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deborah harry - exclusive interview

Thursday 6th September 2007 – Issue 837

Pages 2, 40, 41

Photography © Joe Gaffney

A fixture on more bedroom walls in her time than wallpaper, but without ever losing her credibility along the way, Deborah Harry is one of the true rock icons. Now the Blondie star’s releasing a new solo album on the side, and we were lucky enough to chat with the ultimate blonde…

So, are people scared to work with you, what with you being a rock goddess and all?
It depends. I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a very good way to work if they are. That’s not the sort of person I am. I’m very much about now.

Which is how come you duetted with Lily Allen on Good Morning America…
Yeah. Someone sent me her CD, and she’s got such a unique voice and the songs are so good and she’s got her own attitude. Why not? It was interesting.

So are you still as interested in music as you always have been, because people tend to be into other things as they get older?
I think so. I do think that music is connected to that whole dating thing, and when you grow older your priorities change and maybe music gets pushed a little to one side. But the creative process is so important to me. I could never be someone to go and sit with my feet up watching TV. That’s just not the sort of person I am.

But you go back to your old record collection…
I always liked the girl r’n’b groups and the boy r’n’b groups and… but I don’t really get the time to listen to very much music; I’m so busy working on my own stuff. I do like Dresden Dolls and The Feeling and The Gossip. Beth Ditto really has got an amazing thing going on.

Not to be licky, but the new album sounds great.
A friend suggested I work with these new guys called Super Buddha, who were amazing, and it was such an enjoyable process, we were like, ‘Well, if we write some more then it can be a solo project,’ so that’s what we did.

How are the Blondie guys when you do a solo project? Do they get pissed off?
We’ve always gone off and done our own projects, we all do and I think it’s good for the band. But I certainly like it when we get back together. That’s my comfort zone.

And now there’s a West End musical based on your back catalogue. So did you jump at Desperately Seeking Susan, or was it like, ‘Erm, I don’t think so!”?
They’ve been working on it for two years or so. When they came to us with the idea we weren’t sure at first, but I love the film and it’s such a fun thing and I think the songs work with it. And they were so enthusiastic and so professional. We’ve heard a run-through of it in New York, without props or costumes, and I thought it was great.

Are you still living in New York?
Yeah, I don’t want to say exactly where, but downtown. It’s not quite the same place it used to be, but I still get a real buzz from being there. The downtown scene is not what it was. It’s all become very corporate. Back in the day you could go to Jackie 60 and really dress up and express something, and it’s just not like that anymore. But I have a lot of friends who are DJs, so they’re always getting me to go along and hear them play.

So you’re still keeping irregular hours?
Irregular hours? Oh yeah.

And you’re looking great. What’s the secret?
I’ve never hidden the fact that I’ve had surgery. I guess my vanity just doesn’t lie in that particular area of denying it. I’m not ashamed of it, and I think it’s good for your mental health – if you look good, you feel good, so I’m all for that.

There’s such a pressure these days for young women in the music industry to put out. You can never imagine Bananarama agreeing to do a magazine shot in their bikinis…
[Laughs] Oh, well, I’ve done my share of that sort of shot.

Do you ever see pap shots of yourself where you think, ‘What was I thinking?’?
Oh yeah. I often see pictures of myself and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ Oh, all the time. I have to be careful to look in the mirror as I leave the house, because I’ve caught myself going out with dirt streaked all down my face, so I do have to make sure. And there was one picture in US Weekly that I thought, ‘That’s horrible for everyone involved! Why would you even want to print a picture like that?’

So have you got any sympathy for these new Hollywood girls that are always getting papped with no pants on?
I think it’s very difficult for those girls growing up there. I was from New York and had a different take on it and they were different times. They are very young, but they can never escape the attention. They’ve grown up with it, some of them. They seem to enjoy it, but it can’t be easy when everything you ever do is going to be scrutinised like that. There’s a song on the album called ‘School For Scandal’, which is about that sort of media intrusion.

Do you think showbiz women have a harder time of it as they get older?
It’s easy to say that, but you look at women like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep and maybe they don’t get the hot roles, but they do amazingly and get the roles that suit them at the age they’re at. Helen Mirren at the Oscars was stunning, the most beautiful woman there. And I really liked her speech.

So you’ve got the musical, the new album, the festivals… Is there anything else?
Why? Don’t you think that’s enough? Do you think I should be doing more?

The album, Necessary Evil, is released on 17 September.

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