24.05.2013 - AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK RHODES OF DURAN DURAN
By Dixie Gong
This is not a comeback. This is a continuation. Duran Duran may have taken the bulk of Nick Rhodes’ attention (it’s been 35 years and he’s still at the helm of the band; in fact, they just performed at Cannes), but he’s always dabbled in other artistic pursuits. One such project has resurfaced after it was first recorded in the mid-nineties. TV Mania was an experimental album produced with then band member Warren Cuccurullo. Originally conceived as a musical, the album is an extraordinarily prescient account of the invasion of reality TV. In conjunction with its long overdue release, Rhodes recently celebrated the making of Bei Incubi, a personal photography exhibition which features the fame-obsessed, materialistic daughter of TV Mania’s dysfunctional (de-)nuclear family.
DIXIE - What was it like discovering TV Mania after 17 years? Were you surprised by its spot-on prophetic take on society today?
NICK - I remembered what we were doing fairly well and I know that it sounded great when we finished it, but I hadn’t heard it in a very long time. So it was a pleasant surprise when I re-listened and realized that it had matured really well. Something as unusual as that could end up being a real relic of the period, but instead I think it feels more like a time capsule. And some of it certainly was prophetic in an unintentional way. We obviously didn’t know what was going to happen at the time, but there was something in the air with the way the world was feeling about the developments of different technologies. For example, surveillance cameras were being installed all over London where I lived. There were new satellites going up every day. With pharmaceuticals, there was a whole new range of antidepressants that were coming out. And I think people were realizing that the big one was reality TV.
DIXIE - From previous interviews, you seem to take great interest in the anthropological effects of your profession.
NICK - In general, I quite like people. They’re fascinating subjects, even some of the ones you don’t like so much—they’re fascinating. I thoroughly believe that one should live one’s life rather than watching other people on TV, but I understand entirely why so many people are drawn in by these reality shows. It’s [about] putting a bunch of people in a room that should never be together and just watching what happens. Obviously it creates interesting viewing, but no, I like working with people and collaborating. I’m trying out different things. We’ve been very lucky with Duran Duran projects over the years in that we’ve worked with fascinating people in most areas of the arts, from photographers to filmmakers, fashion designers, set designers, artists, other musicians, and that’s always inspiring.
DIXIE - Would you consider yourself a voyeur?
NICK - To a degree, yes. I’m always interested in what people think, why people are thinking that, what’s going on in the world, and why technology changes the way we think and how it cross-pollinates with different aspects of our lives. The internet, computers, and hand held devices have revolutionized the way the world thinks and behaves—a lot of it clearly for the better, and some of it, sadly, for the worse. So it really does bring out extremes as well as everything in between. That subject will never cease to amaze me and keep me looping in and listening to what people are doing. Developments always excite me. I love technology and I’m fascinated to see the next developments with nano technology and genetics. There’s a lot we haven’t seen yet—it’s moving at such a fast pace. I was astonished and horrified to find out the other day that someone had 3D printed the first gun. It’s going to be strange world out there over the next few years.
DIXIE - It must have been a welcome relief to get back to the medium of a Polaroid camera for Bei Incubi.
NICK - Yes, there’s something thrilling about Polaroid even though we’ve got instant digital photography now. The culture of Polaroid photography is growing for the first time in many years. The show I had here in London had about 20 or 30 Polaroids as part of the exhibition and they were the first to sell. The format of it is still great; the size of it and the quality of what you get in a Polaroid is special. I have the same sort of affinity for Polaroids as I do in some ways for vinyl. It’s one of those old analog formats that’s just great for what it is, [even though] it’s been updated, outmoded, replaced. And it’s still part of the fabric of photographic creativity. I really want to start taking more.
DIXIE - Do you have any favourite fashion photographers?
NICK - I love fashion photographers. My favourite ones are sadly gone now, people like Avedon, Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, and Man Ray. But there are lots of new photographers out there that I think have a great eye. Mario Testino takes great pop fashion pictures. Nick Knight is also very good. Mert and Marcus, Steven Meisel… I was just looking at some David LaChapelle photos and I thought about how truly original his style is and what he created himself. We met David very early on. He photographed us for Interview Magazine before he was doing his colour photos. They weren’t [his usual] high gloss, high drama images. He actually photographed us in black and white at a park in New York. To see how he developed his style—because he was literally just starting out then—is fantastic.
DIXIE - You’ve amassed quite a fabulous wardrobe, too, a lot of which is purely from the 80s and a record of that era’s fashion movement. Can you share some of the history behind your collection?
NICK - I recently lent clothes to a fashion museum in Santiago [in Chile], and they said I’ve probably got one of the better collections for men’s fashion from the 80s. I collected things from Armani, Versace, Theirry Mugler, Anthony Price, Yohji Yamamooto, Comme des Garcons, Jean Paul Gautier, Stephen Sprouse… a lot of different designers. And I tended to buy some of the slightly more flamboyant pieces. It’s an interesting collection—I’m glad I held on to it! I have David Bowie to thank for that because when I’d met him very early on you, I was still a teenager, maybe 20, and asked him what he’d done with all his clothing. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve kept everything.’ And I thought that’s great to know those things still exist. And ironically now as I’m speaking to you, a few miles up the road from me on display at the V&A Museum in London are David Bowie’s clothing. So it’s good he kept them, and that truly is the reason why I kept mine from very early on.
DIXIE - Do you ever feel nostalgic for those days?
NICK - I’m not really a nostalgic person, to be quite honest. I just like moving on and going forward, but what I would like to see is someone really radical, with different music ideas, come in and smash up the whole mould and do something new. It would be really exciting instead of just hearing hip-hop produced out of plastic boxes. I think there are great things out there but I’d love them to get a real shake up.
Courtesy Frische Magazine