‘Lemmy’ Filmmakers: We Got Yelled at by Lemmy for Being Drunk
Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski are the filmmakers behind ‘Lemmy,’ the rockumentary about one of the biggest and best badasses in metal. Noisecreep caught up with Olliver and Orshoski now that the film has been finished and screened. The duo, who spent three years of their lives getting to know the Motörhead frontman, are in desperate search for a nap.
Apparently hanging out with the hard drinking and hard living Lemmy Kilmister can wear even the most iron-willed human being down … in the best possible way. Orshoski even referred to the Kilmister as “warmer, funnier and smarter” than most people would think — and having met Lemmy and having seen the film, I fully agree.
What is the status of the ‘Lemmy’ documentary now?
Wes: We’ve just emerged from a 32-day stint at a post house in Midtown Manhattan, where we mixed the film and a bunch of the bonus material in 5.1 surround sound, and cut the killer crop of extras, which includes plenty of featurettes and live footage — Lemmy’s extended jam with Metallica in Nashville and some ‘Borat’-style pranks we filmed with Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell. Just great, great stuff. People are gonna love it! This stuff is only going to be available on the DVD. We wanted to give people every possible reason we could to actually buy the physical product. You kind of have to, in this day and age.
Greg: We’ve got two hours of amazing movie and four hours of amazing bonus material, so it feels like all our time and effort has paid off. After three and a half years it’s, time to take a nap.
Looking back, what is the one biggest thing you learned through the process?
Wes: On a more personal level, I would say that you can’t get discouraged when trying to make a film — a million and one things will go wrong, and you have to learn to roll with the punches. We’ve had endless obstacles, and it’s a major accomplishment that we were able to reach the finish line. And we have a lot people to thank for that, from friends and family to Motörhead’s manager, Todd Singerman, and the band. In terms of Lemmy, if you don’t know much about him, he will be a major surprise to you in this film — warmer, funnier, smarter than most would ever give him credit for.
Greg: The biggest thing in my mind now is how hard it was to see this film through to the end. It’s damn easy to sit around and talk about making a movie. Spending over three years of your life actually seeing it through to the end is another thing. I have a new appreciation for the art, and learned way more than I ever imagined I would. Once my head stops spinning from dealing with finishing the edit, finishing post, insuring the film, copyrighting the film and physically delivering the film to distributors, I can tell you what I learned about Lemmy.
What is your favorite scene in the film?
Wes: Hard to say. There’s a moment when we film Lem rehearsing for a guest appearance with Metallica, and Greg and I are in a room with about four other people — including Matt Sorum, who was temporarily filling in for Mikkey Dee in Motörhead at the time — besides Lemmy and Metallica, and they’re just raging on two Motörhead songs. To be honest, that was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Also, I think Greg and I both really love the end of the film, which we shot in Moscow; just everything about it, from the B-roll to the way in which Lem kind of sums up his life.
Greg: My favorite scene changes each time I watch the film, but right now it’s actually the end credits, which is Motörhead performing ‘Overkill.’ We shot that on the last day of our three-year journey at a show in Moscow. Being on stage with Lemmy at that show was emotional, because I knew it would be the last time I had an excuse to be on stage with him … and watching it brings back that feeling every time.
What is the one most surprising things you learned about Lemmy while doing the doc?
Wes: For one, I didn’t realize how big of a Beatles fan he was. He saw them at the Cavern Club — and even saw John Lennon deck a heckler there, I think. The first two weeks we were on the road with Motörhead, Lemmy was listening to George Harrison‘s greatest hits before gigs, which is pretty awesome. I’d be sitting in his dressing room listening to ‘My Sweet Lord’ and then 10 minutes later, he was pummeling Glasgow or Sheffield with ‘Dr. Rock.’ There are a lot of complexities to Lem as a person, as a man, that you only really pick up on from knowing him and his circle for a few years.
From things he’s said time to time, I can tell it kind of burns him that Motörhead doesn’t get the respect that they deserve. When the band was recording the super underrated ‘Motorizer,’ their last studio album, I brought in a music magazine one day to show him this article someone had written about the fact that we were making this movie, and he said something about it being the first time the band had been in that mag for like 30 years. Not sure if that’s true — and I don’t want to mention the magazine — but I think sometimes it feels that way to him, that they’re sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of rock. But when I look around, especially when I peer out at a packed house in Russia or London, it sure doesn’t feel that way to me. For anyone who has a low opinion of Motörhead, I think our movie will change that. Besides, anyone who doesn’t like Motörhead, well they kinda suck, don’t they? I mean, come on? Would you really want to have a beer with that person anyway?
Greg: I was surprised that he yelled at me for being drunk. We were in Las Vegas and came back to the hotel casino after a long night of drinking and found Lemmy working one of the slot machines. I said “Hey Lem.” And he said, “Ahh, get away from me. You guys are drunk.” I belly laughed all the way back to my room, because I got yelled at by Lemmy for drinking!
What other artists would you like to profile similarly?
Greg: In terms of artists, the Vaughn Brothers … since Jimmy and Stevie Ray are artists I’ve always admired. Willie Nelson would probably be just as fun as touring with Motörhead. Outside of the music world — although he is also a musician — I would love to do a film about Steven Seagal. He obviously kicks ass, and a documentary about him could kick just as much ass … as long as we got to shoot some guns and beat up bad guys in the process!!! Call me Steven!!!!
Wes: Willie Nelson is right up there for me, too! My wish list is long and would include the likes of U2 and My Morning Jacket. I saw MMJ last night opening up for Tom Petty, and it was unbelievable. Jim James is disgustingly talented. Just as a fan, I feel so lucky to be experiencing their music as they write and release it. Ya know, with all the great music that came before me, I had to play catch up and imagine what it was like to go get ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘London’s Calling’ or ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ the day they were released. And I had to imagine what it was like to put the needle on those records for the first time. You know, because I was only a child when those records were released. I had to imagine what it was like to be a part of that movement, or to at least be following it from my suburban bedroom as it was unfolding.
I’m so happy to see My Morning Jacket unfold in real time, to hear their new songs as they try them out live before they record them. 20 years from now, I guarantee you there will be thousands upon thousands of people saying I wish I could have seen them then. One of the most important things a rock band can do is make you believe in them. And if you feel like the band members are beyond friends, that they’re brothers, and that they themselves are all in awe of what they together create on a stage, then you have a band that will touch people, one that will last. That’s the vibe I’ve always gotten from U2, and that’s also what I get from MMJ.
Lastly, can you share some of your background with our readers who will hopefully watch your film?
Wes: I was a shark hunter, bear wrestler and full-time wino before we started this movie. In between those passions, I was a photographer and music journalist. This is the second documentary Greg and I have worked on together. I’m currently working on a doc on Ian McLagan of the Small Faces/Faces.
Greg: When I was about 12, my dad won a VHS video camera as a door prize … and I’ve been directing ever since. Since then I’ve honed my skills on music videos for Joan Jett, Burning Spear, Snoop Dogg and others. TV shows for MTV, FUEL TV and others, and I’m in the middle of another documentary about a 97-year-old British commando named Micky Burn who is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. By the way, you should see Wes in his shark suit. It’s awesome!