This year marks the 40th anniversary of Duran Duran’s eponymous debut release, with the iconic band also releasing their 15th studio album, âFuture Past,â on October 22. The aptly titled collection refers to the signature sounds of Duran Duran, unveiled by current producer Erol Alkan. Italian disco and EDM composer Giorgio Moroder lends a hand on a few songs, and Blur guitarist Graham Coxon brings his inventiveness to the mix. Guests featured on the album include Tove Lo, Ivoirian Doll and Japanese band Chai. Duran Duran co-founder and resident image consultant / tech visionary Nick Rhodes chats then and now with Variety.
What do you think of âDuran Duranâ and MTV who are turning 40 this year?
MTV feels so much older than us, doesn’t it? For the first 10 years or so of our career, it was an amazing, inspiring channel for musicians and fans. If you were in New York you would go to the studio and it was always fun. Simon [Le Bon] and I took Andy Warhol with us, made him sit between us to take pictures. Another time we took Keith Haring, who painted the whole set. They never questioned anything. They were pretty maverick. When MTV started to move away from music and turn to reality shows, it lost its appeal to us. I haven’t really thought about it since then. But at first it was amazing.
It was the time when most teenagers, especially girls, were Duran Duran devotees. You seemed like such adults back then, but you were only a few years older than your fans.
When I was 14, I had David Bowie on my wall. When I was 19, I was hanging out with him. It was very strange to me, but I was incredibly grateful to have such a creative and inspiring friend.
In the new documentary “Under the Volcano”, you remember recording at the height of your glory in George Martin’s isolated AIR studios on the island of Montserrat. Can you describe this experience?
At this point in our career we could no longer record in London. We were besieged by hundreds of people. You couldn’t call the police every time you had to get out of a building. It was ridiculous and impractical. The idea of ââgoing to this remote Caribbean island and having a cutting edge recording studio, on paper, seemed like the most glorious fantasy a musician could have. We went there with all the good intentions. We have the seeds for “Union of the Snake”, “The Reflex” and “New Moon on Monday”. At the same time, we could never have finished the record there. I need the energy of a city around me. You don’t make albums when you’re on vacation.
Without the YouTube tutorials, how did you learn to apply your flawless makeup as a teenager?
Practice. When I was 15, 16 and I was putting on makeup for the first time, I was never going to go see someone else, even one of my aunts, and ask them, “How do you look exactly?” what eye shadow? I put things on my face and thought, “I like the way it looks.” Everything about Duran Duran has always been done by hand. People think we have these armies behind us that help us get things done. From the start it was me and John [Taylor] sitting on the floor with a sketchbook and some records, brainstorming. We used to go to women’s clothing stores to buy fabulous girls’ jackets and scarves because the only things for men were horrible acrylic suits and v neck sweaters that your big one -father wore. John and I were driving home on the number 50 bus from Barbarella at midnight, 1 a.m. Friday night. It wasn’t much fun for both of us with our bright red jackets, makeup, and dyed hair.
Your popularity started with a predominantly female fan base and has grown into a significant male fan base. What do you think of this change over time?
We started out as a cult art school band playing songs like âThe Chauffeurâ and âNight Boatâ in nightclubs. Suddenly we are in front of 15,000 screaming girls. It was a culture shock. It was such a complete paradigm shift. I was confused. It was a bit difficult for me. I watched footage of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors, who were all pretty decent songwriters and they did well and their records still sound great. It allowed us to quantify it in one way or another, not that we were particularly like one of those bands, and I didn’t compare us to them either. One of the first things that happened was that smart guys started to realize that there were so many very cute girls at Duran Duran shows. If you want to find a date, this is the right place to meet them.
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