James Hetfield shares: “It’s a shame that Lemmy Kilmister is not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame”

Author Benedetta Baldin - 23.5.2024

On the latest episode of “The Metallica Report”, the podcast offering insider updates on all things Metallica, singer James Hetfield spoke about some of his recently acquired tattoos, including one that pays tribute to Lemmy Kilmister in the form of a tattoo containing the late Motörhead leader’s ashes.

I guess downtime, you get a little creative in more than one way besides writing songs. It’s like drawing or, I got my Photoshop back up and working and fiddling around with shirt ideas and stuff like that. And, yeah, tattoos is just something I’ve always loved. I’m a logo dude, as we all know. So, yeah, getting the hands done. And then Adriana, my girlfriend, her best friend passed away. And we had just talked about the ability to put ashes in the ink to represent someone who you carry around in your life. So thinking up ideas of what would represent that person and memories for their life — I mean, that’s really what they are; they’re memories — and remembering that I had been given some ashes of Lemmy and a little silver bullet that was like a necklace and using that to get my — yeah, the Iron Cross and the ace of spades. So Lemmy is able to still fly the bird to the world via me. And just a reminder of what an inspiration he has been in my life — what to do, what not to do. And for me paying respects to him in maybe lieu of him being in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, which still continues to piss me off.

He continues:

The most rock and roll lifestyle-living person on this planet is not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, which is a travesty, a shame. It’s kind of a disrespect to rock and roll, basically. So this is me paying homage to him.

Hetfield humorously mentioned that Lemmy once claimed to have consumed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day since he was 30. During his tenure with Hawkwind, Lemmy also reportedly developed an addiction to amphetamines and LSD, with a particular preference for the former.

The obvious joke with my buddy, tattoo artist Corey Miller, who’s done a lot of my stuff, he said, ‘Are you sure you wanna do this? Did you check with your doctor? There could still be high amounts of speed in his ashes or,’ you know, whatever — I don’t know — screwdriver. ‘Did you check with your sponsor? Are you okay with this?’ And, yeah, hopefully most of that shit got burned off. And, yeah, the obvious jokes.

Then he explains the reason behind this tattoo:

He stood for rock and roll, and whatever moniker you wanted to put on it — heavy metal, punk, blah, blah, blah — ‘We are Motörhead. We are rock and roll.’

When Hetfield revealed his tattoo on Metallica’s Instagram page last month, he explained that he took the Iron Cross and Spade imagery often sported by Lemmy and had it tattooed on the middle finger of his right hand so that the iconic MOTÖRHEAD rocker “is still able to fly the bird at the world”.

“With the steady hand of friend and tattoo artist @coreymillertattoo, this tattoo,” Hetfield wrote.

“A salute to my friend and inspiration Mr. Lemmy Kilmister. Without him, there would be NO METALLICA.

“Black ink mixed with a pinch of his cremation ashes that were so graciously given to me.

“So now, he is still able to fly the bird at the world.”

METALLICA paid tribute to Lemmy on its 2016 album, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct”, which came out less than a year after the iconic rocker’s death.

“[It’s] a song called ‘Murder One’, which was the name of [Lemmy‘s] amplifier, his favorite amp on stage,” James told the 95.5 KLOS radio station. “And I loved being murdered every night by that thing, man. He was just such an icon, such an inspiration to us as a band. There’s certainly no way we’d be around if there was no MOTÖRHEAD. And, you know, to see your idol, your immortal one, actually be mortal, it hit us pretty hard. So I felt, lyrically, it makes sense to acknowledge him and how much he’s meant in our lives.”

In a separate interview with SiriusXMHetfield stated about the inspiration for “Murder One”: “MOTÖRHEAD had a lot to do with METALLICA sitting here right now. But just Lemmy as an entity, as kind of a father figure, he helped us a lot. He was unafraid. And he was a character. And he was himself. And we all respected that so much. He did his own thing to the last breath. No matter who you are, how could you not be inspired by that?”

Shortly after Lemmy‘s passing, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich penned a lengthy tribute to the MOTÖRHEAD mainman in which looked back on the influence Lemmy had not just on METALLICA but also on him personally.

MOTÖRHEAD won the “Best Metal Performance” Grammy in 2005 for its cover version of the METALLICA song “Whiplash”.

At a 1995 gig at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, members of METALLICAcelebrated Lemmy‘s 50th birthday by taking the stage as a wigged tribute band dubbed the LEMMYS.

In a 2011 interview with Metal InsiderLemmy said: “You can’t top METALLICA. They’re really a fucking excellent band. I’m delighted that they said that I was one of their influences. Like, they have all of their influences, and you can’t hear the influences in them, which is great. They’ve become their own people, and that’s great. I like them a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time with those boys.”

Lemmy died on December 28, 2015 at the age of 70 shortly after learning he had been diagnosed with cancer.

MOTÖRHEAD had to cancel a number of shows in 2015 because of Lemmy‘s poor health, although the band did manage to complete the aforementioned European tour a couple of weeks before his death.

In June 2020, it was announced that Lemmy would get the biopic treatment. The upcoming film, “Lemmy”, will be directed by Greg Olliver, who previously helmed the 2010 documentary of the same name, “Lemmy”.

A custom-made urn containing Lemmy‘s ashes is on permanent display in a columbarium at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

Back in January 2020, METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett expressed his disappointment over the fact that MOTÖRHEAD has yet to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Eligible since 2002, the Lemmy-fronted outfit was on the ballot for the class of 2020 but failed to receive enough votes.

During a career-spanning interview on Dean Delray‘s “Let There Be Talk”podcast, Hammett stated about MOTÖRHEAD‘s exclusion from the Rock Hall: “I really think that when things like that happen, it might be a generational thing where maybe some of the older people just don’t get it — they just don’t fucking get it. They don’t see the range of influence and the impact and the inspiration that certain bands have. They don’t hear it, because maybe they’re part of a different generation and were told that vocals sung like that are bad. But they’re not — they’re fucking just another type of vocal. And [those people believe that] recordings like that have no merit. [I’ve] gotta admit, some of those MOTÖRHEAD recordings are fucking so beautifully raw.”

Kirk continued: “For those kind of people, MOTÖRHEAD is a little bit of a bitter pill. And the comprehension of it is kind of — it could be a little better comprehended. And I think that’s the problem — it’s merely a generational thing. As much as I don’t like saying that, because I think if it’s good music, it’s gonna transcend generations. But then, at certain times, people are just closed off from it from the get-go, for whatever reason. It’s just one of those things that just happens.”

Even though artists are eligible for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25 years after the release of their first album or single, iconic hard rock and metal bands like IRON MAIDEN and SCORPIONS have yet to be recognized by the institution, which inducted METALLICA and GUNS N’ ROSES in those groups’ first year of eligibility.

Rock Hall rules state that artists become eligible a quarter century after their first records were released, but the Hall also claims that other “criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock ‘n’ roll,” which is, of course, open to interpretation.

Eligible for induction since 1999, KISS didn’t get its first nomination until 2009, and was finally inducted in 2014.

DEEP PURPLE was eligible for the Rock Hall since 1993 but didn’t get inducted until 2016.