"I DON'T WANT TO FEEL LIKE A LITTLE PIECE OF POPCORN."
Debbie Harry talks space, dead feathers and her secretarial know-how…
Debbie Harry is one of the most famous women in music. In the seventies and eighties she was part of Blondie and became one of the the most iconic female rock icons of all time. Now she is sometimes back in Blondie and sometimes just by herself.
At the moment she is by herself and has got a new album in the shops. It features the very good single 'Two Times Blue'.
More excitingly, she's on the phone to PJHQ for a chinwag…
Questions: Peter Robinson
Answers: Debbie Harry (obviously)
Hello, Debbie. You are speaking to us halfway through a long day of interviews. How are you feeling?
I’m fine! I’m taking it easy.
Are you sitting down?
I’m almost lying down.
We’re going to give you any bad news. It’s just to make sure you’re comfortable.
Oh yeah, that’s good!
For the benefit of Popjustice viewers in the younger age bracket who may not know The History of You, could you explain who you are and why people think you’re amazing?
(Laughs) In ten words or less?
You can have a couple of sentences if you like.
Well let’s see. Blondie is a pop group from the early to mid 1970s from New York, who were part of the punk scene which has sort of been misconstrued over the years. Then we evolved through a lot of small label deals to eventually be signed with Chrysalis, which brought us into the British empire and we started having massive hits and became part of the recording world. We started traveling around the world and it was a sort of mega success story. We got there and did what we did before anyone really knew what was happening and laid a lot of groundwork for other bands to follow.
Thank you. Have you been going out on the town while you’ve been in London?
HMMMMM! Let me think. Where have I been going out? Actually I’ve just been grinding away like a little workaholic. I’ve been going out for some nice dinners to different places. I haven’t been to see any shows.
So your new single is very good. We were a bit worried you might have gone mental and it would be rubbish but it’s fine. The remixes are nice too.
Oh well thank you very much. So, where should I be going out while I’m in London?
Well there’s a very good club on Fridays called Club Popjustice…
Uh-huh… So, Popjustice on a Friday. I’m writing that down. [Editor’s note: She didn’t bloody turn up.]
Is it true that you worked as a secretary for a short while?
Yes, for nine months.
Did you have to do any transcribing?
Of meetings and things? Yes, sure.
OH GOD IT’S THE MOST BORING THING ON EARTH!
Yeah, I know. But transcribing from a tape is sort of a guarantee that you’ll get it right word for word. I used to do shorthand. It’s quite easy to learn. You might enjoy doing that.
Sometimes people see our notebook at gigs and say ‘oh, I didn’t know you knew shorthand’. And it’s not shorthand – it’s just a totally illegible drunken scrawl.
Can you transcribe from those?
Rarely. So who’s the new Deborah Harry?
Oh I don’t know!
We get press releases through all the time, banging on about so-and-so being ‘the new Debbie Harry’. There’s a new Debbie Harry every few months. Who’s the current one?
I performed with Lily Allen recently, she’s got an interesting voice and her lyrics are kind of funny. She’s kind of clever, too. What do you think of her?
She’s a good popstar.
Yeah, I agree. She’s definitely putting it out there and she does have that weird voice. It’s really important to me that someone has a unique sound – something that’s all their own. And she’s definitely got a a voice of her own. We talked about writing something toegther which would be very nice, I like that idea a lot.
Do you have a favourite cold remedy?
I should be taking one now! I’m really allergic to feathers and they have big feather pillows in my hotel.
Are you allergic to feathers when they’re attached to birds or simply in a pillow context?
Just when they’re dead feathers full of dust.
Have you ever had a pet bird?
Do you have any pets at the moment?
Not with me, but back home I have dogs and a cat. Well, one of the dogs just died so I feel kind of sad about that. I gave her a nice send off, and a beautiful gold circular memorial.
Do you want to sell loads of copies of your new album, or are you just happy that it exists and is purchasable if people are so inclined?
I just feel satisifed that I actually finished it! (Laughs) Of course when you’re in the record business you have to do that commercial thing – you have to be part of the commercial world – and it’s about marketing and selling music, but primarily I just enjoy figuriung it out. That’s the best part for me. Something I feel satisfied with. But I’d dearly like to have another hit. And I’d like to make another Blondie album.
If we’d been doing our job as long as you’ve been doing yours we’d be thinking along the lines of putting our feet up for a bit.
Well I feel really privileged that my life has been about music and I don’t want to stop doing that. As difficult as it is, it’s delightful. And as distasteful as it can sometimes be, ultimately my life’s been about doing music. And what could really be better?
We’ll tell you: going into space. Would you like to go into space?
I used to like the idea of it, but now I think it would take too long. I sort of would like to be able to go there very quickly. I don’t want to sit in a tin canister and feel like a little piece of popcorn, you know?
I suppose there’s always the worry you’d explode.
That would be a bad thing. Nobody wants that.
Do you worry about getting old?
Sure. I like life and I like doing what I do and I don’t want to stop doing it, so that’s the downside. The upside is that I have so much experience now that I enjoy doing what I’m doing even more. It’s a toss up.
What would it take to stop you making music?
Oh, let me think… Well, I don’t think there’s anything that would make me want to stop it.
What if your head fell off?
I guess that would probably stop me doing it whether I liked it or not!
It would stop the singing. You could still write though.
I could still do my shorthand!
Thank you very much Debbie Harry.