The word ‘democracy’ didn’t exist within the lexicon of Talking Heads. Amid their rise to meteoric success, David Byrne adopted a dictatorial role that shaped the group exclusively in his image. As a result, his bandmate Chris Frantz said he’s never been “jealous” of the singer, who he hasn’t spoken to since 2003.
Being a member of Talking Heads was a draining experience for Frantz who, for large parts of their time together, felt as if he existed in the shadow of their leader. In his own mind, his thoughts were never taken into account by Byrne, who had little time for the consideration or opinions of others.
Undoubtedly, Byrne’s talent can’t be questioned, and if it wasn’t for his forceful vision, then perhaps Talking Heads don’t go on to become the mercurial force of nature that they were. However, it was never an easy ride, and Frantz found working under the autocracy of the singer a gruelling task.
“It’s like he can’t help himself,” Frantz told The Guardian in 2020. “His brain is wired in such a way that he doesn’t know where he ends and other people begin. He can’t imagine that anyone else would be important.”
Frantz met his wife and Talking Heads bassist, Tina Weymouth, at Rhode Island School of Design. It was also where he first crossed paths with Byrne, and the three of them moved to New York with a shared dream. However, Frantz never entirely warmed to the frontman of the band, and he found it strange that he refrained from direct eye contact, which the drummer speculated could be a result of him being “on the high end of the spectrum”.
After Byrne decided that the group needed to momentarily take a hiatus in order for him to find time to work on his solo debut, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Frantz and Weymouth still needed a creative outlet and decided to form Tom Tom Club.
Their 1981 self-titled debut was a resounding success, but Byrne avoided praising the project. They were in a car with him when they found out it had just gone gold, and “he didn’t say a thing,” according to Frantz. “He was very competitive. Later, David did say things about Tom Tom Club like, ‘Well, that’s merely commercial music,’ as if there was nothing else going for it.”
While Byrne’s musicianship is extraordinary, Frantz insisted: “If you knew David Byrne, you would not be jealous of him”.
It’s been almost 20-years since he last encountered his former bandmate in a face-to-face scenario, and now the only reason he’d talk to Bryne would be for pressing business purposes. A reunion from the Talking Heads is one of the most improbable events in music, and it feels like they have aired their dirty laundry too much to reconcile. Additionally, everyone associated with the group seems to be in a better place since their split, and Byrne currently seems more content than ever before.