The eccentric style of David Byrne is what propelled both him and his band Talking Heads from new wave miscreants to worldwide influences. It is this style that we utterly adore and it this, somewhat subversive, style which is most perfectly displayed in this clip of David Byrne interviewing himself and, in turn, highlighting the banality of mainstream music media (eek!).
The clip comes from the massively influential concert film Stop Making Sense and sees Byrne take on seven different characters as they all clamour to interview Byrne and get their desperately needed soundbites. In just a few short minutes, Byrne manages to not only engage every muso and fan but also render most of their intrigue and fandom irreverent at best and completely null at worst.
While there is most definitely a very large tongue pressed extremely heavily into his equally large cheek, it must be said that looking back, there is a cringing moment. Byrne adopts several characters in the film as well as himself. He jumps from a conservative white woman to a pretend hipster journo.
Then he does something which in 2020 feels massively out of touch as he dresses as an African American to continue the interview. It’s fair to say that in no way is he making any racial statement here, he is merely adopting a character but, upon modern viewing, it is a little jarring to see.
He uses the characters to pose questions which he has likely heard so many times before. From “how did you ever think of that big suit?” to “why did you call the movie Stop Making Sense?”, all of which he answers in a robotic and utterly professional way. In doing so, he not only delivers everything you would like to know about both Byrne and Stop Making Sense but also makes a very good point about the monotony of interviews.
It’s a perfect tableau of the type of artist Byrne was in the heyday of the Talking Heads. Engaging, artistic, daring and always committed to his task. It’s essential watching.