Duran Durans original lineup hits road
When Duran Duran announced that the original line-up would reunite for a new album and tour last year, the biggest surprise was the return of Roger Taylor, the band's original drummer who abandoned music in 1985.
He and guitarist Andy Taylor left the band at the height of their success. Their James Bond theme "A View to A Kill" was #1 that year and the group that "Rolling Stone" magazine declared The Fab Five only a year before were playing Live Aid in Philadelphia. That show would be the original line-up's last performance together for over 15 years. While Andy continued working as a solo artist, Roger was nowhere to be found, even refusing to appear on the band's episode of VH1 "Behind the Music."
Few would have predicted the renewed success of the original line-up, which also includes John Taylor (who left in 1996), Nick Rhodes, and Simon LeBon, who have kept the group going through many incarnations over the past twenty years. The group recently completed their European tour, which included an appearance at Live 8 in Rome.
The elusive Roger Taylor spoke to The Observer during a tour stop in Athens, Greece in late June. Portrayed as the brooding, shy band member, Taylor, who still sports the cropped dark hair of his youth, animatedly spoke to The Observer about his second ride with the band.
You've been away from the band for over a decade. Where did you disappear to?
I went AWOL for 15 years. I just got to the point by the end of '85 where I needed time away from it. It had become a very tense experience. We broke big all over the world and didn't stop for five years. At every hotel we'd have 200 kids outside trying to get in. You couldn't go out to get a packet of cigarettes. I just wanted time to live a normal life for a while. I bought a farm in Gloucestershire (Cq), in England and lived a very chilled out existence, had a few kids. By the '90s I got a little bored, moved back to London and started getting involved in music again. Then I got the call from John.
What were you doing when you got the call about reforming the band?
I was at home in London. John left a message, said, "Hey, I want to talk to you about the band." I thought it was a back catalog issue or a one off charity reunion. I called him back and he said he wanted to talk about getting the original band back together again. I said, "Wow." I thought the moment had gone. I thought everyone had gone off in other directions and it was never going to happen again.
I picked myself up off the floor and said, "OK. Let's try it." I had no great expectations.
Had you been approached about returning to the band before?
Not in a serious way because Nick and Simon had their thing going with Warren (Cuccurullo and that was successful in its own way. It was only when they came to the end of their working relationship with Warren did we consider getting back together again. No one wanted to step on Warren's toes because they wrote some great songs. It was only when that came to a natural end that we considered getting back together again.
During your time away did fans still recognize you from Duran Duran?
It would happen occasionally, but I could walk around as a normal person. But everybody I knew knew me as Roger from Duran Duran.
Did you continue to pay attention to what the band was up to?
I followed the band quite closely when I left. I dropped away from it during the late '90s as stuff got played less on the radio. So I became less aware of it. But around "The Wedding Album," I became a big fan of the band.
Did you keep in touch with the other members?
There was a time around the mid-'90s when John had gone off to live in LA. Andy was in Ibiza, Spain. Simon and Nick still toured the band, but we didn't have any contact. When we got together again we really had to look at each other and ask 'can we work together again?' Luckily we were still on the same page musically. Nobody had gone off and become a jazz musician or done something completely off the wall. It was literally just the five of us and a sound guy. We didn't have a manager, a record company, an agent. We put our own money into it. It was literally from the bottom up again like a new band. It took us about two years to get a record deal.
What's it like playing those songs, the ones you didn't originally record?
It's great. Things only get in the set on merit. If it's a great song it doesn't matter if it was written by Nick's dogs. We've made everything our own because we play them maybe differently from the way they were recorded. We play all the best stuff from the '80s, some from the '90s, and probably about six new ones.
You produced dance music during the '90s in London. How much of the dance influence on the new album "Astronaut" came from your input?
We were always into dance and house music. It was huge in Europe. It probably did influence my playing, being involved in dance music. I guess that made its way onto the album in that way. A lot of people shun the '90s, but I think it was a great decade for dance music, drum n' bass, and hip-hop.
Were you aware of the online fan community and how popular the band still was before getting back together?
We were all massively surprised by the popularity of the band and how many hardcore Duranies were still around. It's because of those hardcore fans this thing succeeded because at first we couldn't even get a record deal. We were getting hysterical reactions at shows. The amount of love spurred us on.
Do you notice fans are bringing their children to shows?
Absolutely. They're younger sisters. The age range of the people that come to see this band now is quite something. It's toddlers to 70-year-olds. Kids that just got into the new album or bands that they like are citing us as an influence might come around and have a look.
What do you think of some of the bands that cite Duran Duran as an influence?
I think The Killers are great. Franz Ferdinand is really good. Coldplay I love. Green Day, amazing. There is really good music out there. I'm not too keen on the Pop Idol stuff because I think it's more about the behind the scenes people than the artists themselves. We came from an era where you wrote your own songs, you starved yourself, and it's all about the band. These Pop Idol things seem to be about the people around the artist. I don't think it has great longevity either. These people can't build great catalogs of work.
Your return is such a surprise since you didn't do any interviews during your hiatus.
I just considered myself out of music. I was living a normal, quiet life. I didn't want to be on television during that period. I wasn't selling anything that needed celebrity status.
Since you were out of the public eye is it strange being around crazy fans again?
It's not quite like it was before. It was very intense for us in the '80s. We were twenty year old guys and our average fans were 12 to 13. I think our fans are more mature and respect our space more now. We learned to deal with things a lot better. We're a lot more comfortable.
So what's next? Can fans expect another album?
We're going into the studio in September.
WANT TO GO?
WHEN: 7:30 Wednesday (July 20)
WHERE: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre 707 Pavilion Blvd.
TICKETS: $20 to $53
DETAILS: (704) 522-6500; http://www.ticketmaster.com www.ticketmaster.com
Who's Your Favorite?
Back in the day, Duran Duran were trendsetters. While they were the undisputed champs of synth-pop, they REALLY excelled at driving the girls wild. Any Duranie can tell you who their fave was (and still is). Here's our horribly unscientific take on the deeper meaning of Duran Duran lust.
SIMON: You're a leader. You crave the spotlight and the jet-set lifestyle, and look great in tight pants.
JOHN: Unassuming beauty. You're charming, good-looking, even head-turning, but not smug.
ANDY: Dark horse. You go against the grain. Unconventional. A little angry, and loud.
NICK: Passionate, flamboyant. Style -- particularly when it comes to pink eye shadow -- is important to you.
ROGER: Quiet. Reluctant. Focused. You look beyond the surface. You're happy staying in the background.
Courtesy of Charlotte Observer