Brian May and Kirk Hammett Pay Tribute to Lemmy: "A Living Mismatch of Personality Types"

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Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Queen’s Brian May paid tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister on Tuesday, recalling him as a unique and inspiring musician and individual.

In a statement released to Rolling Stone, Hammett said that Lemmy helped him realize it was okay to be an outsider:

“Back in 1979 when I was 16 years old,” writes Hammett, “I heard Overkill for the first time. I thought it was the fastest thing I’d ever heard, and I declared to all my friends that Motörhead were the fastest band in the land.

“When I had first seen pictures of what these guys looked like, I noticed a certain authenticity about them. I imagined they lived the way they looked and looked the way they lived.

“And I remember very distinctly having a realization that moment — I realized that it was OK to be an outsider and that it was OK to not feel like I had to conform to anything that I objected to in my teenage life because clearly the Motörhead guys in this picture looked like they didn’t conform to anything at all and boy it sure looked and sounded like they were enjoying themselves as a result.

“So I got a lot from that pic and that massive sound and that attitude.”

May recalled Lemmy as “a living mismatch of personality types.”

“Any time I attempted to say anything complimentary to Lemmy to his face, he would fix me with a kind of amused, contemptuous stare,” May writes. “But a kind of hero he certainly was. Unique in just about every way imaginable. He was a living mismatch of personality types.

“His music was roaring, abrasive, uncompromising, and his lyrics mostly deliberately gave no hint of sensitivity. Yet as a person he was a pacifist, a deep thinker, and a man who cared profoundly about his friends. I was never in his closest circle of pals, but we bumped into each other often and he always managed to say something shockingly respectful to me, leaving me disarmed, because he hated being praised himself. Or so it seemed.

“One of my dearest friends lived with Lemmy for 10 years and she always spoke of him as a tender man, very different from his public face, which never deviated from his tough gaze on the world. Lemmy was a highly cultured and well-read man - yet to see him glued to a fruit machine most of a night in the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Strip you would never have guessed it. In fact, that hallowed place, steeped in Rock and Roll history, will always bear his spiritual mark.”

May also recalled performing on the same bill with Motörhead back in Queen’s heyday.

“I remember guesting with them at the Brixton Academy, and it was possibly the most ear-splitting experience of my life. Most bands—while the back line is arranged to look mean and powerful—actually keep the onstage volume to a controlled maximum, the real volume for the audience being supplied by miking everything into a large PA system.

“Not so Motörhead (with the umlaut on the ‘o’ of course). The giant piles of speaker cabinets behind them were all live and all turned up to 10. ( OK - 11 ! ) The sound of Lemmy’s bass was like being inside a giant pulverising machine, a whole frequency spectrum thing. It wasn’t a conventional bass sound at all. Even if no other instrument was playing for a moment, Lemmy’s bass was deafening you from 50 cycles to 10K.

“And he was hammering (and I choose my words carefully) round about 200 notes a minute for a lot of the time. It was, and is, unique. And on top of this monumental noise sat his highly distinctive throaty tobacco-soaked growl of a vocal.”

Tributes to Lemmy from the music community have continued to come in from Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, and many others.