In collaboration with Raúl Sevillano’s Panic of Girls Facebook fan page, we invited fans to submit questions to Blondie’s awesome drummer Clem Burke, who graciously answered every one of them in a phone interview on June 28, transcribed here for your enjoyment. Some items in [brackets] have been added for clarification.
Spoiler Alert: Some information presented in this interview describes the setlist and other details of the upcoming European summer tour. If you do not want to know any details, stop reading now.
[BLK calls Clem’s cell phone as requested. Clem answers quickly.]
Clem Burke: Hey Barry.
Barry L. Kramer: Hi Clem.
CB: Very punctual.
BLK: Thank you, I try to be when I can… How have you been?
CB: I got a foot infection but it’s going away. It kinda hurt but Cheryl [tour manager] found a sports medicine doctor and I took a bunch of antibiotics and it really went down tremendously compared to what it was. The infection’s mostly gone away… my feet are all kinda messed up from running and playing drums and all that.
Like Iggy and Steven Tyler, from being on stage that much. Iggy’s one foot is completely wrecked, trashed, and Steven Tyler had all kinds of foot operations, you know, just stuff happens.
BLK: So you guys are leaving soon, tomorrow I guess?
BLK: I hope you have a pleasant flight and a good tour.
CB: Yeah I’m sure it’s gonna be great! The set’s gonna be really cool. The first three songs are Union City, Dreaming, and Atomic.
BLK: Oh wow! That’s gonna be a smash over there!
CB: I know, people are gonna dig it. It’s right out of the top of the set. So our headline show, when we play 90 minutes, we’re doing probably about seven songs from the new album too, but it’s a whole new show really. That’s gonna be good. I don’t know what’s going on with everything else, with the record and this and that. Did you get one of the magazines?
BLK: Yes I did and it’s absolutely amazing. What a fantastic package that was. I heard that July 12 in most of the world is going to be the release date; obviously it’s going to be later than that in the U.S. And Rolling Stone in Germany has a cover story and has the CD included with the magazine so that’s coming out next, it’s the 30th, the day after tomorrow. [The U.S. release, announced July 5 in the North American Fall Tour press release, is scheduled for September 13.]
BLK: I sent you all of these questions-
CB: Yeah I have them in front of me! When did you get all these questions?
BLK: We actually posted this on Raúl’s Panic of Girls Facebook page as an invitation to the fans to submit questions and we collected them for about three weeks.
BLK: We finished about two weeks ago.
CB: Oh, so the time lag’s not too bad.
BLK: No, these were just collected within the last month. We’re going to publish this on both the Official Blondie site and Raúl’s site.
CB: What about me getting my honorary doctorate, man?!
BLK: That’s amazing! I had no idea that was coming. That’s really cool!
CB: That’s gonna be really cool!
BLK: I’ll post that as soon as I get the information from Marcus… that would be very well timed with your arrival in the U.K. [Dr. Marcus Smith is Principal Lecturer and Field Leader in Exercise Physiology at the University of Chichester. He co-founded the Clem Burke Drumming Project with Dr. Steve Draper of the University of Gloucestershire, which on July 30, will award Clem an honorary Doctorate of Music degree to recognize his musical excellence and groundbreaking involvement in original research, spanning a decade, that explores the physical demands of drumming. For more information, visit www.clemburkedrummingproject.com]
CB: Doctor Burke!
[Clem reads the questions from a printed copy, then answers them; BLK interacts only as needed to moderate, answer his questions, and elaborate on a few topics.]
Chris Gorman: What Blondie song do you most enjoy playing that was not released as a single?
CB: Well, I don’t think Union City was a single and I definitely enjoy playing that and we’re featuring that in our new set; in fact that’s going to be the opening song as of now. So I enjoy playing “Union City Blue.”
Iannis: Hey Clem, greetings from Athens and best wishes for the release of “Mother”! It deserves to be a huge hit! My question is about a question posed at the end of AUTOAMERICAN – my favorite album of all times: “We’re not really gonna put this on the album, are we?” Was it you, right after recording “Follow Me”? What’s the story?
CB: Yeah Iannis, I know him. Debbie calls him ‘Yonny’. I think that’s his nickname.
BLK: Yeah I don’t really know how to pronounce his name… he’s got a complicated name with letters that don’t translate to English.
CB: You met him though, right?
BLK: Maybe I did in the U.K. I think I did.
CB: He’s a pretty good guy. He pops up in all kinds of strange places because he’s like an airline guy…
CB: So yeah, question posed at the end of Autoamerican, my favorite album of all times…. What’s the story? Well, yeah, I think that was me because it was a pretty off the wall cover, something from Camelot. And Autoamerican is my favorite album, but it’s a very eclectic album and at the time I was probably more interested in hearing the Sex Pistols than something from Camelot. But it’s a beautiful song. Yeah that was me. I think there was some kind of irony to me saying that at the end because that was such an off the wall choice of cover song? So there you go.
BLK: Do you think they put that on intentionally?
BLK: I thought so. I remember Chris telling me that it was you.
CB: Yeah. That’s what I mean. There’s kind of an irony to it.
Jeff Taylor: Hi Clem! What is your favorite Blondie video?
CB: My favorite Blondie video…. I think I really like “Atomic” a lot. It’s such a strange video with Jean-Michel Basquiat coming up with a horse, and then, actually our tour manager, good friend of mine, Bruce Patron, I think that’s before your time Barry-
CB: Bruce is a friend of ours who I met when he was tour managing The Runaways. We had burgers at a place called Duke’s in L.A. in the Tropicana Hotel and he kind of pitched me for being the tour manager for Blondie, and then he went on to be the tour manager for the Go-Go’s and then he went on to be the tour manager for INXS. The last time I saw Bruce, he was at a Super Bowl party at a bar mitzvah ushering around Snoop Dogg. Bruce is the guy during the bass break in Atomic. There’s a bass break, you know a little bass solo that Nigel does, and this weird guy comes out of nowhere with like a sort of a helmet on or something and starts doing this weird dance, jig, with Debbie. That was Bruce Patron. That video was done very low-fi and it’s kinda cool. I would say “Atomic.” And I think I like the “Maria” video a lot as well. The videos were fun. There wasn’t very much production involved, it’s all kinda DIY’s; most of our stuff is.
Kerry Thomson: Hi Clem, I learnt everything I know on the kit thanks to yourself, what’s your practice regime? Thank you!!!
CB: To be honest, my practice regime is more about playing with other musicians, which is why I’m constantly playing. I don’t really like to sit around and play the drums on my own that much, although I do do it when I’m at home when no one else is around and scare the cats. Basically before a show, I do a basic sort of half hour basic rudiments, warm-ups; I do paradiddle exercises backward and forward; also I’m a big advocate of jogging and working out, just physically to be able to play the drums. So you gotta play with other musicians, you can’t just do it on your own all that much. I mean you can hold up your chops that way but it’s a lot more fun if you do it with other musicians.
John Labrow: Hi Clem. What’s your favourite venue in the UK?
CB: I would say out of the venues that we’ve played in the U.K, I would have to say the Royal Albert Hall would rank as my top favorite, just the atmosphere there and the history of the building is just phenomenal. And I like in London also what used to be called Hammersmith Odeon. Now I think it’s called the Carling Apollo. And Leicester De Montfort Hall in Leicester I like. Sheffield City Hall’s really good. There are a lot of great venues in the U.K. The Olympia in Dublin is a great venue but it’s not in the U.K. We’ve played a lot of places over the years and I like the places that have a bit of history. I can’t remember the place where they have you sign… Barry, do you remember hearing about this, that you sign the guest book when you play at the venue? Have you heard about the particular venue that I’m talking about? Chris took pictures of it. It has everybody in it, from The Beatles to Cliff Richard to-
BLK: No, I can’t recall this.
CB: I don’t remember what venue it is but we’ve played there several times. We just played there again. They have an absolutely priceless guest book that they leave in the dressing room and request that you sign. It’s priceless. It has everybody you can think of, certainly from the U.K. music scene has put their signature in it including all four Beatles and all five Rolling Stones from back in the 60s. I wish I could think of the name of the venue because I enjoy playing those venues that have a bit of history, the ones that you know that Marc Bolan played there, you know The Beatles played there, you know the Rolling Stones played there. Leicester De Montfort Hall, I believe, is a venue like that. The older venues, they have a lot of history.
Lesley Morgan: Hi Clem. Do you write music scores for your drumming when creating new work? Or is it more like learning new choreography but with rhythm rather than movement? Goofy question but I’ve always wondered what your process is. Working with Chris and Debbie, do you write new material all together or do you come in later on? Thanks for considering my questions! Ciao Lesley
CB: We do it every which way. I mean in the old days, we’d all sit in a room together, before computers, or before computers were so commonplace, and work out songs and the songs would evolve, much like when you perform a song live for the first time and then you perform it live six months later there’s usually an evolution involved in how the song is arranged or played or interpreted. But yeah, I come up with my parts generally, and things like Union City or Dreaming, those were my parts, yeah. We write the songs every which way; obviously Chris and Debbie are two of the main songwriters.
Paul Holt: Hi Clem, which song from ‘Panic of Girls’ is your personal favorite ? Thanks.
CB: Well, here we go again. We cut a song called “God Save New York” which didn’t make the record. I wrote a song called “Last Looks” that we’ve been working up in rehearsal which also didn’t make the record. Those are two of my favorites that didn’t make the record, the way I spoke about the song called “Paint Your Face” that didn’t make Curse of Blondie. But maybe we’ll have an outtakes album one day because we’re starting to gain a lot more tracks in the library there that haven’t been issued. On the album, I really like “What I Heard”, but also I really wish that… A lot of the songs have evolved since we recorded them and I wish that we were at that place with the songs when we recorded them, but overall I love the album.
Anna-Marie Brown: Hi Clem, what are you most looking forward to on your next trip to England ? X
CB: I always like going to England, I’m an Anglophile and I’m looking forward to having dinner at The Wolseley on Park Lane, no actually in Piccadilly, and I’m looking forward to playing in Liverpool, and I’m planning on trying to get to John Lennon’s childhood home that now is in The National Trust. I just enjoy being in England in general and it’ll be summertime.
Les Christianson: What age did you pick up your first pair of sticks? You are the best drummer in rock and roll!
CB: I started playing like from around the time I was about 10 years old when I first saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Steven Thurston Oliver: We know nothing about your family life. Tell us about your parents. What are they like? Do you have any siblings?
CB: My parents are no longer alive and they were great parents. They gave me a lot of love. I was actually just thinking about them today and about how I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am without them and how supportive they were. And I am an only child.
BLK: Like me.
CB: Yeah, like a lot of people. It’s so funny, I have a lot of friends that are. Kathy Valentine, the merch guy Bob, a lot of people.
Cynthia Stevens: What’s your favorite pastime when you are not drumming… which seems to be rarely :).
Can’t wait for the CD and tour! Peace and Love.
CB: I enjoy swimming, I enjoy jogging, I enjoy being at the beach, and I enjoy hiking in the mountains and I like horseback riding when I can do it, and I like listening to music [laughs], and reading.
BLK: Anything you’re listening to lately that you’re really into?
CB: I’m on a Buffalo Springfield kick now. I just saw the Buffalo Springfield, three out of four shows in the L.A. area right before I came away on tour. For me, it was like seeing The Beatles. With Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay fronting. They each sing lead, they do great harmonies, they have an Everly Brothers thing.
New stuff… I’m listening to Beady Eye. I saw Beady Eye play the other night, you know Liam’s new band?
BLK: I don’t know them.
CB: It’s Liam Gallagher from Oasis. I just saw them play the other night and I went to their afterparty and it was really, really fun. They did a really good gig in New York and we’re playing with them in Bilbao, coming up – we’re doing a festival with them.
BLK: I think that’s the second show.
CB: And the drummer Chris Sharrock is somebody that I’ve known for a long time; he was in a band called The La’s who were a pretty influential band in England. They had that song “There She Goes” [Clem sings a line] and he played with Robbie Williams for a long time too.
Brianna Leigh Coben: Hi, Clem! What’s your favorite Blondie song of all time, and which one is your favorite to perform live?
Matteo Massimo: Hello Clem, first of all congratulations, you are a great band.
What is your favorite song and video by Blondie?
CB: My favorite Blondie song of all time would be difficult to pick one. It would be crazy to say “X Offender” since that’s the first thing we really professionally recorded, but that probably is my favorite Blondie song of all time. Not to cast any aspersions on the rest of our catalog since that was the first song we ever recorded, but…..
Ken DeBlock: Hi Clem. You have stated in the past that Autoamerican is your favorite Blondie album (still true)? All of the songs on that album are very different in style, which song on Autoamerican is your favorite? Can’t wait to get my hands on POG! Have a great European tour and I hope to see you stateside soon!
CB: Autoamerican is my favorite Blondie album just because of the whole process that occurred in making it in Los Angeles and it’s the first time we ever left New York City to make a record. We incorporated a lot of outside musicians on the record… Tom Scott the saxophone player on “Rapture”, things like that.
I was actually trying to get the band to do a couple of songs. like “Live It Up” is on that album, and we did “Angels on the Balcony” for quite a while which is also on that album which I think is a really great song. There are so many songs to choose. We’re gonna do some surprise songs on this tour coming up. It’s gonna be a great tour.
John Atkins: Hi Clem. How many ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ t-shirts do you have? You’ve worn some iconic ones over the years…..and which is your favourite? And thanks for the drumstick in Wolverhampton last year!!! Keep up the great work!
CB: I have a Beatles… well it’s not a T-shirt, a Beatles sweatshirt that my friend gave me a while back which has the original NEMS – which was Brian Epstein’s company – copyright 1963 stamp on it. That’s probably got to be my all-time favorite shirt.
BLK: Do you have a guess how many you have?
CB: How many shirts do I have? I don’t know. I’ve got probably a hundred CBGB shirts. I’ve been trying to give them away.
Rui Mateus: Hi Clem! Why is “The Curse of Blondie” called “The Curse of Blondie?”
CB: That’s self-explanatory especially in retrospect.
Graham Lewis: Would you ever rejoin Eurythmics for an album/tour again if they asked you? (Blondie schedule permitting of course!)
CB: Yeah, I’d love to play with Annie and Dave again but I don’t really think that is ever gonna really happen. They did reform in the 90s and Blondie and Eurythmics both played together in Hyde Park. We were both on the same bill. I can’t remember exactly what year that was but that was great being on the same bill with them. I’m friends with those guys and I see them occasionally and they’re really great people. If they ever did want to reform that particular Revenge band, I would be up for that if time allowed. But I don’t think it’ll ever happen. In fact, I think Annie has said she’s done with touring and things like that.
Charles Alexander: Clem, you’ve played with some amazing, legendary acts over the years. I am curious though: What was it like working with Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox? The touring, shows etc.
CB: Working with Dave and Annie was like working with two of my friends. I had met them when Blondie were basically the biggest band in the U.K. and they had a band called The Tourists, which had just broken up. I met Annie at a place called The Embassy, in London, and went over to her apartment on a Sunday to meet Dave and have lunch. And we became friends. Dave used to come and stay with me at my loft in Manhattan and then, twist of fate, they became one of the biggest bands in the world and Blondie broke up. So we had an interesting sort of dynamic going on when I began to work with them on the Revenge project. I had already recorded their first album with them, along with a bunch of other people in Germany with the famous producer Conny Plank who produced Devo and Kraftwerk and Can and bands like that. It was very enjoyable working with them; they’re very interesting, smart people; they actually remind me of two other interesting and smart people that I know.
Barbara Cuomo: If you had one piece of advice for a drummer, a secret if you will, what would it be?
CB: Are you any relation to the governor of New York, Barbara?
Or the second Cuomo to be governor of New York, right? First there was Mario, now his son is governor. Slight bit of nepotism going on in politics I think. Ask Mr. and Mrs. Bush about that.
CB: If you had one piece of advice for a drummer… my advice would be to take care of your body. Take care of your heart. And think of yourself as an athlete, and don’t run yourself into the ground because it’s a very physical experience playing the drums. And take care of your hands. Just practice pad and sticks, just playing to keep your calluses up and things like that, and just keep your heart strong. That would be my advice. Of course if you’re a 16-year old kid, forget all of that.
Michael Paul: Would you like to work with Mike Chapman on the next album?
CB: I’d always be up for working with Mike. We tried to work with him when we did the No Exit record, or prior to that, we were in the studio with him, and basically for whatever reason a failed attempt. We also worked with Nick Rhodes and another guy out of Duran Duran on a couple of tracks which never saw the light of day either. But Mike, a great producer. There’s a lot of producers I personally would like to work with, Tony Visconti for one, who produced Bowie and T-Rex and produced my friend Alejandro Escovedo’s records and he’s produced an amazing amount of stuff… Morrissey…. and he’s a friend and a great producer and I would love to work with him. I also really think Craig Leon would be a really good producer, who produced the No Exit record for us. I’d like to work with the guys from ABBA, which will never happen now, but that was always my dream to work with Björn and Benny from ABBA. But Mike was great for us.
Michael Abbott: Did you enjoy working with Eurythmics? I bet a lot of peeps don’t realise you played on their first album before rejoining up for the Revenge project and tour.
CB: I kind of covered this already, Michael, but yeah, I played on the first album and that was really an enjoyable experience out in the countryside outside of Cologne, Germany at Conny Plank’s studio. The whole group of people that were involved with Eurythmics at the time I was working with them on the Revenge project were great, from their manager Kenny to my drum tech, a guy called Booby Daniels – James Daniels, and the band, Chucho Merchan, Joniece Jamison, Jimmy Z, Pat Seymour, myself, and Annie and Dave; it was a self-contained unit and a lot of people thought we were playing to programs and to click tracks and things like that, and none of that was true. It was a very organic band although they had such a reputation for being almost an electronic band which they did do with the Sweet Dreams album. But when we played live on that Revenge tour, it was all just us, just jammin’, just kinda goin’ for it and really enjoying it. Annie is a fantastic frontperson and Dave’s a very talented musician.
Fred Rose: Any regrets about single choices? Either a song that would have been a great single, or a release that you wish was rather kept as an album track?
CB: I think I just did an interview where I said from The Hunter the song “English Boys”, which funny enough Dave Stewart was staying with me at the time and when he heard that song, he said that that should be the single as well.
Union City – I don’t think was ever a single, and I think that would have made a good single.
FR: One more– anything from the vaults that we don’t know about that may eventually surface? (i.e. PAINT YOUR FACE/ Studio 54/ etc…)
CB: You’ve already mentioned “Paint Your Face” and “Studio 54”; now on the Panic of Girls, we recorded about 30 songs and there’s 13 on the record, so there’s a ton of stuff you don’t know about now.
Robert Pitts: Hi Clem, Will any unreleased Blondie songs ever be released? Would be amazing if there was an album full of unreleased material! and looking forward to some U.S. dates this fall =D Thanks!! Robert Pitts
CB: Yeah, I would love to do an album of unreleased stuff. I was just touching on this before that we are gaining a lot of back catalog of material that hasn’t been released.
CB: We’re gonna be on tour in the U.S. It hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s being announced in a few days. It’s starting I believe on September 2nd. That’s going to be announced I think July 5th.
Maxine electronix: Hi Clem, my shoolteacher thought you looked like Sir Paul McCartney, (when I was at school in the early 80’s) Have you ever been mistaken for him? Loven hugz to you x
CB: Well, only once I’ve been mistaken for him. People have made that reference especially when I was younger, but we were changing planes back in 1978 and we got off a plane somewhere in the Philippines or something, and we walked in and we had to change planes and it became apparent that a few of the people thought that I was he. I get mistaken more for Elvis.
Arek Michalowski: Hi Clem! Is it true that you have Polish roots?
CB: Yes, I’m very proud of my Eastern European roots. And I can’t believe they’ve taken away the Best Polka record Grammy nomination now. There’s an uproar about the Grammy people have taken away a bunch of categories or combined categories, more so the ethnic music. One of the categories they took away was Best Polka record. I can’t believe they did that. I kinda told them that they shouldn’t do that.
Danny Alonso: How do you prepare for touring?
CB: I try to stay healthy, be healthy, get my hands and body in shape and try to think positively about what’s gonna happen when I travel.
Steve Castle: Hi Clem, Steve from Edinburgh. Blondie have played all over but is there a venue or country you would still like to play? And what would be the most memorable place you have played. One of mine was Edinburgh Castle and New Year 2004 with Scissor Sisters again Edinburgh!
CB: The venue I would love to play is Madison Square Garden. Believe it or not, Blondie has never played there even in our heyday. We played in a theater at Madison Square Garden, but never in the arena. I have a dream to have sort of an exclusively New York concert in Madison Square Garden with people like Patti Smith and Television, bands from back in the day. It’s hard now because a lot of people are gone. You know, there’s bands like The Smithereens, bands like The Romantics, bands that played at CBGB, bands that are associated with CBGB, Joan Jett, just some sort of New York kind of like ‘tribute to CBGB’ festival to be held at Madison Square Garden. I would really love for that to happen. I cannot see why that wouldn’t happen in New York; I think people would get behind it and it would probably be a big deal in the New York area. But Madison Square Garden is one place I would love to still play.
The most memorable place that I’ve played was actually with Eurythmics when we played in Wembley Stadium for the Free Nelson Mandela concert before Mandela was released from prison. We played there with Eric Clapton and Dire Straits and all kinds of people. It was 72,000 people and it was a big draw thing for Mandela. It was very, very memorable. Richard Gere introduced the band, and it was just a real highlight of my musical career.
I already played Carnegie Hall when I was 13 years old. I guess most people’s ambition is to play at Carnegie Hall but I played Carnegie Hall with my high school band.
Mitchell Spicer: Hi Clem, you appeared to be the driving force behind Jeff Saltzman being selected as the primary producer for Panic of Girls. What was it behind his work that made you want to work with him?
CB: He produced the first Killers record and I love the band The Killers. We looked up who produced the Killers record and it turned out to be Jeff Saltzman; he was available, he got along with everyone, and we chose to work with him. He did a good job.
BLK: I thought I remember Chris telling me that he was friends with him.
CB: Well, we’re all friends with him now. No, I said: get the guy who produced The Killers and Matt emailed his MySpace.
Karel Devogeleer: Which new CD would you buy today? (except Blondie and The Hugh Cornwell Band) And why?
CB: I just bought the Beady Eye CD. That’s relatively new. I just bought the Neil Young International Harvester CD.
Sebastien Dc: Hey Clem…Blondie is a legendary group and today as an influence for many groups and singers, how would you explain that 30 years after the beginning of Blondie??
CB: I think we’re slightly ahead of our time in the kind of music we like, the kind of music we chose to make, the presentation of the band, and the dress sense and the style of the band. Actually New York City was probably ahead of most of the country back when we started in a lot of ways, in the art world and things like that. Not to be egotistical about it, but it seems that a lot of times, people from New York are like a little more on the ball.
Dawn Osuna-Burns: What is the most difficult thing about being on tour?
CB: For me, being on tour is just like being on vacation. I don’t really have a difficult with it as long as you don’t wear yourself down. You’ve got to stay healthy. That’s the most important thing about being on tour.
Ian Tracy: Hi Clem, what was your proudest moment as a member of Blondie? PS Looking forward to the gig in Dublin this summer!! 🙂
CB: Well, it would have been the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, probably, if it had not turned into acrimonious disaster. I’m very proud of the fact that we’re an international band, that we can play all over the world and people accept us and our music. That’s kind of almost… pretty unusual for an American band. So I’m very proud of that, that we’re sort of a worldly band.
Baz Robson: Is the band’s cover of Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” going to be released? I hated the original as I don’t like most r’n’b music but Debbie’s version like any song the band cover is amazing. I would also like to add that if the band wanted a really big hit this might be the song to do it.
CB: Yeah, we did a good rock version of it, but it’s still not one of my favorite songs. It’s just one of Chris’s wacky ideas that always seemed to work out.
BR: I would like to ask why the band didn’t do a 30th anniversary tour of “Eat To The Beat?” Loved the “Parallel Lines” one which for some reason missed out the amazing “Pretty Baby.” But “Eat To The Beat” is my fav album ever and would love to see an anniversary tour with the entire album played.
CB: We’re playing a lot of the songs from Eat To The Beat on this upcoming Panic of Girls tour, so in a way it is a little bit of a commemorative of that. I don’t know if it’s been 31 years now or not, but Eat To The Beat is our rock and roll record.
Cheryl Judge: Hi Clem, on tour last year you gave my partner a cymbal off your kit at the end of the show in Newcastle and you signed it for us afterwards. To receive such a memento from one of my musical heroes was just so special so my question to you is: as a fan, what is your most prized memento or memory of meeting your own heroes? All the best, Cheryl x
CB: I got a pair of Keith Moon’s boots (allegedly) on the last tour, and I have those set on top of my wardrobe in the dressing room when I get ready for the show.
Hannah Louise Cave: Good evening, Clem! I was going to ask you what has been the best gift you’ve received from a fan, and I then remembered those signed Keith Moon boots! Did you ever find out who gave them to you?! So looking forward to seeing you in London soon! All the best, Love Hannah x
CB: I’m probably gonna run into him again now; I don’t know the guy’s name but I hung out with him actually.
Bear Z. Bub: Did you ever officially live in Detroit? (love the Dirtbombs!)
CB: No, but my last girlfriend before my wife was from there, so I did spend a lot of time there between her being there and working with the Romantics for 10 years. I would just stay at friends’ houses… I had one friend in particular named Sheldon who I would stay at his beautiful house that he had in Birmingham, Michigan, and go back and forth between Royal Oak and Birmingham. And I’d stay in hotels a lot, in Detroit too. But never officially lived there. Thought about moving there actually, but never did. Maybe I will someday.
John Corniello: Hi Clem, do you look forward to going on tour with Blondie since you’ve been doing it for so long? How do you and the band keep yourself entertained between shows and on the bus between each city?
CB: On the bus, I like to sleep. And Leigh Foxx likes to sleep. Usually when we get on the bus, we go to sleep because a lot of the times we’re traveling through the night anyway. We’d have a little something to eat and then go to sleep. And we watch movies, and I listen to music and now everybody’s got a laptop, a smartphone, and all that, so touring is a really completely different experience than what it was 30 years ago.
Daniel Morrical: What band would you love to open for Blondie? or What’s the perfect double bill: Blondie and ?????
CB: I’d like to play with Chuck Berry or Little Richard. I think it would be great to have Blondie, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard all on the show together. I would love to play with Chuck Berry or Little Richard, play drums with either one of them as well; not so much Jerry Lee Lewis but Chuck Berry and Little Richard would be great.
Tret Tierney: Hi Clem! Thanks for doing this! Been a fan since seeing Chris’ pic of Debbie in that jungle zebra outfit in CREEM Magazine in the mid 70’s! People used to say we looked alike. Looks like your allowing your hair to show some sexy gray in the latest video (which looks stunning!) unless it’s just the lighting. Anyway, y’all look and sound great! My question is: Please pick your top 3 choices for singles after MOTHER? Thanks so much!
CB: “What I Heard” is the next single. After that, I don’t know; it really depends on the success of the second single.
Hilary Reynolds: Hi Clem, if you hadn’t become one of the world’s greatest drummers what would you have liked to become. Can’t wait to see you all in York.
CB: I went to school and studied social sciences and was heading toward psychology or social work area sort of thing… or philosophy/psychology type of thing. Probably would have wound up giving out food stamps or something.
Keith Mcgirt: I have loved you guys forever and will continue to support your work. IN THE GARDEN is amazing. Do you find working in the studio tedious?
CB: No, I love to be in the studio especially with creative musicians, and In The Garden the Eurythmics record is great.
David Greenwood: Clem, do you not think that popular music is becoming over-produced and is losing the energy that it once had in the 50’s – 90’s?
CB: It absolutely is becoming overproduced. Too much cut and paste; I mean Pro Tools is a great tool but people are taking it overboard. I prefer the music of the 50s and the 60s myself. I prefer the roots of rock and roll. I am a rock and roll fan.
Raúl Sevillano: I would also like to add a question: Clem, could you tell us an anecdote about something funny that happened during a Blondie show?
CB: Something funny… it’s all pretty funny! That’s really all I could tell you. There’s a lot of funny stuff. One of the funniest times was when Chubby Checker got on the stage with us and we did a version of The Twist with Chubby Checker and Debbie. That was cool, but it was also funny. Funny things happen. I usually joke with my tech… I am usually in a running conversation with my tech during the show, kinda joking and stuff.
Barry L. Kramer: I’d like to add something too. As you might have heard me say, I don’t know anything about music other than I love it, so I’m particularly interested in the creative process. I’ve seen guitarists who can memorize and learn a song in two or three listens of the original. How quickly or easily does it come for you when you learn a new track? Do you think it’s any easier or harder for you than musicians who play other instruments? And how long does it usually take you to work up how you’re going to play a brand new song for an album recording session and for a performance on tour?
CB: I’ll take the end first. The songs evolve, and with drums, especially in the old days, that was kind of the foundation, so you really kind of have to have your part down because everyone else would overdub over the drums. You really can hear that in something like Dreaming or Union City, things like that. I’ve been told I have elephant ears, which I guess means I pick things up quickly. My good friend Don Randi, Nancy Sinatra’s musical director told me that. We would read charts, but I’m not the greatest at reading music. I go by feel a lot, although I can look at a chart of music and figure it out, but I couldn’t sight read it. And as far as drums, it’s about laying down a groove… is it easier or harder than playing the guitar or this or that? It all depends on how your brain works. But drumming’s all about feel.
Brian La Fountain: Being as you were and always are noted by Debbie and Chris as being forever gripped by the allure of stardom and all that encompasses it…. now that you are, and 100% deserve to be in the stratosphere of the coolest band members EVER, do you still appreciate the groveling fans like you had wished for in the mid-1970’s… or are we now just part of the scenery…. and is it all you had hoped that feeling would be?
CB: First off, I don’t consider you, the fans to be groveling; you guys are fans, super fans in fact. I can totally feel and understand your excitement about the band; that’s something I would never take for granted. I can completely empathize with that.
I am entirely grateful for all the support you the fans have given us through the years. Don’t forget fan is short for fanatic! Rock on you fanatics! Peace and love.
Boulderen: How has the album “Panic of Girls” changed since your first plans to release it last spring? (concerning the sound, track listing etc.)
CB: There was a lot of remixing going on which I don’t necessarily think was absolutely needed. I like to, prefer to, work to a deadline. I think a lot of writers, particularly, say when they have a deadline they do their best work. There was a lot of remixing, things like that… we recorded “Mother” and one or two other songs later on in the sessions with a different producer and that’s about it.
Clare Thomas: Why was X Offender withdrawn?
PS: Thanks 4 the signed sticks when you were in England, Clare and Gary
CB: What does that mean?
Ronaldo Lima: Hi Clem! I would like to send my congrats! Best drumming I’ve ever heard! And .. I think your material, your way of doing shows, of playing on stage, the fun, the colors, the life that the band brings to the public is perfect! It would never have to change. So my question is: When will you guys play Brazil with this fucking great beautiful band ?! =D
Maily Sacramento: Hi Clem, is Blondie planning a South American tour any time soon? If so, please don’t forget Brazil this time- 🙂
CB: I’d love to play Brazil. We’ve never been there. We never played Rock in Rio. We love South America. We did do a tour there. We played Santiago, Chile, a few times. We’d love to come back to South America but there’s no plan at the moment.
Craig Hogan: Blondie are back with the album Panic of Girls, are you looking forward to the new tour and how are you finding the audiences reactions?
CB: The tour is just about to start, and I’m planning on finding the audience reaction to be exceptional. We’ve put together an entirely new show incorporating a lot of the songs from Panic of Girls as well as some of the older songs that we haven’t played in the last bunch of tours. We’ve kind of took out some of the songs that we always played and replaced them with other songs that we haven’t played in a long time that people really want to hear. So I think for Blondie fans, they’re really gonna have an enjoyable concert experience. Just really looking forward to getting back out there… being on tour for me with Blondie is like being on vacation, it’s like the lap of luxury. I do a lot of other playing, a lot of other touring, and the circumstances under which we tour are always really great so I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks for the questions. I hope everybody else in the Revenge band gets to chime in and I’d like to have them know yeah we miss everybody and it was a great time. It’s almost like people you were in a band with, or you have a lot of shared history with or shared experiences with, for the average person you could relate it to people that were your friends in school, then you haven’t seen them in a long time but you’ve had all these great experiences. So they’re really always your friends, you don’t have to really see them all the time to be connected to them. There’s still a connection and that’s how I feel about all the members of the Revenge band and all that stuff. So, all the best to everybody. Peace and Love.
Clem also answered a series of questions about his work with Eurythmics for the 25th anniversary of the Revenge album. The final question was included here. Visit http://eurythmics-ultimate.com/revenge25-clem-burke-interview/ for the remainder of that interview.
[source: Clem Burke phone interview: Tuesday 28 June 2011 at 10:00pm EDT to 11:15pm. Recorded and transcribed by Barry L. Kramer.]