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- Posted on Sep 13th 2011 3:15PM by David Chiu
F. Scott Schafer
On the band's new studio album, 'Panic of Girls' (out now exclusively on Amazon), Blondie still continues to explore diverse sounds such as Latin dance and French pop. The record also features the driving rockers that Blondie have been known for, particularly 'Love Doesn't Frighten Me' and 'What I Heard.'
As the band embarks on a US tour, Spinner sat down with singer Deborah Harry to talk about the new record, Blondie's first since 2003, the band's collaboration with Beirut's Zach Condon and their legacy.
'Panic of Girls' encompasses the familiar elements of Blondie's past and yet sounds contemporary as well. When did you start working on the record?
I've been hearing that actually, so I'm very happy about that. We were dying to make a new record for quite a few years and finally we sort of put it all together, because we did it independently. It's an independent release, basically. We started [the new album] in 2009 and finished up in 2010, with all the editing and mixing and then finally got it out.
How would compare this new record to the previous ones?
I think it's a typical Blondie survey -- all the styles that we loved in the past. It's a real sort of compilation of our basic formula. We've always had an interest in Latin, reggae, pop and rock. I think we made this an amalgamation of that.
The first single off of 'Panic of Girls' is 'Mother,' which is an actual New York City nightclub. What inspired you to write the song?
[The club] had some great entertainment [and a] dance floor. It was sort of a small-ish type of thing, even though the rooms were packed with people. I went there for at least 10 years. It was such a great part of my life that when it was gone, I was sort like, 'What am I going to do?" It really left a hole in my social life and my club life, but I sort of managed to fill it. It just seemed like the right thing at the right time. It was an inspiration to write the song.
The zombie-filled video for 'Mother' has some humor and horror in there. Was that you made up as a zombie in the video's final scene?
Yeah, I put on the zombie lenses, a different wig and rubber skirt. I put the 'Mother' thing together.
The new album also features 'Wipe off My Sweat,' a Latin-flavored dance song co-written with Paradise N. Efecto, a Cuban singer and producer. How did you collaborate with her?
She actually was a friend of our keyboard player Matt Katz-Bohen. He came in with this idea that wasn't really sort of fleshed out. So we put bits of that together -- it was a really great experience. We sort of all put our two cents into it. It sounds great live too. We added this acoustic guitar intro and it's fantastic. The audiences are loving it.
'Panic of Girls' also features Blondie's rendition of Beirut's 'Sunday Smile,' and the band's Zach Condon plays trumpet on 'Wipe Off My Sweat.' How did you work with him?
We both knew about Beirut. Chris [Stein, guitarist] came across them and fell madly in love. We went to a couple of shows, and I think Chris and Zach started e-mailing and they were sort of put in touch with each other. I went to see them in Texas before all that happened and I was really, really impressed. Having my little jazz experience and then hearing what these guys were doing and some of the things they were incorporating was just really exciting, really beautiful.
How special is it to perform in New York City?
It's home. It's always near and dear. Our friends and family come to the shows. How else can you explain it? You're at home and it's great.
You're still with original members Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke. What accounts for the chemistry between the three of you after all these years?
We're kind of fortunate in that we appreciate each other and realize how difficult it is to keep an ensemble together for that length of time. It's a tough business and acrimonies happen -- the emotions get very strong. People change over the years. We're fortunate we locked into a good management situation that basically helped us keep it all together.
This incarnation of the band features relatively new members Leigh Foxx, Matt Katz-Bohen and Tommy Kessler. How's it like having these younger guys in the group? Do they bring a new energy to you, Chris and Clem?
Absolutely. It's great to have new energy and fresh sounds. I think all those guys [are] really great musicians. They're easy to work with. It's been really a joy.
How is it like being part of Blondie the second time around, following the group's long hiatus from the early '80s to late '90s?
I guess I have to give credit to Chris. He's a very creative guy. We've always been interested in futures. We've never hesitated to try things. We're sort of experimental in our approach and I think it stood the test of time. We're still the same people. I really didn't want [Blondie] to be an oldies band.
Aside from this new album and upcoming tour, are you working on any other projects, particularly acting?
Nothing much really. I have a few irons in the fire. I don't have any acting jobs, although I wished that I did. I have been working pretty steadily for the past two to three years with Blondie. We've done a lot of touring, we did the recording. Actually, we're planning to start writing and recording some new material when we finish this tour. We're really putting an emphasis on Blondie right now. But if somebody came up to me and said, 'We've got a part that is perfect for you," I would definitely check it out.
Since Blondie arrived on the scene, there have been generations of bands out there that seem to acknowledge or hint Blondie's sound in their own music. How gratifying is it to be considered still influential?
That's truly flattering and a tribute to our approach. I don't think it's unique that we're used as a reference because we certainly have an amalgamation of different styles and references in our music. That's part of the creative process, that you absorb things and then spit it back out, and it has your own flavor in it. You learn and then you make this transition and reinterpret, so the elements are there and sometimes they're more recognizable than others. That's truly what all art is about.