On tour with Iggy Pop...

On tour with Iggy Pop...

 

We bumped into Kevin Armstrong last year and he had a fascinating story to tell (see Musicpsych July 2014). His musical career has connected him to some of the greatest alumni of the 20th century - Bowie, McCartney, Morrissey & Tom Jones to name but a few. When we got back in touch with Kevin he gave us the heads-up that he’ll be playing with Iggy Pop on his 2015 tour. This means dusting off the vintage Tele and Les Paul, adding a sprinkle of DSP and getting down to recreating classic Stooges and Berlin-era guitar sounds.

Kevin tells us what it’s like working with one of the few vocalists in the world who’ll turn around to the guitarist and scream “Turn it up mothe**ucker!”

  

MPs
The 2015 tour won’t be the first time you will have worked with Iggy Pop, can you tell us about your previous experiences? 

KA
Iggy Pop is a cultured, well-read, serious guy with a little demon inside. He’s pretty easy to work with and trusts his band members to do what they do best. When he’s performing you never quite know what’s going to happen. Things can get unpredictable and he’s got boundless energy. Mic stands can go flying in all directions with the flick of a wrist and PA stacks have toppled in pursuit of rock and roll mayhem. It’s loud, it’s fast and it’s hair-raising. He’s funny too and likes a good laugh. A gentleman, a poet and sometimes an absolute animal. 

MPs
This is probably the gig most professional guitarists dream of landing, are you happy to be working with Iggy again? 

KA
I’m really happy to get the opportunity to work with him again. Obviously there’s a lot of water under the bridge since I last played with him but that’s all the more interesting as we know a whole lot more now and can bring all that good experience to the task. I have actually thought many times that if I could play with Iggy again there would be so many things that I could do better and I never dreamed that I would actually get the chance to fix them; but here we are! I don’t think many people get the chance to get a second go around at something like this and I’m thrilled about it. 

MPs
What are the most significant challenges that lie ahead for you? 

KA
Yes I’ve been asked to assemble the band for the Wembley shows with the Foo Fighters in June and I have done a lot of thinking about that. I am really happy with my guys and I’m looking forward to working with them. I have Seamus Beaghen from the ‘86,’87 Blah Blah Blah band on keys and 2nd guitar. He worked with Iggy in ‘88 too and has played with Death in Vegas, Paul Weller, Madness and the Blockheads. Ben Ellis is a Scottish bassist who I played a gig with a couple of years ago and he has a huge sound and a great feel, and lastly I have Mat Hector from Thomas Dolby’s band on drums. He’s an amazing drummer who can bring the rock and the swing needed for Iggy’s music. We toured the States together with Thomas Dolby and he’s a really hard worker. 

MPs
What will your rig look like? 

KA
Well I’ll continue my relationship with Blackstar and use a pair of their Artisan 100 watt heads and 4x12s. I loved these amps when I used them on Keziah Jones’ shows in Europe this summer. They give me all the weight and warmth and punch I’m looking for and they don’t get muddy at high volume; the tone stays pure and strong. I might add two more cabinets for coverage at Wembley as Iggy loves it loud! He’s the only singer I’ve ever played with who can turn round and literally scream “Turn it up mothe**ucker”! at me. I’ll still use the same pedalboard I put together for Thomas Dolby’s tour in 2012 with the three gain stages etc. To which I’ve added the BigSky since then and a Boss RC30 looper. And as for guitars it’s my ’54 Tele and Les Paul all the way. 

MPs
Can you tell us a bit about some of the preparation work required to perfect some of those original Stooges guitar sounds as well as those from “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life”? 

KA
I thought about talking to Phil Palmer who played on the Berlin period records and I still might do that but really I can just hear what it is about; those sounds that need homage and which I’ll just re-interpret. Iggy doesn’t really like guitar effects much so I have to only do what works emotionally for him, and if it goes over into ‘overproduced’ then I won’t do it. It’s all about the magic and I want the sounds to really say something about how much we love the original records, but not get in the way of the visceral nature of an Iggy Pop live show in 2015. In other words I will quote the sounds but not be a slave to forensic recreation. It’s all in the playing really and the attitude. The gear has to serve that. 

MPs
Do any of the tracks stand out as particularly tough to re-create? 

KA
I really love the sound of the guitar intro on The Passenger for instance. It must have been partly that particular guitar/amp/room combination as I’ve never heard another guitar sound like it… I’ll probably jack the mids on my EQ and fling a loop of it and play the Tele on top. Some of the reverbs on Ron Asheton’s solos on early Stooges records are really exciting and great, and I will do some work with the BigSky to nail those. It’s got such a range of sounds that recreating a plate or a spring from any period is easy. I’m going to have to find an octaver that works for me for some of the Berlin period stuff. Nightclubbing needs that. I don’t have one yet and am on the hunt. Also I’m going to do some filter and reverse sounds with the Timeline. 

MPs
What part of touring with Iggy are you most looking forward to? 

KA
That thrill of being onstage with one of the most exciting rock singers in history can’t really be beaten as an aspiration for someone like me who has obsessed about music all my life. I did it when I was younger and I get to do it all again now I’m older. I know this band is going to do the songs proud too. That adrenaline rush of an Iggy show in full effect is a huge high and I’m raring to go! 

MPs
Will you come back and tell us about it when the tour is over? 

KA
Sure why not? 

 

Iggy Pop will be doing two dates at London's Wembley Stadium with the Foo Fighters on June 19th and 20th 2015.

Find out more about Kevin Armstrong at his official website: kevin-armstrong.com

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