Duran Duran reunion tour arrives in Germany

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Duran Duran reunion tour arrives in Germany
Bassist John Taylor discusses '80s success, current tour

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Scene, Sunday, June 12, 2005

WASHINGTON — The five original members of Duran Duran will perform in Germany this weekend for the first time in 21 years, a reunion bassist John Taylor describes as a “miracle.”
The rockers  — best known for their innovative 1980s videos and hits like “Rio” and “Girls on Film” — spent the 1990s pursuing separate projects with limited success. They reunited in 2001 to record “Astronaut,” which found critical acclaim but lukewarm sales.
But their ensuing tour has been much more popular, featuring sold-out shows across the United States and Europe. Taylor, whose father and uncle were POWs in World War II, spoke with Stripes on June 3 about the new album and the current tour.
Stripes: Congratulations on Performing Rights Society’s “Outstanding Contribution to British Music” Award (given to the band in May). What was receiving that like?
JT: It’s always good to get another lump of metal to put on the desk. You tend to relax at these things, go in somewhat cynical and not take it very seriously, and then by the end of the evening you realize that you’re [on] the same tier as Ben Reed, Queen, Yes. It starts to feel good.
Stripes: It’s been awhile since you’ve all been together. How different is this tour from the 1980s?
JT: Obviously, it is so different than how it was. When you’re in your 40s, how clearly can you remember how you felt when you were 21 or 22? It was a lot of fun, it was crazy. There were never enough girls. There were never enough drugs.
But now, I really don’t think it could be any better. I feel we’re playing so well right now, and we’re so committed to being the best damn band we can be. That’s the miracle for us.
Stripes: Was recording the album this time around tougher or easier than in the beginning?
JT: Putting an album together is always tough. It always starts off the last one, and it’s very loose. You’re basically jamming because you have so many ideas. It gets tougher and tougher as you try and nail it down and try to finish songs. Then the pressure is on Simon (LeBon) to finish the lyrics and to get the songs really dusted off. Do we have the right guys in, the right producers, the right mixer? And then there’s the pressure. You always start off an album thinking that you’re going to make a masterpiece. And then at what point in the process do you say, ‘Oh, s---. This isn’t going to be a masterpiece.’
To me, this is a successful album, because we closed it. It started off as a dream, as a fantasy that the five of us could get back together and do a good album, a major label release. And we did. I would have liked it to have sold more copies, I would have liked it to have connected with more people. But it’s put the band back on the map now, and the next one hopefully will do more for us.
Stripes: You were recording and writing on this album was right around Sept. 11. How did that influence you?
JT: Looking back on that now, I’m just so grateful that I was in the studio. I’m just so grateful that I got to process those feelings and make music at the same time. When we look back on it, we’re gonna feel that event. Because [the album] did start out light, and a lot of summer songs on the record such as “Nice” and “Bedroom Toys” were all written in the first few weeks we got together in France. And then we got together in London to do a second session and that was Sept. 12 or 13, and it was trememdously depressing for all of us. We had to take those feelings and put them into songs such as ‘Still Breathing’ and “Point of No Return,” and later on “What Happens Tomorrow.”
If you couldn’t translate that experience into a semi-decent artistic statement, then you shouldn’t be an artist. I think there is a depth to our album. I remember at the time it was very upsetting — I was working in London and my family were all in the States, which is where we live. And it was very difficult to get through. There was so much fear in the air, and it was a very sad time. But looking back now, I’m really glad I was with the band and we were in the studio.
Stripes: When will the next album come out?
JT: We're going to start writing in September. We always say, ‘The next one we’ve got to do a lot quicker.’ We’d like to have it out next year.
Stripes: What have the fans been like this time around?
JT: It’s amazing, actually. … What has been extraordinary is that the people who had been following us — we had die-hards who traveled all over the world, back in the day — and now they’re back. It’s amazing. They’re back and they’re coming to concert after concert after concert. They’re part of it again.
I suppose the thing is, you create a scene. If there’s one thing better than good music, it’s creating a scene. And people are showing up to our concerts, and they’ve stayed with us all along. And that’s a good feeling. It makes us want to go on to the next town, and be a part of it there, too.
Stripes: You just signed on for Live 8. Your 1985 Live Aid performance was the last one before the band parted ways. Are you tempting fate?
JT: One of the things that has been great this time around is that we’ve got to do a whole lot of stuff that we did before and really get it right this time. Yeah, that performance wasn’t the best, and we took a lot of flack for it at the time. But we’re gonna kick the s--- out of this one.
Stripes: You’re proud of the album, but it didn’t have the commercial success that you guys have seen. What does that do to you when you head back to the studio in September?
JT: You do the best. I don’t want to be chasing, I don’t want to be making a trendy record. We’re just chasing ourselves. It seems like there are a lot of bands out there trying to make albums like we were making in the 80s. So we’ve just got to be true to ourselves. I think then you can’t lose.
Yes, I am a little disappointed that the record didn’t sell more than it has. But I can’t complain. I’m pretty happy, and I think we’re all pretty happy about where we’re at right now. We could have sold 5 million albums in first couple weeks and hated it, because there’s a certain amount of stress that comes with that success. And we’ve really been able to grow at our own pace, we’ve been able to keep playing live, which really is what it’s all about.
Stripes: In the1980s, you were a cutting-edge video band. What role do videos play now?
JT: It’s very difficult. The language of video has changed so much. It’s gotten so expensive. You can have a fantasy about a video and how it’s going to look, but the budget is so ... I think the budget for the average video getting play today has gotta be between $2 million and $3 million. And we were knocking them out for 50 grand a shot. So it’s not a big part of what we want to do anymore.
Stripes: So who are you listening to today?
JT: I think Franz Ferdinand made a great album; I’m looking forward to their next one. I think the Killers made a good album. I think there are a lot of good bands around at the moment. I like the Bloc Party album.
 I’m glad to see a return to bands. Bands are definitely on the ascendancy. I think that after the late 90s, music became so producer driven. And the R&B influence has just kinda gotten played out. I think between that and the post-grunge thing, I think there’s a lot of fresh bands out there. I don’t know that any of them are reinventing music, but it’s a fun thing. If you’re 17 or 18, there’s a scene out there. There are a bunch of bands that are kind of working in the same milieu. You can go see the Killers one week and go see Hot Hot Heat the next. There’s some excitement out there.
Stripes: As someone who grew up a big James Bond fan, what was it like recording a Bond theme song (“A View to a Kill”)? And who has the best Bond theme, you guys or Paul McCartney?
JT: Oooooh, that’s a great one. (“Live and Let Die”) is a fantastic track. The other one I love is “Goldfinger,” and “Thunderball” with Tom Jones is great. I like “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as well, which is an instrumental. There are some corkers in there. I’m just glad we’re one of them.
I was introduced to a couple producers at a party, and I had a couple of drinks. And I went up to one and said, ‘When are you going to have a decent theme song again?’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you guys do one?’ And I said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was just huge. I’m very proud of that record. But Mac’s track is fantastic, no taking away it from him. That’s a m-----------, that song of his. We’d do it at the drop of a hat, another Bond title song like that. But it’s a tough act to follow. Once you’ve done a Bond song, all other film songs are just not as exciting.
Stripes: How much do the live shows inspire the album?
JT: It’s all about energy. We’ve been around music so long now. We’ve all got lots and lots of music inside us. We all just have to feel in synch with each other. And everybody’s been happy enough to just do it. I don’t feel I need to go out and seek inspiration. There’s inspiration all around.
Stripes: In your Washington, D.C. concert, lead singer Simon LeBon made some comments about President Bush and the war on in Iraq. What role do politics play when writing your music?
JT: We stay away from politics as a band. I don’t feel we have a commonality there. Nobody likes war. But, that said — I hesitate to say — sometimes it has to happen. There have been times when it has been necessary. I try to stay away from it. It’s very easy to rag on George Bush, and a couple of the guys in the band just love it, but I tend to say, ‘But you just don’t know what it would have been like if Al Gore had been in power.’ He could have responded in such a way that it started the Third World War. You just don’t know.
We just don’t know how lucky we are. I know how lucky I am. I’m very fortunate to have the life that I have. And I feel very secure in my life. I can travel around to countries that I need to travel to and feel secure doing it. I don’t have a lot of negative energy. I’m kind of an optimist.
I think you have to keep it moral and humanist. It’s just dangerous ground. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion and nobody is entitled to mine. I’m not very opinionated.
Bill Maher used to like having me on that show (“Politically Incorrect”), and I did it four or five times, and after a while I thought, ‘Why am I doing this show? I don’t care.’ I was always on the show with somebody who had an agenda. And we’d be chatting amiably before the cameras started rolling, and then the cameras started and they’d turn into these animals. I’m a musician. I love music and art.
Stripes: Do you have any military background or military family?
JT: My father was in World War II and he was a prisoner of war for about three years. He went through some rough stuff. My uncle was also a POW in Nagasaki, when the atomic bomb went off. I grew up with that shadow.
Stripes: Where do you go from here? Will you tour for another 10 years, 20 years?
JT: Steady on. We’ll make another record and we’re going to start writing in September and see where that takes us. But we’re all having a great time right now. Barring acts of God, we’re going to stick it out, we’re going to get another record out, and we love being on the road, so we’ll be on the road behind that. That’s as far as I’d want to look into the future.
Debra Hoffman contributed to this report.