Is it important to class creativity? Model, designer, musician, muse, performer, icon – does it need to be labeled to empower? Embracing the multifaceted nature of creativity, Pam Hogg, who hails from Glasgow, but lives in London – started life as a painter, but is known as a fashion designer (her slinky catsuits have ennobled the bodies of Siouxsie Sioux and Lady Gaga), musician and DJ. Debbie Harry, who’s career as the genre-defying iconic front woman of Blondie has spanned five decades, still finds excitement in embracing the moment: working with new artists such as Dev Hynes and Charli xcx on the band’s new album. Meeting initially, in the mid 80s, the pair became firm friends, forming a punk rock partnership that endures to this day. They sat down in London together for The Fifth Sense to discuss creativity, cocktails and everything in between.
Pam: I remember exactly the first time we met. How do you remember it?
Debbie: Was it in your shop?
P: Well. The first time we met it was insane. It was the mid-80s, I was working on my collection which was for the next day, which I still do – everything in chaos and last minute.
D: Everyone does that! Do you know that!!
P: Yeah but they all have loads of people working for them, I've no team, its still just me now. Anyway, so I had a call from a friend who said they were doing a party next to my studio, but I'd said I couldn’t go because I was working on finishing everything. Come midnight I fancied a lil’ break so decided to pop in for fifteen minutes. As soon as I arrived I realised I was in a weird zone and couldn't converse so I found the hostess – Alannah Currie from Thompson Twins – and explained I had to go.
D: Oh! Alannah! Where was this?
P: King’s Cross, my studio was on Caledonia Road. So Alannah said, no don’t go Debbie and Chris are coming, and that second you walked in the door. It was the first time I’d ever felt star struck. You reduced me to a five year old going, “I love you, I love you.” And you’re looking at me going, “Who IS this!”
D: [laughing] I think I remember this!
P: I thought you hated me! I was holding your hand telling you I loved you and it seemed you were looking at me like, when is she ever going to stop, then Chris took my hand and dragged me to the dance floor and we had this marvellous moment. And then I left, with my tail between my legs!
D: I was probably overcome with shyness and embarrassment but not because of you!
P: Aww, I was in such shock I wouldn’t ever have considered that and I didn’t even invite you to my show. Then three days later I was at another party…
D: Another party! You animal!
P: [laughing] I was sprawled out on a sofa in this outfit from my collection, it was a black wet look and mesh catsuit, I had a cocktail in my hand and in you walk! I prayed to god you didn’t remember me.
D: Was it at a club? I remember that.
P: Yes.. and I was like, “God please don’t remember me.” You looked me up and down and I said, “You want this don’t you,” and you said, “maaaaybe”.
P: So I said, are you going to come to my shop, and suggested a time and told you where it was, and you just said, “OK”. My heart was pounding but I was determined to stay as cool as a cucumber.
D: Did we show up?
P: Amazingly so. I'd phoned my manager and said, you'll die, there’s someone coming to the shop and told them to give you some privacy – I'd said when the last customer leaves, to lock the door if I’m not there – so I get there and the door is closed…
D: Oh yes I remember that, did I lock you out?
P: Yes! I knocked on the door, and you came up waving your finger saying, “Sorry we’re closed!” -- I knew right then we'd become friends.
P: Do you remember when I used to stay at Chris’ loft in the Bowery ? It was mental. One time I woke up and he was spray painting something he’d just found on the street right beside my bed. He was amazing, we had great times. After that you invited me to stay at yours.
D: You can still come and stay next time you’re in town. I never get to see you – we’re both so busy but that’s good. It’s good we are busy. I love seeing your shows online. One day I’ll be in town when your show is on. I saw Siouxsie Sioux in New York wearing one of your cat suits.
P: I remember the first time I stayed with you and you said just so casually, “Would you like to come see a friend of mine play?” And we went round the corner to this tiny dark place and there was Diamanda Gallas sitting like a big black raven playing at the piano. She was amazing.
D: I hope she comes back soon. You know who else is interesting? Marina Abramovich. She’s a performance artist who does all these extreme physical things and very curious mental performances, she’ll sit and stare at people for twelve hours. She and Diamanda should do a show together.
P: They’d probably kill each other. I went with Patti Palladin to see Diamanda do a talk. She was really fierce… I mean really fierce!
D: There’d have to be a mediator involved.
P: So how come you're here – for the new album?
D: Yeah. I'm not used to doing press so much – but it’s nice over here, everyone’s so chatty. They brought me over for the Q Awards, I wore a little cape that says “Stop Fucking The Planet”
P: Cool. I made a cape for a show 2 seasons ago, all appliqué – l wrote, “Give a man a gun and he’ll rob a bank, give a man a bank and he’ll rob The World”.
D: Nice one. The thing that came to me last night was that there were so many people I’d had contact with – that I’d toured or worked with or had some kind of connection with and I was really moved by that, you know? It’s confirmation of what I have been thinking, how everything is in layers and spirals and keeps building and building, You know that, fashion is like that, recycling and bringing it back full cycle. You know Ray Davies got an award?
P: Wicked. I was a big Kinks fan when I was kid – first time I rushed the stage was at a Kinks afternoon show in Glasgow and got carted off under the bouncers arm.
D: Hahaha! Last night was a fun night. I got dragged away by my manager, which was good, I guess. I needed to look somewhat refreshed in the morning. I saw Tim Burgess, I wanted to stay for his show. He’s really cute… I love the fact he bleaches his hair.
P: Yes he's a total sweetheart. Have you been playing live recently?
D: We played some dates over the summer, scattered weekends here and there. But the last thing that Chris and I did was this festival, the Disruption Festival that David Lynch put together. It was in Downtown LA. It was pretty fabulous, it was a lot of different things, some film footage, John B-b-b-I’m so terrible with names…
P: Ha-- me too!
D: John Malkovich did a thing and got dressed up in all the characters from David’s films and TV shows, and Chris had some of his stills exhibited and David had some performers come on that he considers his muses. One of them was Sky Ferriera, she’s pretty fantastic and Robert Plant played. And St Vincent, she’s fantastic, she played.
P: Amazing, I miss everything I’m too busy working, I’m like a recluse.
D: There’s too much to keep track of really. You’re doing a show every season. You’re so dedicated to fashion. It’s much more cut throat than music. I loved you when you had your band. Dollhouse?
P: Dollhouse was the track you loved, I named us Doll the day before the gig! It was you who instigated me getting a band together. You were in London and cancelled your flight to come and see me play. I’ll never forget it, I’d just joined this band and they asked for the guest list, I was like, “Debbie Harry…Marco Perroni..” They thought I was taking the piss but you were first back stage and gave me the most thoughtful good luck gift, a tiny bronze hog. Then you came back to London to tour with Blondie, and Chris came and stayed with me and although I said that I'd quit the band he wanted to hear my tape. He said I sounded like a mad Nico! And then you rang up and asked if I wanted to open for you – I was like, “I don’t have a band. I’ve just written five songs with a guy on the bass, but if you want someone to open for you in Glasgow I’ve got the perfect band, they’re called Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants and they're from Glasgow where you're just about to play.” But you then said if I got a band together in the next 5 days I could play the last few dates of your tour. It was crazy, they had to learn the songs so fast with so little time to rehearse – I had to do some kind of semaphore to tell everyone where to come in.
D: That’s what they usually do with me!! Your talents are astounding, and you survive… People that I love and admire don’t seem to last in the fashion world – even Westwood has had her ups and downs. It’s a total struggle. I don’t know how you do it season after season.
P: I’m totally unorthodox. I can’t not create but Im broken every time after I do a show, I can’t even answer the phone.. I sink into a deep depression.
D: Oh yeah, I get it.
P: I sit in a funny space in fashion – I’m in an artists studio – I was going to be a painter you know, there were no doubts about it. I hated fashion where they told people what to do!
D: But you know, it’s not like you are telling people what to do. You are giving them a choice. I went to Marc Jacobs – sometimes he’s elegant and sophisticated an womanly and makes references to the 30s or the 40s but this last one brought back roller disco – it was so fun and so cute. He had gigantic platforms and little short tu-tu skirts.
P: Have you ever modelled for him?
D: No! I would have enjoyed modelling for Betsy Johnson – she’s so fun and playful – but most of them are….
P: Would you come out on my catwalk?
D: [shyly]… I’ll come out…
P: YES!.. it’s now officially on record!
D: So how do you put the show on?
P: I’m given a show every season because people champion me knowing my situation. My models walk for free and I work eighteen hours a day to finish everything. That last collection I made totally myself because it was all from scraps, I’d work out how many shapes I could cut out of each colour. It was like a puzzle, like being an artist again. I was in ecstasy – but it was killing.
D: I can’t believe somebody hasn’t scooped you up. You should be working for a big design house, what you do is so unique and that’s what bigger houses thrive on, isn’t it?
P: I wish someone would ask me!
D: They definitely should... I think in London, on the street, I see a lot more interesting looking individuals than I do in New York.
P: I think you’re right. The very first time I went to New York was 1978!!
D: Ah! Really good time!!!
P: Yes but I wasn't sussed enough to know where to go so it didn’t look very interesting on the street, then I went to Studio 54 where everyone said it was impossible to get into.
D: Did you march right in? I bet you did.
P: Well. I can’t believe I’ve never told you this! I’d just bleached my hair blonde and when we got there the street was full of people hustling to get in. Then the waves parted and I’m looking behind me wondering what’s going on who was arriving? I had a friend on each arm and the guy on the door is waving us through going, “So glad you could come,” and then someone else comes up to me and says, “So glad you made it Debbie!.”
D: That’s funny because I got there once and they turned me away… because they thought I was an imposter!
P: [laughing] I rode in on your name baby!
D: [laughing] Good! That’s so cool! We do look alike!!