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What happens when two rock icons agree to interview each other instead of fielding the usual questions from EW? The most bad-ass conference call of all time — and a mini mutual-admiration society that convened across continents and time zones earlier this month.
While Debbie Harry and the rest of Blondie wrapped up a string of European dates in support of this year’s Pollinator LP, Shirley Manson and her Garbage bandmates were just getting warmed up for the more than 20 dates Garbage and Blondie will play on their co-headlining Rage and Rapture Tour, which kicks off July 5. (Garbage also has a coffee-table book featuring essays and never-before-seen photographs titled This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake arriving on July 4.) Eavesdrop along with EW below as Harry and Manson discuss everything from tour preparations and Transcendental Meditation to what they’re currently binging on TV.
HARRY: Hi Shirley!
MANSON: Hi Debbie! It’s so good to hear you. Are you in the states?
HARRY: I’m in Cornwall, England, playing tomorrow night. Where are you?
MANSON: I’m in Los Angeles at home. I’m in my bed, actually — half dressed, truth be told. We’re so f—ing excited about this upcoming tour, you have no idea.
HARRY: It’s going to be such a good one. We’re going to go get ‘em.
MANSON: Like always, my queen! Congratulations on the new album [Pollinator] — you’ve had quite a year.
HARRY: Yeah, it’s been good! Are you guys recording right now?
MANSON: We just recorded a thing, but we don’t call it a song because it’s much more obtuse than that. But we have been recording, and we’ll probably continue recording after the tour. But it’s all about you, baby. It’s all about Blondie.
HARRY: I think the song we did together for the American Gods soundtrack [“Tehran 1979”] is so wonderful. Do you think we could play that live?
MANSON: If you want me to, I am your Huckleberry, you know that. What a great show though, no?
HARRY: I really love it. Last night I also caught a bit of Fargo with Ewan McGregor. He’s so good.
MANSON: We were watching it last night as well! He’s incredible in it. And it just gets better and better and better. More importantly, have you been watching The Handmaid’s Tale?
HARRY: Ooh yes! It’s too timely. It’s terribly scary.
MANSON: Yeah, it’s scary times for humanity, it seems. But as my octogenarian father tells me, “The world has seen harder times, and the world will survive.”
HARRY: I like that! I’m going to hold onto that one.
MANSON: The arc of history is long, and the mess we’re currently making is just a blip. But how’s the band doing? Is everybody in good spirits?
HARRY: As usual! We haven’t really stopped playing, so we’ll definitely be ready to go. Even when we were recording we were doing gigs now and then. We’re in the groove of it. Have you been playing a lot of shows?
MANSON: No, that’s why we’re so nervous! When we’re at rehearsal everybody groans when I say, “Let’s play that one again!” I’m like, “Come on, guys! We’re going to be sharing the stage with f—ing Blondie, and they’ve been playing all year. We need to get our s— together!”
HARRY: [Laughs] Oh come on, you have such a great band.
MANSON: They’re very excited to meet you. You know how much you’ve influenced us and how you, Debbie Harry, continue to inspire me and light the way for me and all the women who follow in your footsteps. On the days you feel tired and a little despondent and your crown may have slipped a little, I just want you to remember this conversation. We are all looking at you.
HARRY: Oh God, that’s a horror in itself, isn’t it? [Laughs]
MANSON: Debbie’s toes are curling in their stilettos!
HARRY: They’re definitely curling, but they’re in platforms today — not stilettos! But you’re the one who’s just laying them dead in L.A. It must be beautiful over there.
MANSON: It’s too hot for my tastes! I’m not accustomed to this kind of heat. My bedroom is the coolest room in my house, I’m always running into it for solace. But I’m about to go to rehearsal, so I’m going to have to get my s— together at some point.
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HARRY: You guys are going to be sensational.
MANSON: I’ll quote you on that!
HARRY: You will be, as usual. I’ve never seen you any other way. Your voice is a force to be reckoned with. I’m just looking forward to everything. Everybody’s talking about the tour — at least my friends are!
MANSON: Even my manager, who is like Chicken Little sometimes — the sky is falling! — spoke to me yesterday and said, “I just want you to know the word on this tour is fantastic and everyone’s really excited about it.” I was like, “Wow, if that’s coming from you, that’s enormous.” Because he’s always [thinking] the glass is half is empty.
HARRY: Oh God, what kind of manager is that?
MANSON: He’s a lovely manager actually, but he tends to try and shield us from expectations, and in doing so, he sometimes errs toward the other side. But he’s a good man. How much longer are you in the U.K. for?
HARRY: We go over to Paris for a couple of things, and then we come back to London for British Summer Time Hyde Park. Talk about being scared! That Hyde Park thing really frightens me.
HARRY: I don’t know, it’s just so huge, so ridiculous huge.
MANSON: But you’re Debbie Harry! You’re not supposed to be scared of all that. You’ve done everything that anyone in music has ever had to do, pretty much. You can’t be scared, can you?
HARRY: Well, yes I can. [Laughs] I mean, I will definitely rise to the occasion. Once you start playing it’s all fine, you just go at it. But you do think, “Oh God, that’s a big crowd!”
MANSON: It heartens me to hear that you get still a little nervous about that kind of thing. You are human!
HARRY: Yes! [Laughs] Oh my God, you are too much.
MANSON: Listen, you must be delighted with how the new record has been received. Phenomenal reception all over the world!
HARRY: Yeah, the whole process of pulling the songs together [from artists like Sia, Charli XCX, and Dev Hynes] seemed almost effortless. We got such good material from all these great writers and performers. That it’s been received so well is just a delight.
MANSON: And didn’t you just play Australia with Cyndi Lauper?
HARRY: I did!
MANSON: Are you scared that I’m stalking you from afar on the internet?
HARRY: I know what you’re like. [Laughs]
MANSON: I’m a bit of a Debbie creeper, I have to confess. But I’m actually harmless. I promise I’m not dangerous.
HARRY: I can live with the stalking.
MANSON: Okay, good, I’ll try not to get too creepy! So we’ve got incredible openers as well. I know you know Sky Ferreira.
HARRY: I love Sky!
MANSON: Her voice? An incredible singer. I love the girls from Deap Vally, who we have opening for us on the East Coast. And then we have the great John Doe & Exene Cervenka. I’ve never met Exene and am really looking forward to it. I’m thrilled we have such an incredible bill everywhere we go. Have you met John and Exene before?
HARRY: I know them pretty well. We did a U.S. tour with them a few years ago, and they’re fantastic entertainers. They sound great, they look great. And Exene is quite a character. She’s wonderful.
MANSON: I believe it! Have you met the Deap Vally girls?
HARRY: No, I haven’t.
MANSON: You’ll love them. How are your boys holding up otherwise?
HARRY: They’re road warriors. We’re all such old hands, everyone just keeps rolling along. I feel very fortunate that we still have the majority of our players.
MANSON: It’s extraordinary, actually. We were just talking about this at practice yesterday, how bloody lucky we are. We can’t believe it. Even to survive and have everyone in good health now is really precious. Bands half our age don’t even get that lucky sometimes. It’s good to practice gratitude, as they say. I used to be so ungracious, I wasn’t even aware that I should be feeling grateful! [Laughs] Now I actually try and put it into my daily thought: Be grateful. It’s not always so easy.
HARRY: You get to a point, I’m sure.
MANSON: What is the next step for you guys after we finish the tour?
HARRY: We have dates in the fall and some of it will be back in Europe. And then I don’t know. I’m the last one who knows, believe it or not. It’s good for me in a way. I don’t really memorize every little thing I have to do because then I start to think about it too much! I like to keep it in the here and now and not what’s coming up. I’m a Buddhist.
MANSON: Are you really?
MANSON: [Laughs] You totally had me going there for a minute! I’m interested in Buddhism. Of all the organized religions, that to me is the only one that makes even vague sense. I just don’t have the discipline for that kind of practice.
HARRY: How about Transcendental Meditation?
MANSON: I’ve heard it’s incredible, but I’ve never tried it. Have you?
HARRY: I’m curious about it.
MANSON: Let’s do a session together when we’re on tour!
HARRY: We should invite Jerry Seinfeld [who practices TM] and get him to explain it to us. He’s adorable and very brilliant.
MANSON: He could be our teacher! I’m in. Let’s do it. And I hope we’re going to do dinner at some point. We have to be out of the venue having some pleasant downtime munching on something tasty.
HARRY: Of course we will have that. But I heard you have very bad table manners. [Laughs]
MANSON: I have excellent table manners contrary to whoever you have been speaking with! My mother reared me right! Don’t you worry about that.
HARRY: Well, I’m delighted we’re going to have some fun and make some music together. This is bringing tears to my eyes honestly.
MANSON: You know it’s very rare that I get off the phone with you not having sobbed. This might be the first time I’ve never cried when I’ve spoken to you on the phone.
HARRY: Oh, thank goodness.
MANSON: No tears, just nothing but joy, Debbie Harry! I’m so thrilled that you’ve brought us on this tour. We cannot wait. I love you and can’t wait to see you in the flesh.
HARRY: I love you too! I hope that you have a terrific rehearsal. Give my regards to your boys! Tell them we’re ready to take no prisoners.