Talking Heads co-founders Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth have announced a joint ‘Remain In Love’ in-conversation tour. Check out details below along with our interview with the art-rock icons.
The drummer and bassist, who also formed the band Tom Tom Club, will discuss their storied careers, marriage, and Frantz’s acclaimed memoir, also called Remain in Love, during three live interviews in May 2023.
“We’re very happy to be doing this,” Frantz told NME. “We haven’t gotten to experience Brexit yet! When we were invited to do it, we thought it sounded fun and we don’t have to play live. We can just talk, enjoy the British hospitality, and catch up with some old friends of ours.”
Aside from being a nod to the seminal 1980 Talking Heads album ‘Remain in Light’, Remain in Love pays tribute to Frantz and Weymouth’s 45-year-strong marriage, which they feel has helped them survive the music industry. Frantz first met Weymouth at the Rhode Island School of Design, forming the band that became Talking Heads with her and frontman David Byrne in 1973.
Weymouth said: “Chris and I were very fortunate to have each other as support going through the situations we have, and I think David was incredibly lucky to have us, because he wouldn’t have made it to square one without our love and support. People were just so against him, and now he’s thriving. The real takeaway from this [book] is that we’ve really been able to help.”
Writing Remain in Love involved Frantz accepting that Talking Heads had little chance of reforming in order to be candid about the power dynamics within the group.
“I waited quite a few years to do it,” he said. “People kept telling me: ‘Chris, you should write a book’, but I didn’t want to ruin or in any way tarnish the legacy of Talking Heads, so even while writing it knowing that there’s not going to be any reunion unless David has some enormous epiphany, I still didn’t want it to be a whiny, overly critical or nasty tone.
“I tried to keep it the way I felt, which is that Talking Heads was a wonderful band. Yes, not everything went according to plan unfortunately, but some of the records we made together were great and we can look back on them and be proud.”
It wasn’t just their influential music (post-punk and new wave before the terms existed) that marked them out as different; it was their dynamic. After an early Talking Heads set at New York venue CBGB, New York Doll Johnny Thunders asked Frantz is they were a feminist band, owing to one-third of the band being female and playing bass, to which he replied: “Yes, we are.”
Asked by NME if they felt like they were treated differently from other bands, Frantz replied: “Yes. We didn’t have the same ingredients that the New York Dolls or the Patti Smith Group had. We didn’t have those rock ‘n’ roll accounts. Our appearance was very plain and simple compared to what other bands were going for. We didn’t dress up as drag queens and cowboys.”
When asked if he felt progressive, Weymouth interjected: “Well, he wasn’t Johnny Ramone, that’s for sure!”
They alleged that he bullied the other members of the Ramones, and regarded Talking Heads as pretentious. Weymouth compared some of the reaction Talking Heads received in the early days to the recent US midterm elections, with the culture war divide between the Republicans and Democrats.
“The ‘provincials’ – I call them that which is probably rude but I’m an international child – don’t vote in their own best interests,” she said. “We had a lot of that coming to New York from RISD. We encountered so much of what I thought was very suburban backward thinking. Poor Johnny was like Trump. There’s some kind of emotional abuse of the personality that creates a person who bullies like that.”
According to Remain in Love, Weymouth faced a staggering amount of sexism from the music industry, epitomised by an meeting with Phil Spector – whom their label boss Seymour Stein wanted to produce a Talking Heads album – where he admonished her for trying to venture an opinion.
Having heard rumours of his “gunplay” beforehand, she said she did not want to meet, let alone work, with him. “Teenage girls who’d grown up in the same neighbourhood warned me: ‘Stay away from him.’ [Record producer] Jack Nitzsche – same thing. And I was terrified of that whole Valley of the Dolls scene. I cannot think of anything more abusive.”
“I was born in Southern California, but I didn’t grow up there. We really wanted to be in a city where we could leave our mark – New York was the dream. We wanted to be in a place of energy, renewal, growth and opportunity, and our decision was to avoid the deep, dark pits of Phil Spector.”
“But the meeting was interesting,” she recalled. “Phil Spector arrived with two 6’2″ blondes in typical Fox News outfits – four-inch dominatrix heels, caked-on make-up, and dyed hair. They looked really weird. And he didn’t seem to notice. And he was weird. He told me: ‘Shut up and just play bass. Don’t ever talk’. Like a woman should not have a point of view. His view was that a woman should just serve the man. He was a real sicko.”
It’s not the only incident, with producers denigrating her work, and when the pair were enlisted to work on a Ziggy Marley album, the artist enquires: ‘Why Chris Frantz bring his wife to the studio?”
“We had to stay mum about it because we didn’t want to rock the boat for any woman who would follow,” Weymouth told NME. “But I heard the horror stories and think it’s a terrible shame. I always looked up to Debbie Harry because she’s a superb diplomat who took care of both men in Blondie and herself. We called ourselves masculinist feminists. I didn’t look up to Patti Smith because she was a diva, but Debbie was a role model of how to negotiate difficult turns. But she wasn’t always around to give me the advice I needed.”
Talking Heads fans might be hoping for the turning-point moment where a phone is picked up, an olive branch is offered, and the possibility of a reunion is mooted, but Frantz told NME, after a brief rapprochement to perform three tracks at their Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2002, such hopes are in vain.
“I did try it a couple of times and the last time was about 20 years ago, and after that, David just said: ‘I never want you to ask me that question again. I’m not going to address that matter.’ It’s a shame and it is what it is.”
Full dates for the ‘Remain in Love’ tour below.
25 – Shelodian Theatre, Oxford
27 – Electric Ballroom, London
28 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
This comes as Frantz made headlines this week for telling Bob Dylan to “suck a dick” for appearing to slight Talking Heads in his new book The Philosophy Of Modern Song.
Meanwhile, Talking Heads mainstay Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew – who was briefly a member of the band in the early 1980s – recently announced a North American tour for next year in celebration of ‘Remain In Light’.