For over five decades, Iggy Pop has been reviling and inspiring audiences with his no-holds-barred performances and classic songs. So when the 69-year-old singer rolled into Toronto hotel the Fairmont Royal York to take part in a small press conference with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch about his new movie (and 2016 Toronto International Film Festival selection) — Gimme Danger, a documentary on the Stooges (in select theatres on November 4) — there was no shortage of topics to talk about.
Here are six things we learned about the Stooges and Iggy Pop working with Jim Jarmusch on the new movie.
The decision to do it was easy.
Pop: "I asked him. I just said, 'Hey, would you make a movie about the Stooges?' And he said, 'Oh, okay.'"
Jarmusch: "For me, when I was young, the things that spoke to me were the Stooges, the MC5 and the light from the east was the Velvet Underground. I loved Jimi Hendrix and I listened to Buffalo Springfield, West coast kind of stuff. But the stuff that spoke right to me was the Detroit stuff. I don't know. It's just ingrained. It's part of my DNA. It was a gift to me."
Pop wanted the right director to take the job.
"We've been fully stooged in terms of concert films. There are four major ones — two with each version of the band. But we hadn't been covered from the perspective of life by a proper auteur. So I knew that if I could swing that it was going to be a view point that was going to be much better and greater than if you had a bunch of guys in a band and their corporate handler going, 'Alright, what we want to get across here is…' you know. That was the idea. Give it to somebody with their own vision, who knows how to make a movie."
Filmmakers had to rely on Ron and Scott Asheton's sister, Kathy, as well as old colleagues from Michigan to obtain photos.
"Someone, years later, gave me a photo of the original group playing at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was on a bill with Funkadelic," Pop says. "I remember because we were trying to hit them up for some junk."
According to Jarmusch, the Stooges didn't get the respect they deserved partly because they weren't technically proficient musicians, and that's kind of stupid.
"When Ron Asheton died, I read a little obituary in Guitar Player magazine that was respectful of his impact, but a little snooty about his primitive technique, right?" the director says. "Well, technique is when you make your own technique. Proficiency can be a path to something, and it can be a path to nothing. The Ron Ashetons of the world, these are people that give you their own way of doing it and because something comes out of their soul. There are millions of kids in their bedrooms that can shred their way to hell on a guitar, and it doesn't mean anything. That's what I think you can learn [from the band], is that it comes from somewhere about expression, not about showing off, or following the mainstream of what is 'technique.'"
Jazz had a bigger impact than you might guess.
While tracing the band's origin story, the film briefly touches upon the band's interest in jazz during their early years.
In Toronto, Pop further discussed the genre's influence. "When I heard A Love Supreme… [John] Coltrane is a great enough and secure enough musician that at that point in his career, he was able to base a whole composition on a four-note bass line that I could play before I even learned guitar. And you had this with Pharoah Sanders, you had this with a certain period when Miles Davis got sick of doing three-piece-suit music and started dressing a little looser, and you start hearing albums like Jack Johnson, On the Corner and Bitches Brew. Whoa! Again, I thought, 'With a loose framework, there's a lot you can do and maybe we can adapt some of the spirit of this music.'"
When the Stooges reunited in 2003, it made up for any shortcomings.
"I put almost eight years into the original group, and I put about 12 into the comeback. During that 12 years, the whole repertoire was covered, all three albums," Pop says, sounding slightly emotional. "Every member of the group during the 12-year period, and our sidemen, graduated with honours. Meaning that when they passed away [starts getting choked up], they had houses, money and bad habits. These are the three things a rock star is supposed to have. So they got their rock and their recognition, alright? That's how I feel about it."
Gimme Danger opens in select Canadian cities on November 4 and expands to more theatres in November and December. Check out the movie trailer below.