iNTERViEWS TERRi NUNN OF BERLiN
TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY
TERRi NUNN OF BERLiN
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR NEW LiVE CD ALL THE WAY iN
DOiNG THiRTY YEARS iN ROCK N ROLL
AND THE BAND'S FUTURE PLANS
JULY 27, 2009
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
In the twenty-seven years since BERLIN released their debut EP ‘PLEASURE VICTIM’, the band’s electro pop sensibility has unintentionally influenced a generation of electro torch bearers such as TAXI DOLL and GOLDFRAPP, but their sultry lead vocalist TERRI NUNN was probably more ahead of her time than the bands sound. In the days before MADONNA, NUNN was the true music video provocateur with that eighties ode to sexual role playing ‘SEX (I’M A…)’ and the BOWIE-esque new wave romp ‘MASQUERADE’. Aside from her pouty red lips, high cheekbones and blue, bedroom eyes, NUNN possessed an equally sexy purr that could growl like PAT BENATAR and croon (rather chillingly) like EURYTHMICS-era ANNIE LENNOX.
As the eighties progressed the band had struck up a profitable relationship with disco producer GIORGIO MORODER. As a result the band kept the electronics in the background and forged a more radio friendly sound with hits like ‘NO MORE WORDS’, ‘ALL TOMORROW’S LIES’, and the TOP GUN love theme ‘TAKE MY BREATH AWAY’. It was a sonic shift indirection that ultimately led to a falling out between NUNN and founder JOHN CRAWFORD. For the remainder of the REAGAN era – and the nineties that followed – BERLIN’s presence in the pop stratosphere was limited to Eighties Nights and VH-1’s ‘WHERE ARE THEY NOW?’.
In the aughties, Ms. NUNN returned to the scene – looking every bit the petite new wave vixen she was twenty years earlier – with a brand new version of BERLIN that successfully married electronica with NUNN’s undying dance rock approach on their 2002 release ‘VOYEUR’. Eight years later, NUNN and her league of extraordinary gentlemen have released a live CD/DVD package entitled ‘ALL THE WAY IN’ which feature live cuts of BERLIN classics as well as new material. “I feel truly blessed to have had this career for a long as I have and still be able to call the shots.” says NUNN “It feels good to be creative. It’s more than I’ve ever hoped for.”
ROCKWIRED spoke with TERRI NUNN over the phone. Here is how it went.
Has the REGENERATION TOUR wrapped up or is it still going?
Actually it went from the middle of June to the middle of July. The last show was at the CHASTAIN PARK AMPITHEATER in Atlanta. The tour was a lot of fun and it was great getting to play with MARTIN FRY of ABC.
Now you’ve got this new album out called ‘ALL THE WAY IN’ and I think that it’s been ten years since you released your last album live album ‘SACRED AND PROFANE’. What’s different with this live recording?
That one was a CD release only and this one is a DVD and CD and it spans everything that we’ve done from the beginning up to what we’re doing now. We’ve also got some brand new songs on this one as well.
Is it covers like some of the last BERLIN releases?
No. We’ve got mostly new original material but we do have a cover of ‘SOMEBODY TO LOVE’ by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. We also have MARILYN MANSON’s ‘DOPE SHOW’. I think that’s about it as far as covers.
Since the bands inception almost thirty years ago to now, what has been the biggest surprise for you?
The biggest surprise for me is to still be doing what I’m doing now. I never could’ve imagined that I would be thriving and enjoying it all thirty years later. I had no idea. Nobody did just because back then, rock music was still very young. Even MICK JAGGER once said that when he turned fifty that he wasn’t going to be doing this. Well, fifty came and went and he’s still here. Nobody knew that rock music would last. They figured maybe it would have a ten-year run at best and maybe a few more.
Also around the time of BERLIN’s inception – other than DEBORAH HARRY – there were not a lot of women doing rock music. What was that like being one of the few?
It was hard but it was exciting. On the one hand, punk music came along and changed the rules in terms of what people expected when it came to music. It was really an exciting thing. That things were able to happen for us at all was due to punk music. It was good in that way but it was also hard because people never took us seriously because no one was doing the kind of music that we were doing. So for us, it was definitely a double-edged sword.
BERLIN also had that electronic sound which was kind of rare for a U.S. band.
Yes we did. That was also a double-edged sword. When we started, nothing else was going on that sounded like us at the time. Everything having to do with the New Wave scene had this big power pop sound and here we were taking this electronic path. I thanked punk music because it blew open the door. If it wasn’t for punk music happening, we wouldn’t have had a shot. It leveled the playing field so well that any song with merely three or four chords in it had a shot at being played on the radio.
You’ve been touring and recording with a new version of BERLIN for some time after your falling out with JOHN CRAWFORD. Talk bout the new members you have of BERLIN and what it is that each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise?
That’s an interesting question! CHRIS OLIVAS brings a dance sensibility to the band that I love. In the past, most of the drummers that worked with were really rock drummers but CHRIS has that electronic dance thing that really works for me. He really gets my ass shaking. The guitar player CARLTON BOST has this industrial sound – a really hard-edged sound that really works for us. Before joining us, he was in the band DEADSY which is fronted by CHER’s son ELIJAH BLUE ALLMAN. Apart from his sound, CARLTON is very easy on the eyes. That’s another reason why I keep him around. My two favorite guitarists of all time are DAVE GILMOUR of PINK FLOYD and DAVE NAVARRO of JANE’S ADDICTION and CARLTON is definitely somewhere between those to for me. We’ve got a new member named DAVE SCHULZ who has worked with the GOO GOO DOLLS and ENGLISH BEAT. He is a classically trained pianist and that comes in handy because with a lot of the more classic BERLIN material, the keyboards are the primary instrument.
Talk about how songwriting gets done in this band. Obviously it’s changed over the years with new members.
Over the course of thirty years, it has changed many times. In the past, I would have one member of the band that I would work with or I would work with several different members of the band. At the moment, we’re working on our latest studio album, which we plan to have released early next year. CARLTON is producing all of the music and I’m working with three different songwriters.
What’s going to be different on this forthcoming studio album as opposed to 2002’s VOYEUR?
Because there are three writers that are supplying me with music, It’ll be different in that the sound of the band will be a little more diversified. The extra writers only help in expanding this sound that we already have. One of the songwriters is a female and this is my first time working with a female writer.
Having written with men all of these years, was it easier or more difficult writing with a woman?
It’s actually about the same. In working with women, what I’ve noticed is that men are less needy of praise and tend to just go with the t just because they’re not used to praise. Women are a lot more needy of praise. I’m not trying to say that it’s a bad thing. It’s just that in working with women, I’ve had to learn to be more complimentary.
I do wish they had picked you to play PRINCESS LEIA. That would’ve been different.
Thank you, but I don’t agree.
Why is that?
I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. Doing STAR WARS would’ve changed everything. I wouldn’t have had the career that I have now because in those days, there were no crossover success stories. You didn’t act in movies and TV and then front a rock band. Sure, if I had done STAR WARS, I would’ve been richer than God but would I have been happier? I don’t know. I feel truly blessed to have had this career for a long as I have and still be able to call the shots. It feels good to be creative. It’s more than I’ve ever hoped for.
If music was this love of your life, where did the acting come from.
The acting career was something that kind of fell in my lap. I tried it and I enjoyed it and it taught me alot. I was able to make a lot of money and I was able to learn to so much from all of the work but it never took the place of music. Music was what I had always wanted tot do but I was so scared of getting started and had no idea about how to get started. One day, I won a part on DALLAS and I was offered this seven-year contract. I was eighteen years old and I was at a crossroads. I had to decide whether I was going to pursue music or acting. Needless to say I chose music. Thank God things started to happen because at eighteen, you’ve got to make a living.
Describe the reaction of the crowds on this last tour.
It’s been pretty phenomenal and I feel blessed that it came along. At first I had some reservations but he reason I came around was that the tour allowed us to play in places and venues that we wouldn’t have been able to play otherwise. I was also looking forward to playing with some of the other bands like ABC. I had always heard the MARTIN FRY (of ABC) is excellent live and watching them on the tour, I wasn’t disappointed.
What music grabs your attention today, if anything?
I love a lot of electronic music and I love where people are taking it. I love bands like SHINY TOY GUN and I’ve always been a huge fan of NINE INCH NAILS. I just love all of the different directions that electronic music is going in. It’s really exciting.
How would you feel about sharing a stage with TRENT REZNOR?
Are you kidding? I would love it!