Bicycle added to David Byrne tour party

23:47, Feb 26 2009

If you think you see David Byrne cycling around Wellington or Auckland this weekend you'll probably be right.

The former Talking Heads frontman is in the middle of a world tour and is taking in what sights he can between shows from his trusty bike.

The tour follows the release of Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, an album created with producer-composer Brian Eno, who worked with Byrne on several albums including three by the Talking Heads.

The pair in 2006 released a modified version of their 1980s album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and found themselves collaborating again not long afterwards.

"It was an accident in a way," Byrne says of the Everything That Happens album.

"We released the Bush of Ghosts record a couple of years ago and were in touch regularly when that happened, and I guess we realised we still got along well and shared an interest."

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He said Eno had told him about some tracks he hadn't been able to finish and asked if Byrne wanted to "have a go" at them.

Byrne agreed, and said if Eno didn't like the result then they would simply knock the collaboration on the head.

"There was no talk of doing a record...at first I thought maybe I was writing words and a melody and then he would sing them.

"But it ended up the way it is. We liked the way it was going and ended up making a record."

He says a tumultuous political situation in the United States added some inspiration to his input on the album.

"It was written mostly last fall (autumn) and during the spring. So, as you might expect, a lot of it is kind of bleak, but with a sense of hope ... and that we will go on and get through this -- which is kind of what happened."

The album has had some high praise, and an expanding world tour suggests the live shows are being appreciated.

"We sort of added stuff as we went," Byrne says of the tour.

"It started off not being as long as it is, but I guess everyone was having fun and it was going well and I was not losing money, so I said `let's have some more'."

The stage show consists of a five-piece band, three singers and three dancers.

The dancers dance, "but so do the singers -- and me -- sometimes," he says.

While the live set list is weighted towards the new album, Byrne is also including music from previous Eno collaborations, including old Talking Heads songs, leaving out the solo work he did in between.

He says he remembers taking some time out to visit Rotorua and walk the Tongariro Crossing here in 2005, but the touring machine this time around is more restrictive -- and expensive.

"I'm paying the salaries of 17 people. So I can say `let's do some sight-seeing', but for every day I sight-see I'm paying salaries for all those people just so I can visit the beach."

He also remembers early Talking Heads tours here, but admits his touring attitude has changed since then.

"Maybe I was just younger, but there was more partying at night after the shows and then just sleeping it off the next day. So I tended not to see as much."

"It's more civilised now," he says. "I travel with a bicycle, so I can get around various towns on my own."

He was pleasantly surprised to be able to get out and about on the footpaths of Tokyo during a recent tour stop-off there.

"If you do that in New York they yell at you, but it is accepted in Tokyo. You just have to weave in amongst the grandmothers and businessmen."

His affinity with cycling appears to have also rubbed off in other areas of his artistic self.

Byrne says he came up with some designs for bicycle racks which have a different take on the standard range.

He sent sketches to the local transport authority in New York city and they said they would put them up if he was prepared to pay to have them made.

He did so and they now offer New Yorkers a funky bicycle parking alternative.

He's not going to pursue it as a commercial venture, as doing so would soon send him broke, but art design is an ongoing passion.

Byrne says music commitments following the release of Everything That Happens will keep him busy until about November.

He's unsure what will transpire after that, but it's likely the music world will see or hear plenty more of him.

* David Byrne performs at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Feb 13 and the ASB Theatre in Auckland on February 14.

-NZPA