Director Andreas Neumann’s latest documentary, American Valhalla, chronicles the secret collaboration between Iggy Pop and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on the 2016 album Post Pop Depression. Wednesday night, Iggy and Sweat Records founder Lauren "Lolo" Reskin found a common mission at the film’s Miami premiere at O Cinema Miami Beach. "New people keep getting born, and they like the music,” is the way Iggy describes it in the movie.
Filmgoers and Iggy fans of all ages, wearing ties and/or Doc Martens and clutching vinyl copies of Raw Power or Lust For Life, packed the theater. They got a three-part event featuring a Q&A session between Iggy and Reskin, a screening of American Valhalla, and a surprise Q&A with Neumann.
Those waiting silently for the event to begin could hear a middle-aged man and a 20-something punk discussing the best places they’ve been stoned or done shrooms (an airplane). Or they could see a young woman placing a bet on what color shirt Iggy would wear (if he chose to wear one). Eventually, he emerged, wearing a black T-shirt and slide sandals — only one of which had a platform sole — which he cast aside.
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Iggy Pop has become something of a cryptid in Miami since he moved to the city in 1995. There is the Iggy Pop of legend, the Godfather of Punk who invented rock 'n' roll as we know it. Then there is Tío Iggy, as Reskin and the rest of the Sweat team call him. Tío Iggy is all of our classic-rock uncles combined. One moment he’s telling a story about flooring his vintage Ferrari on the MacArthur Causeway on his way to the now-extinct fisheries on Watson Island or trying to “make a text” on his burner-like flip phone. The next he’s “hanging out with Bowie on the Continent” and expressing his desire to experiment with opera. The rapport between Iggy and Reskin was warm and familiar as they discussed shared experiences of work and “education in the record store.” Then there was Iggy’s inconsistent use of sunscreen. It was easy to forget he is a living legend. After all, he was sitting barefoot only feet away, zipping his fly, and laughing as though he were 7 and not 70.
“Time is not your friend,” Homme says in the film’s ethereal opening sequence. “It goes no matter what you say.” If you were lucky enough to attend Tío Iggy’s most recent concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach last year, you would know the magic of his collaboration with Homme on 2016’s Post Pop Depression. Iggy said this collaboration was conceived from a notion of creative survival that harks back to his old motto: If I don’t terrorize, I’m not pop. “I needed to make something of considered quality that would stick a sword into the American contemporary music scene,” he explained.
The album follows Iggy’s recent jazz-crooner style but is invigorated by Homme’s hard-rock virtuosity. Iggy tackles themes of loss (his close friend David Bowie passed last year during the album’s production) and eternal paradise for the damned. On the titular track “American Valhalla,” Iggy grasps for a notion of that paradise that mythology deems a more ambitious heaven for warrior heroes and man-gods; acts of bravery win them entrance. “I've shot my gun/I've used my knife/This hasn't been an easy life/I'm hoping for American Valhalla,” he sings on analog tape, candid as a blade. He told Reskin and the audience: “There’s nothing to do in America except work.”
The film owes its intimacy to Neumann’s incisive interviewing methods: A self-conscious Homme reads aloud journal entries written during production that reveal his anxieties about working with his childhood hero. Iggy sits on his hammock in the backyard of his home in Miami, reflecting on the album as an attempt to try “to come together.”
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Neumann juxtaposes the ethereal Rancho recording studio in Joshua Tree, Homme’s birthplace and the root of his affinity for the desert as a guiding motif, with Iggy’s lush garden near the beaches of the city that is now his meditative source. Scenes of Iggy dancing like a monkey are spliced into a part of the film that includes Homme describing how terrified he was of the project.
The film’s diverse natural landscapes highlight the differences as well as the rare and magnetic similarities between Iggy’s and Homme’s emotional landscapes while creating Post Pop Depression. Onstage with Reskin, Iggy was above all else grateful — for Miami especially. “The thing that developers in Miami cannot take away from me is the clouds,” he said after recounting a life of being battered and bled by New York and Los Angeles. “The light is diffuse. It’s a forgiving light.”
Asked if he would consider moving away from Miami after 22 years, Iggy mentioned his long desire to live closer to the equator. After recounting his options of countries where fewer people would see him as Iggy Pop the Godfather of Punk (Ecuador? Democratic Republic of the Congo?), he reconsidered. He’s not fond of all the “fat white people on beaches" he imagines would claim him.
He shrugged. “It’s better to live in Miami and just do shit.”