As one of the last surviving rock stars, Iggy Pop has seen many zeitgeists come and go, and an array of musical heroes emerge from the underground and meet oblivion before their time. Through his own fierce hellraising and that of his most prominent contemporaries, he knows better than most the dangers of living life on the edge and the alarming nature of intense fame. Because of this, one man he felt a particular sense of musical and personal kinship with was Kurt Cobain.
Notably, the Nirvana leader was a lifelong adherent of Pop’s boundary-pushing proto-punk with The Stooges, whose widely influential 1973 effort, Raw Power, he named his favourite album of all time on his top 50 list. From the filthy guitars to unhinged screaming and even Iggy Pop’s preference for stage diving, Cobain took great inspiration from his idol. It’s safe to say that without Iggy’s early efforts, it wouldn’t just have been Nirvana that would have been lacking an immense sense of creative and philosophical purpose.
In the years since the Nirvana frontman’s suicide in 1994, Pop has commented on his significance on numerous occasions. Most notorious was when speaking to MTV’s Actitud Punk Weekend in 2006. After recalling witnessing the trio live and their appeal, he said Cobain “had to die”, given the heights he had risen to. He said: “He made too much money for too many people and became too valuable too soon. He had to die, and that’s how it works, and it’s not nice.”
Naturally, Iggy Pop and Nirvana would cross paths. He met them before they were famous and first saw them live in 1990 when the former Stooges leader was living in New York. According to the photographer Michael Lavine, who worked with both acts, he first showed the proto-punk master Nirvana’s music, which he instantly loved. It wouldn’t take the pair long before they had gone to the Aberdeen band’s show at The Pyramid Club.
As he’s reported, Pop didn’t catch Nirvana during a happy spot during the show. Their drummer at the time, Chad Channing, was late for the gig, and understandably, Cobain was incensed. This proved to be a major flashpoint for the band, and after the April-May tour that year, with creative and personal differences brewing, Channing would depart by a mutual decision. He was replaced by Dave Grohl later that year.
When appearing on Jimmy Kimmel in 2007, Pop recalled first watching Nirvana live and how he knew Cobain had hated Chad Channing by that point. He explained: “Then I saw them play a couple times. Like the first time I saw them play, it was like you could hear there’s power in this guy’s voice, but at the end of the gig, he did a backward stage dive into the drums, and I thought, ‘Okay, he hates the drummer’. Sometimes this happens in groups, you… You can’t stop everything you say, ‘I hate you, you suck, you can’t drum, you’re ruining my life’.”
Watch Iggy Pop talk about Kurt Cobain’s hate for Chad Channing.