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David Byrne on the "mind-blowing" influence of Björk


It is hard to imagine two feverishly creative and innovative artists that have had a bigger impact on contemporary music than Talking Heads leader David Byrne and Icelandic pop icon Björk. Here, as part of the Far Out Vault, we’re offering a nostalgic period of calm and reflecting on certain factors that help our favourite artists continue to evolve, and next up it is the aforementioned duo.

Having already explored the undeniable influence of Bob Dylan on The Beatles, along with the drug-taking impact the Grateful Dead had on Lee Ranaldo and Sonic Youth, we’re looking back at the experimental Talking Heads founder David Byrne and how he continues to absorb the work of his contemporaries in a bid to continually develop his creative vision.

It is difficult to consider the fact that David Byrne is influenced by any other artists. The musician has continually forced his own art down an individual path, one that started by seemingly taking on New York City’s grimey punk world in the late 1970s when Talking Heads began to pioneer the new wave movement. It set the precedent for Byrne as a creative, the foundations for his approach to creativity which has seen him continually push the boundaries of expression for close to five decades.

That said, Byrne has a prolific thirst for all things expressive and he has never been shy to share his admiration for his peers. Over the years, the singer has actively praised the significant impact of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Patti Smith and more, celebrating their ability to continually forge a new way of thinking within the music industry. For Byrne, the ability to deliver meaningful art is a priceless skill.

A couple of years ago, Byrne was asked by Pitchfork to go through different times in his life and state what the most important record to him, it was a feature that offered a look behind the curtain of Byrne’s understanding of culturally significant impacts. At one point, he turns his attention to the Icelander Björk and her “mind-blowing” debut breakthrough.

“Björk’s Debut and Post were mind-blowing records at the time—that somebody could use electronic beats and then do super innovative stuff with it,” he said. “Then she continued doing things that explored lots of different other areas, with the Greenland Choir and with sounds made with the mouth.”

Adding: “Once in awhile you see this amazing total artist, where you go, ‘this person thinks about the stage, the shows, the costumes, the record covers, and the music’ – and it’s all part of a total thing.”

Byrne’s words ring true in relation to his own work. The former Talking Heads singer has famously had the ability – much like Björk – to seamlessly link his music to other mediums of performance, a skill which has seen his work transition seamlessly into theatre and, more recently, the big screen world of cinema.