Talking Heads reunite for ‘Stop Making Sense’ re-release at TIFF

1 of 5 | Lynn Mabry and David Byrne perform in “Stop Making Sense.” Photo courtesy of A24

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 (UPI) — Looking back at the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense brought some harmony to the members of Talking Heads, who have been estranged since their 1991 breakup.

Reuniting for a Toronto International Film Festival Q&A on Monday, band members David Byrne, 71, Jerry Harrison, 74, Chris Frantz, 72, and Tina Weymouth, 72, recalled how director Jonathan Demme captured their onstage chemistry and gave them confidence in their art.

“The lasting power of the film is you see that we are having so much fun onstage,” keyboardist and guitarist Harrison said in the session that was simulcast to IMAX theaters around the world after a screening. “Every time I watch this, it brings back that wonderful emotion.”

A24 is re-releasing the film, restored for IMAX, Sept. 29 ahead of the anniversary of the performances captured in December 1983 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

“He made us feel like what we were doing was very worthwhile,” drummer Frantz said at the discussion moderated by director Spike Lee. “It was something that was worthy of making a motion picture and also worthy of being remembered into the future.”

Frantz acknowledged feeling self-conscious watching himself vocalize during the performance of “Genius of Love.”

“I wish I kept my mouth shut a little bit more,” Frantz said.

When Byrne went solo in the ’90s, the other three bandmates still played together. The last time the four appeared publicly together was their 1992 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for which they performed three songs.

Looking back on Stop Making Sense, Byrne said Demme changed the way he saw the Talking Heads. In 1983, the lineup also included Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Steven Scales on drums, Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt singing backup and Alex Weir on guitar and vocals.

“I realized that he was looking at it as an ensemble film,” Byrne said. “He lets you get to know them, lets you get familiar with them and then you watch how they all interact with one another. I’m in my own world but he saw that. He saw what was going on there.”

Byrne said he was moved by the way Demme captured the interaction between bandmates.

“There’s all these moments he caught where one of us looks at the other, looks over at Bernie or Bernie looks at us,” Byrne said. “Those little quick interactions, I thought that stuff is amazing.”

For her part, Weymouth said she took her bandmates into consideration when modulating her bass.

“My big contribution was I never turned my amp up past 3,” Weymouth said. “That left room for everybody else to shine because if the bass player gets too loud, forget about it.”

The band shares the “film by” credit with Demme. Byrne remembered visiting Demme and editor Lisa Day, not to give specific notes but to remind the filmmakers of particular moments.

“Alex is doing this incredible thing right at this moment,” Byrne recalled saying to them. “Do you have that? Is that on one of the cameras? We knew the show backwards and forwards.”

The innovative show begins with Byrne performing “Psycho Killer” solo as stagehands set up behind him. Each band member joins the stage one song at a time.

Byrne recalled persuading the behind-the-scenes crew to take center stage.

“It took a while for the crew, the grips and everybody to get used to being onstage and being visible,” Byrne said. “We were saying, ‘No no no, it’s fine. Just move with purpose and with intention and it’ll be fine.'”

Left to right, star Maya Hawke, director and co-writer Ethan Hawke and star Laura Linney attend the premiere of their new film “Wildcat” during the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on September 11, 2023. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

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