Iggy Pop in The Times

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Balboa
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Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Balboa » 19 Apr 2010, 15:47

Thought some of you might enjoy this - nothing too new, but interesting to see his reaction to both the recent spate of Iggy led adverts and a pretty blunt answer about Bowie....

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article7096124.ece

Iggy Pop at 62
Robert Crampton meets the rock legend who has conquered drug addiction and his self-destructive streak to emerge a bigger star than ever
Robert Crampton

My first sight of Iggy Pop was on stage at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, New York. Iggy and his band, the Stooges, were due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a big deal in the US) the following day. They were rehearsing their two numbers for the ceremony, one from 1969, one from 1972. The Stooges’ sound was and is pure punk, nonetheless so for the speedy riffs being played by a middle-aged man with a double chin and side-parted white hair.

And Iggy’s is a pure punk act, nonetheless so for being performed by a 62-year-old with a deep leathery tan and muscle wastage under his arms who is occasionally giving surreptitious massages to his lower back.

“Shall I be sick on myself?” Iggy calls out, cackling, parodying his early Seventies reputation for stage-outrage. (He is said to have invented crowd-surfing. He also used to self-harm on stage.) He removes his jacket but not, on this occasion, his T-shirt. No trademark bare-chestedness, then. He saves that for the next day.

Instead, he pouts and gurns and struts, waves his arms above his head, goes knock-kneed, flaps his hands limply. “Where are my Handy Wipes?” he asks a gofer. “And I’m gonna need some more pop.” He means water, not alcohol. These days, the furthest Iggy Pop, legendary drug abuser, goes towards intoxication is a “glass of good claret” with his dinner.

Half an hour later, our interview starts in a suite upstairs. Close up, Iggy’s tan really is impressive, emphasising his big blue eyes and gleaming teeth, teeth which seem too large for his skinny face, lending him a somewhat simian appearance. Sagging skin notwithstanding, he’s in good shape, thanks to t’ai chi and swimming at his holiday home in the Caymans, where he likes “to stare at the sea and sleep large amounts”.

He glugs some water, turns up a high-wattage smile, starts talking in the familiar baritone. “I’ve had a climactic [sic] adjustment coming here [to a cold and rainy New York]. Lived here for 20 years, it’s a tough town, we squared off, I won; 1998 I f***ed off to the nearest luxurious suburb, which is Miami.”

Tell me about life in Miami, I say. Iggy turns realtor with surprising enthusiasm.

“I live in what would be called a villa were it in southern France. About an acre and spit of land with a rambling bungalow-style, Mediterranean-type house, walled and gated, some very nice Regency gates. I live with my wife, Nina, three dogs, four cats, five koi and four exotic birds. About 40 minutes south of Miami, a little less than a mile from the sea. Her mother lives in a house nearby and handles things when we travel. Mom’s in our house now, Nina’s with me here.”

Is it a nice neighbourhood? “Damn right! Upper income. Saw a lot of John McCain signs there during the election, lotta Christian Republicans.” How do they respond to you? “Great! One of my neighbours is a contractor, another guy is a pilot. We’ve been to dinner there a coupla times, super-cool people.”

The upscale villa is only part of the story, however, the James Osterberg part of the story, that being Iggy Pop’s real name. James Osterberg, son of a teacher, was a conventional, popular boy back in his native Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the Fifties and early Sixties. A stalwart of the high-school debating society, Osterberg is possessed of an intelligence evident within minutes of meeting him.

Osterberg has this alter ego, however, an alter ego that has yielded a long, albeit up-and-down rock career, but which also nearly killed him; an alter ego that today lives on in a second property less than an hour away from the first.

“I keep a little house from 1925 on a river on the edge of Little Haiti in an edgy neighbourhood. Were we doing this in Miami, we would be in the little house. It’s full of Stooges crud, Iggy crud and all my antiques from New York. Got a coupla George Three mirrors, got a very nice English japanned secretary [loving the idea of Iggy as a reptilian American version of Lovejoy], some nice French things. It looks like some little weird old man’s house [prolonged cackle]. No distractions, no reality, nobody’s feelings to worry about.” Basically, it sounds a lot like Iggy Pop’s version of a bloke’s garden shed.

Does Nina go to the little house? “She has been but she has no desire. I’m always by myself there. Anyone else who comes over is escorted in and out. Except for the Stooges. Stooges can come and go.” His face crinkles in a sentimental smile.

The little house, Iggy says, “is the kind of place I became comfortable in when I was in my twenties. Most of the things I buy tend to be things I liked then that I couldn’t have. Got a 1968 cherry-red Cadillac DeVille convertible with brown leather seats, had that for a while. Right now I gotta ’06 Ferrari F430. Nice car, low mileage. The new ones are a stupid amount of money.”

Seeing as we’re on the subject, I say, I’ve got to ask you about car insurance. (Polite laughter.) When I told people I was going to interview you, they were positive, very “good old Iggy, last of the old guard”, but they all also said: ask him about those adverts (for Swiftcover insurance). “Sure,” he says, flashing his teeth. “What do you wanna know?” Why did you do them? “For the money. The money. The money. For the money. And I thought, correctly, that I could do a good job.”

When his career was at a low ebb in the Eighties, Iggy explains, he decided to develop a sideline as an actor. “Seemed like a good idea, music’s a branch of showbiz anyway. I went to acting classes with a buncha dumb models. I did some American TV series, always played the junkie, got paid 500 bucks for three days’ work, built it up. I have a little capability and I learnt a few ropes.” Enough to know he could make a decent job of an advert.

Does he get fans saying, “Oh man, you’ve sold out”? He shrugs. “The only time I discuss me or my work or my career with anybody,” he answers evenly, “is when I agree to do so in a situation like this. If we weren’t here and you wanted to talk to me about my stuff, I’d just ignore you. I don’t talk to people about what I do; it’s none of their f***ing business. None at all. They’re not qualified to talk to me.”

Slightly awkward pause. “I go on the internet,” he continues, “about once a month and just peek. I saw some newspaper in Britain had done a survey and I won Most Irritating Person or something.” I think it was a piece in The Sun, I say, about former wild men of rock – John Lydon, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, yourself – endorsing products.

“Yeah,” says Iggy, “and one comment was, ‘Aw, leave him alone, I think it’s nice he gets a bit of money in his old age,’ which I agree with. Most of the records other people were making when I made mine were just commercials masquerading as music. It’s all s***! I never did that, and when I did an ad, I called it an ad, and I don’t see anything wrong with doing it. If within the secret reservoir of the mass psyche this causes one to a million people to react differently to me or my music, fine. I did the work. I was really, really well paid.”

Is it fair to say you didn’t make as much money from your career as you should have done? “F*** yeah! That’s an understatement. I didn’t make anything!” Even after The Idiot and Lust for Life did well? (These were his first two solo albums, co-produced by David Bowie, who rescued Iggy’s career in the mid-Seventies. The two shared a flat together in Berlin for a couple of years.) “They didn’t do that well,” he snorts.

“In America, in school,” he says, leaning forward, “I learnt creative writing, I learnt advanced algebra and geometry, but I didn’t learn there was such a thing as intellectual property. I didn’t learn how to read a contract. And I didn’t care about those things. Those things were for hideous bald fat dead people. The living dead. They still are, but now I do my living-dead s***work every day. And I can feel the hair follicles reacting.”

But you hear about these rock stars, Mick Jagger for instance, who are also accomplished businessmen? “Well, I have become one. I run two large businesses, the Stooge business and my own. I have relationships with attorneys.” But you wised up late in life? “Exactly. I learnt little by little and it wasn’t until my mid-fifties that I really learnt the ropes and took over.” What made you change? “Money.”

When he was young, he says, and not so young, “I didn’t care about money. I only cared about who I wanted to be, how I wanted to look, what I wanted to sound like. My achievement was going to be my music. I watched other people shoot past me whose music was very, very bad. They’d get a bit of money and some of them would improve the music with it, buy good musicians, buy a good producer, buy yourself time to apply more thought to what you do. You can learn taste.”

Iggy had natural taste, raw talent and considerable brains. But he also had a terrible fondness for drugs. He was on Ecstasy and crack before they were even so named. And when heroin hit LA in the late Sixties and early Seventies, he developed a serious habit. He recalls once writing a song, overdosing, lying in a heap for 14 hours, waking up and finishing the song. In short, he is lucky to be alive.

“I was 37 or 38 before I began to stabilise. I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna die here, I’m going to fail, I’m not well, my talent is weakening, my looks are going, things are not gonna work out.’ Part of what I had to do is find a stable relationship with a woman. So I looked for the right type of woman and I married a Japanese woman, Suchi, my wife for a dozen years, who was very helpful. As is Nina, a beautiful and exotic-looking person, which leads lots of people to fail to find out she’s also very well educated, graduated cum laude from Georgetown University; sharp cookie, a serious person.”

Does he resent those with less talent who made more money than him? “No! I gotta lotta money! And it’s been incredibly interesting. I look at other people my age and I can’t help but suspect they’re not having new experiences, new challenges and new rewards like I am. Is that cool or what? The best I’ve ever done is now. Yeah, ’bout as near as I get to happiness, the least insecure, the most healthy.”

Does he have therapy? “F*** no!” Medication? “F*** no!” He seems a sunny character sitting here; why all the trouble for so long? “I go dark. I was pretty much wrecked in the late Eighties. I was about four or five years into going straight. I hated it.” What does he mean by going straight? Not being on heroin? “Not being on anything.” Anything? “Well, cutting down. By the middle Eighties, it meant that every night I would smoke half a doobie. By 1990, no more doobie; 1985-90 was me trying to be stable, not f*** everybody that I saw, not intoxicate myself, not point out everything to which I objected. Which is just about everything. I decided you gotta pick your shots, buddy. Little by little, I learnt.”

What had been the extent of his drug abuse prior to 1985? “There was committed drug use from ’67 to ’75. From ’75 to ’85 use was more sporadic, maybe down to three times a week. Alcohol came in because it’s cheap, easy and legal. That’s really bad. I was rehabbed a coupla times. Then ’85 to the turn of the century was basically a tiny amount of something, usually smoke, but the smoke was pretty much out by the mid-Nineties because it affected my confidence. And my throat. During the Nineties there were outbreaks like, if maybe somebody had a little coke, I’d do it and have a bad time. Or I’d smoke a joint and have a bad time.”

So, you’d stopped enjoying it? “Yes! And then you’re in the driver’s seat. The last one was cigarettes. I quit just before new year of this century. Now it’s coffee. When my life calms down, I’ll kick over to tea.” Getting off drugs coincided with the reignition of his stalled career. “I had to do large amounts of sensible work. Long tours, poor accommodation, economy travel, oodles of promo for these companies. The devil,” he insists, “is not out of my system, but the particulars are.”

Part of the reason for this interview is the re-release of Raw Power, the Stooges’ album recorded in 1972, a huge influence on many musicians (Johnny Marr calls it “the best album ever”), but one which left the buying public unimpressed: too far ahead of its time.

What strikes you, listening to it again, is the anger. “All the guys were angry,” agrees Iggy. “I was the only one with a father; they’d lost their dads. I think they were probably angry about that though we never spoke about it. I suppose from my point of view, I was angry whenever I got pushed back by anybody that wanted to oppose what I wanted to do.” He laughs. “How ’bout that?”

Like a child, then? “Yeah,” he admits. “That is like a child, yeah. Is that different from anybody else?” Well, yes, I say, your whole generation was a bit like that, wasn’t it? “That’s possible. It was going around, wasn’t it?” Iggy has one child himself, Eric, now 40. And one granddaughter. Father and son were estranged for a long time. How are relations now? “Reasonable. He’s a wild card, too.”

The talk moves on to politics. Iggy says he’s never found a politician he could identify with, although he did vote for Obama and thinks he’s doing a competent job. “There was a trauma I’m still not able to sort out when I was 13 or 14 [he was actually 16] and the dashing, good-looking, role-model President was shot dead and we ended up with a series of obviously ill, neurotic crooks.”

Our time is almost up. Is he still pals with Bowie? “No.” When did he last see him? “I can’t remember. I spoke with him on the phone about seven years ago, he got my number and we caught up, had a very cordial, nice conversation. He’s living a certain life, I’m living a certain life, there’s not a cross there right now.”

Has he had any plastic surgery? “No! Where would I start? I have my teeth redone. As they go brown, I get them replaced with these pretty white ones.” Is he vain? “I try to be as vain as I reasonably can without losing sight of the fact that I’m not that great-looking, and even if I was, it wouldn’t help me at this point. I like to try to resemble myself. You don’t want to go around with a great big gut, that’s just not a good signal, not a good statement.”

He fingers a hank of his long, straight, blond hair. “There’s no dye in here by the way, since we’re on the subject. This is living in Miami, sun and sea water and chlorine. And my genes. I have Scandinavian genes.”

We get up from our chairs and shake hands. Looking forward to tomorrow? “Oh yeah,” he drawls. “Tomorrow’s gonna be better than today.” We both nod meaningfully. “All right,” he says, “I’m gonna piss off now.” And he does.
Of course, I was mostly stoned at the time.

Bungo the Mungo

Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 19 Apr 2010, 16:15

He's become an old pro, of sorts, hasn't he? Charming to the press, curt (probably) to anyone who gets in his way when he's playing golf, or out with his girlfriend.

I still think the Stooges 'comeback' has been the most remarkable in all of rock and roll - I like the whole thing just a little less after reading that.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Insouciant Western People » 19 Apr 2010, 16:16

Cheers Balboa, I enjoyed reading that.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Belle Lettre » 19 Apr 2010, 16:40

Me too. He doesn't give a shit what we think anyway! :D
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Goat Boy » 19 Apr 2010, 16:42

It's easy to slag him off for the adverts but for a long time he wasn't exactly rich so I don't begrudge him making sure he's got money for his old age.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Jeff K » 19 Apr 2010, 17:03

Sir John Coan wrote: - I like the whole thing just a little less after reading that.


Why?

My feelings toward the reunion and the insurance commercial just became more positive after reading that. The guy's in his sixties and is certainly entitled to earn some money off of his legacy. He was being very honest. If I didn't think he gave a rat's ass about the resurrected Stooges and was just going through the motions to collect a big payday then I'd think differently but you can clearly tell he loves being with the Stooges again and playing their music. Money might play a big part in his thinking but he does still deliver the goods. You can tell he's probably the happiest he's ever been in his life and more power to him.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby sloopjohnc » 19 Apr 2010, 17:52

Jeff K wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote: - I like the whole thing just a little less after reading that.


Why?

My feelings toward the reunion and the insurance commercial just became more positive after reading that. The guy's in his sixties and is certainly entitled to earn some money off of his legacy. He was being very honest. If I didn't think he gave a rat's ass about the resurrected Stooges and was just going through the motions to collect a big payday then I'd think differently but you can clearly tell he loves being with the Stooges again and playing their music. Money might play a big part in his thinking but he does still deliver the goods. You can tell he's probably the happiest he's ever been in his life and more power to him.


Yeah, I'd agree. I hope he's not lying about the sobriety because I've heard that song and dance from him before.

That whole selling out thing used to bug me when I was younger. I frankly don't care whether the musicians are getting rich for the first time or more rich. It's their legacy and they can do what they want with it, my thoughts on their hypocrisy be damned.

I think hardcore music fans tend to be idealistic and naive about these kinda things. Why are t-shirts with band names on them any different than cruise ship commercials? There's part of me that still cringes at that kinda thing, but I figure they weigh the pros and cons of what they're doing to their music and take it from there.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 19 Apr 2010, 18:32

Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge him his wealth at all. And I loved seeing the reunited Stooges a couple of years ago. I just liked him more when he was down and dirty.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Jeff K » 19 Apr 2010, 18:46

Sir John Coan wrote:Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge him his wealth at all. And I loved seeing the reunited Stooges a couple of years ago. I just liked him more when he was down and dirty.


I'm just glad he's managed to live as long as he has when so many of his peers died way before their time.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 20 Apr 2010, 01:14

Jeff K wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge him his wealth at all. And I loved seeing the reunited Stooges a couple of years ago. I just liked him more when he was down and dirty.


I'm just glad he's managed to live as long as he has when so many of his peers died way before their time.


Yeah, fair enough.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby bobzilla77 » 20 Apr 2010, 01:31

Wouldn't it be a little pathetic if he was still strung out and snotting off to everyone? I think Johnny Thunders kept that character going longer than anyone rightly should. It was already old when he died twenty years ago.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Sneelock » 20 Apr 2010, 01:32

yeah, maybe we would choose down and dirty but he chooses 62. good for him. I think he's a hoot.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 20 Apr 2010, 01:47

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Accept everything, eh?

He's not interesting any more. Forgive me for stating the obvious but I think we're tiptoeing around it, waving our 'AGE ROCKS!' flags.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Charlie O. » 20 Apr 2010, 01:51

I think he's very interesting, personally.

That said, I don't think he's made a worthy record since Lust For Life. And I have decidedly mixed feelings about the Stooges reunion(s).
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Sneelock » 20 Apr 2010, 01:58

well Sir John, maybe you wouldn't want to follow the rich little man with the too white teeth around his little house with a home movie camera. I would!

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 20 Apr 2010, 02:04

Charlie O. wrote:I think he's very interesting, personally.


Sneelock wrote:well Sir John, maybe you wouldn't want to follow the rich little man with the too white teeth around his little house with a home movie camera. I would!


Puzzling.

Please yourselves.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Jeff K » 20 Apr 2010, 02:15

I can see where John is coming from. I was a little surprised about how much getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame meant to Iggy. I don't remember his exact comment but he said something along the lines that being inducted meant one less thing he had to stress over. He was dead serious too. He does seem hell-bent on getting recognition. Not just from music fans but from people he would normally and rightfully despise. That way of thinking does make him a whole lot less interesting even though I still love the guy.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Sneelock » 20 Apr 2010, 02:23

I think it's the same sort of thing as wanting your cute little cousin to stay cute and little. I like having an aging Iggy who likes making money. I'm glad he's still around.

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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Jeff K » 20 Apr 2010, 02:28

Sneelock wrote:I think it's the same sort of thing as wanting your cute little cousin to stay cute and little. I like having an aging Iggy who likes making money. I'm glad he's still around.


As I said before, I'm glad he's still around and happy he's cashing in. I just wish he would have retained a little of his 'fuck you' attitude in his old age.
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Re: Iggy Pop in The Times

Postby Sneelock » 20 Apr 2010, 02:36

I think he has. I think maybe it's who his "fuck you" is aimed at that bothers you guys. it's aimed at his fans and not at "the man" :lol: