DETROIT — Scott Asheton, whose hard-hitting drumming was the bedrock of the Stooges’ influential sound, died Sunday. He was 64.
The cause of death is not known. It was acknowledged by bandmate Iggy Pop on social media and confirmed by the group’s publicist Nasty Little Man.
Asheton’s brother, Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, died in 2009. Stooges front man Pop, who formed the band with the brothers in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1967, remembered the drummer in a Facebook post Sunday.
“I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton,” he wrote. “He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me.”
Iggy Pop is now the only surviving member of the original Stooges lineup, whose raucous work helped define Detroit’s rock identity while serving as a bridge between ’60s rock and the subsequent punk explosion.
The Stooges split up in 1974, and Asheton went on to play with an array of Detroit-area bands, including Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, Dark Carnival and Scott’s Pirates, one of several group incarnations helmed by close friend Scott Morgan. Asheton found himself back on the global touring circuit when the Stooges reformed in 2003, an ongoing project that produced two new albums.
Asheton had been in poor health in recent years, friends said Sunday. The drummer made headlines in 2011 when an undisclosed illness forced him out of a scheduled Stooges concert in Paris.
His live performing had been limited since then — he was replaced on the road by drummer Larry Mullins — though his drum work is heard on the Stooges’ most recent album, last year’s “Ready to Die.” He subsequently cut more tracks with Iggy Pop in Florida, said Morgan.
As a drummer, Asheton wasn’t flashy or overly technical, though he expanded his repertoire after jazz lessons in the early 1980s. He’d begun his Stooges career playing on what amounted to a handmade kit: a pair of oil barrels serving as bass drums.
That heavy, primal style was ideal for the Stooges, and with older brother Ron on guitar, Asheton supplied the no-nonsense foundation that gave Iggy Pop his room to romp up top.
“If Iggy was the gasoline, Scott and Ron were the matches,” said Pete Bankert, a recording engineer and bassist who played with Asheton in Dark Carnival and a more recent project, the Farleys.
“He played so hard, he would actually break his snare rims,” recalled Freddie Brooks, who worked with Sonic’s Rendezvous Band in the 1970s. “He used these really fat sticks. A lot of drummers use these thin sticks. His were the size of a quarter, almost.”
Asheton was born in Washington, D.C., spent his childhood in Davenport, Iowa, and moved to the Ann Arbor area in his early teens.
Morgan, a friend of Asheton since those school days, described the drummer as a “strong, silent type,” who loved the outdoors, making regular trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Canada for hunting and fishing. A seemingly gruff exterior could often mask what friends say was a deep kindness underneath.
“He was the kind of guy you don’t want to mess with, but the sweetest guy in the world at the same time,” said Morgan. “When he was your friend, he was your friend all the way.”
“He was quiet but funny — one of those guys,” said Gary Rasmussen, a Sonic’s Rendezvous bandmate. “He wouldn’t say much, but when he did it was to the point. Sort of like the way he played — not real flashy, just strong.”
The loss of both Asheton brothers is a sad benchmark, said Bankert.
“It’s the end of an era. There’s no Stooges,” he said. “Even if they still use that name and carry it on — Iggy has had a million bands — none of them are Ron and Scott.”
Asheton is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his daughter, Leanna; and his sister, Kathleen Asheton.