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Chris Stein of new wave legends Blondie talks Barack Obama, comeback records and the art-pop genius of Lady Gaga.
Stuart Clark, 10 Aug 2011
You’d have thought that after 36 years, Chris Stein might have lost his grá for this recording and touring malarkey but, nope, he still considers being in a band to be the Rolls Royce of professions.
“I can honestly say I’m as excited about our new record, Panic Of Girls, as I was about Plastic Letters and Parallel Lines when they came out in the ‘70s,” says the Blondie guitarist over a glass of fizzy water in a London hotel. “I’ve seen a lot of bands run out of steam, but put us in the same room and magic still happens.”
Stein is looking fit and relaxed despite a hamster-in-the-wheel promo schedule, which last night found him and Debbie Harry out at BBC Television Centre chinwagging with Jools Holland.
“It was great,” he enthuses. “You had Donovan doing ‘Sunshine Superman’ with the original sitar player Shawn Phillips who’s always been a big influence on me. And the Irish kid who was on…”
James Vincent McMorrow?
“… yeah, the guy with the beard. I liked his second song a lot – very Leonard Cohen. The other band who were on whose records I’ll pick up today were Friendly Fires. I don’t seek things out as actively as I did when I was kid, but I still love discovering new artists.”
Would Chris have known Jools back during the punk wars?
“Yeah, Squeeze opened up for Blondie on one of our very first UK gigs in 1977. I have to say the years have been kinder to Jools than me, which I don’t necessarily think is a result of clean living! The success he’s enjoyed as both a broadcaster and a musician is fantastic.”
Before I can throw another question at him, Chris asks me: “You’re in Dublin, right?”
Yup, sitting approximately a hundred metres away from College Green where a couple of days ago Barack Obama did his Rock Star President thing.
“Yeah, it was a bit of a ‘Greatest Hits’ set, wasn’t it?” the 61 year-old chuckles. “No matter how many times he says it, that ‘Yes we can!’ mantra brings a lump to my throat. He’s the smartest President I’ve known, except for maybe JFK. It’s a shame there’s so much resistance to him in the States, but the fucking racial thing is just crazy. I hope and pray he gets a second term ‘cos that’s when I think he’ll be able to bring about the serious change.”