How many bands can you think of that, decades into their career, are still capable of springing surprises, of blazing fresh trails, creating new music that is up there with the imperishable songs that first propelled them to fame, fortune and critical acclaim? It’s an interesting exercise, and a brief one – a list you can make on the fingers of one hand. In 2015, Duran Duran will cement their place in that illustrious grouping with a new studio album – their 14th, no less – that burnishes their role in the story of pop, and puts the many young pretenders whose music they have influenced firmly in their place. As part of a major new recording deal with Warner Bros. Records, Paper Gods starts the next chapter in the history of the band, with a host of A-list collaborators – including Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Mr Hudson, Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante, Kiesza and Davide Rossi – joining the party. “We found a whole new level of inspiration on this album,” says the band’s keyboardist and aesthetic overlord, Nick Rhodes. “We were talking the other day about artists that have been around for a long time – our contemporaries and some older ones, and there’s only a handful of the latter now, still out there playing shows. And we were saying, ‘What albums did they make this far down the line that we own?’ And that was a difficult one.”
Simon Le Bon has a theory as to why the band are still friends, and still making vital, compelling music, 37 years after Duran Duran first formed in Birmingham. “I think with some artists, as they get into extended careers, it’s like climbing up a rock-face – they start to look down. If you do that, musically, you’re pretty much dead in the water. You can hear it when someone’s thought about it just a little too much, or tried to write something that they think people will like, rather than something that turns them on. We’ve always written music that turns us on; we’ve never tried to tailor it to any kind of taste.” Band politics play a role, too, he says. “I think part of our strength is the tension in our music, which probably comes from the tension within the band. When you’re young, you’re not scared of upsetting people, and actually we can still push that sometimes. But harsh words are forgiven.