…all the people I [had] problems with are gone, you know? And all the people I’ve [gotten] help from are gone, more or less. I’m sixty-five here, you know? I mean there’s a lot of people [who] just fall under the wheels, you know? So the things that you’re gonna encounter on your way in…I never saw! So I can’t help you with that. So you have to make your own mistakes. The only advice I can give is to get an accountant.”
So there we were, as lost with our own respective lives as we were going into the interview. “Fair enough,” I said. We took our pictures, rocked out during the show (Lemmy and I did, at least – I still owe Eric for making it all possible), moved on when it was over, and the keys to the kingdom meant nothing at all.
Has anything changed? Not really. As Lems himself said, “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” Lemmy is still a personal hero, still just a man. I’ll just have to do what he does as well – live my life the way I want to, and be true to myself. I’ll also start looking for someone to keep track of my finances.