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Articles, Interviews & Reviews

US / January 1996

By Al Weisel

Wearing knee-high silk boots and black lace-up jeans, Chrissie Hynde, 44, casually sits cross-legged on a chair in a New York City hotel room. Is this really the butt-kicking guitar goddess who stormed the male-dominated rock barricades 16 years ago? The Pretenders' latest album, The Isle of View, a heart-wrenching live acoustic set of their hits, might make some people think she has turned sentimental. Don't bet on it.

Does your punk side sometimes say, "My God, I'm onstage with violins?"

No. I'm not a punk - I'm a musician. I like music whether it's aggressive, noisy, restrained or tender. But it's gotten too f---ing noisy. I hate to feel like I've been bludgeoned by music. I want to be seduced, I don't want to feel raped. This is my reaction to the noise.

Do you ever get sentimental about the past?

I try not to be. I think it's a fault. I don't save things. If you came into my home, there would be no evidence that I'm in the music business. There's something depressing about yellowed newspaper clippings.

What would you save in a fire?

No one needs to know that s---. I certainly would get that blue Telecaster [guitar] out. Obviously, I would take baby pictures. A couple of pairs of boots. I don't know what to say about my ordinary private life. But you can keep prodding me about it. I'm not good at coming forth with information. If you can extract anything, good luck to you.

Why did you say that you're not a feminist?

I could never say I had to work harder or wasn't taken seriously. I was embarrassed because there was a lot of attention focused on me because I was a chick in a band. I didn't think that was the reason I was interesting. But maybe it was. What I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry if it looks like I made some sort of glib dismissal of women's rights. I let people down who were looking to me to be a little more sympathetic. Women don't have to ape the behavior of men. No one needs aggressive, loudmouth, hard-ass bitches. Yet I feel I've got blood on my own hands there.

Is rock too macho?

Rock has always been macho. Now women are doing things that if men did it, people would say, "Shut the f--- up, sexist pig." You see women with PUSSY POWER written across their chest. Spot the difference. I can't."

What's the Chrissie Hynde blueprint for living?

Be a vegetarian. Avoid drinking alcohol. Smoke pot if you can't get to sleep. Read. Be very reclusive. Don't go to parties very often. Do a half-hour of yoga every day. There is no more. And just mind your own business.

Weren't you at Kent State when the National Guard fired on students?

I heard the shots. But it was over 20 years ago.

Do you remember it?

Four people got shot! It's not something you forget easily. I was nearby. I went over to see what was going on. They were trying to clear people out. The police had to pick me up and drag me out. When I look back, I can see how much damage Vietnam did to American families. My own family was split between the generations. The '60s was a time when people were going to re-evaluate society, and that didn't happen. It got flushed down the toilet with the drug culture. It depresses me to see the whole thing happening now in the '90s. So many bands are strung out on smack. No one is blowing the whistle on these clowns.

What was Sid Vicious like?

He was very sweet. He could be very violent after a few pints. I don't want to elaborate. There was nothing romantic.

Did you work at Malcolm McLaren's shop Sex?

I didn't last long. We had a scrap. Some guy came in and hit me with a belt, and someone in the shop punched the guy. [McClaren] said it was too confusing when I was there and could I leave.

Why won't you talk about the men in your life?

What is there to say? They f---ed me? I don't feel at liberty to talk about people in my private life. It's a betrayal of trust. Can I still be interesting if the world doesn't know who I'm sleeping with? Does it make people like me less? Am I letting you down?

Yes, I mean, art is personal. People are interested in the connection.

My songs are personal. I find it embarrassing to talk about. There are times I'm onstage in tears. You can find all sorts of things about me in the songs. I don't need to reveal who I was talking about.

Are you still friendly with your ex Ray Davies?

Pass. [Sighs] You mean there aren't any rumors about me being with someone? Has it died down to the point where there's not even a rumor?

Are you seeing somebody?

I'm not even going to tell you. I'd like people to think that someone's interested in me. I'm not saying I'm along…but I'm happy. I'm not even going to tell you that much. I read women saying, "It's hard to find a man, because no one wants a powerful woman." I don't think people are put off by my position.

Do you think people are put off by the way you act sometimes?

I know they are. People think I'm going to bite their head off. I must have done something to warrant that reputation. I don't want people to be afraid of me. That's why I threw that guy in the bathtub and washed his feet in the "I'll Stand by You" video. I was saying: "Hey, I'm just a chick. If I've got a man, I want to look after him." Some girls said I was subservient. That was me trying to be a bit "Up yours!" Do I have to be the hard-ass all the time?

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