Interview - June 2006
Pages 92, 93, 94, 95
THE WOMAN WHO REINVENTED PUNK ROCK WITH A SHOT OF HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR TALKS ABOUT THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FEMINISM, FIGHTING MUSIC-INDUSTRY COMPLACENCY, AND HOW YOU CAN DYE YOUR HAIR RED AND STILL BE THE SINGER IN A BAND CALLED BLONDIE.
BY ANA MATRONIC
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAX VADUKUL
Deborah Harry wears a dress by DOLCE & GABBANA
ANA MATRONIC: How's everything going?
DEBORAH HARRY: Good, very good. I'm getting ready to go out on another tour, and I'm working on a little show that's going to run at the Kitchen for a couple of weeks. It's called The Show (Achilles Heels), and it was choreographed and written by Richard Move. It's very funny. It's a combination of dance, music, theater, and boxing.
DH: No, I'm just kidding.
AM: I was going to say: Are you a pugilist? [both laugh]
DH: My character is actually the warrior goddess Athena.
AM: The goddess of war and wisdom.
DH: Totally miscast, but nevertheless.
AM: I beg to differ. So, you came to fame as a blonde and as the lead singer of Blondie, but now you're a redhead. How is it different from being a blonde?
DH: I don't feel any different, actually. I've been red now for over a year, so I've sort of gotten used to it. It's kind of strawberry blonde, so it's not that much of a departure. But it's a lot easier on my hair.
AM: I once read that you said that you approached being blonde as a sort of conceptual performance and that you were playing with the myth of the blonde. What is the myth of the redhead? Are there certain aspects of your personality that you find are enhanced by having red hair, or is it business as usual?
DH: I don't know if there's as much of a stigma to being a redhead. But I find that it's much more flattering for my skin and my eyes. If I had realized that it was going to make me look so much better, I would have done it a long time ago. The blonde thing is really very much about the old silver-screen platinum blonde, and I certainly was interested in capturing that as the front woman for a band. I just thought it was an interesting thing to do. That was the basic concept - not much to it, really.
AM: Now you guys are going out on another tour.
DH: Yeah. We're going out on the road. I'm looking forward to it. I wasn't expecting to be touring again quite so soon after the tour of the U.K. that we finished right before Christmas. But then we got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it seemed like a good time to take advantage of that because a lot of people were really excited about it, so we put a U.S. tour together.
AM: I was definitely excited to see Blondie inducted. How does it feel to be in the Hall of Fame?
DH: You know, I didn't really care at first. Before it all came up, I just thought, So what? But after we got it, there were total strangers from all walks of life coming up to me in a big way, so I was like, "Oh, gee." For some reason people really pay attention to those kinds of things.
AM: How do you find touring now with Blondie? Is the dynamic of the band much different than it was in the beginning, or do the same achetypes still exist?
DH: It's a totally different dynamic than when we started out. We've been doing this material for so long that the challenge musically is to find ways to make it sound right for today as much as we possibly can. A lot of our songs stand up, but some of them really need sculpting and some changes.
AM: What inspires a new Blondie song or even a song that you would just write yourself?
DH: The same things that always have - my existence, the things I observe, what I'm feeling, my wins and losses. Love. Hate.
AM: Is there a song that you wish you'd written?
DH: [sings] "Rock and rollll..."
AM: Is that Gary Glitter?
AM: Good thing that you're not Gary Glitter, though. He's kind of in trouble - I think he's in jail in Vietnam.
DH: Yeah. I would also have liked to have written some of those James Brown songs.
AM: If someone were to make a movie of your life, what would you choose as the theme song?
DH: Maybe some classical music. Some Mahler perhaps.
AM: Sounds good.
DH: [laughs] If you like a great deal of depression, then sure, it's great.
AM: There's nothing wrong with a little darkness - it makes the brightness seem even brighter. Now, I have a really juicy question: Feminism is dead - do you agree or disagree?
DH: How could it be dead? We're all still alive.
AM: [laughs] Yes, we are. It seems like the game is a little different these days, though.
DH: Of course, but people take so many things for granted. They forget that there was a time when women didn't even really have much choice except to get married, and women really have choices now, which is pretty major.
AM: But feminism itself seems to have become a dirty word. I've read many interviews with young pop singers, and someone asks them, "Are you a feminist?" and they're like, "Oh, God, no!" There seems to be a strong aversion to the word, which I find very perplexing because ultimately feminism is humanism and a desire for everyone to have the same opportunities. What does it take for women to see it differently? Do you find yourself trying to reach out toward women in general, or do you just kind of lead by example? You are a very important woman as far as rock'n'roll is concerned and have given women a kind of confidence that they didn't have before.
DH: I would like to think that because I have actually done something to change the way things are, it might inspire other people to do the same. I hate to use the word "struggles," but I have had a few over the years. I've had as many problems in my own life as other people have had in theirs. I think it was probably more difficult for the guys to have me as a front person than it would have been -
AM: The other way around?
DH: Exactly. I was definitely told many times that I should get out of the business. Years ago, before I was even in Blondie, I was trying to learn to play bass, and this guy came over to me at this jam session and said, "Oh, you've got to have balls to play bass." [laughs]
AM: Little did he know, you did.
Dress by DOLCE & GABBANA. Shrug by ALEXANDER McQUEEN. Shoes by CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN. Cosmetics by MAC. Hair products by L'ORÉAL FÉRIA. Fragrance: DOLCE 7 GABBANA LIGHT BLUE. Styling: ANNABEL TOLLMAN. Hair and makeup: CHRIS COLBECK/Art Department. Special thanks: DRIVE IN STUDIOS. Fashion details page 111.