Interview by Mike Aylward
Britta Phillips Short Bio: Britta grew up in Bucks County Pennsylvania and was a model student until she tired of horse farms and antique shops and left home at sixteen. She moved to NYC a few years later, supported herself as the singing voice of 80's cartoon character JEM, and dabbled in film and television before joining indie-guitar band, Belltower, and moving to London. Belltower enjoyed a moment of glory in the British music tabloids before signing a big fat recording contract and promptly disappearing into seclusion. Since then, Britta has played bass with Ultrababyfat, Ben Lee, and is now a member of Luna.
Mike: How would you define your music to somebody who has never heard your new music?
Britta: I'm not very good at describing music in which I am involved. And it really does vary from song to song. But, if you like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Luna, good lyrics (of the playful, sad, and lusty variety), sweeping strings and hushed voices, then you'll probably dig it
Mike: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced you growing up?
Britta: There are all sorts of unconscious influences with pop themselves into one's music. Bits of this, nuances of that.
Consciously, though, the earliest influences were The Beatles and The Stones, Dylan and Edith Piaf, Bo Diddley and Ray Charles. Later, there was Fleetwood Mac and The BGs' "Saturday Night Fever," and after that, Blondie and Talking Heads, to name a few. I was really into "Jesus Christ Superstar" for a while. My dad played keyboards in the Broadway show in the 70s.
Mike: How did growing up in small town Pennsylvania influence your music?
Britta: I wasn't hip to the really cool stuff. Mostly classic rock out there and the punk/new wave that made it to radio.
My parents had a lot of good old records, though.
Mike: Which do you prefer, recording/producing or live performance?
Britta: Both are alternately blissful and nervewracking. I haven't performed anything from our new record, yet, but I'm very excited about it. The recording process is very personally rewarding. If you make something you love, there's little more you can ask for. Performing is sharing which is just as lovely if people really share your enthusiasm.
Mike: What other types of music would you like to try?
Britta: I'd like to try something a bit retro/dancey/loungey, like "The Best of Bertrand Burgalat." And maybe something with a bit more attitude and vocal volume.
Mike: Whose music are you listening to right now?
Britta: "Le Cinema de Serge Gainsbourg: Musiques de Films 1959-1990."
I'm rehearsing with Luna as well as for our upcoming Dean and Britta shows so I haven't been listening to much else.
Pete Kember (Sonic Boom) just did a few remixes for us sans drums which are really lovely. He also made us a great compilation CD with lots of old stuff I'd never heard before like The Staple Singers, The Syndicats and The Rays on it.
Mike: How would you describe "L'Avventura"?
Britta: That was the first question, wasn't it??
Mike: What was it like working with Tony Visconti?
Britta: Working with Tony was "smoooooth." It really was almost effortless. He works very quickly and is brimming with a great positive, laid back and supportive attitude. We watched videos of British telly during lunch.. That's where I developed an affection for Ali G. He also loaned us the entire Alan Partridge series on video. I adore Steve Coogan.
Mike: How has being a woman affected your experiences in the music world?
Britta: In the beginning, no one wanted to play with me. People were interested in me only as a singer/persona. But that's probably because I didn't play an instrument very well until I had been in a band for a few years.It's a man's world. Period.
So, I don't know that's it's any different in the music business. I've never been a man so I don't know how that would have changed my experience. If you have a talent for music (and by that I mean mostly a good ear), and you keep working on it, people will want to work with you. It also helps if you're not an immature egomaniac.
Mike: How has new technology affected how you deliver your musical message?
Britta: I now have ProTools on my iBook at home so that I can put down ideas at my leasure. Some of the vocal, guitar, and keyboard bits came from recording we did at home.
Mike: What is a musical goal that you would still like to achieve?
Britta: Well, I've made a record I love and I'd like to do that again...and then again etc....then I'd like to sell more records....
I want to be more prolific. I want to keep discovering music that excites me. And I want to improve as a singer/musican.
Mike: What do you think are the embodiments of good and evil in the music business, and in the world today?
Britta: That is too big a question for me to answer thoroughly - I need to rehearse! - so I'll just give some examples (I'm not good with superlatives, anyway.). Soul is good. Ignorance coupled with self-aggrandisement is bad. In both music and in the world.
Mike: A hundred years from now, how would you like Britta Phillips to be remembered?
Britta: I guess I'd have to say as somone with soul.