Slamminï¿½ 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 rockï¿½s eternal truths ï¿½ summertime, cars, women, pain ï¿½ are collective evidence in 2003 that Iggy Popï¿½s roadmap hasnï¿½t changed all that much since the Stooges were first unleashed upon the world a few years back.
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 ï¿½70s, ï¿½80s, ï¿½90s 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 ï¿½90s. 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, Iggyï¿½s seventh album on Virgin Records.
But in true Iggy Pop fashion, SKULL RING also features fresh collaborations with mega-platinum hitmakers Green Day (ï¿½Private Hell,ï¿½ ï¿½Supermarketï¿½) and Canadian punk-pop hipsters Sum 41 (ï¿½Little Know It All,ï¿½ 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 ï¿½Rock Showï¿½ and ï¿½Motor Innï¿½). The lionï¿½s share (seven) of the new tracks on SKULL RING were recorded with Iggyï¿½s hard-working band the Trolls. Along its members is guitarist Whitey Kirst (often Iggyï¿½s songwriting partner) who first came on-board back on Brick By Brick, Iggyï¿½s 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 ï¿½ ï¿½Little Electric Chair,ï¿½ ï¿½Skull Rings,ï¿½ ï¿½Loser,ï¿½ and ï¿½Dead Rockstarï¿½ ï¿½ 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 ï¿½ Iggy, Ron and Scott abetted by fellow conspirator Mike Watt on bass ï¿½ during several historic headlining shows together including the annual Coachella Festival in Indio, California in April, and New Yorkï¿½s 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 ï¿½ 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 bandï¿½s three seminal LPs, starting with the classic self-titled debut of 1969, The Stooges, with ï¿½1969,ï¿½ ï¿½I Wanna Be Your Dogï¿½ (covered by everyone from Richard Hell and Joan Jett to Uncle Tupelo, and sampled by Snoop Dogg), and ï¿½No Funï¿½ (done by the Sex Pistols). The second album released the following year, Fun House, contained ï¿½Down On the Streetï¿½ (done by Rage Against the Machine), ï¿½1970ï¿½ (the Damned), and ï¿½T.V. Eye,ï¿½ most recently heard on the original soundtrack of Jack Blackï¿½s School Of Rock (along with ï¿½Sick Of Youï¿½).
The Stoogesï¿½ final album, 1973ï¿½s Raw Power, was the source for ï¿½Search and Destroyï¿½ (whose endless covers include Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Go-Gos, Dictators, Everclear, EMF, Cameron Croweï¿½s Almost Famous movie soundtrack, and Beavis & Butthead!), ï¿½Gimme Dangerï¿½ (Monster Magnet and last yearï¿½s Dogtown And Z-Boys soundtrack), and ï¿½Shake Appealï¿½ (a perennial VH1 and horror movie favorite), not to mention Guns Nï¿½ Rosesï¿½ cover of the title tune, ï¿½Raw Power.ï¿½
Iggyï¿½s first two solo albums (both 1977 releases) are equally turned-to for their riches. The Idiot is the place to find ï¿½Nightclubbingï¿½ (chosen for the Trainspotting movie soundtrack and memorably re-done by Grace Jones), ï¿½China Girlï¿½ (nicely rediscovered last year by Pete Yorn), and ï¿½Fun Timeï¿½ (check out the versions by R.E.M., Boy George, and Peter Murphy). Iggyï¿½s 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 songï¿½s appearances, from Trainspotting and tv cameos in ï¿½Ally McBeal,ï¿½ ï¿½Gilmore Girls,ï¿½ and NBCï¿½s 75th Anniversary Special, to commercials ranging from Kelloggï¿½s 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 ï¿½The Passenger,ï¿½ a widely compiled and covered tune (as by R.E.M., Siouxsie & the Banshees, Lunachicks and more).
After Iggyï¿½s self-confessed drug and alcohol-fueled ï¿½lost weekendï¿½ of the ï¿½80s, which included seriously overlooked albums on Arista (New Values, Soldier, Party) and A&M (Blah-Blah-Blah with ï¿½Real Wild Child,ï¿½ 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 ï¿½Candyï¿½ (featuring singer Kate Pierson of the B-52ï¿½s), the first and only top 30 single of his career to date. Years later, ï¿½Candyï¿½ 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 ï¿½Louie, Louieï¿½), 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 ï¿½Shakinï¿½ All Overï¿½ that has appeared on many collections), and Beat ï¿½em Up (2001, with the 13-minute closing stream of consciousness monologue, ï¿½V.I.P.ï¿½).
The ï¿½90s also found Iggy embarking on a sideline film career that had begun almost by accident in the ï¿½80s with roles in Sid And Nancy and Paul Newmanï¿½s The Color Of Money. Iggy could be seen in the post-apocalyptic Hardware (1990), John Watersï¿½ ill-fated Cry-Baby with Johnny Depp (also 1990), the comic-based Tank Girl (1993), Jim Jarmuschï¿½s 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 Deppï¿½s American Indian thriller The Brave (1997, with Marlon Brando), the Chris Elliott comedy Snow Day (2000), and Jarmuschï¿½s all-star Coffee & Cigarettes (2003). Over the same period, Iggy became a ubiquitous presence in a handful of tv assignments, ranging from Nickelodeonï¿½s ï¿½The Adventures Of Pete & Peteï¿½ and ï¿½Accidentally On Purpose,ï¿½ to ï¿½Star Trek Deep Space 9ï¿½ and HBOï¿½s ï¿½Tales From the Crypt.ï¿½
In the midst of all this action, as far back as the early ï¿½90s, 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 ï¿½T.V. Eyeï¿½ 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 ï¿½Asheton-Asheton-Mascis-Watt,ï¿½ fans went crazy when they heard Stooges music coming from the stage.
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. ï¿½What really changed things,ï¿½ says Iggy, ï¿½was that I was out on tour for Beat ï¿½em Up and I heard everywhere I went, ï¿½hey, Ronï¿½s out on tour with Dinosaur Jr. doing Stooges songs and itï¿½s real goodï¿½ or I was in Europe and Iï¿½d hear ï¿½Ron and Scott are both out with Mike Watt doing Stooges songs at festivals.ï¿½ And I thought whoa, theyï¿½re out there playing the material, so that kind of raised my eyebrow a little bit.ï¿½
When time came to do a new record, Iggy weighed offers for an entire Stooges album. But he wanted to keep it real. ï¿½But that means keeping it real with a complex character. Iï¿½ve got different facets to what I do and Iï¿½ve gotta represent it all. I wanted to represent my touring band and the fact that I work constantly with other artists ï¿½ and some pretty fucking estimable ones at that. The more I thought about it I thought, ï¿½you really should get the Stoogesï¿½ involved ï¿½ but I didnï¿½t expect jack shit from it, I really underestimated my own group.ï¿½
The sessions in North Miami (not far from Iggyï¿½s bayfront cottage in Miami Beach, where heï¿½s been residing for about five years) exceeded everyoneï¿½s expectations. It marked the first time that Iggy, Ron and Scott ï¿½ his original co-founders in ï¿½The Psychedelic Stoogesï¿½ back in 1967 ï¿½ had been recorded together since the Halloween 1973 riot-show debacle at Detroitï¿½s Michigan Palace that turned into the Stoogeï¿½s final official LP, Metallic KO (issued in ï¿½76). Tracks were outlined in just three days; the entire session wrapped in eight.
ï¿½These guys are now very focused workers, theyï¿½re 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. Thatï¿½s 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.ï¿½
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 ï¿½Little Know It All,ï¿½ which he co-wrote with the groupï¿½s Deryck Whibley and their producer Greig Nori. ï¿½They sent me a demo of something,ï¿½ Iggy recalls. ï¿½They didnï¿½t want it to sound like another one of their songs so they said it was in the mold of ï¿½early Social Distortion,ï¿½ which of course for them is where the world begins because theyï¿½re so youngï¿½ 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.ï¿½
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 Trï¿½ 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 Berkeleyï¿½s Studio 880. ï¿½The stuffï¿½s kind of rockabilly in a way although it doesnï¿½t feel like it, I think thatï¿½s 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, ï¿½do it, do it, do it!ï¿½ 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.ï¿½
Iggyï¿½s durable working band ï¿½ long-time guitarist and co-writer Whitey Kirst, his brother drummer Alex Kirst, and bassist Pete Marshall ï¿½ recently gave themselves a name, The Trolls. In Iggyï¿½s 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.
ï¿½Because for the last five years before this album was made, Iï¿½ve been out making a living, playing in the flesh, doing the real dirty deal with these guys. And if theyï¿½re there when you piss and theyï¿½re there when you sweat and theyï¿½re there on the stinking bus, and next to you when you raise your arm in glory and everybody says ï¿½yea heï¿½s greatï¿½ and you know the gigï¿½s 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, yï¿½know?ï¿½
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, ï¿½Rock Show,ï¿½ was remastered and remixed at Hit Factory Criteria, with Iggy overdubbing his vocal as an ï¿½answerï¿½ to Peaches. She then brought her repertoire of beatbox grooves to North Miami and worked with Iggy on two fresh tracks, ï¿½Motor Innï¿½ (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 ï¿½ and that covers some ground ï¿½ SKULL RING reveals an artist for whom taking chances is second nature, a craftsman who is constantly seeking out others to challenge his imagination. ï¿½I canï¿½t do it all myself,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Iï¿½m not that kind of artist, Iï¿½m 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 Iï¿½d have a whole portrait but it would still have many facets. Thatï¿½s what I was hoping for. I think thatï¿½s the best thing I could offer.ï¿½