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MP3.com - 14th October 2007

Hangin' On Debbie Harry
By Chris Rolls

Debbie Harry talks about her latest, Necessary Evil, NY as a source of inspiration, and much more.

You've always been a resident of New York?

Yeah. I think it's a great place. It's a challenging place to live, but it's also, you know...there's so much going on. It's really exciting.

I think at this point, you're sort of, I would imagine, as much a part of New York as it is a part of you?

Yeah, I guess so.

I mean, it's certainly difficult to conceive of New York music without you being involved.

Oh, thank you.

Oh, definitely. And speaking of which, now you currently have your latest contribution, so I suppose I should ask you a couple of questions about that.

OK.

Well, the most obvious question to grease the wheel--so to speak--is the distance between your solo albums, the last being in '93 with Debravation.

Yeah. Well, you know, I reunited with Blondie, so we did a lot of work over the past 10 years. We've been touring, and we did those two albums, and the last year or so slowed down a little bit because we were really touring quite a lot. And, you know, just then, I had some time off, and I had some ideas and found some people that I really enjoyed working with and sort of put together a few pieces. And it just turned into a package.

And did you...well...what exactly is the necessary evil? I mean, my interpretation of it is that it would be continuing to record, tour, and play music?

Really?

Well, I don't know. I don't mean that as an evil. But I could see at some point, it might become a bit tiring.

Well, I think some of the touring; the traveling is very tiring. But playing music is never, never a bad thing. It always picks you right up.

That's true.

Yeah. So, I mean, I would think I was referring to relationships and, you know, things that you find you can't live without, but they're not good for you. That kind of stuff.

Which seems to be almost everything that we truly enjoy in life.

Pretty much.

So, the album is, in fact then, an exploration of love and relationships for you?

Yeah, I think just experiences and I don't know...things that I've seen and stuff like that. I don't know, it's not supposed to be all that deep. It's about love and all of its many forms.

Yeah. Well, I'm sure you've seen many forms of love over the years.

Absolutely.

Do you think you've really mastered anything? Or do you think at this point, you still feel as childish as you did when you first started really dealing with love?

Oh, God, I suppose there are moments when I feel like a complete idiot and other times I feel like I've conquered the world. Like I guess it sort of swings back and forth.

Yeah, it seems to be daily really.

Yes.

Well, you said Necessary Evil is not very deep, and there is a very fun element, I think, to the album and a lot of contemporary upbeat dance stuff. Was that your vision that you wanted to go with?

Yeah, I wanted to make it an album that was just sort of light and entertaining and easy to listen to. And then, at the very end, I did a couple of things that were a little bit further out and a little bit, you know, sort of more challenging and unexpected perhaps. I'd like to in the future maybe do something that's a little bit further out even than that, you know. Just to do something that's really strange and really kind of just odd. Maybe a little bit more abstract. But for this one, I really was just having fun and trying to write some good lyrics and some kind of singable kind of stuff, you know. People like to sing along.

And as I said, there's a very contemporary feel to the record. How much of a foot do you keep in what's happening musically--like in New York City or beyond? Do you still go out to clubs and experience fresh bands and what have you?

Yeah, I try to. Yeah. It's hard when you have a heavy work schedule, you know. And you're traveling a lot to really keep up with everything. But I do get out as much as I can.

And how do you feel about those sorts of changes? I mean, New York is such a fluid city, but it seems to me, it's changed so much, particularly over the past 15 years.

Yes, it has changed a lot, hasn't it? I don't know. There are still certain aspects of it that will never change and people are attracted to. And it is a place where you can come and see a lot of different things and meet a lot of different people. And I think that that's one of the draws...that it's a great magnetic place for communications. You know, people want to communicate. They come here, and it's all around you all the time. So, it's very exciting--very vital.

Isn't it amazing that you could be in a place as long--well, in New York--as you have and continue to see it as a wealth of inspiration and to really draw from it?

Yeah, sometimes it's overwhelming and other times, it seems dull. But I think a lot of that has to do with your own outlook, you know. Like your, as you were just saying...you swing from day to day but it's always there really. It's very consistent in a way.

Hmm. Yeah, exactly. Well, speaking of modern styles of music that we hear today so much...I think, particularly for people of my age, you know, where I was fortunate enough to...well, I was on the tail end of Blondie as a teenager. And so much of what I hear just seems to emulate what Blondie was doing or Talking Heads or the Ramones or so many other New York bands of that ilk. Do you find it flattering or do you think it's a little bit lazy?

Oh, I don't know. I've been hearing a lot of really great stuff. I guess there's a lot of copying too. I mean that's how you learn things is, like, copying, right?

That's true.

I guess there's something to be said for it. I don't know. I usually try to see bands that I find are really interesting and unique.

Was there anything that Blondie copied? Was there anything that you were trying to emulate?

Well, I think we were trying to be a band, and everybody in the band brought their own interests and style with them so that when we tried to fuse that all together we ended up with what Blondie is. And it wasn't like we all came together because we only liked one thing. We came together because we liked different things. And I think that that really is a cool way of forming a band.

Yeah. I was trying to think if there was anything I thought that Blondie was trying to copy, but I could not think of anything because it was always so eclectic.

Yeah, yeah. We always managed to combine a lot of different elements and come out sounding like us.

Which has been sort of a constant throughout your career. I mean, I think people know you as Debbie Harry and that really is so open to interpretation. You've done so much musically. And then you've done so much external to music, say with film, which is actually another great question. Do you have anything coming up?

I have one little thing that I did last May. It's in a piece called Elegy, and I have a very small part in that. I don't know when it's coming out, but I think it's going to be a really beautiful picture.

Oh, really?

Yeah.

Do you mind me asking about it?

No, not at all. It stars Sir Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper, and Penelope Cruise.

Wow!

Yeah. It should be a really interesting picture.

And how did you get called in to work on that?

I worked with the director once before on another picture that she directed. She asked me if I wanted to do a little cameo appearance, and I said, "Sure."

That's lovely.

Yes, I'm delighted.

Well, I just have one last question, and I'll let you go.

OK.

OK. Well, we live in this society, which seems to be so hell-bent on consuming youth culture. And it just seems like over the past 10 years, really, it's just gotten worse and worse. The younger, the better. And the more disposable, the better. You're someone who has really bucked all of that and just continues to be who you are and continues to shine no matter what the age may be. What do you think it is about you that is so attractive to the outside world? And then, would you have any advice for people for longevity, so to speak?

Well, I don't know whether I'm anyone to give advice. Maybe I have the stubborn streak that propels me, you know...that I'm curious. I have a curiosity, and I have a stubborn streak. And I feel like I've worked hard to become good at what I do and don't really want to stop. I feel privileged that I've gotten to have a career in music, and I don't know...the whole age thing seems kind of preposterous to me in a way. I came into music from wanting to be a painter--from wanting to be an artist. And when you look at an artist's career, I mean, it goes through a lot of different phases, and usually they have quite a bit of longevity. You know, like the greatest painters...their work is considered better and better and better as they get older. And it's only in pop culture that, as you say, it seems disposable. So, I don't know. Somehow or other, I have that kind of state of mind where I think that--like with jazz musicians or with blues artists--you know, longevity is key.

So true. It's just about understanding your own passion and moving forward without compromise.

I think so. Or learning to compromise at the right time.

Ah, beautiful! Well, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to talk to me.

Oh, well, thank you for your interest and...

Oh, of course. And thank you, and thank you, for everything over the years too.

Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for the nice conversation.

Link: MP3.com - 14th October 2007


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