The Guardian FEBRUARY 13, 2015 - by Hannah Ellis-Petersen


Famously experimental musician says he wants to use his curatorship to take the London music festival 'beyond sit-down concerts' in August.

David Byrne has been announced as the curator of this year's Southbank Meltdown Festival.

Byrne, who was the creative force behind seminal new wave band Talking Heads and has since turned his talents to everything from musicals and photography to art installations and even writing a book, will oversee the London festival's programme when it takes over the Southbank Centre in August.

Meltdown festival has built a reputation over two decades as a platform for an eclectic mix of pop and classical performances, film screenings and now-legendary one-off collaborations. Highlights from previous years have included everything from Jeff Buckley's final UK show to Nick Cave, Grace Jones and Pete Doherty singing Disney songs with Jarvis Cocker, and Ray Davies re-staging the TV pop show Ready Steady Go!

Byrne joins a notable list of former festival curators that includes Nick Cave, Ray Davies, Patti Smith, Morrissey and David Bowie. The full festival programme will be announced in the coming months, with the multi-talented musician admitting he is currently "still working on my wish list" for the festival, which will take place between August 17 and 28.

Given Byrne's lengthy legacy of diverse artistic projects, the Southbank Centre said they were "thrilled at the prospect of his musicality and terrific brain power being used to curate our great and historical festival".

Byrne's former collaborators have ranged from a 2012 album with St Vincent to musical endeavours with Brian Eno, Paul Simon and Arcade Fire, among many others.

Byrne's disco musical Here Lies Love, based on Imelda Marcos's rise to power and composed with DJ Fatboy Slim, made its UK debut at the National Theatre last year and achieved a sold-out run.

Speaking about his ambitions for the festival, Byrne said: "This is going to be exciting! I plan to invite performers I've seen - and I do get out - and others I've missed or have dreamed of seeing. It's going to be a bit of fun puzzle-solving I imagine - seeing who's interested, who is available and what venues at Southbank Centre are appropriate. I really hope to find things that take this beyond sit-down concerts as well."

He added: "Hoping that I get to stay in the Room For London, on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof, for the whole time, but suspect that might expecting too much."

For Scottish-born Byrne, London has been a long-time creative inspiration, even featuring in the opening line of the Talking Heads 1979 track Cities. In 2012, he created a sound project titled Get It Away, using noises he encountered during two days in the capital. Introducing the piece at the time, Byrne said: "London's tempo is 122.86 beats per minute... It turned out that most of the sounds - even the church organ in Southwark Cathedral - seemed to converge around a common rhythm. It's a bit too good to be true - that every large city should have its own rhythm, but here it is."

Jane Beese, head of contemporary music at Southbank Centre, said she was looking forward to seeing how the city would inspire Byrne's curation of the twenty-second year of the festival.

"To be able to work with David to put together the jigsaw puzzle of his Meltdown is a real privilege," she said. "He is the perfect candidate for the job, with his ongoing and fearless desire to consume and create new work, as well as his enthusiasm and curiosity across musical genres and art forms."