Duran drummer Roger Taylor dishes on supermodels, David Lynch and the thrill of getting your video banned
By Jason Webber
The only thing more surprising than being able to actually secure an interview with a member of Duran Duran – arguably the biggest group of the 1980s – is that member being drummer Roger Taylor.
After all, Taylor is the George Harrison of Duran Duran; the quiet one. He has never been known for hogging the limelight, always more than happy to leave that to bandmates Simon LeBon, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes. But there he was, live on the phone, calling from his hotel room in Italy where Duran Duran were playing in support of their latest album All You Need Is Now. Produced by the great Mark Ronson, this is the album we Duranies have been waiting for – fun, sexy and positively crammed with funk-laced danceable grooves courtesy of the most glamorous boys to ever stalk a stage.
We spoke to Roger Taylor for a few minutes in anticipation of Duran Duran’s upcoming concert at Fraze Pavilion on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
You’re known for being rather shy. As you’ve gotten older has it gotten easier playing in front of thousands of people every night?
I think it has actually. Generally we’re a lot more relaxed as a band now. We had barely learned to play our instruments when we first started. We were writing these incredible songs that have stood the test of time but we were still in the infancy of our lives as musicians. We’re all self-taught and we all come from pretty humble backgrounds. None of us ever had a piano lesson or a music lesson in our life, so we’re much better now. We’re much more relaxed when we play live than we were in the early ‘80s for sure. I taught myself how to play drums by drumming along to records. -RT
Your new album All You Need Is Now seems like a deliberate attempt to go back to your classic, mid-‘80s, New Romantic sound. Was that in response to the poor reaction you got from fans over Red Carpet Massacre? (Ed.—Duran Duran’s last album, which featured a strong hip-hop influence, was produced by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake)
I think it was, really. I mean, we enjoyed making (Red Carpet Massacre). It didn’t set the world alight, but we thought it was a good piece of work and we toured for a long time on the back of it. But then Mark Ronson came in and just stated the obvious. He said “You need to sound like yourself. You need to sound like Duran Duran again.” It was a very simple statement but the mission for the record was to go back and recapture those early years – how we wrote the songs, how we recorded the songs, how we arranged them. That’s where Mark came in. Sometimes when you’re in a band, you can’t see the wood for the trees, so you need a producer like him to come in from the outside and work with you. -RT
The video to “Girl Panic!” is destined to become part of the classic Duran Duran canon. What was it like working with Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and the rest of those supermodels?
The great thing about that video is that it was a simple idea, but a great one. Nick (Rhodes) came up with the idea that we should be portrayed by supermodels and (the supermodels) had sort of an uncanny similarity to our story in a way. They all became famous at around the same period that we did and the idea was to reunite these girls and have them play our parts in the video. It worked out really well and I don’t think that any other band could have done that video. It was just so Duran Duran. You couldn’t imagine U2 or Coldplay doing that video. It’s pure Duran Duran territory. And it got banned in some country too. I can’t remember which one, but I know it got banned. It’s quite hard to get banned when you reach our age. -RT
The band recently worked with David Lynch on a concert film. How was that experience?
It was fabulous. Fantastic. He’s a hero to everybody in the band. The way he approached us was by saying he wanted to remix “Girl Panic!” and he did this fantastic remix. Quite strange, but fantastic. That was our first connection with David and then he said he wanted to make a film with us and we were all like “My God! All of our dreams are coming true in one day!” He did an amazing job. -RT
Final question for the Duranies out there: Why aren’t you playing “Save A Prayer” on this tour? What gives, man?
You know what? That’s back in the set list. We’ve been playing it again and it’s been going over very well. Sometimes you have to put songs aside and let them rest for a little bit and freshen up, then you can work them back in. So “Save A Prayer” is back in the centerboard position. -RT
Duran Duran performs at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Boulevard, on Tuesday, August 28. 8 p.m. $55/$45. www.fraze.com
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at JasonWebber@DaytonCityPaper.com.