interviews Iggy Pop:
WHFS, Bethesda, MD, USA, December, 1980.
"Well, I played mainly for, well Sam helped me. He, I decided one day that I, I was a local drummer around Ann Arbor. And I decided..."
"You did start out playing drums. Do you still play drums?"
"Um, no, I play the bongos sometimes, but a set of drums, I don't like to touch them anymore. It's like ah, it's like if you're very, very good at something, and then you, and then you lose the edge of it a little bit, then you don't like to pick it up again, you see, if you're not going to be just 100 and 1 percent. I'm sure that you have something, everyone has a hobby that they've blown out, you know. Yeah, I started well I wanted to hang out, I wanted to go you know go hang out with the Nogs in Chicago because I hated the college town.
I was living in, and I hated the I was working mainly you know with older, sorta older Beats.We still had Beats left over at that time, it was like 1966, and you had the leftover of the Beats, the beginnings of the people starting to grow their hair but make it clean.You know, in those days if you had long hair it was dirty. That was being a beatnik, you know. They were more interested in like shooting up and or taking bennies than marijuana. Tea wasn't that popular. They called it tea, and kinda sneered at it.
"Marijuana was just coming in at that time, the resurgence..."
"Yeah, marijuana was just making a resurgence just about time. I didn't smoke it. In fact but when I did, when I smoked my first joint, that's when I remember, I was living in this little crack in the sewage system on the Chicago River and I was working for guys like Huddle and..."
"You were a Hawk."
"Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, yeah, I was a Hawk and I worked with Cotton a couple times, and I worked with, Big Walter Horton was my favorite. Playing drums, is this? Yeah, my favorite to work with Big Walter Horton, he used to pull, he pulled a knife on me the first time I..."
"He's been known to do that..."
"And known to pull some guns also."
"Yeah, yeah, he pulled it right on me, on the car, on the way to the first gig, said sorta like "ok now, see if you can follow this' and then started blowing this rthymn, you know, and I had to tap it out with him and I could follow that old...Ha, ha, ha I said "look old man, I can do anything you can, give me a break."
"What drew you to this music in the first place, how did you get involved..."
"Well because they had, because they had, because they had a rhythm, and they had a childishness; they had a childishness and they had a timelessness in their music, they had a sense, they weren't...I found the whites to be stiff and pedantic, and boring and disgusting and fat-assed.and yeahhck! You know what I mean, made me just want to retch. Whereas the blacks were like wow, everything was happy, you know what I mean, and boy but then when things weren't happy--oooh-la-la-la! were things unhappy. And it was great! Things were exciting and they didn't care about, you know what I mean, they didn't look at you and ask you like, well ah, I don't know they weren't all business.You know what I'm saying? You know? And I was in heaven there, I slept, and I slept, sometimes I slept in this little crack, as I was telling you, in the sewage treatment plant, across from the Marina Towers nobody knew I was there. Nobody ever found out, it was like outdoors. Sometimes I slept in the basement of a record store called Delmark Records on West Grande."
"Bob Kestor's place?"
"Yeah, Kestor, that's right. And uh, I'd sleep around, you know, and then one day, one day I smoked my first joint, and I was sitting by the river and I smoked it, and I thought "Why should I work for these spades, man, I'm going, I want to be in front, tis better to receive, let someone else play." But I learned some things from them, I knew what I wanted to do, that moment, pop! I knew what I wanted to do."
"At that point though, all the whites were trying to imitate that sound."
"Yeah right, well I always felt that, I always felt that what's important about a sound is not how it sounds, it's what it is, it's what the hell that's going on that makes it sound that way, and then once you understand the components, the component parts of any artistic process, which is always more important and fun than the results anyway, then once you understand the component parts the outer form can take any shape whatsoever, if you follow me, do you see what I mean, in other words, well you follow me, I don't need to give you an example."
"You actually sat on the stage there every night, and played shuffles on the drums there in Chicago."
Yes, I did, I did, yeah. Shuffles and a lot of times I played four, they didn't care..."
"Were you singing at all at that time?"
"They didn't care, no, no, I wasn't singing, Strictly drums... Strictly drums. I kept singing to myself, I would sing like at night, I would walk along and sing, you know. But they didn't care if you played fours, or shuffle or what you played, as long as you just rickity tickity toc-toc, they didn't care that much."
"How were you playing with Sammy Lingo, he's a fine drummer in his own right..."
"Well, I, no, no, I didn't play with Sam, I went to ah, I got his number and his address and went to Chicago and sought him out, as it were, and said "would you introduce me to some people who could get me some jobs."
"Was this before the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was it the same time?"
"This was after he left. He had a bad problem with his respirations, tuberculosis and what's that other disease that's like it, it doesn't really matter, you know the type, you know these weird diseases, I can't remember the other one, it's one wet, pleurisy."
"He had to leave the road, so I can't remember who was playing, they got another guy. He was really nice, he was really nice, fed me some fried chicken as a matter of fact, when I got to town. He was great guy, a really good man, you know, from Birmingham, Alabama."
"Tell me about the Iguanas and the Prime Movers".
"Oh well, the Prime Movers were a bunch of effete beatniks, you know..."
"What kind of music did they play?"
"Ah, ersatz blues and ah..."
"Was this around Ann Arbor or Detroit?"
"That was Ann Arbor."
"But there was a blues scene happening in Ann Arbor at that time also, wasn't there?"
"Yeah, that's right but it wasn't no real blues scene, it wasn't real you know, 'cause no one in Ann Arbor had the blues, as it were, you know..."
"Rich kids didn't have the blues."
"Well, they aren't rich there, they're just, I mean rich is lovely, you know. I'm looking forward to marrying a very wealthy woman, you know..."
I" like rich, yeah, that's right. These kids there, it's a dry town. I've never cared for Ann Arbor very much. I went to school there really and that's all. I lived, I'm from Ypsilanti, which is more like a town, it's oakies, bunch of oakies."
"What about the Iguanas? What kind of band were they?"
"That was just my high school band. Really? You know, son of realtor, son of insurance salesman, son of clerk, you know..."
"You were doing cover tunes back in that band...which were on the radio."
"That's right, that's right, I was trying to get 'em to do things as adventurous as Kink's songs instead of perfidia, you know."
"Back into the the best play adventures..."
"Perfidia, again, you know, you know..."
"That was advanced back in those days, right, no more adventurous as the Kinks."
"It was about that time..."
"It was about that time that you adopted the name Iggy..."
"Oh, Jesus, it's the FOOD!"
"They can't tell that on the air, they can't see that--they haven't perfected smellavision yet. (laughs)
"Yes, where were we?
"About that time you adopted the name Iggy, while you were in high school then..."
"Sorry, I was thinking about...(laughs)"
"They can't see that either."
"Iggy, oh when I adapted, Iggy was a name, Iggy was a diminutive, that was, people would call me to hassle me, and it kinda stuck, it was a nickname that stuck. And Pop, I took from one of my boyhood heroes, a guy named Jim Pop, who sniffed so much glue that he lost all his hair. And he would lay around the student union you know, just laying there, like, with these big frog eyes and looked more like a frog as he lost his eyebrow hair too, and every time the hair on the top of his head would start to grow back, my friend Scotty Asheton, who later became the drummer in the Stooges, I was teaching him to play the drums at the time, would go up to him and just give him a good hard flick the top of his head, pup!-- like that, and it would all fly off again. And he would just smile, he didn't know, you know. He fascinated me, fascinating creature."
"All right, so let's see, so you gave up this blues scene in Chicago, you had enough, you wanted to be on your own."
"That's right, the next thing to do was find the right bunch of dolts, or as it were, Stooges."
"Formed a band called the Stooges, it that just the way it happened, dolts and stooges?"
"I wanted to find some people that didn't, that--who I could dominate. (Weasel laughs.) You know really, that's about it, guys who weren't musicians. This is about 1968. Yeah, and I was just walking along and there they were one day, big as life, just standing in front of the drugstore, you know, skipping school smoking cigarette type of guys, you know what I mean. Stretch Levis, you got it, you know. Pointy shoes, you know, low brow, low brow guys."
"You were referred to as THE Stooges, not Iggy, just the Stooges, sometimes the Psychedelic Stooges also."
"Yeah first it was the Psychedelic Stooges, yeah,(laughing) that took us, we spent the first year of our exsistance just thinking up our name, we 'd just sit around and talk about what name we were gonna have, we never did practice.(laughter again) That took us a year, but once we came up with a name, it was a really good one, you know, it stuck, it's stood the test of time."
"What kind of vision of music--what did you want the band sound like when you formed the Stooges? What did you have in mind?"
"I wanted music to reach out and strangle people. But actually that was, I always, actually at first it was a very gentle music. And then when I realized how creepy people are when it comes to listening to something often, at least especially back then, I'm not sure about now, then it gradually became more and more aggresive, until by the time we'd been together six months and we'd not even played a gig yet, it was just total, it--it was assault music, really. What we would do, we'd have people come over to the house and we'd do things like we'd start making sounds, one guy would be beating on things in the kitchen, and we'd turn off all the lights, and like lock them in our house, and then we'd leave ourselves.You know, torture."
"Torture, it basically started out as torture. And then went from there."
"So, you were way ahead of your time. Yeah, definitely way ahead of your time. A strange dichotomy, it's about 1968 the time you were doing this kind of music, was the time that everybody else was in this Love generation, and flowers and sweetness, and all that. And you were the complete dichotomy."
"I never found those people lovable." (laughs)
"The guys with the flowing robes and the long hair and the flowers and the necklaces..."
"Didn't turn me on, you know."
"You were also..."
"I alway liked young pussy, you know, I'm a simple guy."
"You were also the darling of Rudnick and Frawley on WABX."
"Yeah, I've done very well with the gays. The gays have always been good to me. Them I'll support them in anything they do, because they were the first really to support me. The gay movement supported me really strongly at first, you know. Mainly them--the gays and the disabled. I used to get a lot at my shows, you know."
"What happened when the records finally started getting played? By the way, it was Elektra, right, Elektra signed your band and they signed the MC5 about the same time."
"They signed me before I had a record contract, before I'd ever written a song actually."
"They didn't know what they were getting?"
"Well, what I used to do in the Stooges when we started out, it was very important that, I felt that it was very important that people should feel that they were getting originals, an original. And so, on each given evening, I'd perform three or four pieces, and they lyrics would be made up on the spot, and the riffs would have been made up that week, you know, we'd work up this weekend's riffs, and then we'd go out and play, and it would never be heard again, ever. So that people knew that they were getting something which was only going to happen once."
"Creativity, spontaneous creativity."
"Well not the spontaniety so much, because I'm good at, I'm a very good rhymer, (snapping fingers) very, very quick and good with words. So it's not that something wasn't planned, it was simply like a painting, if you were there, I was trying to apply like the concept of ownership, when you have an object, an art object that has value, right, I was trying, I borrowed that and tried to bring it to to music. In other words, ok, if you're here tonight, you're going to hear something that nobody else is ever going to hear again."
"Did you ever do it the same way again though, did you ever go back the next night or the next week and do the..."
"Oh no, no, no. These songs were, these songs were like "Goodby Bozos" and there was a lot of songs, you know, different songs, "I'm Sick", "Asthma Attack" was another one. They were songs that only, no, each one was only to be done once and never again."
"Well how did you come up with the concept of a record, then? Now that you were signed by a record company, how did you decide what you were going to put on a peice if vinyl?"
"Well, I went out and bought a guitar for thirty-two bucks, nylon strings, and uh, I learned to play cheater cords, little cheater chords on it, 'bout three string cords..."
"Open tuning, right?"
"No, I just learned how to do it without, like just using three note cords, and I learned A, E, D, and God, a long time later I found B."
"You can get away with murder playing with the 1, 4, and 5 cords, you were playing blues anyway."
"And I wrote, I decided I'd like to write some songs, and I wrote "No Fun", "1969", "I Wanna Be Your Dog", and uh, "Little Doll", "Not Right", that whole first album I wrote, with exception of, I had a little help from Ron Asheton on a couple of the riffs, but Ron wasn't very good at organizing material, and I was."
"What did Elektra think of all this? Jack Holtzman there at the time?"
"I don't know what they thought, they must have, you see at that time..."
"They were interested with the Doors about that time, right?"
"I was a simple, you see I'm not a, these guys are like, you know they're sophisticated, you know sophisticated uh, you know the type, sophisticated useless people, you know with money and things, and a bit of, they had perhaps a bit broader understanding of the spectrum of man and all that shit than I did. I'm a simple guy, from the sticks, I'm a hick from the sticks, that just happens to be a genius and overflowing with talent, you know, but other than my utterly superior grasp of my art and it's implications, other than that, I'm just a hick from the sticks, and so that I don't know what they were thinking of me, because it all passed over my head. You undesrtand what I mean? I think, looking back on it, it was something like having a wonderful new toy to them, that they didn't realise that a person like this had ever exsisted and they didn't know--they weren't scared of me, it was great. They didn't know what to make of me."
"You realise they were putting out Judy Collins' records about that time. Tom Paxton..."
"Well, yeah, but they were also, they were taking me over and whoring me to Gloria Stavers at Sixteen Magazine. I was on the cov, I used to be on the cov, they didn't know whether to put me, well should they make me a teen idol, or should we make him a collegiant rebellion figure?"
"Did you what to be a teen idol?"
"No, no I didn't want to be any of those things! I just thought, well gosh, they want me to meet this nice lady who going to help my career, can I play some more music? You know it's hard to get gigs, and you've got to feed your bands, 'cos bands are like pirates, they're like the lowest form of life, the rock bands, these people are just dirt, you know. In fact I'd like to say a big hello to my band, you know. My band is dirt, the band I've got now --these guys are foul, I'm telling you, Jeezus Christ! What an insult, sorry..."
"What happened when it didn't work out with Elektra? You didn't meet their expectations."
"When it really didn't work out with Elektra was on the second album, which is when I really started to get good, which was "Funhouse" which had compositions like "Down On The Street", "1970" and "TV Eye", much of which I'll play, in fact I'd like to plug my gig tomorrow night at the, uh..."
"The Ontario Theater, yeah, I'm gonna be playing a lot off "Raw Power", stuff like "Shake Appeal", "Raw Power", and all that kind of jazz, and a lot stuff off "Funhouse", a lot of real bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp... like there aren't any slow songs."
"Let's talk about "Raw Power".
"Yeah, ok, well, anyway when they realised what.they really had on their hands--that it was S and M rock, or whatever you want to call it, they didn't, anyway they kicked me off 'cos they said I had no sales potential."
"So you wound up in London."
"Yeah, it took about a year or so."
"Was it any different then Ann Arbor or Detroit or New York?"
"Yeah, they were hipper. They were hipper."
"Think they appreciated you more in England or Europe?"
"I'm always suspicious of being appreciated by anyone, you know what I mean. But I know they had more open ears for my music. They had no prejudices against it, you know what I mean. They didn't feel like "Well, but can he play a blues lick?" You know what I mean, you know what I'm saying? They didn't feel that way "Well, is it multi-level, I mean is this minimalist?"
"Well, that's very hip right now, that whole minimalist idea, and it's very funny because you talk about creating things..."
"Well, I started all that, because again that goes back to when I used to listen around the house to the machines, because..."
"Because, well, if you just strum a cord on a electric guitar, and especially if it's in the hands of a master, the overtones are, the overtones are just incredible, and of course everyone's ears, depending on your mood and your sensitivity, will pick up different implications, if you will, different implications, different--there is a lovely word, what is that great word? Well, is almost like ennui. Ennui. For me there's ennui, I mean when I play my tunes I played some of them a billion zillion times it seems like, you know, but I always hear them different, 'cos there aren't many notes to get in the way!
"Is "Raw Power" your favorite record?"
"No, I think I've made better records. I think "The Idiot" is an awfully good record and way ahead of it's time. And I think about half of "Raw Power" is really good, and about, there's four really good songs on it, is what there is. There's "Raw Power", there's "Shake Appeal", there's "Search and Destroy", and one other one, I can't remember, but there's one other really good, well "Gimme Danger" is fair. There's about four good songs on it, the rest is just filler, because we were having, see--the original "Raw Power", oh, what songs that had on it! I-yie-yie! And they wouldn't, Tony DeFriese, "I'm ashamed to release this stuff, James. You'll have to go in and just do something else." So that was the album before "Raw Power" which had all, a bunch of other songs--"I Gotta Right", and "Tight Pants" and "Gimme Some Skin", and this was really up tempo."
"They were never released, to this day."
"To this day, they've not been released properly, you can get them around on bootlegs and funny little, funny little anthologies."
"Does Columbia still own the master, the rights?"
"Every time I tour England, they always put out ads to "Raw Power" and they always re-release it. All my records are out in England, all the time, and the continent, just not here."
"They do appreciate you in Europe. After "Raw Power" you kind of disappeared for a while, right and resurfaced with a contract with Arista."
"That's right yeah. No, after "Raw Power" I split and I resurfaced with a contract with RCA. And I worked for David Bowie on "The Idiot" and "Lust For Life".
"Right, just one."
"Two, "The Idiot" and "Lust For Life", and then I did a live album, called "TV Eye", just to rip off as much money as I could from the record company before I left. So I made a lot, actually I lived like a king, baby! Oh, God, you know, just used the whole album budget to do whatever my little heart desired."
"How did you end up on Arista then?"
"I hocked, I decided it was time, I bought a guiter, I had a guitar, that's what I had to show for one of my American tours, I think fall '77, and I had the thing in my hand and I went down to Manny's on 48th and I said "I'm gonna play you" and he said "Oh yeah?" My guitar's named Butch, you know. I said "Yes, I am, come on, here we go". And I got my guitar and stopped touring and disbanded all bands, and got a new manger, and decided to go truly solo and hocked my chinese rugs, seriously, and hocked my chinese rugs to stay alive, and had a very, I lived like a pauper in Berlin all winter, and I was very cold and very, very poor, and very happy, and made up all this music, and I made up about three albums worth.You were just playing one of them--"I'm Bored".
"Right, we're going to play that one in a minute."
"That was written on the Hauptstraussen(?)right there, across from Annie's Naughtchau(?), across from the naked show, you know."
"This is the one that drives people crazy."
"And I just wrote all this stuff and I just assumed, my manager was in England, and I said "I know you're going to get me a contract, you know, I'm not worried", course I was. And he did, and then so I started putting records out on Arista."
"Well, let's listen to this tune called "I'm Bored", and we'll come back and talk a little more, ok. Iggy Pop!"
("I'm Bored" and "Dogfood" played on the air.)
"... in the audience, well why not?"
"Well, she, I think I know her."
"A likely story, that's what they all say. Iggy Pop, we're talking to...we heard "Dogfood". You've got this fixation with dogs, right, back with the Stooges you did "I Wanna Be Your Dog?"
"There's something about the dog, I don't know what it is."
"You relate to dogs a whole lot."
"There's something about the word. I don't know what that is with me and dogs, it's the submissiveness I think, you know."
"You wrote that tune about twelve years ago."
"I like to like, lay down at night and get kicked around, you know. I've always liked that. I've always liked strong women."
"Well dogs have it very easy, don't they? They get kept by masters, and they get fed, and..."
"What I figure is that, that I'm going to probably, that's my dream, to come back as a big black French poodle and with a beautiful rich mistress. I'll be on my leash and I'll jump on her leg from time to time, you know."
"You wrote that song about twelve years ago..."
"Yeah, I did. But it wasn't released until... But I thought it was too extreme, to put out then, you know, so, little did I know that all my songs were too extreme, and so I just held it back for a while, and recorded it with this band. It's about my girlfriend Betsy, and just about hanging around."
"What about your new band, you've been together for a while now..."
"Yeah, we've been together actually for nearly a year, yeah..."
"Who's in it?"
"They're a bunch of creeps, no accounts, they're no talents. Uh, Michael Paige on the bass, who used to play with Chubby, Chubby Checker, do the hucklebuck and all that stuff."
"Round and round, up and down."
"Yeh, he's the love interest in the band, he's a real big guy. And little Dougie Brown, who I kinda heisted from John Cale, and Doug's a very talented drummer actually, and Ivan Kral and Robbie Du Pre on the guitars, and Rob's, he's from here, from DC, and Ivan, he's not, he's from Prague, Czechoslovakia, you may have heard him in the Patti Smith Band, Ivan Kral, was the one of the guitarists, the one who could play in the Patti Smith group. And Rob, he used to work with this kid, you know Lance Loud, is that the name Loud, you know "The Americam Family", or whatever--the creep with the lunchbox? Yeah, he worked with him in a band called the Mumps, and had done numerous other things as well, and he's a very, very good guitarist.You know it's funny you asked me, that was nice, what we were talking about, about how the Heads have done this album where they started out with the rhythmns and put the lyrics over, you know. I think that's a perfectly, I think ass backwards can be a good way to do a lots of things."
"It's definitely creativity."
"There is no one way to have to do anything, you know."
"You can be very prolific doing that, because you don't have to go into the studio having to have twelve tunes or ten tunes already prepared, you can just do an endless number of albums."
"I mean the public has made me what I am, it's not my responsibility."
"Of course it drives the record companies crazy, you know, they have no concept of what they're getting."
"Yeah right, they can't hear it anyway, they're all jerks."
"Well as long as they make money on it they're happy."
"Yeah well, money or some of them, they keep alive these weird archaic stars forever and ever, just so they can have their photographs taken with them, because they think "well, this reflects my kind of taste as a man". You know what I mean? It's the kind of guy, like well let's see "I've got my car and I've got this artist that I support", you know what I'm saying? you know, it's not only money to these guys , it's their creepy sense of..."
"Yes, their lifestyle! Oh I hate that word! Aaaaahh!"
"You think this band will be together for a while?"
"Yeah, oh yeah. It's jelling well. Yeah, especially because we worked all summer on an album, we'll play some things off it tomorrow night, wherever we are...oh the tape ran out."
"Oh, I see, tomorrow night wherever we are -- where's that?"
"The Ontario Theater."
"The Ontario Theater, yeah. "
"You're playing with Joan Jett and the Insect Surfers, in case anybody asks you."
"Oh, who else, who else? The Insect Surfers. Oh, the Insect Surfers, alright, I like that!. What time does it start, then?"
"What time does it start, Zack?"
"I'll probably go down around eight myself, hangout, you know, listen to the bands, that's what I usually do."
"And talk to people?"
"Yeah, I usually sit around and drink, listen to the band more, it's kind of a bother to chat, when somebody's trying to play."
"So you have a new album coming out very shortly then?"
"No, not very shortly, it's not done yet.We'll finish it up in New York when i get this tour up and have a little vacation."
"You deserve a vacation."
"Yeah, once in a while, really. I don't like them too often, 'cos I like to play...but you know. And then I'm sure everyone will stay in the band because their names will all be on the album you see.(laughing) So they'll have to stay in the band."
"Why not, they're committed."
"We have a lot of fun you know, we really do, we have a good time."
"Well, I want to thank you for coming by..."
"Got any drugs?"
"Do I ask them to get these things?"
"Oh, no I'm supposed to, Jack and Doc thank you very much for calling."
"Ok anybody else you want to give your regards to?"
"No, not really."
"Ok, we'll see you tomorrow night at the Ontario Theater Ok. Well, have a good time. This is called..."
"I'm so happy about that."
"Mr. Reagan, you're happy about that?"
"Really, yeah, no more pussy, yeah well, anyway, I'll see you later. I think I've talked enough."
"Ok, have yourself a nice evening, this is a tune called "Ambition", this is Iggy Pop."
"Oh, thanks, this is a good tune."
1997: What's New, Pussycat? Iggy Walks The Doggiehtttp://music.yahoo.com/read/interview/12043118