Groundbreaking New York band Blondie has been pushing genre boundaries for nearly 40 years. Led by iconic frontwoman Debbie Harry, Blondie was a pioneering force in the new wave and punk scenes of the late '70s and early '80s, quick to experiment with sounds from reggae and rap. The band has been awarded for its adventurousness with international acclaim, four chart-topping Billboard Hot 100 singles, more than 40 million albums sold (according to Nielsen SoundScan) and a 2006 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After some delay, the band released its ninth studio album, "Panic of Girls," in the U.K. this past spring. The release arrives in stateside Sept. 13, both physically and digitally exclusively through Amazon, on Noble ID, the band's own imprint. Harry, now 66 and going by Deborah, spoke to Billboard about the new album, the industry and staying ahead of the curve.
"Panic of Girls" is Blondie's ninth studio album. What's special about this record?
It's special because we did it. We finally got it out! [laughs] We're very proud of it. It's a very typical Blondie album, a very strong representation of our collection. I guess the only thing that's not strongly represented is rap in this one.
In a recent interview with New York magazine, you said you were disappointed that you never became a megastar like Beyoncé. But, you're the frontwoman of Blondie. Do you have any other regrets?
I hope people don't misunderstand that. I'm very happy with... what we've done. I always felt I was more comfortable being a cult [figure], but the temptation to be such a great entertainer and performer like Beyoncé [is] so fantastic. I would adore doing some of that stuff. Her track record with songs is phenomenal; I wish we had as many hits. We've always walked a sort of delicate line, between pop fodder and having an underground identity. But we're definitely a rock band more than anything else.
What do you see the legacy of new wave being in today's music scene?
We came around at a time when audiences didn't participate enough. Because of the nature of our material, being so much more in your face, our audiences were more responsive, and I think that's really carried on into today's music. Audiences really enjoy themselves and share the experience; they're not just watching. That's one of the true long-lasting values that punk and new wave bands really brought back to audiences.
Lady Gaga interviewed you recently for Harper's Bazaar, and you've toured with young acts like the Donnas. Do you get a lot of questions about how much things have changed for women in pop and rock today?
Not so much anymore. There was a time when it was really noticeable, and all of a sudden, people sat up and said, "Oh, my God, look at all these women and girls in bands performing and making great music." There was a big revelation, a point when it became really apparent. It's sort of taken for granted nowadays.
How has the experience been working independently?
It's been a challenge. Certainly, the industry has gone through major changes that everyone has discussed ad nauseam. It's a new world for us, especially because we've done it a certain way for so many years. But technology is great. We've always embraced new technology; that's one of the things that made us stand apart, when we brought in synthesizers and synthesized sound in our music early on. It's not hard to use [technology] to our advantage.
You've been writing and performing for almost 40 years. What's been your secret to longevity as an artist?
I don't know if I have any, other than I like new things. I don't like walking down memory lane that much; it's not something I can do automatically. There have been studies that say the more you're acting like who you are, the more forward-thinking you are, thinking and learning, and being creative, the better off you are. And fortunately, I'm in that good position.