The man responsible for the indelible guitar parts on such Stooges classics as “Search and Destroy,” “Gimme Danger,” and “Raw Power” returns as a member of the newly formed James Williamson and the Pink Hearts. The band, which sees guitarist Williamson teaming up with Los Angeles punk group Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs singer Frank Meyer and That Dog singer-violinist Petra Haden will release their debut album, Behind the Shade, on June 22nd via Leopard Lady Records.
“My lyric capability is very poor,” the former Stooge tells Rolling Stone. “I had to really recognize that it’s just never going to come for me. So I teamed up with Frank and I would sit down and write a riff – which was essentially the same style that I’ve always used my entire career. We did the same thing with Iggy [Pop] and I’d come up with a riff, and then he’d put some lyrics behind it.”
And although the band is Iggy-less, the tunes, including “Judith Christ,” “You Send Me Down,” and especially the album’s lead single, “Riot on the Strip,” retain the unmistakable rock n’ roll swagger of the Stooges. “‘Riot on the Strip’ was more of a chord thing at first, and Frank came up with the vocal against that,” Williamson says. “It wasn’t until I got into production of the song that I started adding the lead parts. So I think that song in particular came alive once that was added to it.” The band released a 60-second teaser of the lead single on Wednesday.
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While Williamson describes certain tracks like “The Revolution Stomp” as “upbeat rockers,” not all of the album sees the guitarist crank his amps to ten. “Pink Hearts Across the Sky” is a country-rock ballad, “Miss Misery” sounds like a merger between two Iggy/James mid-tempo classics, “Gimme Danger” and “No Sense of Crime” and the title track is a mood-shifting rootsy tune focusing more on the album’s two lead singers than Williamson’s slashing guitar. “We made it a little more sparse,” Williamson says.
With Haden having previously worked with Williamson on the Stooges album Ready to Die (via a recommendation from Mike Watt) and Meyer and the guitarist crossing paths via a performance on Last Call with Carson Daly (via a recommendation from the Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome), the vocalist positions were set – with the line-up rounded out by bassist Jason Carmer and drummer Michael Urbano alongside various keyboardists and horn players.
Unlike Williamson’s last few solo releases (Re-Licked and Acoustic KO), he is keen to play shows in support of Behind the Shade. “We’d like to tour it,” he says. “We’re talking to people about setting up some gigs now. We haven’t gotten anything concrete set up yet, but we think we’d certainly like to show it live to some people out there who might like it.”
But is Williamson still in touch with Pop, and could the duo ever work together again? “The answer is no and no. But I always say, ‘Never say no,'” he says. “I think we probably said everything that we have to say to each other at this point. I played with Iggy for over 10 years all together. We finished that band, so we don’t really have any Stooges things to do, per se. I’d like to stay doing fresh things and move on with it.”