The Original Wild Boys Return

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When I was a tot, there used to be a mirror in my house that bore the etched image of Duran Duran.

In the early to mid-80s, they were so big that you could pick up any piece of bootlegged tat you could imagine plastered with the pin-up style pictures of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the three unrelated Taylors: John, Roger, and Andy.

Almost 35 years on from the moment debut single "Planet Earth" turned them into international superstars (for those who weren’t around, they were the One Direction of their day) they’re still pretty sharp pin ups.

But, more importantly says Le Bon, they remain determined to do something different on record - no easy task when you’re putting together your 14th slice of Duran Duran.

“Mark Ronson (the album’s producer) - his brief for our previous album All You Need Is Now was, ‘I want Duran Duran to reclaim the 80s’,” laughs Simon.

“The idea this time was to make something funky and danceable, a fun record that has lots of energy. We didn’t have any more concept than that: we know what it’s like to be Duran Duran, we’re the sort of band people like putting on at parties.”

One aspect that wasn’t easy was stepping back from being the solo frontman and letting a pile of other singers come in.

Fellow Brummie producer Mr Hudson (aka Ben Hudson) talked him into it. “I thought, ‘Oh god, what have you let yourself in for?’. Janelle (Monae) was the test case for me; she’s an amazing singer and did an incredible job.

“After that, I was able to relax and let go.”

Working with new and brave creative people isn’t new to the band, of course. In the 1980s, their record label tried to veto the release of huge single Notorious, produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, because (a pained Le Bon quotes) “it sounded like coloured people.

“They said, ‘Your audience are not going to like this’. But we said, ‘Actually, maybe we want to sound like coloured people’,” he repeats, anger at that use of language still obvious in his tone.

“Despite common conceptions about what Duran Duran are, we’ve always been very assertive with our music and with the record companies.

"We came along at a time when record companies looked to the bands to really give them ideas: what kind of music to put out, what kind of cover to put on it, what kind of way to sell it.

“People looked at us and thought, ‘Well girls like them, so they MUST be manufactured!’. But that has never been the case. The important thing to do it say, ‘Whatever’. It really doesn’t matter what people think of us, just that our music gets through to people.”

In fact, the band was forged not in a boardroom but in nightclubs. “We were the kind of people who wouldn’t normally make friends,” Simon chuckles.

“I mean, look at me and Nick. I’m the kind of person who rides motorbikes and sails boats. And Nick would like to spend his entire life in an art gallery! We’re very unlikely friends, but we are very, very good friends.

“We spent many years trying to round off each other’s sharp corners, but everybody in the band has such a strong personality and is unwilling to compromise that it was never going to happen.

“We’ve got a point now that we recognise that tension between us translates in the studio into a a musical energy that is exciting when writing a record.”

On stage, in fact, is where that volatility has spilled over the most . “It’s not a comfortable place,” Simon confesses (although, he’s keen to point out that Manchester Arena, where the band play on November 27, is his absolute favourite venue).

“It’s a place of instability. You get the feeling that **** could happen. I’ve had stuff thrown at me from different members of the band - all sorts. Many guitar picks, but that was when Andy was in the band! (He departed, acrimoniously, in 2007).

“I’m quite sure I had a cymbal thrown at my head. Or maybe I’m just quoting Whiplash? Usually I’m turned round so I don’t see who’s thrown it.

“But we’ve got an on stage relationship that works really well. We’re all in it together. There’s a lot of good humour in the stuff that gets thrown, and also we’ve gone through our ‘rivalry’ stage.

“That was part of the band’s persona - on and off stage in the 80s. We were definitely competing with each other for chicks - that’s for sure.

“John Taylor won that one,” laughs Simon about the band’s dashing guitarist. We point out Simon’s model wife Yasmin Le Bon might disagree. “I was quoting quantity, not quality,” he says, exploding in laughter.

The rivalry is dead, my eye...

Manchester Arena / / 0844 847 8000 / November 27 / 7pm / Tickets: £35-£65 / @McrArena

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Courtesy Manchester Evening News