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David Byrne: 'It took me quite a number of years before I felt kind of comfortable in a recording studio'

Mr. Nimbus | 02/27/2022

David Byrne joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 to discuss his acclaimed Broadway musical American Utopia, working with Spike Lee to bring the production to film, collaborating with Mitski, St. Vincent, and Brian Eno, and bringing the musical to life via Spatial Audio.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About The Inspiration For ‘American Utopia’…
It started in one of those half-awake, half-asleep moments when I imagined in my head a group of drummers, kind of like a drum line or a second line drum group from New Orleans or a samba school in Brazil, moving towards the front of a stage, all playing together, all kind of making one rhythm between them all. And I thought, “What an amazing impact that would be. What a great feeling that is when I’ve seen those kinds of groups do that, and can I do that with my music?” And I just imagined it, and I was thinking of the songs I was working on at that moment. And I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t that be an amazing way to present these songs, with that kind of mobile energy and that energy of a group of players coming together to make one sound?”

David Bryne Tells Apple Music About Bringing ‘American Utopia’ To A Close…
Well, we are going to put an end to it. We’ve been extended it until April 3rd this year, and that’s where we’re going to end. Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a number of years now, and we had, of course, this huge interruption. But I feel like, okay. Before that, we toured a version of it, and so I feel like, yes, maybe I’ve done this enough. And it’s time for me to move on and try something else that might succeed and might fail with new material and see where that leads.

David Bryne Tells Apple Music About Bringing ‘American Utopia’ To Spatial Audio…
It really works well in this spatial format. I listen to the tracks, the mixes that were done, and yes, it kind of gets a lot closer to what it feels like to be there, because in the theatre, you can hear the stuff coming out of the speakers. But you can also hear the acoustic drums coming off the stage, and so you really have the sense that they’re kind of in front of you and to the left and to the right. Yeah, they’re all around.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About Acclimating To Recording Studios…
It took me quite a number of years before I felt kind of comfortable in a recording studio. It’s a very strange environment. You’re kind of isolated from the other players in a way that allows the mixer then to kind of correct or fix or adjust the balance of instruments. But in order to do that, you’re kind of isolated. You’re hearing from headphones. You’re not exactly playing in the room, but you’re in the same room. It’s all those kinds of things. I find that with the advent of kind of home recording, being able to record using software and laptop and all those kind of things, I can get half of the recording done at home and then bring it into a studio to complete it, which makes me a lot more comfortable.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music How Music Helped Him Feel Less Alone…
A lot of artists have felt like a little bit of an outsider when I was younger, and so you were trying to figure out, “Where do I fit in? How do I work this? What am I supposed to be doing? Am I supposed to be doing what those people are doing? Should I just be doing that?” I say that in the show. I look at part of the audience and go, “Should I be doing what they’re doing? Should I do this?” You’re really honestly trying to figure it out. There’s no instruction manual. There’s plenty of self-help books, but there’s no real instruction manual. You have to figure out a lot of it for yourself. Music does help with that. Music and playing with other musicians really does help with that. The stage and maybe the recording studio, or just writing at home, those were safe areas. I felt like I could do whatever, say whatever, write things, perform, do all that. I was allowed to do that there. But then, back into my normal life, I felt like, “Okay. I feel a little less comfortable in my normal life.” Being on stage, or writing, or all that was very liberating. It was wonderful. Then gradually I get more and more used to it. I adapt. Now I’m pretty comfortable socially, I would say, but it took decades.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About Working With X-Press 2…
The experience of working on the song with X-Press 2 was really interesting. I was fans of all of them, and their DJ work, and their remixes, and all the stuff they were doing. When they approached me, I said, “Yeah. Let’s try something.” The track they originally sent me sounded kind of Talking-Heads-ish. That’s what they sent. I thought, “Okay,” and I kind of wrote to that. Then, as they would do, because they’re remixers and DJs, they remixed the whole thing, removed almost all of those elements, and replaced them with the stuff that’s in the track that we know. It was much better. Yeah. It didn’t sound like a throwback anymore. It sounded like, “This is a new thing,” and it’s … They kind of tricked me, but I went along with it. To my great relief, it actually led to something completely different. I thought, “This is a dance track. Let me write a dance track about being lazy,” which is a complete contradiction. If you’re dancing, you’re full of energy. But I thought, “Let me write an energetic dance track about being lazy and lethargic.”

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About Working With Spike Lee…
I trusted Spike. He came to the show, but when we were in the out-of-town tryouts in Boston, he saw a couple of shows and yeah, immediately said, “Yes, I want to do this.” Of course, we didn’t have the money to do it. But he said, “Yes.” We found the money. I’ll do this. I offered him, Spike, is there anything you would change? For a film you might say, “Oh, I think we should maybe cut out some in the middle, or we should, we should change the ending, make a different ending for a film or whatever. He said, “No, no, no. It’s all working as it is. Don’t mess with it. I’m not going to touch it, the show.” Spike and Jonathan Demme, who directed Stopped Making Sense were really close. They were both, they were friends and they both admired each other’s work. There was one point doing the filming where Spike looked up to the ceiling and says, “Jonathan.” He passed away some years ago. “Jonathan, you see what we’re doing here? You see what we’re doing?”

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About Clipping News Articles That Give Him Hope…
A few years ago, I started collecting news articles that made me feel a little bit hopeful, and I started just putting them into a folder, and gradually accumulated. Gradually, I had quite a pile of them and I thought, “Well, look at this. Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as we think they are.” I started, so I started a little news magazine called Reasons To Be Cheerful, named after the Ian Dury song. It’s still running, and kind of to my amazement, we find stuff every day. Find things that, it’s not just somebody’s generosity or whatever, but people actually solving problems in very innovative ways, all over the world. Our hope is that when they, we write about something like that, they’ll make you feel a little less angry. They do for me, but it is hard. It’s a constant battle. It’s a constant battle. I mean, you’re, we’re susceptible to negative news and boy, do we get it.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music About Working with Brian Eno…
Brian is someone who besides just being very innovative, he pushes the people he works with to go a little bit outside of their comfort zone. He’s done that with me, done it with Talking Heads, which is really productive. Sometimes it’s not that comfortable but… One of the ways that Brian navigates that kind of thing, and I think all producers do this to some extent is, they’re great cheerleaders. They’re great salesmen, saleswomen, whatever. So when something is in between stage, and it’s not quite good yet, but it’s getting to be something really interesting, they are jumping up and down going, this is going to be amazing. This is going to be incredible. It’s going to be like nothing else. They keep the enthusiasm going so that you don’t fall back and go, I don’t know.

David Byrne Tells Apple Music What He’ll Work On Next…
I’m working on an immersive theatre project that has science experiments and experiences as a kind of basis. It’s not real. It’s not a music show. It’s not a music thing. That’ll happen in August and September. So I’ve got a little while to prepare for that. And then I think before that and after that, I think I’ll probably start working on new music and see where that goes. And again, just like you said, I’ll probably write some things, report some things. Do that and then maybe ask people, what do you think? Is it any good or should I scrap it all and start again?

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus





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