October 10, 2004
Simon LeBon has always played it cool as the lead singer of Duran Duran, even as the band weathered the rough transition from its teen-idol days as "The Fab Five" in the '80s to a more serious act, with the new single "Sunrise" giving the British quintet hits in each of the past three decades. After loads of personnel changes and thoughts of calling it quits, Duran Duran is back with its new album, "Astronaut," set to hit stores Tuesday, the first to feature all five original members - LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor - since 1986. Before Duran Duran begins a massive worldwide launch for "Astronaut," LeBon told Newsday pop music writer Glenn Gamboa how he and his bandmates got hungry (like wolves, presumably) once again.
Your reunion tour last year seemed so effortless. Did the recording process go as smoothly with everyone back together?
No, it's a different thing. It doesn't run smoothly. If the writing and recording process runs smoothly, then you know there's something wrong, something horribly wrong. It should be fraught with passion. It should be up and down. There should be people screaming and jumping and stuff. There should be moments of sheer brilliance and joy. ...This is supposed to be something passionate. I'd miss it if it wasn't like that.
How would you say "Astronaut" is different from "Pop Trash," which was made without Andy, John and Roger?
Well, it's made by a proper band - with a drummer and a bass player. It's got that band feeling, you know. "Pop Trash" was mostly written by Warren Cuccurullo. It was an experimental album, whereas this album is much more surefooted. "Astronaut" knows which planet he's heading.
The album is like a lot of your albums. It has the pop-dance element, and then it has the darker side. The last two songs especially are really tough.
It is, isn't it? "I'm walking out of this town/I'm never going back there/I burned the place to the ground/I'm never going back there." It comes full circle. I would've started the album with that song and then had "Sunrise" as the second song. To me, the day starts at the predawn, and then the sun comes up. But then everybody else says, "No, Simon, that's just how you look at it. Everybody else thinks of it the other way." The album is like a day. For me, every major emotion I go through in a day is on that record. It's a day in the life - 24 hours - and a day without sleep as well.
They're all true stories. It all comes from a situation that I had to get out of, and I did. I got out of it, and I got Duran Duran back. It's about leaving things behind that you know make you unhappy, and it's about being free - in a slightly nihilistic way, say, "I don't give a -- if it does burn down, actually. I'm gone."
I told Nick I was going to do that. And I was able to find my friends again, my real band. I had missed them so much. We had missed each other so much and just hadn't really admitted it. We still haven't really admitted it. It's amazing. I stand onstage, and I look at them, and I feel like such a fool for not seeing them for - 15 years.
So how did it all come together again?
Well, I started seeing more and more of John every time I went to L.A. I said to him, "Hey, bud, wassup? I'm finished with that lot. You interested in doing anything?" And he said, "What about getting the original band back together?" I said, "That sounds good enough to me." And we got Nick over there, and Nick said, "If and only if it's a new album; I'm not interested in doing a greatest-hits tour or a song that we hadn't finished." At the time, I remember John thought that was a bit of a tall order, but Nick said, "If it's not new, I'm not interested at all." It was very brave and very right. We got ahold of Andy first, and then we got hold of Roger later, who said, "Let me think about it overnight." But we got him.
What do you think of the current resurgence of new wave - with bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Faint?
The Killers are great. I love the Killers. They write great songs. The same with Franz Ferdinand.
Do you see your influence over them?
Yeah, of course. I wouldn't say it was just Duran Duran, but we're definitely in their family trees. There's definitely a similar spirit that continues - a sense of wonder....I don't think they expect the same things we did. But they do want to be huge, though. (Laughs)
Courtesy New York Newsday, www.newsday.com