Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interview with punk legend Debbie Harry (Part 1)

Even though the punk bands of the 1970s carved out the path less traveled for all of our du-jour indie bands of today, in the light of modern day, some bands seem to be caricatures of their once-great, iconic selves. The Sex Pistols are on their third reunion tour and Johnny Rotten has even succumbed to being the Simon Cowell-type judge on punk's version of American Idol. Oh, how the mighty have... sold-out. Yet, some of the greats from the past don't need to keep on looking backwards to move forward. Perhaps the most influential woman of that time, Blondie's pint-sized pin-up, Debbie Harry, has only used her past as a jumping off point.

This fall Harry, now a still-spunky 62, released her latest solo record, Necessary Evil. We caught up with Debbie before heading out on her U.S. tour to ask her what it feels like to be an icon, how she's progressed as a musician and whether rock'n'roll will ever be dangerous again.

From what I've heard, you really took control on this album, and basically took charge of every single aspect of it, from the album art, to mastering. Was it important to have your stamp on every aspect of it?

I think that's a bit of an overstatement. We all agreed on the best mastering studio. As far as the artwork goes, the video was completely directed by Rob Roth, and I shot the photo that's on the cover, but he did all the layout art and stuff. So I mean, it was a team effort in many ways. I don't know who made that up, but it's a little over the top.

How has this album progressed beyond your previous solo albums?

The content is probably better. I think I'm a better writer now, and I actually wrote the tunes on this album. I was really contributing heavily to the music.

I think that the lyrics are definitely a great component of the album. My favorite line is "the devil's dick is hard to handle."

[laughs] Everyone likes that.

Chris Stein [Blondie's co-founder/guitarist] worked with you on this album. Is it important to always have him as a collaborating partner?

Absolutely. I love working with Chris. We've had such a long track record. So, it was a kind of continuity for me to have him. And, you know, I love Chris. So, I would definitely feel that there's something missing.

The tracks seem to be really varied, which makes the album a lot more interesting. Did you consciously try to take different angles with songs, or did it just fall together like that?

Since they were spread out over a period of time, I just sort of took it as it came, you know? When I got an idea for a song, I would hear what I wanted it to be, and working with my producers we whittled it down a little bit. Sometimes we would experiment with different things, but we all sort of agreed pretty much. It was nice to have an agreeable working relationship.

You've said that this is a really personal album. Is that mainly since you're writing as Debbie and not part of Blondie?

I think I feel like its more personal because it's not a Blondie album. A lot of times with Blondie records, I share the writing with other people, lyrically. So, this time it's pretty much all my songs, except for "Paradise" and "If I Had You."

Is there a certain type of "Debbie" you feel like you have to play as a part of Blondie?

I suppose, but I think I'm pretty driven myself. I want to feel like I really want to like what I'm doing. I wouldn't want to put something out that I wouldn't like.

Well, is there a song on the album that you're most proud of?

Well, no—not yet! [laugh] They're all kind of different, and that's what I like about them. I'm not in a rut with it. Each song is its own entity. They're all kind of distinctive. I kind of like that. The one that I think is the most fun is "You're Too Hot."

You were part of the True Colors tour last year; did you play these songs then?

That was the only time I played them live.

Even though the records hadn't been released, did the fans give you a good response to them?

Yeah! I was amazed. I thought, "Oh, my God, nobody's gonna get this." You know, they'll go right by. Playing songs, especially for a large audience, is hard—clubs are a little easier.

This album touches a lot on love—in fact, it seems to be the touchstone of the album—but there's a lot of different types of love in here, not just that idyllic romance.



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