Pretenders

Tag: Rock
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Let's see if I can find the words to describe Chrissie Hynde (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar) of The Pretenders: Shy, quiet, assuming, needy. Hell, none of those work so let me say this, she is amazingly straightforward, blunt and honest. Maybe if you are reading this aloud please hand out earmuffs to the prudes in attendance. I'm not going to lie, there were times during our conversation that I felt a little fearful, but she quickly pulled me back in. All said and done, I ended up with exactly what I had hoped for and beyond. Buckle up!

So much to talk about so I started by congratulating her on The Pretenders induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She replies, with no bones about it, “It's bullshit! We get into rock bands to get away from the establishment. You want to live outside the law. What brought about the Hall of Fame were people that wanted to be in the Hall of Fame and make a name for themselves I guess. I don't get the whole awards thing for music. I understand it for sports like the guy that hit the most home runs. I think that everyone agrees that there are certain artists that should be remembered or maybe never got their due, but the real point of making music is the making of it and someone to listen to it. The joy of making the music is the real turn on for the musician not the award. What does it mean? I think what it really brings up is who all isn't in the hall of fame.”

With today's musical world being completely different than when she started the band back in 1978 we talk about what she thinks is a current positive. “I think we are witnessing a change in the size of venue that musicians are playing.” She continues, “We are seeing more shows at smaller venues. Stadium rock is kind of a dinosaur that is dying and if it isn't killed off it should be. I think music has to get back to the more intimate setting to help the live show survive.”

At this point, I let her know how she is every bit as real as I could hope for. Chrissie responded while laughing, “Thanks, but maybe I'm to real. That's my problem, I wish I was less real.”

With a signature sound and identity, I felt safe in assuming in the beginning there had to be belief and confidence that she was on to something special. Hynde tells me in a fun tone, “Not at all, even though I have ESP. I'm kind of crazily intuitive almost psychic. I realize that now.” She goes on, “Now personally when I decided I to be a musician in the beginning I wanted to play guitar but I was to shy to hangout with the guys in the art room. I had a couple girlfriends that played but we never jammed. I wasn't good enough at that point on guitar to play along to records. I realized, that by knowing a few basic cords, I could write my own songs and I would know how to play those. That's how I started doing it. The bands I saw back then made me want to be a guitar player but I ended up getting sidetracked into singing. I have become the jack of all trades and the master of none. I thought, with singing though you really didn't need to do anything but just open your mouth and it would be the laziest way to get into music. Honestly, I never thought I’d pull this off. I was just thrashing around trying to get by. I wasn't that ambitious. I think it was the process of eliminating the things I didn't want to do. I just kept avoiding those and eventually it led me to what I wanted to do.”

With her career that has seen this kind of longevity surely it has evolved the way you view things, like how you measure success. “Success to me means you truly enjoy what you do. I'm in a rock band, we play shows and make records. It can get real fucked up and you get stressed out, but nobody goes out to see a rock band because they anticipate a bad night. You want to have fun so the nature of what we do is to go there so other people have fun and it’s kind of a win-win. You should feel good about that scenario. You keep it like that as much as possible.”

I would probably enjoy it if people recognized me when I went out in public. Chrissie tells me, “I enjoy being recognized as an artist, but not necessarily as a person. I live a very ordinary life. You would be disappointed if you knew how ordinary my life is. When I lived back in Akron, Ohio growing up I didn't know what public transportation was. When I moved to London, I found I could do all kinds of stuff on my own, I was in heaven. I wouldn't want to put myself in a position where I couldn't do the things I want to do like sitting on the doorstep eating a slice of pizza and not being bothered. If one in ten thousand people come up to me say they like my record than it just validates that I hadn't been wasting my time and that's ok. I don't need anymore than that. I don't want to be a household name. I'm not looking to be remembered, forget me. That's not important to me. I just need to live my life then get out of here. If I can get away with it and not hurt anyone I could be happy with that.”

In this era of “Disposable Music,” it seems artists need to be constantly in the public’s face, while releasing new material at a rapid pace. That brought the topic of the eight-year gap between The Pretender albums. She says, “There was another record a few years ago but I was advised to call it Chrissy Hynde. The advisors thought people were bored with The Pretenders name. The Pretenders is a working title for a band that I happen to be the leader of. The band has had line up changes and I have gone in the studio with different people but the spirit of the band is always the same. The touring remains the same. I’m not a solo artist, I can only work within a band situation. I'm not with session musicians so this is as close to an ongoing band as you can get and we actually like each other and have a blast.”

Now that we have touched on recording it evolved into writing and the pressure to follow up a previous effort. “I don't feel any pressure,” Hynde says. “I'm not trying to compete with myself and I'm not trying to get a hit. All I want to do is make a song to maybe get on the radio because I like radio. If it doesn’t then tough luck but if it does, then great. I don't worry about shit, that's one of my disciplines. If they like it great if they don't that's fine too.”

As our conversation is concluding she says to me, “I liked your abstract questions. You haven't asked me one question that I have had to answer repeatedly over my career and like it. This interview stuff can be very traumatic and I'm trying to be nice. I'm trying to answer the questions, but I was trying not to be a real cunt, you know. Now how is that for a closing statement.”

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