Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 2:17 pm
In the days before YouTube and Apple Music, MTV shone a spotlight on bands that may have otherwise struggled to grab the attention of an audience. Beginning in 1981, MTV brought music videos into the world’s living rooms, and in the process kick-starting the careers of countless artists, including flash-in-the-pan bands like Kajagoogoo and Dexy’s Midnight Runners and icons in the making like Madonna and Prince.
Among the heavy-rotation staples of the early days of MTV was Duran Duran, the British synthpop band that left its imprint on the pop culture landscape with hits like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio,” “Wild Boys” and “Is There Something I Should Know.” The band’s music and accompanying videos left such a lasting impression that few people would have raised an eyebrow if they decided to simply kick back and live off the royalties for a few decades.
But the members of Duran Duran — singer Simon Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor — aren’t content to simply rest on their laurels and coast on the wave of ‘80s nostalgia all the way to the bank. The band, which marked the 35th anniversary of its debut album last month, has continued to record new music throughout the decades. “Paper Gods,” the band’s 14th studio album was released last fall.
Roger Taylor, dubbed “the quiet one” by the press, left the band in 1986 to pursue what he called “a normal life” and returned in 2001. He began his musical career as a bassist, but soon discovered the drums were a more natural fit.
“Somebody at school was looking for a drummer for their band. Of course everybody want to play guitar or sing so drummers was a very rare commodity,” Taylor said.
“I thought I’ll have a go at the drums and really enjoyed it, seemed to have a natural aptitude for it and it all went from there. I was 12 years old when I started. Who knew I was going to have this conversation 40-something years later,” he laughed.
Taylor credited his father with instilling in him the work ethic necessary to become a self-taught musician.
“My dad was always an aspiring musician, although my dad was a manual worker, he worked in the car industry in Birmingham. My dad was always learning something so I kind of picked that up from my dad that you should always try to learn something,” Taylor said. “My father was always a great believer in the theory that you could teach yourself anything if you spent enough time practicing something that you could teach yourself anything.”
Although the band rose to fame courtesy of its synthpop sound, when Duran Duran came together in Birmingham in the late 1970s, Taylor said all the band members felt is was important not to rely too heavily on electronics.
“All the early stuff was all acoustic drums,” Taylor said. “Our main thought was that we should be a proper band, that we should have real drums and real guitar, real bass and plenty of synthesizers. We didn’t want the electronics to dominate the sound at that point. We wanted a proper band and that kind of helped us in America, I think… When we got to America, the music in America was generally a lot more guitar and bass and that thing, so when we arrived in America I think people liked that we used live drums and guitars.”
As the years went on, the band began incorporating more electronics into its music, cultivating its signature sound.
“It was kind of a happy accident that we ended up like that,” Taylor said.
Taylor attributed part of that trademark sound to Le Bon, who he said “has one of the most recognizable voices in the music business.” However, he said the chemistry of the four band members works in such a way that even new material bears the band’s sonic watermark.
“I think and no matter what we do behind him as soon as starts to sing, it’s, ‘Ah! It’s Duran Duran. ‘ But I guess there is something about us as individuals when we play, we sound like us,” Taylor said. “None of us had any schooling really, we’re all self-taught… We kind of taught ourselves which gave us a real individuality in the way that we play and we program stuff it sounds like us. Actually a lot of stuff on the new record is electronic drums but it’s played electronic drums, it’s not programmed. It’s me sitting at an electronic kit playing and John starts to play bass and suddenly you have a very recognizable sound. Which is great I think, it’s great to have that personality in a band. There’s a lot of music around where I think you can finger a producer or finger a team of producers but with us it’s still really, it’s a band and I think people hear that when they listen to the record.”
Nashville fans will have an opportunity to experience that individuality for themselves when the band’s Paper Gods Tour stops at the Ascend Amphitheater on July 6. Opening the show is Chic, the disco band formed in the ‘70s by Nile Rogers, a longtime friend and collaborator of Duran Duran.
“Nile, of course, he’s kind of part of our sound,” Taylor said. “He produced ‘Wild Boys,’ he remixed ‘The Reflex’ with all that incredible sampling on it. He played on ‘Notorious’.”
Taylor said from a performer’s perspective, playing a city with a long and storied musical history like Nashville, is a special experience.
“They are the greatest cities to play in, the music cities,” he said. “They’re incredible places to play for us. You feel that when you go on. We are particularly looking forward to playing in Nashville because it is such a center for music, There’s so much history there, so many great musicians come from Nashville so I think generally everybody’s really excited about it.”
Regardless of where fans see the Paper Gods tour, Taylor said they can expect a high-energy and visually stunning show.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a pretty big catalog to draw from as well as the new stuff. We’ve got 35 years of material, so it’s varied. So you’re going to hear the songs that hopefully you love,” he said. “We’re not a band that just goes on and plays the B sides and the new material. It really encompasses the whole catalog. And it think aesthetically, it’s beautiful because that’s always been important to us.”
Tickets for Duran Duran’s show in Nashville are available online at http://duranduran.warnereprise.com.
Courtesy Tullahoma News