Monday 26 June 2017

Blondie on Blondie: at last, it's the return of Debbie

You can't say that Blondie haven't changed with the times. Their first new album in eight years, Panic Of Girls, is available as a download on July 4 but is already available physically in a one-off 'fan pack' format with a 132-page magazine with mounted badges, postcard and a poster ... it's an innovative approach to marketing that would impress even Radiohead.

"As you know, the industry has changed so much that it's taken us a little bit of time to figure out how to do it," says Debbie, speaking to the Irish Independent ahead of the band's shows in Dublin's Olympia and Galway's Big Top next month.

"The old ways have evaporated. They don't really exist that much any more. The record stores in the States are all closing. Do you still have record stores in Ireland? You have Tower Records in Dublin? I think it should be supported."

Given that Blondie's last album The Curse Of Blondie came out in 2003, what took the new record so long?

"We really wanted to put some new music out sooner than this," says Debbie. "We've actually had this one in the can for at least a year and a half, and we tried to figure out different ways to get it released. But we really have a lot of new material -- I think we recorded about 20 tracks for this new collection. Chris (Stein) and I are still writing -- it's very satisfying. I think we're gonna put out a second collection much sooner than the last record."

Blondie have always chosen a mix-'n'-match approach to their music, combining a touch of Jamaican reggae here, some NYC disco there, some garage rock on the side ... Does Debbie hear Blondie's à la carte attitude to blending different styles in any modern bands?

"As far as integrating different musical influences, yes I do hear that in today's music," she says. "I don't know if I'd attribute that specifically to Blondie. We were sort of obvious about it. If music incorporates our life experiences and our life experiences are more worldly, then I think it's inevitable that music becomes more worldly.

"'Heart Of Glass' was definitely an intentional crossover, and for 'Rapture' Chris had a vision. Some of the things that intrigued him were things he grooved on, like reggae. Chris came over to the UK and there was a huge reggae festival on in 1971 or 1973, and he came back to New York and he was very excited about it."

I ask Debbie if she saw the recent feature-length documentary on the band, which was screened by BBC4. It was a gritty, warts-and-all account of Blondie's meteoric rise and messy fall. Some of the scenes were almost farcical -- such as when two ex-band members who were suing Debbie and Chris in the courts turned up when the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York.

"No, I can't watch those things, you know," says Debbie firmly. "I feel like if I had watched it, I probably would have wanted to edit the shit out of it. I couldn't really make a comment about what's in it. Some people said they liked it -- I dunno. You're pretty much at the mercy of whoever's editing it on their end and whoever's asking the questions; you know, their vision of what the group is. It's never objective -- it's always subjective."

I ask her about the guys who are no longer in the group.

"I think we've all moved on, haven't we?" she says. "I think that's what happens to bands. It's very common. People move on in their lives; their priorities change. It's completely normal. Who keeps the same job for their entire life? Do you know anybody?"

Panic Of Girls is released on July 4. Blondie play Dublin's Olympia on July 19 and Galway's Big Top on July 20.

nkelly@independent.ie

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