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Just in the Nick of time

June 22nd, 2017

For Duran Duran’s 2015 studio disc Paper Gods (WB), the band invited some friends along for the ride. That’s 21st-century dance diva Kiesza joining Simon Le Bon on lead vocals for “Last Night in the City.” “Pressure Off” features Janelle Monae and Nile Rodgers, and delivers on the funk. On “Danceophobia,” Lindsay Lohan appears as a doctor. She’s not that good of an actress to pull it off, but that doesn’t detract from the song’s charms. Jonas Bjerre of Mew pipes in on “Change the Skyline,” diva Anna Ross helps “Butterfly Girl” take wing, and Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers make “Only in Dreams” dreamy. I spoke with Duran Duran’s resident keyboard god Nick Rhodes earlier this year.

Gregg Shapiro: Almost 40 years since forming, with 15 albums to the band’s name, what’s the secret to Duran Duran’s longevity?

Nick Rhodes: I’m not quite sure that we have a secret. We never look back, we keep moving forward. When people say to me, “Do you realize how long your band’s been together?”, I do if I really think about it. Otherwise, I feel like we’re a new band who’s wiped the slate entirely clean and we’re just starting out trying to figure out what we’re going to do with our sound.

Part of what’s special about Paper Gods is the number of guest artists, beginning with Kiesza. How did that collaboration come about?

We had the song, which was in the EDM zone. We’d been talking about working with collaborators. The first one on the album was John Frusciante, of Red Hot Chili Peppers. That was such a great success when we heard what he brought to our sound. On “Last Night in the City,” we knew we wanted a powerful female voice, someone with a lot of energy. When we listened to “Hideaway,” we thought Kiesza was perfect. We had such an uplifting day in the studio because when you collaborate with someone you also find out that they’re lovely human beings. She’s fabulous, and we all adore her.

Paper Gods has a number of dance-oriented songs, a musical style that has been a component of the band since the beginning, which has earned the band a large following among queer fans. What does that following mean to you?

It means every bit as much to us as anyone who follows the band. We’ve always had a big gay following, and we embrace it very much. Given the world that we’re living in now, it’s an amazing thing to lift people’s spirits in times of darkness. Music has done that for me throughout my life. Often we look to the dance floor to help people elevate their spirits.

If you could put one Duran Duran album into a time capsule to be opened in 100 years, which one would it be?

I would just put them all into a melting pot and melt them all together. Then I’d scrape them out and make a new album out of the plastic and see what it sounded like.

Duran Duran dedicated “Save a Prayer” to George Michael at your Cancun concert in Dec. 2016. Can you please say a few words about George?

It was an enormous shock to everyone. People closer to him knew that he was suffering from addiction, but we had no idea. He had an amazing career and a beautiful voice. All of the times that we met him on Top of the Pops, when we were both starting out, he used to come backstage after our shows in the early 1980s when he came as a fan. We met many times when he became hugely successful; he was always funny, gracious and gentle. That’s how I remember him.

Duran Duran performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on 7/7, and at the Masonic in San Francisco on 7/8.

Courtesy Bay Area Reporter