'NOTHING SCARES ME,’ DECLARES THE QUINQUAGENARIAN ONCE billed as The World's Most Forgotten Boy. Then, on reflection: ’The only thing about old age that would scare me would be poverty . . . Should I be like Bill Clinton and keep money in my pocket, have a few babes on the side and make the same rock album over and over again?’
Just say no, Iggy.
‘No, I went the other direction. I had my period of gathering nuts about three or four years ago but I couldn't stand it anymore. One time I bought a few stocks as I thought it might be fun to check it in the paper but I got bored.’
A pecuniary talent is not something you associate with Pop. At school in the late 505, the Michigan-born James Jewel Osterberg was a self-confessed nerd; smart and shy. Then along came rock ’n’ roll and the rest is a lggy Pop trail of sex, drugs and peanut butter, not forgetting the poverty, mental illness, chemical/career rehabilitation and an impressive Hollywood CV (Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch are pals). But gigging remains the Ig’s primary art form.
’It's still the same,’ he says. 'When you go out live you have to put your ass on the line and it doesn't matter how much everyone likes you, they’re still standing there waiting to see what the fuck is going on. Nobody in this world goes on stage without a question mark. Also, there’s still plenty of people that hate me. They tend to be more in the music industry and more American . . .'
Paranoia? Not entirely. At the turn of the 605, Pop and his band laid waste to many an audience with a combined assault of ferocious volume and in-your-face hostility. 'Sex hooligans from outer-space' according to one witness, the Stooges were fearless whatever the odds. A bootleg of their final concert climaxes with the sound of Iggy
He's seen it, been there, done that, but IGGY POP has lost none of his lust for life and — great news for T in the Park - gigging remains his primary art form. Words: Rodger Evans
10 THE lIST b 20 Jul 2000
'It was a name that me_in trouble._lt cou cl uglify a room mstantly.’
being punched out by a Hell's Angel whose aesthetic the singer had clearly challenged.
Such sonic and physical confrontation inspired the late American rock critic Lester Bangs to celebrate the Stooges as cultural saviours, declaring that he would write to Malcolm Muggeridge about the phenomenon. Bangs reconsidered, though, guessing that Muggeridge would find the group merely ’one more symptom of the decline of Western Civilisation'.
The question is how close is James Osterberg to the near mythical
'We become more one every day . . .’ he says. ’I realised I've been Iggy longer than I haven't been Iggy. You may have a name your Mom calls you, somebody else has a different name for you, it's just
mine is more extreme.’ 0t But the mighty Pop persona is not one Osterberg has always aligned himself with. In past interviews he's talked of 'the fucked up godfather of nihilistic horseshit' and labeled his alter ego ’God's garbage man'.
'It was a name that really got me in trouble,’ he says now. ’People really didn't like it. It could uglify a room instantly. People say that name and they wince. . . Get angry, laugh, it’s a real heavy name to have. The audacity of it is timely for now.’
Even before the Stooges, audacity was the word. Called up by Uncle Sam in 1966, Pop escaped the Vietnam draft by turning up to his physical without pants and on cue, dropping his trousers to reveal an eyeful many gig-goers have since been treated to. Fair enough, one might think, but in a state of premeditated excitement and measuring eleven inches at approximately a 94-degree angle, according to its proud owner, the army doctor readily concurred with a self-diagnosis of homosexuality and Iggy was shown the door.
What the Vietcong would have made of the man with ‘the diabolical cartoon smile' is anybody's guess. Today, Iggy is conscientious but perhaps he has less to object to.
'I'm doing fucking great, it’s the best age I've had. Happiness occurs on a more regular basis, anxiousness and sadness occur on a less regular basis. It's a nice place to be and I’m lucky.’
Yet the lust for life remains.
‘Which was always the point of the song, that it would get you in trouble. Yeah, too much.’
It looks like the Slick Willy retirement plan will just have to wait.
Iggy Pop plays main stage, Sun 9 Jul.