Stooge politics with Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop, who'll turn 60 in April, is calling from "Miami, the edge of America and a short spit from New York." He's in great spirits, wisecracking, laughing, and acting for all the world like a rock star enjoying his life. Which is exactly what he is. One of the rock stars, in fact, so deeply imbedded in the firmament that like Dylan, Bowie, or Clapton, one name says it all.
Another name that says it all is Stooges, the trio of Motor City prepunk, twisted metal, and hardcore rock & rollers from the Sixties and Seventies, reformed and boasting a new CD, The Weirdness, which sounds like, well, the Stooges. Not the Stooges grown up or smarter, just some Raw Power, same as 1973.
Austin Chronicle: How does the dynamic change when you write songs for yourself as opposed to the Stooges?
Iggy Pop: Having to work with the other guys keeps me a little more down to Earth. When it's my own thing, I tend to meander. With a group, you get reactions to ideas you have, and it becomes a group thing. And we are a genuine group. At this point, we find ourselves somewhat in possession of a brand, but we're still an actual group. There aren't many left who are able to get a record out that anybody's going to hear. Most of the groups over the last 20 years or so are brands, where there's one guy who's got 80 to 99 percent of the salient talent in the group. And he has people that play along with him, and they call it Nine Inch Nails. Does anyone care who the four other guys with similar haircuts to Trent Reznor's are? But they're, quote unquote, a group.
Nirvana approached that, but there was an extraordinary drummer. He was still just a drummer, and one guy was basically handling the thematics. Those groups tend to work better, because there's just no time to fuck around in the modern world where there are such incredible fortunes to be made in this industry very quickly and such incredible penalties for those who would just whistle a merry tune in poverty [laughs].
AC: How does band as "brand" affect its audience?
IP: Expectation. That gets a little weird. You have to be firm about where the door in is, where the door out is, and what your visit is about. And kick 'em the hell out if they don't like what you are up to [laughs]. There's something about the Internet that's changed. Along with the increasing isolation from everyone else is this very strict and regimented typewritten verbalization on everything.
I try to stay away from the Internet. I'm really the kind of guy who should not be allowed on it [laughs]. I'm going to get myself in trouble because I have extreme views and extreme reactions. Day in and day out, there's going to be people who say they like you, think they like you, think they know what you're about, think they know what your music is. They're going to expect one thing, and if you don't sound like that, you're going to hear about it.
This is a group that formed with policies based on my theories. I said to these two other guys, "Look. Form a group with me, and here's the way we'll do it. Here's what other groups in our area are doing, and they're wrong. Here's what you do: First, go very far afield for your roots. Don't sound like the guy up the street who just had a hit. You have to come up with something totally your own."
Once you have that, if you try to do something very, very good, people will react. If you like it, others will.
Now, did I know this was going to take 37 years? [Laughs] No! I had no idea! But that was the way this thing kicked in, and that's the way we operate. Once you're in it, things get very, very complicated, indeed. Nine gigs into our career, when you start to notice, "Hey, some people in the house are getting this!" you think, "Maybe we need a little show biz," but the other part of your brain thinks, "Maybe what these people need is a kick in the ass." So you compromise and buy a pie and throw it at them. That's kinda how I think.
AC: What's it like to have come through your life relatively unscathed?
IP: Fantastically lucky, and I'm not sure why. I know what these corny American celebrities say when they say, "I'm blessed by the Lord." I hate when they say that. "God has blessed me with all this loot," and, "I know there's a God because look at all the shit he gave me." But I'm in there somewhere, and I'm having a nice old age. So far.
AC: What's the deal with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Van Halen over the Stooges. Please. I made a rule that the Chronicle won't vote in any more Texans until Doug Sahm and the 13th Floor Elevators get in.
IP: I often think about the Elevators when I say to myself, "The Stooges are one of many groups that were good and interesting, and because one of our members stuck around and managed to clean up well, we're getting attention with our music for a second time. But we're not the only ones who deserve that."
As far as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, they're not going to consider it in a certain way. I never really expected it from them. It's run by a very particular group of people. It represents very particular things they want to accomplish, and it's fine if we're not included. I hear about it every time from my friends. I remember Ron [Asheton] telling me we were nominated, and my drummer was excited. And the next thing I know, I imagine myself saying, "Hey Dad, guess what! Your son is in the Hall of Fame!"
Otherwise, I don't have much of an opinion about it. It was just like, "Oh God. Now I have to hear about this every time I do a bloody interview!" [Laughs] But that's fine. One of the things that keeps the Stooges out is that we've never sold a significant amount of records at one time within the boundaries of the USA. That's a common thread in everyone they induct. I rode on an airplane with Sam Moore of Sam & Dave the day after he got in, and he was begging me for a job. He had a hit, but he didn't have a career.
It's just business. It's okay. We've done well, and we have no complaints. But I won't hold my breath waiting for them to give a shit.
The Stooges' SXSW showcase: Saturday, March 17, Stubb's @ 12:30am