SXSW: Pretenders Interview

The Blurb: Pirate Radio,” a unique box set from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Pretenders, is out on March 14. Three days later, the band speaks in a very special SXSW Interview. Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers, Adam Seymour, and Nick Wilkinson discuss the retrospective, and look forward to their 2006 tour and future projects.

That was the blurb..in reality only Chrissie is on stage. This was not the easiest of interviews, unlike the Beastie boys who set out to entertain as a way of not answering, Chrissue was very clear when she did not want to talk about something.

Again, Q: Interviewer and A: Chrissie Hynde. As much as posible is verbatim..with paraphrsing in areas where the talk was too fast.

Q: Have you listened to the whole lot on Pirate radio?
A: no…not all together
Q: do you listen to songs and think that this could be a pretenders?
A: there’s rules..it’s rock. the rule is it needs to not suck

Q: did you ever think this is demanding too much?
A: I do have a normal life…on stage it’s different..it’s a fantasy of other people that it is different. I was the same person when i was waiting on tables..I don’t know how to answer that…it’s not that special

Q: when you were a reporter, did you think you could do it better
A: no not really. i was interviewing….all these people..who were great

(From audience)
Q: where do you get your haircut
A: a guy called kevin in a shop called Reubens in London
Q (aud) are you going to write your own memoirs
A: I have made some attempts…some little stories and things..I’m really not a writer..I can just about eek something out..feel writing not really up to it
Q: were you studying art
A: supposed to be
Q: you went to london and made a living as a writer and then music..is there a transferable gene/talent
A: it seems some people can…

Q: to do what you do you need 2 different heads..you need to go off by yourself to create and then join the circus and perform
A: it’s pretty fun and not like a hardship…the thing not comfortable with is that it’s a big deal made of it…it’s a gig..got into a band so would not have to have a career..did not think it was going to be a celebrity..when I got a band it was not like people in bands were a celebrity..the rock and roll hall of fame…uncomfortable with it…it’s a big industry thing…I was told it was an honour..everyone thinks that they know how you should feel
Q: the Neil Young thing..he inducted you and you performed with him
A: that was the fun part..although I cut him off in a solo, don’t think he liked that..I just wanted to get out of there but he could go all night

Q: Why did Neil Young do the induction?
A: i had toured with him..but did not know how it happened

Q: you were at Penn Kent state..in the demo when the shooting were done
A: I knew Miller..he was in my crowd..he would have been pleased that Neil had written that song..
Q: Was that a life changing moment for you, or just an historical moment that you intersected?
A: life changing? dunno
Q: it did not drive you to go to england?
A: no..i just wanted to see the world..I was not doing too well at axhool..i looked at NationL Guard..all young..all our age,..guarding a shell that we had burnt down…they should not have been there..the atmostphere on campus was anti war..and they had guns..and they shot into the crowd and they looked like us..just thought did not want to be involved in this on either side

Q: as an american living in England over the years… do you have to defend the US?
A: what’s their to defend?
Q: don’t people lecture you on the evils of the US?
A: no, that does not happen..I’m probably in their first..it’s not the evils of an administration..it’s the evils of individuals…who condone intollerance, bigotry…who lack compassion or understanding…no ones gets into an administration and thinks we are going to be really corruyp and fuck them up..unless organised crime..and then they are being honest…it’s too easy to rail into the government…it’s inevitable as a consequence of previous actions….so when I come back to the US and see cities razed by malls and cars…I’m crying over this…but realise they were not built to last…the gay community has really saved america with the pink dollar..moving into areas…after being away for 30 years can see this happening…the heart of cities were being left…but then being rennovated…thank you my gay brothers and sisters for saving my neighbourhood and now it is being restored and families are moving back in….in the US there now appears to be a real trend against suburbia and they are trying to get people to move back into downtown..people my age were too busy having their householder years..but no people are coming back..the youth culture is not really a culture anymore…hypnotised by the technological malaise that is going on..only the old guard who reads books etc are trying to do something after we fucked up

Q: let’s go back to rock…you moved to london..and hanging out…the buddies you hang out with turn into the clash..and people in the store turn into the Sex Pistols..was there not a moment when you thought what about me..I’m good at this
A: not quite like that..I was just trying to get my band together…I did not quite fit in so much..it worked out in the end ok..
Q: incredible that you were all hanging out in the same social group..Joe Strummer said…’was looking at it as a very male centred group..and here was Chrissie doing these songs…’
A: some of my songs/lines are on the first Clash album…but we were going in different directions..I was way too musical for the punk scene..after 6 months when they all started to learn to play…it was not punk anymore…that scene was …well…

Q: you were in a band in Paris?
A: yes..and a few others…a few false starts..but important

Q: then you meet 3 guys from the sticks.
A: hereford. known for cattle..and the SAS.
Q: these 3 guys come into town
A: not quite like that..Lemmy told me about a drummer..and I went and found him.,and he introduced me…I’ve talked about this.
Q: but not to this team
A: go on the internet…something I’ve never done (gone on the internet)

Q: the sound you made was not like any sound..
A: I lucked out..good things take a long time (bad things happen fast)
Q: Jimmy did not like punk…
A: only when we played together did I know he was the one..did not take a lot for him either as he listened to the songs

Q: when you did Brass in Pocket did you think it was going to move your life forward
A: I never thought..I only thought about not working tables,..got my band…making songs…but it was never meant to get bigger and bigger…never like it I was going to be the best band in the world..now it’s a sport…but in my days sports and music did not co-exist
Q: but you were taking off..on covers etc
A: but you can’t take this thing personally…but you have to pull back…if I walked down the street I would love it if only 2 guys just say ‘hey nice one’ and recognise me..don’t want everyone on street to know who I am…why would I want to leave my house with a bodyguard..you don’t have to take an intelligence test to be a celebrity..why put yourself in jail..why want that…so you have to pull back
Q: you had an advantage of being able to observe from the the side..as a journalist
A: yes…but it ws not that, you have to go by your instincts…you can’t control things.,..you can’t control press and if you think you can you will get a big surprise…you can try not to court the press etc..you want your life with people you love..so why talk about private life in public and destroy it…there’s a lot of things that should be kept in the dark..you should keep the lid on stuff..and that’s not being smart that’s my survival instinct
Q: you have a better survival instinct than most
A: well fuck them..this is just me
Q: bands thinks that if they get famouns than everyone likes you..but it is the same percentage as the rest of the life..you can’t turn fame off though.
A: lucky enough to have worked all my life..did not have welfare…handouts from government were really looked down on…I worked at jobs..not what I wanted to do..but what I really did not want to have was a career..avoided being trapped…when I got into a band I thought that this was cool..and was not going to throw it away…too many young people go onto a tour..and miss it later…had advantage of having to work first before I got the band

Q: do you find yourself getting more american here?
A: yes..and when come to places like this..yesterday I was speaking like madonna and today I’m american again..never lost accent, I can sing the star spangeld banner..on last tour I went round bars and offered 100 dollars to people to sing the song and nobody did it!

Q: 2 of the 4 pretenders died in a very short time..chemical accidents and personalities etc..was it related to you being famous?
A: it was not unrelated to the fact they were doing drugs…
Q: but was that easier because you were famous?
A: it can be calling card..drugs to get backstage
Q: the death of 2 friends..the personal drama and trauma of it…there must have been a point when you thought about solo..or get out of biz
A: it’ll never happen..thought about getting out of biz..as a rocker it is my duty to goof off a lot..solo?..I prey to god that will never happen..I like bands..not that interesting on my own..my role on the stage is to make my guitar player look good..it’s a relationship..it’s a marriage, I like that..it works..only time i joined a club or be part of team..it’s sacred..the 4 piece rock band is sacred to me

Q: there was that period of the black pretenders..
A: music lovers don’t hear music based on colour..you here music and know when it is right for you… when I had TM and Bernie..it did not sound like an english pop group..and I did not know it was going that way. If I ever make an album again ..I hope it is a real band album…if you keep doing same thing all the time you feel a little frustration..you try stuff in studio,..too many overdubs…if I listen to box set (the fish I’m here to sell) I listen and ask what the hell I was thinking..I was all over the place…but for my money I prefer the rock stuff that sounds like a band

Q: Adam joined the band..permanament guitar..and Martin coming back,,and you went back on the road..the sound has changed again
A: my kids were little etc..you can’t always be on the road
Q: 8 years..
A: a lot of people do it..especially when kids…and more men should do it. it’s not a long time…
Q: I was curious…
A: When I was touring with Neil Young and I say all that tie-die and white pony tails..wow..the flashbacks keep coming
Q: During the time at home, raising kids..did you see the tour as something you used to do?
A: I made records during this time…I don’t want this to be a career..this box set would have comeout with or without me..and if they were going to do it. I’d rather it was with me..and it’s not accurate..I’ve tried to make it rock..i pulled it back..removed the dregs..grateful to rhino for initiating it..can take a look and think..the poster is great…S K Wilson (esclay?)

Q: you said if I did another album..is that true, you may not?
A: not planning on it..I dunno…I might do…this icon and legend stuff…you know it’s bullshit
Q: people who say that are usually icons and legends. Do you not have some tunes going?
A: I never pick up a guitar if not making albums..not really, no..I have things to do..if I have a boyfriend etc
Q: is there the thought that you have to go back and make an album
A: i don’t need the money..would do if want to make an album
Q: so what are martin and adam doing?
A: I dunno..what’s it to me..I’m not responsible for other people…they can do what they like
Q: you fired martin from the band for a long time..that must have ruffled feathers
A: it’s not a nice thing to tell someone..i don’t think he was ever angry with me…he was not playing very well,,and when then when I went to see (did not catch)..I thought that was good..and I was missing him..he can do things that other people can’t (like wind me up like fuck for a start) but he was not playing well and my allegiance was to the music not personal…he had gone out and got his stuff together..he was too much Martin from the pretenders..I don’t have to tell you! If I want to sack someone I will…I had my reasons..I was careful with what I did…even Bernie and TM they didn’t care..they had better things to do anyway

Q: From Him to Her..i thought that could have been a single
A: Maggie. (from High school) .i heard some of her songs from her friend..there was a couple of songs I wanted to do…she was not bothered if I did them or not..was not trying to tout her thing…but I did From Him to Her
Q: do other high school friends send you songs?
A: no..I still go back..I rent a place

Q: “I’m a mother” is not on the box set…some of them really dealt with being a women and a mother..’Money talks’ the lyrics there..
A: “you can buy a squidgey silicon pack but it won’t feed the world like the ones I pack”
Q: it’s not material that has been used in rock
A: but breast feeding and rock..they don’t really mix…
Q: what was different to being on the road
A: it was better..and I realised I missed it..if I’m not doing something I don’t think about it, only when back..
Q: when to get off?
A: you know..when starting to hate audience, hate band, hate yourself
Q: yehh..that would be a clue.

Q: Those foolish people who do think of you as an icon/legend…is the iconic story about you marring Sid Vicious so you would not have to be deported true?
A: John was going to do it…we met in a pub and discussed it but he was like ‘what’…the Sid said he would do it if he got something out of if…well I said 2 quid..and he said OK…I got his birth certificate (he was under-age)..and he stayed in my room the night before so I could keep an eye on him…and he had this girl with him…and I had to ask him to knowck it off…but in the end the registry office was closed due to some weird holoiday and then he could not make it the following day as he had to go to court for putting someones eye out with glass.

Q: Ray Davies? You got to the registry office and it never happened?
A: I guess the registrar thought it was not a good idea…I don’t want to talk about it…I know your thinking about how I was special etc and had all these rockstars..but someone had to fuck me! That’s why I was called box set 😉

Q: another legend..the Joni Mitchell club gig when you strangled…
A: no i didn’t it
A: I would never do it…unless I was really drunk (see this from Carly Simon
A: however when I kicked the windows out of a police car they droped the drunk/disorder… so everyone thought I was sober…but I don’t remember…sorry if I did but I don’t think I tried to stangle Carly Simon

Q: a good story..how you got your first kiss
A: I went to see Jackie wilson with my best friend Gloria Maise(sp?)…me and Gloria were the only 2 white girls…sat right a the front…Jackie was in a real state..lying down on the stage..then someone from his crew came out and picked a girl out..and took her to front and he kissed her…and all the girsls went crazy..and I can still remember this red/white polyester thing i was wearing…and I had a horrible premonition…and then Jackie wilson bought me up on stage and kisses me..in front of the whole audience and it went completely fucking quiet..and I was freaking out..and everyone fucking hated me…(see also here

Q: it is an amazing ride…rock and roll has been pushed to one side now
A: not the centre of the universe anymore
Q: so what do you tell them (young bands)
A: what’s it to me…
Q: but you’re invested in the forum aren’t you?
A: I’m invested in my forum..it’s not for me to advise someone..I’d say be yourself
Q: often people are doing a version of something
A: it’s inevitable..there’s a whole library to copy…it was a young mans thing back in the 60s…there had been rockabilly and then rock…there’s been another 35-40 years…there’s always the original voice…in my opinion if I gave you all a guitar and show you louis louis…then half of you would sound better than Eric Clapton in 2 weeks ‘cos he’s too good to play it. even Jeff Beck said how he could not play rhythm guitar all through a song…he could not contain himself..he’s too good…anyone who puts the little 4 piece together..it’s always new to them.

Q: one thing you’ve always been old fashioned about is that you’ve always wanted hits and to be on the radio..
A: I’ve wanted my songs in 20 and 30s..not no.1..as too much fuss..want people to come up to me and say that last song..should have done better..

Q: I saw you in Atlantic city 2 tours ago..the crowd was a lot of Pretenders fans..then behind them were the people who were staying in the hotel…those people looked befuddled and out of place..and the guys at the front were all jumping up and down..and you asked the guys at the front to sit down as the guys at the back could not see…
A: i was probably been canterkerorus
Q: so you were not being nice to the people at the back..you were been bad to people at the front!

AudienceQ: why taken 6.5 years to come back to Austin?
A: we were hear before?
AudQ: do you get better response here or in Japan
A: better here..
AudQ: I saw the band in japan…I badgered them in osaka 2 years ago
A: we were in osaka..2 years ago? no..we were?
AudQ: what advice in froning all-male bands..I like to direct..do you have advice in how to be seen not to be a total bitch?
A: don’t be a total bitch! I know what sounds good…my forte is to be band leader…if I ask people not to do things..I’m totally blagging it..but they know I can find the better performances..

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2 thoughts on “SXSW: Pretenders Interview

  1. You wrote down that Chrissie was at “Penn” State.
    She was at KENT state–in NE Ohio where the killings were
    on May 4, 1970.

    Just FYI.
    Thanks for dictating this:)