Another one of my all-time favourite people in music is David Byrne. David is one of the founding members and principal songwriter of one of my favourite bands of all time, Talking Heads – a band that was at the forefront of the new wave movement in the late ‘70s.
As one of my parent’s favourite bands, I’ve listened to Talking Heads since birth, but it’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve really paid attention to the sheer brilliance of their music and to David’s career in depth. I think my dad, in particular, is pretty proud that he’s bred a massive Talking Heads fan and that in recent years, I’ve actually started to understand the intricacies and complexities of their music. The older (and wiser) I get, the more David Byrne fascinates me.
It’s hard to know where to start with David. Aside from Talking Heads, he has done a ton of other projects. He’s enjoyed a fairly successful solo music career, started his own record label, penned a number of books, cut it as a visual artist, produced and directed a couple of films, and is an avid cyclist (he has a regular cycling column in the New York Times) and activist. He’s even appeared on The Simpsons. Oh yeah, and he’s received Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe awards (for his film scores) and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
David’s done some pretty interesting things. In 2008, he designed a series of unique bicycle racks in the form of image outlines (guitars, dollar signs etc) which were placed around New York City for public use. David also released a book, Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, which included artwork which he composed entirely in PowerPoint. In 2005, he also started his own internet radio station, Radio David Byrne.
Over the years, he’s collaborated with more artists than you can poke a stick at including Brian Eno, Devo, Morcheeba, Fatboy Slim and most recently, the Arcade Fire (that collaboration is particularly interesting as I’m also a big Arcade Fire fan).
I love him primarily for his music, but I also respect all of the other projects he takes on too. He is an insanely intelligent and eccentric man, who knows music like the back of his hand. He isn’t afraid to take risks and experiment with different styles, genres and instrumentation.
One of my all-time favourite albums is Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. You’ll have to listen to it for yourself as words cannot describe the brilliance. Song like Born Under Punches and Seen and Not Seen are so complex, with layers upon layers of sounds and effects, but with simple, pared back (almost spoken) vocals and a simple, driving beat. Amazing.
Even Talking Heads’ more popular, radio-friendly songs like Take Me to the River are still complex in their musical style and lyrics, while Psycho Killer is almost complex in its simplicity alone (is that an oxymoron?).
David Byrne’s lyrics are also incredibly unique and reflect his intelligence and idiosyncrasies. As well as his diverse career and numerous side projects, in his lyrics are where his eccentricities truly shine.
David still tours, doing solo shows with a full band supporting him. I’ve been lucky enough to see him play twice, once in 2009 and once in 2005, both times at the Convention Centre in Southbank. Both times he’s been nothing short of brilliant. He plays a lot of his solo music mixed with a healthy dose of Talking Heads classics. His onstage persona is still well and truly intact, full of oddities and quirks. His solo songs are fantastic live, but it’s the Talking Heads gems that really get the crowd going.
I adore Talking Heads and David Byrne and will pay attention to anything that he puts his name to. For someone with such diverse interests and range of projects, I’ll be interested to see what he does next.