.Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew headline Napa NYE show as Remain In Light

Far from a tribute band, Remain In Light is ready to headline a special New Year’s Eve show in Napa, December 31.

Original Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison and touring member Adrian Belew have been gigging incessantly in 2023 playing as Remain In Light, a show in celebration of the band’s iconic record of the same name released in 1980.

Not only was Talking Heads’ album ‘Remain In Light’ a commercial success, it also served as a conveyance for the entire band to delve deep into both world and electronic music. Just when their fans thought it was David Byrne who was doing all the heavy lifting, members Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz proved to outside critics it was the sum of all their efforts that made the band what it was.

For those not privy, this was also the entry point for the now 73-year old guitarist, Adrian Belew, as a contributing force on the actual record and, again, onstage as part of Talking Heads’ now larger, nine-piece live troupe. To say his contributions were enormous was a great understatement, as his live playing brought a wholly different dimension to the band. As an aside, he also ended up playing on Harrison’s first solo release, “The Red and the Black,” in addition to David Byrne’s “The Catherine Wheel” soundtrack, an addendum to the Twyla Tharp dance piece. Those wishing to see Belew’s live contributions with Talking Heads can check out the band’s “Live In Roma” DVD as well as the live album, “The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.”

The Bohemian caught up with Talking Heads’ always magnanimous keyboardist and guitarist, the now 74-year old Jerry Harrison, in anticipation of their four-date West Coast run which includes a show at Napa’s own JaM Cellars.

Bohemian: Talking Heads have released eight albums. What about “Remain In Light” did you feel deserved such a proper live treatment?

Jerry Harrison: “Remain In Light” was a turning point in Talking Heads albums as well as music in general. The inclusion of many more instruments, singers, and percussion as well as the influence of African pop music and Fela (Kuti) in particular made the album very different. The touring band that I put together for that tour was incredibly special particularly because Adrian Belew is such an original and unique player. Both Adrian and I found the YouTube video of our concert in Rome in 1980 to be quite special and we decided that we should use that concert footage as a blueprint for our tour.

Bohemian: Adrian Belew is such a talented singer and guitarist as well as a live toour-de-force. Besides playing live together, are you and he closer now?

Jerry Harrison: Adrian and I have remained friends since we first met. I grew up in Milwaukee and started splitting my time between New York and Milwaukee so I could take care of my mother. Since I was spending so much time there, I looked for the best recording studios to pursue my solo albums and productions. One of the studios was Royal Recorders which had been the Playboy Records recording studio at the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva,
Wisconsin. The resort fell on hard times, but Ron Fajerstein, a diamond dealer from Chicago, bought the studio and equipped it with more equipment than any single studio in the world.
It was the world’s largest SSL (Solid State Logic) board and had four multi-track records in one studio. Adrian moved up to Lake Geneva to use the studio and his engineer became one of the house engineers. We would hang out together and he would play on many of the projects that I brought to Royal. We both later moved away, but continued to get together if we were in the same town at the same time. This tour has let us spend months together rather than evenings, so we are now fast friends.

Bohemian: You’re quite the ambidextrous player and skilled at keyboards, guitar, and piano. Did your parents believe in your musical endeavors?

Jerry Harrison: My parents were generally supportive. My mother was a painter and my father had been a musician when he was in college. They understood the pull and the call of the arts.

Bohemian: There’s only a handful of Remain In Light shows left this year. Do you plan on more in 2024?

Jerry Harrison: We will have played close to 50 shows in 2023. We have shows booked in 2024, but I don’t know how extensive it will be. We would like to bring this show to other continents. Hopefully we can make that happen in 2024.

Bohemian: You produced a lot a great records including Ireland’s own Fatima Mansions. What do you remember about working with them?

Jerry Harrison: Gary Kurfirst, Talking Heads manager and the founder of Radioactive Records, asked me to go work with the Mansions. I was only supposed to do a few songs, but when I got to London, I realized that they wouldn’t have enough songs for an album if I only did a few. They were a bit dispirited. I remember our rehearsals in a drafty rehearsal room in East London where we kept having to put in shillings to run the heater. They were great players and we worked quickly and were able to record enough songs to complete the record. I think “The Loyalizer” is just an amazingly powerful and hard hitting song.

Bohemian: How were your experiences producing other highly revered bands like The Verve Pipe, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Creeper Lagoon, and The Bogmen?

Jerry Harrison: Each of these bands is its own story.

Regarding The Verve Pipe, their previous albums had been quite lush with complicated vocal harmonies. Brian (Vander Ark) had written some wonderful songs that brought them into the “alternative” category. To a degree, I had to protect the simplicity and directness of the songs from too many layers and overdubs. I know it was a bit disappointing to many of the band members because they were full of ideas, but it was a success so I think I was right in my approach.

As for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, he had heard the version of “Boom Boom” that I had produced for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. We’ve made at least six records together, but the first one, ‘Trouble Is,’ remains the most successful as it included his biggest hit, “Blue On Black.”

I wish I had been able to produce the whole Creeper Lagoon record. A fantastic band with great songs. I think it’s a masterpiece still yet to be discovered.

The Bogmen were another fantastic band that didn’t fit with their label’s expectations. It’s
well documented in Lonn Friend’s upcoming book.

Too many stories to tell.

Bohemian: Who are the current members of Remain In Light?

Jerry Harrison: Most of the musicians who have joined Adrian and me were in the band Turkuaz, who I produced. The band is Shira Elias (vocals), Sammi Garrett (vocals), Craig Brodhead (guitar and keyboards), Chris Brouwer (trumpet and keyboards), Greg Sanderson (tenor sax), Michael Corubba (drums), Josh Schwartz (vocals and baritone sax). Julie Slick from Adrian’s trio (bass guitar), and Yohuba Garcia-Torres (percussion).

Bohemian: ‘Naked’ was the band’s last record and, in my opinion, the best Talking Heads release. The amount of guest musicians was staggering. Did you know when you started that this could be your last?

Jerry Harrison: I don’t believe “Naked” ever got the attention it deserved. It would have been amazing to have brought all those musicians on a tour. It was really fun to record in Paris and to be surrounded by so many wonderful West African musicians who we had been inspired by.

As for did I know it would be the last album, no. That said, without touring, it seemed inevitable that we might drift apart. I think we could have continued to have make wonderful records together after ‘Naked.’ Everyone in Talking Heads is very creative and as cool as our solo work is, there is something very special when all four of us work together.

Remain In Light play Sunday, December 31st at JaM Cellars Ballroom located at 1030 Main Street in Napa. Punk rock legends X open the show. Doors open at 8pm and the show kicks off at 9pm. Tickets range from $89 to $199 advance and can be purchased at www.jamcellarsballroom.com. Ages 8 and over are welcome.

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