Same Same’s Pete Dillon recently caught up with Duran Duran’s Roger Taylor and Simon Le Bon and managed, amongst the gushing and drooling, to ask a few sensible questions of the boys who shaped the young lives of many gay men and women.
Let’s talk about your latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, first. What’s it all about?
Roger: Simon came up with the title as we had spent a lot of time in the US and noticed collectively it’s all about the red carpet, who’s on it and what they are and are not wearing.
Simon: It is interesting that people are fascinated by celebrity and being slated for wearing the wrong shoes or earrings – parts of the album comment on the shallowness of celebrity culture, where it’s gone to and people being famous for being famous.
Why was it recorded live? Are you trying to prove something with this album?
Simon: Most bands think that their current work is a masterpiece. We didn’t think this was our Dark Side of the Moon or Transformer but we knew it would work live. Given the way music is consumed these days – people can just go onto the internet and download a song – we wanted people to hear it as a whole album. We are always trying to prove something – every time you do what we do, you are trying to prove something to yourself.
Back to the start now, how has life changed for Duran Duran changed over the past 30 years?
Roger: The women aren’t throwing themselves against the glass any more! They are checking into the same hotels into rooms next to us and spotting us in the lobby. It’s different but the fame is still similar. The fame has changed, as we never used to be able to leave the hotel to get a packet of cigarettes or whatever, without being mobbed. We were hemmed into rooms back then and now that we are all a little older and have our own kids, we don’t get recognised as much.
Simon: Fame never had a meaning – it just was. You know, you get recognised. It’s not what we set out to do. We wanted to make great music.
Roger: A couple of my kids are contemplating careers in entertainment and I have told them they have to do it to give something cultural and worthwhile to the world, not just to be recognised and be in magazines. There has to be an art or something to share.
But what about the power of the visual, and being seen, given that Duran Duran was instrumental in creating contemporary celebrity?
Roger: We toured and worked with no songwriter, no stylist, no producer, no hairdresser, so what we wore and how we presented was who we were – these were the clothes that we would wear on the street. There was no one telling us what to wear or how to behave. We were always a visual band – we were influenced by Bowie and Roxy Music and the punk movement.
Simon: That’s how we wrote as well – we were influenced by those guys as well as Patti Smith and others. The visual became the visual because of our videos and the work we put into those.
Roger: People recognise us because of videos. You know I travelled in a taxi once and when asked what I did, I replied a musician and it eventually go to the fact that I was one of Duran Duran. The guy remembered the film clip of us on a boat before he could remember our music. We remained very visual.
I am interested after 25 years or more to hear about the Girls On Film video that was banned half way round the world. Watching it recently, I am reminded how absolutely contemporary it was. I would suggest it was a little filthy for its time in the middle of Thatcherite England in the eighties.
Roger: You know it wasn’t intended to be filthy. Rather provocative, but when you look at it, nipples and ice cubes and women rubbing themselves against poles, it was ahead of its time. It was voted as the sexiest film clip of all time in the UK which astounded us.
Simon: Our target audience at that time was teenage girls and there were parents who were disgusted at what their little girls were watching. We had thousands of complaints and parents were outraged. You know there were women kissing each other after having a pillow fight on a rocket. It was certainly provocative.
There was a strong homo erotic / quasi gothic look with the New Romantic movement and some of your clips. How do you react to the suggestion that there are quite a few 30 something gay men out there who are as obsessed as the women were?
Simon: We have always had a gay following as have all the new romantic bands and singers. This was the era of expression where everything was thrown out the window. We knew we had a gay following – they were there dressed like us at our shows. I would be surprised if there weren’t a whole lot out there.
Roger: We appealed to a very diverse audience and we knew that the gay community in the eighties were loving our visual style. Again, we wore a purple suit not ‘cos were told to but that was what we wanted to wear in the street. We did worry that our visual could overshadow the music, and to some degree that happened.