Brett Callwood (The Stooges Head On)

Interview with Brett Callwood – Author of The Stooges - Head On
By Christopher Duda-Sugarbuzz-Left of the Dial

Everybody’s a little more worldly now, and there’s more exposure to things. When I made Fun House , back in 1970, nobody wanted to interview me. It was wonderful. I was like one of those little white things you find living under rocks, that every once in a while people pull up by mistake and go, “aagh!” But now everybody has a video camera, and that may have changed the nature of “the message from below,” as it were. –Iggy Pop Interview Magazine 1999

How did you initially intend to approach the capturing of information you wanted to portray in the book. Did that direction come to fruition or did it change through the collection of stories?

It changed constantly. If I think back to my original plans, I have to laugh because nothing went to plan. I was still living in London then (this is 2007), but I was already in love with Detroit after visiting here to research my MC5 book the previous year, and also to write a piece for Classic Rock Magazine on the band Gold Cash Gold in 2003. My plan with the Stooges was to come back to Detroit, stay in my buddy’s spare room for a fortnight, and just go to all the places the Stooges used to haunt. Then track them down. It didn’t quite happen like that, although my trip toDetroit wasn’t a waste of time at all. I met many people that would later help me set up the big interviews. Back in England, I sent email after email and made phone call after phone call until I got through to everyone. It was exhausting, but well worth it. 

Were there any barriers to tracking down any of the Stooges or contacts involved with them?

Oh, yes. This wasn’t the MC5. These guys were reformed and busy as hell, playing festivals to thousands of people all over the world. So getting hold of these guys wasn’t easy. Even after I was in touch, I had to gain their trust. I had to send Iggy a pitch in much the same way as I had originally sent theUK publisher, IMP, a pitch. 

You seem to be very passionate about The Stooges and the Detroit music scene. When was that seed planted?

I’m sure the seed was planted the first time I heard Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5 and Alice Cooper as a teenager. However, that first trip toDetroitin 2003 really opened my eyes to what a local music scene should be like, and I mean the current music scene, and just the immense amount of musical history here. Both the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ and amazing. Add to that the fact that I love the people here, the architecture in the city, the other arts, and the sports teams, and Detroit is my home. I’m married to a Detroit girl and our first child is due November 30. 

What is your favourite Stooges album? Are you a Stooges collector and if so what is your prized piece?

Honestly, my favorite Stooges album is Raw Power. That’s not the coolest answer but it’s true. I love Ronnie’s bass playing, and I just adore the tunes. My favorite Stooges item – I’m not really a collector in the sense of having to have rare Japanese vinyl and stuff. However, the new Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans DVD features a scene where a fan is holding up a copy of my book. That made me glow like a kid at Christmas, so I have to say that DVD. 

Did your fascination with the Detroit scene spurn the move from England over to the U.S.A?

Absolutely. This is the only place I ever felt at home. As soon as I knew I could get work here, I was packed and over. 

Who do you feel from the current Detroit scene deserves mention?

I could go on all day. I adore Lettercamp – sort of electro-pop. Bars of Gold are incredible. Lightning Love, Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program, Amy Gore & the Valentines, the Ashleys, Sharkey & the Habit, Bear Lake, the Hounds Below, Duende!, Zoos of Berlin, oh shit, FAWN are amazing, Woodman, the Eeks… seriously, this place is full of incredible talent. I cover it in my daily blog, City Slang. 

Was there anything in your interviews that overly surprised you?

For the second edition, I had to write about Ronnie Asheton’s passing. His brother Scott really opened up to me. It was heart breaking and humbling, really emotional. 

How was it decided to release the book to an American audience and thus also to change the title?

When I moved here, it was a priority of mine to get both of my books out in the States, and it felt appropriate to get them out via a Detroit publisher. I’ve been so lucky –Wayne State are amazing to work with. As for the title, I was never happy with the UK title. I just grabbed the chance to improve it. 

It seems you concur with many that the Asheton’s never got their dues and this comes through loud and clear in your book. Was this always your intention on capturing this angle in your book?

That was the main intention. There are a lot of Iggy books out there. I think this is the thing that makes my book stand out. 

I had read that you were getting close to your deadline and The Stooges and you were not connecting. If you didn’t have the opportunity to talk to main players would you still of released the book or asked to push the deadline? When contact was made was their large volumes of alcohol consumed celebrating your sense of relief?

I would have had to get an extension. But yes, I downed a lot of Jack & Coke. You have no idea of the relief. 

Have you read reviews or criticism on your book? Do you agree with what is written or is it water off your back so to speak?

I’ve had far more good reviews than bad. Of course, you can’t please everyone. When I do get a bad review, it stings for a minute but how can I complain? I make my living as a critic. 

Was there an attempt to interview John Cale (Velvet Underground-producer of S/T Stooges LP) and or Don Gallucci (The Kingsmen-producer of Funhouse LP)?

A brief attempt but I heard nothing back. 

I always thought Scott Asheton was the “quiet one” of the Stooges. After the passing of his brother  Ron Asheton it is purported that, he really opened up to you. Was this interview difficult on some level or surprising to you?

See above. 

Can you elaborate on your interaction with Ron and his personality and maybe deduce why he was well loved by many?

I found him extremely funny, but not in a whacky way. He was very dry. He was suspicious of me at first – I was just a limey wanting to write about his old band. But once I was in with him, he was awesome. I treasure our conversations. 

Since The Stooges are not done yet have, you considered future editions of the book?

Possibly. Not for a long time though. I’ve been through two editions of it already. I want to do something else. 

Did Iggy make you take your shirt off while interviewing him? Ha Ha. I was at a taping of an interview years ago where he insisted that the host take his shirt off as well!

Our conversations were by phone. He might have been naked for all I know. 

Do writers have groupies? Do you have any tales of stalkers, sin and debauchery?

I’ve had some crazies on MySpace and Facebook, but nothing too intense. I make it clear that I’m married really early on. I know that’s a boring answer but it’s true. I did see an old guy at a book festival recently wearing a shirt that said, “Authors are my rock stars”, and there was a picture of Shakespeare with Kiss make-up. Does he count? 

Where can we all purchase the book?

Amazon, and all good book stores. If it’s not in there, demand that they order it. 

If readers come to Detroit, can we find you in your local and buy you a pint?

Grab me on Facebook and let’s see what we can do. 

What are your future plans in the literary world?

I write a weekly column and a daily blog for the Metro Times newspaper and here in Detroit called City Slang. I cover all styles of music across the eras, as long as it’s Detroit-based. I adore that. As for books, I’m working on my third now but it’s still on the down low. It’s going to be a different beast though – an encyclopedic volume.