1992 - Byrne in Question Print
Written by Time Out   

From Time Out, 1-8 July, 1992

Talking Heads gave David Byrne clout, confidence and
world-wide fame. Is his first solo tour since the band's
demise the start of something even bigger, or is he on
the road to nowhere? Laura Lee Davies hitches a ride
with pop's master ironist.

Before, my solo projects were clean, nice little options.
Now Talking Heads have actually split, maybe I'll have to
look at what I'm doing in a different light. In earnest,
I guess,' murmurs the slim 40-year-old from his chair.
David Byrne is contemplating how he has approached his
second solo album and accompanying world tour - his first
musical ventures since it was confirmed, before Christmas,
that Talking Heads have finally split.

Now working as simply David Byrne, no longer '. . . from
Talking Heads', he considers his latest album 'Uh-Oh' to
be a far more complete unit than previous solo work -
compiling Brazilian and Indian music in several volumes,
rearing an eclectic roster of artists from around the
world on his Luaka Bop record label, and a Latin steeped
debut solo album, 'Rei Momo'. Although 'Uh-Oh' garnered
mixed reviews, it certainly finds Byrne at last happy
and confident in mixing his Talking Heads past with his
more Worldly present.

'I think this album has been examined more carefully now
Talking Heads have actually split, but I've gotten used
to people weighing whatever, I do against their favourite
Heads album. But beyond the inevitable comparisons, my
past reputation has also given me the freedom to do just
about anything I want. You can't ask for more than that.'

Touring for the first time since '89, Byrne's current
ten-piece band have been warming up with dates in the
Far East; they reach London at the end of the month.

Heads fans will be pleased that, unlike the last time
Byrne played here, he now feels comfortable celebrating
his past on stage. 'After making "Uh-Oh" I feel a lot
more open, less constrained to do one thing or another.'
As Talking Heads are no longer Byrne's future, does he
consider that looking over his shoulder isn't such a
negative thing to do? 'In a way. It's like a singer
doing a song he's well-known for. There's a good
chance I wrote the song too, so it's not that strange
that I should do it. Least that's what I tell myself.

'In the past I always felt I had to really concentrate
on all my new stuff just to prove that I was doing it,
to prove I didn't have to just come out and do Talking
Heads' greatest hits. Maybe now I've got that off my
chest, I feel I can do it. I'm not going back to
those songs because I don't have anything else to do.
Rock music expects so much. Bands are always expected
to change, whereas with some old blues artist, it's
the opposite. People would be disappointed if all of
a sudden John Lee Hooker was using a drum machine and
samplers.'

Mixing acoustic solo performance with a full-band
accompaniment, Byrne has spiced a set of solo and
Talking Heads material with a handful of covers,
from Beefheart to Rolling Stones. 'Occasionally I
think I'd like to do an album of other people's songs.
I guess I always end up doing what I'm most excited
about at the time and that other stuff just stews away
in the background 'til it's ready.'

It's six years since his eccentric film debut, 'True
Stories', but there are currently a couple of film
ideas awaiting a good stir on the backburner. 'In
these financially hard times, people tend to be so
conservative; finding the cash is difficult. But
when you get down to it, it's all a crap shoot. They
don't stand any better chance of making money or
falling in the water with a film that costs $39 or
$3 million. I find my friends rarely go to see the
blockbusters these days. It's not that those films
should have to talk to the real world, but they're
not speaking for an imaginary world that's relevant
to people's lives either.'

Although Byrne's music these days is generally
upbeat, his manic voice and sharp lyrics have
not lost any of the old Talking Heads edge.
'In some of the songs on the new album, I'm
angrier than I have been in a long while. Uhm,
my faith in the world seems worse to me now
than it did then. If there was no future then,'
he laughs resignedly, 'What is there now?
'Although the rhythms seem relaxed and light,
I think they form a resistance. They hint at
an optimistic alternative. I really enjoy the
jumble of musical styles around these days.
There's this great cultural hotchpotch happening.
All these things co-existing in close proximity.
They don't always mix, they just rub up against
each other. That's a reason to be cheerful,'
he offers. 'It offsets the anger.'

'Although it's clear that the angry young man
within him has not altogether disappeared, Byrne
indulges the luxury of laughing at himself too.
He confesses to leaving single release decisions
to the record company. 'I don't know how you
persuade radio stations over here to play your
record. In the States it's often with money or
drugs.' He grins and asks with mock innocence if
the same tricks might work over here. He still
reacts to what is happening around him, but
confesses he finds it easier to act on political
and environmental matters through his personal
life, with his family, 'Living the political
correctness of recycling, using less water and
all that.'

Byrne made his first post-Heads appearance with
a single called 'Girls On My Mind'. Despite its
title and a rather silly video, it was clear that
the American liberal was making a cynical swipe
rather than betraying a middle-aged spread of his
sensibilities. From his art-rock days to cosy
fatherhood, Byrne has never once let his imagination
off the hook. Not for him an adult-orientated-rock
lobotomy and a future as one of the business's dirty
old men. He leans back and laughs loudly. 'Ah, but
it would be funny to make an album like that,

wouldn't it?'