"Astronaut - The Tour"
Duran Duran at The Orpheum Saturday, July 16th, 8 p.m.
Tickets $59.50 at the Orpheum box office,
Davis-Kidd Booksellers, or through Ticketmaster
I'm talking to Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor. I'm talking to Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.
My first instinct is to run, screaming, through the house, then speed-dial my friends, like I did every time MTV aired the "Rio" video back in 1982. Today, however, there are no shrieking girls to share my glee: It's just me, Roger, and Nick, talking about the reemergence of Duran Duran.
"Things are somewhat frantic right now," Rhodes confesses, though he's obviously relishing the moment. After all, it took nearly two decades for the Fab Five - Rhodes, the band's keyboardist, frontman Simon LeBon, guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor, and drummer Roger Taylor - to regroup and record Astronaut. The album, Duran Duran's first studio album in 21 years featuring all the original members, was released last October.
"It's complete Duran-demonium," Rhodes deadpans, his voice seductively dropping a few octaves. "Utter chaos."
The reunion was three years in the making, and, as Rhodes explains, its beginnings were top secret. "In June 2001, we rented a big house in the South of France and trucked everything in and started playing," he says. "We started writing immediately. One day, someone started playing 'Hungry Like the Wolf,' and we all joined in. We were like, 'Yeah, that still works.'
"There was certainly a lot of humility in the room," he remembers. "We were careful to give each other space and make sure everybody was happy. We knew that if we could make this work, there was no reason it couldn't be as good or better than it ever was."
Rhodes, of course, is referring to the band's heyday in the early 1980s, when singles such as "Is There Something I Should Know" and "Girls on Film" topped radio and music-video playlists. When Seven & the Ragged Tiger went multiplatinum in '83, critics compared the Birmingham, England-born synth pop purveyors to the Beatles as Duran-mania ruled teen scenes on both sides of the Atlantic.
By 1985, the party was coming to an end: Andy Taylor and John Taylor joined forces with Robert Palmer in the Power Station, while LeBon, Rhodes, and Roger Taylor responded with Arcadia. Then a disillusioned Roger quit the music business entirely, leaving LeBon and Rhodes to soldier on in Duran Duran.
Do they miss those hedonistic early days, spent sunning themselves in Sri Lanka with supermodels by their side?
"If you really think it's a holiday filming a video, you should come and make one," Rhodes quips. "Most of our image was media-propagated ... including the 'Rio' boat. Truth is, yachts turn me green in the face. And we worked so hard during that period. There was very little time off to live that kind of life."
"We were living in each other's pockets every day for five years, and we started to drift apart," Taylor says. "Being in Duran wasn't very much fun at that point. It became hard to hang onto my individuality. I completely moved away from music. I bought a farm in the country and lived a very simple life."
Rhodes interjects, "When Roger left, it was unavoidable. He wanted some space, and there wasn't much we could say about that. Andy left because he wanted a solo career, and John left much later, in '97."
Pausing to reminiscence, he lets out a lengthy chuckle. "I thought they were complete idiots for leaving such huge talents as Simon and me behind, but I could understand it - we'd almost run that thing dry," he says, referencing lackluster albums like Medezzaland and Pop Trash, which were released in 1997 and 2000, respectively.
"We'd managed to reflect our time so well in the '80s, but after Pop Trash, Simon and I were having a hard time keeping things in perspective," Rhodes admits. "Then we began talking about putting the original group back together."
Reuniting was always in the back of his mind, Taylor says. "The original line-up only lasted five years. It was such a short episode. We were at the top of our game, and I felt that maybe we had a few more albums in us. When John gave me the call, I was ready.
"We didn't have a record company, a producer, or a management team - it was just the five of us," he continues. "We set our gear up and played for 10 days. The chemistry was still there. Thankfully, no one turned up with a sitar or a heroin habit. We came back as more rounded people, but, miraculously, we're all still on the same page musically."
Rhodes agrees: "The personalities are pretty much the same with a little more amplification. All of the good things are a little better, and all of the bad things are a little worse. But when we're together, we have the ingredients for an incredible chemical reaction."
"Nobody in this band has had a number-one record as an individual," Taylor says. "Usually, there're one or two geniuses in a band who can go on to individual success. We've all tried different things, but nothing's proved as powerful as this five-pointed star." n