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Adrian Belew talks music, Eno, Talking Heads on Mile High Stash podcast

Photo of Adrian Belew (l) and Jerry Harrison by Michael Weintrob
Photo of Adrian Belew (l) and Jerry Harrison by Michael Weintrob

Last year, Colorado writer and musician Adam Perry launched a weekly podcast called Mile High Stash. Each Monday he drops a new episode featuring an interview with a Colorado musician or artist.

Occasionally, Perry also speaks with artists who are touring through our otherwise visiting Colorado. On that front, his guest this week is Adrian Belew.

Belew has played guitar with such greats as King Crimson (he was also lead vocalist and front man for the band across three decades and several albums), David Bowie, and Frank Zappa. He also toured with the Talking Heads and played guitar on their album Remain in Light, which is the title of his current tour with Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison. The two are songs from this period of the band’s history, and they stop at the Ogden Theatre in Denver on Feb. 16 and the Boulder Theater Feb. 17.

During their conversation, Belew talks about how he started a musical relationship with the Talking Heads and what it was like working with Brian Eno, including using Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards while recording Lodger with David Bowie. He shares thoughts on when the Talking Heads peaked, and on whether playing atmospheric sounds (instead of stereotypical bluesy lead guitar) ever resulted in pushback from early bands he played with. And he shares five albums that would make up his Mile High Stash.

Below are a few highlights:

On recording Remain In Light

“As I was setting up my gear and going through my sounds I could see through the control-room window that they were jumping up and down with joy, so I could tell they were enjoying what I had to offer, before I even played. They said, ‘Just wait around until you think a guitar solo should be in the song.’ That’s what I did, and they went nuts over it. That became the song, ‘The Great Curve.’”

On his approach to lead guitar:

‘I figured out, ‘Well, I know how to play like a lot of other players I’ve learned from.’ I did good imitations of Hendrix and Jeff Beck, many other guitar players. I decided, ‘Now I know how to do that. What do I do that will make me stand out on my own? How can I have my own little part of the giant universe of guitar?’ I noticed that I had a penchant for making the guitar do sounds. We played in bars, so of course we’d do cover songs. I’d be playing a solo and I would go at the end of it like a car horn, or I’d make some seagull sounds or something, and I noticed that people got a kick out of it. I thought, ‘I’m gonna continue trying to make the guitar sound like other things.’ No one else much seemed interested in that.”

On whether the Talking Heads’ beloved 1980 Rome concert, with Belew on guitar, was the band’s peak:

“I always felt like, and in retrospect I still feel, that Remain In Light was so unique and that extended 10-piece band was unlike anything they’ve done since or before. It’s very unique, you know? It’s a big, rhythmic, pumping, happy, joyful sound. Not many bands can do that. So yeah, I agree with those people who think that was the highlight [of the Talking Heads’ career].”

Listen to the full Mile High Stash interview with Adrian Belew, and all previous episodes, on your favorite streaming service. Or visit the Mile High Stash website for more information on the show and host Adam Perry.


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