Hitmakers remade themselves with hard work

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Hitmakers remade themselves with hard work

By David Lindquist
July 22, 2005

John Taylor isn't satisfied simply to have his band back together.

The bass player wants Duran Duran to spend its second act as a force both on the concert circuit and in the recording studio.

"There's a tremendous energy in the band. If we're all going after the same thing, we can climb every mountain and ford every stream," he said with a laugh.

It's been four years since the five original members of the British band -- Taylor, vocalist Simon LeBon, keyboard player Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor -- decided to work together after 15 years apart.

The reunion has yielded one album, last year's "Astronaut," and concert tours in the United States and Europe.

The reconstituted Duran Duran will visit Indianapolis for the first time Sunday, when New Wave classics such as "Girls on Film," "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" are expected to be performed at the Murat Theatre.

Taylor, age 45 and not related to Andy or Roger, talked about the group's highs and lows during a recent interview with the Star:

What were your expectations when the five of you regrouped?

I thought we could do business on the road, at least once. That was about it.

After the five of us got together the first time, I started thinking, "If we could all get focused, we could probably do anything we wanted to." It took a while to get focused, and the more time we spent together, the belief just grew.

Are you talking about making another album?

Yeah. And at this time last year, I didn't know if we would be. So that's good.

In terms of the band's drawing power, you played a homecoming show in Birmingham that attracted 20,000 fans in May. How was that?

It was great. We've played some of the biggest shows of our career on this last European tour. But it's fairly inconsistent. We can be playing a huge venue one night, and then something fairly small the next.

Is it true that you succumbed to a pretty excessive lifestyle in the '80s?

Yes. I like that word "succumbed." It makes it sound like it was somebody else's fault.

VH1's "Behind the Music" wasn't around back then, but certainly you were aware of some cautionary tales from rock 'n' roll history. Did you think it wouldn't happen to you?

My biggest problem was cocaine, and no one had ever said to me, "This is a bad thing and it will (mess) you up." It was just something Keith Richards did, and something a lot of glamorous, sexy people at Studio 54 did. They all looked good to me. I don't know why it looked good to me and it didn't look good, say, to Nick.

In a way, it was me coping with the lifestyle: Being on the road in a hotel room and not having the intelligence to see what was happening. But there are some things you just have to experience. No one can really tell you.

Was it relatively easy for you to extract yourself from it?

It took a long time, actually. It was almost a five-year process, like coming to a slow halt where everything stopped working. You have to make a decision: You have to walk toward the light or you might as well slit your wrist. I took the right direction, thank God.

What was the time frame for this?

Well, the second half of the '80s was tough for us. We'd had an enormous amount of success, and then it all started disappearing. A couple of the guys left (Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor); it became harder to function as a band. It got a lot harder to write songs.

It's tough to outlast being a trend. Pop stars are meant to be ephemeral. They're meant to be replaced every few years. That was painful when people basically said, "OK, your time's up. You can go now."

Do you look at today as the gift: You get to do what you love in a new mindset?

On a good day, yeah, when I'm thinking to be grateful for what I have.

Whatever process I've been through to get to this point, I think we would all say that we're enormously grateful.

When we first got together, these egos still had these huge expectations about what we were or what we thought we were. Over time, we've had to let go of a lot of those expectations and really had to knuckle down and work.

We reinvented ourselves as working musicians, as being a team -- real core values. It's one thing to sit in a room and say, "Should we do this?" and "Yeah! Let's do it." It's something else to actually do it and weather the ups and downs when the deals don't come in or the tickets don't sell. It's great when everything goes smoothly. You get used to that.

Courtesy Indianapolis Star