By KORY GROW
15th June 2022
A new book, Giger: Debbie Harry Species – Creating the Visual Concept for KooKoo, will document the early Eighties collaboration between the Blondie frontwoman and artist H.R. Giger. Harry commissioned Giger a couple of years after he achieved international fame for designing the phantasmagoric “xenomorph” in the movie Alien for the cover art of her 1981 solo debut, KooKoo. The album will be reissued in late September, and the book will come out via Titan Books on November 11.
Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, who is also a photographer, captured the process and has been holding onto his behind-the-scenes photos for decades. The book chronicles the making of the cover — which featured a brunette Harry with spikes through her face looking out in the middle of a lightning storm — and videos for “Backfired” and “Now I Know You Know.” Stein documented the filming at Giger’s Swiss studio and captured candid shots. In addition to his photos, the book contains video stills and notes, Polaroids, and sketches from Giger’s archive.
“It’s so wonderful to revisit our collaboration with H.R. Giger and to see Chris’ photographic record of KooKoo finally published,” Harry said in a statement.
“Giger was inspirational and magical,” Stein said. “Just his work ethic alone was so focused, he was a credit to anyone who considers themselves creative. Giger has inspired a generation of artists and it was great to have been in his sphere.”
The “Backfired” clip opened with Giger, dressed in ancient Egyptian garb, piercing a sarcophagus with swords. When lightning cracks the coffin open, Harry emerges singing the song over a Giger backdrop. The disco-leaning song, written by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, is a lot more upbeat than the imagery. The video for “Now I Know You Know,” also written by Rodgers and Edwards, is even eerier with Harry flexing in a Giger-designed body suit with long black hair.
Before working with Harry, Giger had a long history of working with musicians. He helped design the haunting imagery for Swiss psyche rockers Walpurgis’ 1969 album, The Shiver, Emerson Lake, and Palmer’s gold-selling 1973 LP, Brain Salad Surgery, and the sleeve for French prog-rockers Magma’s 1978 record Attahk. Afterward, he worked with harder-edged bands, including Celtic Frost, Carcass, Danzig, and Triptykon. His 1977 painting, Penis Landscape, included as a poster in the Dead Kennedys’ 1985 LP Frankenchrist, led to a lawsuit alleging the band was distributing harmful material to minors. The Dead Kennedys ultimately won the suit. Giger died in 2014 after falling down the stairs at home.
After KooKoo, Blondie regrouped and recorded 1982’s The Hunter, which would be the last album of their initial run. Later this summer, the band will put out a box set that covers their history, from the band’s origins to the release of The Hunter. The Against the Odds 1974 – 1982 collection will contain three dozen previously unreleased recordings. “When I listen to these old tracks, it puts me there like I am a time traveler,” Harry said about the collection.” As bad as it was sometimes, it was also equally as good. No regrets. More music.”
The group is also working on new recordings. Stein recently published a photo on his Instagram of Harry in front of a microphone. “New music is shaping up,” he wrote. “I’m quite optimistic about this next project. Some really great songs. Still a way to go…”