‘If you go down to the woods today...’ You’ll see not teddy bears enjoying a picnic, but thousands of Blondie fans setting up camp for the evening trying to keep their sandwiches
dry from the rain!
Driving down the winding narrow lanes, it was hard to believe we were on route to a Blondie show, but sure enough, we were making our way to see ‘our’ band play one of a series
of forest gigs in Britain this summer.
I use the term ‘summer’ loosely as only the British can, as the rain beat down on the car roof, but undeterred, the excitement grew at every turn!
Prior to the show, we had arranged to meet one of the latest members of the Blondie family, Matt Katz-Bohen, who had kindly agreed to give is an interview for TBR, so after
enjoying the sound check from the comfort of Michelle’s car, we made our way in to the site.
Interview with Matt Katz-Bohen
LP- Well, here we are. Deep in the forest!
MKB- Yeah, where exactly is this place?
MH- I think it’s in Norfolk. Who knows where we are!!
LP- It is, I looked it up before we set off. We did well to find it! It was absolutely tipping down with rain when we arrived on site, but we heard some great tunes as we waited in the
MKB- Oh, did you guys see the sound check?
MH- We didn’t see it but we heard it!
LP- We didn’t like to come over and interrupt, but we were listening. You’re sounding great!
MKB- Oh good!
LP- And just as you finished and we gathered ourselves to leave the sanctuary of the car, the sun burst through! Blondie brought us sunshine! Long may it continue for the show.
MKB- It turned out great for us yesterday, we were in Nottingham, Sherwood Forest.
LP- Ah, Robin Hood land!
MH- So, how have the forest gigs been so far?
MKB- Well, the one we did last night, Sherwood Forest, was great. It was sold out, it was wonderful actually, we saw a lot of familiar faces, people that come to every show. Some
even travel to America and Australia.
LP- Blondie are worth it!
MKB- I think all the forest shows are similar, in that they’re sold out. I guess Blondie haven’t been here for about 2 years now.
MH- That’s right, and people are really ready for it.
MKB- I hope so!
MH- Well, some people are always ready for Blondie!
LP- Once a week at least!
MKB- We played Moscow just a couple of days before that, and that was a lot of fun.
MH- It’s an amazing place isn’t it?
MKB- Did you ever go there?
MH- Yes, I was there in February. It was really cold, and I was there doing...I perhaps shouldn’t be telling you this...
LP- Aw, go on!
MH- Well, I perform with a Blondie tribute band, though I wasn’t there with the whole band.
MKB- What’s the name of your band?
MH- ‘Blondied’. Blondie with a ‘d’ on the end! As in ‘you’ve been Blondied’!
MKB- Was it you guys that did a cover of ‘What I Heard’?
MH- That one wasn’t us, but we did do a cover of ‘Rapture’ which made it onto an album of......old punks!......playing covers of Blondie songs. My husband used to be in a punk
band, and was involved with this, so he got my band to contribute a cover, and we chose ‘Rapture’.
MKB- Ah, I must be thinking of another band....
MH- Yes, there are a few of us around! I was in Moscow doing a showcase with some other singers. What did you think of the ‘Wacky Races’ arrangements on the roads out
there?! I found it terrifying!
MKB- What struck me was how long it took to get anywhere. Like it took ages to get from the airport to the hotel, and so on. It’s a very different place.
MH- How did the audiences receive you out there?
MKB- The audiences were incredible actually....
MH- I’ve seen some of the footage........
MKB- Did you see that photo I posted on Facebook [all attempt to connect!]
MH- Ah, I couldn’t get Internet earlier.....
[Matt is successful!]
LP- Look, Matt’s works!
[Matt shows us a photo taken from stage of crowds going wild for Blondie!]
MKB- It was pretty much like this the whole time really, everyone was super in to it, and the new songs- they were all screaming for those, it was really cool. And our opening act
was great too. Yana somebody.
LP- Is she a Russian performer?
MKB- She is. She reminds me of Regina Spektor, Nina Hagen, really.......you know!
MH- Very colourful!
LP- That’s what we like!
MKB- [Showing us another pic] Here’s our guy Andre with a Russian copy of ‘Please Kill Me’, I didn’t have any idea that someone would think of printing a Russian copy, but there
it was. Here’s the view from the hotel, that was very beautiful.
MH- What did you think of Red Square?
MKB- It was very cool to be there.
MH- I felt I was in some kind of fairytale world, it’s like it’s not real, more like something from Disney!
MKB- It was closed off when we went there ‘cos they had Russia day. We could still come up to the cathedral, but we didn’t get to do the whole thing.
MH- Aw, that’s a shame. You’ll just have to go back again!
LP- How did your whole association with Blondie begin?
MKB- That’s a good question. I started playing with Blondie in 2008 on the Parallel Lives tour when the guy that was playing keyboards left.
MKB- That’s right! Do you guys know Kevin?
MH- We do, we saw him several times as part of the line up.
MKB- He played for a few years, then he had to go and have a baby......
MH- I bet that hurt!!!
MKB- The most painful experience of his life! I then got called by my friend Guy, who is a good friend of Debbie’s, who I also sometimes perform with........
MH- Is that THE Miss Guy?
MKB- Miss Guy, yes.
MH- We’re Facebook friends!
MKB- It’s funny, he kind of dropped the ‘Miss’ a couple of years ago, now it’s just Guy. I mean, he still puts on make up.....
MH- He’s a very exotic creature, he’s beautiful.
MKB- He just said to me ‘Call Debbie, tell her you play keyboards!’
MH- What a gig!
MKB- I grew up close to CBGB’s and used to try to get in there as a kid in the 80’s, so too late for Blondie, but it was still when they were having hardcore punk bands. Blondie and
what they’re about have always been around. I had this book, it was one of the many books about CBGB’s that I used to read as a kid called ‘This ain’t no Disco’, did you hear
about that one?
LP- Oh yes!
MH- Oh I’ve heard of it, yes!
MKB- I don’t even know if it’s still in print anymore, but it’s from that that I first heard about all these bands being there.
MH- Is that what led you to becoming a musician yourself?
MKB- Partly maybe. And my dad introduced me to it, he had a huge record collection, he always knew a lot about it, then I started watching it on tv. It was actually a great time for
MH- I definitely think the 80’s were the best time for music.
MKB- There’s wasn’t the Internet and Youtube, so you weren’t over-saturated.....
LP- IT wasn’t instant.
MKB- It wasn’t instant, but then MTV was great.
MH- You had to source your own music, you could discover something new, then it was like, your music, you’d found it.
MKB- That’s right, like going into a really great record store and discovering something new.
LP- You can’t beat going into a 2nd hand record store and sifting through boxes and boxes of them and finding the one you want, something you’d been looking for for ages! One
of my regrets is not actually going to CBGB’s.
MH- Music wasn’t so manufactured then.
MKB- When you look at the album cover for ‘The Hunter’, and the band must all be about in their 20s then, and if it was done today, that picture would be totally airbrushed. In it,
they all look like they need some sleep, they have a few circles under their eyes....!
MH- They look real!
MKB- Yeah, they look real, that just wouldn’t happen today.
MH- Even with ‘regular’ people, everything’s Photoshopped, you meet someone and they’re like ‘I’ve seen you on Facebook!’, and you’re thinking well who are you!! No one looks
like their picture- you do, I have to say-but with some people, you think, is that the same person??!! Something’s been going on there! I mean, particularly in the pop world,
everything’s got to be perfect. So, what were your beginnings in music, Louise was telling me that you went to the Fame School!
MKB- That’s right, La Guardia, the school from the movie, ‘Fame’. I played music there, I actually got in on guitar, and they had a jazz programme, and I got in some classical
training there. It’s a great school, lots of hip hop and r and b people graduated from there. I always played in bands throughout high school, and even junior high school, and
Blondie was always an influence. I went on to play in bands with my wife, Laurel, who’s a singer and now we’re writing songs for Blondie.
MH- How cool is that! It’s funny how things come around. You’ve been with Blondie now.....
MKB- 5 years
MH- 5 years, so if someone had said to you 6 years ago that you’d be playing with Blondie, writing songs, doing all these shows, what would you have said?
MH- That they were crazy! I never even considered keyboard as my primary instrument, I was always a guitar player.
MH- You sound pretty good to me! That’s interesting, I mean, we and the other Blondie fans don’t know all that much about you, and Tommy as well, and it’s nice for us to get to
know where you came from, what your input is. Did you have much input into ‘Panic of Girls’?
MKB- I did, I wrote the song ‘What I Heard’, which has been on the radio a lot over here, on the BBC, and I also wrote ‘Love Doesn’t Frighten me’. That was actually written prior to
me joining Blondie, and then I showed it to them, they re-worked it a bit, put the Blondie spin on it, and Chris and Debbie have been super great, very encouraging.
LP- The image of the band and the direction of the music seems to have evolved a lot over the past few years, maybe purely coincidental, or maybe you had an influence on that!
The album cover artwork, for example, and even Debbie’s image to a point.
MKB- That was an interesting album cover. Chris Barrens, I think, is the artist.
LP- It’s beautiful, very unusual.
MKB- It is, very captivating. I think that’s one of the great things about Blondie, they’re always changing.
LP- And it always seems to work! Where’s your favourite place that you’ve played in so far?
MKB- I’ve loved everywhere I’ve played really. Everywhere we play here in England is incredible.
MH- You’ve got a lot of die-hard fans here, and it’s something that goes on from generation to generation. We’ve never forgotten Blondie!
MKB- Scotland’s also incredible, in fact pretty much anywhere in this part of the world’s great.
MH- I’m glad we make you feel welcome here! I wonder what Thetford will be like tonight, I hope we don’t let you down!
MKB- Back home, we love to play California, the East Coast, I think we’ll soon be going to South America, we already have one Mexico City show booked.
MH- That’ll be incredible! They know how to party! Do you like being on the road?
MKB- I do, I really like being on the road, although I do miss certain things, my wife, my daughter, and also the regularity of setting my own schedule.
MH- You’re not in control, it’s all decided for you.
LP- Time to get up, time to get on the bus........
MKB- Exactly, like last night, we got to our hotel about 2,30am, and couldn’t sleep ‘til about 5am.
MH- It’s not easy to just switch off.
MKB- Then we got up about 11am, and were just wandering ‘round ‘til it was time to drive to here. I’m used to being at home, where I do freelance production, and play with a
whole bunch of people and set my own schedule. But of course, the trade up is that I get to play these amazing shows!
LP- You’ve certainly played with an amazing array of artists, some of whom we’ll see on stage in just a few hours! As a musician, which bands/artists do you most admire?
MKB- [Thoughtful!] Hmm.....that’s such a hard question, there are so many.....
LP- Little bits of a lot of them, probably.
MH- What kind of genre do you favour?
MKB- Again, that’s really tough......growing up in NY, I would go to CBGB’s for the hardcore shows, which was always a fun time, but then in high school, I went through a classical
phase, where all I would listen to was classical music. And through my dad I got into the Beatles particularly Sgt. Pepper.
LP- Do you still get to go to a few gigs when you’re not working?
MKB- Oh yeah. I also liked a lot of rap stuff growing up, and ‘Guns ‘N’ Roses,’ ‘Jane’s Addiction’, all that kind of stuff.
MH- I thought there was quite a rocky edge to your persona!
MKB- I love all that stuff. Actually, my first influence was reggae.
MH- Was that found in your dad’s collection?
MKB- Yeah! And also, reggae is Chris’ favourite style of music as well.
MH- You can’t not be happy when you listen to a reggae song, especially on a sunny day......!
[All gaze out of tent!]
LP- Aw, it’ll come back later! Well, Blondie seem to be going from strength to strength, what do you think’s next?
MKB- Well, we have a bunch of new material recorded. I co-wrote a song called ‘A Rose by any Name’ which we’re going to play tonight, I think it’s a fun song, it was written for our
daughter actually, so if you see the lyrics you’ll get that it’s about her. This should come out hopefully in the next couple of months.
MKB- I think they’re trying to get it out there.
MH- We waited such a long time for ‘Panic’!
MKB- As we’re here now we thought we’d play some of the new material.
MH- People will hear it and love it, then go out and buy it!
MKB- It should generate some interest, yeah.
MH- Any titles yet for the new album, or is it top secret?
LP- Well why not go with ‘A Rose by any Name’, some bands name an album after a particular song, or even a lyric in a song.
MKB- Hmm, could happen......
LP- We’ll spread the word!
MH- It’s just good at it’s coming out.
LP- And with the good old Internet we don’t even have to wait for albums to physically come out now..
MH- Although it’s still a good feeling to have something that you can hold, and go through the sleeve notes...
LP- Oh, yes! That’s always exciting!
MKB- ‘Take me in the Night’ was another song I contributed, I hope you guys like the new album.
MH- We’ve been able to see snippets on the Internet from the footage from Moscow!
At this point, Clem arrives with Blondie regulars, Sarah Burke, and her friends, Andrea, and Bob Horrocks, followed closely by Debbie and Leigh. It’s lovely to see everyone after
such a long break! Realising that the time is getting on, we thank Matt for his time, and after a brief catch up with everyone, leave the band to have a bite to eat before preparing
for the show.
There was just one more thing we needed, and that was photographic evidence of our mission! Matt was really helpful, and took us up on to the stage for a ‘Blondies eye-view’ of
the forest, and audience area below. Whilst we were there, the main gates were opened to allow people to enter the site, and a large group of die-hard fans all ran towards the
front barrier to secure themselves the best view for later!
What next for Louise and Michelle? Well in true rock and roll style, we headed for the catering tent for a much needed cup of tea!!!
The show, as always, was amazing, with a great mix of material old and new, which worked really well. As well as tracks from ‘Panic’, we were treated to a first listen to some brand
new material [as mentioned by Matt earlier!], plus two great covers of some very different songs- Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights’, and ‘Relax’ by Frankie goes to Hollywood......!
· One Way...
· Union City Blue
· A Rose by any Name
· Tide is High
· What I Heard
· Wipe off my Sweat
· Heart of Glass
· Take me in the Night
· Call Me
NEW! BLONDIE: Interview and Concert Review
|June 15, 2013
Interview by Louise Pinches and Michelle Hendriks
Photo/Graphics Associate: Carla Hendriks
at Thetford Forest