Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and John Taylor on Their New Album
By Elva Ramirez
Sometimes, it pays to be guilty by association. Attending a party in honor of “Beautiful People,” say, adds a certain luster to your reputation.
Paper magazine and vodka brand Absolut Wild Tea threw a boisterous dance party at Good Units on Wednesday evening. The party, in honor of the annual “Beautiful People” issue, drew out models, fashion designers and social magpies. Fashion ranged from little hearts tights and color-blocked wedges to a dress that looked to be made out of pantyhose full of ladder runs.
“Parks and Recreation” star Aziz Ansari graces the magazine cover. “Everyone else that’s here is less attractive than am. Everyone in the world,” he deadpanned. “They did a survey of everyone in the world and everyone agreed — No one is as attractive as I am. This year.”
The big draw of the night was a performance by the dictionary-definition of a beautiful people band, Duran Duran. Before the band’s 10 p.m. set, Speakeasy went backstage for an exclusive interview with Simon Le Bon and John Taylor. We asked about their recent collaboration with David Lynch (a livestream webcast of a concert they performed in Los Angeles), their new album and the pop landscape.
The Wall Street Journal: You’ve done a tour film before (1984′s “Sing Blue Silver”). Were there lessons that were helpful from that experience that you brought into your collaboration with David Lynch?
Simon L Bon: No, to be honest with you. David [Lynch] was very clear, when he agreed to do the project, that he would do it on one condition. And that is, that it doesn’t look like any other filmed concerts that you’ve ever seen. In a funny sort of way, we knew that we just had to drop everything. All we did was perform our show, the way we did it.
John Taylor: We’re so controlling, usually, in getting everything just right. This time, we just knew there was nothing we could possibly give him. All we had to do was show up and do our bit and make it as a good a show as possible. He got into it in such depth that it was really surprising, actually, how much he grabbed it.
Simon Le Bon: He’s such a lovely guy. And the humor that he brought into it. That’s the most amazing thing. That’s what I forget about a lot of his films. You always think of the darkness of ‘Blu Velvet’ and ‘Twin Peaks.’ But when you think about the small details, you remember how funny it is.
The public image of Duran Duran is very glamorous, while Lynch’s work often deals with a deconstruction of stardom. Were there conversations about how the Duran Duran image would be portrayed?
Taylor: We knew quite early on that it was going to be multi-textural and that it wasn’t all about ‘you had to get the band.’ We were just one piece, one element. We were just one dimension that he was planning this multifaceted presentation to be orchestrated around. Which was… Whew! Ok, we don’t have to worry about the lighting. It wasn’t a beauty contest. Often, videos are.
Duran Duran has enjoyed tremendous longevity. As you survey the pop landscape, which bands do you think we’ll still be listening to in 2 years?
Le Bon: Not many bands. I don’t think there’s many bands who you’ll be listening to in 20 years. Not new ones. There are a few great bands around. I’m a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys. They are fantastic. They have to have good drums, a good rhythm section to be any good. That’s the only new band that really does it for me musically. Arcade Fire will also be around.
Taylor: I like The Strokes. I mean, you have to want to stay together because it’s a hell of an ego trip. Especially when you get some success. Success tends to get between the cracks between the band members and before you know it…I mean, God bless that Simon has never laid that on us, but, say, the singer wants to do a solo album and la la la.
Le Bon: I was thinking today about what works and what you tend to base your relationships on. I think I tend t base my relationships on common traits. (Turns to John Taylor:) You and I have really positive traits. We’re really enthusiastic and positive. I think my relationship with Roger [Taylor] is more based on calmness. My relationship with Nick [Rhodes] is based on a sense of humor. And respect. Real respect.
The band has split up before into side projects like Arcadia and Power Station. Is there interest now in pursuing side projects or would that cause friction for the current lineup?
Taylor: All my mojo is caught up in this right now. I don’t have anything to say outside of this. Certainly we’re so committed to this. We love our new album and it’s always great to finish a new album anyway. It’s super great to finish an album that you feel super good about. We’re on the road as long as we can. If this record is a success, we’ll know because we’ll still be playin at Christmas.
The early imagery of Duran Duran was very sexy, with lots of models and wildness. This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison but after the decadence of Duran Duran, a lot of the boy bands that followed were very wholesome by comparison. Why do you think we saw a retreat to such squeaky-clean imagery?
Le Bon: It has to do with a lot of the way those bands were contrived by management companies and by record companies. They were produced bands. I don’t think that Backstreet Boys came together by themselves. I don’t think New Kids on the Block did either. So there was somebody in control… I mean, we were slightly out of control.
Tell us about working with Mark Ronson for your new album.
Taylor: Mark’s an extraordinary guy. He’s very seductive. He gets you feeling super-relaxed and very confident But then he cracks the whip. He’s very old school. His work ethic — he’s fantastically driven. He leaves no stone unturned. He had a vision for this album. He brought out the best in us.
Le Bon: We had to come up with something very strong. We had to come up with an album which connected directed to our fans this time. Because if this hadn’t worked, I think it would have been touch-and-go whether we would have survived. Mark’s plan was for us to sound like Duran Duran. He was clear in his mind about what we needed to do. He wanted to get back to a more avant-garde style of songwriting and maybe a slightly more naive, less crafted way of recording as well. He wanted the rawness of the early Duran Duran.
Courtesy Wall St Journal