When Iggy & the Stooges broke up in 1974, almost no one who'd heard of the band had heard it.
More than 40 years later, Iggy Pop's band has a new album "Ready to Die," a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and growing reverence for its place in music history. It's one of rock's stranger success stories, but what do you expect when it comes to Iggy Pop, 66, and the proto-punk band everybody used to hate, but really loved?
"It's true, it's a funny arc with us," Pop said in a phone interview. "That is the way it is, actually, in all the various numerical yardsticks of all this crud - it's bigger than it was. We have the advantage that it was so tiny when we started. It was really, really tiny in numerical scope, but it's grown and all those old records still sell really nice and steadily, and they're heavily licensed. People get to hear them at sports events and on movies and in adverts."
The Michigan-based Stooges broke up in 1974 after dropping three albums, including the highly influential "Fun House" and "Raw Power." The group with Mike Watt on bass reformed in 2003 and guitarist James Williamson rejoined the band in 2009 after guitarist- bassist Ron Asheton passed away.
AP: What do you think accounts for the band's continuing growth in popularity?
Pop: It got more to the general public maybe somewhere in the mid- '90s. It just sort of got to be everybody was ready to go,'Oooh, OK.'I think part of that is there were fewer and fewer people doing sort of quote-unquote rock'n'roll. It's become less and less available on a daily basis.
AP: Your guitarist James Williamson returned to the band after a long break from music. Did he struggle to get back up to speed?
Pop: There are little nuances that I hear of things that he can do that he couldn't do a year ago or two years ago. That's interesting. Ultimately in a group of this vintage, there are certain things that you can't do quite as much of that you could do when you're in your 20s. If you've got soul and know how to marshal your intelligence, you can more than make up for that by the depth you can bring and the intelligent decisions you can make as a musician when you're in your 60s and I'd say that's kind of what he does.
AP: You had a reputation for high-energy shows during the first go-round with the Stooges. Is it more difficult to perform to that standard now?
Pop: My personal ability to project physical energy probably didn't peak until only about six years ago, seven years ago. It was in my mid- to late-50s and that's because when I was younger I didn't work at it at all. Also the big difference was I was a little ahead of my time, seems to be the general rap on me, and so I didn't get the audience feedback then. It's really hard. You can come out and bust ass and keep that up for about three songs, but if a bunch of people are just giving you the cold stare, it gets hard to sort of not wither. So it was kind of like fighting skirmishes. I would skirmish and regroup, skirmish and regroup. But later as people started to accept it more ... I would go to bed early, take my nap, sleep all day, rehearse really hard, and really, really get ready for that moment on stage.
AP: Do you think there will be more Stooges music down the road?
Pop: You know that's a good question. By the time I got done with this one, I been in the mood like,'Oh, f---, am I glad that's over with. Let's get this thing out.'But that's also the tension of a modern marketing plan. They start rattling my cage and hassling me like two months before the thing comes out. ... So right now I think there's a very good chance we could and I put a lot of time into the politics of the group and trying to improve, harmonize, placate and correct the various members, none of whom are professional entertainers and all of whom are sort of in varying degrees of childish. So it takes a lot of effort. If all goes well it would be great to do something again up the line. That's the goal.
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