Duran Duran: An Interview with Nick Rhodes
from volume 02 issue 12 // Michael Rabinowitz
“Styles change, but style never does.” –promotional ad for Duran Duran, 1993.
Duran Duran were that rare blend of glimmering pop and rarefied political bent. This style — with substance — has sustained a nearly 30-year career in the music business that goes beyond just survival: four double platinum albums, six platinums, and three golds explain it all. Exploiting the fledgling MTV to blitzkrieg their way into the American mainstream, the Brit-poppers dominated the music charts thanks to their iconic videos. The only band to hang with Andy Warhol at the Factory the same week it appeared on the cover of Tiger Beat, Duran Duran straddled the line between pop icon and teen bubblegum. Now they return to the States promoting their latest LP, Red Carpet Massacre, which features beatmaster Timbaland as producer and Justin Timberlake participating. The Timbaland sessions were not without conflict; guitarist and founding member Andy Taylor quit the group midway through recording. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes discussed Taylor’s departure, the artistic freedom years of fame can afford, and what advice Duran Duran has for Britney Spears.
REAX: What led you toward Timbaland to produce Red Carpet?
Nick Rhodes: We were all big fans of Timbaland’s work, had been for a long time. He just has a real pop sensibility about him, as well as the groove. We had finished an album, which was provisionally called Repoirtage. We sort of felt that we needed . . . I don’t know, I suppose more direct tracks. The album was actually a little darker, more political. We decided we would do a couple of tracks with someone else. Timbaland came up as an option and we said “perfect.” The one person who didn’t make those sessions was Andy Taylor, which was a surprise to us, but we obviously forged forward anyway. We just follow the path and see where it takes us.
REAX: You mentioned Andy Taylor leaving the group. Was it over this new direction with the album?
NR: No. No. I don’t think any of us really know why, including Andy. It was just one of those things when it completely . . . the wheels came off, it sort of fell apart. I don’t think it was anything that any of us had particularly foreseen. He’d been a bit difficult with a few issues, with live dates and things. As with a close-knit band of people, we weren’t seeing eye to eye over everything. But, we had no idea that Andy wasn’t going to make it to those sessions.
REAX: In your new video “Falling Down,” the concept is about a troubled celebrity going through rehab. I couldn’t help but think of Britney Spears.
NR: Laughs It wasn’t that specific, to be honest. There are a lot of those girls that had some trouble with their media friends. We were surrounded by it, everywhere we looked there was a celebrity meltdown; whether it was a supermodel or a singer or someone having a problem in an airport or outside of a nightclub. We always like to put a little humor into the things we do. This seemed to be an iconic and ironic fit with the song, which is really about messing up in public.
REAX: You guys portray yourselves as the treating doctors, dispensing advice to the younger stars. Was this video part autobiographical?
NR: Laughs The one great thing about when we started and whatever mischief we got into was that you didn’t have the Internet. I tell you now, I feel a little sad about some of the people that may be very young when they started. You are allowed a couple of incidents along the line, but now you can’t do anything without it being reported. The new celebrity culture that has grown over the last decade is remarkable. It’s a phenomenon. That was never there before.
REAX: Do you see some justification in your career length considering that you didn’t seek out the huge fame you received in the early ‘80’s, it came after you put out your music?
NR: Any band that has a career is usually a band that cares about writing songs and live performance and being able to ride through the ups and downs, the successes and the failures. That is very much what Duran Duran has been about. We are always looking to write the best record we can. However we do that or who ever we do that with is part of it. The success of it is a bonus. If something becomes a big success, that is really terrific. But after that period, once you have your audience — and we’ve been very, very lucky that our fans are unbelievably loyal — they are more interested in you doing different things than just churning out the same old stuff.
Duran Duran performs at UCF Arena in Orlando on May 18, and Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton on May 19.
Courtesy Reax magazine; for more: http://www.reaxmusic.com/articles/view/duran_duran_an_interview_with_nick_rhodes-544