Duran . . . again

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Duran . . . again

'80s popsters relaunch original lineup with 'Astronaut'

By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
March 16, 2005

Once they've become successful, bands get wistful about the days when it was just them, sitting around, making music, with no managers or record companies looking over their shoulders.

Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham lamented last year how hard it was to relate on a music level.

"We're not a group that gets in a room and sits and hangs out. There's a kind of an all over town, managers-talking-to-managers aspect, which has its downside," he said.

Duran Duran, however, found itself getting back to that place, quite unintentionally. All five original members were without management or record deals several years ago when they decided to give it another go.

"We did everything a new band has to do when it starts up," explains Simon Le Bon over the waves crashing outside his oceanfront hotel room in Palm Beach, Fla. "We got together, we wrote songs, we found ourselves a manager, we started to play live shows. We did a support tour with Robbie Williams. Then we got a record deal."

It was crucial to the band, however, to be totally unencumbered or the reunion would never have occurred, nor would the album Astronaut or tonight's concert at Magness Arena.

"No managers, no lawyers. That was one of the things that really, really made it go," Le Bon says. "You've got to set yourself as a band. That really means not just getting on the treadmill."

When Astronaut appeared last year, it hit many fans from out of the blue, sounding like classic Duran Duran. Few knew the five - Le Bon, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes - had been back together for years, honing their music.

"All through that time we were writing more and more material. We kept on writing. When we got a record deal we had a big pool of songs to choose from. The album has benefited so much from those three years. It was so much stronger than it would have been if we'd just done the first 12 songs we came up with," Le Bon says.

After a series of '80s hits, including Rio and Hungry Like a Wolf, the original lineup splintered. While Le Bon carried on with new lineups of Duran Duran and even had more success with singles like Ordinary World, eventually it fell apart for him as well.

"I was on tour with Nick and Warren (Cuccurullo) in that incarnation. I just realized that it was over. That was the point where we toyed with the idea that we should get the other guys together. We were in California and I called John. I didn't mean to bring it up, but I just asked him. I told him how I felt and it seemed a natural thing."

All five met and agreed that the time seemed right. "Roger was the one guy who said 'Let's sleep on it,' but the next day, he said 'Yeah, I'm into it.'" Le Bon says.

"From that little switch going off in my head . . . to Roger with a smile on his face saying yes, was less than a week," he says. "It all came from the music, really. When we got together in a room and started to play, it was very obvious to everyone that something was happening musically. It's funny. We could have frozen up, but we relaxed and it really flowed. The feeling of friendship is there. We get back onstage and we want to entertain people. We love it."

They also loved the independence of it. Managers and record companies through the years had pushed the original members to reunite for the cash it would generate, but they refused.

"We felt that it should be us who instigated it, not other people," Le Bon says.

They also didn't dig up any old unfinished business, starting from scratch on new songs.

"We walked in with nothing but our relationship," Le Bon says. "There were no chord structures, not even an idea of a beat. We knew we wanted it to be up-tempo, that's all. We didn't wanna make a slow album, that's all we knew."

The very first song was called Another Lifetime, but it didn't make the cut and will instead be on the band's next album, Le Bon says.

Perhaps the most gratifying part, he says, was working with producer Dallas Austin, who has very much brought the Duran sound to other acts he has produced, including Madonna and Lenny Kravitz.

"He loves Duran Duran as well. He loves the early stuff and was very conscious of the work we did. We did some great stuff together," Le Bon says.

At this point, their future together seems limitless, he says.

"We've got a whole world to tour," he says, "then we all want to go back in the studio and see if any of the other songs we didn't finish are worth it. If not, we'll do some more."

Courtesy Rocky Mountain News