Chris Stein of Blondie On His New Photo Book and ‘The Biggest Problem in the World’
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Chris Stein of Blondie On His New Photo Book and ‘The Biggest Problem in the World’

Still too punk rock to hang it up, Chris Stein of Blondie fame has a new book out, Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene, and will speak with Blondie frontwoman (and legendary badass) Debbie Harry tomorrow at SVA.

We checked in with Stein by phone, who’s always a treat—opinionated on everything, and smart enough to still be learning. Imagine him as if your favorite uncle—the one who used to ride a motorcycle, and your mom didn’t want you getting too close him— stayed cool and kept up with culture instead of turning into a Trump supporter and enraging you at Thanksgiving.

If you can’t make it out to SVA, check out the bands that Stein is listening to and livestream the convo.

And if you can, ask him about the first season of True Detective—he’s seen it 5 times—or at least ask something deep.

BB_Q(1) How did you know all these pictures would become important?

BB_A(1) No, I didn’t really— it was just to make images then, it was all in the moment. People always ask the same question, about the music, too, but nobody was thinking about the future.

I liked old pictures when I was a kid, I used to see older stuff, like older French photographers and everything. I don’t know how much I thought about it in context of being any kind of historical document.

I wish I’d taken more stuff of the city, actually. I never took pictures of the South Bronx when it was all blown up or that kind of stuff.

BB_Q(1) Yeah, you shot a lot of people who turned out to be famous, but what’s maybe more interesting is the scene, this New York that you captured that’s gone now.

BB_A(1) The physical things are similar — it’s not totally different, but the cultural and financial aspects are so different now.

BB_Q(1) What do you think about that? What’s in New York now culturally for kids coming up today, punks coming up today, your kids—

BB_A(1) There’s a lot of cool bands, y’know. People are doing stuff, but I think it’s much harder to just only make money as a band, everybody has to have side jobs and stuff. I still see people doing that, but they tour a lot. But there are young bands that are functioning, there’s cool stuff, and there’s punk bands that are functioning that I like. But the kids, I don’t know— my daughter’s just into making video and editing, she just does Final Cut. She’s like 15 but that’s what she likes doing. She shoots stuff on her phone in 4k and edits it.

BB_Q(1) I wasn’t gonna ask, but you said there were some bands you like.

BB_A(1) I like Surfbort— you know Surfbort?— they’re kind of great. They’re not like super high up the ladder yet, but they’re really great. Our friend Grace McKagan, who’s Duff McKagan’s daughter, has a band called The Pink Slips. They’re really great. And Sunflower Bean is pretty well known. Amyl and the Sniffers, from Australia, pretty great. Black Lips. There’s lots of cool bands. Actually, all that I mentioned are fronted by women. That’s funny.

BB_Q(1) You said most musicians have to have other gigs to make money – how about publishing photography books, is that a viable option?

BB_A(1) I don’t know how much money I make from the books– I probably do better selling prints with artists in hotels and stuff– but it’s not like a tremendous amount of money. It pays for itself which is nice. The scanning is expensive.

BB_Q(1) When we talked like four years ago, we were complaining about hipster culture, and now that seems kind of quaint. With New York going to the ultra rich—

BB_A(1) It’s funny. Yeah. I suppose now it’s all Russian oligarchs, whatever the fuck, I don’t know what it is. God, right across the street from where I live there were these two old deserted warehouse buildings for forever since we moved here, goes back probably a hundred years old, and they just recently, in the last, maybe four years, gutted them and completely renovated them, two different operations. And I think they’re both just sitting there empty at this point. I heard one was renting for like $25,000 a month or something like that. But for all I know they’re just owned by some rich out-of-towers who just never go there.

BB_Q(1) It just seems like a loss, the city hollowing out.

BB_A(1) Yeah, the Amazon crap, and the small businesses that are lost, for sure. There used to be all these great bookshops, which are gone.

BB_Q(1) You told me that the L train shutdown/un-shutdown didn’t really affect you. But a friend of mine was talking about how the confusion was so typical and indicative of bigger political issues; nobody in charge, nobody responsible.

BB_A(1) Priorities are skewed; what’s important. Certainly, the whole fucking climate.

I really feel like we should be at the end of capitalism and consumerism. I can sort of see that with the younger people, that there’s less of a focus on materialism. So it’s certainly for the best. People always ask me, what’s the biggest problem in the world? I say capitalism.

BB_Q(1) Are you optimistic?

BB_A(1) I think it’s kind of in the last gasps. I think it’s just not a successful system. It has to go under eventually, but I don’t know if it’s gonna— but at the same time, everything is so fucked, the environment is so fucked, I don’t know which is gonna come first.

BB_Q(1) Yeah, we’re moving deck chairs around on the Titanic. Anything that you want people to ask you at SVA that they never ask?

BB_A(1) Anything, just— stuff that’s a little deeper, always. I mean, I could do a fucking hour just talking about the new season of True Detective.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Bradley Spinelli is the author of the novels “The Painted GunandKilling Williamsburg,” and the writer/director of “#AnnieHall.”

 

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Written by Punchland Staff

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