Carrying the “Godfather of Punk” torch can be a heavy burden, but Iggy Pop has proved up to the task for 40-plus years. Whether delivering an iron-fisted, metallic k.o. of a show with The Stooges, or offering up unpredictably eclectic solo albums (witness his 2009 “near-jazz” release, Preliminaires), the 64-year-old icon always has marched to a beat indecipherable to anyone but himself. In interviews, Pop has never shied from tough questions, especially when they pertain to his life and his music. In the quotes below, he waxes philosophical on his legacy, his childhood and the role that peanut butter played in his career.
On how he developed his passion for music, as told to Clash Music in 2010:
In junior high, about the same year I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I played my first gig on drums. I already loved music and was pretty nuts about doing it around the house all the time, and in the school orchestra. My dad loaned me the money to buy a [drum] kit, and I had a friend who had a guitar and an amplifier. We learned some Sandy Nelson and Ray Charles songs and we played as a two-piece in a talent show. Right away my life changed: people liked me better!
On how he became “Iggy Pop,” as told to Esquire in 2007:
I had a nickname [Iggy] that I couldn’t escape around town, and it was torture. Then my band opened for Blood, Sweat & Tears. I think the entire band got 50 dollars total. Afterwards a huge piece was written about us in the Michigan Daily. In this story, the writer calls me “Iggy.” I was like, “Oh, [expletive]. We got all this press, but they’re calling me Iggy.” What could I do? I knew the value of publicity. So I put a little “Pop” on the end. Took me 30 years to make what I wanted out of the name.
On the difference between “Iggy” and his everyday self, as told to Pitchfork in 2007:
A lot of people change their names or doctor them when they do this job. Nobody gets asked questions like that. I get it all [the time]. There is something about that name that is just extraordinary, and it used to be like throwing a firebomb into the party. I could walk into a room, and if it was the wrong room, and someone said my name loud enough, you would see sneers of revolution on the faces of the fraternity men of America. It was just really intense.
On the influence of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison, as told to Clash Music in 2010:
From Mick Jagger [I learned] the idea that there should be a performance, that there is a performance; just that. And the other thing from him that was great – from both of them, actually – was that [vocals] could be built from two notes. You did not need to be Wilson Pickett. From Morrison, it was the same way but with the elements of surprise. Here you have surprise, you have poetry and you have a further violation, a little different take on this sort of thing.
On the first time he smeared himself with peanut butter on stage, as told to Rolling Stone in 2007:
They say it was Stiv Bators [later of the Dead Boys] who handed me the peanut butter [during the Stooges’ famous, nationally televised set at a 1970 festival in Cincinnati]. “He’s strange; we’ll give him peanut butter.” That wasn’t in the repertoire. But people started bringing it to the shows. I was like, “No, I’m not gonna [friggin’] play with your peanut butter.” I got involved with stuff that had some corny overtones. But I was never a corny thinker.
On the legacy of the early Stooges albums, as told to Mean Magazine in 2001:
One interesting thing is that if you listen to the first 10 minutes of each of our three albums, you’ll see a tremendous stylistic jump on each album. From The Stooges to Fun House to Raw Power – those are really quick leaps. It’s not easy to do that. It’s forward thinking.
On wanting to be considered a real singer, as told to Interview in 1999:
You know, I’m 52 now and I call myself a singer. Before I kick it I want to be able to carry a tune in a living room if called upon. Of course, mine come out all dark and twisted and weird.
On the visionary impact of the Raw Power album, as told to Classic Rock Revisited in 2011:
There were certain people who, as soon as they heard it, it completely changed their lives. A lot of [those people] were musicians. From the get-go it was a really great album, but not a lot of people got to hear it when it first came out. It was way ahead of its time, way ahead of the music industry and it was also way ahead of all the damn people too.
On disappointing his parents, as told to Esquire in 2007:
We lived in a trailer. My parents gave up their bedroom, and I moved in with my drum set. My dad just sat there with his quarter-inch military haircut, reading the newspaper. My parents wanted to light my artistic candle. But over time, the definition of “the arts” began to stretch. And as I got older, they suddenly realized, “Oh, my God, we’re the parents of Iggy Pop.”
On how he’s like a vintage automobile, as told to Billboardin 2001:
I’m like a really well-kept classic car. You might be driving along the road in it – it’s got a great paint job, everybody’s checking you out, girls are going, ‘Whoa! Love your car’ – and then you blow a piston. There’s all sorts of care I have to take. I’m not like Peter Pan. I’m not even trying to be, but I do music in a certain style because that’s the way I like it. It’s my job. It’s what I do.