In his new memoir, Remain in Love, Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz tells the (mostly) upbeat story of his journey from wide-eyed art school student to touring the world with two successful bands and finding the love of his life, Tina Weymouth, in the process. From the Talking Heads' early days as a three-piece in the Bowery of the 1970s to the tensions that destroyed the band, it's all recalled in clear detail, thanks to his sharp memory and Weymouth's datebooks from their touring days.

There are also tales of visiting Lou Reed's sparsely-appointed apartment, wild times recording albums in the Bahamas, and touring Europe with the Ramones in 1977. Frantz also doesn't shy away from discussing how the band struggled to accommodate frontman David Byrne's eccentricities and how his own drug use threatened his seemingly-ideal marriage. Frantz spoke with AllMusic about how Talking Heads stood out from the pack at CBGB, producing the first album featuring a young Shirley Manson, and what makes Brian Eno a great producer. He also shares the recipe for the breakfast item that helped endear him to Tina more than 45 years ago. Remain in Love is due out on July 21.



AllMusic: You write about having a distinct moment when you realized you were going to be an artist. Was it really that precise?

Chris Frantz:
Tina decided she was going to be an artist when she was three. I think for some people, it happens at a very early age, you just have this epiphany and you say to yourself, "This will be my path," and I guess I was 16 when that happened.

AllMusic: Most of us would have very different lives if we stuck with whatever our passions were at 16.

Frantz:
The first thing I wanted to be when I was growing up was a veterinarian, we had dogs and would take them to the vet and I'd think, "That's a nice job," but then I realized they also have to put dogs to sleep, and I thought, "I don't want to have to do that." I thought I might be a poet, that was when I was maybe 14, but then when I took this studio art class in my junior year of high school, it was just a revelation to me. I thought, "I really like this, I can do this, I want to do this for the rest of my life." I didn't think I was going to enjoy being a doctor or a lawyer or a banker, what we call professionals, I wanted to be some other kind of professional.

AllMusic: Overall, the tone of the book is very appreciative and thankful, which is different from many rock memoirs. Was that intentional from the start, or just how it came out?

Frantz:
My feeling was that Talking Heads was such a great band and I loved the band so much that in no way did I want to do anything that would turn people off to Talking Heads. I want people to continue to buy our records and to continue to use our songs in movies and cable TV shows and things like that. I've always tried to accentuate the positive in my life, and I decided I would continue with that in this book. Yes, there's a few little twists and turns and ups and downs and things, but on the whole, my life has been really good. When I compare my own life to some other people, I had an idyllic childhood, I've had a great marriage, I've been in two very successful bands, I just didn't think it would look good if I sounded grouchy or embittered, because I'm definitely not.



AllMusic: Not everyone saw that kind of background as a positive; you write about how Patti Smith was not very welcoming and put down the band's art school background and privileged upbringings.

Frantz:
I was disappointed by Patti's reaction to us, but it didn't really bother me that much. I just had imagined that she's gonna like our band, but I don't think she really did. Patti was particularly hard on other women, and the fact that we had a woman in the band, that might have had something to do with it. She's got a lot of love and empathy for someone like William S. Burroughs, but for three kids from art school, she didn't want to give us the time of day.

AllMusic: You don't use the word in the book, but do you think you were seen as gentrifiers by the lifelong New Yorkers once the band moved there?

Frantz:
I don't think people saw us as gentrifiers, although we in Talking Heads had a whole different outlook than, say, the guys in the Heartbreakers or the guys in Richard Hell's band. Certainly we had a different outlook than the guys in the Ramones. It used to drive Johnny Ramone crazy when we would go to an art museum or something like that. Johnny was pretty impatient with us. He did become nicer 20 years later after somebody beat him up and he had a head injury, he got really nice for a while, but slowly but surely, he devolved into the mean, grouchy Johnny.

AllMusic: I was particularly intrigued by the section where you write about recording the first Talking Heads album and realizing how different studio work was from performing onstage. Did that experience come in handy down the line when you and Tina produced other bands that may have been feeling the same confusion?

Frantz:
One band we worked with that I didn't mention in the book, I just forgot, was Shirley Manson's band before Garbage. She had worked with the same guys in a different band where she was the background singer called Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, and they opened for Debbie Harry when Debbie was doing a solo tour in the UK. Our manager got reports of this band that has this fabulous background singer who's a real star, so he signed them as Angelfish to Radioactive Records, with the understanding that Shirley would be the lead singer.



We produced that record, and it was the first time Shirley had made an album and done lead vocals, and there was a certain degree of hand-holding that we had to do. She was very good and very professional, but she had a lot of self-doubt and a lot of anxiety about if she would be able to cut it or not, if people would like her record or not. They did one video for a song called "Suffocate Me," and this was around the time of Nirvana, the grunge days, and Butch Vig was sitting at home watching MTV and he saw the one time the video was ever played, and he said, "That's the girl we want for this new band we're going to start." So Shirley went out to Madison, Wisconsin, to work with Butch Vig. I think now she is more acclimated to the whole show business thing.

AllMusic: There's a wild story about Lou Reed trying to sign Talking Heads to a production deal early on, but the terms were very unfavorable to the band. Did you hear about him making these sorts of offers to other bands?

Frantz:
I don't know that he offered to produce anybody else. To his credit, he was one of the few real rock stars who came down to CBGB to check things out, he was practically a regular there. He came down frequently, because he could tell that there was something happening. I guess we were his favorite, but I know he was also keen on Patti Smith and Television. But he was also super-critical of them, that's just how he was: a love/hate relationship with everything.

AllMusic: When Talking Heads decided to invite Jerry Harrison into the band, you essentially had to audition for him. Did that dynamic of having to prove yourselves to him carry on for the rest of the band's existence?

Frantz:
Once he was on board, he was one of the guys. But I don't blame him, because he had just been through a bad experience with the Modern Lovers, who were a really good band and had really good songs, but Jonathan just kind of didn't want to do the Modern Lovers anymore, right in the middle of their first recording session. They were being produced by John Cale and were out in Hollywood making a demo for Warner Bros., and Jonathan just decided that loud music was evil, and left everybody hanging. So that kind of broke Jerry's heart, in a way. He was leery about getting involved with another new band, but we convinced him, and he was a great addition.

AllMusic: I enjoyed how you got into what makes Brian Eno a good producer, he's still a mysterious sort of figure and a lot of people may not exactly understand what he brings to the table. Did you find it hard to put his talent into words?

Frantz:
I just wrote down what he actually did. He's a great producer, I recommend him to anybody who wants to do a record that's artistically deep. I'm sorry it didn't totally work out with Brian, although he seems to still be good friends with David Byrne.

We felt like he just became a little too demanding, like for example by the time we got to Remain in Light, he wanted the title of the album to be "Remain in Light by Talking Heads and Brian Eno" on the cover. We said, "What are we going to do about this?" and our manager said, "Let me take care of it," and he talked to Brian and said, "When this album is finished, there's going to be a nine-month promotional world tour, are you going to be able to do that?" and Brian said, "Oh no, of course not, you know I don't tour," and our manager said, "Your fans are going to be very disappointed if we advertise it as Talking Heads and Eno and you're not there." And I guess he said, "Oh, I see your point."



AllMusic: Some of the unhappier passages involve David making decisions behind the band's back. Do you get the sense he felt that you and Tina being together made you an insurmountable unit that he had to circumvent?

Frantz:
That might have been the case from time to time, but Tina and I did not always completely agree on everything 100 percent of the time, so he wasn't always working against the two of us. And to be honest, nine times out of 10, everyone in the band would agree on something, we were all sensitive and intelligent people, and we could see that this was the right thing to do in this case. We would just agree, there were very few aesthetic disagreements. Personally, I can't think of any.

AllMusic: So the bad times mostly involved business and your personal relationships with him.

Frantz:
I think that's why it would be a shock to us sometimes when David would go behind our backs and change the album credits and things like that when we were not looking, after everybody had agreed on something. That's just how he rolls. If you ever make an album with him, you'll find out.

AllMusic: You say that in the earliest days of your relationship with Tina, you made her a peach and cream cheese omelet that helped endear you to her. Can you share the secret?

Frantz:
You take three eggs, you put them in a deep bowl, you add a tablespoon of cold water, and you whip it up until it's nice and frothy on top, like you're getting air into the eggs. Then you heat up your omelet pan to a good medium-high heat, you put in a pat of butter, get it sizzling, then pour in the eggs. You also open a can of peaches, and don't use the peach juice, just use the pieces of peaches.

As the eggs start cooking, take a spatula and tilt the pan and push the eggs back so that layers are being cooked and it's not just burning on the bottom and wet on the top, and coax the egg around in the pan so it's cooked evenly. Add the peaches, then add a small handful of cream cheese, and you flip the omelet over, put it on a plate, maybe garnish it with a little parsley or a strawberry, and your girlfriend will be very impressed. It's a real treat, almost like a dessert, but it's sexy.