Lemmy, the music club that opened on Girstupio street over a year ago, is known to the public as home for alternative music in Kaunas. Five people administrate and lovingly take care of it, and two of them – Darius Laurinavičius and Rosvaldas Serapinas – told us the club’s story just before they open their doors for the last time this season (just to come back stronger than ever in Autumn). That's June 16th, folks!
Darius Laurinavičius and Rosvaldas Serapinas. Photo by Teodoras Biliūnas
Let’s go back to the origins of Lemmy – what was your first encounter with heavy metal?
D. L. Rosvaldas and I come from the same town of Vilkija, we’re not genuine Kaunasians. Small places have very few people who like unpopular music and sooner or later those folks meet.
R. S. This was probably 1992 or 1993 – the dreary 1990s!
D. L. I wasn’t really into any music for a long time – it wasn’t important to me. My neighbour gave me a cassette of Motorhead and Whitesnake when I was 13, this was a surprising breaking point. The heavy music of guitars still captivates me, probably influencing my whole life’s path since 1989.
Rosvaldas, what nudged you to choose heavier music?
R. S. It was probably another neighbour! Actually, I only started listening to it later – I was a keen fan of Depeche Mode and Foje before. Then came Sepultura, trash and death metal. On the other hand, we don’t focus just on metal today, we like various tunes.
As for the name of the club, did any of you use to go to school dressed in Motorhead T-shirts (the leader of Motorhead was Lemmy Kilmister)?
D. L. We’ll get to the name later. I knew about Motorhead in school but they weren’t my favourite, I preferred Sepultura or Metallica. And I didn’t have T-shirts of Motorhead back then!
A life-size poster of the singer was hanged at the club as soon as it opened
So what did you T-shirts say?
R. S. When we were in school, the dress code was strict – we had uniforms. It was only after classes that you could showcase T-shirts like that to friends, and it was a problem buying them, especially original ones.
Comment on the club’s name.
D. L. The story goes that we had a lot of options ourselves but we decided to take it to Facebook. We were curious to hear what people want, and one of the suggestions was “Lemmy”.
R. S. Lemmy Kilmister had just died.
D. L. Coincidence – the day we met to finalise the name was the actual day his funeral took place. This was just another reason to pay our respect to him this way.
Now you can celebrate the club’s birthday and remember his death anniversary on the same day.
R. S. Yes. Also, we liked that the word “Lemmy” can be independent out of the Motorhead context. It’s simple, clear and easy to recall.
D. L. Certainly, we highly respect L. Kilmister but we didn’t want to turn the club into a memorial place. Lemmy’s interior isn’t Motorhead-styled with the band’s CDs lying around and so on. It’s not a mausoleum!
R. S. Yes, the dedication to L. Kilmister is just an accent. We had a Motorhead-themed club birthday though, with the band Murder One and underground musicians creating a Motorhead cover project for our special occasion.
Photo by Evelina Luna
Why did you start the Lemmy project? How did it all happen?
R. S. Firstly, we felt a vacuum in Kaunas – there was no place for bands playing heavier music to perform.
D. L. It was a long process, including the days of Underground Pub. Concerts were regular, but, with all due respect to that place, it wasn’t the best spot to bring performers to. Eventually it closed down and there was a lack of a club in Kaunas that was home to rock and roll. What happened was what usually happens – someone else takes the flag and carries it. Both of us were in this business for a long time, playing, organising events and festivals Nekro Disko, Tamsa Šnabžda, etc.
R. S. Yes, we’re musicians from the days back in Vilkija, when we tried to play heavy metal in the school’s hall, with third- and fourth-graders listening to us. Teachers were there as well; they were critical yet allowed us to express ourselves. Later I played in several bands, Darius still does. We felt the need for a spot like this ourselves – it’s the second biggest city in Lithuania and there’s no club to play at?
D. L. We though why don’t we – music lovers and organisers – create such a space? We wanted to have work that was not just for the money.
R. S. Right, we didn’t have an investor that threw some money at us and told us his requirements. It was all us, our ideas and our savings, which we used on renovation and other necessary processes. The goal of the club wasn’t to make money. It was to become a creative space that the city desperately needed.
D. L. Kaunas deserves to be a Western city with cultural variety, therefore a place for suitable representation of alternative music should always be taken seriously.
Your Facebook page says Lemmy is a music club and a space for the alternative arts. What do you mean by that?
R. S. If someone would approach us with a good idea for a performance, an exhibition, dance lessons or any other presentation of art, we’d say yes and we’d help as much as we can.
Lemmy celebrated its first birthday this February. What are you most proud of?
R. S. We celebrated the actual year we had – it showed us that our ideas can be brought to reality. We had around 150 events throughout the year, often more than one band performed during an evening.
D. L. I agree with Rosvaldas that our biggest achievement is this first year itself. We made a few mistakes along the way and had to learn everything from the start, for instance, while doing constructional work. Another big win was keeping the five of us respecting each other. This was educational in the way we managed to avoid conflicts.
R. S. Also, the feedback is truly positive, from the social channels to musicians and guests talking to us after shows. A year went by and Lemmy is a known club, bands find us themselves.
D. L. We get offers not only from underground musicians but also from serious agencies that have us in their list as reliable partners able to host high-calibre performers. Sometimes I stop to notice that this small club welcomes bands that are destined to play big arenas next. For example, musicians working with labels like Nuclear Blast or Napalm Records started their careers here: Cobra and the Lotus, Evil Invaders, Conan. Carnifex, a well-known American heavy metal band is coming at the end of the year.
R. S. Many musicians that play with the likes of Kiss and AC DC have stopped by, they perform all around the world and yet they know this place. I’m happy that they appreciate our professionalism; this kind of trust is of crucial importance to us. Bands recommend us to each other as a reliable venue. Kaunas actually never had alternative concerts of such a high level before – even people from Vilnius are surprised how often they have to come here. We’re not competing with anyone but it’s always a motivational push when you’re doing well. As for the spectators, they saw that Lemmy is a vibrant place with a long-term vision and quality control. We have to keep working for our programme to be fresh, diverse and attractive each month. For instance, the upcoming weekend will be quite different as it’s dedicated to electronic, industrial genres.
What role does the geography play? Meaning the Stumbras distillery as a concrete location and Kaunas in a wider sense.
It’s all in perfect balance: we have a vodka distillery, a bus station and a railway station. No private apartments nearby, so we can make as much noise as we like. Kaunas is a pretty compact city and coming to the club on foot is relatively easy.
Is Kaunas in tune with rock and roll?
D. L. Why wouldn’t it be? There was always rock and roll here, and we work to keep it that way. If this wasn’t a city for that, we wouldn’t have survived.
D. L. You can never know, maybe we’ll become the Baltic version of Underworld (famous alternative club in London), which is a small place too yet a very prestigious one among bands. On a more serious note, we hope that we won’t run out of drive, that some inevitable events won’t harm the club and that Lemmy will remain a much needed club five years from now.
Interview by Julija Račiūnaitė.