Iggy Pop photographed by Kenneth Cappello

IGGY POP

Words & interview by Foster Kamer
From SNEEZE NO.14

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HEROIN HATES YOU.

Any time between six and eight, I pitter around for a couple of hours, either think horrible thoughts about the rest of The Stooges, or think about some project we’re working on, or go over my notes for the day.

Yes, you, Iggy Pop.

I read The New York Times every day and The New Yorker every week. After I’ve been awake a couple of hours, I do something that’s related to Tai-Chi. It’s called Chi-Gung. They are exercises that involve breathing really hard, into here [points to abs] through your nose while doing various movements. A couple of hours? No, man, fuck no. For like, half an hour.

It thinks you’re the biggest piece of shit on the planet, and that includes Keith Richards, who at least looks like he served his time under the needle. At 64, you have an eight-pack, your mug is as leathered as it is egregiously well-held. It looks like the needle served time under you.

It’s already falling apart. It’s been falling apart for years, and it’s just good to make judicious decisions. I get a lot of bang for the buck, but the actual number of shows I do is very selective. If you keep going and going and going, people get sick of you. You wear out on them. Do I think about the allure? Fuck yeah. I mean, it’s just the common sense of: You can’t just appear again.

Hell, heroin hates you more than David Bowie, who produced a few of your albums and tried to help you kick the habit in Berlin with him in the mid-70s. But Bowie was always going to make it. He recorded “Space Oddity.”

It was my foot. I thought, ‘This is not something that… that piece of bone…’ I had so much trouble for so long when I didn’t have an acknowledged career, and I had so much aggro with everybody, that I’ve trained myself to be positive at all times. I just waited for the end of the song, said ‘Alright, yeah! I broke my foot, I think!’ It started hurting and swelling about three minutes later. Yeah, I finished the show.

What did you do? You? You know where you should be, now.

Miami? Twelve years. Before then, New York, for like, twenty years. I was looking around Gramercy Park, and I started seeing all these harbingers of Bloomberg, all these smug guys with little scarves and big, long overcoats that they only wore twice a year. I don’t know. Suddenly everything looked closed. There wasn’t really the music coming out of there at that time. I saw it more as a promotional center than a creative one. I knew I was going to leave in ’97.

It thinks you should be dead. You were the perfect target, from the first moment you invented stage diving in Detroit, rolling around, always with your shirt off, in broken glass and dirt and whatever kind of filth you could find on or off the stage.

I’m a hick kid from the streets. I grew up in Detroit, and I left when I was 25. I came down here when I was 50. In those 25 years, I lived in the pits of Hollywood, in London, in Berlin and in New York City. Just those four places. I was beat out, and I thought: I’m going to buy this house, and I’m going to move here, and I don’t give a fuck.

You were the first one to find your calling in the rapture of pain, chaos, feedback to feedback, belligerence personified. That made you the perfect target. So did the obscurity.

I said I’d try it out for a week. I came down here and nobody shot me, or bothered me, or hurt me. There’s a great grid in this area and it wasn’t full, and nobody knew what to do with the space. There were these little old people and these sleazy Cubans trying to sell, uh, a monkey, I don’t know. Everything was just the way I like it.

Your first two albums, with The Stooges, flopped. They broke up because of your addiction. It happened twice. The second time, The Stooges ended in a fight with a crew of bikers you told to suck your ass during a 45-minute rendition of “Louie, Louie,” which was right before you called them “faggot sissies.” This resulted in what legendary rock critic Lester Bangs called “the only rock album I know where you can actually hear hurled beer bottles breaking against guitar strings.”

My character is such that when I decide something, then I have the ability to throw the worry out, because it doesn’t matter. No matter what, I’m not going back, right up to death. It was the same way I felt when I decided I’m not going to be a lawyer, I’m not going to be President, I’m going to be a musician. My parents said, ‘What?! You’re going to ruin your life!’ Like that. Then when I was a musician, I was a drummer, and when I realized that meant I was going to spend the rest of my life looking at some prick’s butt shaking back and forth, well, in a lot of ways, it’s the shit place to be. So, I said, ‘I’m going to be a songwriter.’ And I just walked around Michigan for eighteen months just thinking about how to do it.

You were angry. You weren’t popular. You were such a fuckup, even Andy Warhol couldn’t explain why you hadn’t made it big, and that was in 1980, in the forward to your autobiography. You were 33. That was it. Done.

But no. Bowie, again, this time with his covers of your songs in ’84. His version of “China Girl” was such a hit, it gave you enough money to get your life together and get clean.

I spoke to him last about seven years ago. He had two offers, and I couldn’t do either one. I haven’t heard from him since. He gave me his number, and I put it in a box somewhere and lost it. I don’t really have occasions to call him. Our relationship was always such that he would propose something, and I would do it. When I first moved to New York, I saw him quite a bit, and then at one point he was doing other things, with another vibe, for other people. It’s just a matter of different phases.

Then, another album, another kinda-comeback. You and Sex Pistols survivor Steve Jones with the Repo Man theme.

Detroit? It’s tough. I have a lot of nostalgia for the evil. I know all the things I can do there that are, you know… You could have a really good time on a really incorrect level. There used to be a little place downtown where I’d go and they’d throw drinks at me. It used to be a Catholic church or something.

You started acting. You know how many actors it got? Heroin loved actors, especially in the 80s. And then a funny thing happened: the 90s. Your first gold record. That classic opening scene of Trainspotting — heroin’s least-favorite movie ever — set to “Lust for Life,” a song about, among other things, scoring. There was even a line in the movie about you, where a character mistakes you for being dead. She was corrected; she stands corrected. Your music started appearing everywhere. In 2003, The Stooges get back together.

It was enormously beneficial for everything. The person I was in the first place that made everybody else want to work with me or led to anything else I did was formed in The Stooges, when I was twenty. Fortuitously, I’m one of those people who still resembles themselves and that’s rare, frankly. Too rare. There is something unchanging that I’m in touch with, there, but yet it’s not retro either yet, exactly. With us, it was something we were really insane to do, and just had to do. I’ll be completely straight with you: There are reasons that nobody really has rock bands anymore. The reason is that it’s archaic and inefficient, maddening and depressing. It’s like being married to three guys and they’re all hardhead lunatics. But when you go out and actually do it and you hear it and you see it and you feel it and you see what it’s doing to people, then that’s like, ‘Yeah!’ you know? There’s nothing as good as that.

Seven years later, they and you are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It started with Nirvana, halfway through. That was the last major attempt that I know of to actually have a real rock band, and come up from under, and do it your way. I saw them at The Pyramid before they got Dave Grohl, and the drummer wasn’t big time enough, they weren’t going to become millionaires from what they did at The Pyramid. But you could already hear it, like: ‘Oh, shit. He’s really got something.’ But very quickly, what’s the makeup of the band now? A widow, some buyout people, and somebody with another career, carrying on an associated brand of vastly inferior quality. It’s different. It’s branding, now.

And in 2011, a few days after Christmas, there you are.

I just bought the new Black Keys, but I also downloaded Hag, which is The Best of Merle Haggard. There’s one title on it, “I think I’ll Just Stay Home and Drink,” that’s a good fucking title, man. There’s a Bitches Brew reissue Sony sent. I’m listening to that, and I listen to No Age, a bit. I like No Age.

You are walking out of your “clubhouse” — a quaint colonial Spanish-style home with a lush, tropical flora-covered yard deep in Miami, on the edge of a roughed-up suburb—the secret location we’re escorted to after a rendezvous at a nearby Starbucks with your longtime assistant.

Reading and enjoying nature. Trees, grass, the sea. I spend a lot of time by the sea. I live on the sea down there and I can go nude if I want to. I’ve enjoyed many years of quality bedtime with a chick that’s not my wife, so, things like that. We’ve got a lot of animals. It’s more her thing, but I do enjoy that. I’m going to get rid of you guys soon and I’m going to have a little bit of Clos Du Marquis and make a simple pasta.

You are doing what so many old people go to Florida to do — dying, to die — but probably not how you should have. You’re dying well. You still have the piss, and the vinegar. And yet, you’re not angry. You’re not even crotchety.

I avoided all the movements because I thought they weren’t really going to do anything for me. My heart goes out to those people, it really does.

You are, oddly, in your prime.

The best part of all of this has been about the last ten years, since I was 50. Those have been like, the really: “Wow.” When I look back at the other stuff, I tend to remember the sex. That’s a really nice one.

They say the best revenge is a quiet life.

Yeah, it is fucking long. It’s working out that way for me. You do start thinking about life expectancy and whatnot, and then start wondering: How many years do I have left of what I would actually call life? You know? It still looks pretty long. I still feel like there’s a good fifteen years in there, but I might have longer.

But you are still living loudly.

I have certain privileges.

And we know this because when we meet you, you are smiling a warm smile, your crystal-sharp blue eyes glowing, and as you stand next to your Ferrari F430, shake our hand and say:

Hi. I’m Iggy. Nice to meet you.

Iggy Pop photographed by Kenneth Cappello in Miami

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