By Jennifer Aniston
On the occasion of their latest album Future Past, Duran Duran’s lead singer meets one of their biggest fans: Jennifer Aniston.
SIMON LE BON: Hi, J. How are you?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I’m good. We’re all just kind of doing the best we can these days. Are you in England?
LE BON: Yeah, in a rehearsal studio. We’ve got some shows coming up. Can you believe it?
ANISTON: No! That must feel so exciting! I don’t know if you remember a show that you guys did at the Palladium, I think it was ’81 or ’82, but I had it on a VHS tape and watched it over 100 times. It used to put me to sleep at night. It was like my lullaby.
LE BON: Wow.
ANISTON: You guys were 21 or 22?
LE BON: I joined the band at 21. Nick [Rhodes, the band’s keyboardist and cofounder] was 17.
ANISTON: Did you guys know each other? How did you become Duran Duran?
LE BON: I was up in Birmingham doing theater, training to be an actor. An ex-girlfriend of mine got in contact and said there’s a band looking for a singer. I went along and met them, and the whole thing just clicked. They had lots of pieces of music, some with sketchy melodies, but the one thing that they didn’t have was lyrics. I turned up with this great big book full of slightly punky, slightly sci-fi lyrics. And that was what got me the job.
ANISTON: Was John [Taylor, the band’s bass player and cofounder] there yet? Or Andy [Taylor, guitar] and Roger [Taylor, drums]?
LE BON: They were all there. I was the last piece of jigsaw to fall into place. The second time I went there, to a little stage in this nightclub where they used to rehearse, they started playing something, and I said, “I’ve got something I think could fit with that.” And started singing the lyrics to what became “Sound of Thunder,” which is on the first album. When that happened we knew there was something really, really special about the five of us.
ANISTON: And to be that young. How did you keep your sanity? Or did you?
LE BON: It helps being in a band. Solo artists are much more vulnerable in terms of psychology, because they’ve got people surrounding them who agree with everything they say. If you’re in a band, they’re always trying to take the piss, especially if you start to develop any kind of ego. And especially if it’s the lead singer, by the way. Over 40 years, we’ve developed a respect and tolerance of each other’s differences. It wasn’t always like that. There was a time near the beginning when we were much more competitive. I didn’t even think of them as friends. I was a guy in their band, and they were guys in my band. It’s when you get confidence with the job you’re doing that you get a chance to look around and think to yourself, “Oh, I actually like these guys.”
ANISTON: You all seemed to be quite evolved for young men who were taking on that kind of world domination and success. How would a song come to be?
LE BON: We’d start by getting together in a room with absolutely no ideas whatsoever, trusting that we’re going to come up with something. People often say to me, “What’s the secret of staying together for such a long time?” And I often say things like, “We’re really great friends, we make each other laugh, we love music.” But the real core of it is that we split the money equally. I know so many bands with whom that’s not the case, and they’re not happy. You start to resent somebody who’s earning more than you, especially if you think they’re doing the same job as you.
ANISTON: I agree. That was the key to Friends, and why we were able to stay such a family. There was no one that was working harder than the other, so it didn’t make sense to not all be equally compensated. How did you guys get through the pandemic? Is this when you were writing Future Past? I love the title.
LE BON: The idea is that every moment you live in the future will be a past. It’s another way of saying “now.”
ANISTON: And you recorded it during the pandemic?
LE BON: We started in November 2018 and had been working to release it by summer of 2020, but in March the world changed. We stopped for maybe nine months, and then got back together after last Christmas. So we’ve had all of this year to finish it. With this album, it seems that before COVID, it was almost like driving along at night with your headlights on. All you could see is that little patch of road in front of you. But over the course of the lockdown, day broke, and we came back to it at the beginning of the year and it’s like daytime. You could see all around you, how our record would fit in with everything else that’s going on now. There was a lot of struggle before lockdown. Me and Nick are often at loggerheads with each other. We’re quite different people and we like different things.
ANISTON: That was actually one of my questions. Is there any combination of you guys that butt heads creatively, and how do you resolve that?
LE BON: Nick and I, definitely. We all do to a certain extent, except for Roger. He doesn’t really butt heads with anybody.
ANISTON: He’s the quiet one.
LE BON: He’s able to just do his thing without being spiky. I guess because I’m writing lyrics and Nick feels that those lyrics speak for the whole band, he likes to have an opinion. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t have a fucking opinion, but he does.
ANISTON: [Laughs] Goddammit!
LE BON: But I’ve come to know that when he really cares about something, he’s got a point. He represents a certain way of thinking, and if you don’t appeal to that kind of thinking, as well as my kind of thinking, then you’re going to lose touch with some of your audience.
ANISTON: We have that same thing on our show [The Morning Show]. You fight the good fight, but because everyone respects each other’s opinions so much, there’s something to listen to. It’s so exciting.
LE BON: How’s your new show going?
ANISTON: We are in post-production on the last episode. We’re finalizing the score of the finale. We had a little creative head bump last week about something having to do with the end, which we finally resolved. But it was a killer. It was brutal to shoot this show during a pandemic. It took us all down. It really did.
LE BON: I’ve heard it’s absolutely amazing. I haven’t seen it because I don’t have Apple TV. I’ve got a bit of a thing with Apple.
ANISTON: You do?
LE BON: I’m a bit pissed off, because I had all my music on Apple Music, and then I decided to move to Spotify, because it’s a better service. When I ended my subscription to Apple Music, it wiped all of my playlists, including the stuff I downloaded and that I loaded from CDs. Everything went. I was so pissed off.
ANISTON: Whoa. That is very not okay, Apple. Apple, if you’re reading, don’t let that happen again. So now you’re on Spotify. That’ll show them. But going back to how the show was, I’m ready to see it come out and be done with it. I’m sure you have the same experience. Now it’s time to put it out there and go with god, and if you love it or you don’t, who cares? We care a lot less as we get older, don’t you think? You just do the best that you can. It’s not life and death. How long will you go on tour for?
LE BON: I think there’s a good year and a half of touring that could follow this record, but we don’t do it the same way we used to. I have grandchildren, Jennifer.
ANISTON: No you don’t!
LE BON: I do, and I don’t want to miss them growing up, because I missed out on my own kids growing up.
ANISTON: Do you all live in the same areas or is everybody spread out?
LE BON: Actually, they live at the end of our garden. We bought the house at the end of our garden for my mom to move into, and she lived there happily until she died in 2017. And Saffron [Le Bon’s daughter] got pregnant and they were worried because they didn’t have anywhere to move in together. And I said, “Hey, why don’t you just move into the cottage?” Now I get to see my grandchildren every single day.
ANISTON: Do you cook?
LE BON: I make a great rabbit ragù. My daughter’s favorite bit is the ears.
ANISTON: I can’t believe I’m even asking this, but what do rabbit ears taste like?
LE BON: The same as the rest of the rabbit. Do you cook?
ANISTON: I do a carbonara that is quite wonderful. Pasta was sort of a big one for me because I’m a “try to keep your carbs to a minimum” kind of girl, but that was long gone during the lock- down. I was quite content to be actually told, “You can’t go anywhere, you can’t go to work, and you must be home alone.” I was oddly grateful.
LE BON: And you’ll just have to eat loads of pasta.
ANISTON: And watch all sorts of shows that I was catching up on, on the evil Apple network.
LE BON: [Laughs] Yeah.
ANISTON: When do we get you in the United States?
LE BON: We’re looking at dates in April. There’s talk of a 32-day tour, but you can only go so far with booking these things at the moment. Putting tickets on sale is risky.
ANISTON: Isn’t that the only way you can make money, because of streaming?
LE BON: The money that comes from streaming often does not even get to the band. There’s something really wrong with the entire system, which is something that I’m involved with trying to rectify. There’s a project here in the U.K .called #BrokenRecord, and it’s about trying to get people to value recorded music again. At the moment, you get paid something like 0.2 of a cent per stream. But if that person streams the same song 100 times more, you still only get that first 0.2 of a cent. It is completely wrong.
ANISTON: That’s absolutely wrong. That’s a loophole.
LE BON: What’s happened is the general public expects music to be almost free. That’s really bad news. It’s terrible that artists can only make money by playing live shows.
ANISTON: Now with the state of the world, that’s almost impossible.
LE BON: Exactly.
ANISTON: What are your thoughts on music today?
LE BON: I’ve got a radio show on SiriusXM called WHOOOSH! It started because my daughter said, “Dad, you call yourself a musician, but you don’t even like music anymore.” And I thought, “Oh my god, she’s right.” So I decided I needed to shape up, and I followed her advice. She gave me a few pointers and I started listening to modern music on Band-camp, Spotify, or Radio 6 in the U.K. And I found fantastic artists. My manager said, “We need some presence during lockdown. John’s doing a bass tutorial, Roger’s doing a drum thing, Nick’s doing an art thing, what can you do?” I said, “I could do a radio show.” It’s been a huge education. Do you remember when we ran into each other at Fred Segal in Santa Monica?
ANISTON: Like it was yesterday. I was with Brad [Pitt] and he came and grabbed my arm, and dragged me over to the cashier’s desk where you were standing. And as if you were a specimen in a fishbowl, he goes, “Look!” Because he knew what a huge fan I was. I don’t even think I introduced myself.
LE BON: You didn’t need to.
ANISTON: I was fangirling. I regressed immediately back to 12 years old.
LE BON: I was slightly fanboying as well. I’m pretty good at hiding these things, but I was quite rapt as well.
ANISTON: I could not believe that I was spewing this information at you about the day I woke up at five in the morning to wait at the video store to have you sign a record. And then the minute it was five o’clock in the afternoon, just as I got to the front of the line, all the gates came down in the store and the red rope went up. And my rose was just wilted. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
LE BON: Oh no!
ANISTON: That night, me and my girlfriend Sandy went back to her house and listened to our albums and watched the videos, and then it’s like, “Wait they’re on SNL tonight.” I said, “They say that all the guests stay at the Parker Meridien Hotel.” So my bright idea was to wait for you to come back to the Parker Meridien after the show, which of course, you were the farthest thing away from the Parker Meridien.
LEBON: I’m so sorry!
ANISTON: I’m handing my broken heart back to you, Simon. I feel like we made it up beautifully.
LE BON: Absolutely.
Photos: Eric Johnson
Hair: Ayumi Yamamamoto using Shu Uemura at Bridge Artists
Makeup: Allie Smith using Dior at Bridge Artists
Set Design: Cooper Vasquez at Frank Reps
Photo Production: Monika Martinez
Production: Taylor Brown at The Morrisson Group
Photography Assistant: Elianel Clinton
Fashion Assistants: Fernando Cerezo and Nicolas Negron.
Courtesy INTERVIEW magazine