Iggy Pop is the greatest. He was metal before metal. He was punk before punk, he was and is poetry in motion. He’s a wild dancer, a true poet, a shouting shaman, a surprising crooner, and a master of theatrical brinkmanship. We spoke to him in L.A., where he was recording his as yet untitled album, scheduled for a fall release, and, when not working, fooling around.
GLENN O’BRIEN: What’s your idea of a fool?
IGGY POP: Probably a guy without an evil thought in his head. There are all these different meanings of “fool.” A lot of times, people I really hate—like people who think they’re on top of business world, for example—you’ll see them sneer at somebody and call them a fool, and the people they call fools are generally the people I really like. But to me a real fool is somebody who throws away his life on other people’s road maps. Then there’s the happy fool—like musicians—the jester kind of fool. I’ve done a bit of that kind of work. Bringing a little entertainment value to situations.
O’BRIEN: So those are the wise fools?
POP: I think so. You could say it’s really foolish to do what feels good at the time. A lot of people get shit for that. But, on the other hand, if you live through it, you look back on it and you’re glad you did it. I know all the most foolish things I ever did, ones that really upset a lot of people and caused me all this grief at the time—those are all my favorite things. I played a gig when I was twenty years old in a town called Romeo, Michigan. The gig just wasn’t getting off the ground. I decided I had to do something to make them remember the band, so I went in the wings and stripped and came out with this towel around me and stripteased while the Stooges were cranking out this riff in E, not realizing that the gig was next door to the state police. The crowd had been resisting is up to this point, but then they got really into it and loved it, any I started rolling all over the auditorium naked. It was cool. It was happening. And then as I got back to the stage I saw these cops in the wings, and one of my roadies said, “They’re going to bust you,” so I yelled to the audience, “They’re going to try to bust me! Don’t let ‘cm bust me!” So the audience was yelling, “We won’t let them bust you!” They tried to sneak me out in the trunk of one of their cars, but I got caught. The cops should have put me in a local holding tank, but instead they put me in Jackson State Prison overnight. I was wearing these imitation-leather hip huggers that just barely covered my crotch, and I had this little permanent. I was really cute. And I remember after they processed me the guard took me up to the tank where I was going to spend the night, and even though it was just a misdemeanor, they tried to scare me, saying “We’re going to figure out a way to keep you here.” And then I heard them sing this song: “Old King Cole was a merry old soul with a buckskin belly and a rubber asshole.” I got pretty scared. I was on this macrobiotic diet at the time, which was making me do really crazy things. After twelve hours they let me out, and my dad, who was teaching high school at the time, had to drive there to the state prison, pay my bail and take me home. The first thing I said was “I want to go to the Dairy Queen and eat lots of ice cream.” It was like the Little Rascals: “I’m never going to do this again!”
O’BRIEN: You were probably too yin.
POP: Yeah, I was super-yinned-out. I was yinned to the max bone. So that was really foolish and caused me all this hassle, but I’m really glad I did things like that
O’BRIEN: Was the fool the idea of your album “The Idiot”?
POP: Yeah. A lot of that was David Bowie’s idea. When we were hanging out he was doing real well in the business, and I wasn’t exactly ripping up the entertainment world. But I would always give him flak. I knew the real way to do things. He’d always marvel at what a dick I was—how awkward I was in social situations and in all the things that you do to make your career go better. So finally he said “Look, we’re going to call this album The Idiot.” I took it as a challenge: O.K. I’ll show you. We had a good friction to our working relationship. He’s the kind of guy who had obviously read “The Idiot” by Dostoyevsky, which I hadn’t, and he probably saw all the resonance of the term and possibilities. But I think his basic thrust, when he suggested it, was just to insult me—”You fucking idiot.”
O’BRIEN: So as a career fool, do you look before you leap?
POP: Fuck, no In fact, that’s a real important thing. Generally I don’t look before I leap in life, and it gets me into a lot of shit, but on the other hand I think it helps to put a little juice in the work. But I get in trouble for that. The first time I ever leapt off a stage I was opening for Frank Zappa. There were these two big buxom girls lying on the floor watching me. I thought I would just land on them and it was going to be a wonderful experience. They moved. And I hit the floor really hard and lost the tips of my teeth. They went right through my lip. If you don’t look you’re better off. In a way.
O’BRIEN: What’s your idea of fooling around?
POP: When you’re thinking about something but you’re not necessarily going to do it or commit to it, you’re just kind of messing with it. Like when people run their index finger in little funny circles on a tablecloth when they’re talking.
O’BRIEN: Where do fools rush in?
POP: Wherever there’s a warm hole.
O’BRIEN: Do you have more men or women friends?
POP: I’m equal, actually. For a long time actually it was more girls. Then my health cleared up considerably, starting about five years ago, and since then it’s been pretty much equal. I like both men and women. Sometimes I don’t even notice. It might be because I’m older, but if a girl has particularly good sexual wares, it doesn’t exactly get her to first base if I don’t like her.
O’BRIEN: Do you think there is less of a personality difference between men and women today than there was twenty years ago?
POP: I think there should be, but I don’t think there really is. There are still a lot of Virginia Slims billboards and stuff. I think it’s still pretty much: Let the men be men and the women be glad of it, to paraphrase the Three Stooges.
THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE APRIL 1990 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
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