Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes on “Medazzaland” turning 25: “I lo…

On Nov. 5 in Los Angeles, Duran Duran are being inducted into the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame. Twenty-five years in the past, when the group launched their ninth studio album, “Medazzaland,” such an honor appeared very distant. 

“Wow. After this quantity of years of us being collectively, we have nonetheless obtained such passionate followers that need us to succeed.”

That is no knock on the album itself, which incorporates a few of Duran Duran’s darkest and most experimental music. Impressed by know-how and seismic cultural adjustments — in addition to self-reflection and musings on friendship, loneliness, fame, and obsession — “Medazzaland” is stuffed with dusky moodpieces. The meditative and delicate “Michael, You have Bought a Lot to Reply For” is somber; “Out of My Thoughts” is paranoid synth melodrama; “Midnight Solar” is trippy psychedelic rock burnout; the title observe (that includes Rhodes on spoken-word vocals) is avant-garde sound sculpting. The one main exception is the only “Electrical Barbarella,” the form of cheeky electrorock Duran Duran achieve this properly.

This totally different sound additionally mirrored a altering band lineup and artistic strategy. A co-founding member, bassist John Taylor, had left Duran Duran earlier than “Medazzaland” was completed, leaving the band as a trio of Nick Rhodes, Simon Le Bon and Warren Cuccurullo. Le Bon ceaselessly had author’s block, that means Rhodes contributed a healthy dose of lyrics; Cuccurullo and Rhodes additionally had a facet mission known as TV Mania that was an ongoing concern.

“Medazzaland” had a difficult reception, because it peaked solely at No. 58 on the U.S. Billboard charts. The album was additionally by no means launched in England, because the band parted methods with their then-label there. The break up was amicable — Duran Duran left with the rights to search out one other dwelling for the album — however enterprise obtained in the way in which. 

“I would deliberate to place it with one other label shortly,” Rhodes says now. “However then it simply grew to become actually difficult. I used to be having to handle the band at the moment too, which was actually not loads of enjoyable. It is not one thing an artist ought to ever be doing, however it was a necessity.”

As we speak, “Medazzaland” is receiving renewed consideration thank to a lavish new vinyl reissue (and a CD reissue as properly). Nonetheless, Duran Duran are firmly within the current day, closing out an already busy 12 months with one other busy stretch.

There is a Halloween present in Las Vegas (“That might be an attention-grabbing one — I am not going to say extra, however there will not ever be one other Duran Duran present like that one,” Rhodes says with amusing) and a brand new dwell live performance movie, “A Hollywood Excessive — Duran Duran Stay in Live performance,” taking part in in theaters on Nov. 3 and 9. After which there’s the band’s long-awaited Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame induction.

“It was the followers, actually,” Rhodes says of the consideration. “We received the fan vote, fingers down, and it simply made us all smile a lot, as a result of I noticed, ‘Wow. After this quantity of years of us being collectively, we have nonetheless obtained such passionate followers that need us to succeed and to be in locations that they assume we must be in.'” 

These identical followers buoyed Duran Duran within the late ’90s and early ’00s, Rhodes says, throughout a wide-ranging dialog about “Medazzaland” discussing the genesis, lyrical meanings and the time Duran Duran grew to become early net pioneers because of the MP3.

Duran DuranSimon LeBon (L) and Warren Cuccurullo (R) carry out with Duran Duran on the opening reception of the exhibit “The Warhol Look: Glamour, Type, Trend” on the Whitney Museum of American Artwork on November 6, 1997 in New York Metropolis, New York. (Catherine McGann/Getty Pictures)

Wanting again on the “Medazzaland” period, what kind of reminiscences has this introduced up for you?

“I wasn’t a giant grunge fan total, however I feel Nirvana had one thing extremely particular.”

Quite a lot of issues. [INXS frontman] Michael Hutchence. Once we wrote the tune “Michael, You have Bought A Lot To Reply For,” it was a really private lyric that Simon wrote about friendship. He and Michael have been joined on the hip for a interval of some years. I used to be very keen on Michael, too. We have been all within the south of France collectively in ’94, ’95, once we have been attempting to finish the “Thank You” album. Simon wrote that tune, and I believed, “What an important lyric it was,” on the time, as a result of it actually is sort of a beautiful postcard.

We used to play it dwell once we have been on the Medazzaland tour initially. Then Michael handed away, and it all of the sudden took on this entire totally different that means. What was a candy, uplifting tune all of the sudden grew to become darkness to us, and it was such a horrible, unhappy interval. And so we by no means performed it once more after that time. However once I listened to masters for the vinyl — it is the primary time I would heard most of it in a very long time, significantly that observe — I used to be actually taken with it once more, and I believed, “Sure, it actually labored properly.” 

Once we did it, Simon sung it in Warren [Cuccurullo]’s front room, the place we have been recording, in Battersea. It was actually only a quite simple native home. There was site visitors going by and airplanes going off above us. Normally, we’d re-record the vocals on a greater microphone and clearly with a room with higher acoustics. However there was one thing about it that was so charming, as a result of he was simply form of sitting in a chair, casually singing. And it captured what it ought to have been. And we may by no means, ever get it higher. We tried a number of occasions. 

So the model that’s used on the album is the primary take he ever did, sitting on a sofa with an affordable mic, simply determining what he was doing.

Once I was re-listening to the file to prep for this interview, it actually struck me what a fragile vocal it was—in all probability probably the most delicate vocal performances I feel Simon ever dedicated on an album.

I agree. We fully fell in love with it. We tried actually half a dozen occasions to make it higher and make it extra good, however each time we made it extra good, it did not have the suitable temper for the tune anymore. 

One other one among Simon’s lyrics on that album that I cherished was “So Lengthy Suicide,” which was written for Kurt Cobain. He’d just lately handed away at the moment, and we have been all fairly shocked by that. I feel Nirvana actually have been the primary band that had come alongside for a very long time that all of us felt, “Nicely, these songs are correct. They’re actually, actually nice pop songs.” The lyrics have been attention-grabbing and the buildings have been good, and it felt new, for positive. 

I wasn’t a giant grunge fan total, however I feel Nirvana had one thing extremely particular. So that actually hit all of us, I feel, when he went. It was a horrible, horrible disgrace and that was form of Simon’s goodbye notice to him.

“I would written extra lyrics on that album than any of the earlier ones, as a result of Simon had hit a little bit of a brick wall. He had author’s block.”

There was a lot darkness and unhappiness within the ’90s, when you concentrate on the high-profile musicians who handed earlier than their time. It actually was “The celebration’s over,” in a way. It struck me that there’s that undercurrent of darkness on this file, possibly extra clearly than another Duran Duran information. Possibly I see it extra now as a result of I am an grownup wanting again at it — that there was simply one thing about it.

I feel you are proper. On the time, I do not ever know. I would written extra lyrics on that album than any of the earlier ones, as a result of Simon had hit a little bit of a brick wall. He had author’s block and he stated, “I do not know what to do. I’ve written so many lyrics and I can not consider new methods round it in the meanwhile.” And it was unusual, as a result of we hadn’t been in that place earlier than, and so I began throwing concepts at him. A number of of them caught, and some of them did not. However I believed, “Nicely, the one method we will get the file completed is that if I write among the lyrics.” So I began to do them. 

Simon may be very a lot from his coronary heart, and loads of the lyrics, even the extra summary ones, normally relate to some form of relationship or human interplay. I are likely to assume barely extra conceptually, and so it made the steadiness of the album fairly uncommon.

You have obtained these two we simply mentioned subsequent to issues like “Electrical Barbarella,” which was actually a tune about loneliness. I would began to have a look at the trendy world and thought, “Wow. So individuals actually are transferring into this future forward the place their greatest pals may properly find yourself being dolls or robots.” 

I would seen just a few bits of media, and I typically go to those form of tech conferences to have a look at what’s on the market. And it occurred to me that the intercourse dolls of the longer term have been going to be like individuals — and they’re now in actual fact changing into way more like that. I discovered it each terrifying and fairly miserable. On the identical time, I used to be capable of finding some darkish humor in it, and to say, “Nicely, yep. That is what’s coming.” In order that was “Electrical Barbarella.”

One of many different issues I’ve at all times actually favored about this file is that Duran Duran grew to become the primary main label band to promote an MP3, with “Electrical Barbarella.” How a lot of a wrestle was that to persuade the label to allow you to try this, and the place did that concept come from?

It was an entire nightmare, full cease. Firstly, the Napster know-how . . . I would seen it like everyone else on the time, being a musician, [and] I admired the know-how as a result of I believed, “How fabulous is that, that we will simply click on a button anyplace on the planet and get a tune that we would like. That is completely the place issues are going to go.” 

“We obtained all of it arrange so it could be the primary obtain ever bought on-line.”

However on the identical time, I used to be just a little involved, not only for me a lot, however for different musicians, pondering, “Nicely, if this occurs, none of us are ever going to receives a commission for something, are we? And the way will younger bands survive? How will they ever even make it to their second album if everyone downloads their free album off Napster?” or regardless of the different ones have been, BitTorrent, all these issues that got here out.

I believed, “Nicely, the apparent reply is to make a official model, in order that at the very least people who find themselves sincere and who can afford it’s going to say, ‘We will assist the music. We will purchase it.'” But when that does not develop into accessible, then individuals are going to make use of the unlawful downloads on a regular basis anyway due to the comfort of it, and I perceive it. 

So I went to the file label, that was Capitol Data I used to be dealing on the time [in the U.S.], and EMI within the UK, and I stated, “That is what I would love to do. Can we launch this?” We might discovered an organization known as Liquid Audio who stated they may do it and you can pay. So I stated, “Can we please do that for the file?” 

And no one there needed to do it; they actually argued towards it. There was one [employee] whose title I’ve forgotten now, who was way more forward-thinking, and she or he went and fought with them and stated, “I feel we should always allow them to do it.” I feel, in a method, as a result of we have been at all times recognized to make use of know-how and to attempt to do issues another way, they lastly took a view on it, “Nicely, someone’s going to need to do it, I suppose. We might as properly allow them to do it.” 

I sat at Abbey Highway Studios with Simon and Warren, and I pushed a button on the pc the place we obtained all of it arrange so it could be the primary obtain ever bought on-line. In fact, there’d be many free ones. The fee went by means of, as a result of there was no PayPal or something like that then. So, in actual fact, it labored. It got here again. 

I used to be just a little dissatisfied with bandwidth. I believed it actually gave the impression of a barely higher cassette high quality than even a CD. At the moment, MP3s weren’t what they grew to become. However it labored. 

We did not promote very many copies of it. I imply, the low hundreds I feel, as a result of no one needed to place their bank cards on-line, understandably then. [Laughs.] And there have been no different fee techniques, so only a few individuals truly purchased it that method, however it did develop into a giant story. 

In truth, many of the main retailers, actually in america, banned the file and refused to promote it. They’d seen it as us actually violating the system by going on to our viewers and chopping out retail when, after all, that was the very last thing on my thoughts. It was way more, “I just like the know-how, let’s make it work for everybody and someone’s obtained to do that.”

You have been making music with a facet mission known as TV Mania across the time of “Medazzaland” too. How a lot did that form your mindset going into the file?

Quite a bit, as a result of Warren and I have been working very carefully. Simon was going by means of a unique form of interval, so he wasn’t on the studio as typically as he can be, and I get bored if I am not doing 10 tasks on the identical time, and so Warren and I simply began this factor. 

“Each [Simon] and I knew in our hearts that Duran Duran with out a Taylor in it was a really weird factor.”

It got here from an thought: We have been watching some TV present, some style factor one afternoon. It was simply on within the background and there have been these fabulous voices of all these fashionistas, and I stated, “Wow, would not that be nice if that one may sing?” And Warren stated, “Nicely, we will make them sing, cannot we?” And I considered it for a minute, and I stated, “Yeah, truly.” So I sampled them and put them on a keyboard. I could make them sing no matter they’re saying another way.

There was one thing about that that was simply fascinating, and we have been on the time of sampling, so it was very simple to do. We began making a few tracks from these movies, taking the audio from TV issues. I grew to become obsessive about what was happening on the planet with know-how, with prescribed drugs, with the web. It simply felt like a interval of seismic change, and in order that album to me was all in regards to the new trendy world. 

“Medazzaland” was this combine between Simon’s random ideas about issues that had occurred and other people, and a little bit of my technological stuff seeping in by means of there. However there’s undoubtedly a relationship between them. Clearly, the TV Mania album [“Bored with Prozac and the Internet?”] sonically sounds very totally different than “Medazzaland,” however I feel each benefited in a method. The TV Mania album would by no means have been born with out “Medazzaland,” and I am unsure that “Medazzaland” would’ve ever obtained accomplished with out the TV Mania album.

We might work on it any time. Simon would maybe pop in at 3 within the afternoon and go dwelling at 6 or 7, after which Warren and I’d possibly work until 10 or 11 p..m. on tracks for the opposite one. And we simply laughed a lot as a result of, once more, that one’s simply riddled with irony and humor. That was what was driving us alongside.

And that’s so 1997. I imply, once you look again on the musical local weather, there have been so many transition information. U2 put out “Pop,” and David Bowie had his nice file “Earthling.” There was a lot attention-grabbing vitality and other people embracing know-how in new methods and attempting to see how they may reshape their music. There was loads of that within the air in 1997.

I agree. It was an attention-grabbing time for us as a result of we form of misplaced John [Taylor]. There’s the elephant within the room. And that was very odd, to say the least. It felt like one thing very critical had occurred, however we hadn’t fairly come to phrases with it one way or the other. 

John’s on a number of of the tracks on the album, however clearly he’d withdrawn at that time and he needed to vary his life fully, moved to Los Angeles. And so we have been soldiering on, however probably not figuring out. We have been form of strolling round at the hours of darkness looking for the way in which to get this file completed. And I feel half of that was what affected Simon, too, as a result of each he and I knew in our hearts that Duran Duran with out a Taylor in it was a really weird factor. To lose one, to lose two, however to lose three actually was only a bit a lot. 

I wrote “Buried within the Sand” about John. We might had a dialog, and we would recognized one another since we have been youngsters. I used to be 10 once I met him, he was 12, and we would been collectively that entire time. And we would been on the journey till 1996 collectively. So it was actually, actually unusual when he known as up. I used to be sitting on a chair in my front room pondering, “Is that this actually occurring?” 

And it was — and I after all tried to speak him out of it and stated, “Take some extra time. Take into consideration this, take into consideration that,” and he stated, “No. Consider me, I’ve considered all of it, and that is what I’ve to do and what I wish to do. We have had an incredible time collectively.” Then Simon and I had a dialog with Warren, too, after all, and I suppose we have been just a bit numb from it.

And we have been midway by means of the file anyway, so we simply carried on. Then we did the tour and we needed to get in a unique band. Warren actually helped with that once more quite a bit. He obtained Wes Wehmiller, who was a beautiful human being and an important bass participant, and Joe Travis on drums who had come from the Zappa background. They have been nice musicians they usually discovered all our songs, and I feel the sound of the band was good then. However it felt solely totally different. 

These couple of years from ’97 till 2001, these few years, have been actually tough. We had loads of enjoyable too. I bear in mind the Medazzaland Tour very fondly, however it was after that, after which once we’d executed “Pop Trash,” we knew we would actually reached the top of that line, and both we needed to cease or put the band again collectively once more. That is how the reunion occurred.

Duran DuranSimon Le Bon (left) and Nick Rhodes of English new wave band Duran Duran, seventeenth November 1998. (Colin Davey/Getty Pictures)

“Medazzaland” was such a unique time, totally different lineup, totally different all the things. What within the album’s DNA is in trendy Duran Duran? What do you see?

Smudged, I ought to say. Relatively than muddier, it is extra smudged and smeared round, the sound on that file.”

What do I see? That is an attention-grabbing query. Nicely, I see my private contributions are nonetheless from the identical DNA, that means that this album had loads of concepts in it that maybe do not floor in the identical varieties on later albums, in that I’ll throw an thought at Simon and if he likes it, he’ll seize it and he’ll write the lyric. I truthfully assume that he is pretty much as good a lyricist as anybody on the market when he is obtained the thought in his head and he is aware of how one can talk it. 

So I’ve written loads of lyrics since this era, however I really feel that it opened a door extra between — a gateway, when you like — between Simon and I to debate lyrics extra collectively than we ever had executed. In order that form of stays though I’ve fortunately handed the torch again to him to jot down most of them.

I feel our spirit of experimentation stays. The primary couple of . . . properly, the primary three albums that we made collectively have been very a lot about attempting out totally different concepts and crossing over genres. Then I feel by the point we obtained to “Infamous,” that album was a singular imaginative and prescient. We needed to make a funk file. After which among the later ones — “Massive Factor” grew to become a unique sort of file, digital with a little bit of dance music, a little bit of experimentation. 

However “Medazzaland” reclaimed loads of that very early experimentation. And so once we made this file, I feel that caught and nonetheless is there now, in that every one the information we have made after this, we have regarded again just a little at “Medazzaland” and the primary three information, for the way in which that we do issues.

Sound. I really like the sonic structure on “Medazzaland.” In a method we referred again to the ’70s just a little bit extra, to all these nice Bowie information and even to The Beatles, for positive. I feel there’s just a few nods to them on the album. In order that’s very specific to “Medazzaland” and “Pop Trash,” truly, I feel that form of sound. We usually have a bit extra readability, however I fairly like blurring among the strains. Smudged, I ought to say. Relatively than muddier, it is extra smudged and smeared round, the sound on that file. In order that form of caught with me too.

And just a little little bit of the darkness that is at all times been there with the band proper from the very first album. For me, what makes music attention-grabbing is the steadiness between lightness and darkness. If you do not have that, if it is only a happy-happy file — and even only a actually darkish, unhappy file — sure, a few of these are wonderful and might put you in the suitable way of thinking. However when you can steadiness each of them collectively in the identical file, then that is extra of a illustration to me actually of what we’re as a band and the form of life that we dwell. We now have nice joyful occasions and clearly darkness and unhappiness, like everybody else too. 

Would you think about taking part in any of the songs dwell once more from this file?

Oh, undoubtedly. Most undoubtedly. Humorous sufficient, we’re about to do a Halloween present in Las Vegas of all locations, and one of many songs on the checklist for that present was “Out of My Thoughts.” Ultimately, we had so many different ones that we needed to try this it did not fairly make the checklist, however everyone loves that tune. “Electrical Barbarella,” we performed within the final 10 years for positive. I would like to play “Michael, You have Bought a Lot to Reply For” once more. 

I at all times needed to open the present with “Silva Halo.” I used to be going to have Simon standing there very, very nonetheless on the heart of the stage, and at a sure level within the tune when the refrain is available in [during] “Silva Halo,” it is a very quick piece, I needed to raise him slowly up together with his arms out nearly like some form of weird, Christ-like determine up into the rig. [Laughs.]

I believed it could be so darkish and unusual, however we by no means fairly obtained to do it. And I feel maybe Simon sabotaged it as soon as he’d realized he was going to need to get all these wires strapped to him. [Laughs.] However yeah, I really like that tune too, “Silva Halo.” It is one other little unusual surrealist poem. However yeah, I completely would like to play them once more. 

I am thrilled that the album’s obtained just a little little bit of consideration from individuals, as a result of it is at all times been a kind of form of sitting within the cabinet someplace. However I hadn’t realized that it did imply one thing to fairly just a few individuals, so I am glad it is on the market once more.

I really like having it on vinyl too.

Nicely, the particular version will come hopefully subsequent 12 months. I’ve obtained to undergo all of the tapes, as a result of we have got infinite tapes from “Medazzaland.” None of them are actually completed songs, however I feel there’s in all probability sufficient so as to add sufficient attention-grabbing items of music as sketches so that individuals can perceive what else was going by means of our heads in that interval. 

And I at all times take a look at issues like a fan. I at all times assume, “What would I like to listen to from someone else once we’re making issues like that? And would that be attention-grabbing, or is that simply overindulgent or too boring or not completed sufficient?” That is how I make the judgements. And so I’ll undergo them, and if there’s sufficient attention-grabbing issues there for positive, there will be a deluxe model later within the [next] 12 months. There is a plan, however now we obtained to see what’s there.

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