Iggy Pop, the notorious rocker who once checked himself into a psychiatric institution and spent years living — in his own words — “from flophouse to flophouse,” is again proving himself to be a rock survivor via his latest musical endeavor.
But the onetime Godfather of Punk and pioneer of Marilyn Manson-style onstage antics clearly has mellowed over the years — a fact made evident by his decision to recruit a jazz trio to help out with his new album.
“Everything you know about Iggy and the Stooges is true,” said the album’s producer, Don Was, referring to the ’60s proto-punk band that launched Pop’s career. “At 50, he doesn’t want to be confined to one portion of their thought process. They were out there puking on stage every night, but obviously he’s a really bright guy and there’s more to him than that.”
Besides choosing to work with uber-producer Was (whose list of clients is a mainstream-rock who’s-who, from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan and Elton John), Pop tapped jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood to back him up on a few tracks.
Bassist Chris Wood said the threesome recorded with Pop in a giant cement room in a converted Yiddish theater in New York, working through the jazz standard “Willow Weep for Me” and a pair of other cuts.
“They all sounded different, they all sounded unlike what I’ve heard Iggy Pop sound like before,” Wood, 29, said. “One of the tunes was very mellow and grooving and another one was hard-hitting rock meets merengue … I loved it. I thought he was a really smart, funny guy, really into working with the moment and improvising and doing what feels good.”
Iggy Pop first emerged in Detroit in the late ’60s with the Stooges and quickly became legendary for wild, over-the-top stage antics that reportedly included writhing around on broken glass, smearing himself with peanut butter and having sex with a fan during a show.
Pop’s new material spotlights a side of the singer that’s not widely known.
Although the record might not get released until summer, Was already believes the new tunes constitute some of the finest work of the singer’s lengthy career — a career that has yielded such songs as “Lust for Life” and “I Wanna Live,” as well as collaborations with David Bowie (“China Girl”).
“This is the best songwriting he’s ever done … Talking about poetry and metaphor, his choice of metaphor is unlike anybody’s on earth,” Was said of the songs on the currently untitled album. “It’s a revealing look into the male psyche and the collapse of relationships. It’s really intimate and brutally honest.”
Was said Pop plays a lot of acoustic guitar on the record and said the new album will include such tunes as “Nazi Girlfriend,” “No Shit,” “Ms. Argentina” and “Rock Star Grave.”
“I’ve always felt with him, his situation is not dissimilar to Paul [Westerberg, formerly of ’80s power-pop act the Replacements]. They come from legendary raucous bands … and there’s always been this thing with living up to being in the Stooges and the Replacements.” Was said. “They’ve both landed in a place where they’re comfortable being adult versions of the guys who were in those bands.”
In addition to the recording session with Medeski, Martin and Wood in the converted theater, Was said some of the record was recorded in a “tiny little concrete rehearsal room in a Soho building where [dance/techno artist] Moby lives,” which created some unusual effects.
“He was standing six inches away from the drummer. Iggy played most of the guitars on the record and sang live,” Was said. “There was this concrete, monolithic thing going on. I’ve never heard anything like it. You can hear the concrete and the guitars bouncing off the walls.”