Duran Duran Feel No Pressure on Paper Gods

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By Jane Stevenson

The pressure would appear to be off for British ‘80s synth-pop vets Duran Duran.

The Birmingham-bred group, who have sold over 100 million albums, just accepted MTV EMA’s Video Visionary Award following the release of the striking black and white video for their latest single Pressure Off.

And their new album, Paper Gods, released earlier this fall, debuted at No. 10 in the Billboard album chart.

But did they ever think 37 years ago when they formed that they’d be chatting about their 14th album?

“When were kids? Of course, no,” said bassist John Taylor seated beside drummer Roger Taylor, both 55, in a Canadian newspaper exclusive with Postmedia Network.

“We were taking it week by week to be honest with you,” said Roger. “I don’t think we projected that far ahead. But the one thing we didn’t have was a Plan B.”

Added John, who got sober in 1994: “One plan that I had, ‘Hammersmith by ‘82, Wembley by ‘83 and Madison Square Garden by ‘84.’ And one thing I will say is that we pulled off Madison Square Garden, sold out, two nights, in the summer of 1984. And what happened after that was I completely lost direction. And looking back on it, I realized, I aimed really low. It was almost like, ‘Once we did that, it was like, ‘Well, what happens now?’ And we kind of floundered for a while. The second half of the ‘80s we were completely rudderless. We had no idea where we were going.”

Band member departures, side projects, comebacks, and a reunion of the classic lineup followed which all leads to Paper Gods.

We caught up with Duran Duran’s celebrated (and still handsome) rhythm section backstage at the Life is Beautiful Festival in Sin City recently to talk touring, Spandau Ballet and some of their Paper Gods collaborators.

You’ve done some select U.S. dates when might you tour Canada?

Roger: Hopefully, next year. It’s a great market for us. I think it was the first place that got us outside of the U.K. I remember going there in ‘82, the theatres were packed.

John: The El Mocambo (in Toronto), that’s the first place we played.

Roger: It was like, ‘Wow, we’ve actually made it somewhere else apart from the U.K.’ But the great thing about the new stuff is it’s going down a storm. We play Pressure Off and it’s like it’s been in the set for 10 years.

Your friends in the New Romantic movement, Spandau Ballet, made a stage comeback this year playing in Canada and elsewhere. Did you stay in touch with them?

Roger: I went to see the reunion gig at the O2. (It was) great. Their catalogue of music is bigger than so many artists now. If you have that great catalogue of work – it was made in a pretty short space of time – it deserves to be played out there doesn’t it? ... It was the press (back in the day) that set up this divide between us but we’d meet them in a bar or something and go, ‘Hey, how you doing?!’ We’d have a few drinks with them. They’re good friends actually.

How did you discover Canadian electro-pop star Kiesza, who is featured on the new song Last Night in the City?

Roger: The story goes that (singer) Simon (Le Bon) was in the gym on the walking machine, and (the video for Kiesza’s hit) "Hideaway" comes on the TV so he comes back to the studio and goes, ‘Wow, I just saw this amazing girl singing.’ And we were just working on an EDM, electronic, dance kind of tune and it was just the right person at the right time and she came down to the studio. And the energy of that girl. I mean she’s a big star already but she’s going to be massive.

John: We all love her. She’s very special.

A less likely collaborator is actress Lindsay Lohan, who is featured doing spoken word on Danceophobia. How did that come about?

John: Simon (and her) were friends. And Lindsay heard we were working in London on an album and sort of invited herself on to the session and Simon came to the studio and said, ‘Lindsay wants to be on the album.’ And we were like, ‘Well, what can she do?’ And we kind of concocted this scene for her to play within the song Danceophobia and it’s kind of great actually.

Roger: But (keyboardist) Nick (Rhodes) had suggested a Vincent Price kind of spoken part, originally. Like, ‘Let’s do some Thriller with it.'

Courtesy Toronto Sun