Q&A: Duran Duran's Simon LeBon

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Q&A: Duran Duran's Simon LeBon
by Larry Rodgers - Apr. 30, 2008 02:50 PM
The Arizona Republic

Duran Duran's Simon LeBon sounds like a satisfied man when he calls from a beach in Costa Rica.

"My day is going really wonderfully." the 49-year-old singer says. "I'm in a very hot, beautiful place with a big, bright blue sea in front of me. I've grown myself a mustache, with a big, fat sombrero on my head."

LeBon is taking a break from a world tour that will bring Duran Duran to Phoenix on Tuesday. The tour spotlights the band's strong new album, Red Carpet Massacre, recorded with the help of Justin Timberlake and hit-making producer Timbaland.

Timberlake sings with LeBon on two tracks, including the CD's debut single, a ballad called Falling Down.

LeBon talked about collaborating, touring and his band's fascination with supermodels.

Question: Your voice sounds better than ever on the new album. How do you feel?

Answer: I'm very excited about the new music we've made and the show we're playing. There are lots of things that could be better - me getting more breaks and holidays, I could be getting younger, my kids could be doing slightly better in school. But generally, things in life are very good.

Q: Has moving into your late 40s affected you as an artist or away from the stage?

A: The job I do tends to set a standard that you apply to yourself that is more relevant than age. It's about what I can do onstage and what I can do in writing.

A lot of people asked me, "What was it like working with Justin Timberlake? Wasn't it weird (that) he wasn't alive when your band started?" In our business, we don't judge people by age, by race or sex. The only thing that matters is how you are able to perform, whether it's writing, recording or live performance.

Q: You've chosen to play a lot of Red Carpet Massacre in concert, as well as some older hits. You must have confidence in the CD.

A: You never know how easy it's going to be to get records on the radio. There's so much stuff there; it's something that's out of your hands. As far as the live show, it's something that's completely in our hands. It's also the most direct relationship we can have with the people who want to hear the music.

Q: This is your second CD since the original Duran Duran lineup reunited in 2004. What were you aiming for this time?

A: We had this great hook-up lined up, and we went there, and Andy Taylor didn't come to the sessions, which led to us and Andy parting company. So the band was in turmoil. We decided that what we could do is concentrate on the job at hand, to make the best album we possibly could under the circumstances. We put all of our energy into that and didn't worry about the negative aspect.

Q: Is it true you scrapped lots of material and started over when Timbaland came aboard?

A: We had an entire album of material, which had a working title of Reportage. It was a much more alternative, '80s-inspired kind of music, a bit like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand or the Kaiser Chiefs. We took it to the record company and they said, "This isn't really what we want to work with. We want something that's more pop, more current."

Q: What was it like to work with Timbaland?

A: He doesn't say a lot. He just plays the music and goes, "Yeah." That's how he communicates, is musically.

Q: It sounds as if Justin pretty much invited himself into your sessions.

A: Yeah, he did call us. I think he and Timbaland are pretty good friends. . . . He called and said, "You can make a great record with Timbaland, but if I'm involved in the project, you'll make a record that your fans like." It made a lot of sense to us.

Q: Once Justin got into the studio, did things go smoothly?

A: It was very easy to work with him. He's a singer, so for me, it was easy. We talked technical, about vibrato, holding notes and slurring notes. He taught me a lot about timing.

Q: The first half of Red Carpet Massacre moves in a pop and club groove, while the second seems to give a nod to your '80s roots.

A: We definitely went with the pop bits first and the darker stuff later. We're not going to start sounding like a different band just because we've been produced by (Timbaland protege) Nate Hills, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake.

Q: Your band pioneered the use of supermodels in music videos. How do you feel when you look back on that?

A: I'm glad it was this band that did it, and that it wasn't anybody else.

Courtesy Arizona Republic