10 Questions with The Pretenders

Iconic Band Rocks the Tri-State Area

1473789967ThePretenders_4000x4000_CoverThe Pretenders are “Back On The Chain Gang” and on tour, in support of their first album in eight years, entitled Alone, recorded with The Black Keys’ multi-instrumentalist phenom Dan Auerbach.

Fronted by Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers, the only remaining original members, the band wraps their spring tour at The Nassau Coliseum on Long Island April 6 co-headlining with Stevie Nicks (in addition to playing Newark’s Prudential Center with Stevie April 2 and a headlining show April 3 at New York’s Terminal 5). For those who can’t make one of The Pretenders’ three shows, an Austin City Limits TV show appearance that was recorded last month will be televised later this year.

From new songs like the thrilling “Holy Commotion” to piano-pounding title track “Alone” to the hits, The Pretenders promise a rock show with no filter. Hynde herself talked with NYCMonthly.com about an early run-in with Iggy Pop, why she doesn’t like awards shows and what’s been most enjoyable about touring with The Pretenders and joining Stevie Nicks…

Your show with Stevie Nicks is fantastic, what a pairing having the two of you share the stage and play your own songs. How did you ever decide to pair up for this?

It’s just all about availability. But obviously, you want to tour with someone who is compatible. I think both of us were surprised at how compatible.

You are playing three tri-state area shows coming up early April, with Stevie 4/2 and 4/6 (at Newark’s Prudential Center and The Nassau Coliseum, respectively) and then in between a headlining show with The Pretenders 4/3 (Terminal 5). What will be most different about
your headlining show?

We can do a few more new songs. I have always enjoyed smaller places. The audiences are standing up in the front so they felt from the stage more intimate than some theaters where everyone is at a distance sitting down.

In 2005 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel The Pretenders were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside U2, Buddy Guy, the Golden Voice of Soul, Percy Sledge and the O’Jays. Can you take us back to this historic moment for you and your band?

I don’t like the Hall of Fame. It’s everything against rock & roll. For me being in a band it’s sort of an anti-establishment. The people who set it up are not in rock bands.

I was very happy hanging out in Brazil when my manager told me. For me, it was bad news – yet another awards show. I don’t mind awards let’s say for sports; maybe ’cause there’s a guy who has the most knockouts as a prizefighter. But, music is an emotional thing and what happens is when people go into the Hall of Fame it disgusts me, you think about who’s not in it.

You worked with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach who produced The Pretenders’ new album Alone. If there’s one song people should listen to from this album which one is it and why?

I would say “Never Be Together” just because Duane Eddy plays on it and that’s really cool. That’s not what an album is for though. That’s why I like working with Dan.

These days people go onto a computer and download one song. Since they started making vinyl with Side 1 and Side 2 on all the albums I started listening to in the 60s I knew what song went into the next. It really meant something how it was constructed. Now there are filler tracks with a few hits at the front. Vinyl is final.

“I’m gonna be happy even if it kills me.”

“I’ll Stand By You” is one of the most uplifting rock songs ever rooted in meaningful lyrics, a beautiful vocal and a timeless message. What do you stand for right now in your life?

In my own personal life, I think it’s kind of a discipline to become happy and not let things bother me. I’m gonna be happy even if it kills me. I do whatever it takes to fight depression and I’m old enough now to know how to do that. It’s hard to have these disciplines when you’re younger, I’m in a more monk-like state now that I’m older. I do yoga, I don’t smoke or do drugs. I am very regimented and I have my certain meditations.

What is one of your favorite things to do or see when visiting New York City?

I go to the park.

The 1970s and 1980s when The Pretenders were gaining traction were massive decades for rock music, punk and new wave in New York. What do you miss most about that era in New York and do you have a memorable story about New York from over the years?

I didn’t spend that much time in New York. I was in London since 1973. I guess my most memorable thing is I first arrived at the Iroquois in 1973 and Iggy Pop was leaning against the wall.

What I really miss are bands, but I think bands will come back. In the 60s being in a band was very subversive and there was a lot of political unrest. I think all of what’s popular right now is going to look very tired soon.

Your voice has really stood the test of time. Do you have a pre-show ritual to get you ready to sing?

I have a cup of tea but no milk or sugar. I don’t drink anything on stage. I’m untrained I don’t do any vocal exercises, I think it’s psychological. If I didn’t go on stage for two years I’m the same.

What’s been one of the highlights of touring with Stevie Nicks?

It’s great to see her on stage because it’s our one moment we have together. We often mess up the lyrics and get it wrong and we can’t believe we’re still getting it wrong after all this time.

In all of your years playing for New York audiences, what is the most exciting part for you as a musician, a performer and an artist to come here to play for fans?

Well you know, I wasn’t in New York during the whole CBGB thing, but I’ve been many, many times. My history with New York has been more avoiding crowds, staying a bit out of the way. In fact I used to stay on the Upper East Side because it was so quiet.

I don’t like to be recognized or seen so I would just creep into the park in the morning. But then I felt more spoiled and started staying in the Lower East Side and SoHo and stuff. I try to stay a little more in the shadow.

Photo Credit: Jill Furmanovsky