Author Q&A: Chris Frantz

Remain in Love
(White Rabbit, hardback £20, ebook £9.99)

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Chris Frantz’s memoir is published on the 40th anniversary of Talking Heads’ classic album Remain in Light. Along with his bass-playing wife Tina Weymouth and mercurial singer David Byrne, they founded the band in 1975. Notably without Byrne, they went on to set up Tom Tom Club in the early 1980s. Frantz still conveys the youthful enthusiasm of his pre-punk New York days, combining it with a shrewd eye for character as he details the triumphs and woes of a remarkable five-decade creative process, and pays tribute to the wife he’s remained in love with for nearly as long.

Did you keep notes and diaries to draw on when writing the book – it’s immensely detailed – or was it done from memory? It’s not as if you were completely abstemious!
I knew I should have been keeping a journal and I’m still kicking myself that I did not. I wrote Remain In Love from memory. When writing about the earlier years I had the help of datebooks that Tina kept when she was also our tour manager. This helped to jog my memories.

Your relationship with David Byrne soon began to turn difficult after Talking Heads found success – maybe even before – and he tried to take songwriting credits. Weren’t you ever tempted to walk away from the band?
If you were an artist, would you walk away from a band like Talking Heads? I hope not or you’d be forever known as that person who walked away from Talking Heads.

Forty-three-year marriages are rare in real life, never mind the music industry. What’s the secret of your and Tina’s success?
For us the secret is to keep the romance alive. Whatever it takes. During this pandemic that can be challenging, but I still send Tina flowers and her favourite dark chocolates. You should be kind to each other and make each other laugh. Tina never sits around the house in sweatpants. She dresses with style. I love it when she speaks to me in French.

Have you secured an agreement with Tina that if she writes a memoir she will be as glowing about you as you are about her?
I think it’s possible that Tina will write a fantastic book. She is a seriously good writer. I would be happy for her simply to tell the truth about me or anyone else, and I know that she will.

Just about the only musician you don’t find a kind word for in the book, despite some of their shortcomings, is John Martyn, who you witness in a shocking scene. How can music as gentle as his co-exist with such violence?
My father once told me that our greatest enemy is mental illness. In the case of John Martyn, his issues were exacerbated by longtime substance abuse. For me, this is a case where separating the artist from his body of work is simply not possible.

If a Talking Heads reunion seems unlikely, would you consider bringing Tom Tom Club back?
We were about to play a few secret gigs with Tom Tom Club in March when the pandemic hit. I know all of us in Tom Tom Club would love to get out and play again. I like the idea of residencies at a few select clubs where we would play for several nights in a row. Tom Tom Club never fails to rock the party.

Have you been able to stay creative during Covid-19? Another book maybe?
I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for Remain In Love, which has been fun to do. I called my virtual book tour Remain Online. I do have an idea for another book. This one would involve drawings by me as well as text. You may have heard I went to art school, and my feeling is it’s time to make art!

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