Duran Duran still playing, still writing, still happy
April 04, 2008 12:00am
AFTER 20 years together, Duran Duran have managed to avoid the nostalgia circuit frequented by their peers. In fact, they reckon artists still copy them - Madonna for one.
Bono says bands shouldn't break up over money, they should break up over album tracklisting and tour setlists. Duran Duran are in the middle of a world tour. Do you fight over setlists?
John Taylor: Every day. Actually, it's what keeps us together.
Nick Rhodes: It's what we bond over.
NR: We all win sometimes. It's like playing cards. Sometimes people go "OK, we'll try that tonight.''
JT: The group conscience wins.
You're busting out two-hour-plus sideshows on this Australian visit, as well as your V Festival sets. . .
JT: Thank God we're doing those shows on this tour. Festival shows are very distilled. There's not time for much subtlety.
What songs have you put out to pasture for this tour?
JT: The last tour was around Astronaut, so mostly songs from that album were culled. Our favourites will come back, like Nice.
NR: You always have to make room for the new album. Then you get the balance that a certain amount of the audience come to see some of the hits, so you have to put those in and you fill in between. We brought back New Religion. We hadn't played that for a long time. And White Lines. The repertoire of stuff we've played live is enormous.
JT: There are not many songs we can't play. Off the third album (Seven and the Ragged Tiger), we all like Shadows on Your Side, but for the life of me I just can't figure out how to play it.
You've included up to six songs a night from 1982's Rio on this tour. That's obviously a special album.
NR: We react to what people want. Supply and demand. For the past few years that album seems to have come back to the forefront again. A lot of artists are mentioning it. We haven't played Hold Back the Rain for about five years.
The only song from Rio you don't play is My Own Way. Why not?
JT: Hmm. Not a favourite. We were doing it in a medley with Some Like it Hot for a while. Not a favourite.
You made it on to Perez Hilton last week with your "disastrous'' New Zealand show.
JT: Were we in Perez Hilton? Ah, so that's how my kids found out about it.
NR: We had a technical hitch. John ran across the stage to figure out what it was. He came back and we played the song. That turned into some ludicrous story about him storming off stage and the whole thing falling apart. But whatever. You take the press where you can these days!
Does your next single, Skin Divers, have an Arctic Monkeys remix?
JT: Yep. It's Matt (Helders), the Arctic Monkeys' drummer. He's working on it. He did some electronic work on it and he's playing drums on it. We're saying, "Give it more of that Sheffield attitude.''
They've given Duran lyrical shout-outs in I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor and Teddy Picker. . .
JT: I love them. They're one of the best bands to have come out in the past five years, probably the best.
Your latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, got good reviews, but hasn't set the charts on fire.
NR: Some places it's slow, other places it's stormed out. It's a work in progress. The music industry is very different from how it used to be. You'd put out a record and it'd stay in the charts and go up and down. Now sometimes you get things on the first single, sometimes the second, and sometimes it takes nine months. We're chipping away. The more people who hear it, the more it gains momentum.
You worked with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake on Red Carpet Massacre. What do you think of their collaboration with Madonna, 4 Minutes?
NR: It's OK. Surprisingly, it doesn't sound very much like a Madonna record to me. It sounds like Justin and Timbaland featuring Madonna. I love the sound those guys make.
JT: For the most part she picks producers you don't know. If you knew Mirwais you might listen to Music and go, "That doesn't sound like Madonna, it sounds like Mirwais.''
NR: This one has two other voices on it that feature very heavily. You don't notice her that much.
JT: They're very in demand. They're a factory.
NR: It's nice to know Madonna has copied what we've done!
Do you find yourselves fighting a battle between people wanting to freeze-frame Duran Duran in the '80s and you wanting to be seen as a band still making new music?
NR: We're always going to get some of that. I imagine when the Beatles were going in 1969 people were shouting for A Hard Day's Night and Help.
JT: There comes a point where you have to be bigger than what's going on. Whatever happens with this record, we aren't this record. We're 20 years of music-making. When we go on stage that's what we represent. We don't just represent this record.
We're really proud of this record, I think we made a great Duran Duran record. If it doesn't become the biggest-selling Duran Duran record ever, it doesn't matter. As long as we're happy working together and enjoying ourselves and the audience like it, we're growing every day in our minds.
You seem to be in a charmed position compared to many of your '80s contemporaries who are now on the retro tour circuit.
JT: I'd do that, but he (Rhodes) won't let us do that!
NR: Good luck to them all, but that's never been what we're about. We've never stopped working. Some albums have been hugely popular, some have been hugely cult. It hasn't stopped us carrying on with different lineups. At the moment we're feeling very happy with everything.
Artistically it's all working on stage. I don't mind if people come and want to hear some '80s songs. They're a big part of our catalogue. But a lot of people come to hear ('90s hits) Ordinary World and Come Undone.
Original guitarist Andy Taylor left acrimoniously after the last album. Have you had any contact?
JT: There's nothing to say. We had the reunion. We worked through some of our s---. The rest of it is still s---.
NR: On stage now it feels like a real rock unit. It gives you great confidence when you know everyone else is pulling their weight.
When you play at these festivals, do you meet surprise Duran fans in other bands?
JT: I always say we're a band's band. There was always a lot of character in the band. I don't want to say unlike Coldplay, but say, unlike Coldplay, there are a lot of flavours in this band. Nick has a very distinctive style that has influenced a lot of people. There's a lot of character in the playing. Most bands have somebody in the band who likes Duran Duran.
NR: We've appealed through a broad spectrum of music. Jonathan of Korn is a big fan. I was quite surprised by that. Delighted but surprised. The (Smashing) Pumpkins all came to see us the other night. When we started in the '80s we were trying to carve out our own identity. That was one of the things that was most important to us.
Red Carpet Massacre (Sony BMG) out now. Duran Duran, V Festival, Showgrounds, Sat, $136.90, Ticketmaster.
Courtesy Melbourne Herald Sun