The Lemmy Bass Rig
When you think of the Lemmy bass rig, the next words that come to mind should be Marshall amplifiers and Rickenbacker basses. While you’re not wrong, have you ever stopped and wondered about his other basses?!
Did you watch the video?! Would you like to know when the next one is out?
Lemmy and the electric guitar
Lemmy’s first introduction to music was through his mother. In his childhood home he had a Hawaiian Steel Lap guitar on the wall. He attributes this guitar to his fretting strength.
Lemmy and the early years
Prior to Motorhead, Lemmy was a guitar player and learned his chops in several bands during the 60’s. Namely, the Sundowners, DeeJays and the Rockin Vicars.
It was in these bands Lemmy was used a Hofner Club 50 guitar. Upon joining the Motown Sect in 1962 he used Eko 40V guitar.
He then began trading his guitars through his career right up until Hawkind. Working his way through to guitars such as;
Lemmy post professional guitar player
Lemmy worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix after the Vicars from 1968-69. Before playing in the British psychedelic rock band Sam Gopal. After this Lemmy spent his time dossing in squat houses with his guitar slowly collecting dust, hung up on the wall.
In 1971 Lemmy met Hawkwind’s Michael “DikMik” Davies who got him an audition to play guitar. Or so he thought …
Lemmy joins Hawkind
Lemmy’s bass rig and his career officially starts with Hawkind. The story of how Lemmy got stuck with bass is almost the stuff of legend.The band had a show that day in London. The bassist at the time Dave Anderson, didn’t show up.
” Like an idiot, he (Anderson) left his bass in the van, which paves the way for a successor, doesn’t it? You’re almost inviting somebody to come along and take the job off you, which I did.”
The bass Lemmy picked up was his very first run in with a Rickenbacker. Unfortunately, he had to deal with the fact that it didn’t belong to him. He of course “borrowed it” for the occasion and had to give it back to its rightful owner sooner or later.
A Silver Machine
Lemmy bought his very own bass of off Del Detmar (synth player in Hawkind). a Hofp bass from Germany, resembling a Gibson SG and made famous in music video “Silver Machine” In 1972.
Notably this bass was bought from a luggage auction at Heathrow Airport. Lemmy admitted he still owed Del £27 quid for it.
It’s been suggested that the Hopf was stolen which gave way to Lemmy using his own Rickenbacker. Lemmy also played with a Gibson Thunderbird II (2) during the tail end of Hawkind (1974) before it was reported stolen too.
Lemmy’s first Rickenbacker 4000
Lemmy’s very first Rickenbacker was a 4000 model which he heavily modified. You could argue the bass to be a Rickenbacker 4001S which came with 2 pickups and a dotted inlay as stock.
However, when you compare the placement of the tone controls to a 4001S model. You’ll notice they don’t sit the same. They are slightly further apart.
Look at the screw placement. The tone knob sits in front of the screw on the 4000 while its behind in the 4001S. The pickup toggle switch is also in a different place.
Rickenbacker first sighted in 1972
In some interviews the bass was described as salmon pink and Lemmy sanded off the colour leaving it with a quilted maple look.
When we do see pictures of the bass in the mid-70’s, it has 4 pot controls and a chrome Thunderbird pickup in the neck.
From my research it’s been suggested that on some Rickenbacker 4000 models. You can remove the pick guard and find a cavity for a neck pickup and routing already pre-cut.
Meaning Rickenbacker shipped 4000’s and 4001S’s identically but left out the Ric O Sound and additional pickups on the 4000.
Lemmy used this bass from from 1972 until 1981.
Rickenbacker 4000 headstock changes
You can also identify this bass by the progression of the string guides on the headstock. Disclosed in Lemmy’s autobiography – White Line Fever (pg. 66) he mentions how strings would pop out of the nut on this bass. A friend then added a string bar holding the strings down in place. Over the years this Ric had a straight nut bar and 2 circular disc trees holding down the strings.
Rickenbacker 4000 modification timeline
With this bass, it’s been seen with so many stickers and refurbishments and modifications it could very easily be mistaken for another bass altogether.
You can easily identify the bass by way of Nazi iconography and two special decals. One stating “Kiss My Ass” and the second “Motherfucker 1”.
The bass was used briefly on tour in 1995 before being retired. It was last seen in a Rickenbacker factory tour video in 2009.
Here’s a timeline of stickers and modifications.
Rickenbacker 4000 timeline (Click to open)
Motorhead is born
Lemmy was kicked out of Hawkwind for doing “the wrong drugs” As a result. Motorhead was born, playing their first gig in July 1975. He used the Rickenbacker 4000 until 1979.
White Rickenbacker 4001
Around 1979 Lemmy bought a new Rickenbacker 4001, featuring the “Ace of Spades” sticker.
It’s white with black binding and seen on a collection of music video releases from 1981. Notably. Motorhead, Overkill, No Class, and Bomber.
The bass remained stock apart from the addition of a Dimarzo DP120 pickup.
Born to Lose Out to lunch
Another bass making a debut in 1981. Is the arrival of a third Rickenbacker, with a maple body and dotted maple neck. It’s commonly known as the “Born to Lose Out to lunch” bass.
It also raises some controversy. At that time Rickenbacker didn’t make basses with a maple fingerboard. No doubt there were some custom options but it wasn’t stock at this moment in time. Lemmy bought this bass off a friend and a mystery what its original state was.
According to Lemmy, when he got the bass it already had the maple fingerboard but the frets were pulled out and in need of repair. He also pointed out that the headstock had a bunch of holes in them from previous tuner keys being installed.
It did have a Ric-O-sound however and looked like an original Ric that was modified. Footage of the bass shows a skunk stripe down the back of the neck. Meaning it could have started life as a 4001.
This bass was was heavily customised and refurbished on at least 3 occasions.
Born to Lose Out to Lunch modifications timeline
Not only was the bass cleaned up, different knobs were added like kitchen cooker and chicken head knobs. Even the jack socket moved from the bottom to the front of the bass.
You’ll recognize stickers on this bass such as the Iron Cross on the body and the black stars on the inlays.
This was Lemmy’s main tour bass between 1981 and 1995.
Making appearances on BBC’s the Young Ones and music video releases “One Track Mind”, “Shine” and “I Got Mine”. It was last seen on stage in 2003 at the Motorhead Walk of Fame Induction.
Born to Lose Out to Lunch modifications (Click to open)
Quilted Rickenbacker 4003
Around 1984 a quilted Ric 4003 appeared briefly on tour. It features a sticker of cartoon character Wimpy from the Popeye series. It was then seen again freshened up in the 1995 music video “Sacrifice”.
Admittedly it does look like Lemmy’s white 4001.
However, this bass appears to be quilted and have a white binding. Where the 4001 is white with a black binding.
Custom Rickenbacker 4004LK
In 1995 Rickenbacker paid tribute to Lemmy with the introduction of his very own custom bass. It features a hand carved Walnut body, Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard, gold hardware and a white checked binding.
It also featured three of Rickenbacker’s newest Humbucker 1 (HB1) pickups which was met with Lemmy’s approval. Lemmy used this bass exclusively until his passing in 2015.
There was however a very short period during 2005 where this bass disappeared and in its place, was a second custom model.
4004LK gold leaf bass
The second custom model added to Lemmy’s bass rig was based on an early Rickenbacker 4004C, it was gold coloured with an ornate leaf edge. Just two HB1 pickups and had a Motorhead style reichsadler. It was first seen in December 2004.
On the back of Lemmy’s custom bass, in 2001. Rickenbacker then sold up to 60 limited edition signature versions.
Lemmy and the miscellaneous bass
The following basses have been seen in Lemmy’s bass rig here and there on stage, in photos or the odd video. No doubt there’s always going to be a chance of an oddball bass cropping up that isn’t mentioned here.
Nonetheless they’ve never been cemented into Lemmy’s bass rig and aren’t that relevant in the great scheme of things. These stock Rickenbacker’s pictured have seen some use but only with a couple of appearances.
Lemmy's miscellaneous bass (Click to open)
Minarik would develop a signature bass for Lemmy using the Medusa model. This was seen primarily in promotional photos during the recording of Bad Magic.
However, before his untimely death it seems that all progress has stopped and there hasn’t been an update in years.
Lemmy’s Amplifier Rig
Amplifiers used in Hawkwind are very straight forward. Originally using a Selmer Treble ‘N’ Bass which was a popular British amp in the late 1960’s.
Lemmy mentions in his autobiography (White Line Fever pg. 9) that he had a broken amplifier around 1971.
In replacement of the Selmer he got a Marshall 1992 JMP Super Bass Mark 2.
He would own several of these heads over his career and adorn them with their own distinctive names.
Marshall amplifier names
His first amps were named “Marsha” or “Vroom” and “Hammer” or later “Der Hammer”. Lemmy was also known to tinker and hot-rod his amplifiers over years. Meaning some modifications were made to the internal circuitry to accentuate certain traits.
Something to note but not detrimental to the sound was the addition of newer MK2’s.
They were manufactured in the latter half of the 70’s. Essentially the same amplifier but with new rocker switches over toggles.
These amps were named;
- No Morals or Killer,
- Moot or Moo (as the T had fallen off)
- No Remorse
- Murder One
Throughout Motorhead he would mix and match the heads. Further down the page is a timeline of Lemmy’s amplifier appearances.
Marshall’s Lemmy Signature Series Amplifier
In 2006 Marshall would recreate Murder One as their first Signature Series bass amp. These Murder One signatures copied the existing modifications and updated the electronics, giving Lemmy a consistent and reliable performance night after night.
The signature amp, model name 1992LEM followed Lemmy on his 2007 world tour. The amplifier was so successful, Lemmy then replaced his existing amps and used the 1992LEM almost exclusively.
In some performances the original Murder One was present and opposite that would be a signature head.
In the final years of Motorhead you can usually spot a pair of 1992LEM’s by the five-pointed Russian military stars inside ornate golden wreaths.
Unlike the original Murder One however, the signatures are missing the name plate. These names are only reserved for the big man.
Original Marshall MK2’s in Lemmy’s Bass Rig
On some occasions in the early 2000’s. It wasn’t unheard of for Lemmy to use the early 70’s looking MK2’s. The ones with the toggle switches. It’s uncertain if they were made just for him or original. They would either be left blank or just have the classic Marshall logo.
It’s also unlikely these are his refurbished originals. In one of the final Motorhead shows of 2015. You’ll see “Vroom” and “Hammer” on stage both in their original states.
Lemmy’s amplifier cabinets
During Hawkwind Lemmy only used Marshall cabinets. They were painted with trippy psychedelic colours using fluorescent, Day-Glo paint. Once Motorhead was underway he then painted them flat black instead.
The cabinets added to Lemmy’s bass rig were an original Marshall 4×12″ guitar cab which sat on top of a monster Marshall 4×15″.
The 15-inch cab has an interesting origin. Lemmy recites the story in an interview with Joel McIver. Where he bought a pair of them in America essentially brand new. Lemmy would double down with these cabs and end up with two 4×12’s and two 4×15’s
” I got the 4×15’s in America. We went down to this guy’s house and his wife showed us this summerhouse in the garden. We had to dig our way through all this furniture and shit and there were these two cabs with the covers on.
She pulled the covers off and they were Marshall’s from the 60’s. They haven’t made 4×15’s for a long time. They were brand new, never been used. And I got the two of them for four hundred bucks!”
Bassicaly Speaking: Lemmy – Joel McIver 2003
Motorhead’s rental equipment
Around the early 2000’s there is some footage of Lemmy with different style cabinets. The easiest assumption is that Lemmy had an A and B rig.
His A rig based in Europe would have his “normal looking cabs”. Flat black with minimal decoration.
The B rig based in North America is often decorated with ornaments like American Eagles or Iron Crosses. As well as white tape with oriental script. The left cab commonly said “DIES IRES” or “Day of Wrath in Latin.
On European dates you’ll also notice new cabs, like four Marshall 1960 4×12’s. In some cases, replacing his 15’s outright.
The tour schedule
Look at Motorhead’s tour schedule and you find them in a different country each day. Imagine the logistical nightmare of shipping gear back and forth to different countries on time.
There’s a strong case for rental equipment being seen in the mid 2000’s. Amplifiers like the VBA 400 appear once and is never seen again.
The mysterious blank Marshall amplifiers
Following this there’s the arrival of brand new looking stock Marshall equipment. New looking heads and clean cabs with fresh grill cloth.
If you know anything about Lemmy’s cabs you’ll know they’ve never had a grill cloth, you’ll also notice he doesn’t personalise his gear as he once did.
However, as the months went on and tours settled down. Some of stock gear would remain a permanent fixture and stuck around until 2006. Whilst there was a brief reunion with the original 15’s, that wouldn’t last long.
Lemmy signature cabinets
In 2007/8 Marshall were refining their Murder One signature head. Marshall state in the 1992LEM manual that testing took place on the road during the world tour.
They also released signature cabinets at the same time so there is a high possibility that the clean looking stock heads and cabs were test signatures. Which would explain some of the inconsistencies in Lemmy’s gear.
Depending where in the world Motorhead were, Lemmy would use a mixture of his original rig or the modern signature rig. This arrangement would stick with him and the band right up until the end.
Timeline of Lemmy's amplifiers (Click to open)
Lemmy and pickup choices
Thunderbirds are go!
Lemmy has always disliked the original stock Rickenbacker pickup. Famously saying you could always improve the tone of the bass after your bought it.
As a result, he decided to put an original chrome Gibson Thunderbird pickup into his Rickenbacker 4000. Whilst he liked it a lot he was still looking something better.
He experimented further adding a black Thunderbird 4 pickup on both the Rickenbacker 4000 and Out to Lunch.
Rickenbacker gets good
HB1’s was can also be found on Lemmy’s 4004LK custom basses. It would seem Rickenbacker finally caught up to Lemmy’s high expectations.
As Lemmy simply puts “They’re good now”.
Lemmy’s experimental pickups
Further experimentation can be seen on Lemmy’s black bound Rickenbacker 4001 with an added DiMarzio DP120 pickup.
Lemmy also mentions using a Fender pickup but not which model or bass.
Lemmy Kilmister Signature pickup by Seymour Duncan
In December 2014 a Lemmy signature pickup set was revealed by Seymour Duncan.
Following this at the Winter NAMM show one month later. Vice President of Engineering Kevin Beller explains Lemmy and his management approached them to create a signature pickup.
According to Beller
“Lemmy’s string spacing is wider than a traditional Rickenbacker. The HB1’s was so narrow that it missed the outside strings when playing. “
As a result, the pickups created for Lemmy were optimised to specifically address string placement issues.
They also made a consumer version which fits more in line with traditional Rickenbacker string spacing and housing.
These pickups were released 12 months before Lemmy’s passing. Look at the final Motorhead shows in 2015. Notice Lemmy never once used these pickups.
After contacting Seymour Duncan they didn’t provide any more information.
Bass strings Lemmy used
He expressed in an interview that his string selection isn’t really a big deal in the great scheme of things. As he came from a generation where you used what you had.
Dunlop Lemmy signature strings
In Summer 2012 Dunlop released their very own Lemmy signature string set. Essentially taking the advantages from the Blue Steels and creating a Dunlop version.
- Lemmy Signature String* .050″, .070″, .085″, .105″
Lem used the Dunlop signatures right up to his last performance as stated in Bass Players “The Final Interview”.
Lemmy’s effects pedals
Finally, we get to effects or rather the lack of them.
Kilmister proudly states to never using any effects. His sound comes from hitting his amplifier extremely hard. He admits in an interview he once tried a Wah pedal but it wasn’t to his liking.
In the same interview Lemmy reveals his amplifier settings. Presence is at 3 o’clock. Bass is off. Middle is full. Treble is off and Volume at 3 o’clock. He says it gives him a bit of a lift.
The Okko Motorbass pedal
This pedal was designed for the consumers to get a similar tone to Lemmy. It’s a tribute to his sound and designed in his memory after his passing.
Conclusion to the Lemmy Bass Rig
I’ve had so much fun researching this video I really hope you guys enjoyed it too. If you’re new to the channel and site leave me a comment down below and say “hello”.
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In the next Know Your Bass Player
Keep an eye out for an update video coming out soon and we’ll have another community vote.
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My thanks go out to Antoine for contributing to my research.
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