Interview: John Taylor – Duran Duran – Past and Present: Part 2
Article by Eric Larson, © Copyright 2017 FretlessBass.com
I directed this part of the conversation with John Taylor of Duran Duran to their latest album and reflections on career longevity. At the time of this interview Taylor had no idea that their project, still being formed in the studio, would be a Top 10 hit in the US, the UK, and multiple other countries. He had no idea that the album would get rave reviews and worldwide attention. And he had no idea that the tour to support it would continue two years after the album release, with multiple tour extensions still happening.
The final product, Paper Gods, is like a blend of past, present, and future. After almost forty years together Duran Duran sounds as good as ever.
Click the video for the full audio of the interview or see the full text below:
The Present, Reflections, and Career Longevity
FB: How has the recording process changed from those first two albums to today?
John Taylor: The first couple of albums were done along in the same way, in that the songs were kind of demo’d, they were kind of written. Some of them had been performed live. So when we entered in to the studio, we were really entering in to the studio in order to perform to the best of our abilities, the songs that we’d written. And I think there’s been this kind of evolution. One is the luxury that comes with no definite schedule; where you’ve got your own studio and you can take as long as you want. The song starts to evolve on tape. Those sorts of things started to happen on our third album.
But now there is no demo’ing, there’s just the doing. And everything is non-destructive. But at the same time everything you do equally could be completely turned upside down the following day. A part – just because its recorded doesn’t mean it’s going to stay. The first couple of albums, again, it was like sixteen tracks – bass, drums, guitar, a couple of keyboard tracks, a couple of guitar tracks, vocals, a couple of vocal tracks – essentially that was it. And now its like texture, texture, texture, texture. Ten tracks of bass textures, thirty tracks of keyboard textures, and you’re just building.
But then again, also the challenge is to not be generic. There’s a temptation to let the instrumentation be overridden by samples, technology, and if you’re not careful you’ll find you’ve got exactly the same bass sound as any number of other contemporary artists putting out music.
FB: Duran Duran has been together since, roughly, 1978. That’s nearly forty years. Most musicians would be happy to have a career that spanned five or ten years.
John Taylor: I think we have been doing it a long time and you have very different challenges. We tend to look towards the Beatles story, the Jimi Hendrix story, and we look at these blinding light experiences within our industry. Working together with a crew of guys, that you’ve been working with for thirty-plus years – as far as I’m concerned those are uncharted challenges. I tend to find myself looking towards elder artists more than ever now, saying, “How do they keep their vitality? How do they keep their interest?” Why wouldn’t you have lots of energy and ideas when you’re twenty? How do you have energy and ideas and excitement about the art when you’re sixty? That’s what I’m interested in.
Some days we talk about what the next album is going to be like and some days I think to myself “well, if that was the last song that people heard me play on, I’d feel good about that”. I’ve thought along those lines. I think that’s sort of natural, really. I think that you get to a certain point in your life where you do start thinking – every time I go on stage now it doesn’t matter where it is, or how many people we are playing to, or what the circumstances are, I think ”you’ve got to make this a good one”, because if it was the last one you don’t want to be left with a feeling like “I threw it away”. You’ve always got to play for real.
More and more I’m appreciating the privilege of being a musician. I don’t know how I’ve done it, I don’t know how we’ve done it – sustained careers in music as writers and musicians, but we have. I’ve seen so many great musicians fall by the wayside. But we’ve managed to stay in there. You become more and more aware of the privilege and the fortune of being able to do that.
FB: I know you’re busy, so I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I really enjoyed it, thanks again.
John Taylor: Oh great. Thanks Eric, thanks a lot.
After almost forty years together, fourteen studio albums, worldwide tours, and over 100 million albums sold, Duran Duran is proving that they are still as relevant as they ever were.