Interview: Gordon Barr chats to John Taylor of Duran Duran

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Duran Duran will kick off their first UK tour in seven years in Newcastle this month. Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr catches up with bassist John Taylor

I REMEMBER well the first time I saw bassist John Taylor playing live.

It wasn’t with supergroup Duran Duran or his part-time band Power Station – nor was it in a big arena where he was more used to playing.

My first encounter with John Taylor was actually in the infamous Viper Room in West Hollywood in October 1995, two years after actor River Phoenix died of a drugs overdose outside of the club, catapulting it to worldwide attention.

He was on stage jamming with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan of Guns ’n’ Roses in a band they named Neurotic Outsiders. It was just one of those memorable nights you tick off as having been there and done that – having not realised who would be performing that night!

It’s a phase in John’s life that remains memorable too.

“They were awesome, those gigs,” he tells me from his California home.

“When we were doing those Viper Room shows I would call it gig therapy. I really needed to get back and do something like that. It didn’t have a lot riding on it, we were doing it for fun.

“Everything had got a little contrived and precious around the day job, shall we say, and to be able to step away and do that at the time was tremendous. I think we opened with Planet Earth and went from that into Bodies.

“We played all sorts. That experience really got me back on track in terms of being a live musician. It’s been a long road and you don’t go to college to be a musician. You have no idea where it is going to go. You are making it up as you go along.

“With most jobs there comes a point where you kind of know what you are doing. But this one never stops changing and throwing new challenges down for you.

“That period of time really invigorated me, playing with Steve Jones and the guys from Guns ’n’ Roses. It put back the excitement and sense of fun.

“I left Duran for a couple of years and when I came back I came back as a fan. It was really important for me to step away for a while when I did and come back with a completely different perspective on who the band was and what the band had achieved. And it really helped. It was really important for me that I did that.”

Fast forward 16 years and John is, of course, back with Duran Duran and about to hit the road with them on the back of their latest release, All You Need Is Now.

“The tour opens in Newcastle (Metro Radio Arena, May 18) and I am so excited about that. It makes me cry just thinking about it,” he continues.

“There is something really special about getting down and doing a British tour. That is something when you are an up-and-comer you take for granted, all you are doing is touring Britain when you start out, if you are a British band, and then the world gets bigger and bigger and bigger and it can be years before you get to tour Britain again. It is such an honour to get to bring it home again, it is enormous, very emotional.”

Its an incredible 30 years since Duran Duran became global superstars and were at the forefront of the New Romantic movement. Once the wild boys of pop, those heady days are strictly behind them now.

“Thirty years isn’t what is used to be. Thirty years isn’t what it was for our parents. We’ve learned how to use moisturiser and vitamins. We look after ourselves a little bit, the gym generation,” explains John, who is 51 next month..

“This is a gig you want to keep, being a musician, being able to tour like this You’ve got to look after yourself. .

“Wild times on the tour? At this point wild times would spell cancelled dates. It’s more about self-awareness and delivering the goods night after night.

“You can’t take them for granted. You want to make it a fantastic experience for everyone involved and you have to keep your head on for that.”

Their latest album, on which they worked with in-demand producer Mark Ronson, has been critically praised and was first on download only before a proper release in March.

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