SHE AND THEM Britta Phillips/Jem & the Holograms

The voice of Jem talks
about that ‘toon object of desire,  Dean
& Britta’s Warhol screen test songs, and glittery, monstrous infidelity.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

For two years, Dean & Britta have been touring behind 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol’s
Screen Tests
, a set of songs the couple wrote to score the pop-artist’s
storied, intimate short films depicting folks like Dennis Hopper, Lou Reed and
Nico. Last year they released the music in a swanky limited-edition two-disc
box set and a Plexifilm DVD box
set (www.DeanAndBritta.11spot.com),
subsequently dropping a single-disc edition just months before one of Britta Phillips’
landmark works – providing the titular character’s singing voice in 1980s
cartoon Jem and the Holograms – hit
shelves in October as the 11-DVD deluxe edition Jem and the Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series. (Shout! Factory).

 

 

 

Children of the 1980s will recall the show, that decade’s
version of The Bugaloos and The Banana Splits. They may even be fans
of her work in Dean & Britta, Luna or Ultrababyfat, and it’s kinda perfect,
‘cause foxy femme fatale Phillips could be a dead ringer for Jem in real life –
if she donned a platinum wig.

 

We caught up with Phillips to discuss both projects, and how
being Jem has its perks.

 

***

 

BLURT: Warhol made
hundreds of screen tests – how did you narrow it down to 13
?

BRITTA  PHILLIPS: We
chose people that were really involved in the day-to-day life of The Factory at
the time. Some of them were just people waltzing through. Dennis Hopper is the
biggest celebrity on that… but he wasn’t just a celebrity; he was an early
Warhol supporter.

 

Tell me about the Lou
Reed track – the Velvet Underground cover?

There were several Lou Reed screen tests. We used the one
where he’s drinking a Coke and looking really badass, but in another, he looks
14 and really innocent and vulnerable. It was really tough to choose.

        We wanted to write a song for Lou Reed
about Lou Reed, but it was a really daunting task. Then Dean found this very
obscure bootleg of a Velvet Underground song called “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore.”
It was kinda perfect because he had written it the year that the screen test
was taken, when he actually was a
young man.

 

Now let’s talk Jem – live-action
film?

Oooooh. I don’t know. I’m pretty picky; it really all
depends. Some band movies are good and some aren’t.

 

You mentioned last
time we spoke that you’re a big hit with the gay crowd because of her. How many
free drinks does it get you?

[laughs] I’m not a
heavyweight drinker. Just a couple. Maybe three. But I went to the JemCon in New Hampshire last year.
There was karaoke and I did some Jem songs. A couple of the Jem boys took me to
a gay bar after, but I’d forgotten my I.D. They weren’t gonna let me in [until]
one of the guys said, “This is the singing voice of Jem.” And they let me in!

 

At the time, you were
still doing Moral Orel

Orel is
actually re-running right now. If it does well in these re-runs, there may be a
special. So I’m hoping.

 

And you went on to do
Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole. Your
character, Elizabeth Frankenstein, was having an affair with Dracula to make
Victor Frankenstein jealous. What movie monster would you have to sleep with in
order to make Dean jealous
?

Wow, that’s such a complicated question! Probably any one of
them. I’m trying to think of the most suave movie monster. It would have to
be…what’s his name? Robert Pattinson, I presume. I can’t really think of a
movie monster.

 

No, it’s okay,
actually. If my wife ever slept with the guy from Twilight, my head would explode. Dean’s probably would, too.

Exactly. [laughs]

 

 

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