Jim Jarmusch made a bold claim in his new documentary Gimme Danger by dubbing The Stooges the best band of all time. The arthouse director defended his statement—and proudly so—with Stooges frontman Iggy Pop (aka James Osterberg) at his side at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. “That’s my opinion,” he said confidently. “It’s a love letter and a fan film.” (Read the POV review of Gimme Danger here.)
Jarmusch joined Pop for a press conference at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel where the pair fielded questions on the legacy of The Stooges, Iggy Pop’s wild ways, and the social history of popular music that reverberates throughout Gimme Danger. The director noted that Iggy Pop approached him about working together seven years ago and that his personal esteem for The Stooges made the project an obvious choice. “Music changes me,” said Jarmusch, noting that the artists who influenced him most in a post-industrial world were Jimi Hendrix and, naturally, The Stooges. “The music that spoke to me was the Detroit scene,” said the director.
Iggy Pop, who was naturally fun and energetic behind the microphone, added that the film isn’t a eulogy or a good-bye note in light of all the young bands rising to fame every fifteen minutes. “I don’t see the use of leaving,” he said, noting that music is frequently about hope and identification. The rocker explained that much of his influence as an artist came from Black Americans like Bo Diddley and John Coltrane.
The pair delved into Pop’s rock roots and Jarmusch explained that the wealth of material spoke to influence of the band, while the interviews several Stooges illuminated their formative years. These insights, plus wild footage from the band’s concerts, added to the unique “blues based psychedelic rockabilly” that Pop characterised as part of The Stooges’ offbeat sound.
The reunion of The Stooges proved “very emotional” for Iggy Pop and the rocker seemed unexpectedly moved when members of the press broached the subject of his late collaborators. Before the doc, the rocker noted an “unprecedented aggressive rejection of the group” in popular culture, so the reunion proved an inspiration. Jarmusch had the fortune to interview two additional Stooges members, Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton, before their deaths in 2009 and 2014, respectively. Although Iggy Pop is the surviving Stooge, Jarmusch and Pop agreed that Gimme Danger needed to focuses on the band as a whole, rather than use Iggy Pop’s availability to shift the focus to him, and honour the legacy of the band. “Those other guys are not here,” Jarmusch stated matter-of-factly, but the director and Pop were of the same mind that the group succeeded as a whole and the film should therefore reflect that sentiment.
Jarmusch added that his grungy and messy collage of archival footage and interviews skipped the route of a traditional concert film because a proper auteur would give a greater viewpoint and afford the band its due. His approach to editing, for example, was one of “colouring outside the lines” to show the greatness in imperfections.
When asked about the formal sophistication of the animated sequences in Gimme Danger, which added an alternative vibe to the doc, Jarmusch credited Montreal artist James Kerr for contributing the funky designs. Iggy Pop laughed about the insane “molecular reconfiguration” behind Kerr’s animation as the faces of The Stooges fuse with images inspired by Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio. The mix of high art and low art, intentional or not, gave weight to Jarmusch’s stance on the band’s significance in popular culture.
Gimme Danger opens Nov. 4 in select cities.