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 Home is where I want to be
Home is where I want to be
2001 - TTC Stays in the Cool Groove After 20 Years PDF Print E-mail

From: Pittsburg Post-Gazette, october 5, 2001

Just because we didn't hear much about the Tom Tom Club in the '90s didn't mean that its founders, the husband-wife team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, were sitting around stewing about David Byrne.

Weymouth and Frantz, the sensuously funky rhythm section from late-great Talking Heads, released "Dark Sneak Love Action," the fourth Tom Tom Club record in 1992 and then put the Club on ice for a while. They went about producing records for folks like Shirley Manson (pre-Garbage) and the huge Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. They teamed up with Jerry Harrison as simply The Heads to tour and record "No Talking, Just Head," a record featuring vocals by Debbie Harry, Ed Kowalczyk of Live and Michael Hutchence, among others. Realizing what they were spending on recording costs, Weymouth and Frantz also invested in a studio for their Connecticut home.

During that decade, more and more artists -- from Mariah Carey to LL Cool J -- were requesting samples from the Tom Tom Club's funky past. So, in early 1998, they set out to create the tracks for "The Good, the Bad and Funky," the 2000 release that finds them back in that silky, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink-groove that grabbed people with "Genius of Love" 20 years ago.

"It was very easy getting back into that groove," says Frantz, who grew up in Fox Chapel and graduated from Shady Side Academy. "That's what we do. Our approach was, um, fun-loving and high-spirited with a funky element in there as well. We love the music of the Caribbean, soca, reggae and calypso. We also love the music of Parliament-Funkadelic and James Brown. Can't forget the rock 'n' rollers either, like the Beatles and the Stones. So we put in a lot of different elements and stuff that we absorbed by osmosis over the years and what comes out is the Tom Tom Club."

Using the studio as an instrument, Weymouth and Frantz have a lot of fun on the latest record experimenting with the Jamaican dub style. "For a long time, we've enjoyed the idea of weird mixes, psychedelic mixes. And the dub mixes are the most psychedelic of well."

"The Good, the Bad and the Funky" got a mixed response from critics, who found it a little of all three, and a disappointing response in the marketplace. "Sometimes really great records don't sell as well as the artists would like them to. I'm afraid we're in that boat right now...," Frantz says. "It has to do with radio changing quite a bit. I don't want to sound like the Grinch, but if you want to get your record played, you have to pay them, and that's all there is to it. There's no Top 40 anymore, there's like the Top 12. If you're like us, a little mom and pop record company, you can't afford that, so you don't get played. There's no reason for a radio station today to play a record just because it's good or just because it's cool. It's all about the bottom line, because these stations are now owned by stockholders."

The Tom Tom Club has gotten some play on independent radio and is making inroads into the burgeoning jam-rock scene that includes bands like the String Cheese Incident, moe and Deep Banana Blackout.

It recently played at the Jammy Awards (the jam-band Grammys) and the Gathering of the Vibes, and it has a track on "Sharin' in the Groove," a tribute to Phish. "There's a real interest in bands that are good live performers," Frantz says, "as opposed to just having a great video on MTV."

The Tom Tom Club, which is stopping here for a benefit for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, certainly has the stuff of a great live band. It is on the road with a seven-piece -- including Jamaican toaster Mystic Bowie, singer Victoria Clamp, keyboardist Bruce Martin, percussionist Steve Scales and guitarist Robby Aceto (sadly, its soul singer Charles Pettigrew, died of cancer earlier this year) -- that Frantz says is "the strongest lineup we've had on stage since the days of 'Stop Making Sense' in the '80s." "Stop Making Sense," of course, released in 1984, captured the final touring days of Talking Heads, who essentially disbanded after "Naked" in 1988.

Since then, the bad blood has run thick between the Heads and their frontman Byrne, who holds fast to a solo career that draws more attention from critics than fans. "We're getting over it now, but it took a while," Frantz says of the severed Talking Heads. "It was David Byrne's decision to stop working with the band and it's his decision to continue to stop working with the band. What can I say? He's got his head stuck way up his [behind]."

Can Frantz picture a time when it will be removed and Talking Heads will work again? "Not that I can see," he says. On the band's legacy, Frantz adds, "Talking Heads was a wonderful band and completely unique. And try as they might, nobody's really been able to copy it."  

 

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