The Del-Byzanteens

In the early 80's, Jim Jarmusch was part of was part of a New York based No Wave rock band called The Del-Byzanteens.

They released a 12" EP: "Girl's Imagination" (1981), an LP: "Lies To Live By" (1982), and a 7" single: "Draft Riot" (1982). In 1985-86 they recorded two more songs ("The Last Time" and "Fascination"), which were never finished or officially released.

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Apart from Jarmusch (who did vocals and keyboards), the group consisted of: Phil Kline (vocals, guitar); Josh Braun (percussion, drums); Dan Braun (drums, percussion); and Philippe Hagen (bass).

Luc Sante wrote the lyrics to Lies To Live By and Girls Imagination, James Nares contributed as a percussionist on the latter and sometimes performed with them on stage, as did John Lurie. For a show at the Rock Lounge, the band teamed up with photographer Nan Goldin, who exhibited one of her first slide shows ("The Ballad of Sexual Dependency"). They also opened for a number of big acts, including Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order.

According to Sante, they were "a band that insouciantly blended high and low, virtuosity and amateurism, calypso and science fiction, pots and pans and drones and the Supremes. They released several records, on a British label, which did very well in the former Yugoslavia."

"At that time everyone in New York had a band," Jarmusch recalled in 1984. "The idea was that you didn't have to be a virtuoso musician to have a band. The spirit was more important than having technical expertise, and that influenced a lot of filmmakers." 

"We played the Mudd Club, CBGB’s, Hurrah’s, Tier 3, Irving Plaza, Danceteria – pretty much everywhere in New York", Jarmusch said in an interview in 2000, "Actually, the aesthetics of that scene really gave me the courage to make films; it was not about virtuosity, it was about expression." 

In 1996, he told the Sundance Channel: "In the late '70s, early '80s, I was a non-musician musician in New York, in a band that opened for a lot of English bands and played a lot in New York. It was like, you know, getting pelted with beer cans and spit, opening for Echo and the Bunnymen or the Psychedelic Furs. Our band actually opened once for The Four Tops. I don't understand why, because we were pretty much pelted off the stage. It was more like a fraternity kind of audience. I still don't know how that got booked, but that was one of the low points in our career. But I stopped working as a musician in the early '80s to pretty much concentrate on making films." 

So far, only two songs have been re-issued on cd - "Girls Imagination" was featured on the Beggars Banquet's 1999 compilation "Pspyched", and again on the Gomma compilation "Anti-NY" in 2001, while "My Hands Are Yellow (from the job that I do)" was released on "New York Noise" Vol 2, in 2003. 

Three of their shows at the Hurrah club in NYC were filmed, in their entirety, by Merrill Aldighieri, who has uploaded three clips to her website, among them this performance of "My World is Empty", featuring John Lurie:



In August 2008, Aldighieri announced that work on "a feature length DVD based on the Del-Byzanteens live performances at Hurrah has begun". Look here for further announcements.

In Europe, the "Lies To Live By" LP came with a removable sticker, mentioning that the songs "Girls Imagination" and "Lies To Live By" were featured in the Wim Wenders film "The State of Things", also quoting The Hot Press: "Endorsements and medallions first, The Del-Byzanteens 'Lies To Live By' is a deut equal to anything out of New York these past six years", and Melody Maker: "This is mighty stuff... You are strongly urged to investigate this record... outstanding".

In the German book "Jim Jarmusch", edited by Rolf Aurich and Stefan Reinecke von Bertz, there's a chapter about the Del-Byzanteens, "Lies, Sweet Lies - Jim Jarmusch ist kein Rockstar" by Christine Heise, which can be read here.

More images at the links below:


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