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 Home is where I want to be
Home is where I want to be
1999 - Talking off the top of his Head PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hamish Machintosh   

From: the Giardian, April 29, 1999

In conversation with David Byrne

What was your introduction to computers? 

Mid-80s. My little sister had an IBM that I used for writing film script ideas on. It was a total pain in the ass - to execute any command, one had to refer to this keyboard-shaped sheet of paper that revealed what the keys did. The commands were not intuitive in any way that a human could understand. 

Do you use a Mac or a PC? 

I quickly switched to Mac. This was before Microsoft and others figured out how to imitate the Mac operating system. I stayed with the Mac. There's the myth that it runs the "creative" software best, the photo and design stuff, the music stuff, the multimedia stuff. But it might be a myth. 

Are computers important... for you?... for the world? 

I'm using one right now. I use email all the time, so I find them incredibly convenient. But I'm suspicious of their ultimate worth. They inherently emphasize binary, logical thinking and would love to see all aspects of the world reduced to binary operations. The world is vastly more complex, interrelated and wonderful than that. They remind me of those Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) games of symbolic logic whereby a series of ridiculous statements resulted from one or two initial seemingly logical statements. Logic, carried to the nth degree, often results in nonsense. Amusing, in Dodgson's games, but dangerous when applied to human beings. I feel that Soviet Communism, for example, was a logical system that made loads of sense, until you factor in human beings. Economics is another such system, and Lord knows, they've never been able to predict anything yet. Most Western medicine is another such system, as are countless other parts of our lives. Government by opinion polls. And faith in computers is another such religion without a centre. That said, they're handy tools. But try hammering in a nail with one. 

What do you use the machine for? 

I do some, but not all, of my photo "art" on a computer; some, but not all of my recent music; and almost all of my interviews, like this one. 

Any particular favourite software? Anything you'd like but can't have yet? 

Soon mobile phone technology will be integrated into laptops and their smaller cousins, in more intuitive, more flexible and more inclusive ways. Then we won't see so many of our friends desperately seeking AC cables and phone lines to suck on as they move from place to place. Hand-cranked computers... solar-powered computers... 

Any favourite websites or news groups on UseNet? has some cool music toys, is discovering a way to make a magazine that uses web technology, that isn't an imitation of a print magazine, and I must plug the site, which has its own radio station. 

Do you get into dialogues with strangers on the net? 

I check the bulletin boards at the Luaka Bop website, and respond to some queries, but that's about it. 

Are you a geek? I'm told that on one Simpsons episode I was namechecked as a "nerd who made good". 

On a desert island, a human or a computer for company? 


What do you see in the future for computers? 

I think that, like Hal, they'll learn to lie (if they haven't been lying all along!). 

Are you worried about the Y2K millennium bug? 

I'm not Christian, so I don't use that calendar. 

Professionally, what's taking up your time? 

Got some nice discs from some of the Luaka label artists that are almost ready to be born. Got a photo "installation" thingy in Milan this month; Stop Making Sense [film collaboration with Jonathan Demme] is coming back out in a few months; and I'm writing songs that have nothing to do with anything.  


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