David Byrne & Talking Heads

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David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:21 am

David Byrne: head collaborator

A soundtrack with Will Oldham for a film about a Nazi-hunting rock star. An opera about Imelda Marcos with Fatboy Slim. David Byrne's collaborations continue to amaze

Hadley Freeman

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 March 2012 19.59 GMT


David Byrne with Sean Penn on the set of This Must Be the Place. Photograph: Opulence Studios

It is always pleasing to discover that a person's natural habitat is exactly how you had always envisioned it for them, and in that regard and many others, David Byrne's New York office is especially pleasing. Based in SoHo – that 1980s heartland for avant-garde artists, of whom all but the most successful have since been priced out to Brooklyn – the entrance is so convoluted that instructions are emailed three different times from a slew of assistants and finally require one of them to come down in a freight lift to rescue me off the street. Upstairs, after you wend your way through snaking corridors, you are suddenly in a large and beautiful room with dark wooden floorboards, artwork on the wall, colourful furniture and, most entrancingly, tall shelves stuffed with intriguing knick-knacks that I am only able to resist inspecting because Byrne himself suddenly appears.

This Must Be the Place
Production year: 2011
Country: Rest of the world
Runtime: 118 mins
Directors: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Eve Hewson, Frances McDormand, Harry Dean Stanton, Judd Hirsch, Sean Penn

Floating above the grubby and rain-soaked SoHo streets, it feels like being in Willy Wonka's factory for artists and looks like an exceedingly fun place to work. It is the very vision of where one of the linchpins of the new wave music scene in late-70s and early-80s New York and now one of the most productive and endlessly curious polymaths around, who has won Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe awards, should spend his days.

Byrne himself, though, is not entirely as anticipated. Physically, he is very much as expected, with his black trousers, black T-shirt, hipster grey hooded top, that squishy boyish face topped with, of course, that shock of white hair. But the jitteriness that sometimes seemed his defining feature as the face of the Talking Heads has softened into a gentle and friendly sweetness. He's not a relaxed chap – the voice still has some staccato and he fidgets almost constantly, pushing his hands back and forth on the table. But he has an easy laugh and an endearing habit of using American anachronisms not generally heard since 1954: "Jeez Louise!" "Gosh!" "Boy, oh boy!"

"Here you go, I thought you, um, might want this," he says as awkwardly as a teenage boy giving his mum a birthday present, and he slides a CD of his live set at Carnegie Hall in 2004 with Brazilian guitarist Caetano Veloso across the table to me.

"I was very nervous playing with him, of course," he says. But did he enjoy doing it? "Oh yeah. Oh yeah!"

It is testament to Byrne's generosity and inquisitiveness how much he loves collaborations. Aside from his well-known work with Brian Eno, he has collaborated with artists as diverse as Twyla Tharp and Arcade Fire. He is currently working on two collaborations with artists about as different as can be: Annie Clark, the American baroque pop singer-songwriter known as St Vincent, and, um, Fatboy Slim. This latter project sounds amazing. Entitled Here Lies Love, it is Byrne's long-nurtured pet project, an opera about Imelda Marcos, and it will have its first full presentation this summer in upstate New York. What made him decide to spend almost the last 10 years writing a musical about a shoe-happy widow of a deposed dictator with Fatboy Slim?

"She loved going to discos," is the not wholly expected answer. "She loved to sing but she also loved going to clubs a lot and had a mirrorball in her New York townhouse. So I thought, Great! Here is someone with a story and she comes with her own soundtrack!"

And how did Norman Cook respond when asked to collaborate? Byrne laughs for a good minute. "Uh, yeah. We met a couple of times and then he said, sure, let's give it a go. So he's been doing a lot of the musical stuff and the beats, as Norman does, or giving me beats and me writing a song over it, so it's clearly marked who's doing what."

Byrne, who was born in Scotland and grew up in Canada and America, talks happily and fluently about his work, but when asked a slightly personal question – what he looks for in a collaborator – the vocal staccato becomes more pronounced and his hands push back and forth on the table with renewed vigour.

"Um, someone – um, someone, uh, who I admire but whose work is sufficiently different from mine so that I think maybe I'll learn something from them and see how this person ticks, how they work. In a collaboration, you benefit by the other person doing what they do and you doing what you do and you get in the same stream but each doing your own thing."

It sounds almost like a romantic relationship, I say. He perks up at that idea: "Yeah! Yeah, yeah."

The reason Byrne and I are meeting is to talk about yet another collaboration with an artist who, again, is as different from Fatboy Slim as windchimes are from a sound system: American punk/folk singer Will Oldham. So how does the "Appalachian post-punk solipsist", to quote one critical assessment of Oldham, compare as a collaborator with the composer of Right Here, Right Now? Again, Byrne laughs long and hard: "Yeah, it's, uhhh, it's pretty different!"

Byrne roped in Oldham to work on songs for the upcoming film This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn and directed by Paolo Sorrentino and named, of course, as a tribute to the Talking Heads song. Byrne agreed to work on the project because he was such a fan of Sorrentino's previous film, Il Divo, and he has worked on an enormous variety of movies, including The Last Emperor, for which he won an Oscar, and Oliver Stone pretty much built Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps around his songs:.

"They're all pretty different movies, yes. I guess I look for films where I'm going to get some leeway. My feeling is, if a director or studio has a very specific way they want the music, they should get someone who does that kind of music. With me, you're going to get something, well, me," he says.

The music on This Must Be the Place is lovely, you'd expect from a Byrne/Oldham collaboration, but the movie is frankly ridiculous.

"Yeah, Robert Smith from the Cure as a Nazi hunter," Byrne laughs, longer than ever. "I wasn't too sure if people would buy that either, but we'll see." And then he laughs some more.

The movie opens with Penn playing a Robert Smith-lookalike reclusive rock star who quit the music business at the height of his success in the 80s, retired to Ireland with his wife, played by Frances McDormand, and now spends his days wandering around shopping centres and playing sports with his wife in a drained swimming pool. This, in itself, could have been quite an interesting movie but it unfortunately turns into a daft saga involving Penn driving across America looking for the Nazi who tortured his recently deceased father.

There is also a particularly embarrassing scene featuring Penn shouting at Byrne: "David Byrne, you're an artist!" How on earth did Byrne keep a straight face when filming that? "Yeah, that was kinda hard," he laughs. "But not surprisingly, with Sean Penn, when he's acting he's pretty much that character. So I thought, just react as if someone was talking to you that way." As if someone was shouting: David Byrne, you're an artist? Byrne cracks up in response. So it didn't give him a taste for acting? "No, no, no."

Yet what that scene lacks in non-cringeworthy dialogue, it makes up for as a reminder of how indefatigably, and even courageously productive Byrne has been since his 80s heyday by contrasting him with Penn's character, Cheyenne. Plenty of musicians opt out after achieving their success, as Cheyenne does, whereas Byrne, 59, not only continues to make music across a wide variety of genres, but writes books – 2009's successful Bicycle Diaries and the upcoming How Music Works – writes columns in the New York Times, maintains a prolific blog and has art exhibitions.

"But I can completely empathise with [Penn's character], too, that sense of I've done what I want to do and now I'm going to go live my life," he says.

For Byrne, work clearly is his life. I had been firmly informed before the interview that I would only be allowed to ask about the film, but he is more than happy to discuss all other projects, often bringing them up himself, his energy picking up the more he discusses them in all of their varieties.

You know, I say, as we're finishing, it's funny what you say about Imelda Marcos loving disco and having her own soundtrack because Osama bin Laden was obsessed with Whitney Houston so I think of that as his soundtrack. Byrne rocks back in his chair and his mouth falls open in delight.

"I didn't know that! Jeez Louise! Wow! Wow! Well, you can see it with The Greatest Love of All – I did not know this!"

And off he goes, quite possibly to write a power ballad opera about Osama bin Laden.

• This Must Be The Place is released in cinemas 6 April

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:05 am

David Byrne produced a Silvio Rodríguez compilation album Smile
I've just posted about it on Silvio's thread

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:38 am

One of the best concert movies ever:


Stop Making sense- Talking Heads.

It even has its own Wiki page:

The movie begins with the opening credits, using a style similar to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (the movie trailer also makes references to Dr. Strangelove). Title designer Pablo Ferro was responsible for both title sequences.

Lead singer David Byrne walks on to a bare stage (seen from the feet only initially) with a portable cassette tape player and an acoustic guitar. He introduces "Psycho Killer" by saying he wants to play a cassette tape, ostensibly from the boom box. In reality, the tick-tock drum machine was a Roland TR-808 played from the mixing board. During the song, the drum machine "fires" machine gun riffs that causes Byrne to stagger "like Jean Paul Belmondo in the final minutes of 'Breathless,' a hero succumbing, surprised, to violence that he'd thought he was prepared for."

With each successive song, Byrne is cumulatively joined onstage by each core member of the band: first by Tina Weymouth for "Heaven" (with Lynn Mabry, originally of The Brides of Funkenstein and Parliament-Funkadelic, providing harmony vocals from backstage), second by Chris Frantz for "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel", and third by Jerry Harrison for "Found a Job". Performance equipment is gradually wheeled out and wired up to the bare stage between and throughout the performances, as Talking Heads continue to be augmented by several additional musicians, most of whom had extensive experience in funk: back-up singers Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt, keyboardist Bernie Worrell (formerly of Parliament-Funkadelic), percussionist Steve Scales, and guitarist Alex Weir (of The Brothers Johnson). The first song to feature the entire lineup is "Burning Down the House", although the original 1985 RCA/Columbia Home Video release (which featured three additional songs in two performances edited into the film) has the entire band (minus Worrell) performing "Cities" before this song. Byrne also leaves the stage at one point, to allow the Weymouth–Frantz-led side-band the Tom Tom Club to perform their song "Genius of Love" (The 1999 re-release of the film featured alternate 'rap' lines by Chris Frantz to remove the cocaine reference, "snow white", featured in the original release).

The movie is also notable for Byrne's "big suit", an absurdly oversized business suit he dons late in the concert for the song "Girlfriend is Better" (whose lyrics give the movie its title). The suit was partly inspired by Noh theatre styles, and became an icon not only of the film – as it appears on the DVD cover, for instance – but of Byrne himself. Pauline Kael stated in her review: "When he comes on wearing a boxlike 'big suit' — his body lost inside this form that sticks out around him like the costumes in Noh plays, or like Beuys' large suit of felt that hangs of a wall — it's a perfect psychological fit."

This concert film is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of the genre. Leonard Maltin rated the film four stars out of four, describing it as "brilliantly conceived, shot, edited and performed" and "one of the greatest rock movies ever made." Roger Ebert gave the film a three-and-a-half star rating, writing that "the overwelming [sic] impression throughout Stop Making Sense is of enormous energy, of life being lived at a joyous high...It's a live show with elements of Metropolis...But the film's peak moments come through Byrne's simple physical presence. He jogs in place with his sidemen; he runs around the stage; he seems so happy to be alive and making music...He serves as a reminder of how sour and weary and strung-out many rock bands have become." Danny Peary described Stop Making Sense as "Riveting...What takes place on stage will make even the most skeptical into Talking Heads converts...[The] performances are invariably exciting, Byrne's lyrics are intriguing. Byrne, his head moving rhythmically as if he had just had shock treatments, is spellbinding - what a talent!...Byrne is known for his belief that music should be performed in an interesting, visual manner, and this should make him proud."

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  Yakima Canutt on Wed May 02, 2012 6:36 pm


Electric guitar gets run over by a car on the highway. This is a crime against the state. An electric guitar is brought in to a court of law. The judge and the jury (twelve members of the jury) are all listening to records. This is a crime against the state. This is the verdict they reach: "never listen to electric guitar."

Electric guitar is copies, the copy sounds better. Call this the law of justice, call this freedom and liberty. I thought I perjure myself, right in front of the jury. Is this a crime against the state? No? This is the verdict they reach: someone controls electric guitar.
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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  Yakima Canutt on Fri May 04, 2012 3:37 pm


Explore the aesthetic and spiritual possibilities of Micro-soft Power-Point in Byrne's Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, available wherever pretentious Book -Video Disc Combo Packs are distributed.

( Note: Hardbound editions of Byrne's polaroids of his refridgerator contents are currently O.O.P. pending the Wesley Snipes tax fraud investigation )
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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 2:39 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsksSWOxq2Y
Life During Wartime- Talking Heads (Live)

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 2:40 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA1oFSMwRDU&feature=related
Psycho Killer (Live)- Talking Heads

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 2:42 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHJmPcILfg8&feature=related
Burning Down the House (Live)- Talking Heads

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 2:44 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anjT71N4PGM&feature=related
Take Me to the River (Live)- Talking Heads

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 3:15 pm

What would a world look like organised on David Byrne principles? Fascinating but mildly disquieting, is my guess.

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 8:29 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-io-kZKl_BI
Once in a Lifetime (Live)- Talking Heads

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 8:33 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuoiRr6hLjg&feature=related
Girlfriend is Better (Live)

Dig David's Big Suit!

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  eddie on Mon May 07, 2012 7:15 pm

^

If you haven't yet clicked on these links, I'd urge you to do so. Absolutely joyous stuff.

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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  Guest on Mon May 07, 2012 8:09 pm

David Byrne...The Great Intoxication


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Re: David Byrne & Talking Heads

Post  Guest on Mon May 07, 2012 8:17 pm

Take me to the river Cool


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