Interview with interviewer Jeff Gold | By Lily Moayeri
In his essay for “Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop,” Johnny Marr says: “What does it mean to be Iggy Pop, five decades of being ‘the wildest man in rock’? Rockstar, musician, songwriter, and craftsman. Philosopher, professional, James Osterberg.”
“Total Chaos” is a 350-page coffee-table book detailing the oral history of Iggy Pop And The Stooges as told by Pop himself, published by Jack White’s Third Man Books and on Nov. 29. Very soon into it, the reader realizes another Iggy Pop characteristic: he is someone with near perfect recall.
Rock music memorabilia collectors, Jeff Gold and Johan Kugelberg, pooled together selections from their formidable Iggy Pop and Stooges archives, picked 100 pieces, made prints of them, and took them to Pop in his Florida home. Armed with a question for each piece—with Gold as the primary interviewer and Kugelberg also chiming in—they went through all of it chronologically over two days. Gold is the perfect choice to lead this conversation. He is a music historian, Grammy-winning former record label executive, and author of “101 Essential Rock Records: The Golden Age of Vinyl, From The Beatles to The Sex Pistols.” He first saw The Stooges in an abbreviated show at The Whiskey in Los Angeles in 1973 and not again for 29 years until their reunion at Coachella in 2002—although he did see Pop perform solo and worked with him on releasing a few of his albums. Most importantly, Gold is a highly informed and well-read fan.
Of his own contributions to the writing, Gold says, “Out of 10 hours of talking, I’m talking maybe 20 minutes—the rest is Iggy.” He is lounging in his home on the stunning Venice Canals, his office a mini-museum representing a tiny corner of his mind-blowing collection. A bunch of Prince’s custom-made shoes sit in a corner. An image of Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar covers a wall; the same guitar’s whammy bar rests in the frame. Bob Dylan’s acoustic is hung above that, next to a Beatles vinyl album signed by all four members.
“I went there knowing he was a great raconteur and storyteller and that he had a good handle on trivia I’d asked him about before,” Gold continues, referring back to when he interviewed Pop for “101 Essential Rock Records.” “But, I was completely unprepared for how much he remembered. Instead of trying to lengthen his answers, I had to keep cutting him off because of time, which was a really weird position to be in.”
The collected items—all of which are included in “Total Chaos,” alongside many, many more—range from handbills from very early shows to posters, recording contracts, letters from record companies, reviews of albums and shows from the music publications of the time, and, of course, pictures. So many iconic images, some familiar pieces of pop culture history, many of them rarities or one-of-a-kinds, including the positively magnetic one hidden behind the book’s dust jacket, printed on the actual hard cover.
It’s the stories these items evoke that illustrate an incredible and deeply honest account of Pop, starting from when he was a teenager. He pulls no punches and makes no excuses for any of his behavior or his decisions, particularly not his notorious substance abuse. Pulling up at the rear of the book are short essays and Q&As with the aforementioned Marr and White, Joan Jett, and other authors, each shedding a particularly reverent light on Pop. Coincidentally, Jim Jarmusch’s Stooges documentary, “Gimme Danger,” was released just prior to “Total Chaos.”
“No,” Gold says when asked if it took a lot of convincing to get Pop to participate in “Total Chaos.” “Iggy had been thinking about The Stooges a lot. I was a known commodity. He liked the book I’d done and the books [Kugelberg] had done, and he was probably feeling like it was a good time to do it. Iggy’s 69 years old and this is the biggest year of his career. He’s had the highest charting record, a Stooges movie, this book, and the most successful tour. It’s crazy fantastic.”