Tom Tom Club: Interview with Chris Frantz
TOM TOM CLUB – Interview with Chris Frantz
There’s truly nothing better in this job than getting to meet a musician whose music you grew up listening to and loving, and who turns out to be wayyyyyy cooler than you ever imagined! Chris Frantz made my September by taking time out to do an interview with me for ROCK-WIRE.COM! You might remember Chris and his lovely wife, Tina Weymouth, from a little band called the Talking Heads. Heard of that band? Yeah, I thought you might have! Chris (drums) and Tina (bass) were 2/3 of the founding members of Talking Heads, along with David Byrne (guitar/vocals). Chris and Tina were also the founding members of another successful band from the ‘80s called Tom Tom Club. This little band has produced one of the most sampled songs around today called “Genius of Love.” Be sure to check out the sampled song listing at Tom Tom Club’s website (www.tomtomclub.net ). Chances are…you’ve heard “Genius of Love!” In any case, Tom Tom Club was quite successful in its own right…producing quite a few popular tunes over the years. The longevity of the band is evident, as a tour stop with Psychedelic Furs in my town this year allowed this interview to happen! Chris was nice enough to take time after a long sound check, while eating dinner with guitarist Pablo, to chat with me about Tom Tom Club and what the band has been up to…and will be up to in coming months! Take some time to get to know Chris Frantz!
What has Tom Tom Club been up to lately?
Well, we’ve been crossing the country a couple times with the Psychedelic Furs. We’ve been doing this co-headline thing and it’s been working out really well. We get along with the band very well and they’re a good band. We were in Europe…we were in the UK and Ireland this summer. We also played some shows with Devo and some shows with The Go Gos. We’ve been keeping more busy…we sort of stepped on the accelerator the past year.
You said you’ve been working on new music. You had a new album out and are still working on new music. Tell us about that.
Our most recent album has been out for not quite a year…it’s a live album. Half of it is live and the other half is remixes of “Genius of Love” by various Latin-American artists…alternative Latin-American artists. They’re really great remixes. They’re all different from the other and it went really good! They’re very dancy, of course. We’re going to be releasing some new stuff as soon as we can get it all together. I would imagine it will be in the first quarter of 2012. We’ll be working on that when we finish up this tour in mid-October. We’re thinking about not so much albums, but EPs and like. We will probably release them in the digital domain, as well as on vinyl…12″ vinyl. The vinyl, we can sell at our live shows and the digital, you can go out and buy them in iTunes.
Introduce us to your band and tell us what each person does in the band. We know you and Tina…
Yeah, I play drums. Tina plays bass and sings. Then there’s Victoria Clamp…Victoria’s been with us for over 20 years, she’s also playing guitar on a couple songs now. Then there’s Bruce Martin…Bruce has been with us 20 years also. He plays keyboard, percussion, and vocals. Pablo is our main guitarist and also the newest member of the band, he’s the baby. Then, there’s Kid Ginseng. He’s a turn table-ist so he scratches and he also triggers samples for us on a couple songs.
So you guys formed in the early 80’s (’81) what is the secret to longevity?
Well I guess the secret is not to break up (laughs). But also I think that even if you’re having success, you know how to put on the brakes every once in a while, so you don’t get burnt out, overly tired, and sick of it. We’ve had a few rather long periods where we didn’t do too much with the Tom Tom Club. First it was because we were so busy with Talking Heads. Then after Talking Heads stopped working, we were raising a family and had our parents that needed help…you know getting older and stuff. Those sorts of family matters are all cool right now, so now we can devote ourselves more to the music again.
You’ve worked with your lovely wife, Tina, for years and years, what is it like first off to work with your wife everyday, and what is the secret of working together and staying together and balancing the two?
I’ve never really known it any other way. I’ve worked with Tina since 1974 and we’ve known each other since 1972, and we’ve been married since 1977. I’ve always worked with Tina since then, and it’s always been a great pleasure for me…never been a problem. I would say one thing…this is advice to the men, it’s good to have a good sense of humor and to keep your female co-workers happy and laughing!
You and Tina have also been in two extremely successful bands in your careers, how does it feel to be part of two bands that are still so musically relevant and have laid the groundwork for so many other bands?
Naturally, we’re very pleased that…it’s nice of you to say that…and we’re very pleased that people still find us interesting! I guess we never really looked to the mainstream in music as a place to go. Even though we’ve had some hits and stuff, we’ve always been kind of outside the mainstream. I think that’s one reason that some of the stuff still sounds good today…it still sounds fresh. It’s not really dated by ’80s production techniques or ’70s production techniques or ’90s. We just always try to do what we feel in our hearts… we’re happy to have success, but we don’t really do stuff in order to have success. We more do stuff in order to be artistic…we’re interested in music as an art form, not as a way to get famous or a way to better our nest.
Tom Tom Club, like you mentioned, didn’t go with the norm, didn’t go with the mainstream. It’s very funky and fun and fresh when you created the band and now, too. When you created the band, what was your vision?
The vision was to do something that would be separate from Talking Heads and not compared to Talking Heads. From the beginning, we wanted to do something completely different from what we’d already done with Talking Heads. The vision was to have it be like a collective, that’s why we called it a “club” instead of a band…to have it be a collective of people from…well, friends and family and just people that gave us a good feeling!
“Genius of Love” has been sampled in so many songs. For you and Tina, as creators of that song, what is it like to hear that song keep showing up over and over and over again?
It’s really great because anybody who writes songs wants their stuff to be heard! I find that with the sampling, it gives a song a whole new life again…even if it’s only a little tiny bit of a song. Bands have to come to us to ask for permission to sample it, and when we hear a new usage of the song, there’s only been one time that we ever denied the use. That was during the days of “gangsta” and it was a song about a murder and we thought, “Nahhh, not this time!” It has to be pretty extreme for us to deny the band the usage of the sample. My favorite uses of the song are Grandmaster Flash‘s…he was actually the second person to sample it…”It’s Nasty”. The other one that I love is the remix of Mariah Carey‘s, “Fantasy,” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard. I like that!
It’s very cool that you’ve covered many years and many different genres. You’re on tour with Psychedelic Furs, tell us how that tour came about.
Well, you know the Psychedelic Furs used to open for Talking Heads back in…like ’81…around the time that we did the first Tom Tom Club album. We knew they were nice guys and a cool band and everything. Then a few months ago, we got a new agent and it just so happens that he’s also the agent for the Psychedelic Furs. I guess they heard about that and Tina and I got an email, “How would you feel about doing a tour with the Psychedelic Furs?” and it seemed like a good idea! Together we can attract more people than either of us could attract alone. So we thought we’d give it a try and it’s worked out really well! There have really been no problems…everything’s cool…copasetic. Richard Butler and his brother, Tim, are really cool with us and vice versa.
Do you have tour plans beyond this particular tour?
Yes! We have plans to do more work in the summer (of 2012) and maybe even starting in the spring with the Coachella festival. We hope to go toEurope again next summer and do festivals. There’s some talk that we might do some work with the Psychedelic Furs next summer also. We would like to go to Latin America…we’ve never been to South America. Well…we’ve been to Brazil, but we’ve never been to the many other countries of South America, so we’d like to go there. It’s always fun to go to Japan. If you go to Japan, you might as well go to Australia and New Zealand while you’re already over there. (laughs) We went to Japan two summers ago and it was great…so maybe we could do that again.
What are your hobbies when you’re not working, or are you always working?
No, I’m not always working! My hobbies are cooking, and also boating. I love sailing!
What music are you listening to now? Are there any new bands that you like?
Yeah! I just heard a band I kind of like called Twin Sister. They’re very much like Tom Tom Club. I think one girl is Puerto Rican and the other is Dominican or something like that, and they’re from Long Island, New York. And then I really like…they’re not new, but I like LCD Soundsystem. All they’re spin offs of Hercules and Love Affair. I like The Chicks on Speed and Peaches. I like Fitz and the Tantrums, the band called The Heavy, and there’s a band that Pablo plays with also when he’s not with us that I really like called Mimi Maura. She’s Puerto Rican and her husband is from Argentina. That’s how we met Pablo…through Mimi Maura. They’re like, at least at the moment, doing reggae music really well. Beautiful singing…Mimi’s a really strong singer!
What would you like to say to your fans?
Well, to our long time fans, I would like to say thank you very much for continuing to support Tom Tom Club. And for our new fans, I would like to say just wait until you hear our next recording, it’s gonna blow your mind!
There you go! Now get yourselves ready for Tom Tom Club’s upcoming release in 2012! Chris says it’s gonna blow our mind…and I believe him! Be sure to check out Tom Tom Club’s website for tour dates and information on upcoming releases. There is also a great timeline on the band’s history! I’ve got to tell you, if you get a chance to see Tom Tom Club in a live setting…DON’T MISS IT! The band gives an incredible performance and even plays a few kick-ass covers! Show TTC some love!