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Tom Tom Membership interview

Tom Tom Membership interview


One of many nice love tales in music, in addition to considered one of its most interesting rhythm sections, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz are making ready to share their recollections of life in Speaking Heads and Tom Tom Membership. It’s been an unbelievable journey, as they reveal all about their days of sweating with Ramones, forsaking political pop and why it’s necessary to remind individuals of the enjoyment of working with David Byrne.

2023 marks the fiftieth anniversary of considered one of music’s nice romances. Chris Frantz met Tina Weymouth in 1973 at Rhode Island College Of Design.

You’ll know already their plans to change into artists received railroaded by Speaking Heads and Tom Tom Membership. What’s additionally apparent is that they’re each nonetheless head over heels in love.

Frantz’s 2020 memoir, Stay In Love, is a wonderful and touching prolonged paean to Weymouth. Over Zoom from their loft studio – a mishmash of devices piled towards the again wall, a single platinum disc on the cabinets, the couple’s cat wandering out and in of shot – their devotion is obvious.

Chris introduces himself, earlier than going to fetch his spouse. “Darling, we’ve received a British interview,” he tells Tina tenderly. Barely flustered at being lower than two minutes late, Tina is stuffed with apologies.

If Speaking Heads have been the good band in New York, Chris and Tina are nonetheless the good and most welcoming couple in music.

The pair are speaking as a result of there’s a talking tour of Britain to advertise. Frantz was unable to plug Stay In Love in particular person as a result of it was launched throughout lockdown. “This tour makes up for not with the ability to go anyplace for my e-book,” he explains.

Additionally they need to share what life was actually like in Speaking Heads. The 32 years since formally splitting in 1991 have seen snarky feedback between David Byrne on one facet and Tina, Chris and keyboardist Jerry Harrison on the opposite.

A 3-song reunion efficiency after they have been inducted into the Rock And Roll Corridor Of Fame in 2002 is one side all 4 can agree on: that was horrible.

As Chris says: “I’d like our tour to convey that Speaking Heads was a tremendous time. It was very a lot a shared expertise. It was all fairly joyful till…”

Tina interjects: “…Till our final present.” The couple chortle, till Frantz grimaces on the reminiscence of that remaining reunion. “Yeah. Speaking Heads was nice till our final present.”

They first started taking part in collectively in 1975, when Chris and David’s band, The Artistics, grew to become Speaking Heads. The drummer instructed his girlfriend check out as bassist, regardless of by no means having performed the instrument.

“I didn’t essentially need to be in a band,” laughs Weymouth. “Then I used to be, and I beloved it. I’d been a musician earlier than Speaking Heads, touring at 13 with Mrs Tuft’s Handbell Ringers. I’d realized tips on how to play flute and folks guitar from books – that will have been a lot faster now, from YouTube tutorials.”

Her blonde fringe makes Tina immediately acquainted from the bassist who was so imperious in Speaking Heads, however she reveals it was “daunting” to be one of many few feminine musicians within the New York scene that additionally spawned Blondie, Ramones, Patti Smith and Tv.

“I assumed the world of Debbie Harry for with the ability to entrance a band,” says Weymouth. “Debbie had an innate knowledge. I simply don’t understand how she did it. I additionally may need emulated Patti Smith, however she was very completely different from Debbie.

“I adored watching Patti onstage, however whereas Debbie was very a lot a workforce participant, Patti was very diva-like. She was this grand poetess. That’s an artwork, too, but it surely was so completely different from what I wished to emulate.”

A trio earlier than Jerry joined following 1977’s debut single Love Goes To Constructing On Fireplace, Speaking Heads received their break after they performed three reveals at scene membership CBGBs’ competition in August 1975.

“Earlier than we even carried out at CBGBs, I knew it was going to be New York’s equal to The Cavern in Liverpool,” remembers Frantz. “You would actually get it on musically there. On the similar time, CBGBs was so small that, when you had a foul night time, so few individuals might see you mess up that it wasn’t going to damage your popularity. It was a beautiful incubator for child bands.”

Influential arts magazine The Village Voice put the unsigned Speaking Heads on their cowl after that 1975 competition. “These reveals have been solely our fourth to sixth performances ever,” smiles Chris. “We stood out from the gang. To start with, a girl taking part in bass was a rarity.

“David was an uncommon presence. And, at a time when rock stars both dressed like drag queens or cowboys, we wore polo shirts and Levi’s. And we had quick hair.”

Speaking Heads’ anti-image got here at a worth, as Tina explains: “Being on the Village Voice cowl was a backhanded slap in some methods, as their headline was: ‘The conservative impulse of the brand new rock underground’, with the characteristic saying that we dressed like younger Republicans.

“All of us went: ‘Oh, God.’ When that occurred, we determined we wouldn’t deal with politics in any respect.”

Picture by Jessica Glick

With their lyrics being predominantly esoteric, Speaking Heads didn’t have to get political. Sire promptly snapped
them up, although Weymouth remembers having to inform legendary Sire boss Seymour Stein to decelerate his plans. Speaking Heads weren’t able to launch an album and tour so quickly after that Village Voice cowl.

“I’ll ceaselessly be grateful to David that we had a beautiful relationship by way of the chemistry of us writing collectively,” enthuses Weymouth. “I at all times needed to be cautious with David, as a result of he was like a cat: you couldn’t rub his fur the flawed approach.

“I generally needed to suppress my character with him, however we had the identical great method to music, and I wished to delve into my function within the band.”

Regardless of her warning, Tina was no pushover, as she recollects: “I couldn’t be overly wilful with David, however I stood my floor. If he tried to make me play one thing I didn’t need to, I’d simply go: ‘No!’ The songs might generally be dry, and I’d suppose: ‘We want one thing lush right here.’ I’d be just like the Pied Piper, saying to David: ‘Why not come over right here? It’s actually cool over right here!’”

It took six months of fixed follow, rehearsing each night time, for Tina to really feel at residence within the band. “By then, I used to be taking part in bass in my sleep,” she says. “I used to be actually dreaming my taking part in. It was like there was a gestalt in my head.

“I’d nonetheless do bizarre issues in my taking part in, attempting to suit extra notes than have been potential right into a track. I assumed in unusual tempos and was such a punk in how I attempted to suit myself into a daily track construction.

“These limitations would typically result in one thing attention-grabbing: Discovered A Job was principally from me saying: ‘What, actually? We now have to maneuver onto the subsequent a part of the track already?’”

Frantz equally rhapsodises the band’s early days, saying his happiest tour was Speaking Heads’ first ever prolonged run of reveals, supporting Ramones within the UK. “To today, the most popular gig of my complete life was Eric’s in Liverpool,” he laughs.

“We later performed reveals within the desert, however Jerry – who by no means perspired – was dripping and turning purple after taking part in Eric’s. We have been simply the openers. The poor Ramones needed to go on after, whereas steam was coming off our our bodies upstairs. We had such a good time on that tour.”

Tina and Chris married in June 1977, three months earlier than Speaking Heads’ debut album 77 was launched, that includes Psycho Killer. “By way of any challenges, what I at all times had going for me was Chris,” smiles Weymouth.

“He wrote nice drum elements and had an awesome drum tone. I might hearken to Chris’ tone and work out what to play from there. Not all of the CBGBs bands had nice drummers.”

The primary fissures in Speaking Heads led to Chris and Tina’s different nice achievement: Tom Tom Membership. After 4 albums in 4 years, David Byrne began work on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts in 1980 with Speaking Heads producer Brian Eno.

“We by no means had any intention of doing something outdoors of Speaking Heads,” insists Frantz. “Our hand was pressured when David introduced he was making his solo album, as a result of Jerry then stated: ‘Nicely, if David is doing a solo album, I’m going to do a solo album.’ Tina and I knew how lengthy it takes to make a file.”

Weymouth provides: “So did our accountant. He instructed us: ‘You’d higher do one thing, too, else you’ll don’t have anything to pay the hire.’”

The couple’s pal Robert Palmer had persuaded his pal, Island Data boss Chris Blackwell, to see an early Speaking Heads present at CBGBs: “The identical night time Andy Warhol noticed us,” in keeping with Chris.

A fan ever since, the label legend was intrigued to listen to Speaking Heads’ rhythm part was at a free finish. He instructed Chris and Tina: “Come to Compass Level. File a single. If I like that, you are able to do a complete album.’”

Tom Tom Membership was born from a easy concept, which Frantz describes as: “We wished to make a file that was good for dancing: one thing that will enchantment to our mates in New York, who appreciated to hang around at Mud Membership and Danceteria.”

They recorded three rhythm beds, of drums, bass and extra percussion. The very first track to emerge was Wordy Rappinghood. Chris Blackwell was within the studio subsequent door at Compass Level, producing Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing album.

Chris remembers: “We stated to Chris: ‘Are you able to come and listen to this, inform us when you prefer it or not?’ Chris listened to a really tough mixture of Wordy Rappinghood and stated: ‘Play that once more!’ He had an enormous grin and stated: ‘I’m going to launch this as quickly as potential.’”

Inside weeks, Wordy Rappinghood was at No.7 within the UK. In line with Tina: “Tom Tom Membership’s success was its personal karmic reward. The band was a really inclusive concept, which paid off. As soon as Chris and I had these rhythm elements, we thought: ‘Proper, now let’s herald our mates.’

“Once we made Wordy Rappinghood, I assumed: ‘Gosh, now we have to get some phrases collectively,’ which is how the road ‘What are phrases value?’ got here.

“The primary individuals I wished on board have been my sisters, Laura and Lani. We began singing an outdated schoolyard chant Lani remembered as a five-year-old. That was only a lark, to check everybody on how they’d react, however Chris and everybody beloved it. That positivity carried on all through Tom Tom Membership.”

They wished Speaking Heads dwell guitarist Adrian Belew as singer. He as a substitute joined King Crimson, however discovered time to play guitar on Tom Tom Membership’s revolutionary self-titled debut album.

Comply with-up single Genius Of Love is among the most sampled songs in hip-hop historical past, notably on Grandmaster Flash’s It’s Nasty, Mark Morrison’s Return Of The Mack and Fantasy by Mariah Carey.

“I beloved rap from the beginning, Chris much more so,” remembers Tina. “After I heard individuals taking part in Genius Of Love on boomboxes, there was nothing extra thrilling. We beloved being a tiny little a part of the rap neighborhood.”

Tom Tom Membership’s final album, Downtown Rockers, was again in 2012. There’s a minor home over the collective’s future, as Frantz reveals: “We’ve been ready to have upkeep accomplished on our studio for a yr. However we’re going
to do some extra recording, and that possibly will come out as Tom Tom Membership.”

Tina: “No.” Chris: “OK, Tina says no.” Weymouth: “Tom Tom Membership was unbelievable, however the great band we had, all people has their life reduce out for them now. We’ll make one thing, however we don’t know what it’s going to be.”

A minimum of Chris and Tina’s musical future is extra promising than Speaking Heads. The couple remorse how that band ended, blaming EMI – who took over Sire round 1985’s Little Creatures – for his or her messy farewell.

“Contractual obligations made it sophisticated,” explains Weymouth. “The Police cut up amicably, and Speaking Heads ought to have been like that. David stated: ‘Honour the contracts and we’re accomplished.’ Then he walked out and instructed everybody: ‘I’ll be again in a yr.’

“We received sued by EMI and it brought about so many issues. All of us fought them, as a result of we wished to guard Speaking Heads’ legacy, but it surely was one other 5 years to get by way of that.”

Frantz says: “We get numerous feedback of: ‘Isn’t it horrible you possibly can’t get alongside?’ However once we have been collectively, we at all times received alongside positive. One particular person didn’t need to work with the remainder of us anymore. That’s his alternative, and one we are able to’t actually do something about.”

Tina affords the very best abstract of Speaking Heads’ relationships, by way of Steve Lillywhite, producer of their remaining album, Bare. “Within the phrases of Steve Lillywhite? ‘It’s simply foolish.’ He’s a smart man, Steve.”

Speaking Heads could also be in a ‘foolish’ place, however they have been magical for greater than a decade. Tom Tom Membership have been an influential beacon of positivity. And now 50 years later, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth are nonetheless laughing, remaining in love. There’s nothing foolish about that.




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