No passengers for Iggy

1.1 10FEATURE 1

IGGY & the Stooges legendary guitarist James Williamson says he has no plans to become a rock ‘n’ roll joke.

“We ask ourselves every year, do we want to do this for another year?,” the 63-year-old laughs.

“It’s up to Iggy. What he does is so demanding physically, so it’s up to him to say he doesn’t want to do this anymore. He’s the only guy who can call it quits.

“Look at the Stones, those guys are just too old. They still get out but we are still putting on a show, so when we stop doing that it’s time to stop.”

Williamson came to prominence for his scorching guitar playing on the Stooges’ 1973 seminal album Raw Power.

Now regarded as an influential album, at the time the landmark punk precursor was a commercial and critical disaster.

Williamson, who co-wrote all the songs on Raw Power with Iggy, said the band felt it had recorded “something very important and special”.

“Sadly, we were deluded, but it has stood the test of time,” he told the Herald.

“I think Iggy said it best—at the time there was no vocabulary for the sound of the music we were making. I have a very unique style, especially for those days and nothing really sounded like it at all.

“The thing that gave it all the legs, is the number of people and the number of bands that started imitating that sound and style. Even up to today really.”

By the the mid-70s the band had collapsed with members struggling with drugs. Iggy took off with David Bowie to England and Williamson studied calculus at uni, working his way up the corporate ladder eventually earning the title of vice-president of technology standards at Sony.

“Essentially I stumbled across one of  the first
personal computers at an electronic store and I became fascinated by them and went from there,” he said.

“I learnt how to design them and moved to Silicon Valley and started a career in the electronics business and really had a great ride with it.”

Williamson was on the verge of retirement in 2009 when out of the blue he took a call from Iggy asking if he wanted to rejoin the band, which had reformed in 2003.

Guitarist Ron Asheton had just died from a heart attack. Williamson joked the band was “fresh out of Stooges” so Iggy had no choice but to ask him back.

“I’d set the guitar down and I didn’t play any music for maybe 25 years and more,” he said.

“I didn’t really miss it, because what I was doing was so fascinating and the people were interesting, creative and brilliant.

“So frankly when they called me and wanted me to come back, I wasn’t very interested in doing that.

“Then I came to the realisation, I owed those guys something. Finally I joined up and here I am.”

The band is heading to the port city later this month for the Blues ‘n’ Roots festival at Fremantle Park on March 23 and 24.

The two-day fest also features Paul Simon, English rockers Status Quo, Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant with the Sensational Space Shifters and crooners Chris Isaak and Jason Mraz. Making their bluesfest debuts are alt country outfit Wilco, Latin jazz fusion pioneers Santana, country great Bonnie Rait and the Steve Miller Band. Flying the Aussie flag are local blues outfit Blue Shaddy, local songstress Mama Kin and Dave Craddock and the Spectacles.

by BRENDAN FOSTER

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