Irritatingly Interesting: An Interview With Iggy Pop

By Jeb Wright

Iggy Pop is a true icon of power punk, rock n’ roll. He took Jim Morrison’s stage antics to a new level. In fact, there is no debate over whether Pop whipped it out, as it was plain to see for anyone willing to look. Add rolling in glass onstage, inventing stage diving and punk rock and you can see why Iggy has always had a lust for life.

On September 27, 2011, MVD will release a new DVD titled Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power Live that sees The Stooges recreate their classic Raw Power album live in concert – with a twist. The DVD was filmed by Stooge fanatics that were selected by Iggy. There is also a bonus feature where the ubber Stooge fans get the opportunity to interview their hero.

Read on as we discuss how the fans chosen were irritatingly interesting to Pop, how Iggy was even coherent enough to record the original Raw Power and how attending a concert by the Doors changed his life. Oh yeah, and how he once wanted to become President of the United States of America.


Jeb: I love the album Raw Power. I love the fact that you played it last year in it’s entirety and that a DVD is being released on MVD next month. When Raw Power first came out, it kind of flopped, even though it is now considered a very influential album.

Iggy: There were certain people, that as soon as they heard it, it completely changed their life; a lot of them were musicians. From the get go it was a really, really great album but not a lot of people got to hear it when it first came out. If a lot of people would have got to hear it then it still would not have been a commercial album because it was way ahead of the times, way ahead of the music industry and it was also way ahead of all the damn people too.

Jeb: You were really fucked up back then. Did you realize how important this album was when you were writing, and recording it?

Iggy: Of course, I knew it was immediately important, at the time, because of the quality, and the consistency, and the care of which it was made. Of course, I knew how good it was. I wasn’t completely fucked up all the time. In terms of all that stuff, the album was recorded in a period of relevant calm between two of my own most fucked up periods of my life, which lasted, roughly, from late 1970 through the entire year of 1971. In 1972, I perked up long enough to write and record Raw Power. The album was mixed in early 1973, and in late 1973, my weaknesses in that regard, re-emerged. For another year and a half, through 1975, I was pretty fucked up, but in-between, there was a period where drug use, or whatever, was controlled enough where I was very much focused on work and able to focus, put it that way.

Jeb: Raw Power became the ultimate Stooges album.

Iggy: It is for a lot of people. There are those who prefer Fun House. It usually depends on what your musical values are. Personally, I like all three of them, equally. I like the first one as well. It’s fresh and it made certain breakthroughs that no one had ever done before. Raw Power is, by far, the most advanced of all the Stooges albums.

Jeb: Now, many years later, you did an entire concert of Raw Power.

Iggy: Ron [Asheton] past away in the first couple of days of 2009, I, then, spoke to James [Williamson]. I actually spoke to two people about possibly doing more work with the Stooges. James was one. He was the only real major league, A List, artist choice. The other one was a very nice fellow and a great player. He’s the guitarist for the band Radio Birdman, who are Stooges nuts. If he had been interested, I would have done something much more on the down low, reunion type gigs, just for fun. It turned out James became available. We started out in 2010 and we did one gig to warm up in Brazil in 2009. It wasn’t as good as we needed it to be but we needed to start somewhere to break the ice. Parts of that show were good and parts weren’t. We are, basically, in the second year of this right now.

Jeb: When did the idea to let six fans record the DVD first come up?

Iggy: Ed [Seaman, COO of MVD] approached us…it’s been a fucking year and I’d like to kick that guy in the head! He is such a big pain in my ass; his name is Ed and he’s with MVD. These things take a long time. The concert was just about exactly one year ago from when it is going to come out. He approached us about it that spring, so it’s been a about a year and a half ago. He had a nice idea. I liked the idea but I’m a very impatient person as you can tell from my vocals. I really don’t like waiting for things.

Jeb: This is Iggy and the Stooges, its not like there are going to be a bunch of overdubs needed.

Iggy: Exactly, there are no overdubs and there are no fucking crane shots. There is none of the stupid shit where they make the lights dance. But, everything takes a while with us and I always hate it, but it’s okay.

Jeb: How did you pick the six fans that got to record the show?

Iggy: To be honest, the company we made it with narrowed it down to about fifteen or twenty people. I was given an audition tape of each of them, and I was also given a list of the ones the company suggested, that I didn’t look at. The ones I chose were pretty close. I think there was one chick that was some sort of stripper. I think she was like a bondage specialist or something. I’m definitely not against those sorts of things but it was just that she seemed a little too much like she wanted to get into the act. They really wanted her in and that was the only one where I said ‘no.’ if there is any B&D done in this band, I’ll take care of it.

They were mostly the people who had the most genuine passion for the group and seemed to care about the group. It is sort of like American Idol; you get a lot of people who want to try out. “Hey, I heard there’s another reality thing happening.” We chose real fanatic, kind of anal fans, who knew a lot about the group and doing this would really be a big deal to them.

Jeb: You’re a rock icon but you are still kind of a down to earth guy --- well, maybe not down to earth – but I can’t think of a better description. Do you realize what a huge honor it is for those six fans to be able to do this?

Iggy: You know, I think maybe I do. I think that is good for everybody; it’s good for them and it’s good for me. I think there is a place in this world, unfortunately, for people who do everything by the numbers. I just can’t do it. I still get a kick out of people who let me know whatever we have got in common. I really do get a kick out of that.

Jeb: In addition to the videotaping, they also did an interview session with you. Were you impressed with their questions or were they kind of goofy?

Iggy: Actually, they were good in that everything was kind of like really detailed. There were little picky things that really bothered them, and that they really needed to know about, or they were going to go crazy. It was kind of nice. When you’re dealing with professionals, there is always some sort of pressure that they feel to represent the publication, or some sort of people who are not there in the room with them, but to whom this conversation is going to be presented. With them, it was a little more of a real conversation with someone who is irritatingly interesting [laughter]. That is kind of really nice. It’s never the most wonderful thing to talk about what you do when it comes to music, because talking is talking, and music is music. There is always a question in your mind about if this is all really necessary, or if this really spoils things. As it went on, it seemed okay to me. It is something I sort of did – it was not my idea, it was somebody else’s idea. I have a policy that if it is not going to cut my nose off then I will try to say, “you know what, maybe somebody else has a good idea. Let’s try it.” I don’t want to be like Robert Mugabe and tell everybody what to do, where to go and where they can jump over the fence.

Jeb: The concert that is coming out features Raw Power in its entirety. Was this the Holy Grail performance for Stooge fans? Did you nail it that night?

Iggy: We did, for what we have to offer, absolutely. There were certainly points, forty years ago, where I may have been prettier. I still think I’m pretty enough, now, to do my job. The group may have been more incredibly strange and exotic. As far as the overall totality of the performance, we’ve improved from where we were. If you compare it to what anybody else can do right now, then I think it really stands up.

I was lucky because I was working right close to the crowd. There were none of those fucking stage barriers; I was working knees to hands, which is my favorite way to work. I thought we played really, really well. It’s really rockin’ and the interaction with the crowd was good. I think it was a really fun and sweaty time.

Jeb: I have to ask if you plan your stage antics or if you are possessed by the moment?

Iggy: Some of them I just do by the moment because I just want to do it right then and there. If I am on a twelve-foot stage and the barrier is eight feet away, and has spikes on it, and the people on the other side are all crazy, then I don’t stage dive at all. We have one particular song that we do, it’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and because it is our oldest, and most very, very memorable number, I do it. I also do it on that song because I push so hard on the first two versus that I can’t think of anything to do by the time the guitar solo comes around. When the guitar solo comes, I tend to do a stage dive to go with the solo.

Jeb: I love it. People over think things and say what a genius Iggy is but really it’s just you looking for something to do with the guitar solo.

Iggy: Exactly. Sometimes some very practical things just come into play.

Jeb: I have heard you were really influenced by Jim Morrison. Is that true?

Iggy: I attended two concerts by the Doors. The first one I attended was early on and they had not gotten their shit together yet. That show was a big, big, big influence on me. They had just had their big hit, “Light My Fire” and the album had taken off. I had the album first and I really loved the record. The Doors played the University of Michigan Homecoming Dance, which was 5,000 mullet headed jocks and their rightwing girlfriends in a gymnasium. It looked like the gymnasium in that video “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.

So, here’s this guy, out of his head on acid, dressed in leather with his hair all oiled and curled. The stage was tiny and it was really low. It got confrontational. I found it really interesting. I loved the performance but the music sounded terrible because they didn’t have the sound system together. They had a really unique style and it wasn’t easy for them to sound good live, at first. Part of me was like, “Wow, this is great. He’s really pissing people off and he’s lurching around making these guys angry.” People were rushing the stage and Morrison’s going “Fuck you. You blank, blank, blank.” You can fill in your sexual comments yourself. The other half of it was that I thought, “If they’ve got a hit record out and they can get away with this, then I have no fucking excuse not to get out on stage with my band.” It was sort of the case of, “Hey, I can do that.” There really was some of that in there.

By the time they came to Detroit again, and played the big arena, in the big city, they were very polished, had a great sound and the music was fabulous. He still had a lot of presence and he still did some interaction with the audience. He sort of ran down the isle and back up at one point. He tried to get real. The band was much better, but it wasn’t quite as fabulously interesting. @

Jeb: Last one: If the music gig had not worked out, then what in the hell would you have done with your life?

Iggy: Before they shot Kennedy, I wanted to be President. I actually wrote my Civics term paper in 8th Grade on that. You had to write a paper and say what you wanted to do when you grew up. I actually wrote on saying that I would be President. The teacher said, “Are you sure you don’t want to just say you will be a politician?” I said, “No, I want to be President.”

I suppose I would have ended up with some sort of failed career in law school and veered off into politics, or, I might have become a drug dealer and gone to jail and died.

By the time I was about 16, I started to slide away from everything else, as I knew I wanted to be a musician.