Matt Katz-Bohen of Blondie: New Wave for a New Decade

MATT KATZ-BOHEN JOINED IN BLONDIE IN 2008 FOR A WORLD TOUR celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic album Parallel Lines.
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By Tom Brislin

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MATT KATZ-BOHEN JOINED IN BLONDIE IN 2008 FOR A WORLD TOUR celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic album Parallel Lines. After the tour solidified his position with the pioneers of new wave, he retreated with the band to record, and has made his presence felt on their latest album Panic of Girls.

The band wrote songs as a group and also worked individually, sending each other tracks to build upon. “Often it originated with Chris Stein,” recalls Matt. “He’d send me a Logic track, ask for a certain type of feel, and I’d write the parts and send them to Debbie Harry.” Some initial tracks made it onto the album largely unchanged, as Matt’s sensibilities seemed to fit right in to the band. “I’ve always loved the simplicity. I admired the parts that [original keyboardist] Jimmy Destri put on tunes like ‘Heart of Glass.’ I’m a simple, vibe-and-hook keyboard player, so it fit in well.” The band would appear to agree, as Matt’s own songs “What I Heard” and “Love Doesn’t Frighten Me” landed on the album as well.

In the studio, Matt played Wurly, Hammond B-3, and Hohner Clavinet. He brought in a trio of Rolands from his live rig—Jupiter-6, Juno-106, and Fantom-G—then fleshed things out with Arturia Minimoog V and Prophet V soft synths, and “a little bit” of Reason programming. The band trusted Matt’s taste in keyboard parts, but had one rule: “I was forbidden from using the pitch-bend wheel. It was like when Metallica had to hide the wah-wah from Kirk Hammett!”

Did the new wave heroes offer Matt any sage advice? “They recommended I listen to Brian Eno, Warm Jets, and Pulp. Live, I keep my eye on [drummer] Clem Burke for visual cues, and Chris and Debbie tell me to go crazy and do whatever I want.”