Three years ago, Iggy Pop sent Josh Homme an email about collaborating on a musical project. The result, 2016’s critically acclaimed Post Pop Depression, launched a tour, a live album and concert film, as well as a traveling art exhibit by photographer Andreas Neumann.
But wait, there’s more: American Valhalla, a documentary about Pop and Homme’s endeavors, co-directed by the Queens of the Stone Age frontman and Neumann, shows for one night only in theaters on June 29 in Canada and July 11 in the U.S. Below, check out a clip from the film where Pop is interviewed by chef/author Anthony Bourdain (who is off screen) and talks about how “it was difficult to keep up [with Homme] without losing my mind” on the project.
American Valhalla offers an up-close and personal look at what Pop still refers to as “a musical mindblow.” “The culture behind it couldn’t be more different,” Pop tells Billboard. “I’m East Coast, they’re West Coast. I weigh probably half of my co-writer; He’s not overweight, he’s just two of me, and yet mentally we’re really on about the same pitch level and wavelength. He likes going arty, but he’s a rock boy; You scratch the surface and that’s a tough little rock boy — tough BIG rock boy.” Pop says the supporting players — QOTSA’s Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys Matt Helders, as well as tour accompanist Troy Van Leeuwen — made for as formidable a cast as he’s experienced in his nearly 50-year career.
“The challenge was really…to keep up,” he says. “I could be kind of the appendix if I didn’t watch it. So I tried hard to recognize that and up my game a little bit — sing a little better, be really quick with the lyrics so things wouldn’t develop on the daily basis too much without me. And it kinda worked out, I think.”
Homme says he didn’t go into Post Pop Depression expecting to document it; In fact, he wasn’t even sure an album would actually come out of it at first, determinedly keeping the sessions secret. “I truthfully said, ‘If this doesn’t sound well no one will know and I will bury it in the desert — and I meant physically, I would take a shovel and bury it and somebody would find it some day,” he recalls. “Everything relies on that first song, because it really is about feeling like you’re hot on the trail of something. And the first song was ‘Break Into Your Heart’ and it went so well and felt so good that I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re gonna get it!'”
The same aesthetic applied to what became American Valhalla. “During the recording process it felt important not to shove a camera in the face of what was going on,” Homme explains. “But post the recording, it just felt like, ‘Let’s capture this as much as possible,’ and without a real understanding as to why or what for. It sort of became evident as we went along that we had enough to make something.”
The bulk of American Valhalla’s footage comes after the recording for Post Pop Depression was finished, though there are photos from the sessions. “There was a point where Josh said, ‘Why don’t we start documenting everything, it’s such an important project for everybody. Let’s just start filming things,'” Neumann remembers. In addition to the Bourdain interviews conducted specifically for the film, the photographer/cinematographer followed Pop, Homme and company on promotional trips and to several key concerts, capturing plenty of intimate, behind-the-scenes moments as well as the high-octane live shows.
“This whole film is not the normal music documentary where you have interviews and music,” Neumann says. “It’s really the collaboration of two artists coming together and creating something that they think is cool. Iggy was looking for a long time to find the right collaborator…and he found him in Josh, and (Pop) always wanted to work with Josh and they’d been dancing around each other for a long time. So you want to show all those moments where they came together and really created something that I think was even better than they suspected it would be when they started.”
While Pop positioned Post Pop Depression as his final album when it came out during April of 2016, he’s backed off that position a bit. He does, however, say that after a year that also included the Jim Jarmusch Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, a book, Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges/As Told by Iggy Pop, and a nude art exhibit, he doesn’t “want to have any plans to leave home for awhile. I’m not motivated to hang out a shingle real quick.” Pop would “like to do something else with Josh,” but he doesn’t envision a Post Pop Depression reprise, especially as QOTSA prepares for the campaign for its new album, Villains, which is due out Aug. 25.
Regardless of what the future holds, Homme is happy to have the collaboration so well documented, from Post Pop Depression through to American Valhalla. “They say, ‘Don’t meet your heroes’; Well, that’s not true, not for me,” Homme says. “I’ve always respected Iggy, and we’re friends. And I’m honest with him about how I feel. I believe he is not just one in a million; He’s got to be one in a hundred million. He’s articulate and well-spoken. He cares. His intelligence and perception of, ‘This is the moment; I go where other people are afraid,’ I liked being around that. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever been allowed to be a part of, so I’m very thankful. And proud.”