Iggy's agony: performing without the Stooges
By Jonathan Cohen
Sunday, March 18, 2007; 7:13 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (Billboard) - Iggy Pop says he endured the worst "artistic, psychic pain" of his life every time he dusted off tunes by his old punk rock band the Stooges during his solo concerts.
"It was a rock and a hard place," he said during a recent panel at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, accompanied by fellow Stooges Ron and Scott Asheton.
"On the one hand, I hated how it sounded. On the other hand, (the songs) are incredible vehicles. You can come to town, play them and rock the house. I had a fair stretch of slogging it out."
Seeing Pop play Stooges songs as a solo artist was no easy pill to swallow for Ron Asheton, but he acknowledged: "It's show business and it's a wicked animal. You take the offers you get and see what happens."
All agreed nothing beats the original group playing the original material.
The Q&A, moderated by Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, took place a day before the reunited group played one of the festival's biggest shows Saturday at Stubbs BBQ; the band's first album in 34 years, "The Weirdness," was released last week via Virgin.
The Stooges, famed for such late '60s/early '70s punk gems as "No Fun," "Loose" and "Search and Destroy," are now viewed as one of the most important American rock acts of all time, but in their early years, they earned the respect of hardly anybody.
Fricke read a Rolling Stone review from the era that branded the band's sound as "moronic metal," but Asheton countered, "I never got upset. Bad reviews are better, because more people will come and see the Elephant Man or the circus freak."
Pop sent the audience into hysterics when he reminisced about the band's formative days in Ann Arbor, Mich. He recalled tripping on LSD, turning his Farfisa organ up to its maximum volume and then propping his feet up on the instrument for four hours to bask in the drone.
Asheton fondly discussed making whole grain waffles for his bandmates when they lived at the Fun House in Ann Arbor, where watching an old black-and-white TV and smoking pot were day-long activities. "We were foodies early on," Pop said. "I made the salad everyday," Asheton added.
Communal living and non-stop jam sessions honed the Stooges' sound, which could have gone in a much different direction, according to Pop.
"I had little love beads and a Hindu mustache," he said. "I was playing little rock operas about a guy who lived with a little mouse in a bucolic world. These guys were trying to back me up. Nobody would want to listen to that."
Instead, the group became famous for its in-your-face brand of rock'n'roll and hard-partying lifestyle. It all proved unsustainable though, and the Stooges eventually dissolved in the mid-1970s, never to work together again until almost 30 years later.
"No one ever said, hey, I quit," Asheton said. "It was just like, I need a break. It was a long break, but we needed a break."
The band will embark on a brief U.S. tour beginning April 7 in Boston, running through April 27 in Seattle.