Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor tells Rick Fulton the band's latest album is a return to form
THEY were the Wild Boys of the Eighties, soaking up the high life from drugs to yachts and models.
But Duran Duran's drummer Roger Taylor knew it was time to stop when he realised he was going to "end up like Elvis Presley on a death-wish".
The 50-year-old won't go into whether it was the drugs that brought bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor to their lowest ebb but it wasn't a breakdown, as has since been reported.
But going from painting the walls of Birmingham's Rum Runner nightclub to being in the biggest band in the world in five years proved too much.
And by the time the band played Live Aid in 1985, they had split into two factions who hadn't spoken for months,
Roger admitted: "I didn't have a choice about leaving in 1985.
"I felt like I was going to end up like Elvis Presley on a death-wish journey.
"I knew I needed time out.
"We had started in 1979 and by 1982 almost everyone in the UK knew who we were and we were playing Madison Square Garden in New York.
"By 1985, I needed to get out. I couldn't handle it any more.
"When I came back it was amazing because I had taken time out to be a normal person. I'd never regret leaving. For a start, I'm here. I didn't want to be a rock 'n' roll statistic."
Roger retired to a farm in Gloucestershire with chickens and horses, raising his family until the five original members reunited in 2001.
This week, the four of them (Andy left, once again) are back with their 13th album, produced by Mark Ronson and their best since Rio, 29 years ago.
A massive fan of the band, Mark - who has produced tracks for Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Adele - jumped at the chance to work with his heroes. He set out to bring the band back to what made them great originally.
They've sold 80 million albums, had 18 American hit singles, including the Bond theme View To A Kill - the only time a 007 tune has gone to No1 in America.
Such was the furore they created that Rolling Stone magazine dubbed them the Fab Five as they became the first stars of MTV thanks to the escapist videos for Rio, Save A Prayer and the s1 million promo clip for Wild Boys.
The music on All You Need Is Now echoes the band at their best, from Being Followed, which recalls the epic Hungry Like The Wolf, to the cold creepiness of The Man Who Stole A Leopard, a modern take on The Chauffeur.
Roger admitted the collaboration was a match made in heaven - but said Mark knew more about the band than they do.
Speaking at Sphere Studios in London where, for the past two years, the group have been making All You Need Is Now, Roger said: "Mark had so much intimate knowledge of the band, it was scary at times.
"But it was all for the good.
"He seemed to know the band inside out.
"It was all positive. He has this musical genius about him but he also has this trainspotting side to him.
"So he would know what the fourth track on the fourth album would be, which we'd forgotten."
Mark's mantra for the band was to reconnect with the music they played in the Eighties, which is now being used by bands from The Killers to Franz Ferdinand.
He also helped heal the wounds of Andy leaving again, which had left Roger, John, singer Simon Le Bon and keyboard player Nick Rhodes reeling.
The comeback had started so well. In 2004 Astronaut sold more than two million copies, went to No.3 in the UK and spawned a top-five single here (Reach Up For The) Sunrise.
It dwarfed any other Eighties comeback, including their great rivals Spandau Ballet. But in 2006, Andy quit and the band took up a more R&B sound, teaming up with Timbaland and collaborating with Justin Timberlake.
The result was the second-worst placed album in their UK chart history, scraping in at number 44.
It was a big mistake and the band were worried that was it.
Roger admitted: "When we came to make our last record it was almost like we were flying on three engines.
"We'd lost a major part of the songwriting team, a major part of the band and it was a tough period for us. We were in a bit of a hangover period from the big reunion. We'd played five sold-out nights at Wembley so you are bound to get a little bit of a lull after that, especially when your guitar player leaves the band.
"It was tough. So we brought in a superproducer in Timbaland. We brought in Justin Timberlake.
"But we were missing a key element of the band, I guess."
They hired Dom Brown, who recorded guitar parts for Red Carpet Massacre, performed on the supporting tour and played with the band at the Concert for Diana and Live Earth London in Wembley.
He was then part of the writing process for the new album. A relieved Roger added: "He must have played 1000 gigs with us over the last couple of years. It feels like a proper band again.
"We've got a guitar player. We're functioning as a unit again."
Roger conceded Massacre missed a lot of their core audience but insisted the new album will bring them back.
Ronson decided people wanted to hear the band playing together and made them create the songs on the album together, not through computers.
Each song was learned, played and recorded rather than using Pro-Tools.
"We've got something we all think is very, very special," admitted Roger.
"We think it's probably the best record we've made for a long, long time. It's an album - not just two or three key tracks."
The best since Rio?
If he thinks it, Roger won't say it. However, All You Need Is Now certainly isn't just a retro album and is coloured with contemporary sounds, though it does have Rio's funky fun.
You just have to listen to Roger's drumming on Girl Panic! or John's bass on Safe (In The Heat Of The Moment), which features Scissor Sisters star Ana Matronic.
But it also has Rio's love of synthesiser coolness on Blame The Machines.
"We have made a contemporary album but have rediscovered that chemistry," he said.
"We have to thank Mark for that.
"At times we meandered and he made it more simple." Next year they will start touring the world, will definitely come to Scotland and are hoping to do an arena tour of the UK.
"As a band we are always looking forward," continued Roger, "we have to keep changing and working with new people.
"We will continue to work with people like Mark who are doing well in the contemporary world." It'll be a chance for Roger's three children to see a glimpse of what devotion they cause.
He said: "None of the kids were born when Duran were a big thing so they find it quite hard to understand how huge we were.
"But they think we are hip working with Mark Ronson."
At least his children can look back at old photos of Duran Duran and not be too embarrassed.
While the others loved dying their hair and wearing make-up, Roger never seemed that comfortable.
He said: "Oh, I had my own fashion faux pas.
"I had a ponytail for a while after I'd seen Mel Gibson with one in the film The Bounty."
It seems even the quiet ones have a wild (boys) side.
:: A nine-track digital version of All You Need Is Now is out now with an expanded physical album out in February.
Courtesy Daily Record