By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Anyway. Recently, Iggy got the hell out of New York and moved to Miami. "It's real interesting," he tells me over the phone. "It's like a fucking cultural collision here right now. Basically, it's the capital of South America. I like the jungle," he laughs. "There's a lot of lizards and bugs and trees, and shit grows. I got a place down in Baja California, too. That's the spiritual home, and this is the American workstation, you know? 'Cause you can't be a Mexican and deal with shit like this."
I can't quite picture the Godfather of Punk lying on a beach formulating plans for a concept album about growing old with dignity. "It crept up on me over three years," he says. "I did the last record in Hollywood, and two days after I got it done, Johnny Depp approached me to work on a film score, which I know fuck-all about how to do. It was this film he made called The Brave, and it was about American Indians, and it called for some folky and ethnic shit, so I started working with acoustic guitar a lot. I'd always thought, Oh, I can't do this shit, it's too much trouble. And I actually sat down and started trying to master some craft that I had not heretofore really had access to in my work.
"And at the same time I was livin' alone for the first time in a long time, and my orientation became alone -- I'd have friends for a while, and I'd double up at night once in a while, and then I'd end up on my own again. So I was spending more time with the acoustic guitar, which is warm, and songs started comin' out based on the things I was living.
"At the same time, I had this other little voice goin', 'You're not gonna get away with this shit! You better write some rock stuff now!'" But I knew that shit wasn't as good as this other stuff. I was havin' a period where you spend a lot less time with the lights on and more time with the candles burning, less time talkin' and more time thinkin'. And so I was listening to Sinatra's torch period, Astrud Gilberto singing Jobim, Dylan when he's simple and tells a story, like Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, those uncommercial albums where he just played the guitar and sang, and also Blood on the Tracks. And I was listening to some jazz, a lotta Coltrane, shit like that. So that stuff kinda influenced me to plug in less and less.
"And I was really impressed when I would clock, like, MTV, how much more vitality there was in the presentation of rap music. It's never just about the songs. There's an introduction where the guy says, 'Yo, I'm Biggie Smalls, helicopters are chasin' me, I'm comin' into your house to loot and burn!' Regardless of whether it's thuggy or overemphatic or intrusive, the point is that somebody's settin' up something where the character and the human person is more important than the song form. And so you get an empathy for the person talking. You feel like somebody's talking to you, and therefore you're ready to receive that song when the song comes."
His delivery on these songs sounds so authentic, you wonder how much they draw from experience.
"It all actually happened to me. I wanted to describe other people, and inevitably what happens is when you describe other people, your own feelings come out. I'm not bein' chased by helicopters at this point in my life, you know!"
Iggy has developed an unclouded picture of his complexity and contradictions. He seems to be recognizing that in the women in his songs as well, as with the convoluted relationship Iggy describes in "Miss Argentina": "All her emotions screaming at once." "The song is about the person," he says, "but it's also like a painting -- if you're gonna paint somebody's portrait, you gotta put some sort of background in there, about different things, and about how I feel too, like wanting somebody to be human with me. In the end, I don't really care so much about what it says about her or me."
Along with "Miss Argentina," there's "Ya Yo Habla Español," and the Spanish-speaking woman in "Motorcycles." What's up with all the Latin references, Iggy?
"I'm Protestant, Anglo, Midwesterner, fairly worldly in a success-driven industry, so if I'm still standing, obviously I've been involved in some pretty cold bowls of chiles. I've found in my later years a great exit for me is the Spanish language. I learned to speak Spanish when I was about 48, and I got it together after a couple years. It's been a great pleasure.
"The biggest difference right off with what are loosely termed the Hispanic cultures is that the people are not gonna ask you what you do in the first five minutes you meet 'em, whereas here everything is about your work and what you got. There it is too, but they're a little more subtle about it.