Talking Heads – Equipment Check

David Byrne Travels with a total of four guitars: two sunburst Stratocasters, a Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer, and a Martin D-35 acoustic. Talking Heads guitar technician Jeff Shaw says, “I’m not quite sure if the Strats are ’62s or ’63s, but he has two of them exactly alike. They look very similar – beat up the same with the same kind of wear marks. Both have rosewood fingerboards. The twang bar on his main Strat is just incredible; it’s broken in just perfectly. I never have to do anything to the guitar: Put the strings right on and it stays in tune. And it has all original parts! That’s what’s special about it. A lead guitarist would love to get a hold of that guitar. But, you know, he likes it because the tension on the twang bar is set up very comfortably.”

In Byrne’s Roland pedalboard are an MXR Dynacomp and DIstortion+, which are almost always used together, plus a Boss Flanger and Boss Delay. “A lot of the regenerations effects that David gets are a combination of the Boss Delay and Flanger,” Shaw explains. “It gives a kind of second-generation sound. And that’s how David adds a lot of parts. He doesn’t try to really play a solid rhythm or anything, but he likes to throw in all those parts. Also, the sound man uses an AMS reverb and a Roland 501 Chorus Echo, and puts effects on top of what David is doing onstage. David has been getting very good at studio work, creating sounds and [putting them together. He’s not technical about things, but when he gets a good sound he really knows it.”

Byrne plays through a Roland JC 120 amp, which is miked and reinforced through the sound system. Shaw says, “We’ve been very happy with those; they put out a nice, clean sound. Adrien Belew turned us on to those back in 1980. In 1982 I used six of them on the road for keyboard setups and never blew a speaker, never had an amp problem.”

Tina Weymouth has two single-cutaway hollowbody sunburst Hofner basses and a blue Viellette-Citron Standard solidbody bass. The tiny 6-string guitar she uses on “This Must Be The Place (naive Melody)” [Speaking In Tongues] is a rare ’66 or ’67 Fender Musiclander solidbody–also known as the Swinger. She uses a Gallien-Krueger 400B head with bass cabinets custom-made by NYTD Pro Audio in New Jersey. The cabinets are modeled after a front-loaded model with two 16s that she bought several years ago in New York. “The cabinet is not exactly as deep as what JBL would specify,” says Shaw, “but it puts out a sound that gives that uniqueness she likes.” Weymouth also has a Roland pedalboard with an Ibanez Auto Filter, and she uses a Boss Micro Mixer so she can get even levels between her bass and the Moog Rogue monophonic synthesizer she uses on a couple songs.

According to Shaw, Byrne and Weymouth have been using the same rather unusual picks for several years now. “They’re green, triangular nylon ones that Herco used to make. David and Tina didn’t ever want to lose them, so they’ve been taking care of their own picks for the last three years. I’ve never had to hand them a pick. I believe David lost the last of his, and Tina has only one left. So David’s been substituting a regular plastic triangular one, which he gets by on. Along with her green Herco, Tina also uses Modulus Graphite picks, which she gets in California. She uses those on a couple of songs. She also uses her fingers on some songs.”

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