On their 14th album Duran Duran go political. In our interview the British pop titans explain why it’s about time to shame world leaders and why being up-to-date with music keeps you young
THE RED BULLETIN: Your new album and its opening song are called Paper Gods. Who are these gods?
NICK RHODES: It could be politicians and world leaders, but equally it could be money. It could be international newspapers or religious leaders, anything you need it to be, really. The song is about people in power that don’t think about things the way they should.
So it’s a protest song?
NR: It’s more a social commentary than a protest, really. But it does have an element that reminds me of some of the early Bob Dylan stuff, which was extraordinary, lyrically. “Hard rain’s going to fall” from Paper Gods is one of my personal favourite lyrics on the new album. Simon [Le Bon] told me he’s singing about putting a price tag on everything, about our slavish devotion to materialism.
Was it about time for Duran Duran to go political?
NR: It’s definitely a very tough world we live in right now. The disintegration of the middle class is a very dangerous prospect. It’s definitely commentary, which takes into account the observations we’re surrounded by.
Can pop music change the world in 2015?
JOHN TAYLOR: To me, music transcends the political. If a writer or performer chooses to write a song about something political, that’s fine. But to me, music is as political as medicine is. You know, it’s valid because of the love that it brings to people. I’m just going on my own experience with music and how it’s changed my life. I really believe in the value of it.
NR: I agree with that sentiment entirely. There are John Lennon songs that I find profound for different reasons. Because of what the lyrics convey, but at the same time they are beautiful tunes. They are masterfully arranged and I like the sound of the musical parts.
You’ve been making music together for almost 40 years and yet, you still have your finger on the pulse of the time, working with young talent such as Janelle Monáe and Kiesza. Does being up-to-date with music keep you young?
NR: It’s terribly dull to get stuck with music from one period and only listen to that. It’s important to stay curious in life. Some people lose music when they start families. When they have a lot of things going on, music is sadly one of the first things to fall off their charts. I’ve always felt, that’s such a terrible loss. I can’t imagine life without hearing new music.
According to a recent study most people stop listening to new music when they’re 33 years old.
NR: I can believe that. Working with young producers is just more interesting. It’s what we’ve always been about. We love exploration. As a band we’re about as curious as you could ever get. We also have more flexibility than other bands.
What do you mean by that?
NR: Other bands stick to the same line-up. It’s bass, drums and guitars. We on the other hand can all play keyboards. A couple of tours ago we had a section in the show where the four of us just sat with keyboards. We did 25 minutes of electronic stuff and it was fun, because we hadn’t done it before. We’re always looking to reinvent, to reimagine and to challenge ourselves.
JT: One thing that we really challenged ourselves on this album was the bass sound. I mean, I would look down the iTunes charts and realised there was not one bass guitar in the top-ten, week after week after week! So we decided we needed to change that (laughs). Another thing we did on this album is, we let a lot of other singers in. We brought a lot of other voices onto this record, so Simon had to be prepared to step aside.
NR: That keeps him on his toes, doesn’t it? (laughs)
JT: Exactly. It’s something he doesn’t want to do, because it means he’s got to share the spotlight.
Courtesy Red Bulletin