By: Liz Ohanesian
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Duran Duran had only been in Rome for an hour when we hopped on a phone call with bassist extraordinaire John Taylor. The night before, they played in Verona, and this was a night off in the middle of another European stretch of the All You Need Is Now tour. The tour– in support of the Mark Ronson-produced album All You Need Is Now— launched in March of 2011 and included a date at last year's Coachella festival. Their final North American stretch of the trek begins this week and includes their gig at the Orange County Fair on August 11. After a post-tour break, Duran Duran will head into the studio in early 2013 to begin work on their next album. We talked to Taylor about the tour and their fans.
OC Weekly (Liz Ohanesian): How do you think your shows progress throughout the tour?
John Taylor: We're just constantly creeping. We're kind of like a racing car. We're getting faster and faster, incrementally. If you saw every night, you wouldn't notice, but my wife will see us and then not see us again for two months and then she'll say, “Oh my God, you guys are so much better. When we get onto the touring cycle– this one's been 18 months– just incrementally, it's getting better. It's getting tighter, the song choices and the performances. It just gets stronger. Hopefully.
When you have as many songs as Duran Duran has, how do you narrow down what you're going to play?
That's a tough one. Actually, we argue more about that than we do about almost anything. We don't want to be perceived as a greatest hits band, you know, like a heritage act. The show is built around the latest album, but there are so many songs that so many people would be disappointed if they didn't hear. It's a balance, but, at the moment, I think that we're delivering the goods. I think people who have been seeing the band on this European tour, I think they're getting what they want.
Are there certain songs that are important play in specific cities?
No. [pause] I mean, there's a song called “Mediterranea”… It's hugely popular in Italy and Greece and Southern Europe. We have been bombarded with requests to play that song on these shows. So, we dug that out last night. To a degree, something like that, you can be influenced a little. For the most part, what you hear in L.A., you will hear in New York and you will hear in London. It's kind of the same thing. The audiences want the same things, really.
One of the great things about your show at Nokia [in Los Angeles] last year was the interactive nature of it, with tweets showing up on the screen. How did you get into Twitter and how important is it to the band at this point?
We got into Twitter because All You Need Is Now came out as an iTunes exclusive, which we had never done before. We launched the album through iTunes. I felt that behooved me to get more into the social networking sites. I started out on Facebook. A couple of days later, signed up for Twitter. I kind of evolved to Twitter. Twitter fits my ADD-type personality. It's like sending postcards to people. You can get into dialogs and sometimes I do. I think [social networking] helped bring our audience together in a way that they were together in the '80s. It was a very strong fan community in the '80s because the band was so present in the media. It was quite easy. Fans had a very high profile, so they were able to recognize each other. I would say that, five years ago, it was very difficult. I think it was around the time of Red Carpet Massacre, which was the album before this one. We really had a hard time letting our fans know that we even had an album out… we weren't on MTV. We weren't getting radio play. Rolling Stone wasn't writing about us. We were kind of like in limbo.
Without any of those kind of agents working for you, it's hard to let people know at the moment you're touring, that you're there and have records out. Social networking really enhances that and it put fans in touch with each other, as well as putting them in touch with us. It makes it really easy to disseminate ideas and updates. That kind of energized the fan community as a whole. The Duran Duran fan community is more energized now than it has been in years.
There are a lot of different generations of fans if you look into the audience of a Duran Duran show. You'll have people who were going to the shows the first time around and people who weren't even born when Rio was released.
I don't think that's exclusively Duran Duran. I think all artists who have been around for a couple of decades are all experiencing [similar situations]. I feel like there's been a slowdown of culture that has been brought about by the accessibility of music. Younger people now are being exposed to older music, shall we say, and they're getting into the older music in a way that several generations ago were not. When I was 17, 17-year-olds were only listening to the music of the moment. I think now young people are listening to a much broader spectrum of music. That's great for us. In 1995, it felt like our '80s songs– like “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf– felt older to me in 1995 than they do today. I'm not sure how I can explain that but I feel that it has something to do with the Internet.