Terri Nunn on Strings Attached, The '80s, Lucy Ewing, And The Songs That Define Berlin

On November 27th, the iconic Berlin will release Strings Attached , a 12-track album of some of their greatest hits recorded with the City ...

On November 27th, the iconic Berlin will release Strings Attached, a 12-track album of some of their greatest hits recorded with the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. If that's not enough Berlin four you, they're also releasing a 4-disc box set of the album, both of which are available at berlinmusic.net. I sat down and spoke with singer Terri Nunn about Strings Attached, the '80s, turning down the role of Lucy Ewing on Dallas, the songs she felt define Berlin, and her dream music festival.

I've listened to Strings Attached several times now and love it! What made you all decide to re-record some of your biggest hits with a symphony?
The invitation. I had played three or four times in the past with orchestras for benefits, charity events. The first time it happened where I heard an orchestra play my music, I cried. Oh my God, it was huge. It was beyond anything I'd ever imagined my songs could sound like. Then I took any opportunity to sing and perform with orchestras all around America. And then this company from England, August Day, approached us about doing an entire album of Berlin songs with the Prague Orchestra. I was like, "Let me think about it... Yes!" It wasn't like that. I looked at who they were and what they had done prior, but once I saw they were a reputable company and the other work they did was really good, I said, "Absolutely!"

How did the collaborations take place?
The really cool thing I didn't know is now the producer can create the sounds, the different strings, horns, and everything, digitally first so that we have an idea of what he's got in mind before he actually works with the orchestra. So we're listening to it, and we can tweak it there in his studio on the computer. Then once he writes those charts, then we go to the live orchestra and then it's only little tweaks here and there because we've pretty much created what we want for each song. So it's great because you're looking at thirty people and normally it would be so hard to do it because it's a lot of money and it would take at least a couple of weeks working on an entire album with that many people if you didn't have anything to go on. This is only a few days because because it's mainly written. It's so much easier this way.

Where there any songs you wanted to include on Strings Attached but they just didn't work with strings attached?
The question's good because initially when I heard what they did with "Sex (I'm A...)," I was like, "Oh boy, I don't know." It's a sexy song and what they did was so pretty. I'm listening to it going, "No. This isn't pretty. It's a getting laid song." You want something pumping and good. But it was great because we just worked with it and what it was that we wanted, and got it to that place where it worked with the song better.

Tell me about the first track, "Take Your Turn."
That was created by the producer. When we saw that, we were like, "Wait a minute. We don't have a song called 'Take Your Turn.'" It's actually an overture to the album which was created and written by the producers and performed by the orchestra. I thought it was really cool.

I loved the way "The Metro" turned out with the symphony. What is your favorite track on Strings Attached?
Probably the first single. I'm really glad that they're cool with it. We're working on a video right now. It's for the song "Now It's My Turn." It's from the Love Life album. The intro to it is very cool and it has a very James Bond kind of feel to it, so we decided to do a video. Do you remember Goldfinger, the movie? At the beginning, you see these dancing bodies and they're projecting patterns and words and images onto the bodies. That's kind of what we're doing with the video because it's just so James Bond. I love what they did with "Now It's My Turn."

It's been nearly 40 years since "Sex (I'm A...)" hit the charts. Back then, did you see yourself still performing and recording 40 years later?
I couldn't think that far ahead. We did a 40th anniversary tour last year. I joined the band in 1979. We've been around a long time and I'm just in appreciation that we're still going and creating music and able to play live. Well, not this last year.

It's like marriage. You want it to go forever, but you don't know if it will. You don't know it people will grow apart. My dream of my life was to make music and make a living doing it. So I wanted Berlin to go forever. And it didn't, actually. I left first in 1980 and then John and I got back together in '81 and created Pleasure Victim. I left again in '87 after the third album. We were done. We were just done with each other. Tried again in '97 and it's been going since then.

Speaking of the 80s, would you rather be a band starting out in the 80s or now?
Oh God, back then. And I say that not really knowing what it's like now. I remember hearing from people over the years since then. Pay to play? Who can afford to do that? It's just so hard it seems now to build an audience and get out there and play. Back then, we didn't make any money. It was a pittance compared to later. But we didn't have to pay to play!

Where do you think you'd be today if you had taken the role of Lucy Ewing in Dallas?
I'd be richer than God but I wouldn't be happy. I know I would've been richer than God because that show was so successful and it was on so long and in syndication and those people make a fucking lot of money. But it was Dallas. I just don't think I'd be as happy or as proud if that was my legacy.

What five songs do you feel define Berlin?
Wow. Have to say "The Metro." That song was the first song that defined it for us, when we were struggling to figure out what we were and we knew we loved electronic music. We knew we loved synthesizers. We knew we loved Ultravox and Kraftwerk and we wanted to do something like that but we hadn't found our own signature. When we wrote "The Metro" and finished it and listened to it... "That's it! That's what we want. That's us." We finally had something that defined us to us that we could measure other songs against.

So "Metro." "Masquerade," definitely. A song called "You Don't Know." Wasn't a hit, not here. It did well overseas, but not in America. But I love it because it's such a beautiful, deep message. "Take My Breath Away," of course. That's four? I'm just going to leave it at that.

Final question: You're in charge of a music festival and can choose any five acts, living or dead, to appear on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
Nine Inch Nails. Aretha Franklin. Nirvana. Alice In Chains. Cocteau Twins. Pink Floyd. David Bowie. Goldfrapp, for sure. LCD Soundsystem. Marilyn Manson! I love that guy. Pink Floyd. Sia. Will.i.am.

What song do you all perform together as the final jam?
"Head Like A Hole."

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