The Last Word: Iggy Pop Talks Drugs, Aging, His Hero Keith Richards
What’s the most important rule you live by?
Don’t lose yourself. If you take enough dope, you lose your body, your mind or your life. Conversely, if you do everything everybody else tells you to do, you’ll be miserable and lose your self-identity. At some point you gotta figure out the balance. “Am I the guy who’s gonna relive the life of King Farouk, or am I more like a steelworker who got lucky?”
Who are your heroes?
Keith Richards and Bo Diddley. The primary thing is how they play. Each of them keeps it straight and plain, and they don’t gild the lily. It feels like the real thing to me.
You and Keith have been called indestructible.
He’s way more indestructible than me! I can’t keep up with that guy anymore. I definitely can’t smoke cigarettes anymore.
What’s your favorite city in the world?
Miami, where I live now. That’s for the water, but also a lot of the people are really sweet. It’s not a pushy town.
You lived in New York for a long time. Do you miss it?
No. But I had a good 20 years. In Miami, I found a place near the water and it was much cheaper, in beauty, space and convenience, than what I could have gotten in New York, where I had a bedroom view of a dogshit window-well on Avenue B. Of course, that place is now worth many millions of dollars. Go figure.
Tell me about your fitness regimen.
The root of it is a series of exercises called qigong, which form the basis of tai chi. I learned it from a Korean tai chi master named Don Ahn, who had a place in Soho. You don’t need a funny suit. You don’t need to go to a gym. You don’t build no muscle. It just gives you a good energy, good flexibility and good circulation.
What advice do you wish you could tell your younger self?
Don’t grow up. Really, don’t do that. At certain points in my life I said, “You know what? I need to grow up and do X or be Y or whatever.” Most of the time, it was a mistake, though fortunately not all the time.
What’s the most indulgent purchase you ever made?
In the 1990s, I bought a small but sporty car for a poor and beautiful immigrant who I barely knew. It was mostly because she was moaning about how she didn’t have a car to get to work. The relationship didn’t go anywhere.
Until the Stooges re-formed in 2003 and started headlining festivals, you never made much money. What’s it like to become rich late in life?
I became barely solvent in the late 1980s and owned my first place, in the East Village. I didn’t have much in the 1990s. I remember spending the winter of 1990 freezing because there wasn’t much heat. But everything changed in the 21st century. It’s a nice story arc.
What was your favorite book as a child, and what does it say about you?
Jack and the Beanstalk. It says I wanted to go for it, because Jack was going for it. It had everything: threats of violence, drama and ambition.
You did lots of drugs back in the day. Are there any you miss?
Oh, God, no. No no no no no. I’ve had a wonderful relationship with my body late in life. Even the thought of smoking weed gives me the creeps. Going back, I had a binge on MDMA in the 1970s. And at a festival called Goose Lake in Michigan, I was snorting something they said was coke but I learned later was ketamine. I couldn’t remember who I was for about 12 hours. I remember smoking crack before it was called crack. It was frightening.
“I remember smoking crack before it was called crack. It was frightening.”
Do you think drugs should be legal?
I’m not well-informed enough to answer that question, but I am curious about the idea that use and abuse might decline if they were legal. Some Scottish comedian was talking about Brexit and he said, “Asking a celebrity about Brexit is like asking Iggy Pop about a particle accelerator.” I’m not your guy.
You turn 70 in April. How do you feel about that?
I’m excited. I hope I make it.
How are you going to celebrate?
I’ll probably have dinner with my wife somewhere with low lighting where we can sit close to each other. And if I’m lucky, I’ll go to the beach that day. That’s my idea of a wild time.
What do you hope to accomplish in your seventies?
I don’t expect to use the album form anytime soon, but I hope I can do some singing or talking or writing that appeals to me. I just want to continue working and reacting to the world around me and enjoying bearing witness to this beautiful Earth. I like the outdoors very much. And I hope to be of use to the people that depend on me.
Do you fear extreme old age and death?
That’s the creepiest question of this whole interview! But yes, I fear extreme old age. There is the possibility of being overreliant on others. Also, the worst would be the inability to enjoy life. I don’t mind a little shit in my day, but I need some sugar on that.
How old is too old to be shirtless in public?
There’s no age, and the public can kiss my sweet ass, bare.