Latest release: Re-Licked

The clock on my shitty computer is running five minutes behind, so my call goes through to Stooges guitarist James Williamson late. Williamson, whose jagged, aggressive playing on the Iggy and the Stooges classic Raw Power paved the way for the sound of punk, lightly berates me for that before graciously offering to go into his five-minute break time between interviews so we can complete our chat about his current activities, primary of which is a forthcoming solo album. Re-Licked features the current Stooges line-up of Williamson, Mike Watt, Steve Mackay and Toby Dammit with a roster of singers including Ariel Pink, Lisa Kekuala, Mark Lanegan, Jello Biafra and more. The album’s first single, ‘Open Up and Bleed’/’Gimme Some Skin’ features Texas blues singer Carolyn Wonderland and is being issued on 7” vinyl to celebrate Record Store Day on April 19.

First of all, allow me to offer my condolences with regards to Scott (Asheton, original Stooges drummer who died on March 15). That must have come as quite a shock.
Well yes of course it did. He was a good friend of mine. Back in the day we used to be roommates and stuff, so we were quite close. It was a shock for sure. But, you know, on the other hand, no one gets to pick when we go. Maybe I’m next! (laughs)

Well, let’s hope that isn’t the case! You have a new record on the way, so let’s move on and talk about that – the first single is being released to celebrate Record Store Day. How important is that to you?
How important is it? Well, the reason that I picked Record Store Day is that it’s old school. It’s kind of the way, when I was growing up, you listened to a new record. You went to the store and you looked at the cover and sometimes you could hear it – some places had record players where you could listen with headphones – and then you could buy it on vinyl. And that’s kinda the way Record Store Day is. It’s one day where all these new records come out and you’ve heard about them ahead of time, so you demand your record store buy them and you go in and then you buy them, and the artists are in-store and they sign them. That, to me, was a cool way to kick off this project. It’s gonna be a little while until the actual album comes out.

Has the album been completed yet?
No, I’m still working on it. This single will come out on the 19th of this month, and then I will put out a second single in June with the album coming out most likely in September.

So tell me a little about these songs. I believe that they are old Stooges songs that you wrote with Iggy and were never able to record, am I correct?
Well, we finished Raw Power and we went out touring under new management (and) we were under the impression that CBS Records had the option to pick up a second album from us, so if they picked up the option they would be recorded on the new album. So we wrote all this new material and we played it live on our tour and it was great. We loved it. But the company didn’t pick up our option so even though the stuff had been recorded live a lot – you know, just by fans and stuff – it never was properly recorded in the studio. I’ve always liked a lot of these songs – actually all of them. They’re fun to play and they were fun back then and I’ve always thought that the live performances and bootlegs just didn’t do these songs justice. So I’ve always wanted to do it and this year we took a year off touring and I had the opportunity, and it’s one more thing I can check off my bucket list, and not having Iggy sing on them kinda changes the whole experience and not pair it with stuff. It’s not young Stooges vs. old Stooges. It’s more of a tribute to the songwriting, really.

What were Iggy’s thoughts about this, when the idea presented itself?
We thought about doing it as the Stooges before we released Ready to Die last year, and we decided for that very reason that the fans would naturally compare the new Stooges to the old Stooges. And that wasn’t something we really wanted to do, so we decided to do new material instead. Coming back to it, I still wanted to record that stuff and really putting different vocalists on it really gets around all that.

You’ve managed to get a very impressive list of vocalists to work on this with you.
It’s an amazing list of people who are stepping up to do this, so I’m having heaps of fun doing this. You’ve heard the first single already. Carolyn’s just a powerhouse singer and it’s a real pleasure to work with her, but the next single is equally strong with another female named Lisa Kekuala who is with the Bellrays. And the list goes on. There’s fourteen singers on this thing, so you’re bound to have somebody in there that you like. Maybe even half a dozen of them! (laughs)

Is there anything else left over that are still in the archives somewhere, waiting to be released?
There’s a few songs that were done very, very early on when we a had a two guitar line-up before Ron (Asheton) switched over to bass. There are a couple of them, but they’re very, very hard to make out what’s going on on them. So it would be a real challenge to try and redo them.

Finally, are there plans to reunite with Iggy again in the future?
That’s the plan. As I say, at our age, every single step can change without notice.  When we went on hiatus after last summer we were just gonna take some time off. Really, as much as taking the time off ourselves, because we’ve been touring hard for the last four years, is to let the fans get a little rest too. You don’t wanna get into the position where you’re coming into town and everyone goes, “I just saw those guys!” (laughs) So we’re taking a little break. We’ll see. If we don’t decide that we’re getting lazy and it’s kinda fun to settle down, then we’ll be back out there.

James Williamson’s single ‘Open Up and Bleed’/’Gimme Some Skin’ featuring Carolyn Wonderland will be available on April 19 as an exclusive 7″ vinyl release to mark Record Store Day.