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Q&A: Chris Frantz of Tom Tom Club

By Daniel Kohn on October 18, 2010


Q&A: Chris Frantz of Tom Tom Club

The husband and wife tandem of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, better known as the rhythm section of Talking Heads or the duo that makes up Tom Tom Club, have been playing music for most of their lives. Named after a Bahamian club near where they recorded their debut album, the duo’s fusion of rock, reggae and hip-hop is one of the most innovative sounds to come out of the '80s. With the duo’s 30th anniversary upcoming in 2011, the duo decided to return to the road for the first time in a number of years to reintroduce fans to the material that first made them popular way back when. FILTER caught up with Frantz to discuss the lasting influence of “Genius of Love,” the possibility of a new Tom Tom Club album and whether or not the group could succeed in the current climate of the music industry.

When you first formed Tom Tom Club, did you see it as an outlet to experiment with sounds that wouldn't work the Talking Heads? Or did you view it as a fun side project?

Chris Frantz: We were offered a recording project by Chris Blackwell of Island Records who realized the value of a good rhythm section, that bass and drums are often what drives a great record. He offered for us to come down to Compass Point Studios where we had recorded ‘More Songs About Buildings And Food’ and ‘Remain In Light’ to cut a single and if he liked it, we could record an album. The first song we did was "Wordy Rappinghood" which Chris loved and released immediately while we worked on the rest of the album. "Wordy" was a smash hit in Europe, Latin America and Japan.

When you first wrote and recorded "Genius of Love," would you have ever expected that almost 30 years later the song has had such a huge impact on so many artists that it would warrant its own remix album?

We always hope our work will appeal to a lot of people, but who knew that "Genius Of Love" would have the impact it has had on hip hop and R&B and pop? It's something we always dreamed about, having that kind of influence.

Also, who came up with the concept for a Latin alternative remix tribute?

This was the idea of Tomas Cookman of Nacional Records. He has a lot of cool musician friends and he called them up and they really rose to the occasion. The remixes are all unique and wonderful. We're very happy about the remixes and we appreciate the artistry that went into making them.

The re-release of "Live At The Club House" as "Genius of Live" is exciting for your fans. What made you want to re-release the album instead of one featuring all new tracks?

Again, this was Tomas' idea. He knew the record was worthy of a proper release, something it had never had. He told me he was playing it in his office one day and people kept coming in and asking him who it was and saying how badass it sounded, so it was he who proposed the idea.

With groups like Gorillaz using animated videos to tour and artist such as Lady Gaga and The Ting Tings fusing rock, hip-hop, reggae and dance sounds into their music, what do you think the lasting legacy of the Tom Tom Club will be?

We are the band who brought art rock to the dance floor. We create our grooves with love and overstanding. We put the FUN in funky and we are dubalicious!

Working with your significant other can be a blessing and a curse...would you agree? On one hand, you understand what the other is thinking and may want to express, while contrarily, any argument in the studio or on stage can come home with you. How have you guys been able to successfully balance your professional and personal lives?

It's always been a blessing. We try a little tenderness. That seems to work very well for us.

The music industry has changed dramatically since your first Tom Tom Club album. Do you think that the project would have been able to succeed in the industry as it is today?

You're right that our business has changed dramatically, but as artists we have not. We love music as much as we ever did. One thing that has not changed about our business is that it takes a good team to have success. Nobody does it by themselves. We had a good team back in the eighties and we have a good team now, so the answer is YES!

Have you been writing and recording any new Tom Tom Club material? If so, should we expect to see a new album sometime soon?

We have been working on new songs. At the moment we are almost finished rebuilding our studio, The Clubhouse. When this tour is over we'll be creating more new songs and doing some outside productions. Stay tuned.

Though you canceled some dates so far, what was it like to be back on the road again? After a 10-year absence from the road, did you feel you had to shake off some rust or was it business as usual?

Though we haven't been touring regularly over the last few years, we have been doing special gigs like the Meltdown Festival in London curated by Massive Attack. We also traveled to London to play the Island Records 50th Anniversary. Last summer we played the Benicassim festival in Spain and the Summer Sonic Festivals in Tokyo and Osaka. Our band is as hot as fire.

With the nice reception the shows have been receiving, can we expect to see more Tom Tom Club shows in the future?

Yes! In 2011, we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tom Tom Club. We hope to bring the band to many cities and festivals around the world. We'd like to see our old friends and make some new ones. F

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