In an Iggy Pop galaxy far, far away comes this 1982 interview by Pamela Peer
Iggy Pop, also known as, James Newell Osterberg of Ann Arbor, Michigan was in a reflective mood on that drizzling San Francisco afternoon. He was recuperating from a sprained ankle suffered at an Edmonton, Alberta gig on the “Zombie Bird House” tour, which gave him pause to evaluate his circumstances.
“It’s the funniest thing, because it’s made me think about what’s important to me. It’s only a bad sprain. I’ve had much more basic things happen to me, but they didn’t faze me. But not to have your two feet on the ground, it’s like where’s my swagger?”
Before recording Zombie Bird House on Chris Stein’s (Blondie) Animal Records, Iggy had been soul searching. Touring to support Party, his last Arista Record, The Rolling Stones put Pop on a couple of their dates. Although he enjoyed it, when he got off the tour in December 1981, he “had this nagging dissatisfaction with where things were at for me. I was starting to feel too much like I had a career with a small ‘c’.”
That was when Stein approached Pop about recording an album on his Animal label. Stein outlined the structure of his small corporation and Iggy knew that the budget for the project Stein was proposing would be low.
At that time, Iggy had been living for two years at an “outrageously” priced Manhattan hotel and describes his life as” living it up daily”. Iggy needed time to consider the offer, so he popped down to the Carolinas to see family and golf with his parents during January. He concluded that if moved forward with Stein, living large at a Manhattan hotel and dining at NYC’s finest eateries would no longer be an option.
“I wondered if I had it in me to do something else,” Iggy recalls. Pop put himself to the test and sought shelter in Brooklyn. Actually, he asked his light man, Sal Lupo to find him an apartment because by his own admission, Iggy is “really lousy at apartment hunting”. To him, “Brooklyn was a vague image. I mean it might as well be Berlin.” After a thoughtful pause, Iggy continued, “My Brooklyn image was where a lot of writers came from and that sort of what I’ve been dying to do for a long time…to be an author. I’ve always wanted to articulate more fully in my work.”
And he did just that with the publication of “I Want More: The Stooges and Other Stories”. What started out as a photojournalistic Stooges chronicle, Iggy had an angle, and “I just wanted to spit that part of my life out.”
The book and new album reflects Iggy Pop’s new life experiences of living in an apartment, taking out his own garbage and learning to type. He says he uses the town well by eating its fresh food, writing all morning on his second-hand Smith Corona and commuting daily to the city. Pop feels he is living “efficiently and making every dollar count”.
When formulating the creative blueprint for Zombie Bird House, nothing was left to chance. Two months were spent in pre-production work. Iggy and long-time musical mate, Rob duPrey became equal collaborators noting, “There’s only so many times when it’s appropriate to have a hired hand. It’s nice to have somebody with equity.”
The two pooled their instruments and musical resources and had the sound on each song almost complete before going into the studio – “right down to which drumbeat goes where. “The words were the hardest thing. But what I was shooting for basically was alternative news. I was getting a real bad aftertaste from television. Real People (an NBC reality television series that aired from 1979 to 1984) isn’t a bad idea, but it isn’t real enough for me,” says the former Stooge. “I don’t mind the news, but I don’t love it either. So I wanted to talk less about myself and more about what’s around me.”
The vocals on Zombie are not as fluid in range as on his previous albums. Pop attributes this to his concern for diction in conveying the alternative news’ message and the lack of intoxication. Iggy says he was straighter during these sessions than on other albums. A little juice to grease the pipes on the next album probably wouldn’t hurt.
Considering Iggy’s new fascination with writing, it seemed obvious to ask if music was still a priority. He responds, “I enjoy live work, but I don’t think the traveling constantly is all that good for you. It’s like eating too much ice cream. I could never stop doing music. I really want to do Off-Broadway. I’d like to stay in a town and perform every night, with the ability to make it finely honed. I couldn’t imagine not singing or playing…I’m a rocker!”
Iggy Pop & Glen Matlock live in 1982, photo by Roberta Bayley.
Even among the most rebellious rockers, Iggy Pop has the reputation of being outrageous. But at 35, it seems the man is mellowing. Being sidelined in a hotel with a healing ankle, Pop notes “these past couple of days have been one of those times when in the past, I would have blown up.” But he isn’t exploding, he’s examining…himself.
Detroit audiences have always joined in the madness at an Iggy gig – after all, Detroit is his home turf. And he says, “when Iggy comes to town, get the bottles, the eggs, the pineapples…even guns have been displayed. I was shit scared this time ‘cause it wasn’t only Detroit, it was Halloween in Detroit.”
He did the Detroit and an Ann Arbor gig and a book signing – all interactive activities and Iggy was pleased. “I got respect. Nobody threw anything. I felt great about that.”
To what does he attribute his newfound respect?
“My attitude,” says Iggy. “I rocked my butt off on stage and tried to remember to say ‘thank you’ once in a while.”