Flaunt - May 2004 - Pages 84-85-86

Women's Issue

Written By: Jonathan Palmer

Photography: Daniela Federici

DEBORAH HARRY

WHEN BLONDIE RETURNED TO MAKING MUSIC IN 1998, IT MARKED THE FIRST TIME THE VENERABLE BAND HAD PLAYED TOGETHER IN 16 YEARS. NO EXIT, AN ALBUM OF NEW MATERIAL, SURFACED THE FOLLOWING YEAR, AND SUDDENLY, THE BAND WAS AN ACTIVE ENTITY AGAIN, RECEIVING RADIO AIRPLAY, PLAYING SOLD-OUT SHOWS AND SELLING RECORDS. THIS SPRING, BLONDIE CONTINUES TO MAKE NEW FANS WHILE KEEPING THE DIE-HARDS HAPPY WITH THEIR NEW RELEASE, THE CURSE OF BLONDIE, AN ALBUM THAT RATES RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE BAND'S BEST EFFORTS. ON THE EVE OF THE ALBUM'S RELEASE, DEBORAH HARRY, THE BAND'S ICONIC LEAD SINGER, DISCUSSED THE BAND'S LEGACY, FORESEEABLE FUTURE, AND THE MUFFIN MAN.

Jonathan Palmer: I was grounded the night you came to my town for the Eat to the Beat tour - I think I was 14 - and I've never forgiven my parents. You guys never came back to my hometown and it took me 20 years to finally see you live. It made me a bigger fan, which, in turn, made me a better person. So, I guess what I'm trying to say in a rather roundabout way is, thanks.

Deborah Harry: Okay (laughs).

JP: I saw a great Adam and the Ants cover band last week called Ant Music, and it got me thinking how rare it is that Blondie is still going. Most other bands from the '70s and '80s are distant memories or they are sadly relegated to playing during a fireworks show after a major league baseball game. Thirty years later, you're still pretty much the same band. When you reconvened to make music again, was there a concern over how you'd fit in with the current music scene?

DH: Yes and no. We'd gotten so many nice press mentions from new bands, it seemed like it was really the right time to do something. I don't want to be this retro band, I don't want to go out and just do oldies. It'd be boring. Our relationship has always been passionate, always about pushing each other on.

JP: How has the band dynamic changed over 30 years of working together?

DH: We all know who's who and what's what, what our specific roles are. It's much clearer. If you have the wisdom to accept who you are, then you might as well accept who everyone else is and make the best of a situation. Being bashed over the head a little bit when you're younger gives you a kind of perspective or freedom, or, I hate to say wisdom, but...

JP: You can claim that mantle at this point. You've more than earned it.

DH: Ooh.

JP: Come on, own it!

DH: I don't really want to (laughs).

JP: When you started up again, what was it like doing those first shows with new material?

DH: It was pretty exciting. We had a really high energy. And we got such a great response. The most typical comment we got was, "I never got to see you because I was too young, and I can't believe I'm getting to see you!" I don't know if we satisfied them or not!

JP: When the band first hit, there weren't many women of prominence in rock music, and the media singled you out as a role model for women. Did that bother you?

DH: I think it's a frightening, kind of horrible responsibility. As far as being a role model in regard to being in a band, I'm really satisfied with that. I'm really proud of that. I worked hard to do it and I continue to work really hard to do it. I do it because I love it. And I finally feel like I'm getting good at it.

JP: There's been a succession of artists over the past couple of decades that have clearly been influenced by your music and your iconic persona. How does that make you feel?

DH: I love it. Totally flattering and wonderful. It's just being in the right place at the right time, doing that thing that attracted them. I sort of feel abstracted from it. I'm happy that people are feeling turned on. I mean, my God, that's what we're supposed to be doing. I certainly loved Janis Joplin, and Grace Slick, and Dusty Springfield, and so many other women who were doing music back [when I was getting started]. They certainly had a strong influence on me.

JP: It must be pretty gratifying that the "women in rock" tag is less of an issue these days, that a band like No Doubt is recognized for having a great lead singer, rather than having a great female lead singer.

DH: It certainly is, because they really made an issue of it with us, and it actually became an issue because of that. There was sort of this split between [the band] because I was getting all the attention.

JP: You've done a lot of strong film work. Are you doing anything currently?

DH: I haven't got anything really booked right now. I've been really fortunate. I've gotten some really interesting and diverse character parts. I'd love to do a meatier part. Usually the parts I do are very short-lived in terms of shooting schedule. I'd love to get involved with a film for more than two or three days. The only film that I was really involved in like that was Videodrome. I had a slight bit more in Hairspray too. It's hard because I'm not competing all the time as a film actress. I appreciate the fact that anybody would even consider me, really. I'm perfectly good at it. I enjoy the work, but I'm sort of a dark horse.

JP: You have a very distinctive style. I would think that there would be tons of film-makers who'd want to build something specifically for you.

DH: Well, I hope so. I hope that at the end of this touring season, I'm going to fall into something juicy.

JP: Now that you have a two-album streak going with the revived Blondie, do you see yourself continuing to make new music?

DH: I don't know why not. I think the industry has changed and is sort of devastated by this computer business. Downloading... I don't know what's going to happen with that. But live music has always been a real important part of what we do, having a real combo thing going on. It's always been about being in a band for me.

JP: Right. The delivery system might change from albums to CDs to downloading, but as long as people are still coming together and making music, we're okay.

DH: I think it's human nature that people have to have [music]. They say that man created music before verbalization came about, which does make sense.

JP: Is there anything you're working on musically, aside from the band?

DH: I did a duet with Perry Farrell for a kids' album. Kind of hip life lessons. It's called A World of Happiness.

JP: It's pretty amazing to see children's music become a big thing. People like Dan Zanes are really popular with little kids.

DH: I did a duet with him too! We did "Waltzing Matilda."

JP: If you can communicate something meaningful to children through music, that is a pretty special thing. The songs we learn as children stay with us our whole lives.

DH: Oh my, God. You just took me back to Burl Ives singing "The Muffin Man."

JP: "The Muffin Man"? Yes, I know him. Know him well. Some say he is delicious. But nowhere near as delicious as Blondie.


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