Even though Duran Duran began in 1978 and was one of the most popular new wave bands of the 1980s, the band’s current music still sounds cutting-edge.
Duran Duran will be returning to the Coachella Valley to perform at The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18.
During a recent phone interview with bassist John Taylor, he explained what has kept Duran Duran going.
“I guess it’s some kind of tenacity,” Taylor said. “It’s some kind of belief in the group ethos. I left for a few years, so I can’t take responsibility for it. Fortunately, Nick (Rhodes) and Simon (Le Bon) didn’t; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been anything to go back to a few years later when I wanted to come back. You have to have a pretty strong belief in this group thing, am I right?”
In 2015, Duran Duran released Paper Gods, which became the band’s first Top 10 album in the United States since 1993. The group worked with artists such as Mr. Hudson, Nile Rodgers, Janelle Monáe, Lindsay Lohan, former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and others. Taylor explained what made the album a hit.
“It’s quite tricky, actually, because you do make a lot of missteps along the way,” he said. “You have one ear on your past and your heritage, and you have one ear on the street and what’s happening now. You have to make something that kind of walks down the center of that. More often, we kind of got it wrong, but I’d say we’ve gotten it right recently. Mark Ronson was there for us again (as a producer). Mr. Hudson was great, and we got to have Janelle Monáe come in for a song. We really opened up to collaborations, and we let a lot of energy in. I think that’s the key: Left to our own devices, it’s almost impossible to grow. There comes a point where you just can’t change anymore. Even if one or two members of the band are really focused on the present, maybe there are a couple who aren’t. Fortunately, you’re saved by an audience that isn’t exclusively interested in how you are adapting to the current times.
“Some people actually value staying together, whatever the weather. We’ve become like a family microcosm and a soap opera. The action of staying together, no matter what, gains us something. It’s not all about the new music. There’s also something about how we handle our legacy and the grace we muster.”
Taylor mentioned the recent Grammy Awards show.
“I was watching the Grammys, and I was like, ‘Fuck this shit!’” he said. “But I wanted to be part of the conversation. I find the contemporary conversation interesting. It’s different than the conversation that was going on when I was 18—way different. But I love the conversation, and I want to be in it. I don’t want to be on the shelf watching from a distance. I was thinking, ‘How do we get in the conversation?’ You want to be able to feel like you’re contributing to the culture of today.”
I mentioned how many musicians, from metal to rap, have cited Duran Duran as an influence, and I quoted Moby, who said about Duran Duran in 2003: “They were cursed by what we can call ‘The Bee Gees curse,’ which is: ‘Write amazing songs, sell tons of records, and consequently incur the wrath or disinterest of the rock-obsessed critical establishment.’”
“We just have our own story. If you don’t hang on to who you are, then who are you?” Taylor said regarding Moby’s quote. “I can always take a look at somebody else’s career and say, ‘I wish that was me right now.’ For many years, I would do that, but I kind of feel curious about us right now, and where we go next, and I don’t know where that’s going to be. What’s there? We had a nice cycle around the Paper Gods album. I feel proud of that album, but now where do we go? Again, you have to fucking dig deep, and it’s easy sometimes looking sideways at people who are on their first or second album and what they are. … We are still in a unique position, and we can still handle ourselves in a unique way that is expressive and inspirational.”
Duran Duran was huge on MTV in its early days. Taylor talked about what he thought was Duran Duran’s best music video.
“‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was just like a fucking explosion,” he said. “I was watching a BBC documentary about post-punk, and they had all these artists like Joy Division and Gang of Four, and it was great music. But there was a monochrome quality to everything. Then, suddenly, ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was on there. They were using it as a way to show how we moved off the path of purity, but to me, it was like an explosion. It was extraordinary. For a three-minute-long pop presentation, there had never been anything quite like it before. I think that’s pretty groovy. I also think ‘The Chauffeur’ is one of the sexiest videos we ever made.”
Taylor said the band is playing better live now than it has in years.
“I went out to Desert Trip, and I saw the Stones. I hadn’t seen them in 15 years,” he said. “The last time I saw them was after Bill Wyman had just left. What I loved was they were way better this time! I didn’t think that was possible. As naive as that sounds, I just assumed it was a steady decline, and the older you get, you get lamer. I saw Stevie Wonder this past summer, and he was way better than when I saw him in London 20 years ago. That’s exciting to me—and I know we’re playing better. We’re a better band on this Paper Gods cycle than we were 10 years ago, or even on the reunion tour. I know how well we’re playing.”
Duran Duran will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, March 17, and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $135 to $185. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.