When Iggy Pop decided to call his old Stooges bandmates to create a song for his new record, Skull Ring, he was more than a touch apprehensive.
More than 30 years had passed since the Detroit proto-punk band injected insurgency, primal chaos and bluesy grime into the underground, and some bitter words had been exchanged in the press. During a not-so-lucid moment, Pop once said guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton "couldn't run an aquarium," and the brothers struck the singer below the belt by saying late bassist Dave Alexander would still be alive if Pop hadn't kicked him out one night when Alexander was on acid and couldn't remember any of the songs.
"There were some nerves when we met," Pop said. "Everyone was serious and focused and just wanted everything to go well. All I wanted was a bloody good track for my record, but as soon as we got in there and played, the music had life and vigor, and I realized, 'My God, these guys have grown. They're better now than they were.' "
The album's title track was the song for which the musicians reunited. The Stooges burned through it quickly and furiously and then decided to bang out a second song, "Loser," which was inspired by the White Stripes. "I wrote that after I heard White Blood Cells, because I thought, 'My God, they're a little bit Stooges, a little bit Pretenders. I could write that,' " recalled Pop. "I decided if they're gonna rewrite me, I'll rewrite them."
A day later, "Loser" was recorded. Then, while Pop took a day off, the Ashetons went into the studio and laid down the foundation for another two cuts, "Little Electric Chair" and "Dead Rock Star," the latter of which is one of Iggy's favorites on the record.
"It's the one with the most mature sound," Pop said. "You've got the same people 30 years later actually sounding like it's 30 years later. I'm singing in a full baritone and there's quite a bit of irony in the lyrics. It's about this guy who has grown up and he basically feels, 'Well now, I'm successful and they're turning me into a stiff over that.' And Ron's doing some really tender guitar work that you wouldn't have found in the original band because we were too young."
In the studio, the Stooges played without a bassist. Ron Asheton and Peter Marshall later overdubbed the bass parts. At one point it looked like White Stripes frontman Jack White would fill in on four-string duties — which would have been ironic since his band has no bass. "We came very close, but Jack wanted to do an entire Stooges album, and the Stooges weren't ready for that," Pop said. "It was one of those things that got a little off balanced and went a little too far, too fast, so it didn't happen."
Even so, Pop won't rule out the possibility of collaborating with White on a full Stooges studio album that veteran producer Rick Rubin will likely produce. Pop said he decided to work with the Stooges on their first disc since 1973's Raw Power because he was inspired by how productive they were on Skull Ring and how powerful they've sounded on the eight Stooges shows they've played so far. Next year he and Ron Asheton will get together to start writing, and they'll likely enter the studio in time to have the record on the shelves in 2005.
"They want it as fast as possible, and I want it as slow as possible," Pop said. "They need the money more than I do right now. I don't know. I'm pretty lazy, but my intention is to do another great record with those guys."