Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Best of 2014

Just like last year, coming up with a “best of” list for 2014 was an excruciating task. After weeks of agonizing consideration, I finally whittled my list down to 30 albums (with special attention given here to the first 10). After that, I added a slew of special categories for other releases that I thought were worthy of inclusion. Although I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself on January 1 for missing an artist or two, I'm pretty satisfied with the list below. Here goes...

1. ALBUM OF THE YEAR- James Williamson: Re-Licked

Legendary Stooges guitarist James Williamson developed Re-Licked as way to finally record a number of post-Raw Power tracks that he wrote with Iggy Pop in 1973-74. Although these numbers have existed for years on a number of bootleg releases of varying audio quality, Re-Licked represents the first time these songs were given a chance to grow in a legitimate studio setting. Guests include Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys/Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine), Lisa Kekaula (The BellRays), Gary Floyd (The Dicks), JG Thirlwell (Foetus), Carolyn Wonderland, Bobby Gillespie and Simone Marie Butler (Primal Scream), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/ Queens of the Stone Age), Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line), Petra Haden, Ariel Pink, Ron Young (Little Caesar), Mike Watt (Stooges/Minutemen), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Gregg Foreman (Cat Power), Steve Mackay (Stooges), Toby Dammit (Stooges/Iggy Pop/Swans), Mario Cuomo (The Orwells), Nicke Andersson (The Hellacopters/Entombed), The Richmond Sluts and Michael Urbano (Cracker/Smash Mouth). How could this album not be amazing? (Read my full review here.)

2. Dum Dum Girls: Too True

Charting singer/multi-instrumentalist Dee Dee Penny’s evolution over the past near-decade has been an intriguing study of how an Indie queen can be a Pop star at heart. Formerly the drummer/singer in San Diego band Grand Ole Party (and previously known as Kristin Gundred), Dee Dee launched The Dum Dum Girls as a bedroom recording project in 2008. The first Dum Dum Girls album, 2010’s I Will Be, was a delightfully echoed-out, lo-fi affair that sounded like first Pretenders album recorded on a boombox. The production was smoothed over on 2011’s stellar Only In Dreams, which showcased Dee Dee’s ability to create an unstoppable earworm. (Take a listen to “Bedroom Eyes” and enjoy the song being stuck in your head for the next week.) As hinted on 2012’s dramatically evolved End of Daze EP, Dee Dee has finally gone larger than life with The Dum Dum Girls, fully embracing a big song/big production approach on Too True in an impossible-to-deny shot at the Big Leagues. Remember the last time an act on Sub Pop decided to go to the top? While Too True surely isn’t destined to have the same cultural impact as that other band, it’s still a wondrous sonic experience and one of the best albums Sub Pop - or any label, for that matter - has ever released. (Read my full review here.)

    3. Pink Floyd: The Endless River

While The Endless River is not the greatest Pink Floyd album ever released, it is certainly the most cohesive and adventurous collection of music they've produced since The Wall. Far from a mere collection of Division Bell castaways, the album offers an array of moments that meet or even far exceed the quality of that release. Inspired by an absent friend, The Endless River takes us on one final trip through the creative minds of a unique combination of players and songwriters that left an indelible mark on the world of music. If this is indeed the end, this album is an extraordinary way for Pink Floyd's light to go out. (Read my full review here.)

4. Gong: I See You

Still going strong at 76, Gong leader/Psychedelic Rock legend Daevid Allen recently gifted the world with I See You, a fascinating collection characterized by esoteric lyricism and some absolutely draw-dropping musicianship. (Just listen to son Orlando Allen's hi-hat work on the title track!) Despite facing serious health issues in recent times, Daevid remains a deeply creative force still producing music as powerful as he did more than four decades ago.  

5. Arch Enemy: War Eternal

Demonstrating Arch Enemy's typical ability to balance aggression and melody, the extremely well-produced War Eternal showcases an absolutely bulletproof band. Beyond the impressive presence of new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, War Eternal boasts plenty of stellar guitar playing (especially at the 2:19 mark in “On And On,” during the first half-minute of “No More Regrets” and basically in all 323 seconds of “Time Is Black”). Three cheers to founding member Michael Amott and new six-stringer Nick Cordle for delivering performances that offer plenty of dramatics without once hinting at pretentiousness. Best of all, the songs on War Eternal (especially the hook-heavy “As The Pages Burn” and the epic “You Will Know My Name”) instantly get in your head and stay there for days. Nearly 20 years after their formation, Arch Enemy have once again raised the bar for groups creating melodic, song-oriented Metal that still retains plenty of power. There's not a single note on War Eternal that doesn't shine. The best Metal album of 2014. (Read my full review here.)

6. The Pretty Reckless: Going To Hell

The cover of Going To Hell - Gossip Girl actress Taylor Momsen's second album with her band The Pretty Reckless - shows her wearing nothing but black paint. (She shows off even more skin on the vinyl edition). Although some of the more conservative and/or cynical members of the public might be unimpressed by such blatant “sex sells” exploitation, the fact remains that anyone unwilling to look beyond a bare ass on the cover and simply listen to the actual music will miss out on experiencing one of the finest albums released this year. (Read my full review here.)

7. Brownout: Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath

This Austin-based Latin Funk ensemble take on seven of the most beloved songs from the original Black Sabbath with amazing results. Although every second of the mostly instrumental Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath is magnificent, “The Wizard” and “Planet Caravan” are especially sublime. (Have a listen here.)

8. Mike Hudson & The Pagans: Hollywood High

When you get right down to it, legendary writer/Pagans frontman Mike Hudson didn't need to do a goddamn thing after releasing the “Street Where Nobody Lives / What's This Shit Called Love?” single with The Pagans in 1978. As perfect as anything off Raw Power, this two-sided gem easily secured Hudson's place in history, making everything (records, books, articles, etc.) he has blessed us with in the ensuing decades icing on the cake. Not only is Hudson still creating, but Hollywood High proves that hasn't lost the spark that made his early work so incendiary. Backed by a supergroup including members of Detroit/Los Angeles veterans The Dogs (whose Loren Molinare produced the album), Keith Christopher of The Georgia Satellites and even former Dio/Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain, Hudson and his raspy, world-worn voice deliver an eight-song, 33-minute blast of energy that reminds listeners of what the real deal sounds like. This ain't Mall Punk, kids - this is real, filthy-barroom-at-1am-with-a-full-ashtray kinda shit. If The Dead Boys had kept their act together long enough to do a third album, it would have sounded like Hollywood High. (Read my full review here.)

9. Sonny Vincent & Spite: Spiteful

First off, let's have a look at the cast of characters on this thing. Of course, there's Sonny Vincent, New York Punk veteran and legendary Testors frontman, on vocals and guitar. On bass, we have Glen Matlock from The Sex Pistols. The drumming is handled by none other than the great Rat Scabies of The Damned. And then things go way over the top...On saxophone, Steve Mackay from the mighty Stooges. Let that sink in...We have a singer/guitarist who's been at this game for a good 35 years, the guy who wrote “Pretty Vacant” on bass, the original drummer from one of history's greatest bands and a guy who played on Fun House. This is some serious, serious business – enough to make one reluctant to actually play the record out of fear of having his or her incredibly high hopes dashed. Thankfully, Spiteful will go down in history as one of the very few occasions when something like this absolutely worked. (Read my full review here.)

10. Jade Starling: Captive 

Jade Starling, the voice of one of the world's most revered Dance tracks (Pretty Poison's “Catch Me [I'm Falling]”) returned in 2014 with Captive (Subpoena/Universal), her amazing EDM-driven solo debut. Created with longtime musical partner/Pretty Poison bandmate Whey Cooler, Captive found Starling working with some of the world's greatest DJs and remixers, including Lee Dagger of the hugely successful English remix team Bimbo Jones (Lady Gaga/Rihanna/Kylie Minogue), Laszlo (Selena Gomez/Kelly Clarkson/Justin Bieber/Nicki Minaj) and Franck Dona (Universal France). A true labor of love and easily the best Dance album of 2014, Captive took close to two years to complete. (Read my interview with Jade here.)

Here are 20 more albums that made 2014 a great year for music:

Taylor Swift: 1989
Haunted Hearts: Initiation
Cœur de pirate: Trauma
Ian Anderson: Homo Erraticus
Obituary: Inked In Blood
Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin
Shellac: Dude Incredible
Tuxedomoon: Pink Narcissus
Renaissance: Symphony Of Light (Read my feature here.)
John Batiste/Chad Smith/Bill Laswell: The Process (Read my review here.)
Bernie Worrell: Phantom Sound Clash Cut-Up Method: Two (Read my review here.)
Ani Cordero: Recordar
Hollis Brown: Gets Loaded
Anna Phoebe: Between The Shadow And The Soul
Paul Roessler: Volume One
Sanctuary: The Year The Sun Died
Mike LePond's Silent Assassins: S/T (Read my review here.)
Negativland: It's All In Your Head
Various Artists: Axels & Sockets: The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project
Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey: Going Back Home

Song of the Year – Hawkwind featuring Brian Blessed: “Sonic Attack”

Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen fronting Hawkwind? How amazing is that?! (Read my feature on the song here.)

Best EP- Shmu: Chroma Key

There is a big difference between acting weird and being weird. It’s simple to spot by asking yourself this question: “Is the strange person in front of me working hard to appear fucked up, or is this person projecting ‘odd’ by merely existing?” Compare Dot Wiggin to Marilyn Manson, and you should hopefully see my point. A lot of trust fund smart-asses hit the musical conveyer belt on my desk these days, with each cheeky bastard trying harder than the last to shock or befuddle. (They usually bore or mildly annoy.) While I’ve never met the man who calls himself “Shmu,” his genuinely weird music leads me to believe that this cat’s creating stuff as inventive as the Chroma Key EP because that’s what’s in his head naturally and not because he wants to appear “out there.” (Read my full review here.)

Best Split Release – Electric Frankenstein/The Cheats: Rockamania #1

Bolstered by the return of original bassist Dan Canzonieri, Electric Frankenstein storm out of the gate on Rockamania #1 with their strongest tunes in a decade. (Check out “I Feel So Lonely” if you don't believe me.) The Cheats from Pittsburgh keep the party going with their melodic Antiseen-meets-Hellacopters charm.  

Best Box Set – Black Sabbath: The Complete Albums 1970-1978

Featuring the same remastering as the out-of-print Black Box from 2004, this budget collection gathers all eight of the original lineup's albums. Nearly 40 years after Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and Ward last recorded together, this music remains the absolute high point of Heavy Metal.  

Best Live Album – Pere Ubu: Visions Of The Moon

There is no other band quite like Pere Ubu. The kind of musical group that forces scribes to beg the heavens for the right adjectives (I'll go with “brilliant”), Pere Ubu has been offering exciting and perplexing sounds for the past 40 years. Recorded in Dublin in November 2013, the digital-only Visions Of The Moon finds the band at their experimental best. Closer to the out-there spirit of albums like 1978's Dub Housing and 1982's Song Of The Bailing Man than the more conventional vibe of, say, 1991's Worlds In Collision, Visions... is an exhilarating (if at times uneasy) journey.  

Best Single – Front 242: “Take One” / “Im Rhythmus Bleiben”

The return of Wax Trax! Records was the best music news of 2014. In addition to a 12-inch EP by Cocksure (featuring Chris Connelly), the label marked its second coming with this very limited edition single by Wax Trax! legends Front 242. Side A features a 1984 live recording of “Take One” from the group's first US appearance at Medusa's in Chicago, while Side B presents a live recording of “Im Rhythmus Bleiben” from the Wax Trax! Restrospectacle event in 2011. A glorious reminder of just how magical Wax Trax! was – and is

Best Compilation – Soulside: Trigger + Bass•103

Twenty-five years after playing their last gig, the final lineup of legendary D.C. Post-Hardcore band Soulside – singer Bobby Sullivan, guitarist Scott McCloud, bassist Johnny Temple and drummer Alexis Fleisig – reconvened this month for a series of east coast reunion shows. Fans were able to prep for the gigs by checking out a 12-inch release on Dischord Records that combined Soulside's 1988 Trigger EP with the three-song 1989 single, Bass/103. Released in August on yellow vinyl, the LP served as a stellar primer for listeners who are just now discovering the band thanks to the considerable buzz surrounding the December events. This stuff still sounds great after all these years. (Read my feature on the band here.)

Best CD Reissue – Slint: Spiderland

Although Nirvana's Nevermind is often cited as the most important Rock album of 1991, there were plenty of “Alternative” titles put out in the months leading up to that record's release that – at least in my never-humble opinion – far exceeded it. (Dinosaur Jr.'s Green Mind and Material Issue's International Pop Overthrow instantly come to mind.) With Louisville, Kentucky's Slint already disbanded by the time Spiderland was quietly released by Touch and Go in early 1991, this extraordinary album never really stood a chance the first time around. It would take more than two decades – and a steady cult following that grew with each passing year – before Spiderland saw the reissue treatment (and international attention) it deserved. Offering a compact alternative to the massive, sold-out-before-you-even-knew-about-it box set version, the two-disc edition of the Spiderland reissue features the album, a DVD of Lance Bangs' documentary film Breadcrumb Trail and a download card for 14 bonus tracks. One of the greatest listening experiences you'll ever have.  

Best Vinyl Reissue – Rollins Band: Life Time

Although the Rollins Band would gain mainstream recognition years later with albums like 1992's The End Of Silence and 1994's Weight (and leader Henry Rollins would later find considerable success as a TV show host, actor and 30-plus-year spoken word performer), 1987's Life Time remains perhaps the band's strongest and most incendiary studio release. Released November 18 on Rollins' 2.13.61 label in association with Dischord Records, this revamped vinyl edition of Life Time was remastered for vinyl by TJ Lipple and includes updated artwork by Jason Farrell. (Read my interview with Rollins here.)

Best Digital Reissue – Toiling Midgets: Sea Of Unrest

An album everyone should hear at least once, Sea of Unrest was the 1982 debut full-length by the brilliant post-Negative Trend band Toiling Midgets. Featuring former Sleepers members Ricky Williams (vocals) and Tim Mooney (drums), the record finally saw a digital release earlier this year. Those unfamiliar with Toiling Midgets are encouraged to give “Destiny,” “Microage” and “All The Girls Cry” a listen. Remarkable. 

Best Unearthed Recording – Fugazi: First Demo

In addition to consistently adding new releases by current bands to their always-intriguing discography, D.C.’s Dischord Records has devoted considerable time in recent years to reaching as far into the dusty crevices of their recorded archives as possible to uncover previously unheard (or at least widely uncirculated) early demos from some of their most popular artists. This ongoing project includes the 2003 release of Minor Threat’s 1981 demo as a 7-inch EP, the 2012 CD/10-inch release of the extraordinary 1984 demo by Rites of Spring and - earlier this year - the 7-inch, eight-song 1980 demo recording by State Of Alert (S.O.A.). The label wrapped up 2014 with the release of the self-explanatory First Demo by Fugazi, a collection bursting with unbridled energy and some of the finest bass/drums interplay ever committed to vinyl. Bonus: Features the previously unheard “Turn Off Your Guns.” An essential purchase, even if you already own and know the proper studio versions of these tunes by heart.  

Best Video – OFF!: “Hypnotized” 

The best video of Jack Grisham peeing on David Yow you'll see this year.

Best Music Documentary – Riot on the Dance Floor: The Story of Randy Now & City Gardens  

Seeing a show at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ was like visiting the Thunderdome. The violent, sweaty crowds inside matched the danger and decay that greeted showgoers outside. Thankfully, it was worth it to see some of the most incredible music to come from the underground in the early '80s through the mid '90s. Have a favorite band from left of the dial? Yeah, they played City Gardens. Riot on the Dance Floor chronicles the man responsible for it all: Randy “Now” Ellis, a super-enthusiastic, larger-than-life music fan who spent his days as a mailman while doing his part to keep the American Alternative music scene alive at night. Randy paid his dues; Riot pays him the respect he deserves.

Best Music-Related Book – Book by The Jesus Lizard

Published by the Brooklyn-based Akashic Books, BOOK charts the Chicago band’s intense history: From their beginnings as a drum machine-fueled recording project to their rise in the American underground scene to the band’s highly controversial (yet financially beneficial) jump from indie label Touch and Go to Capitol to their eventual breakup in 1999 (and reunion 10 years later), it’s all there. With a slew of photos illustrating the tale, the band – as well as multitude of friends, supporters and fellow musicians – offer insight into the band’s caustic life and legacy. Even if you’re unfamiliar or disinterested with the band’s music, BOOK makes for an intriguing exploration of the alternative music scene of the ’90s – a short burst in time when a band as gloriously odd as The Jesus Lizard could do whatever they wanted to do and get a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (Read my feature on the book here.)

So there you have it. I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2015!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dave Lombardo: Unlocking the Mysteries of Rhythm

Photo by Christy Borgman 

Earlier this year, former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo was walking around New York with avant-garde saxophonist/sometime collaborator John Zorn when the two stopped by Christie's to check out some artistic creations. Shortly after returning home from the trip, Lombardo – a longtime fan of modern and abstract art – was offered a unique opportunity to create his own magic on canvas.

Thanks to a collaboration with the Los Angeles-based visual team SceneFour, Lombardo recently unveiled Rhythm Mysterium, a fine art series comprised of 12 different pieces. After accepting an invitation to be one of SceneFour's artist drummers, Lombardo was photographed in the dark using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms were then studied and developed into abstract artwork. Lombardo selected and named the dozen pieces featured in the collection, while each numbered canvas in the series is signed by the man himself. (Lombardo's in great company: Legendary Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward created his own art series, Absence of Corners, with SceneFour last year.) 

Dave Lombardo signs "Mantis" (Courtesy of SceneFour)

From the moment he first sat down to do the session, Lombardo knew it would be an unforgettable experience.

Where we photographed the pieces was very inspiring,” he says. “It was in a kind of warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, so it sounded really good. It was just a big, cavernous room. I just went off, and they started snapping pictures...At certain points, as I noticed the way they were shooting the pictures and everything, I realized, 'Wow, I could really make this picture look better if I give it my flair or my style. When I’m on stage, I’ve noticed that I swing my arms a little more. My movements are more exaggerated. I don't restrain myself when I play; my arms are swinging all over the place. So in this environment, instead of just doing a solo for myself, I gave it that live performance feel. That's why I feel that these pictures show a little more excitement, because of the way I approached the drumming.”

Not surprisingly, the art aficionado was thrilled with the imagery created by the unique environment.

 I was very surprised,” he recalls. “I really liked the tones and the colors that were captured, and we were able to alter them, make them a little lighter, darker or more prominent. I was impressed; I was really liking the way you were able to see other images within those images. When I go to an art gallery, I'll sit and look at a piece for several minutes and kind of absorb the colors and vibrations of the piece and what the artist tried to create.”

While each of Rhythm Mysterium's 12 pieces offer something special to the viewer, “Mantis” and “Broken Angel” appear to take on a vastly different persona than the rest.

I really like abstract pieces,” Lombardo explains. “There are some where you can actually see the drum set and make heads or tails of what's going on, but there's also other pictures [where] you don't know where the drums are, the sticks are or where everything else is. I really like those. 'Mantis' especially had a different vibe that was really interesting to me. When I look at art, I look at these pictures and try to look deeper into them and try to find other images within the actual image they're in. 'Mantis,' to me, looks like a side view of a praying mantis! I don't know if anyone else would ever see that, but see that, and that's what inspired me to title it that.”

"Mantis" by Dave Lombardo (Courtesy of SceneFour)

As for “Broken Angel,” it was clear to Lombardo that the piece represented spiritual regret.

To me, that's an angel on his knees,” he offers. “It's like a bright view of an angel on his knees with his face in his hands like, 'I just fucked up!' That's why I titled that one 'Broken Angel.' These images have other images within them. You can really let your imagination go when you're looking at these.

"Broken Angel" by Dave Lombardo (Courtesy of SceneFour)

The unveiling of Rhythm Mysterium caps off an especially active 2014 for the perpetually busy Lombardo. In addition to his ongoing work with his band PHILM, he reunited with Zorn and bassist Bill Laswell last March and May for the first performances under the Bladerunner moniker in more than a decade.

I didn't expect it,” says the drummer of Zorn's invitation to perform Bladerunner's shows in Australia, New York City and Chicago. “When [Zorn] said, 'Let's get together,' I was just floored. It was like, 'Absolutely! Sure, I'll fly 14 hours to play 20 minutes on stage!' When I flew to Australia and we did a gig, it was like 25 minutes. We tore it up.”

Lombardo also found time in 2014 to return to Fantômas, an experimental supergroup featuring Faith No More's Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle's Trevor Dunn and The Melvins' Buzz Osborne. Earlier this month, Lombardo hit the stage at the Rockout Fest in Santiago, Chile for his first performance with the group in ages. 

Man, it was like riding a bike,” he says. “We loved it; we had a great time. It was a great week where we were able to bond again as a band, and we really enjoyed ourselves. It was killer; it was great seeing Buzz and Trevor, and of course Mike. He is so inspiring to me. I have nothing bad to say about these guys; these guys are just great.”

Although a great deal of Lombardo's recent musical exploits have been experimental in nature, that's not to say that he's done with Metal. Anyone who picked up Sepultura's blistering 2013 album The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be The Heart was treated to a special appearance by the timekeeper on the track Obsessed.” Always open to new experiences behind a drum kit, he jumped at the chance to create something special with his old friends.

I was basically walking on the beach with my dog and my daughter, he remembers. I text messaged Ross Robinson, who was the producer of their new record. I said, 'Hey, man. How are you? I'm here with my dog. Can I go by? I want to introduce my dog to your dog.' They're both kind of the same; one's a Labrador and the other one's a Pointer. He said, 'Do you feel like playing drums?' That's how he answered; he didn't answer me with, 'Hey, man. How are you?' It was like, 'Hey, wanna play some drums?' I was like, 'Of course!' He said, 'Okay, come on over.' I went upstairs, and there were all the Sepultura guys, and they were setting up two drum sets face to face. That's when I met [current Sepultura drummer] Eloy [Casagrande]. I had seen video footage of his performances, and I was definitely impressed. We got together and started jamming, and we recorded that little section. Man, it was good fun. It was spontaneous, and it was creative. I thrive in that environment. I don't need no preparation; just put me in a situation and let's see what happens.”

Lombardo's longstanding relationship with the band will carry on well into 2015, as both Sepultura and PHILM are set to perform as part of the Motorcycle Rock Cruise in Brazil this February.

As for PHILM, Lombardo is looking forward to continuing his work with fellow bandmates Gerry Nestler (Civil Defiance) and Pancho Tomaselli (WAR/Tower Of Power).

 I love these musicians I'm working with,” he shares. “Gerry and Pancho are just phenomenal players; they're at my level. I don't surround myself with musicians who can't keep up. These guys definitely have what it takes to be on the big stages.”

PHILM. Photo by Alex Solca

In addition to plenty of recording and touring with PHILM (as well as a Bladerunner performance at LA's Royce Hall on May 2), Lombardo is planning to explore more soundtrack work in the months ahead. Recently, he worked on Insidious: Chapter 3 with composer Joseph Bishara.

More than three decades after launching his career, Dave Lombardo is enjoying his most productive and satisfying time in the here and now. From Rhythm Mysterium to his ongoing performances with PHILM and others, he stands as an example of what one can do in the music business by maintaining a healthy, optimistic spirit.

With my entire little circle of musicians and friends, I've weeded out a lot of negativity,” he says. “There's just so much positivity around, I don't know what to do with it!” (laughs)


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Stooges Re-Vitalized: James Williamson on Iggy, Scotty and the Year's Best Album

James Williamson. Photo by Heather Harris/Courtesy of Pavement PR

What's it like to release the year's best album more than four decades after performing on one of the greatest records of all time? Ask Stooges guitarist James Williamson.

As discussed at length on this website several times throughout 2014 (see links at the bottom), Williamson spent the last 12 months creating and promoting Re-Licked, a collection of tunes he co-wrote with Iggy Pop in 1973/1974 as the follow-up to 1973's iconic Raw Power. With the band falling apart before this collection of songs could be immortalized in a proper recording studio, Stooges fans were left to spend the ensuing years experiencing these sounds on a slew of often-crummy bootlegs culled from live recordings and rehearsal tapes. With Re-Licked, these extraordinary compositions were finally given the justice they deserved.

Of course, Williamson had plenty of help making Re-Licked a reality. If this feature is your first introduction to the album, brace yourself for this list of contributors: Lisa Kekaula (The BellRays), Carolyn Wonderland, Gary Floyd (The Dicks), JG Thirlwell (Foetus), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys/Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine), Bobby Gillespie and Simone Marie Butler (Primal Scream), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/ Queens of the Stone Age), Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line), Petra Haden, Ariel Pink, Ron Young (Little Caesar), Mike Watt (Stooges/Minutemen), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Gregg Foreman (Cat Power), Steve Mackay (Stooges), Toby Dammit (Stooges/Iggy Pop/Swans), Mario Cuomo (The Orwells), Nicke Andersson (The Hellacopters/Entombed), The Richmond Sluts, Michael Urbano (Smash Mouth) and on and on. Is it any surprise that Re-Licked will be named Album of the Year when I publish my Best of 2014 feature at the end of the month?

In addition to being a gift to my ears, Re-Licked was a tremendous boost to my site. My interview with James from March of this year was easily my most-read piece of the year - a feat surely helped along by a nod from The Guardian. With Re-Licked finally out and Williamson's intense 2014 coming to a close, I reached out to him to reflect on a musical journey that gave already-timeless tunes a new home in the present tense.

When we spoke back in March, you mentioned that this album was really a bucket list project for you. Now that it's a month or so since the release of Re-Licked, what would you say is the most satisfying aspect of finally reaching this point and getting this into listeners' hands?

It's satisfying on so many different levels. I think that the first thing that comes to mind is just the very, very strong acceptance, not only just with new people – which is wonderful, and I would expect some of that just because of who's on the album – but from the hardcore Stooges fans. I'll never be able to please everybody with [something] that doesn't have Iggy singing on it. Even with Iggy singing on it like I had on the last [Stooges] album, Ready To Die, if you don't have both the Ashetons, you can't please everybody. That's just the way it is, and I guess I don't feel concerned about that so much, but I'm quite happy to hear so many people who are pretty dyed-in-the-wool Stooges fans are thrilled about it. This album brought these songs back to life, if you will. Most people had kind of given up and just said, 'Well, okay. The bootlegs are what we get, and that's the end of it.' And you giving me the accolade of Album of the Year is very high praise!

It's an amazing record; I'm so happy to see it finally here. Our initial conversation about the project was even before the release of the first 45. I know you were working with Toby Dammit and Mike Watt at that time. As time went on, you brought in Michael and Simone. How did that change come to be, and what did Michael and Simone do to affect and re-shape the proceedings along the way?

This record really had a life of its own. What really got the thing off dead center was 'Open Up And Bleed' with Carolyn Wonderland. But once I kind of had established that, then I felt like, 'Okay, this is doable.' I had Mike Watt and Toby Dammit, and I knew those guys had played some of these songs live with me. They either already knew them or they knew me well enough that it would be easy [for me] to work with them. We did eight of the songs with that lineup. After that, Watt [went] off to Europe to do a tour, and then Toby got engaged to a girl to Norway and moved off. Peoples' schedules started to interfere with me finishing up the rest of the project. I had a guy up in Berkeley, which is where I record a lot, who had been dying to play drums with me, Michael Urbano. I just said, 'Okay, I'm going to try this guy out because I need to get the record finished.' It turned out that his schedule was free, so he was on board. I asked the guy who was playing keys for me, Gregg Foreman, about a bass player. He recommended Simone, who happened to be in LA at the time. It kind of just came together. But what was cool about it was that not only were both of these guys really good players, but they also brought this whole new energy and enthusiasm to the whole project.

You know, you get a little jaded...I've been out on the road for four or five years with Watt and a couple of years with Toby. We know each other well, and it's business as usual for us. But these new people don't know me, but they know the songs. They just brought this energy with them. If you watch the DVD [included in the Deluxe Edition of Re-Licked], you kind of see some of that. I think it kind of took it to the end zone.

Simone Marie Butler. Photo by Heather Harris/Courtesy of Pavement PR

You also ended up with more tracks on the album than you originally thought you would.

That's right. Part of that was just that I had these various different people doing alternative versions of the songs. I didn't want to throw anybody off the record; it was too hard to figure that out. What I decided to do was, 'Hey, there's only 10 songs that will fit on vinyl, but I can put a lot of songs on CD.' I just decided to keep everybody who wanted to be on the album on it and just put them on as alternative tracks and b-sides and stuff. I think that worked out really well because I found that there's always a whole segment of the listening population out there who are going to like a certain style better than another. There are guys who like Nicke Andersson's version of 'Cock In My Pocket,' and there are a lot of guys who like Gary Floyd's version a lot. It's the same thing with JG Thirlwell; he's got a huge following, so it's impossible to pick these things. I'm just glad I was just able to give people what they wanted.

I know it's probably very difficult for you to choose favorites for singers on the album, so I'll phrase the question this way: Which singers do you feel really elevated or maybe brought the song to an entirely different place you hadn't thought of, and which singers really maintained and celebrated the original spirit of how Iggy would approached that material?

Oh wow! (laughs) I really can't answer that in any honest fashion because I'm thrilled about everybody. I wouldn't have put them on the album if I didn't like what they were doing. Why the record sounds so good is because everybody just brought their A-game when they came to sing on it. I didn't have to coach them or prod them to get a good performance; they're just good. Some of them were good performances in only a couple of takes, just really strong. They came prepared.

Along the lines of your question, there were guys like Bobby Gillespie, who's a dyed-in-the-wool Stooges guy. He knew all the lyrics to that song ['Scene Of The Crime'] before he even set eyes on it. He just did his version of what he felt like Iggy would have done, and it's definitely very reminiscent of what Iggy would have sung on that. Similarly, [that happened] with Joe Cardamone. These guys aren't parodying Iggy per se, and they're obviously not going to have that baritone almost that Iggy has, but I think they know the attitude. I think they brought their version of that to the songs and did a great job, whereas the girls wouldn't even try to sing like Iggy. First of all, I told them not to anyway. Every one of them was exceptional in their own way. Carolyn floors me every time I listen to her; I think that's kind of universal from what I've heard from writers and so on. The same holds for Alison Mosshart; she was just chilling the way she sang 'Til The End Of The Night.' That was a song we tried back in the day that we wrote. I always liked it, but we tried it and it just didn't work for us. I was so happy that she made it her own and really brought it home. It was the same with 'Wild Love.' That was absolutely killer with her and Mark Lanegan. Finally, Lisa Kekaula many times can I say it?...She's a force of nature! (laughs) It's ridiculous. I think all of those people were inspiring, not the least of which was Ron Young of Little Caesar. Both JG Thirlwell and Ron took a crack at 'Rubber Leg,' and I was astonished by what those guys were able to do with it. They were all good.

A couple of days after I posted our previous interview, there was some back and forth in the media about statements that Iggy had made about the project at that phase, and what his thoughts might have been on that. Now that the album is out, have you heard any feedback from him? Where does he stand on things at this point?

I haven't. As a matter of fact, I just sent him a copy not all that long ago. I didn't get any feedback from him, but I would expect him to listen to it – which I'm sure he has or he will. But by the same token, it's not him on it. It's gotta be a little odd for him, but it's not meant to be anything other than a tribute to our songwriting. I think that's exactly what that album is. It represents that in a very positive way.

Yeah, there was that odd thing...It surprised me as much as it surprised anybody. I've worked with Iggy now probably 10 years at least in music, if you count the five in the beginning and the last five. I know him quite well, and I certainly would not have launched something like this without having let him know that I was doing it – which I did. That's why it was so surprising. But I have a feeling that, frankly, he forgot about it...Then he had a kind of knee-jerk reaction initially. Once we went through it again, I think he sort of started backpedaling. If you see subsequent press, you notice that he's sort of giving everybody his best wishes and all that sort of thing.

The Stooges, 1973. Photo by Heather Harris/Courtesy of Pavement PR

Unfortunately, something else happened just a couple of days after our first talk...

Yeah. Scotty. Of course, that's unrelated, but very sad.

When you look back at your work together, what do you feel was perhaps Scott's greatest contribution to The Stooges? What did he add to the mix that made The Stooges the band that we all love?

It was so many different things. That's like asking what Charlie Watts brought to The Rolling Stones. It's a feel, it's an attitude and it's a sound that is kind of the backbone of that particular band. I don't think you can separate The Stooges from Scott Asheton per se – especially the early Stooges, with things like 'Dirt' and so forth. That's all him. That band was very simple and played simple tunes. It was really the drums that were really pulling the weight on the songs most of the time. I think later, things got more complicated and he still was able to sort of bring forward that Stooge sound. Maybe my songs from Raw Power and onward...even this stuff, had we recorded it as an album...really wouldn't have been as Stoogey sounding without him there. Of course, I just finished this album without him there, and it sounds like me and I was part of the Stooges. But on the other hand, I think the drummers who played on it also used a lot of his original style from the bootlegs that we had to work off of.

James Williamson & Petra Haden. Photo by Heather Harris/Courtesy of Pavement PR

This past year was all about the Re-Licked album. What are your plans moving forward into 2015?

I'm still right in the thick of the promotion of this album. Really, it's only been out now for about a month. I know everybody is instantaneous these days (laughs), but I'm like the record company and everything on his record. I have to stick with it a little bit. We're going to do a live show coming up in January. I've got most of the singers; we're going to be doing a TV thing. Once I had almost all of them together, we decided, 'Hell, let's just play a live show,' so we're gonna do that. Beyond that, I'm going to see what I can do to relax for a little while. It’s been a very, very hard year on me because of having to not only play on this, but to produce it, be the record company and basically the one-man show on this. It's been a lot of work. I was happy to do it and I'm quite proud of it, but by the same token, I'd like to hang loose for a little while and then see what happens.

I've got a couple of little projects I've put on the back burner that I think I'll start on. I've always wanted to record Petra Haden on lead vocals instead of backing vocals, so I may do some of that. I don't know what I'll do with that kind of stuff; maybe I'll just give it to people just because she's such a great singer and I'd like to have people hear her. She's amazing; she is incredible. The way her vocals are, you have to get just the right material for her. I think I have at least one or two songs I can do with her, and really would like to, so that's one of the things I'd like to do moving forward.