Guitar hero Ron Asheton is gone but never forgotten, and his former bandmates honor him in the only way they know how
Published: April 13, 2011
MT: Was the decision to play in Ann Arbor rather than Detroit deliberate?
Pop: It was deliberate only in the way that it developed. It came from Kathy Asheton, who was one of three siblings with whom I grew pretty close at a certain time. She is behind this, and she was just the Asheton that didn't play. At the time it was like, "You can't play — you're a chick." If we were starting the group now, I probably would never have sang. We probably would have recruited her. Basically, she was one of the gang, although we weren't spending as much time with her. We go back. It was her idea to do this, and she kept at it and kept at it. It was her idea to do it in Ann Arbor. I raised my eyebrows but the more I thought about it the more sense it made. I wouldn't say it was deliberate to keep it out of Detroit and it wasn't my idea, it was Kathy's. As it developed, it made more sense to do it in Ann Arbor. I didn't see any sense in thrusting it into the city of Detroit or the suburbs. Where are you gonna do it? Bloomfield Hills? [laughs] I'd have all these mid-level tech executives in Bloomfield Hills high-fiving me. I get that a lot from the tech executives. "IGGY — HIGH FIVE!" That's fine. Right on, techy.
No, I thought that was a cool idea. All the seats are sold out so it must have worked out.
MT: It will obviously be an emotional occasion. Is it still weird playing without Ronnie?
Pop: It's weird for Scott, mostly on the songs Ron played. It'll noticeably point itself out on that particular night, but most nights we just get on with it. I do notice that James does a real good job with the numbers that Ron played on. There's nobody else in the world who could do them justice like he does. They all go back. He and Ron went through the Chosen Few, which was the high school band of Scott Richardson from the SRC. James was another troubled youth that I worked with. I was the only one that bothered to go through high school and all of that. I always was very aware that this is a different guy playing the songs when he does those numbers. He does them as himself without injecting himself into them. I love his playing. So, no, it's not weird. But I imagine that the presence will be strong on that particular evening.
MT: People here are excited to see you with James again, but Ronnie was so beloved in Detroit and Ann Arbor; he'll never be forgotten.
Pop: Ron was a person of great charm and wit. He was a very, very funny guy and a very charming guy, and I just don't know anyone who didn't love him. Having said that, he drove me fucking nuts. It was mutual. He'd be like "Oh fuck, not Pop again. I'm not going to pick up [the phone]." That's different. We had a lot of feelings for each other. But he was one of those people. Some people say "gentle giant." I saw that somewhere and it's not far off.
MT: What would he have made of all this fuss?
Pop: Oh, Jesus, I don't know. That's a tough one. If you ask me if I'd want this, I'd say no. God, no, please let me be allowed to pass away in private. The Stooges subdivision, the subdivision that the whole band came from except me, it was a planned community including and immediately adjacent to its own cemetery. The cemetery abuts onto the house where Ron was living, and was found on the night of his death. I'm sure that's where Dave [Alexander] is and that's where Ron is. As far as what would he have thought, I think I covered it at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If he was looking down, I think he'd be throwing lit cigarettes down on us all, and making sly comments to Dave while they watch TV in heaven and have another beer. I don't know if it's any different for this one. He was a huge, huge lover of the state of Michigan. Fiercely pro-Michigan. Very pro-Ann Arbor and pro his subdivision. So I think he'd feel this was right on. Put it that way.
MT: Talking of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Alice Cooper got in ...
Pop: I think he is a good choice. I remember more the Alice Cooper Group. They trod great ground and then Alice went on to have great success. He's shown everybody that he's one hell of a pro, and a gentleman. He's kept it up and kept it alive, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.
MT: You've chosen Henry Rollins to emcee the benefit ...
Pop: Ron got a big kick out of Henry. He liked Henry very much, and there was a group of people that were supportive of Ron's career at a key time, that culminated in the band reuniting. That was Thurston Moore [Sonic Youth], Henry, Mike Watt and J Mascis [Dinosaur Jr]. Henry's always been a champ, he's always been accessible ... There's nobody quite like him. Since there's more than just a straight-band show to this, I wanted to bring in a talented, smooth pro to run the thing along. I've talked to him briefly, but he can tell jokes, and do what he does. Also, he does a skit about doing gigs with me and trying to blow me down. I always thought that was pretty funny, so he's going to front the Stooges for one song. I think that's cool because he's always liked the band. That's that. If there are things to be articulated, and of course there are, he has a lot of wisdom in that direction. Plus, he volunteered. He's free.
MT: So can you remember the last time you played Detroit or Ann Arbor with James in the band?
Pop: That would have been the Michigan Palace. The infamous Metallic KO gig.
MT: I imagine this one will be less eventful ...
Pop: [laughs]. You never know. We'll see what we can do.
Iggy & the Stooges play a sold-out show on Tuesday, April 19, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-668-8397.
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