Duran Duran - George Palathingal
March 28, 2008
That one of the maddest sights witnessed in Sydney in recent years occurred in Kings Cross may not surprise you. What may is that it involved a "meet and greet" event during which the mere proximity to five Englishmen 20 years past their musical prime reduced a club full of adults to gibbering idiots.
"I don't remember any gibbering or any idiots," says Nick Rhodes, politely, of that 2004 night in the Dragonfly club. "But I sort of remember having fun."
For 30 years, Rhodes has posed, pouted, played keyboards and had a hell of a lot of fun with Duran Duran, the band he founded with bassist John Taylor.
For the benefit of those under the age of 25, this handsome fivesome pretty much epitomised the excessive '80s. They bought yachts, made extravagant video clips, sported a variety of now-ludicrous outfits and haircuts and occasionally wrote killer pop songs such as Planet Earth, Save A Prayer and Rio.
Even after guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor abruptly quit the band at their mid-'80s peak, Rhodes, John Taylor and frontman Simon Le Bon came up with a couple of corkers in Notorious (1986) and Ordinary World (1993). Is Rhodes surprised at the continued interest in the band?
"Well, not so much surprised. I think that if you'd said to me in 1980, 'Do you think you'll still be doing this in 2008?' the simple answer would have been, 'Probably not.' But I think that what you learn as you go along is that if you keep writing songs and you manage to connect with the public - not with every [song] but occasionally - and you work your way into the soundtrack of their lives, then they stick with you.
"Our audience have been incredibly loyal and gone through lots of changes with us, line-up changes and the lot, which has become such a cliche with bands -'Oh, the drummer's exploded' or whatever it is. Fortunately our drummer is very reliable and hasn't exploded - well, at least not since long ago."
It should be mentioned, at this point, that the classic Duran Duran line-up of Rhodes, Le Bon and the three (unrelated) Taylors reunited for 2004's Astronaut - hence that night in the Cross. They may no longer have an exploding drummer - Roger's still there, if fighting to be heard on synth-heavy new album Red Carpet Massacre - but exploding guitarists remain a problem. Andy Taylor has again left the band.
"In [ This Is] Spinal Tap, that was a huge error," Rhodes says. "It should not have been the drummer [who exploded], it should have been the guitarist. I would never fault his playing and I'd never say, 'Look, we're never gonna play with the guy again,' either ... it just fell to bits.
"But we're lucky enough that we have a pretty good catalogue of songs to play and a new album that we are all genuinely thrilled about. In a way it's nice to change and move around, too. The 'five' thing worked great for a while and now it's the 'four' thing. At least the photos look a little more Beatle-esque now."
Red Carpet Massacre doesn't really miss their errant guitarist; it's mainly constructed from synthesised beats and effects thanks to notable contributions from the ubiquitous Timbaland, his protege Nate "Danja" Hills and Le Bon's spiritual grandson, Justin Timberlake. How was working with such modern pop giants?
"Well, I mean, they're terrifically talented," Rhodes says. "Justin was a big fan, which is why he wanted to work with us ... I mean, we grew up listening to the Clash and the Sex Pistols and he came out of the Mickey Mouse Club, so it was curious for us at first. We walked in very open-minded and came out with some great things.
"We've never really been about sort of 'finding a sound and just sticking with it'. That I think is what happens to most bands that stay around for a long time. We've always thought of ourselves as an art-school project; when we make a new album we never really think about the previous one. Hence often it's been a commercial disaster for us."
Does Rhodes believe the band's current music is as good as material from their past?
"Yeah, of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't do it. But I'm also sensible enough to realise that ... if a song doesn't work its way into people's lives then it honestly doesn't matter how good it is, it's never going to be the same thing as a song that was a huge international hit that touched a nerve at that time. You're always up against that."
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/03/27/1206207283846.html