Interview: Duran Duran
Wed, 14 May 2008 12:26:19
Duran Duran are the original prototype for the recent electro-dance-DJ craze and of its participants. Being pioneers of the electro movement hasn't stopped them for entering—and breaking through—new frontiers. The band's career has now spanned over twenty years, and the accomplished Brits show no signs of stopping. With the release of their latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, the band have announced an extensive world tour. As the tour got started we were privileged to have the band give us a little insight into what's changed, what's the same and while they'll always be relevant.
With such an impressive backlog of songs, how will Red Carpet Massacre and your overall body of work be intertwined into the current set list?
John Taylor: I doubt if anyone would believe just how much time and thought we all put into each performance, which songs we are going to play and in what order. Perhaps because it is the most powerful way of expressing "This is who we are, right here, right now." Of course having new material is important to us, as it freshens up everyone's sense of what we are. New songs like 'Nite Runner' and 'Red Carpet Massacre' are a lot of fun to play, and they change the way we think about older material, like "Rio" or "Wild Boys." It's not even about 'giving people what they want'—we couldn't imagine playing a Duran Duran concert without referencing our most popular songs. It would be like an Andy Warhol restrospective without a "Marilyn."
Roger Taylor: This is an ongoing discussion that usually is still going on minutes before we go on stage. We have such a huge catalogue of work to pull from and we do like to vary the set most nights. We are also playing quite a few tracks from the new album but of course don't want to disappoint people by not playing the classics.
The title Red Carpet Massacre brings to mind a lot of things, including the increasingly bizarre celebrity culture that is defining us as a society. Can you give us your take on the title?
Roger: For me it's just a nice bit of word play. I've not seen these words together before—it created a nice bit of juxtaposition and yes the song is generally about how shallow celebrity culture has become and how the red carpet scene is now often more important than any artistic statement.
John: We were appearing at an awards show in Los Angeles last year and were required to walk the red carpet. We had to wait for five or six minutes as some willowy young thing was giving a performance to the battery of photographers. No one knew who she was, nor cared—she was simply extremely pretty and had a lot of moxie. I wonder, just once, if the patience of the paparazzi were to crack, and as one they crushed the barriers and tore her apart limb from limb, either out of frustrated lust or just sheer hatred, what that would look like. I could imagine it happening. It's modern times class warfare.
“We would not have the dedicated worldwide following we have if we stopped recording new material and simply dragged our arses around playing songs from the eighties.”
How have fans reacted to the new material so far?
John: The fans are always very supportive of our new material. It's what keeps them interested. We would not have the dedicated worldwide following we have if we stopped recording new material and simply dragged our arses around playing songs from the eighties. I think our fans are proud that Justin and Timbaland came to our party.
Roger: Great, they love it despite initially being concerned that Timbaland was going to "homogenize" the Duran Duran sound.
How does this tour vary from previous tours beyond the song choices and into your day-to-day life on the road?
Roger: New songs, new lights and an "electro set" where we all come to the front of the stage and play electronic instruments in homage to our electro roots.
John: Starting out in New Zealand was nice, getting to spend some time there. Then touring with the V Festival in Australia, Duran Duran sandwiched between Queens of the Stone Age and Smashing Pumpkins. Fantastic! We're always trying new things, expanding our repertoire. The electro-set is kinda new. We developed it for Broadway. It's a twenty minute dance mix of songs we don't usually play. We all play keyboards except Roger, who stands and plays electronic pads.
What is the production level of the live show? Can you tell us what North American fans can expect?
John: For me, a Duran Duran show is about soul. That may sound like BS to someone who doesn't know us well, but believe me, every show we do is a testament to our love for each other, for the audience, and for the music. It's about long term commitment and a desire to transcend everyone else's expectations. That's the core of it. Beyond that there is a lot of electricity, some high wire juggling, the occasional pulled muscles, loud sound and bright lights.
Roger: Great new state of the art lighting design and brand new stage set loosely based on the Blade Runner movie.
As musicians who tour the world, what's it like living essentially without a time zone? Insanity? Or is the road home? Any survival tips for new musicians?
Roger: It is an insane lifestyle, away from home for months, constantly moving through different time zones but if you love what you do (as we do) it's a great life.
John: It's a lot easier than it was. E-mail, texting and international cell phones that really work. It's amazing! I am actually beginning to believe it is possible to do what we do and maintain a family simultaneously. I know others that have done it, but it has eluded me for years! It's the one thing, if you want to do what we do, that you have to be okay with. Constant travel, hotel rooms, airports and changing time zones. That's why the show is so important. It's the reason we put up with all this crap!
—The ARTISTdirect Staff (compliments of MSO)