Deborah Harry | Necessary Icon

prof_dharry_sm.jpgI definitely wanted to get something heard and get something out there that would be very today. At the same time, I wanted to do some sketching, a little bit of freak-show kind of stuff, a little more experimental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone within earshot of a car stereo in the past 30 years knows the instantly recognizable, sugar-charged vocals of the legendary Deborah Harry. She burst on the scene with Blondie, sexy and cool, as if she owned every stage she always seemed to float above. The template for every multi-media blonde conqueror that came after her, Deborah Harry’s fire was stoked by the inspiration she found in artists like Andy Warhol and Fab Five Freddy, as well as the New York joints she would begin to frequent, including Max’s Kansas City and CBGBs. Along with Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, she mashed up disco, punk, new wave, and hip-hop and managed to create a sound that was not only unique, it also managed to break a few boundaries. Who knew that one of the first crossover rap hits would come from an angel-faced white girl from Jersey?

Here in the 21st century, Harry is still charging forward, as passionate and creative as she’s ever been. On October 9, she released her first solo album in 14 years, Necessary Evil, a tight collection of rock and pop with hooks as meaty as anything she produced in her legendary history. With a tour scheduled to kick off in New York City on November 8, the music and style icon seemed recharged and ready to show off the new tunes when I recently spoke to her.

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After so many classic Blondie and solo albums, what did you want to accomplish with Necessary Evil?

I think I wanted to make a record that was a rock record, more of a rough-sounding record than a Blondie album. I wanted to do something that was a little more sparse, not as thickly layered as a Blondie album.

How did you choose your collaborators for the new record?

The people I chose to work with were introduced to me by the singer from the Toilet Boys, Guy Furrow. I started working on some music with them, I really enjoyed the way they worked, and I liked their personalities. It was a very relaxed, fun collaboration. Our relationship just sort of grew, and I’d love to keep working with them in the future. It was a really a lot of fun writing songs with them and recording.

Did you feel like you had to compete with what is on the radio now, or did you just take the attitude that you could do whatever you wanted?

I think a combination of those things. I definitely wanted to get something heard and get something out there that would be very today and very compatible with contemporary sounds and possibly have radio play the record. At the same time, I wanted to do some sketching, a little bit of freak-show kind of stuff, a little more experimental. It’s sort of a happy medium between going really far out and suggesting some kind of hints at something more abstract than usual.

I know you’re excited about hitting the road with these new tunes. Who do you have in your touring band?

Well, it’s a little undecided at this very moment, but I was just talking to my musical director and keyboard player about this yesterday. J.P. Dougherty is the guitar player I took out on the Cyndi Lauper tour, and I think he’s going to be coming out. So, I’m sort of unsure about who the rest of the band is going to be right now.

With the new album coming out, what are you thoughts on the current state of the music industry with regard to file-sharing?

Well, I understand why people don’t want to spend a lot of money on music when you can get it for free. I mean, free is a nice thing. But we all like to get paid for our work, you know? It’s funny because a lot of people think, "Oh, anybody can write a song," but that’s really not true. So, I want to get paid for what I do, but I understand how record companies really blew it by not being on top of the technology and going into the future, and sort of being righteous about it. That’s where I’m standing on it; I guess I don’t really have a firm decision on it. I can see it both ways, but I still want to get paid for what I do.

Besides all of your musical accomplishments, you’re also considered a style icon. How did that begin?

I don’t know really, I just kind of fell into that style icon thing by needing to dress in a way that fit in my economic situation. I was very interested in the ’60s kind of look, especially the French New Wave cinema and sort of a mod look. I also had a connection working with Steve Strauss, and we both shared a kind of fondness for the slim-lined look of the ’60s. This, coupled with the fact that I was buying a lot of second-hand clothes and everything was retro anyway. Somehow, the whole thing kind of evolved as a means to an end economically.

I thought Blondie’s last album, The Curse of Blondie, was brilliant. Are there any plans for you and Chris Stein to collaborate again in the near future?

Oh, inevitably; I love working with Chris. I have two tracks of his on Necessary Evil. I would have had more, but he has two young children and he’s a hands-on parent, so he’s very busy with that right now. I think when his kids are a little bit older and in school, he’ll have more time to devote to music. I really love working with Chris, he’s one of my favorite people in the world. I feel lucky that I got two songs out of him! | Jim Ousley

For more information, www.deborahharry.com.

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