Slammin' backbeats to the midsection, punishing and relentless guitar riffs that fry the eardrums to a crisp, and lyrics that call for revolution of mind and soul even as they forever extol rock's eternal truths summertime, cars, women, pain are collective evidence in 2003 that Iggy Pop's roadmap hasn't changed all that much since the Stooges were first unleashed upon the world a few years back.
...the Stooges virtually single-handedly godfathered punk rock, garage rock and American heavy metal...
A few years back? Iggy (or Mr. Pop, as the New York Times refers to him) lives in that rarefied zone inhabited by the true avatars of rock who struck its template in the 1960s, and survived through the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond. It is not enough that the Stooges virtually single-handedly godfathered punk rock, garage rock and American heavy metal more than three decades ago, or that Iggy Pop went on to conquer Europe and the far East as a headlining phenomenon in the '90s. His status today, filling stadiums (and hundreds of websites) around the world with his energy, his nerve, and his charisma indicates that the specter of Iggy Pop is a far more universal force in rock than many suspect.
When the music annals of 2003 are compiled, topping many lists will be the wildly successful reunion of original founding Stooges members Iggy Pop, and brothers Ron Asheton (guitar and bass) and Scott Asheton (drums). The reunion is celebrated with four newly recorded tracks on SKULL RING, Iggy's seventh album on Virgin Records.
But in true Iggy Pop fashion, SKULL RING also features fresh collaborations with mega-platinum hitmakers Green Day ("Private Hell," "Supermarket") and Canadian punk-pop hipsters Sum 41 ("Little Know It All," the first single from the new album). Both bands are diehard Stooges fans, along with controversial hardcore rap siren Peaches (with whom Iggy collaborates on "Rock Show" and "Motor Inn"). The lion's share (seven) of the new tracks on SKULL RING were recorded with Iggy's hard-working band the Trolls. Along its members is guitarist Whitey Kirst (often Iggy's songwriting partner) who first came on-board back on Brick By Brick, Iggy's first Virgin album in 1990.
Anticipation for the first new songs by the Stooges in eons has been building through the spring and summer. The four songs "Little Electric Chair," "Skull Rings," "Loser," and "Dead Rockstar" are as comfortable on the SKULL RING album as they might have been on any of the Stooges three original studio LPs. After a month of woodshedding, the four tracks (all Pop-Asheton-Asheton compositions) were recorded at Hit Factory Criteria Studios in Miami during January 2003.
The public got its first taste of the 2003 edition of the Stooges Iggy, Ron and Scott abetted by fellow conspirator Mike Watt on bass during several historic headlining shows together including the annual Coachella Festival in Indio, California in April, and New York's Jones Beach Amphitheatre in August. A major Detroit homecoming on the fateful night of August 14th was postponed because of The Great Blackout Of 2003 ... talk about raw power!
The explosive phenomenon of Iggy Pop and growing fascination for the unadulterated sound of the Stooges has been one of the most exciting developments in rock over the past five years. Television and movie soundtracks (either on screen or in the albums), documentaries and rock histories, radio and tv commercial spots, compilation albums, surf and skateboard videos, video games, and especially cover vers ions by a multitude of artists have kept the mystique of Iggy Pop and the Stooges on fire.
There seems to be a never-ending migration back to the band's three seminal LPs, starting with the classic self-titled debut of 1969, The Stooges, with "1969," "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (covered by everyone from Richard Hell and Joan Jett to Uncle Tupelo, and sampled by Snoop Dogg), and "No Fun" (done by the Sex Pistols). The second album released the following year, Fun House, contained "Down On the Street" (done by Rage Against the Machine), "1970" (the Damned), and "T.V. Eye," most recently heard on the original soundtrack of Jack Black's School Of Rock (along with "Sick Of You").
The Stooges' final album, 1973's Raw Power, was the source for "Search and Destroy" (whose endless covers include Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Go-Gos, Dictators, Everclear, EMF, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous movie soundtrack, and Beavis & Butthead!), "Gimme Danger" (Monster Magnet and last year's Dogtown And Z-Boys soundtrack), and "Shake Appeal" (a perennial VH1 and horror movie favorite), not to mention Guns N' Roses' cover of the title tune, "Raw Power."
Iggy's first two solo albums (both 1977 releases) are equally turned-to for their riches. The Idiot is the place to find "Nightclubbing" (chosen for the Trainspotting movie soundtrack and memorably re-done by Grace Jones), "China Girl" (nicely rediscovered last year by Pete Yorn), and "Fun Time" (check out the versions by R.E.M., Boy George, and Peter Murphy). Iggy's most-covered song (and most-requested, on a commercial basis year after year) is the title tune from the next album, Lust For Life, and space does not permit even a partial list of the song's appearances, from Trainspotting and tv cameos in "Ally McBeal," "Gilmore Girls," and NBC's 75th Anniversary Special, to commercials ranging from Kellogg's cereal to Royal Caribbean Lines, to covers ranging from the Replacements, the Smithereens, and the Damned, to Bruce Willis (on the Rugrats Go Wild movie soundtrack) and Tom Jones. The LP also contained "The Passenger," a widely compiled and covered tune (as by R.E.M., Siouxsie & the Banshees, Lunachicks and more).
After Iggy's self-confessed drug and alcohol-fueled 'lost weekend' of the '80s, which included seriously overlooked albums on Arista (New Values, Soldier, Party) and A&M (Blah-Blah-Blah with "Real Wild Child," Instinct), he emerged in 1990 on Virgin with Brick By Brick. It spent 37 weeks on the Billboard chart, the longest of any Iggy Pop album, propelled by "Candy" (featuring singer Kate Pierson of the B-52's), the first and only top 30 single of his career to date. Years later, "Candy" would show up in the American Beauty soundtrack and compilations spanning from Australia and New Zealand to Greece and South America. Iggy has gone on to build an impressive album catalog at Virgin: American Caesar (1993, with its manic remake of "Louie, Louie"), Naughty Little Doggie (Mar. 1996), Nude & Rude: The Best Of Iggy Pop (Oct. 1996), Avenue B (1999, a change-up with some jazzy, soulful spoken word pieces and a cover of "Shakin' All Over" that has appeared on many collections), and Beat 'em Up (2001, with the 13-minute closing stream of consciousness monologue, "V.I.P.").
The '90s also found Iggy embarking on a sideline film career that had begun almost by accident in the '80s with roles in Sid And Nancy and Paul Newman's The Color Of Money. Iggy could be seen in the post-apocalyptic Hardware (1990), John Waters' ill-fated Cry-Baby with Johnny Depp (also 1990), the comic-based Tank Girl (1993), Jim Jarmusch's surrealistic Western Dead Man (1995, again with Depp), the Spanish sci-fi Spaghetti Western Atolladero (also 1995), the sequel to the comic-based The Crow, City Of Angels (1996), Johnny Depp's American Indian thriller The Brave (1997, with Marlon Brando), the Chris Elliott comedy Snow Day (2000), and Jarmusch's all-star Coffee & Cigarettes (2003). Over the same period, Iggy became a ubiquitous presence in a handful of tv assignments, ranging from Nickelodeon's "The Adventures Of Pete & Pete" and "Accidentally On Purpose," to "Star Trek Deep Space 9" and HBO's "Tales From the Crypt."
In the midst of all this action, as far back as the early '90s, observers were getting wind of guitarist Ron Asheton (when he was in the band Dark Carnival) setting clubs on fire with his versions of Stooges songs. This was nothing less than inspirational to Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and A&R man Jim Dunbar. In 1998, they were able to create a group known as Wylde Ratttz around the core of Ron and Thurston on guitars, Scott Asheton on drums, bassist Mike Watt, and singer Mark Arm (of Mudhoney). They recorded "T.V. Eye" for the original soundtrack of the controversial glam-rock film Velvet Goldmine.
The plot thickened as Watt began adding Stooges material to the repertoires of his various bands, playing the songs in every imaginable style, even free jazz improvisations. When Watt and Ron joined Jay Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) on tour, they found another conspirator who was willing to add Stooges material to the set. As recently as two years ago, when Scott was added to the lineup and they began playing the Euro festival circuit as 'Asheton-Asheton-Mascis-Watt,' fans went crazy when they heard Stooges music coming from the stage.
"...so that kind of raised my eyebrow a little bit."
Although Iggy had stayed in touch with Ron and Scott over the years, visited them at home in Ann Arbor, and occasionally invited them to jam at a gig, it had not gone any further. "What really changed things," says Iggy, "was that I was out on tour for Beat 'em Up and I heard everywhere I went, 'hey, Ron's out on tour with Dinosaur Jr. doing Stooges songs and it's real good' or I was in Europe and I'd hear 'Ron and Scott are both out with Mike Watt doing Stooges songs at festivals.' And I thought whoa, they're out there playing the material, so that kind of raised my eyebrow a little bit."
When time came to do a new record, Iggy weighed offers for an entire Stooges album. But he wanted to keep it real. "But that means keeping it real with a complex character. I've got different facets to what I do and I've gotta represent it all. I wanted to represent my touring band and the fact that I work constantly with other artists and some pretty f---ing estimable ones at that. The more I thought about it I thought, 'you really should get the Stooges' involved but I didn't expect jack sh-- from it, I really underestimated my own group."
The sessions in North Miami (not far from Iggy's bayfront cottage in Miami Beach, where he's been residing for about five years) exceeded everyone's expectations. It marked the first time that Iggy, Ron and Scott his original co-founders in 'The Psychedelic Stooges' back in 1967 had been recorded together since the Halloween 1973 riot-show debacle at Detroit's Michigan Palace that turned into the Stooge's final official LP, Metallic KO (issued in '76). Tracks were outlined in just three days; the entire session wrapped in eight.
"These guys are now very focused workers, they're hungry. Scott can still sell a song as a drummer, and Ron has really grown as a guitar player. When the two of them lay down tracks in the studio just alone, guitar and drums together, they have the authority of old blues players, the kind of authority that I associate with Junior Kimbrough or R.L. Burnside. That's how it feels to me. Sometimes, I just left them alone and they came up with whole tracks, and I came in and constructed vocals as we went along."
On April 29th, two days after the Stooges had their major league coming out party at Coachella, Iggy went into the studio with Sum 41 and recorded "Little Know It All," which he co-wrote with the group's Deryck Whibley and their producer Greig Nori. "They sent me a demo of something," Iggy recalls. "They didn't want it to sound like another one of their songs so they said it was in the mold of 'early Social Distortion,' which of course for them is where the world begins because they're so young... I went to L.A. to a crummy, seedy demo studio in a bad part of Hollywood, and the big thing that impressed me was how comfortable and totally relaxed they were being in a room together, in a workman-like way, a quiet efficient serious machine, and they were there to work."
Iggy and Green Day became friends after sharing European rock festival gigs over the past two summers. When Billie Joe Armstrong was assigned by Iggy to compose music for two sets of his lyrics, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tr Cool decided they wanted in on the project. Iggy joined Green Day on their turf and the four of them recorded their two songs at Berkeley's Studio 880. "The stuff's kind of rockabilly in a way although it doesn't feel like it, I think that's where it comes from. Billy Joe is really talented, so anything I could get him to do, an idea about the vocal, an extra guitar riff, a mix, anything, I just said, 'do it, do it, do it!' He is a genuine, key talent, really the first American writer to uncover the roots of what has become neo-punk and emo, frankly, it all comes from that one band."
Iggy's durable working band long-time guitarist and co-writer Whitey Kirst, his brother drummer Alex Kirst, and bassist Pete Marshall recently gave themselves a name, The Trolls. In Iggy's estimation, there was no question that their six new songs (which date back to November 2002 at Hit Factory Criteria) would be on the album.
"Because for the last five years before this album was made, I've been out making a living, playing in the flesh, doing the real dirty deal with these guys. And if they're there when you piss and they're there when you sweat and they're there on the stinking bus, and next to you when you raise your arm in glory and everybody says 'yea he's great' and you know the gig's doing great - then they need to be there on the record. They were my little petri dish where I formed the culture in which I wanted to grow the other bacteria for the album. This is my band, this is where I come from, y'know?"
Canadian gender-bending rap phenom Peaches (aka Merrill Nisker) earned a backstage pass via her way-underground (and strictly X-rated) debut, The Teaches Of Peaches (Kitty-Yo/Beggars XL). One of the cuts on that double-CD, "Rock Show," was remastered and remixed at Hit Factory Criteria, with Iggy overdubbing his vocal as an 'answer' to Peaches. She then brought her repertoire of beatbox grooves to North Miami and worked with Iggy on two fresh tracks, "Motor Inn" (for SKULL RING) and a second title to be included on her next album.
Unquestionably, the most wide-ranging album that Iggy Pop has recorded in his entire career and that covers some ground SKULL RING reveals an artist for whom taking chances is second nature, a craftsman who is constantly seeking out others to challenge his imagination. "I can't do it all myself," he says. "I'm not that kind of artist, I'm the kind of artist who works off other people best. It was like playing with Tinker toys or dominoes, trying to get all the pieces to fit like a jigsaw puzzle so I'd have a whole portrait but it would still have many facets. That's what I was hoping for. I think that's the best thing I could offer."
IGGY POP In His Own Words:
SKULL RING Track-by-track
"Little Electric Chair" (with the Stooges)
...is Ron being Stoogey, Stonesy, and me following suit. ("They'll be fryin' up your hair/in that little electric chair!")
"Perverts in the Sun" (with the Trolls)
... a description of Miami Beach. My favorite line is "garbage can's got a tan," these little nasty dirty parking lots in South Beach with a stinky old garbage can and somebody on crack dancing badly. It's a satiric portrait but not just of South Beach, the whole country's been settling south, moving to the sun belt, kind of the way a middle aged person's waistline expands. I mention Malibu too. It's the whole concept of fun-seeking in the sun. ("Get a job in street promotion/pushin' handbills on the ocean!")
"Skull Rings" (with the Stooges)
... in the mold of the most primitive and early Stooges hypnotic jams. ("Skull rings, fast cars, hot chicks, money!/Skull rings, fast cars, hot chicks, fancy things!")
"Superbabe" (with the Trolls)
... that feeling when you suddenly realize, my god, has this woman put a spell on me? Is she using voodoo here? What is going on? It's about that trance-like power, the powers that can be exercised by the opposite sex. ("And drugs and money cannot save me/and evil's everywhere!")
"Loser" (with the Stooges)
... a typical Iggy Pop punk rock song. ("You wanna blame me but you got misery, for a reason/And the way that you lose is the way that you choose, for a reason/And if this is a slam I don't give a damn, for a reason/'Cause the point of this song is I'm movin' along, for a reason!")
"Private Hell" (with Green Day)
A private poem I wrote one day, I did not intend it to be a song. It's a description of my private life basically. ("I have a private hell of excellent quality, I've dwelt there for years, playin' with my fears...")
"Little Know It All" (with Sum 41)
It's something a little different for me but I think it crowns this particular album. I think it's the most ambitious piece on the album and having one thing like that is really good. ("We take from one another, and never stop to wonder, how it feels from the other side/but nothin' lasts forever, when stupid turns to clever, why are you surprised?")
"Whatever" (with the Trolls)
The only thing written in the studio, it was done in about 45 minutes, and recorded that night. What I call a formula single but in the '60s garage rock single vein. I said to Whitey, my little stoner proletarian guitar player delinquent, "give me a catch phrase that everybody says." He went "uhhh whatever!" and so we worked from there... the idea of social drift, people drifting apart without a specific, clear goodbye. It's loss without notation. ("She doesn't wanna play, and her voice just fades away, 'Whatever'...")
"Dead Rockstar" (with the Stooges)
... a step forward for the band, something stylistically we have never done the sound of the Stooges in middle age. [The maturing Stooges?] Or the sound of the Stooges feeling tender! ("I'm so afraid of failing, I hang on to the railing/This cold-hot graduation, kills all infatuation/I took the hazing, they said amazing/I'm a dead rock star, in a dead rock car... what can I hope for?")
"Rock Show" (with Peaches)
It summed up a lot of what I wanted to say about the whole idea of 'ok, what the hell is this whole thing about... this rock and roll thing?' I realized that if I covered one of her tracks with a rock band it wasn't gonna work. So I thought, what would Puff Daddy do? Let's just sample the whole thing and see if there's room for my voice, and it kind of worked. ("Rock show, you came to see a rock show, this ain't a f---in' talk show, you came to see it all!/ Rock show, you came to fear it, you came to sear it, you came to hear it all!")
"Here Comes The Summer" (with the Trolls)
... absolutely straight-ahead, being excited about the wonder of the summer. And it's still beautiful rock and roll, meant to be played in the open air for a large group of people in a stadium or at least an arena. Summertime, cars, women, those three things are good rock and roll staples. ("We're gonna have a good time, we're gonna get a surprise!")
"Motor Inn" (with Peaches)
Sex in a motel! That has to be consummated quick cause there's gonna be war soon! It was probably my concept for the whole record that I wanted to have a female on there, a female voice. She's basically young and feisty, still takes drugs, gets drunk. And she's very witty, I think one of the more important writers and performers working right now. ("At the motor inn... baby, we're livin' in sin!")
"Inferiority Complex" (with the Trolls)
... thinking of stoners in high school who didn't do their homework, just sat there zombified with long hair and didn't go any farther, being estranged, feeling that no one values you, and starting to believe it: I'm really not that good looking, I'm really not that smart, nobody really likes me. I've lived it and each member of The Trolls have lived it. ("Standing on the poopdeck of a wreck, inferiority complex/Waiting for the tugboat of respect, inferiority complex ...")
"Supermarket" (with Green Day)
... a description of my professional life, me looking at me as a commodity, saying basically ya gotta understand I'm disposable, I have a limited shelf life. And then in a wider sense talking about the whole idea of the commoditization of life. ("Everybody sells, everybody buys....")
"Till Wrong Feels Right" (solo)
I'd been reading a Bob Dylan biography by Robert Shelton and I thought, well, I'll try some topical songwriting, if that guy can do it. So I was listening to a Mississippi Fred McDowell record one day, fooling around with something that was bluesy and had a little different rhythm. What I wanted to say was, the power of industrial entertainment is such that they will make you like what you hate, make you eat what you don't want, live where you don't belong, and every other bloody thing ("They're gonna push it until false is true, until day is night/they're gonna push it baby, until wrong feels right...")
"Blood On Your Cool" (with the Trolls)
... a "what am I living for?" song. Hey kids, don't envy me too much, it's not as good as it looks! Like tears of a clown, on the outside it looks like I'm really stylin', but I got a lot of baggage behind me, a lot of things I did to get here... my hands are dirtied, you know? I almost didn't put it on a record 'cause it was too heavy. ("Everyone that you meet is a ghoul when there's blood on your cool...")
Hidden bonus track:
"Nervous Exhaustion" (with the Trolls)
It's just me and The Trolls at our sloppiest. The title is entirely self-explanatory. ("Now that's what I call rock and roll!")
--- from the official Iggy Pop website