THE LEMMY YEARS

Motorhead. Arguably the coolest heavy metal/rock ‘n’ roll band of all time.

It was a dream to meet Lemmy Kilmister, the legend who’s mythical tales of mayhem stretched back to the days of Hendrix. The guy who ate all the acid with Hawkwind. Who pioneered the heavy metal-rock crossover sound. Who toured and made music until his very last day. The first piece of leather I assembled was made with the intention that one day I’d get him strapped. By the time Lemmy passed, he owned countless Heavy Leather NYC straps and I treasured a ton of wild stories I won’t be telling my grandkids.

Photo by Lyle Weisman

The Night I Met Him.

I had backstage passes to the Metal Masters tour in 2008. I’d made a custom guitar strap for Eric Peterson of Testament and was invited to their NJ show to hand it off. Testament was opening for Judas Priest, Motorhead and Heaven & Hell. Knowing Motorhead was on the bill, I spent the night before the show constructing the heaviest, most intricately hand-worked strap I’d ever made.

My partner-in-crime, Grace, hanging backstage with Testament.

Motorhead played after Testament and I watched the first part of the show from side-stage. I snuck to the backstage halfway through their set, shuffling my way to Lemmy’s dressing room and lurked by his door. A man standing across from me introduced himself as Motorhead’s tour manager and we struck up a conversation. I explained how I’d made Lemmy a guitar strap which I planned to gift to him, in person. We hit it off, and when the band finished, he graciously guided me through the dressing room door- a door which opened many more doors for years to come.

Lemmy was sitting by a table with his usual gratuitous bottles of Jack Daniels, Coke, and a bucket of ice. He looked up at me with a powerful, yet gentle glance. Utterly awe-struck, with sweaty palms, I gave him the strap and rattled out a few words on why my work was the most badass in the biz. He smiled and asked me to [insert English accent] ‘sit down love, let me make you a Jack ‘n’ Coke!’ We talked through many bottles of whiskey that evening. His accent was thick and it was difficult navigating the conversation- a trait that continued to challenge me throughout our years as friends. At one point in the night, a man in a suit rep’ing a guitar strap company entered the room waving around a cheap leather strap. A minute into his sales pitch, Lemmy picked up my strap and told him ‘this is a real strap’, dismissing him from the room. My heart just about jumped out of my chest.

Lemmy wearing his first Heavy Leather NYC strap

Over the next 8 years, Lemmy ordered many more Heavy Leather NYC straps. Occasionally, he’d request custom leather, but mainly I’d bring him pre-made straps to purchase. He had incredible taste. The design detail that initially caught his eye was the substantial hardware I used. He loved the weight and size of the conchos I applied as the signature detail on all of his straps.

The Sept. 20th, 2008 Roseland Ballroom Motorhead show was one of my favorites. Lemmy loved that first strap I made him- and let it be known to the crowd. He dedicated the song ‘Iron Fist’ to me- and to his strap. I was on the balcony at the time and remember belting out ‘Oh shit, that’s me!’ I was surrounded by strangers and they all gave me high fives. It was caught on video- check it out HERE.

I was shy and awestruck by Lemmy’s trust in my taste. He’d ask my opinion on a variety of things, like what I thought of a new piece of jewelry, or what hat I thought looked best on him. One year I came out to Los Angeles for the NAMM show, and Lemmy invited me to the studio where he was recording vocals on a new album. I was the only non-working guest in the room. We sat behind the mixer and he showed me pages of handwritten lyrics. His writing was nearly illegible; like trying to extract words from a seismogram. I remember desperately trying to make sense of his work-and give him my honest opinion- while he watched and waited. Such pressure!

My studio visit with Lemmy

 

On the Left: Passes to his shows, and to celebrate his life and death. On the right: A man with a sense of humor- a poem he wrote for Grace and I.

Shortly after that first show, I met Greg Olliver who was making the Lemmy documentary. We became good friends and he invited me to star in the music video he was directing for the Motorhead single, Rock Out. He shot part of the video in my apartment in Brooklyn and part of it at a Motorhead show. You can view the full video HERE.

Brenda and I filming the Rock Out video

Years later, I found out Motorhead was playing a show in Germany, on my birthday. It was also the Berlin premiere of the Lemmy Movie, and a private show was planned for the after-party. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event that I was determined to be at, even if it meant spending my last dollar. I reached out to the Motorhead crew and was given the thumbs up for passes to the show, etc- the week of the event. I purchased a last minute flight for that weekend and packed my bags, guitar straps and all. Come Saturday night, I checked my flight, I.D. and… passport? It ends up, my passport had expired a year prior. The trip was a no-go. Any expedited paperwork wouldn’t have turned out in time. I still have a hard time forgiving myself for missing that epic weekend.

Lemmy playing at the Berlin afterparty show- at least my strap made it!

When Motorhead toured the east coast, I’d attend as many shows as I could. Lemmy would arrange backstage passes for me and a friend or two, and would always pick up the phone if I had a hard time getting into the venue. We’d rage pretty hard post show; keeping up with his shenanigans was no easy task. I could write pages on our crazy times together, but I’ll save some of that for the next post.

He was always so very generous and kind. There was one show over 3 hours from home where my friend Grace and I had a few too many drinks. We were partying on his tour bus and time flew by. When it came time to go, Lemmy offered us money for a hotel room, while he went on with Motorhead to the next city.

 

Tour bus mayham

The Lemmy Years with Danny B. Harvey

I met Lemmy’s HeadCat band mate, Danny B. Harvey at SXSW in 2011. It was the first day of the festival and I’d borrowed my friend’s pickup truck to drive around Austin. The truck was much larger than I’d expected, and within the first 20 minutes on the road I crashed it. It was minor, but I was pretty shaken up so I parked the vehicle- with no intention to get behind the wheel again- at the first bar I saw and went in for a drink. One of the first people I met there was Danny B. Harvey. I’d handed Danny a Heavy Leather NYC promotional flyer with Lemmy’s photo on it, and we realized our bond through him.

Danny and Lemmy

First day of SXSW with Danny

I’ve kept in touch with Danny over the years, attending both his wedding to the lovely Annie Marie Harvey and his very last HeadCat show with Lemmy. I drove Danny from NAMM to that show and when we arrived, Lemmy looked frail. I knew he was in a bad way as he’d modified his usual Jack Daniels to Vodka. It had been announced shortly prior that he had cancer. It was heartbreaking.

Heavy Leather NYC liner note credits

 

Fan art: Lemmy adorned with his Heavy Leather NYC strap

I was invited to Lemmy’s 70th birthday party held at the Whiskey a Go Go in 2015. There was a all-star line-up of guest musicians playing, including Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, and Gilby Clarke of Guns ‘N’ Roses; as well as Billy Idol, Zakk Wylde, Sebastian Bach, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, and Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Charlie Benante. Me, Danny B. Harvey and Annie Marie Harvey swung by the Rainbow before the show to have a quick drink with Lemmy. Lemmy bought me the usual Jack ‘n’ Coke. We talked for a minute, but he wasn’t looking or feeling too hot. He’d been sick for some time and had lost a ton of weight. He was meant to play later that night with the HeadCat, but called it off. That was the last time I saw him alive.

 

I attended Lemmy’s funeral at Forest Lawn Cemetary with my friend Bridgette, who was also close with him. We listened from the pews to Lemmy’s close friends sing his praise. On stage, alongside his Rickenbacker was his favorite Heavy Leather NYC strap. We closed the evening at the Rainbow. Lemmy’s spirit remains present there, in the hearts of his fans and forever in my heart.

 

Comments are closed