Discussion with Kurt Andersen
The new DVD Talking Heads: Chronology contains film and video of Talking Heads in performance going all the way back to 1975 — before the advent of camcorders, and two years before the release of the band’s first LP.
Kurt Andersen talks with David Byrne, the band’s principal singer and songwriter, about the group’s early years. In an era of punk decadence, Talking Heads created a pop revolution by combining tight, funk-based rhythms, a clean-cut image, and themes of anxiety and social isolation. Kurt brings up the early song “I’m Not in Love,” in which Byrne wonders, “Do people really fall in love?” “I was just asking all the most super-obvious questions,” explains Byrne, who has said recently that he may have had Asperberger’s syndrome as a young person. “Why do humans, people, we do these things? And how does it work?”
Byrne admits that he was not altogether surprised by the success of this very odd downtown art band. "I have to be sort of immodest and say that, like a lot of other bands, artists, everything else,” Byrne says, “you tend to think that the pervasive stuff around you is crap, and you and your friends are doing the real stuff. So immodestly you think, Of course! Things are just going to fall into your lap because you're doing something that has some truth to it. That certainly doesn't always happen."
Byrne talked about his book How Music Works, to be published later this year. It contains nuts-and-bolts about making a living from music in the 21st century as well as more philosophical speculation about the premodern idea of the music of the spheres. “In a beautiful and kind of poetic way, for much of human history, it was thought that the universe was guided by music,” Byrne explains. “Maybe we should rethink that idea.”