Tom Morello on Lemmy: 'Part Man, Part Wolf, Part Maker's Mark'

Guitarist tells us why he viewed late Motörhead leader as "an unfathomably cool dude"

Tom Morello pays tribute to late Motörhead leader Lemmy Kilmister, whom he describes as an "unfathomably cool dude." Credit: Getty (2)

On Monday, after hearing of the death of Lemmy Kilmister, Tom Morello posted the following on Facebook: "Metal flags fly at half mast tonight as we salute the incomparable Ace of Spades." The Rage Against the Machine guitarist took time to share his further thoughts on the late Motörhead frontman exclusively with Rolling Stone.

He was so Lemmy all the time.

You can’t overstate the degree to which Lemmy was the real deal. He was authentic. There are a lot of guys in bands who drape on the accoutrements of skull and crossbones, but it felt like Lemmy probably was a brigadier general in some sort of heavy metal Harley-Davidson skeleton army. It all came from within. He was real. And he was someone who loved both punk and heavy metal. He and his band straddled both of those genres and had earned a lot of respect.

In some ways, Motörhead rightly enjoyed the same kind of love and respect as the Sex Pistols. It’s a band that everyone admired and you hoped that your band — regardless of whether you’re playing in a garage or a stadium — had some of the credibility and awesomeness that Motörhead inhabited effortlessly. They didn’t even have to try.

I first became aware of Motörhead from the MTV video "Killed by Death," which was at the height of hair-metal buffoonery. It wasn’t like they were trying to be punk rock, but it felt so much better and rawer than all those clowny bands. It was also unapologetically metal, too.

I took note not only of his bass playing, but his whole artistic style as a musician. His Rickenbacker bass sounded like about 10 guitars and basses playing at the same time through a wall of Marshalls. From the tone of his voice to the positioning of his microphone — no one looks like Lemmy at the microphone, because of the angular position of the microphone, where he’s looking up — he was an unfathomly cool dude.

Check The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years: Lemmy is the only one who makes any sense in the whole damn thing. He was a huge cut above as a lyricist in the genre. Gandalf in leather, with a Marshall stack. He was making great music 'til he end.

We should all hope to be remembered with one hundredth of the love and admiration that is bearing forth for Lemmy. There will be an empty stool at the Rainbow Bar and Grill that is very, very hard to fill. The tremors are felt around the globe. You can use a lot of words to describe Lemmy Kilmister, but the first one I would use is "irreplaceable." They absolutely broke the mould when they made that metal-punk hero for the ages — part man, part wolf, part Maker’s Mark. There’s nobody like that guy. It’s a very, very sad day.