If you live in Thessaloniki or around Thessaloniki and have never heard (of) Luna, then you probably have never heard (of) ‘diamonds’, our radio show. From their very first LP (‘Lunapark’-1992), till their swan song (‘Rendezvous’-2004’), ‘Luna’ have been given endless radio airtime through our program. It’s hard for us to pick up Luna’s best work, thus we recommend all of their albums! Luna has mostly been the brainchild of Dean Wareham. Dean, a New Zealand-born musician, moved to the States at an early age. While in Cambridge, MA, to attend Harvard University, DW formed the narco-melodic Galaxie 500, along with his fellow students, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang. That was in 1986. Galaxie 500 enjoyed indie-level stardom for four years (and they were much loved over here in Greece, and especially in Thessaloniki), before Dean and the other two went separate ways, after a rather acrimonious split.
So, the next step for Dean, after Galaxie 500’s breakup, is a solo album in 1991. Soon, upon returning to New York City (where he had settled in the first place, after he left home), he announced the creation of a band dubbed Luna. Luna’s first lineup had been the one of an alternative supergroup, as beside Dean Wareham stood former Chills bassist Justin Harwood and ex-Feelies drummer Stanley Demeski. Over the years, Luna followed somewhat of an …open door policy, letting members in and out of the band. Britta Phillips (she was also born in 1963, just like Dean Wareham, in fact only a few days before him!), both actress and musician, was a late Luna member. Now that Luna are no more, Dean & Britta (married and living together in NYC) have delivered their newest record, ‘Back Numbers’.
Is there life after Luna for Dean and Britta? Well, there certainly is: ‘Back Numbers’ deserves our attention to the last bit! Strong melodies, magic vocal harmonies, gentle a la Luna guitars, space-y electronics from the master Sonic Boom. Not to mention Tony Visconti’s excellent production. What? You can’t remember who Tony Visconti is? Just check out the credits of your old Bowie LPs!
Britta and Dean not only were kind enough to send us a copy of ‘Back Numbers’, but they also answered willingly to our web-blog’s questions:
Βritta, how different is working with each other than working inside Luna?
Britta: In Luna I just came up with bass parts and the occasional backing vocal, so we didn’t work together as much in Luna. It’s a lot more work and more rewarding for me to work so closely with Dean now.
Dean, during your early days with Luna, you covered Dream Syndicate. Have you ever met Steve Wynn? He’s been living in NYC some years now. Discussed with him Luna’s version of ‘That’s What You Always Say’?
Dean: I have met Steve Wynn a couple of times, but I don’t see him often. He lives uptown, and I live downtown. We did perform together once, at a little bar in Chelsea -- he joined Luna on stage for versions of ‘That’s What You Always Say’ and ‘The Paint Job’, a song of ours that he covered somewhere.
Which of the two spends most time in front of a mirror?
Britta: That would definitely be me.
Dean: Girls need the extra mirror time to apply makeup and fix their hair just so.
Dean, where do you buy your shirts from? They’re absolutely charming!
Dean: Mostly from Brooks Brothers (an American company) or Paul Smith (an English one). Lately, the Paul Smith shirts are rather expensive, only because they are made in Europe, and the U.S. dollar is in the toilet.
Dean gives his expensive (Paul Smith?) shirt a special ‘open’ treatment, in front of Britta in black.
Britta: Both of us. Generally, whoever cooks doesn’t have to wash the dishes.
Dean: Britta cooks more, and cooks better than I do. I sweep the floors and clean the bathroom and the windows, and do the laundry.
What fascinates you about Dean as a musician, Britta? As a person?
Britta: Dean is authentic, and I think the best musicians don’t try to please, yet they do by just being themselves. He’s also sweet and sexy; intelligent and modern, but also a little bit old-fashioned; and his sense of beauty inspires and moves me.
I’m so glad that you recorded ‘You Turn My Head Around’, because I dig the CD-reissue of the album ‘The Cowboy & The Lady’ by Lee Hazlewood & Ann Margret. It’s obvious that the song totally fits you. Who had this idea of covering this old tune? Who had the album?
Dean: I had that album, but ‘You Turn My Head Around’ wasn’t on it (until it was released on CD recently) -- I had that song on a 7" single that I found in a used record store. I played it for Sonic Boom, and he suggested that it would be a good one for Britta to sing.
Dean, where did you meet Sonic Boom? Were you aware of his musical past?
Dean: I first met Sonic Boom at a Spacemen 3 gig in London, about 1989. The Spacemen 3 remain my favorite English band of that era, really the only English band I loved at that time. But we didn’t really become friendly until we met again in the year 2000, this time at a Spectrum show at Brownie’s in New York City. Then we became fast email friends, discovered we were passionate about a lot of the same music. When Luna toured the States in 2002, Spectrum supported us for a couple of weeks. Sonic is a continued source of inspiration for us. He suggested three of the four covers on the new album.
Is Sonic Boom difficult to work with, Britta?
Britta: No, he recorded all his parts for ‘Back Numbers’ in one afternoon. He just set up on the floor of our apartment and let fly.
What did Tony Visconti bring in to ‘Back Numbers’, Dean?
Dean: Tony brings everything. He is the only producer I have met who is good at all aspects of making records -- engineering, arranging, playing instruments, mixing. If we get stuck in the middle of a song, he finds a way to fix it, helping us craft a bridge to the next section.
Ever attended a Lee Hazlewood live show, Dean?
Dean: Unfortunately not. I did meet him once though -- I interviewed him for an American fanzine. I bought myself a plane ticket, and flew down to meet him at his house in Orlando, Florida. We drank wine and smoked cigarettes and talked for a couple of hours. He signed all my Hazlewood vinyl. Apparently I had copies of things that he hadn’t seen for years. I asked him where all his gold records were. He said he had given them away, all except the most recent one, which was awarded for Billy Ray Cyrus’s cover of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’.
But, apart from Nancy Sinatra and Ann Margret, your vocals, Britta, remind a lot of Nico -- are you a VU fan?
Britta: Yes, I love VU & Nico’s voice. ‘Chelsea Girl’ is great, as well as some of the pop stuff she did earlier in her career like ‘I’m Not Saying’ (written by Gordon LIghtfoot and produced by David Whitaker).
Dean & Britta on stage [Atlanta, GA; 03/23/07], photo by Stephen Lindley
Shouldn’t it be more fair (ladies first) to call you Britta & Dean, instead of Dean & Britta?
Britta: We tried it both ways, and found it rolls off the tongue easier as ‘Dean & Britta,’ so we went with what sounds best.
Dean: Yes, the first album we did go with the “ladies first” approach -- it was billed as ‘Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham’, but we decided that was too many words. Maybe next time we’'ll go with ‘D & B’, which would be good for a line of clothing at least. We could copy the Dolce & Gabbana logo.
2. Anyone interested in reading about Longet’s tragic story of romance-and-death, can start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudine_Longet.
3. Sonic Boom (born Pete Kember) is known for his spectacular guitar and vocal work for Spacemen 3, the legendary hypno-drone unit. Around 1991, Spacemen 3 disbanded, and were ‘divided’ in two: Boom went on to create Spectrum, while his partner in Spacemen 3, Jason Pierce (also guitarist and vocalist, and also born on November 19, 1965 -- now that’s a coincidence!) continued his career with the trance-rockers Spiritualized.
4. In Europe, ‘Back Numbers’ is released on Zoe Records. Log on to www.roundereurope.com for more.
5. And -finally- here is a little …shirtology: www.paulsmith.co.uk, www.brooksbrothers.com, www.dolcegabbana.it.