Cover Feature Iggy Pop: “I was out to kill bears right from the beginning…”

For 50 years, Iggy Pop has been the man your mother warned you about. And though, these days, he’s more into exercise than ecstasy, the 72-year-old is still defying expectation with every turn.

Catching a glimpse of Iggy Pop is like spotting a unicorn. A lithe old pensioner with the on-stage wiggle of a baby orangutan, skin the colour and consistency of tanned leather, and two perfectly-shiny sheets of blonde hair maintained with the well-groomed care of a beloved My Little Pony, he’s a magical creature that makes you look twice. His legend is just as mythical, too. There’s the infamous shot of the star, held aloft by a Cincinnati crowd in the early ‘70s, smearing peanut butter on himself. The numerous gigs where the then-Stooge would slice his chest open mid-show, bleeding and contorting around the stage covered in red. Whether the story DIY once heard of how the singer, high as a kite, got squashed by a fridge and just… stayed there for a bit is true, who can say, but the bizarre rumours are proof of his status as music’s original wild child just as much as the concrete reality. What we will say for sure is this: Iggy Pop is literally credited as the man who invented crowd-surfing.

Now aged 72 and residing happily with his third wife in Miami, Iggy lives a less self-destructive life these days. When he phones us from New York, it’s 9am; he’s already been up for two hours, rising at a regular 7am, as he does every morning. “I need routine now because I’m an older git,” he chuckles, unleashing the endearing, infectious laugh that’s become his interview trademark - one more worthy of a naughty schoolboy than a wizened old rocker. He has a double shot of ristretto, practices “at least 15 minutes” of Qi Gong - the Chinese exercise ritual that’s been keeping him in shape for the last decade - and, “if it’s a good day, I’ll just stare into space or jump into the ocean, put a bit of food in me and I’m good to go.” Ready for another 24 hours as punk’s last great icon.

It’s the kind of healthy, hearty routine that brings to mind some of music’s other, more softened elder statesmen: Mick Jagger and his love of yoga. The infamously tantric exercise habits of Sting. But, though his lifestyle might have become more wholesome, in all other areas Iggy is not, to paraphrase the Dylan Thomas poem that informs the penultimate track of his new album ‘Free’, going gentle into that good night. Still enthralling the festival circuit with a set more joyous and pure-spirited than most on any given bill, hosting a regular BBC Radio 6 Music show championing everyone from Amyl and the Sniffers to Stef Chura, and surprising people creatively with every move (on the cusp of 70 he posed naked for a life drawing class hosted by artist Jeremy Deller), he remains intrinsically infused with the wildcard spirit that’s been his calling card since day one. “There’s a great pleasure and passion that I’m privileged to experience in doing this sort of work,” he growls in that famously warm baritone. “But even back in 1974, it was still damn interesting to be me…”

Iggy Pop: "I was out to kill bears right from the beginning..." Iggy Pop: "I was out to kill bears right from the beginning..." Iggy Pop: "I was out to kill bears right from the beginning..."

As featured in the October 2019 issue of DIY, out now.

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