MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
15th September 2014
Q: Welcome back…How long has it been? Twenty seven years?
TN: Can you believe it?
Q: No I can’t.
TN: I can’t either! This tour has been so great that I wonder why I stayed away so long.
Q: You look terrific.
TN: Thank you.
Q: How do you stay in shape?
TN: Well I just had hair and make-up done. (laughs) That helps! (laughs). I run with my husband and we’re also doing this thing called P90X. We did the first one, it’s a DVD program, each one’s an hour and you’re supposed to do it every day for 90 days but we don’t. Now we’re doing the P90X III which is 30 minutes a day which is much more liveable because it’s tough. I just do what I can and it works.
Q: There’s been a lot of changes in that time in Japan, the world, the music business and I guess you’ve changed as well…
TN: Oh I hope so! (laughs)
Q: Your singing has more power and has matured – naturally – and I think Animal sounds both contemporary and vintage. Would you agree with that and was that what you were aiming for?
TN: Yes. Thank you. I’m so glad that you got it – that’s great. That’s what we wanted. We wanted an album that hung together and that gave people the Berlin that they know but also with some new sounds that they haven’t heard us do before. That was the idea.
Q: I’m always a bit wary of covers because quite often they fall way short of the original but that’s a great version of Somebody To Love you do and Grace Slick obviously made a big impression on you.
TN: A huge fan. Ridiculously huge. She was the first woman I saw act like Mick Jagger. In those days, there wasn’t anything like her. There was Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez and they all had guitars and had pretty long hair and sang sweet and that wasn’t me: that wasn’t what I was into. They were great writers but I was into the guys and wanted to be like them…Jagger, McCartney, Plant, Bowie. My time, when I really got inspired was the seventies when you had Bowie, Roxy Music, New York Dolls. Then it went shitty with Disco and I wasn’t into that at all and then it started getting good again with Television, Talking Heads and Blondie and Punk came in and exploded everything.
Q: Are you a fan of Mott The Hoople?
TN: Yeah they were ok.
Q: I talked to Ian Hunter last week and if you think you’re doing bad by not coming here for twenty-seven years, he’s now 73 years old and he’s coming here for the first time next January.
TN: Is he doing his own thing or Mott The Hoople?
Q: His own thing.
TN: I’m more into Ian Hunter than Mott The Hoople.
Q: Check out his new album, When I’m President.
TN: Where’s he playing?
Q: A little place called Shimokitazawa.
TN: Awesome. You know, Pink Floyd…all that early 70’s time…
Q: Are you a Prog Rock fan as well?
TN: Not so much. I got the Electric Light Orchestra album – the one with Dorothy’s shoes on it (Eldorado) - and I love that but I wasn’t that much into the real progressive stuff.
Q: Mom is obviously a very personal song credited to Beth Waters and yourself. May I ask who Beth Waters is and how you got together?
TN: She’s a singer/songwriter. She sent me some music she had done including that which was a skeleton of a song and I loved it so I called her and said I would love to work on it. It came a year after my Mom died in 2007 and I met Beth in 2008 which was perfect. I was over the worst of it and it was time to say something. She’s wonderful. She and Larisa Bryski who wrote Stand Up with me, that was the beginning of ‘What is this next album going to be?’ and it took forever. Those songs were the first to come in and they were great but there was no cohesive sound to it yet. We didn’t have that until I started the radio show ( L.A.’s KCSN) and started listening to EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and that for me was great music. It’s where electronic music is naturally going to me. It’s exciting and sexy and everything I felt when I first heard electronic music back in the late 70’s with Kraftwerk and Ultravox. That to me was like ‘What the fuck is this?! This is great! We’ve got to do this! Get a synthesizer!’ We didn’t have any money but we started trying to do this and that’s the kind of excitement I’m feeling with EDM. I’m hearing stuff I never heard before; I love what’s going on. So much of what is going on in it is what Berlin started with. They are using sounds that we did years ago so it’s not so weird to the sound and gel it.
Q: The PV for Animal is rather raunchy…
TN: (laughs) You like it?
Q: I can’t think of a red-blooded male that wouldn’t!
TN: (laughs) I love it too!
Q: Was that your concept?
TN: Yes it was but it got even sicker with the director that we ended up with. We actually did it twice because the first director didn’t get what I wanted to do. My idea – which got really kinky with Chad Michael Ward - was to have people of all ages just feeling their animal selves. I didn’t want a bunch of pretty people in my video that nobody could relate to. I wanted old people, young people, straight, gay, bi, everything and so that’s what I told Chad. He comes from The Marilyn Manson camp so he took that idea and we shot it in a working dungeon in L.A. The owner a friend of his, the Madam, a dominatrix, gave us the dungeon for the day and a lot of her friends so there were people on leashes and transvestites and then I called Raven who I judged on RuPaul’s Drag Race* – do you have that show here…
TN: Well I judged on that show and I met Raven who was the hottest guy/girl: he was hot both ways. He came out first and I met him as a man who was bald and had tattoos and then he came out at the end of the show as a woman. So I called him and said I was doing the video and I want you to be my co-star in it and he said great. Now, my idea was that I wanted a transvestite who you didn’t know was a man and there was going to be a big reveal at the end. I would meet this girl in a bar or a dungeon and we hit it off and we end up together and then the big reveal is when she takes her shirt off and she’s a man. Well he showed up just way over the top. (laughs) Raven had these big lips and tits and huuuuge hips of foam all over thighs and he said ‘Feel these; I feel like a coach!’ It was waaaaaaay too much and he was clearly a transvestite. There was no way to hide it or change it to make him look like a woman and I said ‘Raven, could we just tone it down a little bit to make it softer?’ and he said ‘This is toned down!’ So then Chad said, ‘Ok, so you’re going to meet a transvestite and take him home.’ (laughs)
Q: Speaking of videos, I’ve always wondered this; in the video for The Metro, did that guy really slap you?
TN: No. I’m good huh? You believed me. (laughs)
Q: I did!
Since the eighties
Q: Let’s go through some of those changes I mentioned earlier. How has Japan changed since the eighties or haven’t you been here long enough to notice?
TN: The greatest change I’ve noticed is that the men are not as dominating. I thought that was great because it’s a great place and has my favourite food in the world next to France. It used to be women were subservient and laughed behind their hands which I noticed in Australia too where the women were strong but the men were still chauvinistic. It’s a strange dichotomy there where they are like American women but are with domineering men. Here, that has changed. They are now much more a part of society.
Q: Since the last time you were here, we’ve been through and in some cases still going through, 9/11, Global Warming, the Internet and a ton of other things. As an Eco-activist, how do you think the human race is doing, generally speaking?
TN: I think we’re doing really well; they’re doing great here! All these people and you don’t see a piece of trash on the street. It’s so clean and especially the people of Osaka. The gentleness of the people is striking. The tenderness and the service - it’s all bout service here – it’s another type of people and it makes me wants to protect it. It’s beautiful.
Q: Have you been out at all?
TN: We were in Shinjuku last night and we went to the Robot Restaurant. AWESOME! Fucking amazing! It’s better than drugs - it’s insane! Big monsters and half-naked girls with perfect bodies dancing and singing. It was a great show.
Q: Shinjuku station is the busiest railway station in the world – four million people go through there every day. I can’t imagine anywhere else in the world where you could put for million people in a railway station…
TN: …and have it be civil…
TN: …and they don’t lock their bikes here. Everything is so safe. I was looking at this whole line of bikes outside the Hilton in the business section and they weren’t locked.
Q: Since then you’ve also become a Mum with three kids. Is it difficult to balance being a singer and having a family?
TN: I’m lucky Glenn because now the business has built enough so I don’t have to sit on a bus for three months to survive. In the beginning, in the first few years we were building our audience and I was never home so I couldn’t keep a relationship. Now, the audience is there and it sustains itself so I can go in and go out and travel and come home. You’ve got to be there for your spouse and kids – it’s about being there – plus my husband is a great dad.
Q: Bring them next time.
TN: I’m going to bring them before. I know we’ll come back to play but I also just want to bring them here.
Q: Adopting Natalie (her 9 year old daughter) from Russia must have been a headache…
TN: Awful. One of the worst experiences of my life though it taught me there is a God. It was two years of hell, they do not like anybody – especially Americans – so they didn’t care what I went through or that I had to start over sometimes or that we went there for another child and they had already given her away. It was like ‘Sorry. Do you want another one? We have another one here…’
Q: ‘Sorry, we sold that car but we’ve got this one…’
TN: Yeah and we had already fallen in love with the other one through pictures and videos. It was just one nightmare after another but every mistake had to happen to get this girl into our lives. Every problem, every set-back, every ‘fuck you’ that they did to us, had to happen or we would never had met Natalie and that taught me unequivocally that there is a God. She is the most amazing person both me and my husband have ever met and thank you for all the shit you put us through Russia. (laughs)
Q: Thank you very much Terri – a real pleasure.
TN: Thank you!
*RuPaul’s Drag Race is a US TV show that searches for transvestite superstars.