Although continued touring to promote Duran Duran's 2015 album Paper Gods is taking up much of their focus, bassist John Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes are forging forward on their new stage musical.
"It's been very interesting and fun, and we hope to get that to a sort of workshop stage early next year," Taylor tells Billboard. The title and story are currently being kept under wraps, but Duran fans should not expect a jukebox musical or a song-and-dance story of the group. "It's nothing to do with the band," Taylor reports. "It's all original music, and it's an original book that, so far, we alone have written. It's a project that's close to our heart and it's been a lot of fun and we've learned a lot already from it. But taking it to the stage, again, that's going to take a lot of energy. I can't think that far ahead. All I know is when we work on it we have a good time and that's what's gotten us here."
Taylor and Rhodes know other pop musicians who have taken that journey, and that for every Hamilton there's a The Last Ship -- not to mention scores of other proposed projects that never progress past the idea stage. But there haven't been any notes from, say, Sting, warning the duo about the potential folly of their pursuit.
"I'm sure that [Sting] maybe had higher commercial hopes, but I'm sure he doesn't regret doing it," Taylor says. "I'm sure it was a fantastic experience to get the opportunity of working with all these performers. I mean, it's got to be brilliant." Taylor and Rhodes, meanwhile, are intrigued by the opportunity for long-form storytelling and graduating beyond the pop songwriting that's been their stock in trade in Duran and their other bands.
"I like sequences of songs that tell stories," Taylor explains. "I've always been drawn to albums, to sitting down and having this long, semi-narrative experience. And I'm not even talking about a concept album; I'm just talking about all those great albums like Sgt. Pepper's or Ziggy Stardust where there's this glue, things thing that binds them and it feels like it's an immersive experience. We tried to do that with Paper Gods, but we all know people aren't sitting and listening to albums they way they used to. So this [musical] gives us a chance to do something like that in a format where people expect it and have to surrender to it like the way they used to listen to albums."
Rhodes previously told Billboard that in addition to the musical with Taylor, Duran Duran is also working on a ballet created from a track that was left over from Paper Gods. It's likely both of those projects may be next on the group agenda and surface, or at least get into motion, before the quartet begins considering a follow-up to the album. "We're really in live show mode right now," Taylor reports. "It takes a lot of energy, a tour like this, and we're not really thinking past it. We've got interesting things happening, interesting projects that are in the works, so it's not like the tour's going to end and nobody's going to work again. There's definitely things going on."
Duran Duran finishes a short European festival run on June 19 before coming back to North America in early July for another run with Chic that includes stops at the Festival D'ete de Quebec and the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco. "I think having Chic on this show is just phenomenal and has brought so much energy and so much fun to the tour," says Taylor. And 35 years after D2's debut album, the bassist and his bandmates are happy to discover an even greater appetite for the band than ever.
"I think that Duran have been engaged in this kind of dogged war of convincing the world that we were real since we were in our early 20s and were, like, heartthrobs for that period," Taylor says. "Yes, there were fans who were really passionate for the band and they've stuck with us, but there were people that were defiantly anti. I feel like that kind of resistance to the band has softened; We're feeling that people are opening their hearts to us in a way that's never really happened before, so that's amazing."
6/17/2016 by Gary Graf. Courtesy Billboard