Duran Duran's reflex brings it back together
BY KELLEY L. CARTER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
They play so nice, you have to say the name twice: Duran Duran.
The '80s pop-rock outfit is touring North America and working in the studio on a reunion album. Though the group has been making music off and on with various lineups, this is the first time the originals -- Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor -- have been together in almost 20 years.
Duran Duran received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Video Music Awards this year, a perfect tribute for a group that helped popularize MTV as much as MTV helped popularize it, through near-incessant play of good-looks videos like "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."
On Saturday, the band will play to a sold-out crowd at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Bass player John Taylor chatted with the Free Press about revolutionizing music videos, the group's reunion and why Duran Duran is the real thing.
QUESTION: Are you back with the band for good or do you plan to pursue more solo work?
ANSWER: I am back in the band for the foreseeable future. Which is certainly the next few days. That's how we all feel. It's a very demanding gig and we've really put our hearts and souls back on the line with this job. We'd all gotten separated, then came the divorce papers, everything was taken care of. And then we found out that we we're still in love with each other. But at the same time
everybody's a little nervous. Who can tell if I'll do more solo work? I never thought I was the solo album type of guy until I was out of the band and looking for direction and that seemed to be the thing to do. I didn't make any radical career changes. I'm very happy to be back with the band. With this particular band, anyway. This particular manifestation. It's a true band. It's self-sufficient and it breathes fire.
Q: How has music changed since you first started out, and how are you adapting to that change?
A: Rock in 1990 took a major step back. It went back to grunge, which was like punk. It took a step back. It was like the '80s never happened. It took a step away from techno. Whereas we were part of a movement where techno and rock were fusing. Techno and rock really split in the '90s. Those two have never really come together again.
The music has never stopped evolving in hip-hop and R&B, and that's probably why the two or three essential songs of this year are all from that genre. The Beyonce "Crazy in Love" single is the greatest song of the year. It's less self-conscious.
Rock is in a real identity crisis. So much has been done. So much has been said. Guitars and drums have kind of reached a level. It's hard to do new things.
Hip-hop has no problem with technology. It's always used technology to the utmost. Rock is more concerned with being authentic, which isn't a bad thing. But it's the reason why the Billboard chart is so much more hip-hop and R&B than
Q: What role did Duran Duran play in revolutionizing the music video?
A: Technology around the making of music videos has been refined. . . There was a lot of innovation going on, and we were a good vehicle for directors. We were knocking off videos like "Planet Earth" for like $45,000. It was really about technology. We kind of grew through that. . . I think it's an entertaining ride through to our most recent videos. I think it's a great journey. I feel quite proud of our DVD video collection. We've perhaps got the strongest video collection of any band out there.
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: That I didn't go to bed a little earlier last night. I stayed up watching a movie. No, really, I don't really see the point of regrets. I mean little things
-- we all have regrets about little things. It's important not to have regrets about the big things. I believe in keeping my side of the street clean. . . . If you'd have asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have had a lot of regrets. I had this success that I hadn't used properly and I blew it. But I don't feel that way today. I feel like it's been an incredible adventure. And I'm really optimistic about that.
Q: What's it like being back together with the original five?
A: We decide that we didn't just want to go out and tour. We wanted to look forward, and to do that we needed some new songs. I live in L.A., everybody else lives in England, so I would fly out to the U.K. for a couple of weeks and we would work on some new material. We did this over 18 months. And we got to a certain point with it where we needed a break.
We got an offer of some shows in Japan, and it was a big decision for us to make. We wanted to tour behind the album, so to go out on the road in advance of the album meant we weren't doing it with a new record. It was a different plan. But I think we needed it. I know I did. That's ultimately where I draw my energy from this job from -- being on stage. It was kind of like opening the floodgates. We had an incredible time. And they
sold so well that the phones started ringing and they haven't stopped. We really put the album on hold for the year. And between now and Christmas we have a fairly concentrated run of shows in America. And then we're going to pick up the album in January and it should be ready for release in the summer.
Q: What can we expect in Detroit?
A: People are asking if there are a lot of special effects. And I say, yeah --it's like these five guys working together who haven't worked together in 15 years. It's old-school chemistry. The real thing. It's authenticity, which in itself today is an incredible special effect.
We've taken a lot of chances on this tour. It's all about chemistry. There's been a change in how people see Duran Duran. We're now being seen as -- by a lot of people, anyway -- an authentic thing. Whereas when we first came out people thought of us as poseurs and sort of like a put-together, made-up group. And there's been so much of that since Duran Duran that now people are like, "Oh, they are the real thing."
The tour is a testing ground for the new material, but we're not sadists. It's not all about the new material. It's a balancing act of old and new. The
argument we have before each show is which songs aren't we going to play. Nick has this golden rule -- we can't play all the No. 1 hits. You have to keep people wondering. I think that's good. It isn't a greatest hits show. I think that part of keeping the new material in the mix keeps us relevant.
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