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Stooges Guitarist James Williamson Talks 'Raw Power'-Era Rarities

'Re-Licked' will feature Stooges song only available on hissy bootlegs

March 7, 2014 8:20 AM ET
James Williamson
James Williamson
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Iggy Pop released the following statement to Rolling Stone"Iggy was never given an opportunity to participate on the album. He found out about the project in December of 2013 after it was rejected by a Chicago label." 

When Iggy Pop decided that the Stooges would take 2014 off, guitarist James Williamson had little desire to stop working. After all, Willamson already had a 30-year break from the music industry before he rejoined the Stooges in 2010 after original guitarist Ron Asheton passed away. He also had the itch to finally complete a series of songs the Stooges wrote around 1973 for a follow-up to Raw Power that never came to be. 

Iggy and the Stooges Are 'Ready to Die'

With Iggy out of the picture for now, Williamson reached out to a series of guest singers along with the band's bassist Mike Watt, saxophonist Steve Mackay and touring drummer Toby Dammit to finally record the old material. He's calling the project Re-Licked. "These are songs we only played live," Williamson tells Rolling Stone. "I felt these songs had greater potential than what was represented on bootlegs. Recording them properly is something I've always wanted to do. I know not everyone can sing a Stooges song, but so far so good."

Hardcore fans of The Stooges will recognize titles like "Open Up And Bleed," "I Got A Right," "Heavy Liquid," "She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills" and "Wild Love" from dodgy-sounding bootlegs that have been circulating for decades. "We were terrible entertainers back in the 1970s," says Williamson. "It didn't dawn on us that we should play songs that people know. We also got bored very easily and just wanted to do new stuff. But then Columbia didn't pick up our option and so the songs had nowhere to go." 

Williamson is still hard at work on the album, but on April 19th, he'll release "Open Up And Bleed" and "Gimme Some Skin" on vinyl for Record Store Day. Texas blues singer Carolyn Wonderland handles vocal duties on both tracks. "I've evolved my thinking about a few of the songs," says Williamson. "Some of the arrangements have been changed a bit and there's a few lyrical tweaks, but pretty much they're true to the originals."

Much of the album was recorded at Dave Grohl's 606 Studios in Northridge, California, which utilizes the legendary Nieve console from Sound City Studios. "The Nieve console is just killer," says Williamson. "It's a great sound for basic tracks and it's convenient because Watt lives right down by there."

Some of the singers on the project will be largely unknown to mass audiences, like Teri Gender Bender of the Mexican punk band Le Butcherettes. She's tackling the super obscure "Till The End of Night," while Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan was recruited to sing "Wild Love" and Mario Cuomo of The Orwells is handling "Sick of You." "That's a real teen angst sort of song," says Williamson of the latter track. "He sort of channels Joey Ramone on that." 

Former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra signed on to record "Head On." "That song has always been on his bucket list," says Williamson. "I wouldn't dare give it to anybody else. Watt also plays a huge bass solo on that." Ariel Pink sings "She Creatures of Hollywood" and, according to Williamson, is "probably the only guy that could have made that song work." Mackay also provides a "Fun House-style sax solo" to accompany Pink.

So far, Williamson has cut eight tracks and plans to record five more once Watt returns from a long European tour. "I figure I can have the album mixed, mastered and pressed by late August or early September," he says. "Sometime before that, I'll put out a second single, maybe in June."

In an ideal world, Iggy Pop would have sung on this album, but Williamson understands his reluctance. "He's made something like 40 albums," he says. "After our last album, he wasn't too excited about stepping into the studio. I understand."

Don't expect Williamson to hit the road in support of Re-Licked. "That's not in the cards," he says. "I suppose we could consider something in major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London, but to pull 13 singers together for a show? Fuck. That would be almost impossible."

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