How Iggy Pop Recaptured Berlin Glory Days
It comes halfway through Iggy Pop‘s show at SXSW in Austin — during “Funtime,” his invitation to ecstasy on the 1977 album The Idiot. Stripped to the waist, showing off a chestnut-tan chest, the singer leaps headfirst from the stage of the Moody Theater, flipping onto his back in a crucifixion pose as he lands on a sea of hands. It is three gigs into his new tour — promoting what he claims is his last album, the dark, compelling Post Pop Depression — and Pop, who turns 69 on April 21st, has taken his first stage dive.
“I needed to connect, and I’ll do whatever it takes,” he declares in a slow-rolling baritone in his dressing room after a searing two-hour set featuring that record and more than a dozen songs from The Idiot and late 1977’s Lust for Life, the fabled LPs Pop made in Berlin with his late friend David Bowie. The previous evening, Pop and his latest combo, led by Post Pop producer and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme, taped an episode here of the TV show Austin City Limits. There was no stage dive. “Everybody was happy — it was like a sock hop,” Pop cracks with a chuckle.
But tonight, “I thought, ‘Let’s get it out of the penthouse,'” he says, referring to the SXSW crowd’s initial reserve. “I know it was hard for them,” he suggests, flashing a gently mocking grin. “They were at a conference. They had a meeting all day.” They were also getting “a full dose — whether they wanted it or not.”
Pop is at a new peak in his half-century ride through garage-rock extremes, legendary self-destruction in the Seventies and Eighties, hard-won sobriety and serial collaboration with admirers like Bowie, Green Day and now Homme. “I work better with other people,” Pop admits. “You’re out of your comfort zone. You say, ‘OK, you threw down. I’ll throw down.'”
Pop had finished a decade of reunion shows with the Stooges when he first exchanged text messages with Homme about writing songs together. “I did a full job with that,” Pop says of the Stooges, who effectively ended when drummer Scott Asheton died in 2014. “I would never play ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ again, at a proper gig, without Ron” — Scott’s older brother, guitarist Ron Asheton, who died in 2009. “Those are his riffs, his sensibility.” There are no Stooges songs in Pop’s current set list.
Instead, he has turned his focus to the creative bond with Bowie that produced The Idiot and Lust for Life. Pop recorded Post Pop Depression with Homme, Dead Weather and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita, and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, cutting the LP in just four weeks in January and March 2015.
At one point, Pop sent Homme what he calls “a detailed blow-by-blow” on the making of those Berlin albums, including the tales behind songs like “Dum Dum Boys,” which was just Pop’s chord change and a piano line until Bowie suggested the title, in homage to the then-defunct Stooges, and told Pop to write a story to go with it.