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Duran Duran put plan B into orbit
Interview with John Taylor

Last year Duran Duran embarked on a world tour, playing second fiddle to Robbie Williams when they came to Auckland.

Now Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor have reunited to release a new album.

This latest release comes 25 years after they first formed.

How did you find the gig last year?

Well, we weren't closing the show and I prefer to close the show. It was better than nothing but I really, really want to come back to New Zealand and play our own show.

It was a good exercise, playing those shows with Robbie, and we spent the last three years really building our brand back up again. And part of that process has been going out on the road, in some cases playing arenas, and in the case of Auckland and Australia we actually opened up for some young upstart. But it was good for us. I remember we went back to the hotel in Auckland after the show and we were all just so angry. I don't know that the pop kids need to know this, but you enter into something like that and somebody says to you, "No no, it's going to be a double bill. More people are interested in seeing you than Robbie."

And then you get there and Robbie's logo is above the stage and you've got six foot on the lip of the stage to squeeze your equipment in, y'know? And I know that I've been around. I was just fooling myself that it was going to be any different.

But it's okay. We got through those shows without killing him or anybody and we were all the stronger for it.

Why the tour and album now?

I needed to get away from the band. I left about nine years ago. I really needed to lay down some roots and work by myself for a while. Having done that, I was in a better state of mind for coming back. It gave me a renewed sort of vigour. I can't really speak for anybody else.

But so much has happened in the course of making this record. The second period of writing was in London and I arrived in London the day of 9/11. The music industry has been like shifting sands, like shifting deckchairs on the Titanic. It's an extraordinary tale of the music business, just what Duran Duran have been through in the past three years in order to get a deal.

It was kind of plan B in a way, but it worked out beautifully and we've made a record that we're all proud of and everybody's getting along better than ever.

Can we expect classic Duran Duran this time round?

Yeah, very much. We can all walk away from this writing and recording process, which has been three years, feeling that each of us is well represented and that we've made the best album we could possibly make at this point in our lives.

You've been referred to time and again as the quintessential 80s band. How do you stay relevant?

Obviously people remember us at the point at which we had the most impact, which was in the early 80s. But we made a record at the beginning of the 90s that gave us some currency in the following decade. I think the biggest challenge will be for this record to connect with an audience in this new decade. I guess people are always going to think of us as an 80s band. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

We're not thinking about the kids or the grown-ups or the marketplace. We're just trying to combine our shared expertise and make the best possible songs we can make.

Who are your biggest fans now?

The people who came up to me and say, "You made my teenage years bearable." When you've been a midwife to an adolescent, like Bowie was for me, or Joe Strummer was for me ... I mean he gave birth to me, to the musician. Before the Clash I was some other geezer that was scared of everybody and had no clue of where I was going in my life. So when people come up to me and say that, I know what they mean. And I think that's a pretty profound effect to have on somebody.

How does it feel to listen to contemporary bands and think, "They sound as though they've been influenced by us"?

I'm really glad to be a part of it, especially in those sort of dreary days when one is not feeling very superstar-ish. It can be comforting to hear a song by No Doubt and say, "Wow, that sounds so Duran."

What's the lifestyle like now?

Well, my home is in Los Angeles. I live there with my wife and we've got three children between us. I've spent most of this year in London working on the album, doing the British tour.

I'm on the road for the rest of this year. I shan't be going home until the middle of October and then only for a couple of days.

But I have an extraordinary life and I wouldn't trade it for anybody's. I like hotels. I like aeroplanes. It's a lifestyle that suits me. I wouldn't do it if I didn't. It's not for the fainthearted - but we've all had to learn an enormous amount about each other in the past three years and it's been a really incredible journey.

I use this as an example: Axl Rose and Slash, two key members of Guns 'n' Roses. You could not get them in a room together. It wouldn't matter how much money you offered them.

People's egos do crazy things and there's a lot of ego in our band. But we've all somehow managed to work together for the greater good - with the ghost of Winston Churchill ringing in our ears.

How far into the future do you see this going?

Well, we have an American tour planned, beginning the middle of February. It's a long tour - 10 weeks. That's the biggest tour we've ever undertaken. We've got to come back to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. I'm hoping May, June.

"We're going to ride this baby as long as we can. And while we continue to get along I don't see why we shouldn't make another album after this one. Of course if it's really badly received ... You can only talk from the perspective of the moment and from this moment, I'd like to make more albums with these guys.

In your heyday you forged a reputation for your cutting-edge music videos - what was the biggest challenge you faced making videos for this market?

What we had to do was not get trendy. We had to be very careful. We made a video that's a story. It's about the band and that's the only story we need to be telling right now.

I don't think we need to be playing with our images anymore than really just saying to everybody, "Hey look, it's John, it's Andy, it's Simon." I think that's enough.


* Who: Duran Duran

* What: Album Astronaut

* Released: October 18

*Courtesy The New Zealand Herald/

It's a return to Planet Brum! Oct 5 2004

By Emma Pinch, The Birmingham Post

The faces of the fans left no-one in doubt - Duran Duran were back and as frenzy-inducing as ever. At any second the hundreds of fans lucky enough - and patient enough - were to realise the dream many had carried for 20 years.

As Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor stepped down on to the shop floor at their first UK signing session, tears gleamed in many eyes.

And for the band itself - you could tell by their delighted smiles that this was the moment that made the hard slog back worthwhile.

Duran Duran were yesterday releasing the first single as the original 80s line-up for 21 years.

(Reach Up For The) Sunrise looks destined to do well, receiving as it is, lots of airplay and as the signature tune for makeover show Queer Eye for a Straight Guy.

The queue of fans, a good decade or so older than the usual stream of fans present at CD signings, stretched from HMV in High Street to well beyond Marks and Spencers.

Many had risen at five, and spent hours waiting patiently in the cold to see their heroes up close.

The single comes after a year and a half of touring Japan and America, then the UK to test their popularity. The tours were a spectacular success and a deal with Sony was signed.

Having just touched down from Germany they had a tight schedule to meet so they could be in HMV in Oxford Street, London, for another signing session.

In Birmingham they accepted specially iced cakes, signed record covers, posed for snaps and accepted hundreds of kisses.

Janina Evans, aged 34, a hair-dressers salon owner, from Tenby in South Wales, said she had queued for three hours.

"I've been waiting for this moment for 23 years, to actually meet them in the flesh.

"To be this close to Simon and holding his hand and getting autographs is amazing. I used to stand outside hotels for them, but I've never been this close. They are all real gentlemen, even better than I had thought."

Janet Grant came from Erdington to have the single signed as a birthday present for her 31-year-old daughter, Melissa.

"She lives down south. She is a life-long fan of Duran Duran and will be gutted when she knows I've been so close to them."

The camaraderie between the four - Andy Taylor was indisposed - helped ease the pressures of their newly hectic schedule.

"The fans are rabid," said Simon Le Bon.

"We are working to a very hard schedule, 7.30am to 9.30pm. But if we want to be the biggest band in the world we've got to do it.

"There were times when we thought the original band would not get back together again. But it feels good, it feels fresh again.

Has the new single got an 80s flavour?

"It is very recognisable Duran Duran; that's the sound the five of us make when we play together," said Simon.

"It's pretty contemporary, musically, melodically. But I think its the other way round - the eighties had a very Duran Duran feel.

"In our own minds we will always be the biggest band in the world. There's no pressure, the only pressure is just getting along with each other.

"We all love playing the Reflex and Planet Earth but having this new stuff gives us energy," said John Taylor.

Of stars around today, homegrown star Jamelia hits the right note.

Nick Rhodes revealed that he photographed her for a magazine last year.

"I like her very much. I thought she was lovely," he said.

There had been no doubt that the publicity tour would start in Birmingham, he added.

"Birmingham is the best place we could have possibly come to sell our record," said Simon. "It's only right that you start in Birmingham.

"I didn't come into town last time we played here because I was trying to get ready for the show. I just didn't recognise it.

"We are all trying to work out what the space ship was," said Roger.

"We have great memories of the Bull Ring. In the early days we came out with these triangular posters and fly-posted them for our show and I got arrested.

How long will Duran Duran keep going this time around?

"As long as Selfridges," grinned John.

"We're now working on new material for our next album," rejoined Roger. "We've got a lot of juice in the tank."

Coutesy The Birmingham Post/