INTERVIEW: Duran Duran Talks New Concert Film, Surprise Studio Visits From Paul McCartney, And The Role Cocaine Played In The Making Of Rio
by Mark Graham
“You know, you’re interrupting our afternoon nap.”
Duran Duran has a right to be tired. After all, they arrived at ABC’s Times Square studios at 5:30 a.m. to prep for their appearance on Good Morning America, one of a few stops they’ve made during a brief, whirlwind promotional sojourn for their upcoming concert film release, A Diamond In The Mind. However, when we caught up with Nick Rhodes (synths) and Roger Taylor (drums) in the lobby of SoHo’s Mercer Hotel on Monday afternoon around 2 p.m. — Nick drinking a glass of rosé, Roger making his way through a bottle of sparkling water — the guys were full of energy. Their opening comment about naptime disturbance was presented with a good-hearted laugh and a smile, as the guys were snappily dressed —what else would you expect?— and excited to discuss their new film.
“I think when you make a concert film what you’re always trying to do is capture the energy of the performance,” Rhodes explained, “and the atmosphere and the spirit that was in the room when you actually played the show. And, obviously, that’s very hard to capture on film. But with this one, i think we definitely got as close as we ever have because you can see the intimacy and the interaction on stage.”
“It seems like the further north (in England) you get, the crazier the audiences get,” Taylor told us about the band’s choice to film the show in Manchester. “And on this night, it was Mad Friday, which is the last drinking night before Christmas, so the crowd was good and rowdy.”
One surefire way to ensure that audiences are having a blast at your shows is to have great material to play for them, which Duran Duran definitely has in spades. Most acts that have been around for 30+ years are content to play shows that consist entirely of “the hits,” but in Duran Duran’s case, they are still putting outstanding new material out into the world. Their most recent album, 2011′s All You Need Is Now, was produced by Mark Ronson, someone who was able to inspire the band to create their most cohesive and creatively consistent album since 1993′s The Wedding Album.
“The great thing about Mark is that he came with a vision,” Taylor explained. It’s good to have somebody, just slightly outside of the band, with that vision.”
Rhodes weighed in next. “We wanted to work with Mark because we’d done a show with him in Paris. We had such a good time with him, generally. He’s a lovely person to be around. He’s funny, he’s sharp…”
“He wears nice suits…,” Taylor chimed in.
“He wears nice suits,” Rhodes admitted with a chuckle. “He fits in on many levels. He was an obvious one for us and for him, because he knows our music so intimately. He’s a professor’s level of knowledge about Duran Duran.”
Speaking of which, it doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history to recognize that Duran Duran’s 1982 album Rio is a modern classic. The record, which produced the megahits “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Rio,” and “Save A Prayer,” just celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. “We knew we had something really great with the finished album,” Roger confessed. “I remember listening to it from start to finish on my Sony Walkman on an aeroplane and i thought, ‘F*ck, this is REALLY good.’”
“I remember we recorded it in Air Studios in London,” Rhodes regaled. “We were in Studio 1, and in Studio 2, at the end of the corridor, Paul McCartney was working on something with (legendary Beatles producer) George Martin. So each night, around 7 o’clock — same time every night — Paul and Linda would come and bang on the door, stick their head in and say, ‘Good luck, fellas!’ It was so bizarre, so abstract for us. He was so sweet and down to earth, and for us, it was a big deal. It was inspirational.”
Speaking of inspirations, we asked them if they had ever seen Noah Baumbach’s 2010 film Greenberg, a movie in which their Rio album plays a major role. Specifically, Ben Stiller’s title character describes the album — and the song “The Chauffeur”, specifically — as “great coke music.” So we asked them point blank: What sort of a role did cocaine play in the writing and recording of Rio?
“It was part of the general background of our life,” Taylor told us. “You can’t say that there wasn’t quite a bit of cocaine around. So, I guess that was a backdrop, and maybe somehow that did influence some of the songs on the record.”
“Definitely not with ["The Chauffeur"],” Rhodes cut in.
“Maybe some of the faster songs were more coke-induced,” Taylor continued. “Because some of them were F*CKING fast. Bang!”
Well, the go-go days of the 1980s were certainly a long time ago, and Duran Duran has long since outgrown those youthful indiscretions. These days, you’re more apt to find Rhodes combing through classic albums (“I’m going through a bit of a retro phase, I’ve been listening to a lot of Scott Walker. There’s those three albums that are QUITE astonishing. The orchestral arrangements, my God! Genius.”) than staying up until all hours of the night. One thing you won’t find either Roger or Nick doing, though, is starting their own personal social media accounts. “Once you start something like that, you can’t stop. The modern world is very distracting,” Roger explained. “Simon often gets himself on trouble on Twitter, though. Drinking and tweeting. Not a good mix.” Wise words for us all to live by, don’t you think?
Duran Duran’s new concert film, A Diamond In The Mind, will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and CD on July 10. That night, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor will be doing a live video chat all the way from Istanbul in support of the release on the official Duran Duran Facebook page. The band is also in town to play a special event sponsored by Trident at Terminal 5 tonight, and trust us, there will be a few surprises!