Q+A: Debbie Harry
The Blondie singer talks Hollywood biopics, Extinction Rebellion, Glastonbury Festival and tramp art with Rudy Bolly…
Cultural icon, feminist pin-up, Andy Warhol’s muse and, of course, Blondie singer, Debbie Harry is many wonderful things. Now you can add author to her résumé after her autobiography Face It won rave reviews this year. It’s the ultimate rock’n’roll memoir, with much more thrown in. Classic Pop caught up with Debbie to discuss swapping music festivals for book festivals, environmental concerns and the future of Blondie.
Your book has had great reviews and you’ve already mentioned possibly doing a follow-up.
So far, so good. I’ve been bouncing around like a rabbit. I was at the Cheltenham Festival and the V&A, then I went to Hamburg and did a bunch of stuff over there and people seem to like it. But yes, there’s a lot to tell. Obviously I just sort of made broad sweeps in the book so there are a lot more anecdotes like that to tell.
It reportedly took five years to write. Has it been cathartic?
I wouldn’t say that exactly, I guess I feel a certain amount of closure.
Has anyone complained?
About the closure? Not yet.
Musicals and biopics seem all the rage in Hollywood right now, will the book be turned into a film?You never know, anything can happen. That remains to be seen. I don’t know who would be suited to play me. I guess if they’re offered enough money they will do it.
It’s already almost three years since the last Blondie album, Pollinator. Are you working on new music?
Yes, more music. Hopefully starting in the New Year. I don’t know what shape it will take because we usually have some kind of covering material. This time we don’t really have a plan yet but I know Chris [Stein] has been working on ideas, melodies and track ideas. I’ve been scribbling little notes and ideas, too.
Pollinator’s theme was a rallying cry to save the bee population and our environment in general. Were you impressed by the recent Extinction Rebellion movement in the UK?
These are the things we have to do, everybody should be more active I think. I’m still passionate about the bees absolutely, and water and environmental concerns I think are paramount in today’s world. It’s a big disappointment that the lack of corporate responsibility is overwhelming – or lack of responsibility – is so overwhelming. I guess it’s really not apparent enough to a lot of people, but when you travel around the world a lot it becomes more obvious. It’s a sad state of affairs.
So would you glue yourself to a train for the cause?
Glue myself to a train? I don’t know… I guess I don’t have any objection to it.
And you still keep bees, right?
I am a beekeeper. I don’t know if I’m terrifically good at it but I keep trying. You know, it sounds ridiculous, I almost feel bad taking the honey out of the hive because they do use it to get through the winter. And over in the States where I live in the North East the winters are very severe, but yes I’m still at it.
Any other surprising hobbies?
I don’t collect things, but I started to save Tramp Art, I don’t know if you have that here. It’s these little carved boxes that hobos would make for the women for them to be able to get a bowl of soup or a sandwich. These were jobless people in the 1920s during the Great Depression, so they called it Tramp Art. I started saving that for a while. But really I’m trying to get rid of things.
You’ve been touring the US this summer and covered America’s new longest-running No.1 – Old Town Road by Lil Nas X.
Since we did Rapture years ago, we always put a hip-hop tag on the end of it. So this year we put that on.
Perhaps you would consider a grime tag when you play the UK again?
Oh yeah, but I don’t really know that stuff.
Which begs the question, will Blondie be touring the UK in 2020, perhaps stopping at Glastonbury Festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations?
Hopefully we will be, I would love to play Glastonbury. I would be down for that. I think what I do is so wonderful and so enjoyable – I’m very fortunate.