Iggy Pop biographer Paul Trynka - Interview - Spring 2008

15 Apr 2008

"there was an interview where someone quoted the opening line, "how could one man be so clever - and so stupid?" iggy laughed: "that's very accurate... that's me!" then he followed up with "why couldn't he leave it at that?! why did we need the whole damn book?!"

Iggy Pop

A lot of myths surround the rock legend which is Iggy Pop, or James Jewel Osterberg Jr, from tales of falling onto a table top full of glasses in Kansas City at a gig at Max's (despite cutting his chin, chest and puncturing one of his ribs, he still kept singing), or during another gig at the Ice Arena on Lake St Clair just north of Detroit where Iggy came on stage wielding a watermelon which he threw into the crowd (it hit and concussed a girl in the audience).

But it wasn't only his wild stage performances (he had been known to defecate on stage too) that mythologized Iggy and his band The Stooges, but his persona off-stage caused quite a stir often too. According to one of his entourage, Bebe Buell: "He was a walking sex machine." She adds: "Maybe a f**ked-up one, drooling and falling down, but any girl would wonder, hmmm, what's he like after a shower and a good night's sleep?"

Rockfeedback had a chance to catch up with the former editor of Mojo magazine and author of new Iggy biog Open Up And Bleed, Paul Trynka, to see if he could shed some light on the man who was voted "Most Likely To Succeed" in his high school yearbook.

Rockfeedback: How did the Open Up and Bleed project come about? Was it a something you've wanted to pursue since you edited Mojo?

Paul Trynka: "I'd started work on the book, along with a friend, but we'd abandoned it just before I joined Mojo. Then I approached an agent with an idea for another book, and he persuaded me to return to this one."

RFB: How long did it take to write the biography?

PT: "I'd spent several months first time around; then when I was underway properly it was nine months research and interviewing, then six months writing, doing more interviews all the way through."

RFB: Is there one favourite incident you came across when writing Iggy's biog?

PT:"There was one key anecdote, which hardly anyone has picked on. It happened just as The Stooges were about to get together. A friend had been letting Iggy stay in his apartment in Chicago. The rest of The Stooges come to visit, and Iggy decides this guy is hitting on him. His reaction is to try to get the guy to drink a glass of his piss. It was the kind of stupid thing kids often do when they egg each other on... but Iggy never really grew out of that kind of behaviour."

RFB: Did you find it difficult to distinguish between 'myth and reality' when writing, because Iggy is such an iconic rock figure to many?

Paul Trynka: "There were a huge number of myths, so I set out to get the story fresh, first hand from the people who were there. It turned out many of the old stories weren't true, but there were plenty of new ones that were just as hairy."

RFB: Do you think of Iggy as truly a key figure in musical history?

Paul Trynka: "Absolutely, and I've always thought this. His sales weren't on anything like the same level, but his influence is on a par with The Beatles or Led Zeppelin."

RFB: As a former musician yourself, did you see on and off-stage parallels with yourself and Iggy?

PT:"I did spray my chest gold and get bottles thrown at me. But I didn't have the ruthlessness that any artist needs. Some would argue I didn't have the talent either."

RFB: Do you think there is anyone around now in the music scene in the UK or the US that is similar to Iggy Pop - male or female?

PT:"He is a one off. There are those who behave like him, but they're following a convention. He, of course, wasn't, and he suffered for it."

RFB: What is your favourite Iggy lyric?

PT:"It would have to be the song 'Success', where he thinks, perhaps ironically, that success is finally around the corner, and he sings "Here comes my Chinese rug..." I love the joy and optimism, of a man who's been through so much."

RFB: What did the man himself - Iggy - think about his biography?

PT:"There was an interview where someone quoted the opening line; "how could one man be so clever - and so stupid?". He laughed: "that's very accurate... that's me!" Then he followed up with "why couldn't he leave it at that! Why did we need the whole damn book?"

RFB: If you could write a biography of anyone in history, who would it be?

PT:"As far as a biography of anyone, I'd love to know more about the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, who built many powerful, brooding buildings just after the Restoration. But so little is known about him, it would be made up, smoke and rumours. As for other rock related biographies, I have my plans. Watch this space."

Paul Trynka's 'Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed' is published by Sphere. More information can be found HERE.

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