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orange.co.uk - September 2007
We speak to Debbie Harry
An impressively youthful-looking Debbie Harry called us in while draped across a bed in a London hotel. Once we’d calmed down, we had a good old chat about her new solo album, Necessary Evil.
Why another solo album now?
Well, I had the opportunity, I had the time and wanted to do something new. I still love touring – not so much the travelling, but I still love to perform – and this was a chance to do a whole new show. Some of the tracks on the album have gone down well: ‘Whiteout’ and ‘You’re Too Hot’ work great live, but I’ve avoided the more reflective material.
It’s a very fresh and vital album…
Thank you. I really wanted to do something that was a departure from Blondie. The music I listen to is much more left of centre, and that’s the kind of thing I was trying to achieve here.
And you’ve worked with young NY production duo Super Buddha.
They’re actually not that young – well, maybe compared to me! Actually, I wrote all the songs, then each time I had something together, I would just call them up and say, you know, if you have a night for me, I’m ready to go. I’d take the idea in and we’d work it up into something real.
What influenced you on the new record?
I’m mainly influenced by people I work with, rather than any particular acts around today.
You were 30/31 when Blondie really broke through. Did you feel your chance had gone?
Oh yes, of course. I’d been in music for years, but I was so lucky to meet Chris [Stein, Debbie’s former partner and chief collaborator in Blondie]. It’s amazing that our working relationship has lasted so long [Stein wrote a track, ‘Jen Jen’, for the album and played on it too]. I’d thought about giving up back then, but, you know, I couldn’t get music out of my mind. Like a rock incubus gnawing away at me!
Was it easier for a girl fronting a guitar band to break through back then? Is it more packaged and regulated now?
I don’t know if it was easier then, but I’ve always separated it: the showbiz/producer-driven, record company-driven type of music and the more organic band-led side. For our type of band, I think the struggle’s pretty much the same.
Did you feel like you were “punk”?
I’ve explained this many thousands of times but when we started there was no title for the scene. Then, for I don’t know how many months, they had this blitz of posters saying things like “Punk is coming!”, “Punk is here!” until we were all, like, “OK! Come on! I get it!” The record company didn’t understand the whole movement, couldn’t get its head around the total lack of organisation, so we basically had to do it all ourselves.
What did you think of the other bands on the CBGB’s scene, like the Ramones and Television?
I was a big fan of those bands, I really loved the whole scene, but it was very male. There were no girls doing it back then, no girls in rock at all – not even hangers-on. All the models came later.
Did that feel lonely?
No! I didn’t feel lonely – I was with my man.
What do you think of newer bands like The Strokes, who try to revive that CBGB’s sound?
I don’t know – I haven’t heard from The Strokes in a while. They’ve done some very good stuff, though. I met [Strokes lead singer] Julian Casablancas and he was shy, but, you know, they haven’t had to work so hard. They had it good as kids and have record company money behind them. The bands in the ‘70s were true diehards. But everyone expects you to lead a privileged life now – take this morning: I stepped out of the hotel to get a bite, and on my way back there was this tramp guy standing there swaying on the kerb. He saw me and shouted, “What? You couldn’t get room service? What’s wrong with room service?”
Is it uncomfortable having an entire generation fancy you?
Who could complain?!
What current music are you into?
These are lists of the music I use at the start of the show [from her bag, she produces a bundle of paper filled with lists of bands including LCD Soundsystem, Klaxons, Bat For Lashes, Justice and Peter, Bjorn and John]. Bonde Do Role are a band I really love, and Gossip. There’s just so much good funky stuff out there. Where’s the woman who has the Clash sample? MIA, she’s done a fantastic album. There’s just all this great stuff all of a sudden.
I heard talk of a biopic, with Kirsten Dunst playing you?
Yes, Kirsten has expressed an interest in playing me.
How do you feel about that?
I’m very flattered, but I’m not interested in a straight biopic where you just start at A, end at B, or whatever it is. Over the years I’ve come to dislike music films. They show these scenes in the studio where they’re recording everybody at once, live, you know the kind of thing [shouts]: “Yeah, that’s it, we got it!” Ugh. As soon as I see that I think the rest of it’s got to be inaccurate too. If I were going to make a biopic, I’d want to do it in a more abstract way, with a story that folds in a bit of music but isn’t about music. It would sweep along from the point of view, say, of that guy on the kerb. A real story, like a novel, just involving the characters from the band.
Do you get offered a lot of acting work yourself?
Not really, no. I’d like a leading role, but I’ve done some good character parts recently – for instance, playing opposite Dennis Hopper, Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz in Elegy (currently in post-production).
Finally, is it true that you’re over here to take over at Chelsea Football Club?
Yeah! I’ll go down there and say, “Kick it, boys, kick it!”
Debbie, it was an honour to meet you.
Debbie Harry, sex symbol and post-punk legend, returns with a new single and a new album - Necessary Evil - to follow on September 17. 'Two Times Blue' is a typically infectious pop-rocker, that Ms Harry delivers from the middle of a hedge.
orange.co.uk - September 2007