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Talking Heads, interview in Mondo Sonoro (2024)

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Talking Heads, interview in Mondo Sonoro (2024)

¿Es “Stop Making Sense” (Jonathan Demme, 1984) Talking Heads the best concert ever filmed? It is very possible. The best musical film in history? Of the best.

The reissue – updated with new technology – and re-released in theaters this Friday, March 8, “Stop Making Sense” has achieved something that seemed impossible for more than twenty years: bringing together David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymoth and Chris Frantz, even if only to give joint interviews.

Our talk takes place through the computer screen, with its members in different places and in front of three journalists, because I share questions with Rafael Tapounet (El Periódico de Catalunya) and Sergio Lozano (La Vanguardia). The first question is obligatory: How do they see themselves forty years later in front of a big screen? David Byrne recognizes himself, laughing, as “a very strange guy, really intense”and remembers those four nights in December 1983 at the Pantages Theater in New York as “a natural progression of our live performance. It had to be taken a little further, to make everything visible and transparent at the same time and for the public to see each piece joining the team: a very simple idea but very difficult to execute, with not much technology, because many of the effects of lighting could have come out of the 1930s”. Let’s remember: it is a minimalist show that adds elements, a show that builds itself. Tina Weymouth remembers the late director Jonathan Demme (1944-2017) “he extraordinarily understood that the camera had to function as a very sensitive eye, as if it were a member of the audience”. And Jerry Harrison sticks out his chest saying that “It’s like a classic movie, something relevant and that stands the test of time, like ‘Casablanca’ [Michael Curtiz, 1942]which, even if it is in black and white, does not get old because you will still want to see it.”

“’Stop Making Sense’ is a classic that people will want to continue watching, like ‘Casablanca’”

In times when the pyrotechnics of the video clip prevailed, elevated by the flourishing MTV, “Stop Making Sense” proposed a completely different approach. Just like the masterful video for “Perfect Kiss” (1985), by New Order, also directed by Demme. ““We came from New York minimalism, right after pop art, and the film doesn’t try to distract you from the music: it focuses on the people on stage,” Harrison adds. “Demme was aware of the aesthetics of quick-cut video clips, and he didn’t want that, but only cut when necessary: ​​’Once In A Lifetime’ is practically a single image shot, something that would never be done in a video clip, so “a way that allows you to know the musicians better”, starts David Byrne. I ask them if they felt against the trend, and Chris Frantz answers that they never felt “part of the mainstream”, that that was for “Elton John, Queen – David Bowie, añade Tina Weymouth – o The Eagles”, and that they felt like “outsiders”, without that being “incompatible with putting on a great show.” They just did it “with a more artistically modern approach.”

Underlying the idea, well pointed out by Rafael Tapounet, of “lonely man who finds refuge in the community”, something to which David Byrne nods, acknowledging that “The public got that implicit message”. Among the great icons of him, that enormous costume that he wore, inspired by the Japanese Noh tradition and Kabuki theater. “It’s ridiculous, but it evokes someone who feels lost in his job, in his future.”, Byrne explains, before everyone breaks down after Tina Weymouth brings up the video of a girl who played it on her dog in Brooklyn last Halloween and won a contest. “Have you seen it? It’s like people who dress up as Elvis, but the decadent one.”laughs the bassist.

The quartet admits to feeling excited about “Everyone’s Getting Involved. A Tribute To Stop Making Sense” (24), an upcoming collective album with versions by Miley Cyrus, Lorde, The National or BADBADNOTGOOD, among others. “It’s fantastic, and some of them have taken liberties to bring the songs closer to their territory,” Byrne asserts, while assuming that it is “a very different generation than Phish”, for example, those who cover them live regularly. “People will not understand that they are not there, or that Tom Jones is not there,” adds Chris Frantz, generating a collective laugh. If there was any bad feeling between Talking Heads –the drummer’s autobiography suggested it–, it is obvious that now everything is nothing to the sea.

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From the collective tribute to their influence: Tina Weymouth remembers the first record she bought James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem)“eleven or twelve years old”, it was of Talking Heads. And that the survival of that legacy in younger bands makes its return unnecessary. David Byrne wonders if there was another scene after the one in New York in the seventies that was so decisive: “Maybe Seattle and Atlanta had their moment.” Frantz adds “Austin.” And Jerry Harrison concludes that “Now the Internet creates online scenes more than physical ones.”

The great mystery remains why the quartet never came to Spain. Jerry Harrison remembers only one time, with Elliott Murphy in Segovia, and he regrets it because he thinks that “The continental public, whether in Spain, Germany or France, is more faithful and more permissive with experimentation than the British or North American”. Chris Frantz, who was only with Tina and Tom Tom Club at the 2009 IBF, attributes this to his agents. “They must have thought that Spain was the Wild West. “When did Franco die?”. In 1975, we clarified. And even more surprised is Tina Weymouth, who thinks that things would have been different if there had been a FIB or a Primavera Sound in the eighties. “We played in Yugoslavia, Portugal, Hungary or Sicily, in an intimidating atmosphere because the carabinieri carried guns after drinking with us backstage, and there was even a riot after the police used tear gas: something of our agents.”

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