Full Q&A with Duran Duran!
In this week's issue of the Miami New Times, we give you the rundown on Duran Duran's latest album, The Red Carpet Massacre, and the group's appearance next Monday at Mizner Park in Boca. Click here to read that story.
But of course, there are plenty of outtakes left from the interview with Nick Rhodes. Below, read the full Q&A. Also, check out this video from A&E's Private Sessions of the band performing one of the album's lead singles, "Falling Down." -- Arielle Castillo
Duran Duran performs Monday, May 19 at Mizner Park Amphiteater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Also appearing is Your Vegas. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $59.50 to $115. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.
New Times: Where have you been, generally, since this tour started, and how has it been received so far?
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Nick Rhodes: I think I can say it's going spectacularly well. We started about a month or so ago in New Zealand and worked our way through Australia up through the Pacific Rim, Korea, and Japan -- we hadn't played there for quite a while, actually.
The show has been very well received. We've been having a lot of fun playing because it's a very different kind of show for us. It's broken up into three separate acts. There's an introduction at the beginning, which encompasses some of the songs from Red Carpet Massacre, and a lot of familiar songs. And then we're playing a 20-minute electro set, which is quite interesting because, I don't know, I've never known a rock band to do it… It's more sort of Kraftwerk style with the four of us lined up along the stage playing synthesizers and electronic drums. We've rearranged some of our older songs in that style, with a couple of surprises in there.
Which songs have you rearranged?
Welllll, I mean, it's probably all over the Internet by now…. So I'll say, "Skin Trade," "I Don't Want Your Love," "All She Wants Is." But also we've been doing a cover of the song "Warm Leatherette," which has been fun, and "Tempted," from the new album, we've now put it into that section.
So what's the third section of the show?
Then the last section is obviously more of the really familiar material.
I read that the electro set is actually based on something you did for Broadway?
Yes. When we launched The Red Carpet Massacre album in November of last year, we did a two-week residency at a theater on Broadway. And that show we designed very specifically for the theater, and part of that was the electro set, because we thought it would work particularly well for a smaller audience. And it did, but it worked so well, that we decided to develop it further from that, and try to make it work for that for the arena. So it's changed a little, but not so much; it's ostensibly the same thing as Broadway.
It's really been working, because our throught was it was more of a club sound, because there's a lot of thumping electronic drums, and it's quite sparse, the sound, because we've stripped the songs down a lot more. It's got an appeal because it's so different.
What made you decide to return to more of that electronic sound now, at least for the live show?
It's always been so much part of our roots. Some bands, like the Rolling Stones, I suppose, go back to American blues and R&B. For us, it was all about David Bowie and Kraftwerk. It just sort of made sense. We've done the acoustic-guitar thing before, the sort of traditional, this-is-what-our-song-sounds-like-without-all-the-augmentation- and-the- arrangement thing. But this seemed very appealing. We're always looking for a new way to represent ourselves. That's what keeps it exciting.
How have longtime fans been reacting to your new material on this tour?
So far, so good. I think we knew when we made the album that it would be received with mixed reactions. There's obviously the more traditional sound of Duran Duran, which people are used to and comfortable with, but then there's our urge to do something different each time.
So we wanted to merge Timbaland's beats with our sound. I think it was pretty successful on songs like "Skin Divers" and "Night Runner;" they blend into the set absolutely perfectly, as does "Falling Down." The people that have the record already are loving the songs live and the people that don’t have the record yet, are starting to think, Okay, that's kind of interesting.We should have that record, is what we're hoping they'll think!
How did you first meet Timbaland, and decide to work with him and Danja so extensively for the album?
Timbaland particularly -- and Justin -- we met at the MTV Awards maybe four years ago now. When you meet people for the first time and find out there's a mutual admiration, you often say, Oh, we should do something together, and then you never see them again. But in this case, we really did love Timbaland's work, and particularly the stuff he'd done on Justin's first album, and for Missy Elliott, and so we sort of clung onto — as did they — the idea of doing something somewhere along the lines.
And I guess it'll be two years ago this September, we managed to coordinate something in New York where Timb had got five days in his schedule, and we were there, and Justin also happened to be in town, so he said, Hey, can I come and join the sessions. And he just fell into place.
Timbaland had never ever produced a band before, so he was quite curious as to how he would make it work, because he's used to piling up loads of tracks and sticking singers on top of it, so we had to find a balance. The most exciting work was when we all plugged into the kit and then jammed together. Timb is on a keyboard and he samples, and Danja is doing the same thing on the other side of the room. And then it's me on keyboards in the control room, and then Roger [Taylor] out in the live room playing drums, and Simon [Le Bon] on the microphone in the live room, and John [Taylor] playing a bass next to Timbaland. And the sound that we all made together was really inspirational. You just didn’t know what would come out of everybody.
So how much of the album did you complete within those five days?
The bulk of the writing on the three songs with Timbaland was all within the five days. We worked mostly with Danja in London, and then "Falling Down" was done in Manchester with Justin.
Working with someone like Timbaland who has such a recognizeable sound, how did you make sure that you still remained Duran Duran?
I think the one thing for us, why we thought it was a good fit, was because we always had one foot on the dance floor. Duran Duran's been a combination of rock music, dance music, and electronic music. And so they were coming more over to our side of the universe -- if you listen to what Timb had done in the last 12 months [before starting work on The Red Carpet Massacre], he'd done Nelly Furtado, he'd done Justin's second album, and started work on his own album. And all of those were moving towards the dance, pop, and electronic sidse, slightly away from the traditional hip-hop.
It sort of made sense to us. We could listen to the Nelly Furtado album and say Okay, we could have written a song similar to that. When we all got in a room together, jut started playing, we all realized that we needed to keep the identity of certain elements.
Which were what?
For example, some of Timb's beats. That's one of the reasons we wanted to work with him, obviously, was to use that. And the reason he wanted to work with us was the way we craft songs and arrange them, but also the melodic side. He loves Simon's voice and the melodies he came up with.
And then Justin worked with Simon very much on the rhythm of the way Simon was singing, and I think Simon learned a huge amount by doing that. He'd be the first to say so. Because with rock music you can tend to be a little more flowing and a little more loose with where the beats land, but when you put something that tight and electronic, it's got to be a lot more precise. Things like that, it was interesting.
With all those megatalents in one room, was there any problem with ego, or in deciding when to compromise on an idea?
Noooo, not at all! That's the one thing about being in a band: It's always about collaboration. This was definitely the most collaborative thing we've ever done, but everybody in that room had earned their place in that room.
Danja is a remarkable musician and producer. I had such a great time with him just working on keybaord parts together, coming up with sounds, coming up with ideas. We got the point at the end where we'd both jam and get into the groove, and later we'd listen and say, Oh, we'd really like that bit, and we didn’t know who had played what at some times!
We were very objective about what was working. You have to look at something for the greater cause of the final product. If you look at most of the things that are done in life, like when you make a movie -- the amount of people that work on that movie, to actually make something terrific happen, each one of them has to find their area and be as good as they possibly can at doing their thing.
How much are you playing live on this tour, now that there are so many additional layers to the tracks?
As much as I possibly can, but obviously on some of the songs where we now have so many drum parts and what have you, we're running sequences with it. We like to keep as much as possible live. I've got a whole bunch of samplers obviously. What I tend to do is trigger a lot of things too, so I could do with at least one extra hand with this album.
What additional musicians do you have onstage with you?
It's really just us. We have a sax player, Simon Willis Croft, and we have the lovely Anna Ross on backing vocals for some years now. That pretty much augments the sound.
How much does your set list vary from night to night, considering you've got so much material to draw from?
It varies. It depends how we're feeling. It has changed quite a bit over the last month or so as we've been figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. But there are certain parts of the show, such as the electro set, that pretty much remain the same. We have so much material rehearsed, frankly, we could probably play all night. So there's lots of options But once we get into a groove of something we like and find some of the songs that the audience is enjoying, it starts to stabilize a little before we start to get twitchy.
So did you rehearse much in advance for this tour?
We didn't really rehearse much for this, because before Braodway we rehearsed for a couple of weeks. But for this, because we were familiar with most of the material, we took just two or three days.
I read that your stage set is supposedly based on Blade Runner.
No, not entirely….
Oh, that's what your press kit says.
Ohhh, bless them. There's elements of the movie in there, because there's always a little element of Blade Runner in most things we do, since it was such a magnificent piece of work.
The set is sort of a futuristic cityscape, I suppose, but what we've done that is quite drastically different this time, is that we're decided we're not using any projections. I think that every show I've seen in the last 10 to 15 years has become dominated by projection. I love projection, I think it's a terrific element to a live show, and I'm sure we'll use plenty of it in the future. But we just thought for once it would be interesting to take that away, and draw it back to something where we'd use all kinds of light sources to create moods and environments, and people would have to concentrate on the action going on onstage, rather than hurting their neck by looking up at the video concept.
It's been a revelation so far, because it's really been working so well, and people have literally been remarking more than usual about how much they enjoyed the lighting in the shows. So we'll see where it leads us…. It feels very different.
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