Flexipop! - February 1982 - Issue 15
Wanna know why we're cashing in on Xmas ten months early with this month's double sided Flexi? Huw Collingbourne tried to find out from BLONDIE'S CHRIS STEIN.
"YOU ARE weird!" Chris Stein tells me.
Now, what have I done to provoke this comment, I wonder? Can he be referring to my diamond-encrusted horn-rimmed spectacles? Or the shark's teeth trimmings to my latest satinette ball-gown? Or maybe he's surprised to see my pet luminous wombat, Reginald, eating marshmallows?
But no, I discover that he is not referring to me at all, but to you - the Great British Public in general - "You're all weird," he snaps, "I mean, really weird!"
Having recovered slightly from this unexpected assault upon our National Character, I ask Mr Stein to explain himself.
"Well, you have to be weird to listen to such strange music - like Laurie Anderson, for example. Hardly anybody in the States has even heard of her!"
It appears that, as far as Chris Stein and Blondie are concerned, "weird" is not a term of abuse but of praise.
"In the States, people are so straight they even think Blondie is on the lunatic fringe," he tells me - which explains why he believes that the British are more likely than the Americans to take a fancy to the collection of loonies he's gathered together for his new label, "Animal Records".
These include The Brattles - whom Chris describes as "a swarm of eight or nine year-old kids whose drummer can't quite reach the drums yet," as well as Snooky Tate, "a big, strange-looking black guy who's religious-crazy but sweet with it," and Sam Five Freddie B. Love, a rap and graffiti artist whose ambition is "to have a graffiti-show at the Tate Gallery and then paint over the whole of the London Underground."
Now, this latter ambition may sound to you like an act of sheer vandalism. But in America it's the sort of thing which goes by the name of Art... and that's what I call weird!
Anyway, since Freddie is being promoted as the new Blondie mega-star of the 'eighties, I thought I'd better get the low-down on this guy and find out why an acknowledged defacer of public buildings thinks that the public is likely to take him to their hearts.
"For one thing," he tells me at once, "Let's get this straight about my graffiti. It hasn't got any connotations of vandalism. People like the things I do. Well, not everybody does, but at least the kids like it. It's a relatively harmless visual crime. Sometimes I do it all over an entire subway car. Though that's getting more difficult, these days - people tend to come along and chase you away with dogs. It's probably safer to paint on buildings - the walls of people's houses, for example.
"The graffiti I do ties in with the rapping. It's all part of the same sub-culture. It comes out of New York... which is the most advanced ghetto in the world.
"Often when you go to parties in the Bronx some guy will stand up all of a sudden and start rapping. The D.J. will have two turntables and two copies of the same record. He puts them on at the same time and manipulates them so that they do things totally unusual - he leaves a bit out and then slips a bit in when you're not expecting it so that you end up with a very surprising version of your favourite song."
I have a sneaking suspicion that Freddie's approach to rapping might be just the teeniest bit different from Adam Ant's!
"The track I've done for Flexipop! is just a warm-up," Freddie tells me, "I'm going to make some really high-powered ones which'll make the booty shake a little harder."
I have to admit that I'm not entirely convinced that I want my "booty" or any other part of me to be shaken at all. Nevertheless, Freddie continues to assure me that the next piece he records will be "sure-shot shit". (i.e. "very good").
In the meantime, he is preparing to exhibit his graffiti in Rome during March at a graffiti-festival funded by the Italian Government.
"They're pretty hip in Rome," he says, "I've had an exhibition there before and while I was there I went to Pompeii. They've got graffiti there that was put up during the Roman Empire. Toilet graffiti - really basic, sexual stuff."
Ah yes, now that I can understand. The scribblings of the Ancients during their moments of solitude - the smutty doodlings of the Roman philosophers as they strained for inspiration.
Classical filth is so much more tasteful than the modern stuff, I always think.
Freddie takes great exception to this idea - "My graffiti is very tasteful," he tells me, "I don't have any profanity in it."
You mean it isn't even rude? But what other sort is there?
"Well, I write my name a lot - in all sorts of different styles and colours... You wait until I do the London Underground, then you'll see what I mean. I'm going to cover up all those ads for haemorrhoid treatments - now those are tasteless."