John Taylor Interview with The Stranger

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by Trent Moorman • Sep 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

There’s a special event happening TONIGHT at the Puyallup Washington State Fair, and it doesn’t involve a litter of piglets at Piglet Palace. It involves Duran Duran. The multiplatinum pretty-boys from England (with over 100 million albums sold) are bringing their sexed-up disco, new wave, and pop-rock to the Washington State Fairgrounds. For context: in the late-'80s, Duran Duran had become so famous and idolized a fan once licked a used Kleenex taken out of their greenroom trashcan because one of the band members had a cold and had blown his nose into it. The fan wanted Duran Duran’s germs inside of them. That’s what I call “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Sing it, “Mouth is alive. Juices like wine..”

There’s also the fact that practically every runway model in the world (unverified) inhaled cocaine to the sounds of Duran Duran’s “Rio”. Princess Diana even declared Duran Duran her “favourite” band. In short, Duran Duran’s star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is deserved. Unlike the purchased sham-stars of Ryan Seacrest and J-Lo. On September 11th of this year, Duran Duran released their 14th studio album, Paper Gods, featuring collaborations with Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Nile Rodgers (Chic). For my money, the Monáe track, "Pressure Off," is the album’s highpoint.

For those doing the Puyallup tonight: see some cows get milked, visit the world-class collections at Hobby Hall, ingest an Earthquake Burger, ride the Extreme Scream, then get to the Events Center for a string of live Duran Duran hits. Bassist and co-founder John Taylor spoke from Las Vegas.

You hittin’ the slots there in Vegas?

No. No slot machines for me. I’m happy to say I’ve never had that particular compulsion. One of the few I haven’t had.

Your new album, Paper Gods. I keep thinking it says "Paper Goods." Like Duran Duran napkin sets, and toilet paper.

We’ve done it all, man. We’ve been there [laughs].

What are you saying with the title Paper Gods?

It’s global, but it’s also personal. I think the song “Paper Gods” has quite an acerbic lyrical presentation, making an interesting commentary on materialism. It also relates to experiences this band has had. We’re all obsessed with things, we’re all compulsive. We’ve also been the recipients of obsession and compulsion. We’ve all been objects of temporary worship. We know what it’s like to be worshiped and then thrown away. What’s the word for something that means two opposing things at the same time?

A paradox? Or contradiction? Like saying Hitler was a philanthropist. Or like when Britney Spears shaved all her hair off. So how did John Frusciante become involved in making the new album?

He reached out to us. I’d met John once, and went up to his house and played some guitar for his girlfriend who had a band. Then out of the blue I got a note from him saying, “Hey I heard you guys were working on a new record, and I’d like to offer my services.” I think John’s probably one of the most interesting rock guitarists of the last twenty years. We weren’t going to say no to that. He did all his recording at his house in LA. It was a back and forth where we sent him tracks, he’d record to them, and then send us back ideas. I went and spent some time with him as well. I think the song “What Are the Chances” shows the collaboration at its best. His playing is so melodic and textural. He hadn’t been playing guitar so much at that time, he’d had some time off. He just had a thing for Duran as a kid. Working with him really opened our minds up to doing collaborations, and letting other people into our process.

Did it ever get too Chili Peppery with him?

No [laughs]. John had very fine sense of what Duran required. If anything, we were thinking it should have been more Chili Peppery. But that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He took it all very seriously.

You also collaborated with Janelle Monáe. How did that happen?

That song was kinda finished when we thought of her. Everyone’s doing features these days, and Janelle was at the top of our list. We played the song to her, she liked it, and she came to Los Angeles. She did it in one session.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your song “Hungry Like the Wolf”? Besides sex in a jungle.

That was our first flush of success. [Pauses] It was written on a Saturday afternoon in EMI’s demo studio. It was probably the most important song in the band’s catalog because it broke us in America. It was released three times. With the video, it changed everything for us.

What day of the week did you write your song “The Reflex”?

It was written on my birthday, actually. June 20th, 1983. We were in the Caribbean, at Air Studio in Montserrat. When we finished it, we thought it wasn’t quite right. We hadn’t exploited its commercial potential. So we called Nile Rodgers and asked him to do a version. He turned it inside out, and got the most out of it.

How excited were you to do the song for the James Bond movie A View to a Kill?

Very excited. You enter an exclusive club when you do a James Bond song. I’d always loved James Bond songs. I loved John Barry and respected his work as a kid growing up. The songs for Goldfinger and From Russia with Love were so fantastic. When the titles roll, you’ve got that distinctive Bond title sequence, and when it’s your own music in there you can’t help but feel good.

Was your version of the song immediately accepted? Or did you have to record multiple versions before they were happy? Are the Bond people hard-asses?

It wasn’t an easy song to make. John Barry butted heads with some of the band. I mean basically, you have to write a number one song. It’s not just like writing any old song. Anybody that gets that gig feels a certain pressure. Some of the Bond songs are amongst the finest pop songs of the twentieth century.

You guys are playing the Puyallup Fair. They have this thing there called mutton busting. It’s a rodeo sport where children grab onto the back of sheep. Do you know mutton busting?

I don’t know that, unfortunately. I won’t be busting any mutts. We’ve done a few of these fairs over the years. People come to have a good time. We’ve got Nile and Chic on the bill. There’s gonna be a lot of dancing. It’s gonna be a good time.

Courtesy The Stranger