Interview: Terri Nunn of Berlin (@ The Anthem, 9/17/19)

Terri Nunn
Terri Nunn (Photo courtesy Mint Artist Management)

Berlin, the California-based new wave collective, recruited Terri Nunn as lead singer in 1979, and so the band is celebrating 40 years of making music this year. Over the decades, Berlin has continued as a live band with Terri’s undeniably alluring vocals, but the classic lineup of the band only ever made three records together — Pleasure Victim (1982), Love Life (1984), and Count Three & Pray (1986). But what three marvelous albums!

Today, Terri has reunited with her classic bandmates, John Crawford and David Diamond. Berlin recorded a new album, Transcendence, due for release on Aug. 2. Meanwhile, The B-52s invited Berlin to open for them on a farewell tour, including a stop at The Anthem on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter recently chatted with Terri Nunn about working with John Crawford and David Diamond again, the upcoming megatour, and being a female musician, among other things.

Mickey McCarter: Terri! We are so happy… *I’m* so happy to talk to you. Can we leap into the new album a little bit and what can you tell us about it?

Terri Nunn: This is the first album collaboration for me and for the classic Berlin band, the three of us — John Crawford, David Diamond, and I. Wow, when did we do the last one together? 1986.

MM: Yeah.

TN: Yeah. So, this is out of nowhere, and this year’s our 40th anniversary ’cause I joined the band in 1979.

MM: Wow, terrific. So, this new album is due out… Do we know when?

TN: August 2nd. It’s 10 songs.

MM: Okay.

TN: And let’s see. What can I tell you about it? The producers are Australian. They were introduced to us by the executive producer Adam Anders, who’s quite well-known here. In fact, what’s interesting about Adam Anders is he has, himself, more charted hits than anyone in history, more than the Beatles, more than Michael Jackson, more than The Stones, more than anybody, mainly because he wrote and produced all of the music for Glee and American Horror Story as well as his own music. So, he does hold that title. Anyway, he introduced us to Andy and Tom, the production team, a year and a half ago.

And we started working with them. We’d written the songs, but they came in and they produced it. And it’s just an amazing album. I’m really impressed with it. It’s called Transcendence.

Stream the lead single from Transcendence by Berlin on Spotify:

MM: So, you’ve been touring but soon you’ll join The B-52s on this big summer tour. When you arrive here in Washington, D.C., you’ll be with The B-52s. What can we expect from that tour?

TN: I think it’s a great line-up. I really love The B-52s. I always have. I still remember being a teenager and seeing them for the first time on Saturday Night Live, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I just thought it was just the most amazing thing. I remember seeing Kate Pierson with her beehive hairdo, and they’re standing behind keyboards and Fred’s in front and she starts the song “Rock Lobster.”

And I was like, “Holy, fuck. What is this?” I couldn’t even believe it. It was just so amazing, and it still is. We’ve had the great fortune to play with them a few times now, in the past two years, and they are, to me, so unique that they don’t age. The music doesn’t age. When it’s so different than anything else around it, like Pink Floyd or B-52s, it never gets old because there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing to age it. It doesn’t sound like anything else.

So, that’s what I love about them and getting to play with them, and we’re really honored to be asked to be part of this tour with them.

MM: You know, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Andy McCluskey of OMD a few times.

TN: Yeah.

MM: And he once told me, “You can never go out of fashion if you were never in fashion.”

TN: That’s great. I just met OMD for the first time. We did the cruise earlier this year. I think we had done a show with them a while ago, but we didn’t actually meet them. It was a number of bands, and I don’t think we met them then. But we did meet them this past March. They’re very cool.

MM: Speaking of OMD, Berlin were kind of a very European-sounding band in the ’80s, you know? It would have been very easy to think you guys weren’t American. Did you get that a lot?

TN: Yeah. We tried very hard not to sound American ’cause we were from Orange County. That doesn’t sound cool at all, so we wanted to be like the bands we were listening to overseas, which was everything coming out of England like Ultravox and Kraftwerk from Germany. All those bands were coming from overseas, and we just thought, “Oh, that’s just the coolest thing ever. This music is so different,” and like nothing going on in the States at the time. So, that’s what we wanted to be and what we wanted to sound like.

Berlin_high_res_7
Berlin: Terri Nunn, John Crawford, and David Diamond (Photo courtesy Mint Artist Management)

MM: So, when you guys are touring now, this is the first major tour that you and David and John have done together since the ’80s. And so, will you play new songs? I know you’re one of three bands on a bill. So, do we get a little dose of you? Will we get a lot of you? What can we anticipate?

TN: Yeah, it’ll be some new songs, and then, of course, the classic songs that people want to hear. When I go to a show to see a band that I like, I want to hear the songs I know. I’ll listen to new songs, and I’m interested if I like the band, but I want to hear new songs.

I remember going to see Nine Inch Nails, and I’m not saying this for every tour that Trent has done with Nine Inch Nails, just this one, but he decided not to do any of the songs that he’s known for. He just did some of the new album stuff, and I hated it. I love so much of what Nine Inch Nails has done and that’s what I came to hear. I came to hear at least a few of the songs that I love, and I didn’t get any.

In that same show, Jane’s Addiction came out and killed it because they played all of the songs that we know and love of theirs, and people were so appreciative and so happy to be able to hear these songs live. So, I completely understand that.

Stream Pleasure Victim by Berlin on Spotify:

MM: I recall the very first time that who you and Berlin was, when the song “Sex” came out, and I was on the cusp of being a teenager. And in Baltimore, where I grew up, you could only hear that song after 10 pm on the radio. They wouldn’t play it earlier.

TN: Really? Oh, really? I didn’t know that.

MM: They wouldn’t play it except for at night, so I was like, “Who is this mysterious band that you have to stay late to listen to on the radio?”

TN: Wow.

MM: So, it’s great that we’re going to hear some of the classics as well. That’s fantastic.

TN: One interesting point, I don’t think I’ve said this to anybody yet, but I wrote that song for a guy who I was dating at the time, and we have stayed very good friends. He is a DJ named Richard Blade out here on the West Coast, and he special guested on a song of ours on the new album as a kind of sleazy announcer guy, like in a commercial. He plays this sleazy commercial announcer guy that tells you, “You gotta call now,” and “You’re old, and you’re fat. And you’re ugly, and you need to call us now. And we will fix your life.”

MM: That’s great! Several of my friends have read Richard’s book, but I have not myself yet. I will, but I haven’t yet. My friends really liked it.

Buy World in My Eyes: The Autobiography by Richard Blade on Amazon.

TN: It’s a good book. I liked it, too. I learned a lot, actually. I learned stuff about our relationship that I didn’t know.

MM: I was going to ask if you learned anything about yourself!

TN: Yeah. I did.

MM: You recently received some recognition from in the form of an award from the Women’s International Music Network. And you performed at the She Rocks Awards at the House of Blues Anaheim in January.

TN: Yes.

MM: I wanted to get your thoughts on that experience. People were quite excited about that.

TN: I was excited about it. I personally haven’t won many awards in my career, and that one was special not just to win an award, but to win it from women. That meant a lot to me. It came out of nowhere, and to be noticed and acknowledged by them was a really big deal to me. It meant a lot to me.

MM: Today, when we talk about “women in music” we generally talk about the topic in terms of the gender divide. And we will see criticism for example when music festivals don’t have many female-fronted bands and the like.

But maybe I was spoiled because I grew up listening to you and I grew up listening to Dale Bozzio and Belinda Carlisle and, of course, Debbie Harry. And what an amazing time that was for female-fronted bands. You know, that run of Berlin albums during that time, there seemed to be a lot going on. Do you feel the same way? Like, did we regress somehow?

TN: I don’t think it regressed. I feel that we’ve gotten to stand on the shoulders of the women before us, like you mentioned, Debbie Harry and, for me, Stevie Nicks and Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart — all of these women who were so iconic and role models for me.

And then getting to go out there and do it, and now the women who followed us get to stand on our shoulders and just continue the tradition. So, I don’t think it’s regressed.

It’s always been a male-dominated world, music. And honestly, the reason I think it is only because music is a way for men to get laid. That is the whole point of rock music to begin with: To connect and to turn women on and to reach out. And it’s one of the reasons a lot of musicians are kind of nerdy. It’s a way to meet women and be attractive, and I totally get that.

So, that’s really the only reason, I think, that music is a male-dominated profession. It’s more and more women, but we don’t have the same needs with music. Women can get laid, generally, pretty much any time they want. You know what I mean? So, there’s a different reason to make music for women. It’s a connection, for sure.

I know that I have social issues, and most people in music I meet do have social issues. And it’s a way for me to feel safe with people, to share something special with people, and to connect with people. It’s something that I need. It’s important for me. That’s one of the reason I make music.

Watch the official music video for “No More Words” by Berlin on YouTube:

MM: Now that you and John and David have recorded again, are you back? Will you keep recording? Will there be yet another album? What happens next?

TN: Wow. Getting this baby born has been so all-consuming that it’s hard for me to look beyond it, other than knowing that I enjoyed making this record more than any record in the past in my life.

MM: Wow.

TN: And so, would I like to do it again? Yes. If people hate it, well, then we’re not just doing this to masturbate ourselves. We’re doing it for people, so we want it to be something that people respond to and like. And if they do and it seems to be working for them, then I would love to work more with John and David. Absolutely.

MM: I think that would make a lot of people happy.

TN: Oh, thank you.

MM: You guys are one of my favorite bands, Terri. You guys are terrific, and I’m so enthusiastic about you getting together with David and John again. And I can’t tell you how excited I am and how excited everybody I know is, so it’s going to be a great show.

TN: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

#

Don’t miss Berlin opening The B-52s at The Anthem on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Buy your tickets online.

Berlin
Opening The B-52s
w/ Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
The Anthem
Tuesday, Sept. 17
Doors @ 6:30pm
$55 GA
All ages

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