Tuesday brings a 2015 year-end Katy Kafe with John Taylor – this time in video! Let me properly set the stage: John is sitting at his computer in a cozy sort of room with white paneling. There is an upright piano (complete with obligatory metronome) sitting against the wall to the back right of him, and above the paneling around the room, there are figurines of some sort. (To be honest it reminds me very much of a room at my grandmothers old house, and this shelf is exactly where she would display her salt and pepper shakers. I’m pretty sure John isn’t the type to collect salt and pepper shakers [???], and my eyesight isn’t THAT great so I couldn’t tell what they were. As I continue typing, I’m starting to think that perhaps it’s a little weird for me to even notice…but whatever. Fan blog. Need I say more??) As I further considered the setting, I was thinking “seems like a den”, and at that same time, John mentions that Katy has caught him in his den. And for you John girls out there – he’s wearing a fedora-type hat (although the brim doesn’t seem wide enough to be called a fedora, but it’s along those lines.) So there you have it!
He recalls Simon saying that this tour was the best ever to the audience on the last night of the UK tour. He said that he meant to ask him later on if he really meant it because he was feeling similar. “Every show was great. No throw-aways. No one lost their voice.” He continues by mentioning the audiences, “The crowds this year have been on another level.” John says that this past year, he’s felt very loved, unconditionally, which has been encouraging.
In retrospect, he feels very good about 2015, saying that the band still seeks success in a number of avenues, and that touring does help to achieve part of that. “Every night, getting positive feed back. [It is] A validation of what we do.” John speaks of the press, partially in answer to the subject of whether or not he is surprised that in 2015, Duran Duran is still touring and creating albums. He surmises that perhaps, had the band not shot straight to the stratosphere, but instead had a much more steady rise and build up, the press may have seen them and the band’s future differently.
The album comes up naturally in conversation several times over the course of the Kafe, as John refers to the two years the band spent in the studio writing and recording, “Pulling hair, but still having the inkling that the team still has something to give.” Conversely, touring isn’t all “the band”. The audience has something to add to that conversation. He explains that he isn’t like Nick – he likes the studio, but loves being onstage, “I want to perform.” For John, the albums are produced so that they have material to keep the performances fresh. He talks about how on the UK tour they integrated video into the show and that they’re all “still learning and putting it all together and it has been fun. It hasn’t always been that way. We are enjoying who we are.” He uses a very interesting sort of analogy to drive his point home, talking about how you can look over the course of the band’s (or anyone’s) career or life in photos and see the various “detours” (as he put it) and you can say “Oh yeah…there’s an apparent midlife crisis happening there.” But right now, they know exactly who they are.
As a commentary, I found his statement interesting because there are still plenty of people out there that feel Paper Gods was written with the idea of attracting a wider audience (as opposed to just their core fan base) in mind. Katy feels that Paper Gods is emblematic of who they are and their career at this point in time – yet many others disagree, saying that the band is trying to be something they are not. It’s clear John very much believes that Paper Gods is an accurate representation of who Duran Duran is in 2015. I tend to feel, after blogging and engaging with the fan base for the past five years, there is a certain faction within who believe unless the band is recreating the sound from the first album, Rio and perhaps even Seven and the Ragged Tiger to a limited extent, they’re not being true to themselves. I suppose to those fans, Paper Gods is a tough sell, which is a shame. I’m sure many would disagree, but that is my take-away after having written and observed the fan base for the better part of a decade, for what it may be worth.
Favorite album of 2015
Since the Kafe is happening in John’s den, we have the added benefit of John being able to pull the albums directly from his collection. His first “grab” is Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness. (Is this an appropriate time to mention that I’ve never heard of Julia Holter but I’m going to Spotify right now to find her?? Two songs in and I’m sold, btw – it’s a great album for relaxing, which is EXACTLY what I need right now. Thanks John! This is one reason why I love John Taylor and miss him from social media. He feeds me new music discoveries.) He goes back to the record pile and grabs another – this time coming back with Bjork – I think he held up Biophilia but I’m not positive and forgot to make note. One last grab, this time holding up Beach House’s Depression Cherry. He seems to like female lead singers, as Katy mentions. Lately, he’s been in to them, he agrees. He also lists Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and Hot Line Bling as other favorites for the year.
Favorite Movie of 2015
Without skipping a beat, John announces that Mad Max is his favorite movie of the year. Katy questions him a little about the modern Mad Max, wondering if it is at all like the original. After limited discussion it is agreed that it is its own animal. As a runner-up, John mentions The Clouds of Sils Maria (with Juliette Binoche and Kristin Steward).
Favorite Television of 2015
Finally a topic that causes John to take pause. He contemplates, and says he’s watched a lot of TV this year – mentioning that he just finished bingeing on four seasons of Scandal. Katy assumes he’s watching that with Gela, but no…John is watching this by himself. I chuckle, because well…it is also a favorite of mine.
Favorite Book of 2015
John read Jonathan Franzen’s book Purity, which he liked…but that caused him to read his book Freedom, which he LOVED. He mentions that not only is he not a fast reader, he doesn’t finish a lot of the books he starts. I struggle with that myself these days, sadly. Then he grabs a book from his desk by Ian McDonald called Revolution in the Head, which is an incredibly accurate breakdown of Beatles Songs and the minutia of how the band wrote and recorded them, calling it his bible.
2015 in a word
Complexity. “Everything is a grey area”
That pub show we all wish we’d been invited to…
John likened the experience to being in a punk band. He summarizes the feeling that night by calling it confrontational. Keep in mind the pub had about 120 people in it, and the band was quite literally playing in the faces of their guests (again, wishing my invite hadn’t been lost in the mail…) On a typical stage, you don’t have that same confrontational aspect. He talks about how he’s standing there, weapon in hand (that’d be his bass guitar of course), and he mentions the heat in the pub and that everyone is sweaty…and how he really enjoys those experiences every once in a while because it keeps the performance from getting too sanitized (or as I like to call it, “choreographed”, which I can definitely see being a hazard of the large stage show.) “There are no small stages.”
Looking ahead to 2016
I find it fascinating how differently the band sees next year. They all agree that yes, they’re touring – but where Simon and Roger talk about the entire year being a “touring year”, John mentions more than once that it’s really only 3-4 months at this point. He talks about the two months of touring in the US, saying that it is very ambitious for them, and that he wants to get through it “peacefully”, meaning that no one gets sick or loses their voice or anything like that. He continues, saying that they are in a great position right now and that the show has “just begun”. He doesn’t know what opportunities it will bring, only that it will bring some. Katy does ask him about the possibility of doing other shows around the world, but I have to say – at least from my point of view as a listener/observer – John seemed hesitant to commit to more. I got the feeling that perhaps, at least at the point of this Kafe, nothing had been decided yet. Couple that with what Simon had mentioned about not knowing where the band was or was not going next year – I would venture to guess that beyond the US, the band has not necessarily committed to more dates as of this writing. Perhaps it all comes down to money (funding) and finding the right promoter, and perhaps the band really just does not know what is in the process of being organized. After all, this isn’t a band who gets involved in the day-to-day tour development. They handle their end, and someone else manages the business, which makes sense.
The subject naturally turns to the world at hand. “Glad we’re out there publicly at this time.” With the events from Paris and elsewhere, there is a lot of fear out there, being “stoked by the media and who knows who else.” Katy talks about how she doesn’t necessarily want to take her kids into the city or on public transportation (A feeling that as a fellow parent, I completely, yet sadly, share…and I am not that way normally.) “People are scared,” John surmises, “and looking for reassurance. You’re gonna get it from us.” He explains that he never takes any of the freedom with which they are able to play in the UK and “the country that embraced us – the U.S.” for granted. I like it when he describes it as always going out there and playing as though it were their last show, because for their fans, that’s exactly how many feel each night. “We’re gonna fight to keep those lines of communication open.”
Beautifully, John describes that horrible night in Paris for music lovers as having their bubble popped. It really was like that. The concert hall (or pub, bar, arena, etc.) is the escape for many fans. It is utopia. To have that feeling destroyed – well, it rocks one to the very core, doesn’t it?
Even so, John is really looking forward to getting out there. He talks about one of the greatest moments of his life being in Denver as he looked out onto the stage to see Chic playing, knowing that Duran Duran were to follow.
I have no doubt that Duran Duran fans look forward to 2016 with the same images in mind and excitement in their heart.