By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, GetOut/Tribune Staff Writer
Duran Duran bassist John Taylor owes his life to Arizona. Simply put: If he didn’t head to Tucson seeking sobriety, he may not have been around to push his band’s latest album, “Paper Gods.”
“There’s a big place in my heart for Tucson,” Taylor said during a recent phone interview. “I got sober there. I’m very grateful for the spirits that inhabit that city.”
Taylor, who became sober in the late 1990s, and the rest of Duran Duran—singer Simon Le Bon and drummer Roger Taylor—will return to the Grand Canyon State on Wednesday, Aug. 3, to play Gila River Arena in Glendale to support the band’s 14th studio album, “Paper Gods.” As of press time, keyboardist Nick Rhodes was not scheduled to appear due to a family emergency.
“Paper Gods” entered the Billboard 200 at No. 10 and became its first Top 10 album since 1993’s “Duran Duran.”
Taylor describes the road to “Paper Gods” as a “great journey.” It’s one that revved up Duran Duran—once the process started.
“It took us awhile to get some traction,” he said. “At this stage, we’re just as good as our collaborators. (Producer) Mr. Hudson brought a tremendous energy to the project. It was good to have Mark Ronson involved again, too. (Chic’s) Nile Rodgers came along for a few days.”
But the list of stellar collaborators doesn’t end there. Lindsay Lohan and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante make appearances on “Paper Gods.” Duran Duran worked with singers like Janelle Monae (“Pressure Off”) and Kiesza (“Last Night in the City”), too.
“They really lifted the project and gave it character,” Taylor explains. “We’ve been together for 30 years. We need a little fresh blood sometimes.”
Shortly after “Paper Gods” was released on Sept. 11, Duran Duran made a number of TV appearances, all of which portrayed the English pop band in a new light. There was a newfound excitement emanating from the band and Taylor agrees.
“It’s always good to get an album finished—especially now,” said Taylor, 55.
“There are a lot of things that get harder as you get older. Completing an album is a great undertaking—especially if you have ambition for it, like we still do.
“We were looking for a major label. Of course, we’re looking to invigorate our audience, too. It’s been a massive relief. We’ve been let out of the studio after two years.”
Afterward, listeners were introduced to an evolved Duran Duran sound, one that features EDM and the pop sensibilities for which the band is known.
“The blueprint for our sound is ‘modern,’” he said. “We have this ‘X factor.’ Actually, we have two ‘X factors.’ One is a keyboardist who’s like a synthesizer player, as opposed to a keyboard player. Whenever we reconvene to start on a new record, keyboards have changed. The sounds that we would have been using in 1982 were different than if we were recording in 1990, and they’re different now.
“The other one is we don’t have a fulltime guitar player. That leaves an opening in the music that can be filled by whomever. That’s a challenge on one hand. It allows us to have more flexibility in a way. Even if we wanted to do the same album twice, we couldn’t.”
Taylor explains that Duran Duran, which is working on a ballet, is better off this way, anyway.
“The audience has different needs,” he said. “They need to be inspired, too. Even if you tried to take the big hits and recreate, it’s very difficult.”
Taylor—who chronicled his years in the band and his sobriety in the 2012 book “In the Pleasure Groove: Life, Death and Duran Duran”—said the act recreates its journey during its 16-song show.
“It tells the story of Duran Duran and its engagement with contemporary music of the last 40 years,” Taylor said.
He guarantees that the set will get fans moving.
“It’s not like this just a set from the ’80s or a set from the ’90s,” he said. “We give everything the same kind of varnish. It’s a show to dance to, mostly. People come to our shows to have a good time.”
As he finished, he realized he has a better way to describe the show.
“People are suffering from hit fatigue,” he said with a laugh. “They’re leaving the show saying they’ve never heard so many hits.”
If You Go
What: Duran Duran w/Chic
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3
Where: Gila River Arena, 9400 W. Maryland, Glendale
Info: 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Courtesy East Valley Tribune