The first voice heard on “Paper Gods,” Duran Duran’s 2015 album, is not the distinctive vocal of the band’s lead singer, Simon Le Bon. It’s Mr. Hudson, the British singer-songwriter featured on Jay Z’s “Young Forever.” On the album’s first single, “Pressure Off,” Le Bon shares vocal duty with Janelle Monae. Canadian singer Kiesza drops in for an album highlight, “Last Night in the City,” and even Lindsay Lohan shares the mic for “Danceophobia.”
Even after 14 studio albums, more than nine figures worth of records sold and sold-out tours around the world, the pop and dance music legends are still expanding what the band can do, working with more collaborators on one album than it ever has previously.
amNewYork caught up with John Taylor, the band’s bassist, to chat in advance of their stop in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.
“Paper Gods” has a lot more features on it than your previous work.
After a while, it just became a party that you were just happy to have people come to. We have our method of working, and essentially we’re the same guys we were 30 years ago. You get burrowed into your way. And suddenly you look out there, and you see that every hit record out there has “featuring...” I didn’t even know that term until a year ago. And we thought it was kind of interesting. So what do you do? Sometimes you get into a Puritanistic mode — “You see, the thing is we’re a *band* and we don’t have to do features.” That was always one of the great things about being a band — all you need is electricity. But then you see what people are listening to and you think, “[expletive], man, can anybody actually listen to an entire album of the same singer anymore?” The way music is served up now, we thought maybe we could learn from that.
What does modern-day dance music get right?
There’s not a whole lot of “dance music” that really gets under my skin right now, I have to say. I like Galantis, “Runaway.” There was something about that song, but it’s definitely an exception. In terms of music to dance to, I’m enjoying hip-hop right now. The sound design, the choices that producers are making right now — it’s really interesting. It’s a little bit tricky with the lyrical direction, which isn’t intending to speak to me. But aesthetically, sonically, I think it’s having a good time right now. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Travis Scott — I really like that record of his — DJ Mustard.
2016 is the 35th anniversary of Duran Duran’s self-titled debut album. When was the last time you listened to it? And what did you think of it then?
I haven’t listened to that album all the way through in several years. But I’m very proud of that album, of all the really early albums, because I now know how difficult it is to do what we did. I think there’s a really terrific development between the first three albums.
After 35 years, countless albums and awards ... how do you keep interested? How do you stay challenged?
It’s always possible to keep the challenge alive. I’m sitting here, staring at a Moog synthesizer. This is the album where I really embraced synth bass, because we were looking in the pop charts and saying, “It’s all samples, it’s all electronic. So why don’t we try some different sounds, some different combinations?” And now as we ready for this tour, I’ve got to get my head around playing this synthesizer, and it’s challenging. But that’s good! It’s kind of fun. You’ve just got to keep challenging yourself.