A teatime en­counter: Bilt­more Ho­tel, Mi­ami

Present: Iggy Pop, né Jim Oster­berg: singer / Karl Hyde: singer, Un­der­world Rick Smith: com­poser, Un­der­world / Irvine Welsh: au­thor and screen­writer

Q (UK) - - Cover Story -

Irvine: I sup­pose we should talk about the mu­sic then, eh? Maybe first about Smok­ing On The Air­plane [ first EP track, Bells & Cir­cles, which was pre­miered live by Un­der­world for the BBC Big­gest Week­end in Belfast]. Did you ever smoke on an air­plane, Jim?

Iggy: Well, yeah, loads.

Irvine: So, this is a true story, then?

Iggy: It is. I used to en­joy it when I first got a tiny bit of money, just enough to have $ 50 in my pocket. I had a girl­friend in Cleve­land, which was like, what, a minute’s flight from Detroit, and it was 25 bucks. “I have enough money to fly to Cleve­land, and hit on the girl, and go home!” And what was bet­ter was that it was the age of reg­u­la­tion, and all the com­pa­nies were scam­ming the gov­ern­ment. “Yeah, we need lots of ser­vice! We need ser­vice all the time from Detroit to Cleve­land, so that Jim Oster­berg can see his girl right now!” I would get on a TWA Jet with, like, 90 seats on it, and there would be maybe one other pas­sen­ger. They’d fly the plane any­way. It wasn’t like now where ev­ery plane is try­ing to make so much money; it was more about mar­ket share and con­trol. That was a great thing.

Irvine: And you could light up a cig­a­rette any time?

Iggy: I was smok­ing cig­a­rettes con­stantly, but then in the in­ci­dent de­scribed in the song, the “smok­ing on the air­plane”, I was out with the last-gasp, truly derelict, des­per­ate Stooges, and that was ’ 73, and we’d had a gig in New York City that… was a disas­ter. We were on our way to DC and I did snort a gram…

Irvine: You had a gram of co­caine?

Iggy: I put down the tray ta­ble, I had a gram on me and I snorted the whole gram, and this tall, beau­ti­ful stew­ardess was avail­able to me, but then I started drink­ing. I had to take the edge off. But then later, when I got to the ho­tel, I re­alised I’d for­got­ten the num­ber, which was ter­ri­ble, but then what was re­ally ter­ri­ble was that be­cause I didn’t hook up with her, I then hooked up with a no­to­ri­ous groupie who had a friend who had some an­gel dust, so I took the an­gel dust be­fore the gig.

Karl: Is this the se­quel?

Iggy: It was in the Kennedy Cen­tre and we were open­ing for one of these very twee English groups [ Mott The Hoople]. I don’t wanna say who it is, al­right, they had their lit­tle hit, and every­thing was just so…

Karl: That’s like us!

Iggy: And, I wan­dered on­stage. I was try­ing to sing this song, and I wan­dered into the au­di­ence, and some­one in the au­di­ence had a peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wich, and he smushed it into my bare chest, and it looked as if I had been hit with a grenade. It looked like my guts had ex­ploded, and so ev­ery­one went “Ahhh!” and the pro­moter went ‘“AHHHHH!” You know, “You’re ru­in­ing my rep­u­ta­tion! You’re ru­in­ing this gig!” But, yeah, you could smoke a lot on the air­plane.

Irvine: They didn’t mind about the coke on the air­planes in those days, though?

Iggy: Well, I didn’t mind it.

Karl: Was there, like, a spe­cial area for the co­caine? Like there was for smok­ing?

Iggy: It was an era in which you weren’t body searched con­stantly, and now you’re body searched or scanned or checked out, or, you know, on the CCTV all the time. That was not the case [ then]. I wouldn’t have ad­vised other peo­ple to have taken a gram of co­caine on the air­plane, but if you were me, you knew that if you chose to do the co­caine you were gonna do that gram in one hoover. I meant to save it for when we got to where we were go­ing, I wasn’t very good at that sort of thing. I was an im­pa­tient per­son and all.

Irvine: You’re up there in this cylin­der, six miles high, fly­ing at 600 miles an hour, you know, rat­tling away on co­caine…

Iggy: It’s a ter­ri­ble drug.

Karl: I’ve had Coca-Cola on a plane, some­times Pepsi cola! And other co­las are avail­able.

Irvine: What about this record, this four­track EP [ Teatime Dub En­coun­ters], how did it come about?

Rick: [ Trainspot­ting di­rec­tor] Danny Boyle asked me to help him with Trainspot­ting 2. We got quite ex­cited talk­ing about dif­fer­ent ideas of how to look at mu­sic dif­fer­ently from the first film, be­cause with the first film there was no com­poser in­volved, it was just his taste. He had this thought: “What if we had an orig­i­nal piece of mu­sic from Iggy that would play in this par­tic­u­lar scene?” and he would talk to the writer about look­ing at it again. I thought, “OK, we can do this.” The tim­ing worked out, and Iggy was in Lon­don. Iggy: I was do­ing the Post Pop De­pres­sion tour with Josh Homme, and Matt Helders from Arc­tic Mon­keys, and all that lot.

Rick: Iggy was stay­ing at The Savoy and gra­ciously said, “We can meet and talk”, be­cause we both felt a strong con­nec­tion to Trainspot­ting and to Danny. I thought, ‘I’ve got one chance here to con­vince this gen­tle­man that we should work to­gether.’ We hired a ho­tel room and I put half my stu­dio up in a ho­tel room and sat wait­ing.

Irvine: And you told him to fuck off, ob­vi­ously?

Iggy: The thing was trau­matic for me re­ally, the whole thing. I was on this tour with guys 25 years younger than me do­ing… the quick rock tour sched­ule. I was in Min­neapo­lis get­ting ready for a show with Josh, and Matt Helders, do­ing this long set. [ Iggy’s man­ager] Henry says, “Danny Boyle re­ally wants to talk to you about do­ing some­thing for a movie.” And I thought, “Well, that sounds great but I’m in the mid­dle of a tour. My per­for­mance is a big deal to me, so don’t… eu­gh­hhh.” So every­thing kind of qui­etened down for a while. Then I was at The Savoy just get­ting ready to play Lon­don, and then, “Would you meet with Rick who does all the mu­sic for Danny, just to talk about it?” I walk into the room and there’s this en­tire stu­dio star­ing me in the face. An en­tire board and a mi­cro­phone, and a video hook-up…

“Iggy was stay­ing at The Savoy and gra­ciously said, ‘We can meet and talk.’ I thought, ‘I’ve got one chance to con­vince this gen­tle­man we should work to­gether.’ I put half my stu­dio up in a ho­tel room and sat wait­ing.” Rick Smith, Un­der­world

Irvine: You had all of this, like, a mix­ing desk and key­boards and all these in­stru­ments and all of that stuff, right?

Rick: Yeah.

Iggy: There was a con­ver­sa­tion by Skype. I liked Rick and he was very po­lite and that goes a long way with me.

Karl: Well, that’s why we’re still to­gether.

Iggy: I’m a po­lite per­son, he was po­lite and we were able to get to know each other a lit­tle. Danny gets on the Skype and, “Uh, I’m a film di­rec­tor and I want every­thing but I don’t know what I want at all”, which is re­ally the mes­sage, right? And I said to him, “Well, what is your film about?” So he said, “Friend­ship, it’s about friend­ship.” I said, “OK, I’ll try to give you some­thing about friend­ship.” I wanted to rise to the oc­ca­sion. Rick had a num­ber of tracks ready and he just took me through them for things that we could try ei­ther to­day or in the fu­ture and I would say, “Does noth­ing for me” or “I could do some­thing with this”, you know, and one of them was this very melodic, quiet, kind of sad, funny-feel track, and I felt some­thing from that. I thought I could maybe say some­thing about my his­tory of friends. I said to him, ‘Let me try that one track.’ And then my mind was rac­ing be­cause when you are con­fronted with some­body who has a whole stu­dio there in the ho­tel room, a Skyped di­rec­tor who has won the Os­car re­cently and a fuck­ing mi­cro­phone in front of you and 30 fin­ished pieces of very pol­ished mu­sic, you don’t want to be the wimp that goes “uh uhhh”, so my mind was rac­ing… Irvine: You’ve gotta com­pose on the spot.

Iggy: I just opened my mouth and out came that thing, sort of as a his­tory…

Irvine: Be­cause it’s like that view of friend­ship which you have in that track [ the third song on the EP, I’ll See Big]... it’s fairly con­sis­tent in every­thing you’ve done and writ­ten through­out the years.

Iggy: It is.

Irvine: Has that been a kind of theme or an is­sue, keep­ing old friend­ships, but also be­ing con­scious of your­self be­ing suc­cess­ful?

Iggy: I wres­tle with the whole con­cept. About half the time I feel like a chump; I’m like, “What am I do­ing?!” And then the other half of the time it’s like, “Well, what else am I gonna do? Just be empty all the time?” I think every­thing that I was able to do in re­ac­tion to Rick’s mu­sic, and then later Karl’s pres­ence and Esme’s [ Esme Smith, Rick Smith’s daugh­ter, who sings through­out the EP], was coloured by the char­ac­ters in that film. My mind was some­how con­nected to the hap­less he­roes of Trainspot­ting.

Irvine: This track didn’t make it onto the movie. Why?

Rick: It was very sim­ple re­ally, be­cause at the close of Trainspot­ting 2 Iggy’s voice from the first film is played. Danny re­alised quite quickly that we couldn’t hear Iggy ear­lier in the sec­ond film be­cause it would ruin that jour­ney through the film to that par­tic­u­lar con­clu­sion.

Iggy: Danny had to make a phone call to me and say some­thing vaguely nice and tell me he wasn’t go­ing to use any of the tracks.

“When Danny Boyle got in touch to buy the rights to Trainspot­ting, every­body wanted to buy it. I met this one guy – I thought he was Danny’s pro­ducer, but he was just a ran­dom guy who had a lot of money. I sold it to him.” Irvine Welsh

I was su­per fine with that, but he didn’t know that, so he starts with, “You re­ally have the most ex­tra­or­di­nary voice.” I’m feel­ing great al­ready! [ Pause] “I’m not go­ing to use any of the tracks…” “Woah fuck!”

Irvine: Di­rec­tors are world class at giv­ing you bad news.

Tea break Karl: Trainspot­ting was a life-changer. We had this hit record, Born Slippy, and we were fine with it.

Iggy: Did you have the hit record be­fore Trainspot­ting?

Karl: Yeah, but it wasn’t any­where near the hit record that it be­came. Danny wanted to use it and the leg­end is that he got a “no” from us, that we didn’t want to be on his film. But our mates had said, “Oh yeah, it’s this film about can­ing it.” We were, like, “No, our mu­sic’s not about can­ing it.” So he got us in to show us some scenes from the film. You know, ba­bies on the ceil­ing, that kind of thing. And we’re like, “Oh, OK! That’s a whole dif­fer­ent thing.” I said that’s cool. Then the record la­bel wanted to re-re­lease the record. We were like, “That’s cheesy, we don’t want to re-re­lease it.” The lit­tle la­bel that we were with, Ju­nior Boy’s Own, can­vassed around 100 DJs in clubs around the coun­try and they sent us the doc­u­ment of what they’d said, and 99 of them said, “When we put Born Slippy on, the dance­floor goes crazy, you’ve got to re-re­lease this.” And then there was one DJ who was at the Top Rank in Cardiff who said, “This is shit, I hate this record.” That was the one where we were like, “Look, we told you! We told you!” The rest is his­tory.

Irvine: When Danny got in touch to buy the rights to Trainspot­ting, I was liv­ing in Am­s­ter­dam. And I knew noth­ing about that busi­ness and it meant that every­body wanted to buy it. Peo­ple wanted to meet me all the time. I liked Danny’s film Shal­low Grave and I thought it would work well. I met this guy and he goes, “Danny Boyle would be a good di­rec­tor for this.” I go, “Yeah, great.” I thought he was Danny’s pro­ducer, but he was just a ran­dom guy who had a lot of money who wanted the rights. I sold it to him straight away. Danny came back and said, “What the fuck, you were go­ing to sell it to me!” And I said, “I thought he was your guy! He had a big cheque book. What was I gonna do!?” The guy was very gra­cious about it. He signed over to Danny. But it al­most didn’t hap­pen be­cause of my short-term greed.

Karl: Just think, what wouldn’t have hap­pened. Wow.

Irvine: Yeah. I sold it to some guy, who said he had money. He bought me a drink, like, you know.

Karl: Well, he was a friendly gang­ster, the kind we like. Can you imag­ine, if that hadn’t hap­pened, if it had gone to some­body else? Man, there’d be like a whole gen­er­a­tion that wouldn’t have a theme.

Irvine: There’d be a lost gen­er­a­tion?

Karl: Yeah! Look­ing for their film. “Where’s our film?!” That was our Wood­stock.

Scones break Irvine: That’s one thing I do miss – jam and scones, you don’t re­ally get them over in the States, or Italy.

Rick: But you can get them on an air­plane though.

Iggy: I don’t know how some of these sub­jects came up in the songs. Were we talk­ing about wings when we did Smok­ing On The Air­plane [ Bells & Cir­cles]? I won­der, cos I know that you came up with the “sun­light on my wings” line at one point, which was beau­ti­ful, which it needed.

Rick: Yeah, that coun­ter­point.

Iggy: Some proper English singing. Well, it is! It’s re­ally good singing, this beau­ti­ful melody and im­age.

Karl: Every­thing you were say­ing seemed to ar­rive at that place. There was this sort of idiot in the sky, trip­ping out, while there’s this other thing go­ing on in the back­ground.

Irvine: What about the shirts? [ Get Your Shirt, track four]

Iggy: Yeah, how did that come up? Did that pop out of me?

Rick: It did. It was the ti­tle. The ti­tle, I think, was Karl’s. We ran­domly have ti­tles that don’t re­ally mean any­thing, and the piece was called Get Your Shirt and you just saw it and were, like, “OK!”

Iggy: Maybe I took my shirt off ? I do that a lot. That’s just a good old rock’n’roll “moan­ing about rip-offs” song.

Irvine: That’s my favourite track. Karl: It’s got some good lines in it.

Iggy: That’s a re­ally nice piece of mu­sic. It’s up­lift­ing, catchy.

Rick: I find this fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause you’re all word­smiths. I’m mu­sic, and all I felt was flow. What Iggy did was like a dream come true: just to re­spond, be spon­ta­neous, be in the mo­ment.

Karl: I re­mem­ber hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with you [ Iggy] about how you im­prov. I can im­prov, but I need to have some words to im­prov from.

Iggy: I kind of mix the per­sonal, and some­thing I’ve ei­ther heard or read. On a song like I’m Trapped [ sec­ond song on Teatime Dub En­coun­ters], I’m just singing a per­sonal feel­ing. But there’s a quote in there from a Sui­cide song, Frankie Teardrop, and I just changed it. He says, “Frankie got mar­ried, and he had a cou­ple of kids, but it was tooo hard!” “Let’s hear it for Frankie!” You know, it was just re­ally too hard for Frankie Teardrop. I’d al­ways liked the out-of-nowhere, “Let’s hear it for Frankie!” So I used that and changed it to, “He’s got a house.” It’s all you have to say. Any­body who’s ever had one, that’s all you have to say, you know. And there are prob­a­bly so many peo­ple who would like to have one, but wait un­til you get it. You know there are great things to it, but then on the other hand… you’ve got a house! And then on Bells & Cir­cles, it’s half per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence and then the other part is from the book I liked so much called The Golden Age Of Sky­jack­ing or what­ever it was [ The Skies Be­long To Us]. I just loved it! Oh my. I could go on and on about that sub­ject, I’d ruin the whole af­ter­noon right now. The amaz­ing things that peo­ple did hi­jack­ing these air­planes! I need to shut up.

Karl: At least you can re­mem­ber that stuff! Iggy: I have an idea in my head and then in the sec­onds be­fore he starts the track I’m men­tally putting bits in places on it. Maybe cos this mu­sic’s like dub for me. There’s no bloody verse or cho­rus so it made it eas­ier for me to just con­cen­trate on the day.

Karl: I find that as­ton­ish­ing, that you can do it on the spot. Has it al­ways been like that?

Iggy: Well, I’ve al­ways been able to do that in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. With The Stooges’ first gigs, we had two riffs. Then three riffs and then four riffs and I would rhyme ad lib. There was Dance Of Ro­mance, Good­bye Bo­zos, I’m Sick and Asthma At­tack, those were our big four num­bers, and the words to those would just be what­ever I made them ev­ery night. Rap­pers freestyle too, don’t they.

Irvine: So back then, you would just jam and then play with the words when you were jam­ming? Then you would come on­stage, and just mod­ify them?

Iggy: And keep the ti­tle. The ti­tle is so im­por­tant.

Karl: It’s the glue.

Irvine: It’s al­ways the first thing I have for a book. I get a ti­tle and then I work out what it’s gonna be.

Karl: And then you take it on a jour­ney?

Irvine: Find out what the fuck it’s about – like Trainspot­ting, even then I just had the idea for the ti­tle. There was no as­so­ci­a­tion with drugs or heroin at all. I made all that shit up, ba­si­cally. I called it Trainspot­ting be­cause of this or that rea­son.

Iggy: Just liked the word…

Irvine: It was all af­ter the event. There was no… iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with drugs or heroin use in Trainspot­ting at all.

Karl: It’s pow­er­ful, that ti­tle, be­cause of that. But it’s like a badge. It be­comes iconic, be­cause it sits on the front of this cool stuff.

Irvine: It’s like when I wrote this book Marabou Stork Night­mares. We’d seen this stork in this zoo, and I just thought, “This is an ugly bas­tard. This is hor­ri­ble. I’m go­ing to have night­mares about this fuck­ing thing.” And then I thought, “Fan­tas­tic. That’s a great ti­tle. You know, what can it be about? Marabou Storks. Africa. Im­mi­gra­tion. Colo­nial­ism…” Saw pic­tures of a Marabou Stork de­vour­ing a flamingo and I thought, “Well, this is like some kind of vi­o­lent crime.”

Rick: There was a piece of mu­sic we wrote for the [ Lon­don 2012] Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony, and its full ti­tle was And I Will Kiss In Rev­o­lu­tion. And the most re­cent piece we put out was called Bril­liant Yes That Would Be. Some­times the way words fall, the spa­ces that are left be­tween, are more in­ter­est­ing than what I could pos­si­bly come up with by think­ing about them.

“I wouldn’t have ad­vised other peo­ple to have taken a gram of co­caine on the air­plane, but if you were me, you knew that if you chose to do the co­caine you were gonna do that gram in one hoover.” Iggy Pop

Karl: And it’s not that things mean noth­ing. Rick: No.

Karl: Be­cause I’ve strug­gled with that some­times. I’ll some­times say, “All that comes out of my mouth is just shit, it’s just ab­stract shit, it doesn’t mean any­thing.” Then Rick will go, “I don’t know what you’re talk­ing about. That’s a very pow­er­ful im­age.”

Tea break Karl: What’s cool about this, and it’s only a small cool, is that there isn’t any, like, “We’re go­ing to re­lease this then, we’re go­ing to let peo­ple know some­thing’s com­ing!” We’re go­ing to do a gig [ The Big­gest Week­end in Belfast, on 26 May] and that gig is go­ing to be tele­vised. That’s when we drop the record, on telly, in front of that au­di­ence, to the world.

Iggy: I will be dis­em­bod­ied dur­ing the gig. Hon­estly, that’s what hap­pens to you when you get Un­der­world in any way, shape, they kind of dis­em­body you, you know?

Irvine: You’re not go­ing to be there to per­form live?

Iggy: Some time, some day, I would like to sit in the dark be­hind a screen and do the live vo­cals while they play. I would love to do that.

Karl: OK, you’re on!

Iggy: But I’m just tired. I’m tired of peo­ple look­ing at me all the time. What I en­joy most in life are my se­cret hours. So, prob­a­bly if I ever did this live with these guys, it’ll be when they’re some­where where they’ve got room for an ex­tra hand for bridge or what­ever and I can go be­hind. Maybe I could have one guy, like, with a cell phone in my face, and no­body could see me.

Karl: We should get, like, a con­fes­sional, and you could sit in the con­fes­sional.

Iggy: Al­right, there you go!

Irvine: I could dress as a priest! But I won’t in­ter­fere with you, though.

Karl: Oh, OK. Irvine: Al­right, I will.

Rick: I think the ques­tion’s fan­tas­tic be­cause it’s not where we’re go­ing, it’s that be­ing on the jour­ney is such a buzz, and it’s been like that for me from the first mo­ment.

Iggy: Yeah, right from the get-go.

Rick: And the more I just leave it to hap­pen, not only is the per­sonal plea­sure more, but it seems that how other peo­ple feel it is more in­trigu­ing.

Karl: The magic comes back into you. We’re sup­posed to be mak­ing magic, we’re sup­posed to be sur­pris­ing peo­ple. Very of­ten, it’s about tak­ing away the sur­prise, it’s about broad­cast­ing up­front: ‘“What’s it go­ing to be about?”, “Tell me, how is it go­ing to be great?”, “What are you go­ing to do in your show?” Look, just turn up, and I prom­ise you we will de­liver a sur­prise.

Irvine: Un­der­world jumped out of the whole thing for a bit, and now you’ve come

back with a vengeance. So, re­ally, what were you try­ing to do when you weren’t in­volved?

Karl: Try­ing to kill each other.

Iggy: I had to ask my man­ager yes­ter­day, what kind of mu­sic are these guys? Be­cause I’ve just heard the mu­sic, it didn’t sound to me like… I know techno. I’ve heard techno, but I al­ways thought that was “oom-cha oom-cha oom-cha oom-cha oom-cha”…

Irvine: Your views on techno are well­known to YouTube.

Iggy: But this wasn’t like that. He told me, “They’re techno! Yes! Techno!” So I asked Rick and Rick said, “Yes, we’re techno.” So, my ques­tion is, is there hope for me, like, at two in the morn­ing in Ibiza?

Karl: Yes, yes! Do you wanna come to Ibiza? Iggy: No.

Irvine: When I first met Jim back in the ’ 90s, I was lost in acid house. Ev­ery week­end I was just throw­ing ec­stasies down and just jump­ing around on the pills. And I was try­ing to con­vey how this felt to me very dif­fer­ent from a rock’n’roll ex­pe­ri­ence.

Karl: I think it’s re­ally go­ing to mess with peo­ple’s heads, this com­bi­na­tion.

Iggy: “I thought you were a techno band!”

Karl: Yeah! “What are you do­ing with him?!” or “What are you do­ing with them?!”

Iggy: “He’s aw­ful!”

Irvine: Well, I must ad­mit, I never saw it com­ing my­self.

Karl: And here we all are at this, united by your book, and a good cream tea!

Rick: Yeah, cheers! [ All cheers their tea cups]

Iggy: These tunes are or­gan­ised like rock tunes, ac­tu­ally. Be­cause that’s where I’m com­ing from. So even though there’s no pre­de­ter­mined verse or cho­rus, there’s a sense of verse/cho­rus in them – ex­cept for the slow one [ I’ll See Big]… and the slow one is in the vein of a rock talker, you know, where you tell a story while one lick goes over and over. Karl: We grew up lis­ten­ing to John Peel, very eclec­tic, so we can lis­ten to an old blues track next to some kind of bang­ing techno. We’ve got re­ally eclec­tic tastes.

Iggy: I played Aphex Twin for quite a while the last time he had some­thing out. I don’t know if that’s con­sid­ered techno.

Karl: The purists don’t like us, be­cause we play too many things.

Irvine: I re­ally wanted to ask a big “money” ques­tion, be­cause it’s some­thing I’ve been think­ing about. Hu­man be­ings in gen­eral are evolv­ing slowly to the state that cul­ture like art, film, mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture, is no longer go­ing to be es­sen­tial for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, so we’re all go­ing to be re­dun­dant. We’re go­ing to move into a post-cul­tural world.

Iggy: You mean be­cause every­body knows the sto­ries, it’s on their phone…

Irvine: The sto­ries have got to a kind of sat­u­ra­tion point where it be­comes no longer a valid tool of mean­ing­ful hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion. What do you think about a post-cul­tural so­ci­ety?

Iggy: You’re get­ting near that in Rus­sia to­day. They had this grand ideal, of the worker, of the pro­le­tariat and every­thing, and that turned out to be an ex­cuse for mis­ery. But you go there now – I re­ally like to be there, and there’s a lot of great peo­ple – but there’s only the com­merce. Com­merce is in to­tal charge. I think that type of thing is ev­ery­where. Every­body’s a lit­tle cyn­i­cal. “Make Amer­ica Great Again!”: they don’t mean make Amer­ica won­der­ful, do they?

“We’re sup­posed to be mak­ing magic, we’re sup­posed to be sur­pris­ing peo­ple. Very of­ten, it’s about tak­ing away the sur­prise. ‘Tell me, how is it go­ing to be great?’ Look, just turn up, and I prom­ise we will de­liver a sur­prise. That’s what’s cool about this.” Karl Hyde, Un­der­world

Irvine: That’s not the game plan at all.

Iggy: They mean make it rich, make it pow­er­ful!

Irvine: So, I’m think­ing that every­thing is head­ing to­wards zero cost now. It’s pos­si­ble to make every­thing for noth­ing, so it be­comes harder to mon­e­tise things. I mean, there is a whole gen­er­a­tion of kids who don’t want to pay, and why should they? They don’t want to pay for any­thing like mu­sic or books or films.

Iggy: You don’t have a prob­lem with that?

Irvine: I think ac­tu­ally we’re not, in the long run, we’re not go­ing to need to tell sto­ries.

Iggy: So, we’re go­ing to be like ants? Irvine: Yeah.

Karl: But I think sto­ries are fun­da­men­tal to what we do.

Irvine: We’re free from form! Balls of en­ergy spin­ning around!

Karl: But sto­ry­telling, it’s fun­da­men­tal to what we are. I think we sit around, we talk, and we make marks, some­thing which says, “This is me” or “this is how I feel” or “I just need to ex­press my­self.”

Iggy: I think it is, too. I think we may be mov­ing into a kind of evo­lu­tion, a hu­man evo­lu­tion where we’re mov­ing be­yond the need for these car­bon kind of life forms that we’re go­ing around in, but also in the cul­ture, as the sto­ry­telling is an in­te­grated part of hu­man­ity, but it’s a lot, it’s a long, long haul. Karl: Yeah, so we bet­ter make hay while the sun­shine lasts!

Irvine: Yes! Well, that’s what I was try­ing to say, and that’s why I’m glad you guys have got to­gether at this point.

Karl: Be­cause the clock’s tick­ing!

Iggy: There’s a num­ber called Gucci Gang [ by Lil Pump], it’s one of my favourite num­bers. It’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a new kind of cho­rus. In the past, the cho­rus is the part that lifts the lis­tener and hooks them in. Now that’s all gone. In Gucci Gang the cho­rus is, “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang.” You just re­peat it, out of time, with­out a melody, with­out any par­tic­u­lar in­flec­tion and no at­ti­tude. But, some­body sat down and thought, “Well, what is a god­damn cho­rus any­way?” They’re just re­peat­ing some­thing over and over. It’s a new step of rep­e­ti­tion, it fas­ci­nates me.

Irvine: So you’re still walk­ing around with that ear­worm?

Iggy: Even­tu­ally, there may be no need for a story cos we’ll all be like ants, and we’ll all march in a line go­ing around and around… “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang...” Karl: It’s cu­ri­ous what you say about cho­ruses be­cause when this ver­sion of Un­der­world hap­pened, the idea of cho­ruses started to change, for us. There are these spikes you re­mem­ber, and they don’t have to re­peat, but they can be a spike. You look for­ward to that lift, but it’s a dif­fer­ent lift that hap­pens next time, and a dif­fer­ent lift that hap­pens next time…

Iggy: “Mem­o­rable” is a very im­por­tant thing.

Karl: Me­morabab­ble.

Iggy: These tracks are a lot of fun to lis­ten to, you know. I en­joy it be­cause I’ve never heard any­thing quite like this.

Karl: It’s [ Rick’s] fault, he does that. So, we’re go­ing to get this con­fes­sional, and we’re go­ing to take it on tour, and some­times you’re go­ing to ap­pear in it!

Iggy: Yeah, get the con­fes­sional, put me in the box. I would, you know. So, did we talk enough?

Irvine: Yeah, all good, and now we’re off to Jim’s. You still got the man­a­tee there, Jim?

Iggy: He’s not my per­sonal man­a­tee. I haven’t seen him in a while but there was a ’ga­tor went by the other day, that’s only the sec­ond time I’ve seen him.

Karl: On the way to the shops?

Iggy: He was about your size… six or seven feet. You see these two eyes and “woosh!”

Karl: Do they ever come in the house?

Iggy: No. There’s ducks. I think they’ll show up when they want food.

Karl: Ducks al­ways want food.

Iggy: I was feed­ing the ducks short­breads from Har­rods.

Karl: That’s such a good open­ing line for a song! “I was feed­ing the ducks short­breads from Har­rods.”

Iggy: Right, you know…

Karl: What’s the sec­ond line?

“I had to ask my man­ager yes­ter­day what kind of mu­sic are Un­der­world? He told me, ‘They’re techno!’ I asked Rick and Rick said, ‘Yes, we’re techno.’ So, my ques­tion is, is there hope for me at two in the morn­ing in Ibiza?” Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop: “Shall I be mother?”

Ta­ble talk: (from left) Iggy Pop, Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and Irvine Welsh chew the fat, Palme d’Or restau­rant, Bilt­more Ho­tel, Mi­ami, 2018.

Lis­ten up: (main pic, from left) Karl Hyde, Iggy Pop and Rick Smith strike a pose; (above) Hyde and Smith in 1996.

Di­rec­tor Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh on the set of Trainspot­ting 2 in 2016; (be­low) the iconic poster for the 1996 orig­i­nal.

Iggy with Josh Homme (Arc­tic Mon­keys’ Matt Helders, rear), Royal Al­bert Hall, Lon­don, 2016.

Hav­ing it large: Un­der­world head­line The Big­gest Week­end in Belfast, de­but­ing their Iggy col­lab­o­ra­tion Bells & Cir­cles ( cen­tre), 26 May, 2018.

Let the games be­gin: Un­der­world di­rect the mu­sic for the Lon­don 2012 Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony.

“So, Clar­idge’s next time?”; (inset, be­low) that Iggy/Un­der­world EP.

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