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Getting Iggy With It

Dazed meet Iggy Pop on the return of his live show, as London prepares for its Ray Ban gig with the Big Pink and The New York Dolls...

The first time Iggy Pop stage dived, the Stooges were supporting Frank Zappa in Detroit in 1968. No one caught him. His teeth went through his upper lip and broke off at the tips. If the world wasn’t ready for James Osterberg then, these days there’s more than enough converts to catch him. This month, Ray-Ban is celebrating the launch of their new Aviator collection by bringing old & new generations of music together - kicking it off by inviting Iggy & The Stooges to take the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, supported by local up and comers Free Energy and The Virgins. There wasn’t any peanut butter or broken glass, but aged 63, Iggy proved he’s still one of the most deranged and electrifying performers in the business. Invite-only, the tiny space was shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Chloe Sevigny, Juliette Lewis, Agyness Deyn, and the odd Stroke. Rock photographer Kevin Cummins’ portraits of The Plasticines, The Big Pink and We Are Scientists - eyes shaded by Aviators – covered the walls. Pre-NYCshow, Dazed Digital met Iggy backstage, flanked by drummer Scott Asheton and guitarist James Williamson, who is back in the Stooges after a sabbatical of 30 years, with a guitar that sounds as unhygienic as ever. This Wednesday, Ray-Ban continues celebrating the rock roots at the heart of its new collection with another one-off gig, in London this time, courtesy of The New York Dolls and the Big Pink.
Iggy Pop: How are you doing, you cool?
Dazed Digital: Yeah tonight’s my first time seeing you live.
James Williamson: Well you should expect to get rocked!
Iggy Pop: Yeah! The set list is coming from the entire repertoire, stuff from our EPs, raw bootlegs, stuff that’s never been recorded before. Everything we’ve ever done and some stuff we only threaten to do. Ha ha! After Raw Power we kept writing, but we weren’t able to release anything, because we had some, ah, contractural tie-ups. Open Up and Bleed, Cock in My Pocket, Heavy Liquid, all those have only been bootlegged from shows. You know, this group has existed at all levels. It’s been very experimental, it’s been very rock and roll, it’s been a little jazzy, we’ve been, ah, slightly glam.
James Williamson: Very slightly glam.
Iggy Pop: Right? And we’ve been a street band and then also on some very serious record labels.

DD: Do you feel like you’re finally getting your dues now?
James Williamson: Well our songs were revolutionary songs! They weren’t like anything else anybody had ever heard before. It was only later when other bands imitated that style that people became accustomed to hearing it and now it sounds contemporary. Their ears adjusted.
Iggy Pop: The music business is always behind the other arts. It’s the stupidest of all the businesses. It’s way behind visual arts, way behind architecture, it generally lags behind automotive design, cybernetics, you name it. So we had some new ideas, that was part of it. Then there were some other things… we were maybe a little too….street….for the music industry. What we’re doing now, we never did then. We never did interviews about our music. We never went out and played it for people that expected or wanted to hear it. Also I think it’s not the type of music that is ever going to be widely commercial at one place or one time, but it’s snowballed. So if a generation of music is about 5 years – which it really is – we’ve now accumulated about 6 generations of fans. But we’re not Justin Bieber do you know what I’m saying?

DD: Your audiences are a lot more reverent now than they were, say, at that Michigan Palace show in 1974. That ended in a serious fight.
James Williamson: You know I think we’ve turned into the old blues guys from our era, so you go and see Muddy Waters or something, he’s 60 years old but he’s still the coolest guy you ever met? (indicating Iggy) He’s that guy.
Iggy Pop: This band is more about the ass than the tits, basically. Is that a crude way of putting it? We’ve got more beat than most groups that call themselves rock and roll. And we’re probably a little light on the ‘hey la la.’ You know? When we used to play live, it blew everybody back in this sort of…whoosh…and now, usually, people participate and generally overtake us. People are getting with it – and you know they sing along?!
James Williamson: One of our shortcomings as, uh, entertainers, was that we were always so prolific, we’d never play the same songs twice so people would come and they’d never heard any of the songs. Now they know the songs.
Iggy Pop: Tonight’s show is a little different because it’s not public… but it won’t stop me.

DD: Iggy, was there a defining performance you saw growing up that had an impact?
Iggy Pop: James Brown. And then a million others, everybody from Wildman Fischer to Yma Sumac (50s Exotica Peruvian soprano known for her phenomenal vocal range), but James Brown was the first. I saw him at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Michigan, in a hotel bar. It was not at the height of his career. I used to watch When We Were Kings a lot, the film of the Foreman/Ali fight in Zaire, and obviously James Brown at the TAMI show. He was on a bill with Jan & Dean and the Rolling Stones and some Go-Go dancers - you know, white trash. And there he was!

DD: What are your memories of being in London recording Raw Power? You were almost turned away at Heathrow.
Scott Asheton: I remember it was the first time I ate Indian food. It was really, really hot.
Iggy Pop: What we were doing was so different, the way it sounded, I remember that at one point in desperation, James and I said, you know there’s got to be somebody who likes this. I know, if we can only get through the barrier of all these…people...around us, somebody will like this. And we went out on the street and we found 3 or 4 little British schoolgirls, who looked a lot like you actually.. and they were about 14 and we hauled them over to our place and we sat them down – do you remember that James?
James Williamson: I do now!
Iggy Pop: And we played them 'I Got A Right', really, really loud. We were going ‘DO YOU LIKE IT?’, and they said, ‘Oh yes, it’s really very nice.’ Ha ha! I remember doing that! And we said, SEE? They like it. Somebody likes it. Because we had played it for our management and they really, really didn’t like it. So I think we benefitted greatly in that we came from a shit-heel, one horse town – a good one – and suddenly found ourselves on a world stage, a city with a few couple thousand years of accumulated culture and I think it provoked a reaction, and I don’t think that album would have happened anywhere else but that city. The town was very important. Also, you could walk around unmolested. The grass in Hyde Park is much cleaner than the grass in Central Park by the way. And the milk bottles with the gold label, the silver label, the honour system was beautiful.
James Williamson: I’d like to also say that our management got distracted with another artist at the time, so we were allowed to go into the studio without adult supervision.
Iggy Pop: We got to do whatever the fuck we wanted to do.
James Williamson: That’s what saved that album.