Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran chats with us about heyday Brit Pop, new music, gay fans and 80s sex symbols as the band hits Atlanta.
By Gregg Shapiro
For Duran Duran’s 2015 studio disc, Paper Gods, the band invited some friends along for the ride, and the ‘80s boybanders from Britan bring an undying energy to their most recent tour, which hits Atlanta this week.
That’s 21st century dance diva Kiesza joining Simon Le Bon on lead vocals for “Last Night In The City,” a song perfect the dance-floor. “Pressure Off” features Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers, and delivers on the funk promised by the presence of both.
Jonas Bjerre of Mew pipes is on “Change The Skyline,” diva Anna Ross helps “Butterfly Girl” take wing, and Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers make “Only In Dreams” dreamy.
Duran Duran’s resident keyboard god – and still the OG quintessential dreamboy of straight girls and gay boys of a certain age – Nick Rhodes chats with us about the album, the band’s lifelong queer fans, and so much more. The band plays Chastain Park Amphitheatre on April 8.
Almost 40 years since forming and with 15 albums to the band’s name, what is the secret to Duran Duran’s longevity?
I’m not quite sure that we have a secret. We never look back is perhaps one of the things. We always 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.
How does that way of thinking appear in the songwriting process?
We have always tried to keep ourselves as pure creatively as we can and to guard our naivete as much as we possibly can, too. I think that’s very valuable to the creative process. Sometimes when you know too much, then you start to adhere to rules and it takes away your ability to experiment. We’ve somehow quite successfully managed to keep that enthusiasm in the band by having the curiosity and the will to try to find something new every time we write.
Paper Gods features collaboration with Kiesza. How did that come about?
We knew we wanted a powerful female voice, someone with a lot of energy. We’d been looking and we spoke to our publishers to ask if there was anyone that they’d recommend. They came up with Kiesza. When we listened to “Hideaway,” we thought she was perfect. We had such an uplifting day in the studio, because when you collaborate with someone you also find out that they’re truly lovely human beings. That’s an extra bonus! She’s fabulous, and we all adore her and think she’s enormously talented.
The band has always had queer fans. What does that following mean to you guys?
It means absolutely 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.
You’d probably find it hard to find another band any more liberal than we are. Artists tend to be open and to want everyone in the world to be harmonious and are much more positive about things in our world than a lot of other people. We’re certainly no exception.
Given the world that we’re living in now, and even the world that we lived in that was somewhat less aggressive over the past two, three decades, we’ve always felt that it’s an amazing thing to lift people’s spirits in times of darkness.
Music has done that for me throughout my life, and I know I can speak for the rest of the band, so part of our mission is to make something that will have a positive emotional effect on people. That’s often a dance song. Sometimes it’s a more thought provoking song like “Ordinary World,” about the state that the world’s in. That song seems to have become more relevant recently. Often we look to the dance floor to help people elevate their spirits.
Nick, 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. Can you say a few words about him?
It was an enormous shock to everyone. I guess some people closer to him knew that he was suffering from addiction and problems, but we had no idea. It’s heartbreaking to think that yet another gentle soul has left us. Someone who had so much creativity in him.
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 `80s when he came as a fan. We met many times when he became hugely successful; he was always funny and gracious and gentle. That’s how I remember him.
Duran Duran plays Chastain Park on April 8. Visit ticketmaster.com.