There's new music from Iggy Pop and it's pretty great.
The album, Post Pop Depression, is a collaboration with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. What you hear on this album is a more crooning and thoughtful Iggy then the image you may have in your minds eye of a stage-diving, unpredictable punk. To find out how this all came to pass, we invited them both to sit and talk. They were at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. and I was in Washington, D.C.
The entire interview is lively, funny and thoughtful and you can listen to it along with some music from the album here. Below are a few highlights from the conversation. And this week as part of our First Listen series you can hear all of Post Pop Depression. So dig in and enjoy and keep an eye out for their tour, starting this month.
Josh Homme on his formative experiences with Iggy Pop's music:
When I was 10 years old my father took me to the Tower Records in San Diego, by the sports arena. And I bought albums based on covers from my allowance. It was Off The Bone by the Cramps, and it was a 3D cover. It was the Misfits' Legacy Of Brutality because there was a sort of Elvis looking figure that was a skeleton. And it was Raw Power. I was 10 and Raw Power was so just exactly that: It sounded like someone ripped a cable from the wall and shocked you in the sternum with it. But I didn't actually understand it at 10, I wasn't ready for that. So I think I got through half a song. Then, a couple years later when I was 13, I saw the movie Repo Man. And that song, "Repo Man," I bought that album, and I listened to that thing like it was nobody's business. There was a line in there, I'm just gonna say it, "I didn't get f***** and I didn't get kissed, I got so f****** pissed," and I thought, "Wow, that's amazing!" Because I was just in the throws — I had just lost my virginity, so there's a very important moment there. So those are my first impactful Iggy experiences.
Iggy Pop on why he wanted to work with Josh Homme:
There was a unique set of skills that I heard in his stuff. He can compose, which is different than songwriting, but he can also write a song. He knows his way around a memorable lyric and then there was some "emotive music," I would call it, on the last Queens album ... and that's what I wanted to do. And it was done in a style that allowed him to do the vocals, in fact that whole record [where] he ain't shoutin', on any of the record, even on stuff like "My God Is The Sun" or "I Sat By The Ocean." And I wanted to make a record where I did something other than shout. So I thought the style really lent itself. And then I poked around his other stuff, and, you know, I heard some song he did with PJ Harvey. And I ran into those guys playing a live gig on the road, and it was a little too good, cause I had to follow them [on stage], you know? But as he pointed out to me, the other day, it was in a part of Italy where everyone has a little earring and a motorbike and a buzzcut, and nobody liked either of us.
On how they approached the sound of Post Pop Depression:
Homme: Iggy's in The Stooges, which is, in my opinion, the greatest rock band of all time, and I'm in Queens, so there's no reason to try and out-heavy the memory of these bands. It's silly. And, in fact, what Iggy's been doing in the last number of years in these French albums is emphasizing what I always that was wonderful about his voice and his way, was this crooning aspect. And that really, the most important thing to do would be able to put the proper frame around the artwork; around the piece of art that is Iggy. I keep going back to the Van Eyck brothers, [the] Flemish painter and frame builder duo.
Iggy Pop: I think really it's a little more than a frame going on. Josh starts from the frame and then he starts to move in: "Could I just, you know, paint a couple of things?"
Homme: I'll do the background for you!
Iggy Pop: "Oh there's a little tree over here. Can we put a bodega in front of your chest? I think, with a little help, your nose could look better." We trade off a lot, you know.
On how they made "American Valhalla":
Homme: I sent him a demo that was called "Romans," at the time, just as a quick title, because it had kind of this Roman-esque chorus. And so he had, unbeknownst to me, kind of constructed these lyrics around this thing.
Iggy Pop: I'm a Roman history buff and they were a martial society so there was some of that flavor going on. ... Before that we had had an exchange on the subject of the Valhalla, the idea the Norse Paradise to which you gain entry through acts of courage and bravery, and especially if you're killed in battle. He was comparing it favorably against some of the other paradises that you hear about a lot lately. So I wrote him back: "Well that raises a question to me. Is there an American Valhalla?" And what I didn't say was obviously because for two reasons; One, in American life we're all encouraged to be heroic from an early age, that's only in America. All other kids are taught to defend themselves from society, you know, "Watch out! Don't let the government," [Pauses.] But in America, "Be a great person! Be Superman! Help the little, old lady! Be Jimmy Stewart in Mister Smith Goes To Washington! Clean up the corruption! Be wonderful!" And then, I also said, "If there is one, where is it? What is it? And if there isn't one, then what does that mean?" So that really interested me and we texted a little about that and then I thought ... [Pauses.] I got the piece of music, I thought it fit the music. ... I sat in my Rolls ... Yeah, that's right! It's used, it's an old Rolls. I sat in my quaint, old car and just started writing to the thing.
Homme: We agreed to not put anything together until we were together and so it allowed each of us to kind of ruminate alone and spin these webs a little, alone, but with enough room for the other to gain entrance into the idea. And so when we were sitting together I started to say, "Potentially here's this arrangement." Each time I had a part, he had this wonderful lyric that you hear; it's exactly the lyric you hear. And it all dove-tailed so uniquely and sort of — I don't want to say sweetly — into the next part because the questions of, not just is there an "American Valhalla" but what do you have to do to get in it, and would it be OK if I brought along someone I cared about, you know? Which I thought was ... Iggy is 68 and that 68-year-old perspective in rock and roll is not represented and certainly it isn't represented in a way that is accessible to someone 18, 28, 38, 48, you know. So there's just this unique perspective and I think this song embodies that perspective, in particular at the end when it strips itself bare and says, "I have nothing but my name," and it's a real moment.
On a theory of songwriting:
Iggy Pop: I try to mix three things. I mix something that comes from within me, and it can also include a particular experience, a particular detail that really happened. And then I try to see if that matches up with something I think might have happened to some other people who interest me. And then ... I try to include something that just an everyday person could relate to. I think the first song I ever finished, that I was able to get out on a national basis, was "1969." Everybody knew what that was: It was the year but it was also — I figured, correctly — something about that number, that that year was going to be around for a long time. I mean you don't hear a lot about like 1971, but you still hear 1969. That's a powerful number. ... The key is, "Another year with nothing to do, Boo-Hoo!" And, for me, that was true because of frustration; Because ... I hadn't gotten my hands on the levers of power, the means of production, that would allow me to express myself. And also I hadn't learned an F-chord yet. But, on the other hand, I was singing for the delinquent group I belonged to, because the other guys in the group would never even think about that. They'd just go, "Awwww, there's nothing to do."
Homme: They never knew it that that united them with a bunch of other people.