Duran Duran will be one of the participants in the upcoming Fashion Rocks event at the Barclays Center on September 9 in Brooklyn, NY. Here’s an interview I did with the band’s bassist, John Taylor, from six years ago around the time of a DVD documentary on Duran’s classic album Rio.
Originally published in Spinner, November 13, 2008
Duran Duran bassist John Taylor remembers one thing about filming the music videos in Sri Lanka for the band’s 1982 album ‘Rio’: elephants.
“It’s amazing that we kind of went with that,” Taylor tells Spinner. “We were all city boys. But the culture was so strong there, and we had a lot of faith in Russell Mulcahy, that you just kind of went with it. We never really put a lot of thought into our videos.”
The experience in Sri Lanka is one of the things discussed in a recently released Classic Albums DVD documentary about ‘Rio,’ which is widely considered Duran Duran’s best album. It features interviews with original band members John Taylor, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor, along with Bob Geldof, former band manager Paul Berrow and others.
‘Rio,’ the band’s second album, became Duran Duran’s American breakthrough thanks to the hits ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ and the title track. “It’s probably the most complete package from start to finish,” says John Taylor. “It’s the most iconic in every way — the cover art, or the video [for ‘Rio’], which was voted number one by the MTV viewers.”
Looking back at ‘Rio,’ Taylor says he was shocked at how simple and complete that recording was in comparison to the band’s recent work, but then adds: “I wasn’t really surprised by it because I knew how focused we were. There’s not many times in a career when you’re like that, particularly when you have five guys that are all focused.”
While ‘Rio’ had the big pop hits ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ and ‘Rio,’ it also featured ‘The Chauffeur,’ which Taylor says is one of the band’s most popular songs. “We did a gig with [producer Mark Ronson] in Paris,” he recalls, “and we all ended up in the bar at the hotel. And everybody’s sitting around the piano singing ‘The Chauffeur.’ Quite bizarre. Strangely enough, it was Mark who knew how to play it on the piano as opposed to any of us.”
Duran Duran is currently on the next leg of their ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ tour that will run through Latin America before the band returns to the States for shows in December. In other Duran Duran news, former guitarist Andy Taylor recently wrote a book, ‘Wild Boy,’ about his time in the band. John Taylor says he was chuffed to see it in print and picked up a copy: “I started looking through it, and I was like, ‘Oh God, this is depressing.’ So it’s sitting on the top shelf out of reach of the children.”
The bassist hints that the band will be working on the follow-up to last year’s ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ album. “We’ve been talking to Mark Ronson,” he says, “and I don’t know if that’s going to happen. For me I would like to do something very personal.”
As Bob Geldof points out in the documentary, Duran Duran has been lately getting artistic recognition for its music. However, Taylor, who founded Duran Duran with Rhodes 30 years ago, maintains that he and the band members are never satisfied. “We’re not a band that sort of rest on our laurels. I think that’s very dangerous. We still think our best work is ahead of us.”
“I don’t have that pathological aversion to looking back that I used to have,” he continues. “The lessons that we’ve learned from ‘Rio’ are ‘Keep it simple,’ and ‘Location! Location! Location!’ is everything.”