The Pretender talks history, Morrissey and Donald Trump
CHRISSIE HYNDE: Sure. I was a hippy. I’m 65. I’ve seen so much. The thing is, my starting point was as a fan. Nobody was a bigger fan than I was. I saw a lot of bands and, for what I do, that’s all the training you need. Now people go to theatre school. We made it all up, because it was a very anti-establishment thing when I started. I’ve never wanted to be part of the establishment. In the last 20 years it seemed like everyone in the game wanted to be part of the Grammy culture. Whereas I puke on the Grammy culture. I loathe it. If I see any artist and it says next to their name, ‘Five-time Grammy nominee’, I already know it’s not rock’n’roll.
Was there ever a time when you felt like an insider?
I don’t know if I feel like an outsider or an insider, I just feel like I always did. I don’t have one of those stories where I felt like no-one understood me. I would have liked to have been in a band, but I didn’t have that determination. By the time I was 24 I was living here [in London], and I thought I was too old to get in a band. Then punk came out, and it was a free-for-all, the tone was non-discrimination. That was the thing punk afforded me. By then I was already 27, so I felt way too old. But Joe Strummer was my age, and it didn’t seem to matter so much.
Does it feel good to have resurrected The Pretenders again?
I haven’t really resurrected them. I called one album [Stockholm] a solo album, but it was just a name. I think the idea was to ‘reboot the brand’, as they say. Sometimes I haven’t worked with Martin Chambers – but this live band is with Martin. Kate Bush got it right; she didn’t tour for 30 years and everyone was dying to see her. I’ve consistently gone on tour, just ’cos that’s the lifestyle I like.
What’s the importance of Martin to The Pretenders today?
It’s great when we play. [But] I have to keep my thing alive and stay inspired. It’s been important for me to work with different people. If you keep doing the same thing all the time, you eventually stop understanding what you’re good at, you’re just locked in a formula. It worked with The Beatles, but they were only doing it for 10 years with George Martin. I don’t know why I called Stockholm a solo album. I’ve had to defend why I call my band The Pretenders ever since two members died 40 years ago, I just got so fed up with having to. When I went to Stockholm, or to Nashville to make the Dan Auerbach album, I didn’t know any of those guys. So The Pretenders is just a name for whoever’s steering the project, who happens to be me.
How did you approach making Alone?
I made a bunch of demos and sent them to Dan Auerbach, saying, “How do you wanna do this?” I don’t have an allegiance to a band, but there are guys – such as James Walbourne, my guitar player, and Nick Wilkinson, my bass player – who are great in the studio and on the road. So I love playing with them. But Dan had a band and his own studio in Nashville.
Do you demo at home?
Nope. It’s a weird one – it doesn’t really feel like I’ve ever written a song, or that I’m a songwriter, but I am. What I’ve been doing lately is I’ve been going to a studio with an engineer called Dave McCracken, and we put some ideas down. On a couple I did with him last year, I played all the instruments, which is unheard of! There was no-one else there, so I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’ll do it.’
How has the tour with Stevie Nicks been going?
Great. It went so well that we got offered a bunch more dates. We play for an hour, which for me is the perfect set for a rock band – you get to say everything you need to say, then you’re outta there.
Aside from Stevie, who do you see as your peers? Neil Young was on Stockholm, wasn’t he?
Well, I think Neil Young is bigger than a peer of mine! Who do I see as a peer? Um. I guess I’ve been doing it longer than he has, and I’m older than him, but I see Noel Gallagher as a peer. When I think of people like Iggy Pop, they’re more my heroes, and they came before me, and Noel’s come after me.
How about Dan Auerbach?
Danny Boy’s younger than me, but he feels older than me when I’m with him. I feel like he’s the authority. For someone to feel like a peer of mine, first of all it has to be in a band situation, or else I can’t quite relate to it. Like, I love Kate Bush and I went to see her. I guess she’s a peer in a way, we started around the same time, but we’ve both done very different things.