Duran Duran reunion tour arrives in Germany
Bassist John Taylor discusses '80s success, current tour
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Scene, Sunday, June 12, 2005
WASHINGTON The five original members of Duran Duran will perform in Germany this weekend for the first time in 21 years, a reunion bassist John Taylor describes as a miracle.
The rockers best known for their innovative 1980s videos and hits like Rio and Girls on Film spent the 1990s pursuing separate projects with limited success. They reunited in 2001 to record Astronaut, which found critical acclaim but lukewarm sales.
But their ensuing tour has been much more popular, featuring sold-out shows across the United States and Europe. Taylor, whose father and uncle were POWs in World War II, spoke with Stripes on June 3 about the new album and the current tour.
Stripes: Congratulations on Performing Rights Societys Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award (given to the band in May). What was receiving that like?
JT: Its always good to get another lump of metal to put on the desk. You tend to relax at these things, go in somewhat cynical and not take it very seriously, and then by the end of the evening you realize that youre [on] the same tier as Ben Reed, Queen, Yes. It starts to feel good.
Stripes: Its been awhile since youve all been together. How different is this tour from the 1980s?
JT: Obviously, it is so different than how it was. When youre in your 40s, how clearly can you remember how you felt when you were 21 or 22? It was a lot of fun, it was crazy. There were never enough girls. There were never enough drugs.
But now, I really dont think it could be any better. I feel were playing so well right now, and were so committed to being the best damn band we can be. Thats the miracle for us.
Stripes: Was recording the album this time around tougher or easier than in the beginning?
JT: Putting an album together is always tough. It always starts off the last one, and its very loose. Youre basically jamming because you have so many ideas. It gets tougher and tougher as you try and nail it down and try to finish songs. Then the pressure is on Simon (LeBon) to finish the lyrics and to get the songs really dusted off. Do we have the right guys in, the right producers, the right mixer? And then theres the pressure. You always start off an album thinking that youre going to make a masterpiece. And then at what point in the process do you say, Oh, s---. This isnt going to be a masterpiece.
To me, this is a successful album, because we closed it. It started off as a dream, as a fantasy that the five of us could get back together and do a good album, a major label release. And we did. I would have liked it to have sold more copies, I would have liked it to have connected with more people. But its put the band back on the map now, and the next one hopefully will do more for us.
Stripes: You were recording and writing on this album was right around Sept. 11. How did that influence you?
JT: Looking back on that now, Im just so grateful that I was in the studio. Im just so grateful that I got to process those feelings and make music at the same time. When we look back on it, were gonna feel that event. Because [the album] did start out light, and a lot of summer songs on the record such as Nice and Bedroom Toys were all written in the first few weeks we got together in France. And then we got together in London to do a second session and that was Sept. 12 or 13, and it was trememdously depressing for all of us. We had to take those feelings and put them into songs such as Still Breathing and Point of No Return, and later on What Happens Tomorrow.
If you couldnt translate that experience into a semi-decent artistic statement, then you shouldnt be an artist. I think there is a depth to our album. I remember at the time it was very upsetting I was working in London and my family were all in the States, which is where we live. And it was very difficult to get through. There was so much fear in the air, and it was a very sad time. But looking back now, Im really glad I was with the band and we were in the studio.
Stripes: When will the next album come out?
JT: We're going to start writing in September. We always say, The next one weve got to do a lot quicker. Wed like to have it out next year.
Stripes: What have the fans been like this time around?
JT: Its amazing, actually. What has been extraordinary is that the people who had been following us we had die-hards who traveled all over the world, back in the day and now theyre back. Its amazing. Theyre back and theyre coming to concert after concert after concert. Theyre part of it again.
I suppose the thing is, you create a scene. If theres one thing better than good music, its creating a scene. And people are showing up to our concerts, and theyve stayed with us all along. And thats a good feeling. It makes us want to go on to the next town, and be a part of it there, too.
Stripes: You just signed on for Live 8. Your 1985 Live Aid performance was the last one before the band parted ways. Are you tempting fate?
JT: One of the things that has been great this time around is that weve got to do a whole lot of stuff that we did before and really get it right this time. Yeah, that performance wasnt the best, and we took a lot of flack for it at the time. But were gonna kick the s--- out of this one.
Stripes: Youre proud of the album, but it didnt have the commercial success that you guys have seen. What does that do to you when you head back to the studio in September?
JT: You do the best. I dont want to be chasing, I dont want to be making a trendy record. Were just chasing ourselves. It seems like there are a lot of bands out there trying to make albums like we were making in the 80s. So weve just got to be true to ourselves. I think then you cant lose.
Yes, I am a little disappointed that the record didnt sell more than it has. But I cant complain. Im pretty happy, and I think were all pretty happy about where were at right now. We could have sold 5 million albums in first couple weeks and hated it, because theres a certain amount of stress that comes with that success. And weve really been able to grow at our own pace, weve been able to keep playing live, which really is what its all about.
Stripes: In the1980s, you were a cutting-edge video band. What role do videos play now?
JT: Its very difficult. The language of video has changed so much. Its gotten so expensive. You can have a fantasy about a video and how its going to look, but the budget is so ... I think the budget for the average video getting play today has gotta be between $2 million and $3 million. And we were knocking them out for 50 grand a shot. So its not a big part of what we want to do anymore.
Stripes: So who are you listening to today?
JT: I think Franz Ferdinand made a great album; Im looking forward to their next one. I think the Killers made a good album. I think there are a lot of good bands around at the moment. I like the Bloc Party album.
Im glad to see a return to bands. Bands are definitely on the ascendancy. I think that after the late 90s, music became so producer driven. And the R&B influence has just kinda gotten played out. I think between that and the post-grunge thing, I think theres a lot of fresh bands out there. I dont know that any of them are reinventing music, but its a fun thing. If youre 17 or 18, theres a scene out there. There are a bunch of bands that are kind of working in the same milieu. You can go see the Killers one week and go see Hot Hot Heat the next. Theres some excitement out there.
Stripes: As someone who grew up a big James Bond fan, what was it like recording a Bond theme song (A View to a Kill)? And who has the best Bond theme, you guys or Paul McCartney?
JT: Oooooh, thats a great one. (Live and Let Die) is a fantastic track. The other one I love is Goldfinger, and Thunderball with Tom Jones is great. I like On Her Majestys Secret Service as well, which is an instrumental. There are some corkers in there. Im just glad were one of them.
I was introduced to a couple producers at a party, and I had a couple of drinks. And I went up to one and said, When are you going to have a decent theme song again? And he said, Why dont you guys do one? And I said, Lets go. It was just huge. Im very proud of that record. But Macs track is fantastic, no taking away it from him. Thats a m-----------, that song of his. Wed do it at the drop of a hat, another Bond title song like that. But its a tough act to follow. Once youve done a Bond song, all other film songs are just not as exciting.
Stripes: How much do the live shows inspire the album?
JT: Its all about energy. Weve been around music so long now. Weve all got lots and lots of music inside us. We all just have to feel in synch with each other. And everybodys been happy enough to just do it. I dont feel I need to go out and seek inspiration. Theres inspiration all around.
Stripes: In your Washington, D.C. concert, lead singer Simon LeBon made some comments about President Bush and the war on in Iraq. What role do politics play when writing your music?
JT: We stay away from politics as a band. I dont feel we have a commonality there. Nobody likes war. But, that said I hesitate to say sometimes it has to happen. There have been times when it has been necessary. I try to stay away from it. Its very easy to rag on George Bush, and a couple of the guys in the band just love it, but I tend to say, But you just dont know what it would have been like if Al Gore had been in power. He could have responded in such a way that it started the Third World War. You just dont know.
We just dont know how lucky we are. I know how lucky I am. Im very fortunate to have the life that I have. And I feel very secure in my life. I can travel around to countries that I need to travel to and feel secure doing it. I dont have a lot of negative energy. Im kind of an optimist.
I think you have to keep it moral and humanist. Its just dangerous ground. Everybodys entitled to their own opinion and nobody is entitled to mine. Im not very opinionated.
Bill Maher used to like having me on that show (Politically Incorrect), and I did it four or five times, and after a while I thought, Why am I doing this show? I dont care. I was always on the show with somebody who had an agenda. And wed be chatting amiably before the cameras started rolling, and then the cameras started and theyd turn into these animals. Im a musician. I love music and art.
Stripes: Do you have any military background or military family?
JT: My father was in World War II and he was a prisoner of war for about three years. He went through some rough stuff. My uncle was also a POW in Nagasaki, when the atomic bomb went off. I grew up with that shadow.
Stripes: Where do you go from here? Will you tour for another 10 years, 20 years?
JT: Steady on. Well make another record and were going to start writing in September and see where that takes us. But were all having a great time right now. Barring acts of God, were going to stick it out, were going to get another record out, and we love being on the road, so well be on the road behind that. Thats as far as Id want to look into the future.
Debra Hoffman contributed to this report.