Berlin’s Terri Nunn Releases Her Inner ‘Animal’
Berlin will forever be recognized as the American pioneer of electro-pop artistry. The Los Angeles-based band broke onto the scene in 1982 with the provocative single “Sex (I’m A…)” from the platinum-selling debut EP Pleasure Victim. “The Metro” and “No More Words” were also chart toppers, but it was the unforgettable “Take My Breath Away” that helped solidify Berlin’s everlasting place in pop-culture. Despite the band’s demise soon after, the ballad was a defining role in the 1986 Tom Cruise film, Top Gun. It became a #1 international hit and received both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for “Best Original Song.”
Following a solo career, Nunn recreated Berlin, with a new lineup of musicians, in 1998. Until recently, she also hosted the radio show Unbound with Terri Nunn on 88.5 FM KCSN Los Angeles with co-host Wendy Liebman. The two provided their listening audience with a Saturday night range of great music, interviews and Nunn’s personal take on a wide variety of lively topics.
This year, the groundbreaking synth-electro-pop band, released their seventh studio album, Animal. The album – their first in eight years – incorporates modern electronic dance music, yet remains true to the groundbreaking new wave sounds and indisputable vocals that continue to define Berlin.
Nunn says Animal is the result of her love affair with the current EDM [electronic dance music] scene. That notion is evident on the first single and video for “Animal.”
The video was filmed in an S&M dungeon in Los Angeles and directed by Chad Michael Ward [who’s worked with Marilyn Manson and Combichrist]. Still breaking boundaries and an LGBT ally, this edgy video features guest appearances from RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Raven – who can be seen involved in an androgynous steamy encounter with Nunn – and Sister Indica and DeMencha of the renowned charity organization Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Still fierce at 52, Nunn is embarking on a new tour along with Berlin, which will include stints in Philadelphia, California, New Jersey and New York. I talked with the eternal rocker about the story behind the new album, her love affair with the LGBT community and how she almost landed the role of “Princess Leia” in the original Star Wars films.
Erik Caban: From what I‘ve heard of the new album, you’ve gone back to your renowned hedonistic, synth-alternative, with a dark edge vibe. What story are you telling with Animal?
Terri Nunn: Oooh, I like that! The way you worded it is better than I could describe it. It’s not just one story I’m telling in this album – it’s many. I wrote songs about both of my parents – “Blame It On The World” and “Mom” – for the first time in my career. “Nice To Meet You” is about my fear of people – which I recognized only recently – and my awkwardness in group situations. “It’s The Way” is about my fear of intimacy and my fight to overcome it. “Animal” and “Break The Chains” are about getting out of my critical mind and into my body; enjoying it more and my life. Both of those songs do that for me. “With The Lights On” is about watching my man strip for me.
Tell me more about this tour.
We’re playing anywhere that’ll have us and we have more shows booked than ever. I want people to hear this stuff!
Though the mainstream hit “Take My Breath Away” took the band to another level, it obviously caused issues within the band. What do you attribute that to?
We already had issues within the band. We couldn’t agree on where to take Berlin on the third album and beyond. “Take My Breath Away” came along while we were recording the album and added to the rift. John [Crawford] didn’t want to do it because it wasn’t written by us, I did because it was a good song and I would’ve sung to a fart from Giorgio Moroder [who wrote the song]. I loved his music so much!
Did you have difficulty retaining the fan base when you reformed Berlin?
Sure, it took awhile to reconnect. Berlin had been silent for 8 years.
Berlin was one of the originators of the New Wave era and the synth-pop sound in the 1980’s. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the music these days has gotten more and more electronically-infused. How do you feel about being pioneers and your modern contemporaries?
I feel great about it now. At the time, it was rough. Being a pioneer in anything isn’t for the weak-hearted. A lot of people laughed at us or scratched their heads when they heard our music. Labels didn’t understand it, couldn’t categorize it, so they just ignored us initially. I LOVE unique music though. In modern contemporaries, Skrillex is one who stands out for me. WOW! I’ve never heard some of the sounds he’s creating. Fantastic!
It’s no secret that you have a huge gay fan base. How much does your gay fan base have an effect on what you record in the studio or perform on stage?
I don’t think of people’s race, creed or sexual orientation when I write music. Maybe I should – OK, maybe I do when I’m writing about sex. [Laughs] To me, people are the same at the core, where it matters.
You even feature The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in your new video! That’s so awesome!
I agree!! Credit goes to director Chad Michael Ward I love him because he’s a sick puppy and has some wild friends, some of whom came to be in my “Animal” video, like Sister Indica.
Tell me more about your hosting gig for the radio show Unbound with Terri Nunn.
I started that show in January 2012, two years ago. KCSN Los Angeles is a great station because they let me program my two hour show any way I wanted. So I played dance music and fun music and classics, because it was a Saturday night show. I also interviewed musicians and comedians and even Steve Wozniak for an unforgettable U.S. Festival Show! I had to let the radio show go last month though. I’m too busy with album promotion and touring now.
To get geeky for a minute, I read that you auditioned for the role of “Leia Organa” in Star Wars? Can you tell me more about that experience? Why didn’t you get it?
You can see my audition with Harrison Ford on [YouTube] (Type in “Terri Nunn Star Wars Audition.” It should come up). Really weird experience because Star Wars hadn’t been created yet, so reading lines referencing “R2D2” and “Chewbacca” – I was thinking, “What the fuck’s a Chewbacca?” George Lucas actually told my agent I was too good an actress to do it, and championed me after that in the business. It’s because of him I got offered the role in Dallas, which I turned down to go try and find a band. A year later I met John Crawford and joined Berlin. So I guess you could say George Lucas indirectly pushed me towards my ultimate fulfillment.
Are you going audition for the new Star Wars films? [Laughs]
More than 30 years of success in the biz. What do you have planned for the next 30 years?
Family, friends, music, touring, recording, maybe a talk show, and trying to stay as healthy as I can to enjoy it all!
Who: Terri Nunn of Berlin