‘American Valhalla’ Director Talks Working With Iggy Pop & Josh Homme

Over the years, Queens of the Stone Age singer/guitarist Josh Homme has been vocal about his admiration for Iggy Pop’s music. He’s drawn to two 1977 recordings in particular: The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which Iggy worked on with David Bowie in Germany. In turn, when Josh and Iggy announced that they were collaborating on an album, 2016’s Post Pop Depression, it was safe to assume the result would sound a bit like the aforementioned recordings.

But the tracks seem to walk the line between both artists. “Gardenia” was reminiscent of the Bowie era with its recurring droning electronic motif, while “American Valhalla” brought Queens of the Stone Age to mind because of its bouncy, distorted bass line.

Wisely, Josh knew the whole creative experience needed to be documented visually, and rang up his pal Andreas Neumann to start filming. American Valhalla succeeds in telling the backstory of the collaboration along with the writing process, recording and subsequent worldwide tour in support of the album. Andreas (who is listed as co-director of the project, along with Josh) spoke with me shortly before the documentary hits theaters, including a viewing on July 11 at Village East Cinema in NYC.

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Did you start out as a photographer? 
I started in Germany working for advertising production companies, and then moved to London and did the same thing. I was always in the world of marrying brands together with entertainment. I ended up in LA, and was always looking for interesting projects in entertainment that are a little different. My last project was a book about Mexican luchadores, and I did this high-end coffee table book about photographing lucha fighters [Lucha: A Tribute].

I always wanted to collaborate with Josh. We finally had a meeting in a coffee shop in LA and said, “Let’s do something together.” He said, “Maybe that project I have with Iggy.” I didn’t know what it was; I wasn’t sure if it was a Queens record. A month later he called me out of the blue, and said, “Do you want to come to the desert tomorrow and shoot some stuff?” I said, “Sure. What are we shooting?” And he said, “Just Iggy and the boys.” We did this amazing photo session by this art installation by Joshua Tree.

They recorded this album in the desert in total secret, and I think he liked the idea of me not coming from the rock world. We had the photos, Iggy had the record. And in the end, when they announced the album was coming out, my photos got really amazing feedback when they used them as the lead press shots for the album release.

How did you get involved in co-directing the documentary?
Josh said, “Why don’t we start shooting something and doing some interviews? I want this captured forever, because it’s never going to happen again.” It was his dream all his life to work with Iggy, and to document that was a very important thing for him. We never looked at it as, “Let’s do a documentary.” One thing led to another.

How did you first meet Josh?
Our daughters met first. They were in school together and we met in their school. That was like, five years earlier, and we kept in touch. But our original meeting about doing something was years later.

What is your favorite scene?
In the end when Josh just finishes playing at the Royal Albert Hall, and he goes off stage and I go with him while he’s changing in his dressing room. If you know the Royal Albert Hall, you’re surrounded by the audience in this five-story theater. And it was one of the last concerts, so emotionally, it was like, “That’s it now. That’s real Post Pop Depression.

How was it working with Iggy?
Phenomenal. Iggy is such an animated character. Whatever you do, you point a camera at him and you get something interesting. He’s challenging of course because he’s moving so much around on stage, and he needs his space. It’s challenging to be in the right place at the right time for the photos. Since Josh is my directing partner, I always translated his vision. He’s such an amazing music producer and the Queens records are so sophisticated and there’s so much detail musically.

Any other upcoming projects?
I’m already working with Josh now on the new Queens album. We just released the trailer. It’s a weird, quirky, art thing. We’re filming everything, but it’s more again a document with no pressure. If it’s good, it’s going to make it. We’re doing our best to create something interesting. And on americanvalhalla.com, we will release fine art prints from all the live shows in December, which will be limited edition—only 200 printed.

greg prato

greg prato

Greg Prato has lived almost his entire life on Long Island. He has written for Rolling Stone, and has penned many a book on either rock n’ roll or sports. See what he’s up to on Twitter @gregpratowriter.