Virgin Festival Preview: The Stooges
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Ron Asheton is in the Stooges. They play loud and hard and fast. See for yourself on Sunday at Virgin Festival.
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How is it the second time around?
Well, better for me. I think it's better because the audiences are more into the band. It's more fun. Most of our work is overseas. And we're really grateful to be doing stuff on our side of the planet. But Europeans, as was for Iggy when he was Iggy Pop, Europeans have always been the biggest supporters of the Stooges. And they kind of kept the torch alive. So it's been great going to all the places that you've seen on TV or in books. To see Paris, and the Acropolis in Greece. To go to places like Israel, where you just think it's a war zone, but in Tel Aviv it's great and the people are awesome. And even South America. We went to Rio and Buenos Aires. To see the giant Jesus and cross on the top of that mountain - whoa! And to walk down Ipanema Beach. And of course in the back of my head is the song. And I'm thinking, "Gee, I hope I'm not humming this out loud." So yeah, it's great. And the audiences are very appreciative. It's fun seeing their faces, everyone freaking out. Having people come up after the show saying they never thought they'd ever see the Stooges and thanking me, and how grateful they are. And I'm going, "No, thank you, man. It's great to be here playing for you."
Has Iggy aged at all? He still seems like a maniac out on stage.
Well, the obvious, because time passes you can't hide certain physical features. So he's got more lines on his face. He likes to sit in the sun. He's well tanned. He puts out the energy. Does a good show. I'd say his show has just as much energy output, and is probably even more exciting. Because he's been on stage enough, playing enough, to make more changes. It's not just, here I go, I'm going out, whatever happens happens. He knows he can work the stage better. That's stuff that just comes with time and the thousands of shows he's played. But he still puts out the energy. I just know that after the show, instead of going to parties and chasing women and doing drugs, we're satisfied with going to the debriefing of the show, talking about it, having a glass of wine or a beer and just relaxing after the gig. That's the biggest change, then from now.
Getting back to those post-show exploits. There's a pretty famous story about one of your more notable fans, Miles Davis...
I guess if there are any kids who are reading they should maybe stop now. There's a famous story about how he came backstage after a show and there was a big bag, and there were straws ... how much of that stuff is exaggerated and how much is true?
I was there. It was before the show. At Wingano's in New York. And we're sitting around and Iggy was waiting for this "guy" to show up. He said, "I'm waiting for someone, I'm not going on stage." So the guy comes in. We're sitting around this table. And he just throws down an 8-ball, a half, whatever it was, of cocaine. And straws appear. And I'm going, "Oh my god, my head's touching Miles Davis's head!"
Everyone's just doing as much as fast as they can. So I'm on stage, my head's leaning back because unlike Iggy I didn't want to be embarrassed by huge amounts of snot coming out of my nose, because we did so much. And afterwards was the best compliment. Miles Davis said, "Hey man, that was cool. You got some style. I like your guitar playing." So that is all true. And kids, it's bad. Don't do it. It's not a good thing. You know better now because we made the mistakes so you don't have to.
Miles Davis saying, "That was cool, you got some style." That must be something that cannot be topped.
That's probably the best. But then Chubby Checker said he liked my guitar playing. (Laughs.) I thought that funny.
"Loose" - The Stooges
(Being spied on by Jim Morrison, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Iggy's encounter with Bob Dylan, after the jump.)
On the other side of that, "The Weirdness" got some pretty brutal reviews when it came out a few years ago. How did you react to that?
I kind of skated by a little bit better. A lot of it was directed at Iggy. You just can't let it bother you. I'll go back to the original days, and no one liked "Fun House." That didn't get good reviews. We'd get all the magazines back then and we thought it was funny. We'd read them out loud to each other. The scathing reviews of the Stooges. And we just wore it as a badge of honor, thinking that it's school that everybody hated us. Most of the stuff, you know, 95%, was like, "What is this crap?" And we thought, "Wow, it's cool that people come and see us because they think it's so bad." So you can't let it bother you.
And then all the things with people going, "Well how can they top 'Fun House?'" So we just kept that mindset. They didn't like it then. So we just played what we wanted. There were 42 songs written. I let Iggy and my brother (drummer, Scott) choose them. And we were just coming off a tour and my brother and I wanted to come right off tour because we were hot on our instruments. So it was a little harder for him as a vocalist and contortionist/acrobat/showman to get off stage and then have to sit down and refine himself. So, I don't know, it might have bothered him and me. But it's not worth worrying about. It is what it is and what, 30 years from it'll be, "'The Weirdness,' the greatest record ever!"
Back to "Fun House." You said when it first came out it wasn't greeted so warmly in some corners but now there are many people who claim it's the greatest album - not one of, but the greatest album - of all time. So when you were making that record were you thinking, "Man, we really got it going on right here!"?
No. Not at all. We were out promoting the first record. So every time we'd come home we'd work up some more material. So we'd introduce a new song into the set, then go back out, maybe two. It eventually got to the point where we were doing all those songs and maybe a few from the first record.
So that's when (producer) Don Gallucci saw us, and it was his idea to capture the live performance. So we went in the studio. All the solos were played live. I went back and did just a couple of overdubs. On "Dirt." Double solo'd on "Down on the Street." Just added teeny bits. And even Iggy, he set up a little PA and there was a mic on the PA and he went to the board. So it was a live performance. We just thought it was the next step in the evolution of the Stooges, or whatever. You're always excited that it will be accepted. It was like, "We made it into the top 100 with the first record, this one will really get up there!" Yeah, 173. It didn't even break 100. It's just what we had at the moment, this is what we are at the moment, so this is what they're getting.
What did you think about that 7-disc set that came out a few years ago? Just all the songs with tons of takes of each.
(Laughs.) They're not takes! I tell everyone, this is the truth. Don Gallucci just had us in there for a couple days, playing. He was just working on his sound. So most of those are just, seriously, just him running tape. He'd say, "I'm just trying to get a sound." We really did no more than four takes on each song. And a lot of times one or two winds up being the choice. So I thought it was pretty funny because I'm going, "You know, I really hope people don't think that we did 'I'm Loose' 23 takes." Because we didn't. We were really just running tape.
And I never got all the way through (the box set). I just wish there would have been more things that didn't make it on the record other than those two pieces. And I thought the biggest laugh of all was when, unbeknownst to us, they put the piano, the little bit of piano or organ on, what song was it, "Down on the Street" or something, to try to make it sound more like the Doors. It was like, "Oh, come on!" Because Danny Sugerman told me this story of Jim Morrison behind the two-way mirror at Elektra studios. He said, "Jim was really worried that you guys would be younger and hipper." But he was actually there a day. He saw primping in the mirror and scraping whiteheads off our faces.
So is covering Madonna the closest you'll get to being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or do you think you'll get the nod soon?
Well, to tell you the truth, it would be cool to be in there with all our heroes and people that got us into music. The Beatles were the ones who changed my life, the Beatles and the Stones, to make this life choice. But we were already there. It's cool that Madonna said, "Well, they gotta play the songs." And the funny part was the blank look on her face. She didn't even recognize the song for a while. But that was our plan. Everyone's going, "You're going to lose your cred, man! Playing Madonna songs, give me a break!" So we just did our own weird versions of them, try to punk them up, make them unrecognizable.
I know this, though. If we don't get it next year, we don't go in, we're not going in. I mean, what is it, five-time losers? I mean, if we don't make it this time ... And you know what? It won't break my heart. As everyone else says, it's not going to better your career. It'd be nice, but I'm not going to be heartbroken. And we kind of wear it as a badge of honor that we've been turned down.
When you play these festivals do you even know the other bands that are on the bill or do you just show up and do your set?
Usually we come about an hour before. Sometimes we'll come a little earlier but never later. It's just so tedious to sit there. You want to get out there, bam! Like you're in combat, you're right on. They're just so huge that sometimes you're like, "Oh, what do you mean we're not playing the same day as Ray Davies?" And you just miss people you might want to see.
Bob Dylan's playing right after you guys finish at Virgin Festival.
That's right. Gotta stay for some of that because Iggy has the best Bob Dylan story. He went to a party at Bob's at Malibu. This was way before we got back together. The place is jumping. There were record people, other musicians. Mick Jagger, Elton John, other celebrities. And Iggy, he was there with his girlfriend or wife at the time, he goes, "Well, where is he?" And he sees he's just sitting up on this stairway kind of thing. So then Iggy turned around and he was gone. So then somebody taps him on the shoulder and says, (doing a Dylan voice), "Hi, Iggy. My name's Bob." And of course he knows it's Bob Dylan. So Iggy turns around to introduce his girlfriend and when he turns around, Bob's gone. He just came up to say, (doing that Dylan voice), "Hi Iggy. My name's Bob." And I thought that was the funniest thing.
He's not there.
So that's Iggy's cool Bob Dylan story. We're excited about playing that show because it's a nice show. And Bob Dylan, come on! I saw Bob Dylan, we all did, when I was in high school. He played our high school. Because we knew the promoters, I got to stand - when he came off stage and went into the locker room, he had to walk right by me. He was wearing a green suede jacket, a black turtleneck and brown corduroys. And those brown dingo boots. And he looked beautiful. And I got to see Bob Dylan.
OK, one last question, why is it billed as Iggy and the Stooges now?
Well when we first got back together and started doing stuff it was his "Raw Power" moniker, it was his deal. And so he comes up and goes, "Well, you know, uh, I've been out as Iggy Pop all these years and I was wondering if you'd mind if it was Iggy and the Stooges?" So what am I going to say, no? My brother right away says, "Yeah, I don't care." Like, in one second. I wasn't going to say no. But yeah, that's why it's that. He feels that he's earned that right. And if he feels that way and it makes him happy, fine. But he always introduces the band as the Stooges. He's been out there all those 25 years under his banner and once you're playing and you get that celebrity status you can't step down. It doesn't bother me, it's all right.
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