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REIMAGINING DURAN DURAN

April 4th, 2017

Roger Taylor talks circus acts and closing the generational gap, ahead of Azalea Fest concert

Since their 1981 self-titled debut record, Duran Duran has released more than a dozen studio albums with countless hits across generations: “Rio” (1982), “Is There Something I Should Know?” (1983), “Notorious” (1986), “Ordinary World” (1993), “Electric Barbarella” (1997). The band rode new-wave music all the way to bonafide pop stardom by 1984. Today, they’re still making music and touring in support of 2015’s “Paper Gods.” They also released an EP, “Last Night in the City,” with Canadian singer Kiesza, complete with remixes by TOKiMONSTA, Kant, Louis Vivet and Koishii & Hush.

Since their 1981 self-titled debut record, Duran Duran has released more than a dozen studio albums with countless hits across generations: “Rio” (1982), “Is There Something I Should Know?” (1983), “Notorious” (1986), “Ordinary World” (1993), “Electric Barbarella” (1997). The band rode new-wave music all the way to bonafide pop stardom by 1984. Today, they’re still making music and touring in support of 2015’s “Paper Gods.” They also released an EP, “Last Night in the City,” with Canadian singer Kiesza, complete with remixes by TOKiMONSTA, Kant, Louis Vivet and Koishii & Hush.

After more than 30 years—even with a few breaks, member departures and returns along the way—Duran Duran’s fanbase appeals to ages aplenty. There’s little they haven’t seen, heard or been asked in their tenure. So, when encore secured an interview with drummer Roger Taylor prior to their Azalea Fest performance taking place this Friday, we decided to poll Facebook fans for their questions. For fun—and a pair of tickets to see the iconic ‘80s band play this year’s festival—our winner, Blythe Ferguson Bennett, wanted to know what each band member’s acts would be if they were a part of a circus.

“After slaying away nearly two hours on the drums every night guess I see myself as the strong man,” he says. Drumming takes a lot of stamina and he supposes a leopard-skin print jumpsuit would suit him well also.

Lead singer Simon Le Bon would be the ringmaster. “I could see him dressed up in duds and leading the acts,” Taylor adds. He envisions John Taylor (bass) as the magician—someone who is creative and seemingly makes any project come to fruition. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes would be the juggler for literal and metaphorical reasons.

“He juggles a lot of balls in his life,” Taylor tells. “In fact, he can juggle. It was one of the things he learned when he was a kid. If you ask him to juggle, he’ll juggle for you.”

During the interview, Taylor and company were preparing for the South American leg of their tour before heading back to the US. They’re careful to balance classic hits with newer recordings, and without a doubt they’re cognizant of fans who come to a show simply to hear “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

“I think it would be unfair not to play those early songs for live audiences,” Taylor says. “There were times when we ran away from our past, and what we’ve learned is we have to embrace all of that work. As long as you don’t stop creating and you still have that creative blood in you, then that’s the important thing.”

Still, as artists go, Taylor admits few want to only be known for what they did 30 years ago—especially since they have evolved and released new work. Today, Duran Duran focuses on live shows and staying in the moment. Offstage is often spent rebranding and reimagining their band and music. They actively avoid letting the past overshadow the creative process. Being in the studio is about focusing on the present. It’s a process lasting musicians know well.

“Nobody wants to be stuck in 1983 with a mullet haircut,” Taylor quips. “But some people like that. Some people love that era and dress like they did in that era and listen to music from then—but we’re not like that. We’d like to be more contemporaries, as well as guys who made all of those great early records.”

The music industry as a whole has evolved as Duran Duran has. Taylor recognizes they were lucky to form at the time they did. Their look and approach to music and videos were groundbreaking for the ‘80s. In fact, they were epic productions of sorts; “Hungry Like the Wolf” won the first GRAMMY ever for music videos in 1984.

“The timing was absolutely perfect,” Taylor remembers. “We were very aesthetically aware of the industry . . . we just happened to stumble into post punk, which is all about visual.”

Though MTV plays more dramatic- and reality-based programming today rather than music videos, the digital age and access to YouTube treats up-and-coming artists in the same vein. Having new creative outlets, as well as more unimaginable resources than 30 years ago, Taylor surmises Duran Duran could break out in today’s market. “We write pretty good songs, too,” he says. “That is a key.”

With music geared toward dance, electronic and pop—still sounds relevant in today’s pop/rock genre—Duran Duran incorporates modern techniques and technology. Their touring is different, too. While the hotel rooms have gotten nicer, allowing them a few more comforts, as an outfit they have matured.

“It’s much more about the show,” Taylor clarifies. “It’s not about the after party. We still have the love for the tour . . . and we have no reason to keep doing this other than we love doing it.”

Folks can see Duran Duran at this year’s Azalea Festival on Friday, April 7. Roadkill Ghost Choir will open the show. But the real question remains: Will Nick Rhodes juggle for his fans onstage?

Details:
Duran Duran
Friday, April 7, 7 p.m.
Miller Lite Mainstage • 701 N. Front St.
Tickets: $68.50 advance; $78.50 day of
www.ncazaleafestival.org

Courtesy Encore Weekly