Iggy Pop and Josh Homme Discuss How “Shitty Demo” Became “American Valhalla” on Song Exploder

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With Iggy Pop’s 23rd album Post Pop Depression is in its first week of sales, he’s hitting the ground with full force in terms of promotion, and he and his album collaborator, Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, were the latest guests on Hrishikesh Hirway’s very popular (and very good) podcast, Song Exploder. (The host gets different artists to break their songs down and talk about how they were made.)

Iggy Pop and Josh Homme stopped by to talk about the Post Pop Depression track “American Valhalla,” which Flavorwire’s own Tom Hawking — in his review of the album — called “a meditation on death and the afterlife that recalls… Bowie’s ‘Blackstar,’ in a way that feels darkly appropriate.”

But if that indeed sounds dark, the story behind the song’s conception is quite funny. According to Iggy Pop, the first development of “American Valhalla” came when Josh Homme sent him a shitty demo hilariously titled “Shitty Demo.”

In the podcast, Iggy and Josh also inform Hirway that the so-called shitty demo was based around a vibraphone that Josh Homme alleges he played without turning on — giving it a xylophone-like sound without the whoop-whoop sound it would usually have if used in its intended way.

The song’s name came from Josh Homme texting Iggy Pop, “positing that Valhalla was the most valid and superior paradise for warriors compared to the ones from other cultures.” His reasoning? “You had to actually do something brave to get in there.” And from there, Iggy got to thinking about whether or not there is an American version of Valhalla; and if there is, where is it, what is it, and how is it?

Another noteworthy comment came when the two discussed how the character in “American Valhalla” is the same one that is used in every other song on the album. They listed his traits:

He is a veteran, he’s over 40, he’s been through a great experience in his life, he’s seen real action and drama but it has left him stripped of any specific identity or any home. He wants to be morally correct but he is unable to be so, and unable to decide what are the correct ethics.

Listen to the whole podcast below.