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December 28th, 2015, was a shitty day for rock n' roll. That was the date Motörhead bassist, vocalist and all-around mastermind Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister left this earthly plane — just four days after his 70th birthday. And while Motörhead were obviously one of the greatest bands of all time, Lemmy was so much more than a musician or frontman. With a Jack-and-Coke in one hand and a smoke in the other, he could hold forth on anything from the Beatles (whom he actually saw live) and Jimi Hendrix (for whom he roadied and scored acid) to World War II (he was something of an expert on the subject) and life in general. All with incisive wit, humor and zero fucks given.
To commemorate the passing of this one-of-a-kind human, we reached out to musicians who knew and/or admired him. With that in mind, we hit up Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo, who recently did a video interview for Revolver in which he said Lemmy was the greatest metal vocalist ever.
WHY DO YOU THINK LEMMY IS THE GREATEST METAL VOCALIST EVER?
CALEB SHOMO I think Lemmy did a lot of stuff that changed the game, vocally. I don't think he considered himself a great singer — it's not like he had a silky, sultry voice or anything — but that's part of what makes him great. He was one of these dudes who came out of the rock scene and was just howling and yelling. His throat sounds like it's exploding. I think that's been a huge influence on countless metal vocalists. There's something about him, and his not-give-a-fuck attitude — going out and pointing the mic stand way up there like he did: He was so badass. The way he sang, up until the very end, was all-out, all the time.
HAVE YOU PERSONALLY TAKEN ANY INFLUENCE FROM HIM — MUSICALLY, LYRICALLY OR OVERALL ATTITUDE-WISE?
Oh, yeah — absolutely. In a whole lot of ways. Definitely musically, from Motörhead's fast-paced grooves to the idea of just letting it rip. That's been a huge influence on me. Vocally as well. When I was diving into Motörhead more after learning how to sing, I was like, "Fuck, I wanna find a way to get that much grit behind my voice." So I've been chasing that sound — getting my voice to sound like it's on the verge of exploding, but without it actually exploding. [Laughs] Which has been tough. But that's definitely a Lemmy thing: It sounds like you're screaming but hitting a note at the same time. That's something I've been trying to learn.
IT'S BEEN SAID BEFORE, BUT IT REALLY DID SOUND LIKE HE WAS GARGLING BROKEN GLASS OR SOMETHING.
Yeah! It was so badass. No one can do it like that. And Motörhead never tried to reinvent the wheel, you know? At every show, Lemmy would say, "We're Motörhead, and we play rock & roll." And then they'd just light it up. I love that about them.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO MOTÖRHEAD?
I honestly don't remember the first time I heard Motörhead, but there's a good chance it was from that movie School Of Rock, where Jack Black is yelling at his class about not knowing Motörhead. All I wanted to be was a rocker when I was a kid. I just thought rock n' roll was so cool. And then that movie came out, and it was about a bunch of kids my age who could do it. When he yelled about Motörhead, I was like, "Who is that?" And someone said, "You know, 'Ace of Spades.'" And I had heard that song—I just didn't know who it was. So then I started diving in. There's just this energy — it's punk, heavy metal and rock & roll rolled into one, with this not-giving-a-fuck attitude.
DID YOU EVER GET TO SEE THEM LIVE?
I never did, which is probably one of my biggest regrets in life. I wanna say we played a festival with them a few years ago, but it was like the day after they played, so I never got a chance. I've watched hours of live footage, that's for sure, but I never got to see the real thing.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOTÖRHEAD RECORD OR SONG?
That's a tough question, but I have to say their last record, Bad Magic, really inspired me. I was talking to one of my friends about Motörhead one night — he was one of our guitar techs for a while — and he was like, "One of the things I love about Motörhead is, I swear their records just keep getting better." At this point, Bad Magic was new and Lemmy was getting up there in age. But I think that record fuckin' slams. "Victory or Die" is such a sick song and a great way to open up an album. So Bad Magic really inspired me to keep pushing to get better until the very end. That's what it means to me.