Iggy Pop: 'What Happens When People Disappear' The ever-candid Stooges frontman joins NPR's Renee Montagne to discuss living life over the edge, how everyone comes around to his band late, and ways to "become a part of yesterday."

Iggy Pop: 'What Happens When People Disappear'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/180337240/180491401" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Okay. It can't said that there would be no punk rock without Iggy Pop, but Iggy Pop and the Stooges were there long before anyone else with an explosive sound and screw you attitude that kicked in the punk era and influenced generations of musicians.


MONTAGNE: Going on half a century later, the band is, incredibly, still making music with that same big punk rock sound, a sound you would have heard on the now classic 1970s albums "Funhouse" and "Raw Power." We've just been hearing "Gun," that's from their new album, called "Ready To Die." When I spoke to Iggy Pop, he looked back at the earliest days of the Stooges, in Detroit, in 1967, where the band brought chaos to the stage.

IGGY POP: Before we were making records, we were making a big avant-garde mess around the Detroit area. We would show up with some oil cans and vacuum cleaners, beaters(ph), also electric rock instruments, and we would play a kind of trance music. It sounded a lot like the folk music from the desert areas of North Africa. While I sang - I would freestyle lyrics.


MONTAGNE: It was 1969 when the band came out with its first record, called "The Stooges," and included this song.


POP: (Singing) It was 1969, okay. (Unintelligible) the USA. Was another year for me and you. Another year with nothing to do.

Where we were coming from was so out there from the rock world at that time that even when we came in, it was still - there's a new age coming in. You know, people are finding love in the streets of San Francisco with buckskins and beads, and we're all making money doing this, and this guy's singing about having nothing to do, and there's so much to do. (Bleep) you.

MONTAGNE: It might be worth saying this would have been the summer of love, that we're talking the music of Jefferson Airplane, something like that, their band.

POP: I never liked them. They had one good song: "White Rabbit." But it was better than (singing): "Are you going to San Francisco? (Speaking) That blows.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. Well, you know, though, I think anyone seeing your shows in those early days would have thought you didn't just live your life on the edge, that you went over the edge. There are famous stories of you taking it to the point of, say, in one case ending up at the emergency room, being stitched up because you had crawled over glass onstage.

POP: Yeah, but that was - listen: Before that, they wanted to send me to Vietnam. So if you look at it this way, I got a discount. Yeah. It was a lot safer to be in the Stooges than to be in the Army that year, you know?

MONTAGNE: Why don't we listen to one of those songs on the current album, called "Job," and it feels like vintage Stooges.

POP: Hey, I think so too.


POP: It started out, I was just intensely irritated every time I saw Romney coming on during the elections. If I'm elected, I'll get you a job. I'll get you a job. You'll have a job. The guy just bugged me, but it was also just the keyword issue: job, job, job, job, blah, blah, blah.


POP: (Singing) I got a job. I got a job. I got a job, but it don't play (bleep) I got a job. I got a job. I got a job...

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who have jobs and they work hard, and the job isn't enough to make ends meet. We were two months into this record and everybody knows, especially when you're the Stooges, there's not money in the record, but here I was working and working and working and, you know, working with these bunch of old rock grumps, you know?

And I'm thinking, there's not even any money in this. So I began to take on the character of the guy and it became personal for me.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, I wonder, at this point, is it a point of pride that the Stooges won't make money?

POP: No, baby, here's the way it works. We make an album, everybody complains for the first five years. And after about 10 years, people say, hey, you know, that's pretty good. The money kicks in about 20 years later. And little by little, that old band has defeated a lot of our shag-haired, frilly-vest-wearing crapola, corporate rock gods and goddesses of the '60s and '70s.

So the problem now, of course, is do I have 30 years to wait for royalties for this record? See, because I'm 66. You know, I think people need to hurry up and buy the record.


POP: (Singing) Now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog.

MONTAGNE: This song, from the original album, The Stooges, is now paying off for the surviving band members, but not the man playing the guitar riff you've been hearing. Original band member Ron Asheton died four years ago. The Stooges' new album ends with an ode to Asheton, a ballad that began as a musical moment that guitarist James Williamson shared with Iggy Pop.

POP: He sent me a very, very pretty piece of dobro music that began and ended with him playing the motif to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on slide guitar, and he called it "Ron's Tune." I rewrote the lyric, keeping the melody, and I wanted to write about the transition from careless youth to wary older age. And then finally what happens when people disappear. Hence "The Departed."


POP: (Singing) Where is the life we started? Yesterday's door opening for the departed.

MONTAGNE: What does happen when people disappear?

POP: I don't know, Renee, because I'm not...

MONTAGNE: I don't mean where you're going.

POP: That was the best I could get, was that they walk through a door and become a part of yesterday.


POP: (Singing) Party girls (unintelligible) party boys (unintelligible)...

MONTAGNE: Iggy Pop. His new album is called "Ready To Die." You can watch the Stooges perform at our website, NPR.org. Thank you very much.

POP: Hey, you betcha. Thanks for everything, Renee.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.