As rock bands everywhere take their moves from former Stooge and punk legend Iggy Pop, he has gone the way of the … chansonnier? On his new CD, Préliminaires, the 62-year-old opts for a jazzy, after-hours spin on the themes of apocalypse and heartache—like a honey-dripping cover of “Les Feuilles Mortes” (“Autumn Leaves”) and the jauntier, Pop-penned “King of the Dogs,” in which he channels New Orleans–era Satchmo. The Ig Man spoke to Mike Flaherty.
So, Préliminaires: Doesn’t that translate as “foreplay”?
It does in French, but it also means preliminaries, as it does here.
And that means … ?
That if I’m lucky enough, it’s a preliminary step to somewhere I’d like to go musically.
Have you grown weary of rock and roll?
Not necessarily, but I’m really irritated.
I think it’s now officially the world’s worst form of music. Even a mid-level cumbia band in Venezuela sounds better than the biggest-selling rock bands.
Is it that rock music’s not saying anything nowadays?
It’s there to comfort people. And to keep things quiet. It’s just not much fun.
By those criteria, it’s not even rock and roll.
There’s that too. It doesn’t roll anymore.
Are you planning to perform any of this new material live?
In the back of my mind there’s this little voice saying “Café Carlyle” or “The Village Vanguard.” So, yeah, I’m on it.
You describe the album as an “alternative score” to Michel Houellebecq’s 2005 sci-fi novel, The Possibility of an Island. What else have you been reading lately?
I read The Jazz Ear, by Ben Ratliff, and I just finished Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brook. And there’s a killer translation of Herodotus out now. I enjoy reading about the Assyrians and the Medians and the Egyptians. I get off on that shit.
The press release for the new CD says some of these songs were written “in his small cabin on the river on his old wooden guitar.” What are you, Huck Finn?
I am a hick from the sticks. I come from a town in Michigan called Ypsilanti. The cabin is like a studio, an office, a place I’ll go to do face-to-face interviews. I also have a small estate with my family in Miami, Florida, and I go to the [Cayman] islands when I can’t take it anymore.
You moved to Miami ten years ago, but for many you will always be the epitome of a New Yorker.
I’d been in the city twenty years straight, so it was just time for me to go, and Miami seemed far enough. Besides, you can get an egg cream in Miami, and I’m still able to be disgusted by the Post at the local newsstand.