GETTIN’ HIS LICKS IN: James Williamson of the Stooges

 

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Ed. note: With Raw Power- and Ready To Die-era Stooges guitarist James Williamson currently unleashing his Re-Licked revisitation of early ‘70s Iggy/Williamson material, the BLURT crüe pays tribute to Mr. W. First up is Dr. Toland’s appreciation of the new album, then Moore and Stegall play tag-team with quotes from interviews they conducted in 2010 and 2013.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND, W/JOHN B. MOORE & TIM STEGALL

The story goes like this: once Rock Action died, Iggy Pop was allegedly no longer interested in making Stooges music. This left a bucketful of Iggy & the Stooges songs that, while heavily bootlegged since their demo and live debuts in the 70s, had never been properly recorded and released. Guitarist and co-composer James Williamson decided to take the tunes into the studio with a gang of guest singers and get the songs down before they were lost to the ether. Thus Re-Licked (recently released by Leopard Lady/Cobraside).

These “and friends” records tend to fall flat, if not completely on their faces – the importance of having a “name” artist often supersedes any musical merit. Not so here, fortunately. Williamson doesn’t mess with arrangements much – while not everything is heart-full-of-napalm Stoogerawk, there’s nothing here that would sound out of place in the mothership’s catalog. Plus Williamson chose his collaborators wisely.

Unsurprisingly, the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula rocks “I Got a Right” and “Heavy Liquid” into the ground. Little Caesar singer Ron Young does the same for “Rubber Leg,” his soulful growl making this track sound like a fantasy team-up of Williamson and Scott Morgan. Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie raves through “Scene of the Crime,” the Kills’ Alison Mosshart croons through “‘Til the End of the Night” and Texas blues picker Carolyn Wonderland roars “Open Up and Bleed” and “Gimme Some Skin.” The blunt “Cock in my Pocket” gets a pair of recordings, one featuring Nicke Anderson of the Hellacopters/Imperial State Electric and the other starring Gary Floyd of the Dicks/Sister Double Happiness. Young guns represent as well, with the Icarus Line’s Joe Cardamone singing “Pin Point Eyes” and the Orwells’ Mario Cuomo doing the anthemic “I’m Sick of You.”

It goes without saying that the songs boast plenty of Williamson’s firebreathing guitar. Though his playing offers no real surprises, unless you count his delicate acoustic work on “‘Til the End of the Night,” he remains a riffmeister supreme. Given its origins in 40-year-old songs and all its moving parts, Re-Licked could have been a disaster. But instead it’s as ball-busting a rock & roll record as any to come down the pike in 2014.

RE-LICKED TRACK LISTING:

01. Head On The Curve (w/ Jello Biafra)

02. Open Up And Bleed (w/ Carolyn Wonderland)

03. Scene Of The Crime (w/ Bobby Gillespie from

Primal Scream)

04. She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills (w/ Ariel Pink)

05. Til The End Of The Night (w/ Alison Mosshart from

The Kills, Dead Weather)

06. I Gotta Right (w/ Lisa Kekaula from The BellRays)

07. Pinpoint Eyes (w/ Joe Cardamone from

The Icarus Line)

08. Wild Love (w/ Mark Lanegan & Alison Mosshart)

09. Rubber Leg (w/ Ron Young from Little Caesar)

10. I’m Sick Of You (w/ Mario Cuomo from The Orwells)

Bonus Tracks:

11. Gimme Some Skin (w/ Caroline Wonderland)

12. C*ck In My Pocket (w/ Nicke Andersson from

The Hellacopters)

13. Heavy Liquid (w/ Lisa Kekaula)

14. Wet My Bed (w/ The Richmond Sluts)

15. C**k In My Pocket (w/ Gary Floyd from The Dicks)

16. Rubber Leg (w/ J.G. Thirlwell aka Clint Ruin, Foetus)

James Williamson 10-28

On resuming dialogue with Iggy Pop after Ron Asheton died:

JAMES WILLIAMSON: You know, we had spoken with each other over the years from time to time, mostly about business-related things like publishing… but yeah, we weren’t real tight and I had run across him a couple of times and gone to a few shows over the years but that’s about it. You know, it’s funny: when somebody dies there’s something about it that makes you brush all that aside and start talking. He called me up when Ronny died. I had already heard, but he was going to tell me if I hadn’t heard yet. So we started talking about this, that and the other thing and it just went from there.I had no intention of playing music at that point because I was still working for Sony, so I had a day job and I wasn’t going to start playing anymore. I told him if the band got into the Hall of Fame I’d come play, but other than that I didn’t have time to do it for one thing.

The second thing is I hadn’t played in 35 years virtually, not that kind of music anyway so we left it at that. A few months pass and Sony, not being immune to this economy, was handing out early retirement packages and I looked it over and decided I couldn’t afford not to take it, so I did. So now I’m thinking to myself, I’m available and these guys really can’t go out without me because they were fresh out of Stooges. So I said I owe it to these guys, I’ll do it. I called [Iggy] back and told him I’d do it, and we chatted a little more and decided it was something everyone wanted to do — so here we are.

 On picking up his guitar again and initial rehearsals with the revamped Stooges:

I had pretty much put the guitar down and only a few years ago I found this marvelous guitar that was built in the 1920s that really kind of inspired me to play again… So I hadn’t played really rock ‘n’ roll for 35 years. In fact my son wrote a kind of humorous essay when he was in college called “Coffins in the Corner,” which were my guitar cases sitting up against the wall, never being opened.   When I put it down, I put it down. So it didn’t get picked back up, basically, until about a year-and-a-half before I got a call from the Ig. I happened to run across a guitar in a flea market that was a real old guitar from I didn’t know when, but it sounded amazing. I didn’t know what it was, and neither did the guy who was selling it. So I got it cheap, and it turned out to be a Herman Weisenbourg Spanish guitar. It was just an amazing instrument, and it kinda got me excited about playing it. I was dicking around with that for about a year-and-a-half. So I wasn’t completely without playing, but it wasn’t the rock ‘n’ roll electric guitar style that you hear now.

I started rehearsing by myself pretty solidly in June of [2009] and I was fortunate because I knew some local guys through the music store and they offered to rehearse me as a band. It’s one thing to practice on your own; it’s a whole other thing to play with a band. I kind of told then I want to pay you back, so I did a gig with them in early September. So I did a gig with this local band called The Careless Hearts and that went over really well. In late August, the Stooges got together, but not with Iggy, just the band. We did about five days in Los Angeles and some things were rough, but it was rough on everybody because the new material we were playing, the other guys [drummer Scott Asheton, sax player Steve Mackay, latterday bassist Mike Watt] weren’t playing. They had just been playing the stuff from the first and second albums. It was all kind of new to everybody and we worked real hard for those five days and pulled it together pretty well. Later in September we got together with Iggy and played. It was pretty magical at that point, having everybody clicking and playing this material that was revamped, but fresh. We got a gig in San Paulo, Brazil and that kind of solidified everything.

On writing and recording the Ready to Die album:

When I got back in the band in 2009, all we cared about was touring. So we just had to get the band to be a crackin’ band and tour. But it took a couple of years before [Iggy and I] started sitting together and trying to write new material. And frankly, I wasn’t sure we could. It was a long, long time ago when we wrote the last song together. But it turned out we could write as quickly and as well as we ever did. So we got started on those things.

When we first started, occasionally we’d get together when we were on the road somewhere and dink around with stuff. That’s kinda old school for us. Then I went to Miami and we did sit in a room for a few days and also work on stuff. The way we write is, typically, I come up with a riff. If I like it well enough, after awhile I send it to him. If Ig likes it, then he starts working on the words. Then we go back and forth. You can do that anywhere, whether you’re sitting in a room or across the country. We came up with one song [“The Departed,” about Ron Asheton] in 2011, so that one goes back a ways. But most of the tunes actually were mostly [written in 2012] maybe a little bit at the end of the year before. I started putting them together as demos and stuff, and they started coming together pretty well. Then we spent the year really making songs out of them. So, we came up with about 15 that we recorded fully. From that, we got the ten on the album and a couple of bonus things. [Ultimately] I think the secret with Iggy. is he’s got to get excited about it. I think once the stuff is coming together, he certainly did get excited and he did step up.

 On getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

None of the band members thought we were going to get in. We thought, we’re going to have to settle for taking pride in setting a record for never having gotten in. We didn’t have to, and we’re in, and I think everybody’s really happy about that. It’s just human nature; you want to be appreciated for what you’ve done. It’s a really gratifying thing.

.Stooges rock hall

 

 

 

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