Stay Beautiful: Duran Duran

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Stay Beautiful: Duran Duran

OF COURSE, DURAN DURAN will perform songs like "Rio," "Hungry like the Wolf," "Girls on Film," "Ordinary World," "Notorious" and the rest at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Tuesday.

But the band will also play cuts from the album it's touring behind: "The Red Carpet Massacre," which features collaborations with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake.
And, of course, most of the audience will hear these songs as interruptions in the stream of hits they came for, but try to be good natured about it: If you like Duran Duran, you might like these newer songs, too. The band stays true to its hyper-successful sound — pop with keyboards, lovely vocals, funk, dance-beats and a dusting of dark and weird elements — on this latest effort.

Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes — the band's only continuous member from its inception as an art-school project in 1978 — spoke with Express about songs from "The Red Carpet Massacre," the group's future plans and Andy Warhol.

» EXPRESS: It seemed to me, reading about Duran Duran, that you took off pretty quickly. You got a manager after showing someone one of your first demo tapes, right?
» RHODES: Pretty much. I started the band when I was 16. By the time I was 18, we had a record deal, some lineup changes, wrote a lot of songs, played a lot of shows. The thing going around Birmingham, where we were based at the time, was that every time we played a show, we had a different singer. We sort of did, for a few months. We were young, had a lot of energy — and you keep at it and keep at it until you get what you want.

» EXPRESS: How did art school influence the band?
» RHODES: Well, actually, John [Taylor] was at art school and I was going to go to art school, but I was 16, the age you would go, and we formed the band. That was my art-school project. His art college was the first place we ever played. We did a lot of things out of there: made flyers, designed the logos, found a place to play, met kids that were interested in going to see an experiment.

I always think of it as an ongoing art school project — with every record, with every tour, with everything we do. It's something that comes from art school: We wanted to use and merge all the elements of art: music, graphic design, video, fashion, even architecture, with the stage shows and the sets in videos. You know, the photos, the artwork for the albums and on and on and on. We're still pretty good on any kind of design. The artwork for the new album, "The Red Carpet Massacre," we did it ourselves.

» EXPRESS: It looks great. I was just going to ask you that.
» RHODES: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I don't know why we haven't done it before. I took the photos, John art-directed it.

» EXPRESS: And that's the first time you've done that?
» RHODES: Yeah, isn't that funny? That's the thing about music: Even after a quarter of a century, you can still find new ways and new things to do on every recording. ... You don't even have a proper record industry anymore. We're absolutely thrilled about it. We couldn't be more excited. We see so many different possibilities. It's brought some life back into it again. There was so much horrible, computer-generated, mass-market, homogenized, nonsense. And now, I think we're starting to get back to some ideas and some people who want to think differently. I like that.

» EXPRESS: Other bands that have been around as long might feel pretty endangered by the collapse of the recording industry.
» RHODES: Yeah, there is a sense out there, but I also think bands that have survived as long as us have less to fear, in that they have a brand name, they have an audience and they just have to think of different ways to reach that audience. I see it as a huge opportunity as opposed to something that will be damaging and reduce our possibilities.

» EXPRESS: You're obviously still able to make a fine living off of touring.
» RHODES: Yeah, we always do very well, but we never really think about doing things for money. As long as we're able to make the album and go on tour, we're fine with that. I guess it's easy for me to say that, because we're in a good position, but that's really what's always mattered, right from the beginning to now.

» EXPRESS: I could definitely see you as a 46-year-old guy, or however old you are, playing a local club, just doing it because you love it.
» RHODES: Yeah, absolutely. Some of the small venues are often more fun, because it's got great intimacy and everybody in the audience is so excited to be there and be that close — it's a different vibe, that's for sure.

» EXPRESS: What are you most tired of being asked in interviews?
» RHODES: Well, it's not that you're tired of it. Obviously, when you're doing a new project, you want to talk about the new project. The obvious question that we always get asked is, "So, what was it like working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake?" And it's not that you get tired of it, it's just there's only so many ways you can answer it. "They're incredibly talented." "It was terrific." "They were fans of the band and wanted to make a record that our fans would like."

» EXPRESS: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
» RHODES: Well, the next thing we're doing is Mark Ronson and we're very excited about that. I'm a big fan. I think he made the two best albums of last year: his own and the Amy Winehouse album. He's remixing and reworking a whole bunch of our songs from across all our albums, including the new album, and then gonna bring it to us and then we're going to deconstruct it again and actually play it live. I think that'll be a fun experiment. That's soon, as well — the beginning of July, in Paris.

» EXPRESS: I like your song "Tricked Out" [off "The Red Carpet Massacre"] a lot.
» RHODES: Oh, good — unusual choice. We managed to protect that one from having a lyric. We hadn't had an instrumental for a long time. Simon [Le Bon] always likes to write lyrics to everything, but we just started playing it and thought it sounded great the way it was. He had a pile of [other] lyrics to write anyway, so it ended up being an instrumental.

» EXPRESS: Were you most responsible for putting that song together?
» RHODES: Well, no, we did it together. Actually, it came out of a jam between John [Taylor], Roger [Taylor] and I with [producer and Timbaland protege] Nate Hills. We were just playing around and it started to develop. It had a real New Wave feel to it that we liked.

» EXPRESS: I was about to say that it sounds like Devo.
» RHODES: Yeah, it's got a little of that. Well, I always liked Devo.

» EXPRESS: Were they an influence on you at all?
» RHODES: I wouldn't say they were an influence. I still like what they did, particularly the first album. Our main influences were more Bowie, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk and some of the dance stuff — Chic, stuff like that.

» EXPRESS: I'll end by asking you if you have any favorite memories or stories about Andy Warhol.
» RHODES: Yeah, I've got lots of great memories of Andy. He was a dear friend and clearly one of the most powerful forces of the 20th century. When we first met Andy, it was an exciting moment. We'd just arrived in New York City for the first time and the record company asked what I'd like to do in New York. I said, "Well, I'd like to see the Empire State Building and I'd like to meet Andy Warhol," thinking it was just a flippant remark — you know, some kids from Birmingham. They said, "Oh, OK."

The next morning, they'd organized it all and we went over to the Factory for lunch. It was quite surreal, sitting there with Andy and all these characters we had sort of known, but it's almost like mythology. It was pretty amazing, but Andy was as excited as we were, because I guess we were the newest thing out of the U.K. He was a big music fan and he went to all the shows anytime we played there. That first time, we took lots of pictures of Andy and he took lots of pictures of us.

» Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia; with Your Vegas, Tue., 7:30 p.m., $40-$125; 410-715-5550.

Written by Express contributor Tim Follos/Washington Post

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