Music Interviews

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Iggy Pop

interview by Jeff "Stretch" Reidle
published in Artist Magazine (U.S.)
and Komsomolskaya Pravda (Russia)

Iggy Pop
Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, 2/13/83
photo © Thom Lukas/Artist Publications

“We're a funny bunch;it's almost becoming a parody of The Magnificent Seven. It's an incredibly hyper-intelligent and talented band. But by the same token it's totally, totally a bunch of misfits...”

His real name is James Osterburg. He is known as Iggy Pop. Some say he started the punk movement, and others say Iggy Pop is the definitive punk in the music industry. Whether you agree or not, the music of Iggy Pop has influenced many musicians along the way. The first release by Iggy Pop & The Stooges in 1969 is still an exciting album to listen to today. It captures the raw sound that the '60s was known for.

After 15 years of playing, performing and recording, Iggy's music still has that fresh punch to it. In support of his 1982 album, Zombie Birdhouse, Iggy toured the area recently. I caught his performance at the Keystone in Palo Alto, then had a chance to talk to Iggy and his band members including Larry Mysliwiec (drums), Rob DuPrey (keyboards, guitar) and Frank Infante (guitar). The following is an edited version of our conversation.

Q: Thank you for stopping by and talking. Let me ask you this—we'll talk about the show in a minute—what's happening in Detroit? The reason I ask that is because i was born there and I grew up listening to Detroit music and I'm wondering what's happening these days.

IGGY: Oh, we've got that in common. What's happening in Detroit, oddly enough... Probably the best things out of Detroit these days are coming from people who moved away long ago. Like Marvin Gaye, you know, he's got that beautiful new record out. Basically, Detroit's most productive through its expatriates. People leave. It's a funny town.

Q: Is heavy metal still as prominent as it was? That's what Detroit is known for.

IGGY: No, actually you're wrong. Detroit's much too hip to cop completely to heavy metal. If you want to find that type of airhead, you've got to go a little bit south—past Cleveland somewhere; then you find that heavy metal syndrome. But, Detroit is still very much in a state of confusion among those who need art as a beacon in their lives, as to which format they are going to accept. It's certainly not come down to heavy metal there yet, totally. No, it's sad but, you know, I guess if there's any one form of pedestrian, loud music you could point to in that area that people listen to, it's your obvious better-safe-than-sorry rock bands.

But, sociologically, in Detroit, well, that's a whole 'nother story. There's a lot happening which is mainly due to testimony to the incredible vitality of young Detroiters who have the sense to get out. And also, there's a lovely relationship between the policemen, in the broadest sense of the word, and the populous there. Detroit is no longer an uptight fascist dedom.

Q: The '67 riots are way in the past?

IGGY: Oh, God, yes.

Q: That's good to hear.

IGGY: But still, it's a pretty depressive situation.

Q: Are you still based in Detroit?

IGGY: Oh, no. I really left the States for good in '76 and lived between Berlin and London through '77, '78, '79, '80, into early '81, and since then I've sort of picked up Manhattan. So except for one year's sojourn in Brooklyn, it's mainly been Manhattan.

Q: Is that how you hooked up with Chris Stein [from Blondie] for the new album?

IGGY: Well, that's not really how. Our hook-up was strictly his proposal.

Q: Is he an old friend of yours?

IGGY: Oh, yeah! Sure, when I did my first tour... You know, it's funny for people to imagine this but, although I've been around for 15 years now as a singer and recording artist, my first actual tour as such—in the sense that we think of the proper tour these days—was only in '77. I hit 30 [years old] a week after the tour was over. Blondie was on that tour. I took them out on tour before they broke. So I met him then. One day I was passing through the city, having just completed another tour on my way to the sunny South, and Chris said, "Hey, Jim, do you want to la-de-da think about la-de-da?" And I said, "Yeah, I'll think about it." I opted for Animal Records mainly because it was a uniquely human sort of relationship. In other words, process-wise, I'm on a first-name basis with the president of my record company. There was a certain honesty and basic down-to-earth gentility that I sensed there. Chris never pushed me for an answer. I took some months before I stuck my toe into the bathtub, as it were.

Q: Chris produced the album. Did he give you free reign on anything you wanted to do?

IGGY: Oh, more than that! Not only free reign but incredibly flattering backup financially, which is always the bottom line. Not to mention in many other ways—right off the bat—once I said I'd do it. It was a very shocking freedom to have. Then, once we got down to the vocals in the studio, the two of us worked very, very closely on that. It wasn't a free reign situation, it was me and Chris working together. I found him very valuable as a person to bounce off of as I attempted my vocals.

Q: So you make a good team?

IGGY: Yes, I think so. And Rob DuPrey as well. I make a good team with him, but that's another relationship.

Q: Who's drumming in the band tonight?

IGGY: Larry Mysliwiec. He's a fellow I met through the mail. Miles Copeland had put out the word that I was looking for somebody for some upcoming project, and he sent me a very top-notch tape of his work and a very level-headed letter about his attitude toward work. I believed it, so I hired him sight unseen.

Q: Great. He's a hell of a drummer.

IGGY: Isn't he! Yeah, he works very hard at keeping himself in a certain... Would you like to... Should we get him in here for a word?

Q: Sure! While we wait for Larry to come in, who is Cookie McBride [from the song "The Ballad of Cookie McBride"]?

IGGY: Yeah, that's a funny thing. I was listening to a lot of Doc Watson at one point and that's what started it. The main idea about him is that he is a guy who, because of the nature of his work, has to victimize animals. He has to skin them and tan them and all that, and then they rebel in the end. So that's who he is—I don't know, it's hard to explain. Well, here's Larry.

[At this point, Larry enters and Iggy leaves.]

Q: Tell us how you came to work with Iggy Pop.

LARRY: Well, the truth is, I was in a band known as Skafish and we recorded on I.R.S. Records, which is Miles Copeland's label. Wait a minute... you know, Miles Copeland, The Police and all that... So, I got to know him through touring with him. [Then] I moved out to California and I was looking for some work. So, I called up Miles and I said if anything comes up to give me a call. I was working in a health food store, wasting away, rotting, dying, hoping something would show up. He finally called me one day at the store and says, "Iggy Pop needs a drummer. Why don't you call him?"

So I called him up and he said, "Send me a tape." That's all I did. I never had an audition. I sent him a tape and the next thing I knew I was in New York rehearsing for three weeks then going on the road. That was right after the album was recorded, though, so I didn't record the album. I really enjoy playing with Jim [Iggy]. I really like it. It's great, even though I'm getting old. I'm huffing and puffing, but I try to keep in shape.

Q: Does Jim want to use you for the next recording? Or is that too far down the line?

LARRY: That's probably down the line. Nobody has spoken of that. So I really can't say one way or the other. But between tours I got to find things to do.

Q: How's it working with Chris Stein?

LARRY: I never worked with him. Like I said, I wasn't on the last album so I missed that. Actually, I only met him once in New York and I've never seen him again. It was at one of our first shows.

[And now Larry leaves and in walks Rob DuPrey.]

Q: This is unexpected. Nice to meet you... How did you come to work with Jim?

ROB: I met him a couple of years ago in an old club called Hurrahs in New York. We were out for the night and I ran into him. At the time I was friends with these other people who told me Jim was looking for people for the band so I aggressively accosted him and said I wanted to play for him. Eventually, I had an audition and it worked out.

Q: Are you going to work with him on his next venture?

ROB: It's his show, whatever he wants to use. If I'm part of what he wants to use, that's great.

Q: How's the current tour going?

ROB: Pretty good... this is the third date. We're sort of like a heavy metal sound this tour, the repertoire is more well rounded. I think when people come to see Iggy Pop they want that historical statement, so we're trying to make it a "now" event.

Q: You mentioned that it's hard to do some of the new songs live; why is that? Is it production techniques?

ROB: Yeah, maybe. I don't really know why. I think it's the flavor. I played most of the parts myself, so it's sort of idiosyncratic because of that—you have other people come in on the project and they might not see your particular vision. It's a good album but nonetheless when we formed it we were at a point where we had done "Party," which was our attempt at commercialism. We're at a backlash point on this album. We figure the hell with what everyone thinks, we'll do what we like. Now, I don't feel that way, and probably Jim doesn't... I think it's a very fine album.

Q: Except for "Ordinary Bummer" and "Street Crazies" you co-wrote all the songs with Jim; how do you guys work together?

ROB: I'm a guy that likes to make texture; unfortunately, texture isn't enough in pop music. Jim can take texture and turn it into an anthem. Jim can make a song out of the background sound of a car motor, if he was so inspired. He took a Booker T. riff from"Eat or Be Eaten" and gave it the focus of us being the conquering tribe. Jim has the ability to make a simple statement into a great theme. I feel lucky to have worked with him. He can do it with anybody.

[At this point, Rob leaves and Iggy comes back in.]

IGGY: I thought it would be nice for you to chat with the other fellows because they have a real integral relationship with me. We're a funny bunch—it's almost becoming a parody of The Magnificent Seven. It's an incredibly hyper-intelligent and talented band. But by the same token it's totally, totally a bunch of misfits.

Q: The record cover mentions that no synthesizers were used on the studio recording of "Zombie Birdhouse." Why?

IGGY: Chris Stein said that so that people would know that all the sounds made were achieved by modulations and other basic altering methods. Synthesizers are a joke. They're one more misused trend, just like guitars became a few years back. If you want to bend and treat the sound quality in terms of its emotional angularity you can do it without exclusively using synthesized sound sources.

Q: Are you going to be doing any more work with David Bowie?

IGGY: Absolutely. We have several things on the burner but we're waiting for the backing. It's stupid to do another record, we're thinking about something else.

Q: Is it something you want to talk about?

IGGY: Filmwise.

Q: Full-length feature or video?

IGGY: Well, you'll see!

Q: What do you think is going to happen next, musically?

IGGY: Musically, the excitement aspect of our current nature is going to be tied up and inseparable from the visual aspect. It'll be involved in films and video etc, etc and it'll get more and more that way as time goes on for a couple or three years and then I think that whole thing will be shot to hell. It's my sincere hope that all video machines are blown up and that all movies cease to exist.

Q: Do you own a video machine?

IGGY: No... I think the more important question is what people's rights are going to be in the future as regards their presence on any given video or audio recording. It's really about to get out of hand. Tonight I could have videod this entire place and walked right out of there with the tape and nobody would have questioned it. We're dealing with a whole new IT here.

When I say in three years it'll all be over, I mean it'll be all over for the entertainment industry. Then somebody more serious will take over that technology and that space. It'll probably be like 1984--spectator sport sort of thing. That's what I hate. I can't bear the thought of being a spectator. I don't want to watch anything. I want to do it!

[And Iggy asks me if I want to talk to Frank Infante. Of course I agree! Jim leaves and Frank comes in.]

Q: Frank, how'd you come to work with Iggy?

FRANK: I was playing with Blondie and they weren't doing anything at the time. Jim asked me to form a band together to go on the road, and he asked me if I wanted to play. I said "Sure" and that was it. I wanted to play.

Q: Are you going to be sticking with Jim for awhile?

FRANK: Yeah , probably going to do this tour and maybe some recording.

[At this point, Iggy comes back in.]

IGGY: Hello, hello, hello. We're being kicked out of the whole place.


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