Only a publicist or a close relative would claim that Astronaut, the new album by the newly reunited Duran Duran, is comparable to the veteran English synth-rock group's classic 1980s records. Nothing on Astronaut inhabits the same galaxy as "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf" or even "Ordinary World," although the CD's not entirely without merit. Made in conjunction with top-flight producers Don Gilmore, Dallas Austin and Nile Rodgers, it's an intermittently tuneful, unashamedly shiny retrofit of the band's influential sound--minus some sex, of course, but with hard-earned life lessons in its place. Given the choice of interviewing original members Roger Taylor, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, Simon LeBon or Andy Taylor, we chose Andy, because on Astronaut's cover he looks the least (most?) like a creepy uncle. Also, we didn't have a choice.
Dallas Observer: Tell me what you were doing right before the band got back together.
Andy Taylor: I'd literally just walked in the door. I'd been in Ibiza, which is where I live now. I spend most summers there, just sort of hanging out in clubs and stuff. And I was about to move out to the U.K. and not do an awful lot apart from probably writing, and I was quite happy. You get to a point where you make a deal with yourself: I don't really care. I've got four kids. My son has a band, and he works harder than I do.
Duran Duran performs at Nokia Live on Saturday, February 19.
Then John called me, and he didn't have to open his mouth. I knew exactly what he was gonna say. It was either that someone had died, or it was something serious about us. And the five of us all said yes in the same breath, basically. That in itself was unusual--for everyone to have a positive approach, especially to such a big question.
DO: What was John's pitch to you?
AT: It was the simplest of questions. I said, "Is everyone serious?" He said, "Well, we're all sitting around the pool, and everyone seems to be quite happy about the idea." I said, "Well, I'll just call Roger." I mean, it was really simple, because no one had actually looked at any proposition. It wasn't like, "Here's 6 million bucks, get on the road!" or "Here's a record deal!" It was just, "Do you want to get back and actually start exploring the creative relationship and see if we can write songs? See if we've got a new reason for being here?"
DO: Had you been itching to get back to music?
AT: Well, you don't ever stop doing music. If you started doing it when you were young, you'll probably always do it. From time to time you drop out of the music business, but you don't stop making music. It's kind of impossible to, really, unless you consciously make a decision: I'm gonna go study law and fuck this shit. So you're always storing up ideas. I just had not dealt with the business for quite a period of time. I didn't need to, and if you don't need to, you become a bit of a pariah.
And I didn't want to deal with the business unless I could deal with something that was strong, like Duran Duran, where if we're gonna get into contract negotiations, it's gonna be a fucking decent contract--and so on and so forth. So I was in an OK place, and I had loads of songs I'd written and things I'd done. It's sort of like doing your first album again, really--you've got loads of energy and ideas and things. And you find a valid place, a valid vehicle to dive in and throw them all on.
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DO: You mentioned needing a new reason for Duran Duran to be here. What'd you guys come up with?
AT: First we had to have some music. We had to sit down and bounce it around so that everyone felt that it was going somewhere. And within the first week we got a couple of tracks that are on the album. I think the best thing we got, on about the third or fourth day, was "Bedroom Toys." It was just a really great little gentle groove, had all the influences of Chic and that sort of funk thing and the keyboard sequence running through it and a stupid fucking lyric idea and a great little melody. All the elements were there, and it was progressive, and I just thought I could hear this on a record. As soon as you hear that, there it is. Everyone opens up more; the process builds momentum.
DO: What did your family think of the reunion? Were you talking with them a lot about it?
AT: Oh, yeah. The son's aspiring to do music, and a couple of my kids are teenagers, so they're like, "Just get out and do it." I think it's a great source of pride, actually, for my kids and for me. They love the whole thing, and they're all old enough that they're not backstage kids. They've seen the band on video and they've heard us on record, but they really haven't seen what this whole thing was that we did when we were younger. So they're very happy, and it's affected their lives marginally. My wife's been with me since I was 20 anyway, so I think she's just happy to get me out of the house.