Berlin's Terri Nunn: Now the Wiser and Determined to 'Enjoy the Ride More' (Q&A)
Some 27 years after "Take My Breath Away" soundtracked "Top Gun," the singer finds inspiration in EDM heavies like Skrillex and Armin van Buuren for her latest album.
As Los Angeles was in thrall to punk and the coming of glam metal at the onset of the 80’s, singer Terri Nunn met electronics wizard John Crawford and decided to gamble on the Euro obsession with the shiny new synthesizer mania. They formed the fittingly named Berlin, and cult hits "The Metro," "Sex (I’m A…)" and "Masquerade" eventually evolved into massive chart success later in the decade. Indeed, "Take My Breath Away" soundtracked one of the defining blockbusters of its time, Top Gun, which (pardon the pun) rocketed both the band and Tom Cruise to mega-stardom.
In the 27 years since, Cruise has not missed a beat, but Berlin faded into the history books as grunge, hip-hop and techno dominated the 1990s. Nunn then reformed the band with a new lineup for 2002’s Voyeur -- and on Sept. 17, they release their first album in eight years.
The vitality of the new collection, salaciously titled Animal, belies the long absence. Tracks like the dreamy, reflective “It’s The Way” evocatively recall those Top Gun years. But “With The Lights On” taps excitedly into the current EDM culture without sacrificing their skillful way with a hook. Fans of their nascent synth-pop work will thrill to retro-modern cool of “Secrets” and “Stand Up." Nunn has also found a new musical soulmate, in the form of songwriter-producer Derek Cannavo, her key collaborator on Animal.
Nunn, who now has her own radio show on LA’s KCSN, is excited, to say the least, about Berlin’s return.
The Hollywood Reporter: Why is it a good time for Berlin to come back?
Terri Nunn: I got a job at a radio station here in LA called KCSN, and I get to program whatever I want for two hours. That got me into Skrillex, Morgan Page, Armin van Buuren… the EDM music coming out now is what inspired me to do this record. I love the passion in it, it speaks to me.
THR: How did Berlin first come about?
Nunn: I met John Crawford and he had a synthesizer. It was an unknown thing, there was nobody doing that. At that time it was The Motels, The Go-Go’s, The Plimsouls, The Knack, The Cramps, it was a great scene; but we were laughed at. When we opened for Iggy Pop, we were just hoping they didn’t spit on us.
THR: Berlin were a part of that first generation of bands that really started consciously integrating with Hollywood. It was the idea of the pop soundtrack becoming truly integral to the film.
Nunn: I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. In the 70’s the music experience was about going inward…
THR: Then in the 80’s in was about being big and glamorous and exciting.
Nunn: Yeah! Video changed everything. A couple of the label offers we got back then didn’t include a video budget. And we were like, um, MTV is going to take off! And [the labels] still thought nothing was going to happen with videos.
THR: What squares, right?
Nunn: But Geffen saw the future and they wanted to be a part of it. And thank god! When MTV started they had 24 hours of time to fill and no content.
THR: There were only about fifteen bands with videos.
Nunn: And they played our video like every fifteen minutes!
THR: But at that time, bands were more in control of the new technology. Now technology controls the bands -- it’s almost as if the delivery system has become more important than the content.
Nunn: Actually, MTV dictated what they wanted our videos to look like. They would tell us that they wouldn’t play it unless… well, when we did the Bonnie & Clyde thing for "No More Words" they told us they didn’t want the guns at the end. We had to change it or they weren’t going to play it. YouTube is the new MTV, and they only really draw the line at pornography.
THR: You worked with John King of the Dust Brothers as producer on the new album. How did that come about?
Nunn: I’m a huge fan of John’s. Fight Club is one of the best soundtracks in the history of the world. David Fincher actually then hired Trent Reznor for The Social Network and told him he wanted the Fight Club sound.
THR: So King got burned, in a way?
Nunn: Well, not burned. But Reznor just kind of followed the template.
THR: So what are you hoping for with this record?
Nunn: I’m going to enjoy the ride more this time. When it first happened, I was too young to enjoy it. I missed so much because I just thought it was about achievement and about making it and about money. It was this endless exhausting ride.”
THR: But come on, you must have had fun.
Nunn: I was the one who made it a bummer; and I don’t want to do that anymore.
THR: And there will be a tour?
Nunn: Well, another goal is to make enough money so that I can do a huge production. We’ve got video, we’ve got the lights…but I’m thinking of Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga. I see that kind of production, and I am so jealous. My goal is to do a tour like that.