This is a long one, and I cannot apologize. John said a LOT in a very short amount of time. Get a snack and a beverage and don’t blame me for being wordy. As always, I will give my disclaimer that this is not written word for word from the Kafe recording. I listen, take notes and hope that my own feelings don’t completely cloud his message…or Katy’s. Sometimes I get it right, and many times for a lot of you I get it completely wrong. I accept that. If you want to hear the entire Kafe, get your DDM membership.
Paper Gods is the title of the album, and this song opens the album. Interestingly enough, this song was once settled midway through the album as a sort of beginning to the “darker side” of Duran…a section of the album I am really looking forward to hearing. I don’t know that we’ve gotten a whole lot of “Darker Duran” since the first album…although I can certainly name several recent songs that belong under that moniker: Red Carpet Massacre, Chains, Last Man Standing, Dirty Great Monster…but once the song became the title, the band decided to open the album with the song. John explains that the song is about the commodification of everything, and how quickly everything goes in and out of fashion. It has a lot to do with the things we obsess about, and that to at least some degree it’s an explanation of Duran Duran’s experience.
The title Paper Gods can be viewed in a lot of different ways but for some reason that said it all to me. – Katy Krassner
John explains that this song is really a very important song for the band. He says that it is kind of like their history in a song, referring to the fact that Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson and Ben Hudson all worked on it together in varying positions (producers and production, respectively). John says (and I completely agree) that it has a feel good summer vibe to it. Where Paper Gods is dark and almost political, Pressure Off is kind of “Fuck off and dance” or “Party on Wayne” (truly, in my opinion, one of the best things John Taylor has ever quoted…) John mentions that the song is hedonist, and that’s really something that Duran Duran has always kind of subscribed to as their Modus Operandi. (And honestly, isn’t that sort of escapism something that we as Duranies have always embraced??) “You don’t write a song like that and not hope everyone likes it. Paper Gods is a song you write for yourself. Pressure Off is a song you write for everyone else.” (I haven’t heard Paper Gods, but this is EXACTLY what we’ve been saying about Pressure Off. It’s a song for everyone who doesn’t already know Duran Duran, and I still say it’s catchy as hell.) Katy asks if John likes playing it live, and you can hear John’s voice brighten as he talks about playing this new song. He comments that many of the songs off of this album are written and programmed meticulously, but this song was built on a live performance, so it lends itself to that environment very well. “Dom is the best Nile impersonator on the planet.” And then some, in my opinion.
Just through social media, which I’ve handled for the band for some years now, it is the most positive response that I’ve seen for a Duran Duran single since social media began. – Katy Krassner
Again, I agree with Katy. I’ve NEVER seen this kind of response to one of their songs, at least not in recent (year 2000 or later) memory. Even critics and websites that have never really been on the Duran Duran bandwagon have chimed in with positive response for the song. Like Katy, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse…but since the song is already out and about now…I really think this song could go places if it gets radio play. My concern at this point is whether or not that’s happening here in the states. I don’t know what Warner’s promo plan might be, or whether they’re not pushing it until the album release gets closer, and I don’t want to second guess the label effort. I just hope I hear the song on the radio, and that the band gets the promotion help they deserve. The song is worth the effort, and if fans can help with that, I know a blog that is more than willing to do it’s part. Just tell us how we can help.
Specifically, Katy asks about putting Pressure Off into the continued set list, or if it was just a one-off. John eagerly says that playing Pressure Off is what is going to make the shows fun for him. Now, before fans scoff at the idea that only that one song makes the shows worth it for John, I don’t think that’s what he meant at all. Let’s face it, some of the songs in the setlist have been there for DECADES. It’s the newer music that keeps everything fresh. It’s a new challenge. I would imagine it gets just as tiring for the band to play Hungry Like the Wolf each night as it does for THIS fan to hear it…but it’s part of the deal. John explains that the band evolves, so they are putting Pressure Off into the setlist for the next 3-4 shows, and then hopefully by the time they get to Bestival they will be playing 3-4 songs from the new album. Right now, the festivals and shows are serving as a sort of “Hey, remember us? We’re the band that brought you _________________”. It’s about inserting themselves back into the narrative. However, once they come to the western states, the focus is going to be on the new songs from Paper Gods.
Duran Duran has worked with people before, and I think we all know this. However, as Katy mentions to John, they’ve never really worked with this many collaborators on a single album. I’m actually very pleased she brings this up with him, because it’s a question that has quite literally been hanging in the air when the subject of this album comes up with fans all over social media. Why so many this time? John doesn’t really answer that question specifically, but he certainly does address the functionality. He quickly states that he doesn’t think they take away from the Duran-ness of the album. He uses Last Night in the City as an example. It is the second song on the album and features Kiesza…and actually the song opens with Kiesza and then Simon comes in following her. John says that he’s always wanted to try that with a Duran song. I think it will be interesting to see how it fares among fans, who tend to be purists when it comes to this band and specifically Simon.
John also explains that the album is long by even 1981 standards…and by 2015 standards it is a VERY long album. I think in order to fully understand what he means, you have to go back to some earlier Katy Kafe’s with him as he describes his perfect album or even when they’ve discussed the differences between recording today versus back in the 1980’s. In this day and age, people don’t typically buy entire albums, they buy singles or songs. It’s rare for people (young people, most likely) to sit through an entire album from start to finish. He talks about rising to the challenge of sitting and absorbing a full album. I see it more as the difference between fast food and a full seven-course meal, to be honest. Kids don’t know what they’re missing!!! (I think I just aged myself to “You kids get off my lawn!” status right there. So be it.) John believes the guests help with breaking the album up and adding interest in the same way that a course of sorbet, or a finger bowl might for fine dining.
He continues by explaining that they’ve adjusted their music so that it works in today’s world. For instance, he goes into detail about how now there is synthesized bass, sub-bass, and of course his bass in music, it’s not just one track or just one instrument creating the sound as it once was.
You can put that down to a lack of imagination, or put it down as us trying to adjust our music so that it works in today’s world. -John Taylor
The Promotional and Touring Grind
Does John really love doing promotion? It’s a fair question given some of his Kafe’s over the course of the last few years. I myself have questioned several times here whether or not John’s heart is still in this. To be fair, I think it’s been an incredibly long haul at times. All I have to really do is look at some of the old footage and remind myself that while I was sitting at home watching their fame unfold – they were living it. They were rushed from appearance to appearance and I highly doubt that they really even recognized what was happening at the time. Hindsight is 20/20. So while I questioned, it wasn’t with malicious intent as much as it was genuine concern (mixed with a little frustration at times, I’ll admit).
John’s answer is as authentic as I would expect, and I have to share: it brought me to near tears in parts. (Yes, I have become somewhat of am emotional sap in the past few years, but I love this band.) If I could have trapped and bottled the clear emotions from both John AND Katy during this part of the Kafe, I would. John freely admits that it isn’t all fun. He says that they all accept that promotion and being on the road and recording are all parts of the job, and some might like the studio and others might like being on the road, etc. He says that he loves being on stage when it’s all right – without technical glitches. That technical piece is their responsibility, he adds, and that’s why it’s important for them to do festivals and shows as they’re doing this summer, “to get the machine up and running”. He does not; however, love being on the road. That portion is the grind, and I think if we were all being fair, we’d agree and understand.
Let me be clear: Amanda and I travel a bit to see them. We pick portions of the country and go to see a few shows. We can’t ever go for very long, but we might do 3-4 shows at a time. By the time I am done with that final show, I AM EXHAUSTED. I typically come home and promptly become deathly ill (which really annoys my entire family!)My body can’t take the travel. I don’t know how the band does it. Even though I know it’s their job, it must truly kick their ass. I know it does me, and I don’t really have to “work”…my job is just to go and have a great time. I just tend to push my body to the edge in the process.
I fantasize about staying in one place for 365 days. – John Taylor
Katy asks the one million dollar question that I’ve been waiting to hear. Is John ready to get back out there on the road? Does he still like touring and playing live? To be fair, in recent years – specifically while the band was recording (a detail I find to be important, because I think John’s attitude may have changed during that period.), I noted several times in Kafe’s where John was very clear that he was in no hurry to play live or tour again. As a fan, it was disconcerting to hear, because for us – that’s really the meat and potatoes of being a fan. Those live shows are what we all share together. They are special moments that for some of us, don’t happen nearly enough (and for even others not at all, which I need to also acknowledge). Emphatically, John says that he loves being on stage. He feels really good onstage. He explains again about the technical side of it, which I think any of us should be able to understand. Then he goes on to say something that tells me everything I need to know, ” (Real) life is complicated. When the lights go down, it’s just the relationship between me and the other musicians, and the fans.” He continues by saying it gets “over far too quickly” and then after the show he remembers he’s got to get back to the hotel and rest and then move on to the next place.
That’s EXACTLY what the shows are like for me. In that brief 2 hour period, my life becomes simple. It’s about me, the music, and the (brief) interactions with the band. I leave the real world completely behind. If anyone really wants to understand me or my fandom – that is it in a nutshell. John nailed it.
He finishes the Kafe by talking about touring and how much they want to go back to places like Japan. Almost wistfully he mentions that when they were really getting out there back in the 80’s, they were requested everywhere, and now he feels a little like they’ve got to go knock on doors and ask to play. Katy, to her credit (I could have hugged her), reminds John that they’re still asked to play in places like America, and the UK, and Italy…and probably a lot of other places but my emotions got the best of me at this point. Then she says that despite what he says about the grind of touring, if he could see what SHE sees (and what we ALL see!) when he’s on that stage playing, she knows he loves it.
I worry about John because I truly don’t think that man knows how much he is loved. Yes, there are people out there that have issues and need new hobbies…but we love him. We love him for being a musician, being in Duran Duran…but we love him most because of who he is underneath. It is in these moments when he seems most vulnerable and natural that I’m reminded of why I’m a fan. I wish he knew that. That’s why I write this blog, otherwise there would really be no point.