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A Quietus Interview

Boys On Film: Duran Duran Interviewed
Simon Price , March 17th, 2011 11:37

Eighties electro-pop heroes Duran Duran are back with new, Mark Ronson-produced album All You Need Is Now ready to drop. Simon Price tracks down Messrs Le Bon, Rhodes and the two Taylors at a television recording to discuss being eternally misunderstood, the homoerotic terrors of Jo-Si fan fiction and personalised dildos

There's a fizz and crackle around The London Studios. In ITV's headquarters on the South Bank, where even the likes of Justin Lee Collins and Vernon Kay are considered a big enough deal to have their hand-prints rendered in brass on the wall of fame - we live in second class times - the arrival of bona fide pop legends has caused palpable excitement.

Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor are here to record an hour-long primetime special, Duran Duran: One Night Only (first broadcast: 8.30pm, Sunday 20th March, ITV1).

Outside the building, a queue of colourfully-clad Durannies, some old enough to have bought 'Planet Earth' on its release day but many too young even to remember 'Ordinary World', snakes its way along the wall hours before doors. Inside, black-clad TV runners with clipboards and headsets scurry about trying to remain professional, but even they can't resist proffering copies of 'The Reflex' to Duran's PR man in the hope of an autograph or two.

There's something about Duran Duran that still reverberates in the folk memory, even for people who weren't around for their Imperial Phase. Between 1981-1985, with their blusher and cheekbones, lush lipgloss and perfect pouts, swaggering shoulderpads and big bouffant hair, freako sci-fi videos and effervescent disco-rock tunes, Duran epitomised the bulletproof battleship confidence of British pop in the first half of the 80s as they effortlessly conquered America and the rest of the earth. Even now, after countless comebacks and full or partial reunions, they retain something of the regal.

On the studio stage, bedecked with LED logos from all eras of the band's career, Le Bon prowls his practiced, alpha-male, lead-singer prowl on a run-through of 'Hungry Like The Wolf', delivering the lyrics in spoken word form to preserve his larynx for the real recording. It actually works brilliantly, the champagne-bubble exuberance of Rhodes' synths contrasting with the suavely sotto voce monologue from the main man. (They ought to release it like that some day.)

Later on, everyone's excitement at being in the presence of rock & roll royalty will slowly simmer down to tedium as classic songs - thrilling at first - are re-recorded several times over a period of four hours, along with fluffed autocued links from Christine Bleakley, while a warm-up guy gamely toils to raise flagging spirits and clap-sore palms. Just when the end appears nigh, a shower of glitter-rain having surely presented a continuity obstacle to any more re-records, a team of cleaners appears, unbelievably, to sweep it away with V-shaped mops. Don't let anyone fool you that television is glamorous.

In the break between rehearsal and showtime, I'm led through labyrinthine corridors to meet four sickeningly well-preserved men, their ages dotted around the 50-mark, in their individual dressing rooms, munching on baked potatoes, half-watching the football on a flat-screen monitor, and fending off the door-knocks and demands of their anxious entourage.

Away from the spotlight, Simon Le Bon is thoughtful, more intelligent than Duran's detractors would ever imagine, magnanimous and self-deprecating. He can afford to be. The graciousness of victors.

John Taylor is garrulousness personified onstage, winking and grinning and gurning and sharing off-mic banter with the studio audience. One on one, the razor-cheekboned bassist - who has been on the 12 Step programme since seeking help for alcoholism and drug addiction in 1994 - is a different, diffident creature, wary and slightly ill at ease, curling his gangly frame defensively into a leather armchair and putting down the portcullis if the conversation takes a turn with which he's uncomfortable (for example, the subject of 'Nigel', his teenage self who he killed off to create the pop persona of 'John', but later resurrected to write a column on his personal website). Throughout our chat, a solitary piece of stray tinsel is glinting in his hair. It's as though, when you're one of Duran Duran, you're so stellar that even your dandruff is made of glitter.

Roger Taylor, who seldom gives interviews, is the most immediately affable and friendly of the band, thanking me for all the nice reviews I've written (I'm frankly blown away that a member of Duran Duran has even noticed my existence), asking about my faint Welsh accent, and chatting tangentially about Cardiff cocktail-funkers Blue Rondo A La Turk before we've even begun.

Nick Rhodes, Duran's keyboardist and, at 48, the baby of the band, is something of a personal hero. Impossibly stylish, insouciantly effeminate and unashamedly arty (in 1984, for example, he put out a book of manipulated Polaroid photos called Interference), he's the one who's always exuded the slightly aloof air of someone who only suffers the other members because he's obliged to, but who secretly knows he's their superior. The only previous time I met him, on the staircase at the aftershow of a gig at Birmingham City FC, I was so overwhelmed I could only blurt out "HELLONICKRHODES!!!" (He just laughed at me.) I handle things a little more calmly this time. Wildean and actorly of intonation, he speaks as though all the world's a stage and he's merely giving his latest performance. He already has make-up on, but assistants keep trying to drag him away to apply even more.

Let's go.

Veteran bands inevitably hit a Mid-Career Crisis during which, lacking confidence in their own ideas, they look around and try too hard to chase the prevailing zeitgeist…

Roger Taylor: …and bring in Timbaland?! [who produced much of Duran's R&B-flavoured 2007 album Red Carpet Massacre]

Nick Rhodes: Embarrassing! Awful! [laughs]

John Taylor: That whole project was a fucking nightmare. We delivered an album to Sony that was a natural-sounding, almost >rock album, and they were like 'We need something a bit pop, do you fancy doing a couple of tracks with Timbaland?' And around the same time we fell out with Andy [Taylor, Duran's guitarist on-and-off since 1980, currently 'off'], so the Timbaland stuff sounded hugely different from what we'd done before.

NR: The thing was, we got an opportunity to work with Timbaland, so we thought 'Great, let's go for it'. We knew it was a risk in terms of what the fans would like, if you're working with someone who is ostensibly an electro/hip hop producer. When Timbaland saw the guitar and the bass and the drums come in to the studio, I think he was mortified, because everything's in a box for those guys. But I'm really glad we made that album, because in time I think it will stand up.

JT: It was the most electro, sample-based album of our lives. It could have been a Simon Le Bon solo album in parts. You weren't hearing Roger and I, you weren't really hearing Nick, and there wasn't a lot of guitar on it.

Simon Le Bon: When you compare it to where we're at now, I do think Red Carpet Massacre was a bit of a personality issue. We thought we could make an urban album and our fans would like it… but our fans left us in noooo doubt about their response to that album.

So, for All You Need Is Now, you've worked with Mark Ronson, a producer most closely associated in most people's minds with a vintage/retro soul sound. What convinced you that he could make a Duran Duran record?

SLB: We knew that there was more to his game than that vintage/retro thing. He clearly had the right ear for melodies, he knows what makes a song work. He understands the emotional impact of musical movement. And he's able to put that into words as well. And if you're going to work with Duran Duran, you've got to understand those kind of things. He's trained, he understands music theory, all that stuff. And we did a thing with him in Paris, a couple of years previously, where he took his favourite Duran Duran songs, made a megamix out of them, and we performed it live, with him. From the songs he chose, and the way he put it together, and the references outside of Duran Duran that he brought in, we knew it would work.

RT: The moment that we heard that mix, and it was so cool and he understood the catalogue so well, that was the moment.

SLB: He impressed us so much that we were desperate for him to come and work on the next album. And when he said 'We need to work together properly', we were like 'Woo-hoo!'

RT: Mark got us to kind of look at ourselves a bit, not anybody else. He said 'Everybody else is in your ground, that you occupied in the early 80s, doing your thing! You should go back and own that territory again!' His analytical drive is so intelligent, it was almost like a scientific experiment: 'Get the old drum kits out you used on 'Rio', get John's old bass guitar there', he wanted to know exactly how the keyboards were set up, it was a real vision he had.

SLB: He said 'Look, this is not what Duran Duran fans want to hear'. His point of view was that of a fan, and it really helped us.

JT: It seemed to me that he had a magic touch, and I like him a lot. You mention the retro soul thing, and we did go for a retro sound on this record, but it was different: he moved his microscope from 60s soul to 80s electro-pop, and he applied the same kind of detail. He's a master forger. But I was OK with that, because I felt we'd gone so far out with Timbaland and we lost our way. So Mark's idea was to go back and reference the early 80s. The approach was 'OK, hip hop hasn't happened yet, and neither have the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and neither have Radiohead.' We wrote the best songs we could write, and Mark acted like a referee, if things got a bit too… straight. He wasn't interested in an 'Ordinary World' type song on there.

He wanted to have that quirky, dark pop thing the first few Duran albums had. It definitely helps to have a direction and a concept when you start out. He wrote these rules out and stuck them on the studio wall. There was this undercurrent of attitude. It helps that he's such a huge fan, and even the way he looks. He's this walking, talking advertisement for early 80s cool. It made us think 'Yeah, we can do that'.

Duran Duran have been perennially misrepresented as gormless Tory playboys by serious critics, living on yachts and laughing at the poor. For example, I prepared for this interview by reading a classic piece by Paul Morley from 1982 which contrasts Duran's supposed apolitical hedonism with the riots going on outside in the streets of Birmingham…

SLB: The 'Let them eat cake?' one? Yeah, it's funny, I was thinking about that recently. I think my head was in a funny place. I can see where he was coming from. The thing was this. We were so intent on our career, and making something happen. We were so focussed, and we were kind of blind on everything that was going on around us. And now I can really see that. And I think he was right. We were in this theatre, talking, and we could hear the riots going on outside. And we thought if they could harness that energy into doing something useful, there wouldn't be a fucking problem. Which sounds like a very callous statement, but that was very much our attitude: don't wait for somebody else to change your life, don't sit there complaining 'Why isn't my life better?', do it yourself. And that was very much part of the core of 80s thinking, and possibly Thatcherism as well. And in some ways it's very good, but it had a real downside as well. And I can see what Morley meant.

NR: That was a gross distortion. It's very easy to paint a picture like that. If ever I do an interview with anyone, I'm perfectly happy if they're filming it and everything goes out, or if they're writing everything down, and I get the same copy. But when you get someone like a Paul Morley at that time - I mean I rather hope he's become a little more sensible in his old age - but he knew what he was writing before he came to write that piece. It's absolutely apocryphal to suggest that we didn't care what was going on. Of course you do! Birmingham was our home town, and there were riots going on in the street, I mean, God's sake…

JT: I guess perhaps we disappointed people, in that we weren't more rebellious. We gave in, we surrendered too easily. We are a product of our own experience, and at the time everything felt natural to me. I dunno, we could have said 'No! We won't do Jackie magazine…'

Well, you could have been like The Clash and refused to do Top Of The Pops, but what does that achieve?

JT: The Clash were rare in that they really didn't need to do Top Of The Pops, and you wouldn't have wanted them to. I wouldn't, anyway. I saw them live all the time… I appreciate what you're saying, but just bringing it up puts one on the defensive.

Another way in which rock historians have unfairly treated Duran is by placing them in a boy band lineage, merely a stepping stone between the Bay City Rollers a decade earlier and Take That a decade later, an 80s equivalent of JLS or The Wanted…

JT: How dare they?!

SLB: Those [The Wanted etc] are commercial bands put together by other people, and the members are just performers.

NR: That's only by testosterone-fuelled ROCK critics anyway. I don't begrudge them their little moment of spilling a bit of ink on us. It doesn't matter, they can rant all they want. If you look at musicians, we've always been very respected for what we created, whereas a certain breed of music journalist were never gonna like us. But girls liked us. And one thing a lot of music journalists are never able to get is girls! When people properly look back in retrospect on what we've done, our records, and experiments we've carried out - some more successful than others - then it'll speak for itself. I'm not worried about that.

In fact, what's rarely recognised is that Duran were a deeply arty band. A quintet of androgynous men in make-up who made futuristic, forward-looking records influenced by the same roll-call of cool predecessors as all the hipper 80s acts [see Nick and John's superb 2006 compilation Only After Dark, based on their DJ sets from Birmingham's Rum Runner club, for evidence], packed with unusual noises, abstract, cryptic lyrics and bizarre imagery, and somehow snuck all that into the bedrooms of millions of teenagers worldwide.

SLB: We were an avant-garde outfit when we began, but we were also very ambitious. But when the media came into contact with us, particularly journalists who had a grounding in what came after punk, which was very austere, political, industrial, and had no colour to it. And I think they felt what we were doing was a betrayal. But we wanted colour, flamboyance, romanticism, aspiration, and optimism after all that pessimism. Punk to me was fucking bright colours. It had black as well, but the one thing punk wasn't was grey. It went grey after punk. But we wanted to bring the spiky hair, the dye, the make-up, and the fun. And we had a sexual tension and threat. Boy George said we were 'like milk', which I just thought was stupid. 'Girls On Film' was actually political in a way. It was a feminist statement, for sure. It's about the exploitation of women. And you had all these little girls singing along with it in their bedrooms…

JT: We thought we were an art band. We thought we'd slot in somewhere between [early] Simple Minds and [early] The Human League. But it never really went according to plan, we fell into a different bag, and the pop thing kind of happened. We got jumped on. Smash Hits was in the ascendancy. And the serious music papers hated that, so they positioned themselves against us and we never really got it back. We could have taken a million different routes, but we chose that one. The one thing you can't control is how you connect with an audience, when millions of people fall in love with you. We had no idea. That was the unknown quantity, the… what's it called?

Don't say the X-factor…

JT: The X-factor! That's exactly what it was. None of us saw it coming. And when that started happening, all bets were off. You really couldn't control anything. But as you say, our music was very dark. Those first three albums, there was a dark side that was as interesting, if not more interesting than the pop hits. We didn't consciously try to write hit songs. Certainly no more so than Siouxsie And The Banshees did when they wrote 'Hong Kong Garden', you know. I think we felt there was a place for us within the culture, but we never thought we were 'pop'. But hits are quite addictive. Athough in actual fact, doing Top Of The Pops a couple of years into your career isn't that much fun…

RT: It's down to Smash Hits. Japan were in Smash Hits, but if you listen to their albums, they were really arty, weren't they? If you went to Japan concerts there would be girls screaming, but they also had this artistic vibe going on. And The Beatles had an amazing catalogue of music, but they also got screamed at. Which is how we justified the whole thing: if it was good enough for The Beatles…

NR: I think we had a unique vision, we knew what it was somehow, and we just forged ahead. And we were lucky that a lot of things worked out. We never thought we were gonna be an internationall act in that way. We always thought we'd be an art-school band that found a bit of an audience.

Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact moment that a band blows its perceived credibility, and for Duran it was arguably 53 seconds into the "Rio" video, when Roger's toe gets bitten by a crab. (Heaven forbid that humour and art should co-exist…)

RT: Haha! I think there were a few moments before that.

You're the first person anyone sees in a Duran video, of course. Opening frames of 'Planet Earth'…

RT: Well remembered! In the blue lasers, with my head back… I think [director] Russell Mulcahy had a bit of a crush on me. 'OK, get your shirt off, you're the first one, lie back…'

Let's talk about those videos. Shot on proper film stock, high-budget and high production-value for the time, and often very, very strange. Aside from the overplayed MTV hits, there were oddities like the clips for album tracks like 'The Chauffeur', which employed heavy Helmut Newton-style S&M imagery and Dali/Bunuel surrealism. Or 'Night Boat', a Caribbean zombie apocalypse which has Le Bon reciting Shakespeare…

SLB: There's the Mercutio speech from Romeo & Juliet, and I think Roger does a bit of Hamlet… This was a band with serious ambition. I wanted to get to the idea of ghosts. I wanted to do it by using archaic language. And the only bit of archaic language that I could remember - this is pre the internet, we were filming in Antigua - was by reciting some Shakespeare. I could have used Chaucer, which would be a little bit more archaic, but nobody would understand a fucking word cos it would be in Middle English.

You beat Jacko to the zombies-in-pop motif by two years.

RT: We did, actually! I haven't watched that for years… The weird thing is, we put out a compilation of our videos, which had the [soft-porn] long version of 'Girls On Film', and 'The Chauffeur', and people were buying it for their 8-year-old kids! The parents would rush into the bedroom and see them watching a man having an ice cube rubbed on his nipple… That sums up the whole situation we were in.

In 1984-85, Duran split into two factions for the side projects Arcadia (Simon, Nick, Roger) and The Power Station (John, Andy, sometimes Roger). The former was arcane and esoteric, with impenetrable cameo appearances from Grace Jones. The latter featured Robert Palmer and Chic's Tony Thompson, and was defined by an impossibly excessive over-the-top, clattering rock-funk production. Le Bon himself has since described Arcadia's So Red The Rose as "the most pretentious album ever made", while The Power Station's self-titled debut has been described my many (including myself) as "the most cocainey album ever made". So which album involved the biggest pile of white powders in its creation?

SLB: Did I say that about pretension?! Maybe I was pre-empting, thinking that it was better for me to say it than anybody else. I think there's a very fine line, a blurring, between 'pretension' and 'aspiration'. It's about trying to reach for something. About the cocainey thing? I would agree! [Laughs] I don't think even John Taylor would disagree with that. In a cocaine battle, they would win that. Halfway through the making of the Arcadia album I met Yasmin for the second time, and nothing else mattered. I'm surprised we finished it, to be honest, cos all I could think about was Yasmin.

JT: Cocainey? Yeah, maybe. [Blows air through lips, horse-like.] I don't think that's a compliment. You can't resist the lure of these… it was an opportunity to do something different to Seven And The Ragged Tiger, which was a really difficult album to make, and I wanted to make something more primal, Andy felt the same way, and we just concocted this plan to 'play away'. Cocainey? Yeah, it's definitely one way to describe it.

RT: I had a foot in both camps, haha. I did a lot in Arcadia, and a little bit in The Power Station. Cocaine-fuelled? Yeah. It was the two ends of the band really, wasn't it? You had the arty end and the rock end. A kind of parting of the waves. I think Arcadia has stood the test of time better, maybe. The feeling was that The Power Station was more successful at the time. It was a bigger commercial success. Arcadia was probably cooler.

NR: I wouldn't know, because I wasn't there for those sessions, but The Power Station certainly felt like it was boiling over. There were some really good songs on their album. I remember hearing it at the time and not loving it, because I was so engrossed in what we were doing, but I think history's been kind to it, and they invented a sound for Robert Palmer to continue with, that's for sure. Was Arcadia's the most pretentious album ever made? Yes, we've struggled with that one, but I always like to retain that title. [smiles]

A little bit of pretension in pop goes a long way…

NR: I quite agree.

One early song, a fan favourite that still gets performed today, is 'Friends Of Mine'. It's a track which, it is said, took on an unexpected second life in America's gay clubs where many, unaware that the subject of the euphoric refrain "Georgie Davis is coming out" was actually an incarcerated armed robber from London, assumed it was an anthem of homosexual liberation…

RT: Oh, like that Rod Stewart song, 'The Killing Of Georgie'?

SLB: Oh really! Well, that's really cool! I hadn't heard about that. I like that! I think to some extent Duran Duran is a gay icon. Obviously not in the same way as, say, ABBA… In America they never knew who George Davis was. He's dead now. He's not alive any more. [He's not dead. He's alive, and was in the Court Of Appeal a few weeks ago seeking to overturn his original conviction and claim compensation] The reference was a kind of a sign-of-the-times thing. By saying 'Georgie Davis is coming out', we were placing it in the future. When we wrote it, he'd just gone back in again.

I wonder what the band make of the alarming amount of Duran fan fiction out there, sexual in nature, written by grown women. John shakes his head and doesn't wish to comment. Simon, however...

SLB: I'm not aware of it. Should I be? About five years ago, when I got into the internet thing, I thought 'Stop! I don't wanna know'. It's weird, it changes the relationship between myself, as an artist and a performer, and the audience.

I can stop right there…

SLB: [somewhat intrigued] No, carry on!

The most common pairing - Google with great caution - is 'Jo-Si' (John & Simon, also a favourite of Youtube montage-makers). The plots are typically about how Simon and John have been lovers forever, Yasmin knows and is cool about it, but John struggles with Catholic guilt over being gay…

SLB: Yeah, yeah! I've heard about that. That's one of the things I do remember, that pairing of me and John.

Maybe it's encouraged by the slightly homoerotic way you two share a microphone onstage sometimes.

SLB: Yeah, we get really close. We look at each other, as well. We're not trying to turn anybody on! We're very close friends, and we're not uncomfortable being in close proximity, which a lot of guys are. But I think the fact we're in a band, and we use microphones… The relationship between people in bands is beyond friendship, and beyond brotherhood, and beyond family. What I find fascinating is how the concept of me and John being lovers is such a turn-on for women. I don't get that at all! I remember a long long long time ago, being with a girl who said 'If you wanna do something to really turn me on, find a guy and snog him'. I find that really interesting.

There's a track on the new album, 'Being Followed', which has the lines "Paranoia the only valid point of view" and "Someone always watching what we do". Nowadays, with camera phones and Youtube, that's literally true: stars can't go anywhere without their behaviour being documented, and the line between public space and private space is blurred. If that technology had been available in the 80s, what would the most scandalous Duran photo have been?

SLB: You're asking me to tell you?! I had some pretty amazing sex-and-drugs combined occasions. Which, ultimately, were very rock'n'roll. Just thinking back to the Rum Runner, what a place that was for five guys… it was probably illegal. In fact, a lot of it was definitely illegal.

Of all the many strange things that have happened to Duran, one of the strangest was when your former guitarist, Warren Cuccurullo (1986-2001), started doing fully-erect nude photo shoots in gay mags, making hardcore porn films, and selling his own personalised dildo, the 'Rock Rod'…

SLB: Umm… well, he kind of started when he was still in the group. He did hardcore?! Right. Well, he's a very impressively-built physique. I'm very much a live-and-let-live person. I haven't always been like that, but I've learned. I'm very tolerant.

He also believes the planes that hit the towers on 9/11 were a computer-generated hoax.

SLB: Riiight. Well, it was when he started doing the nude shoots that I kind of realised he wasn't right for the band.

Say what you like about [early Duran member] Stephen Duffy, you can't imagine him bringing out Tin Tin dildos.

SLB: No, no! But he's a lovely guy, Tin Tin Duffy. So's Warren though. Actually I wouldn't say he's a lovely guy. No, yes he is. But him leaving was more to do with, he was very overbearing when it came to the artistic side. 'I'm right, we should do it like this, this is the only way it should be, all you have to do is go and write the lyrics'. That, ultimately, is what made me say to Nick one day, 'This isn't gonna work'.

RT: I wasn't in the band at the time, but I read a piece about him the other day. Yeah, he made a sex toy in the shape of his own penis, which, er…

It would make interesting Duran merchandise idea. A change from T-shirts and hats.

RT: It would!

While we're talking penises… Andy Warhol once said of Nick Rhodes: "I love him. I worship him. I masturbate to Duran Duran videos" (The Face magazine) So, Nick, what's it like knowing that Warhol, possibly the most famous artist of the 20th century, used to wank off over you?

NR: Ummm… he was mischievous all the time. He was just causing trouble. I remember him asking me 'Did you see what I said in The Face?' and I said 'No…', but he knew damn well I'd seen it. He was funny as hell. I loved Andy. I often think about him. Now he's become so much larger than life, even more so than he was then. And it's amazing how prophetic his personal vision was. He pretty much invented the 21st century, with his imagery and his obsession with fame. He would have loved these reality TV things.

How aware are you of The Cult Of Nick Rhodes?

NR: [smiling diplomatically] I'm very conscious that we all have our individual fans. It's always been that way, from the very beginning.

Yes, but when I let a few of my friends know I was going to be interviewing Duran Duran, two women, one aged 21, the other 41, both said "Lick Nick Rhodes for me". [Don't worry, I'm not going to.] It's a thing…

NR: Haha! I suppose in an odd way we all represent different things, from within the same band. I'm… curious. I like to find out different stuff, and try something new and that's what drives me within the band. And we've been able to do most things, because we collaborate with photographers, modern artists, film-makers, I mean we've just done this thing with David Lynch…

OK, tell me about that.

NR: American Express approached us. They're doing a series where film directors direct a band's live performances. They asked us who we'd like to work with. Terry Gilliam had already done Arcade Fire, and I really like Terry Gilliam too… Anyway, I said 'David Lynch!' Funnily enough, he'd just done a remix for us of [upcoming single] 'Girl Panic', very strange, very cool. So he was up for it, as long as we could assure him we'd have complete control and we could do something that had never been done before. He does sort of think in the same way that we do. Obviously, different art, different style and everything, but he does love to operate in a little vacuum without really looking at all the things going on around him. He's super-excited about it. And the little trailers he's made for it are fantastic.

Are there any plans to release the shelved 2006 album Reportage?

SLB: Yes. There's no actual plan, but I would be failing in my duty if I didn't get at least… the song '48 Hours Later', which is sublime. It's one of the best Duran Duran songs I've ever heard. And it would work well with what we're doing now. You could easily have it on All You Need Is Now. There's another one called 'Transcendental Mental' which sounds great. There's another called 'Traumatised' which lyrically isn't as strong, but the melody is great.

What about the actual song 'Seven And The Ragged Tiger'?

SLB: Mmm. I dunno. I think it's on the internet, isn't it? Some things are not worth waiting for.

Of all the records you've released since your initial burst of fame in the 80s, which one most deserves to be listened to? You're not allowed to say "the new one".

SLB: The Wedding Album [1993] is really good, but that did well. I find Pop Trash [2000] really difficult because it's the album with the least of me on it. Medazzaland [1997] has some really interesting sounds on it, but it's so hard on your ears. It's not lush. They say that women don't like the sound of cymbals. It's one of the reasons you get more guys at heavy rock concerts. And that album was one of the least appreciated by women.

RT: I was really proud of the Astronaut album [2004], when we all got back together. It tends to get forgotten about. People talk about Red Carpet Massacre and the new one, but Astronaut itself was overshadowed by the story of the five of us getting back together.

You mentioned that Mark Ronson has spoken of other bands moving into 'your ground', and I've certainly noticed many Duran-influenced bands over the last decade. Who have you heard and thought 'They wouldn't be doing what they're doing if it wasn't for Duran Duran'?

SLB: The Killers. Bloc Party. Franz Ferdinand. The one that sounds the most like Duran Duran is a song by Reverend And The Makers called 'Heavyweight Champion Of The World'. I really thought it was us!

RT: The Bravery. That's the one where I thought 'Wow, that's a bit close…' And Reverend And The Makers, like Simon said. Actually The Dandy Warhols [who would later be produced by Nick Rhodes], first time I saw them on Top Of The Pops I thought 'Wow, very Duran-ish'. It was after we'd been out of fashion for a long time, then the Duran sound kind of took off a bit: four-to-the-floor drums, badly-played disco, haha.

Lastly, from the outside, being in Duran Duran - of any band on earth - looks like the most fun in the world. The model girlfriends, the A-list lifestyle, the movie cameos, the parties, the drugs, the fashions, the glamour. Please don't disillusion us. That's correct, right?

RT: A lot of it's hard work. We're about to go to America for six weeks. Just the travelling would kill most people. And we're still banging out tunes we wrote 30 years ago…

You don't mind that, do you?

RT: We're very aware of what the audience wants. And I hate going to see bands and coming away having only heard the new album. I heard Beady Eye don't do any Oasis songs…

Passing tour manager: Beady Eye aren't Oasis! Did Arcadia ever do any Duran songs?

RT: Hah! Arcadia never played live. I think The Power Station played a few Duran songs, though…

SLB: The most fun in the world? Nah. I always thought that was The Rolling Stones…

Duran Duran will play the following live show on their UK tour:

May 18 Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
May 19 SECC, Glasgow
May 21 LG Arena, Birmingham
May 22 Capital FM Arena, Nottingham
May 23 Echo Arena, Liverpool
May 28 O2 Arena, London
May 30 Brighton Centre
May 31 International Centre, Brighton
June 1 International Arena, Cardiff
June 3 MEN Arena, Manchester
June 4 Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield