Talk then turns to Deep Purple's Jon Lord, who died at the age of 71 a few days prior to our conversation. The keyboardist had defined much of his band's sound with his leanings toward classical forms of expression, which also included work as an orchestral composer. "It's just a shame, because Jon Lord was to a large extent responsible for me being in rock and roll," Kilmister reveals. "He was in a band called the Artwoods years ago, with Ronnie Wood's brother Arthur. They were sort of a jazz-blues band, I guess. They played at the place in Wales where I was living, this dingy little boozer, and I was talking to Jon and, like an idiot, he gave me his address in London. So of course I went down there and he wasn't there, but he was living at Art's mother's house where Ronnie Wood, who was in a band called the Birds, was living and they let me crash on the couch. I woke up and I've got all the Birds standing around me going, 'What are you doing on Mom-mom's couch?,' all poking me with this terrible cockney rabble."
He continues: "I never forgot that Jon — a complete stranger, and I'm some kid — gave me his address to come down to London and see him. I often told him thanks for that. I saw him late last year in a hotel in Germany in Cologne. He was over there doing some orchestral stuff, and we talked in the bar for awhile. . . . I'm glad I saw him, since he's since departed."
Not one to dwell on his own time ticking away, Kilmister says with a laugh, "I know we gotta go — there's no point in fighting it. You can't fight mortality, you know?" His legacy is cemented by the wide range of artists who have covered his compositions — Supersuckers, Mudhoney, and Sepultura, to name a few.
"Number one, it's very flattering, and number two, it's very good for the old bank account," he laughs. Metallica are the most renowned act to take on tracks in the catalog, going so far as to show up as surprise guests at Kilmister's 50th birthday celebration at the Whisky A Go Go as "the Lemmys," clad in long black wigs, aviator shades, and even drawn-on tattoos to look like the frontman for a seven-song Motörhead set. "Yes they did," he laughs. "With the tattoo drawn on the wrong arm — all four of them!"
When not on the road, Kilmister lives in his adopted home of Los Angeles, and is notorious as a regular fixture at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip, where he's been going since 1973. "There's loads of rock-and-roll history, and there's a lot of history before rock and roll too. Joe DiMaggio proposed to Marilyn Monroe there, when it was an Italian restaurant. Sinatra used to hang out there, and that guy [Vincente Minnelli] proposed to Judy Garland there. All kinds of weird mob shit went on there — as it still does today, I'm sure. There's got to be a reason why they're not closed down yet."