Category Archives: Mark Ronson

Mark Ronson: What Fans Want

I was on Twitter this morning and a quote from a recent interview that Mark Ronson did with an Italian website (I think it’s a TV station website??) caught my eye.  They were discussing #DD14 and what the album might have in-store).  Here are the direct quotes and my (very rusty) translations.

Nei mesi scorsi sei tornato a lavorare con i Duran Duran. Dopo “All You Need Is Now” produrrai anche il nuovo album?  (Translation: In recent months, you’ve come back to work with Duran Duran. After “All You Need is Now”, will you be producing this album?)
In realtà ho scritto, prodotto e suonato solo alcuni brani con Nile Rodgers, non l’intero lavoro. A livello di sound credo siano grandiosi, perché sono esattamente quello che ciascun fan vorrebbe dai Duran e Nile Rodgers quando lavorano insieme, quella chimica che si sentiva in “The Reflex” e “Notorious”. (Translation: “Actually I wrote, produced and performed on only a few songs with Nile Rodgers, not the entire album. In terms of sound I think they are great because they are exactly what every fan wants from Duran and Nile Rodgers when they collaborate, that chemistry present in “The Reflex” and “Notorious“.

Overall, I don’t think there is any “news” here. It’s been known for months (years?) now that Mark was not going to be producing the entire album as a whole, and we all have known that Nile and Mark were a part of the “dream team” assembled.  What I found curious though, was Mark’s comment about the sound being everything that fans want from a Nile Rodgers/Duran Duran collaboration like “Notorious” or “The Reflex”.

When I read that line, my mind skipped back to the days just prior to All You Need is Now, when Mark did press and said he was going for a follow-up to Rio. I panned that idea here on the blog, saying that he was practically setting himself up to failure because Rio didn’t need to be replicated. I meant that at the time, and although I thoroughly enjoy All You Need is Now, there are some songs on the album that I know were a huge reach back to embrace what was done on Rio (I’m thinking of Leopard here, for starters).  Even before we’ve heard solid details about this album aside from a virtual glitterati parade of names and a few vague abstractions (everything from a “dance” album to “70’s driving songs”), we’re being brought back to Notorious and The Reflex. Mind you, neither the Notorious album or The Reflex are poor examples of creativity by any means, but is it really effective marketing to compare this effort to those of the past?

At least partially, that answer depends on whether fans really loved Notorious and/or The Reflex. In past surveys we’ve done, Notorious has never scored that high overall….I’m not saying that nobody loves the album, but I am saying that for those who cared to answer, Notorious didn’t typically score that high. Instead, it was an album that fans neither loved (overall) nor hated (overall). It tends to fall smack in the middle when ranked with other Duran Duran albums, whereas the first album or even Rio always ranks near or at the top.  So do fans really want more of Notorious or The Reflex, or is it the happy, friendly, nostalgic chemistry that gives us all the good feels?

Purely on a personal note, I would just like the album finished so that I could hear it for myself. I enjoy conjecture and guesswork as much as the next blogger – but we’ve been doing this for nearly three years now (even before the band committed themselves to hard studio time!), I am ready for the end-product. I’m looking forward to hearing what Duran Duran, Nile, Mark, Mr. Hudson and the full “cast of thousands” have conjured!

-R

 

Today in Duran History – Blame the Machines!

On today’s date in 2010, Mark Ronson became the hero of all Duranies…very nearly our own patron saint! Why is that you ask?  Was this the date he began working with the band? (Nope!) Did they ever name him as the fifth member?? (No. No they did not.) No…Mark did something that will endear him to us forevermore.  He gave us the gift of playing 30 seconds of “Blame the Machines” during his show on East Village Radio.

Do you hear trumpets of triumph or angels singing…or is that just me?

I remember back when we used to get snippets…..*sigh*  In fact if the band wants to send us a gift of a snippet right now as you read this, I am safely out of town…probably without cell service because I’m camping. On vacation for the next several days, in fact.  I might never even know!!!  *gasp*

However, in case that never happens…we have the fond memory of Mark playing brand new, unreleased Duran Duran on his radio show. At least somebody was looking out for the fans….

-R

May Katy Kafe with John Taylor

People will often ask me why I’m still a paying member over at DuranDuranMusic, the official fan club.  The first thing I will mention, of course, is the presales.  I might then mention the swag that one gets with membership as I’m a sucker for Duran merch.  That said, I do LOVE the Katy Kafes.  I always feel like I learn a lot about the band and the band member in the Kafe by listening to them.  I gain an insight that I wouldn’t gain from a regular interview.  First, I gain some insight by how the band member in question reacts to the topic at hand.  Sometimes, the tone and whatnot tells me more than the actual words.  Second, the fact that this is done with Katy, someone who really knows them, allows for a different level of interaction than a straight up interview with a random stranger.  My point being that I learn a lot from listening to them and enjoy them, too.  This month’s was no different.

This month’s Kafe was posted to the website on May 20th and found John Taylor in New York City before the band’s appearance in Cannes.  The topics were what you would imagine them to be and included information on the work in the studio, John’s autobiography, and the appearance in Cannes.  There was a brief discussion on coffee and caffeine as well.  While I figured there would be quite a bit of discussion on the new album and the work in the studio, I admit that I was surprised that his book was a topic as that seemed to be talked about a lot last year.  I was also surprised that there was no discussion surrounding his lack of twitter appearances for 2013.  This could have been a perfect venue for it to be discussed and John, certainly, could have explained himself well in this setting.  Yet, the fact that it wasn’t even brought up led me to wonder if it was something agreed not to be discussed, which probably just gets me thinking about it even more.

John did spend a long time discussing the progress of the new album.  He mentioned that they are in what is possibly his favorite part of the process as it seems like every song has the potential to all be fabulous!  It is only as the songs get finished that some are clearly not as strong as others, which I can imagine.  I relate to this as I feel that way as a writer.  Every blog is going to be the best blog ever until I actually write it.  Some blogs really do turn out wonderful and I’m really proud of them and others I feel like I miss the mark somewhere or didn’t explain myself as well as I could have.  He also said that it was nice to be with everyone again.  Katy asked a good question about whether or not people came with ideas despite typically not writing on the road.  He said that people did but that there really wasn’t pressure to come with some.  The most important thing was to get ideas that become or are group ideas.  The album shouldn’t be like a Nick Rhodes solo album with Simon singing or a John Taylor solo album with Simon’s vocals.  It should a great Duran album.  Everyone needs to feel a part of it and he specifically pointed out that “integrating Dom” is key.    One word that he used to describe a great Duran album is balance.  I definitely agree with him.  This is what the first couple of albums had and what AYNIN had.  There was a balance with all members.  They were all present and accounted for.  If they know this now and use this now, I’m totally reassured that the album will turn out well.

John was also asked about working with Mark again and the timeline of the album.  As far as Mark was concerned, he stated that they would be pleased for him to produce some of the album.  He specifically did not say the whole album.  I’m not sure what that means exactly.  Would they bring in other producers?  Produce themselves?  Yet, John did mention that they need a captain to the project and that Mark did that whereas having a band member be captain doesn’t always work, which made perfect sense to me.  The captain isn’t as tied emotionally to any of the ideas or to the band and band’s direction.  S/he could be more objective, at least that is what I thought.  As for the timeline, this part made me laugh.  John said that they were all interested in playing shows next summer but wanted the album out before that.  Hmm…did I just read somewhere about shows in the summer and how much easier it is for people like me?!  Great minds think alike, apparently.  Anyway, despite this desire, he said he is open-minded about the album’s timeline.

Beyond the discussion surrounding the band’s current activities, Katy did ask about the book.  At first, I really wished that she hadn’t simply because I didn’t know what more could be gained.  After a minute or two, I was so glad that she had as John discussed how he did give copies to family members and that they seemed shocked to find out about his struggle with addiction.  He made an incredibly important point, which is that no one really understands as the pain is not seen.  John also explained a little bit about grief towards his parents and how it is a strong force.  This resonated with me.  While I haven’t (thank goodness) lost my parents, I still think I have experienced grief surrounding my job, which might sound silly but that’s how I look at it.  In response to grief, John said that it must be processed in the right way or it can become destructive.  Again, I was led to wonder if I have dealt with my feelings regarding my career the way that I should.  This, of course, is where I really appreciate being able to listen to these.  Not only did I gain insight into John but it forced me to reflect on my own life and my own experiences.

Was the best, more interesting, Katy Kafe ever?  Probably not.  We didn’t get a lot of insider information regarding things like how many songs have lyrics or any other behind the scenes information.  We did get an insight into John and his ideas on how the band needs to function to produce great Duran songs.  We also learned about his ideas regarding grief and loss.  I, for one, am thankful that I had the opportunity to listen to the Kafe completely as my reaction, which isn’t even a summary, does not do it justice.  I recommend listening for yourself.

-A

Look Into the Future…Don’t Be Afraid

Duran Duran is back in the studio.  Those are, generally, music to my ears.  In fact, it might be my second favorite phrase after, “Duran Duran is on tour.”  🙂  This week, we have seen some evidence of that in the form of tweets.  Two days ago, Simon tweeted a picture of a computer screen with obvious music being made.  Then, a day ago Duran Duran tweeted again an excerpt from the Katy Kafe with Simon when he talked about returning to the studio.  In this clip, he mentioned about how things didn’t do quite how they were supposed to, as typical of first days.  Yet, there is hope as Roger is a fabulous drummer, John plays bass like a *****, Nick plays keyboards well, Dom plays a killer guitar and Simon can sing.  Also, Mark Ronson shared a picture of Roger Taylor behind his drum kit.  Dom didn’t stay out of the action either as he tweeted that it has been a productive couple of weeks in the studio for Duran and Mark.  Then, yesterday, another Duran tweet about how more pictures will be shown from the studio next week.

On top of all these official tweets were the responses from the fans I saw.  All of the ones I saw were positive.  (Of course, there might have been less than positive ones that I just didn’t see.)  Some people were just excited to see the pictures.  I get this.  While, of course, many fans do like to look at the band members and I’m sure that’s part of it, I also think seeing the picture makes it so much more real.  After all, we all know that words on twitter do not prove anything.  Pictures do something else that words can’t always do.  They can really show body language and give a deeper sense as to how the person(s) is (are) doing and feeling.  That picture of Roger, for example, shows him with a slight smile on his face, which is great!  Judge yourself–go here to look.  Thus, am I thrilled that we might get more pictures next week?  Of course, I am! 

Other fans are just now finding out that Duran is working with Mark Ronson again.  For those fans, they couldn’t be more thrilled (assuming that they loved AYNIN).  For most fans, this news brings a certain level of excitement but also a certain level of comfort.  Let’s face it.  Duran has been so innovative that they truly have tried to never make the same album twice and each album definitely sounds different from the album before it and the album after it.  Sometimes, the change has been welcomed, especially when it feels like they hit the nail on the hit with an album after one that wasn’t as well-liked.  All You Need Is Now is the perfect example of that.  A lot of fans were disappointed or worse with Red Carpet Massacre.  AYNIN was very much a welcomed change.  I suppose it can be argued that some of Duran’s best albums have been created after a not-as-great album.  Some would say the Wedding Album was another example of that.  My point here is that Duran often tries to change, to be different from the previous album. Will that happen with Mark?  It is hard to say.  Will the new album sound like a continued version of AYNIN?  Will it sound different?  The one thing a lot of us fans would say is that Mark seemed to really get Duran. Thus, it doesn’t matter as much if it sounds like AYNIN part 2 or is something totally different.  We have confidence that it will still sound and feel like Duran.

The other interesting thing about the band working with Mark again is that they haven’t worked with same producer two times in a row for a whole album since their first two albums when they worked with Colin Thurston.  Yes, I realized that they worked with Nile Rodgers a few times, but those weren’t all for albums.  Likewise, Alex Sadkin produced Seven and then produced Arcadia.  That still isn’t the same.  Anyway, interestingly enough, the first two albums plus AYNIN are definitely my top 3 Duran albums.  I wonder how much this fact of having the same producer will make a difference.  In particular, I have to wonder about how long the album might take.  I’m sure all of you out there are talking about Durantime as you read and I won’t disagree, but I have to wonder if already having established working relationships might not speed up the process.  Perhaps, it won’t speed up the process as much as it might make it more enjoyable for all involved.  We may never know.

No matter the length of time to make the album, I have confidence that it will turn out well.  I also have to hope that there continues to be tweets and updates from the studio.  It will definitely keep my excitement up!!

-A

It’s Too Much Information for Me

Sometimes, I struggle with what to blog abut about other times, I have about 50 things I want to talk about.  When it rains it pours, I guess.  Don’t worry I have written them down and hope to get to each one of them!  This week, I returned to work after a 2 and a half weeks break.  The vacation was wonderful and productive.  I felt good going into the week.  I was prepared and knew exactly what I needed to get done when.  Well…I did well the first couple of days.  Then, as you know from Rhonda’s blog yesterday, we have been busy and on the phone with each other a lot.  I have been so overwhelmed by life , from our plans and from work that I keep missing any and all news on the Duran front. This post going to help me out by summarizing the past week in Duranland!

Studio Visit Auction:
Apparently, there is a new auction to observe the band in the studio, get a picture with the band and a tour of the studio.  The money raised will be used to support the National Literacy Trust.  The auction itself takes place on January 22nd but bidding can be done via absentee bidding that goes until January 21.  The information can be found here.  Now, this is a pretty cool prize, in my opinion.  I would love, love, love to be a fly on the wall in the studio and get to watch the band work.  As for the photo, I would be up for that, too, since I don’t have one.  I also love that this is to support literacy.  As a reading teacher, this couldn’t please me more.  That said, I suspect that this one will be too rich for my blood with a plane ticket and the auction cost.  I hope that the band helps the organization bag a lot of cash and good luck to all people who enter!

TV Mania:
There is now a website for TV Mania at:  http://tvmaniamusic.com/  For those of you unaware (and I know there were many of you–I saw that on twitter), this was a project of Nick and Warren that was started years ago when Warren was still in the band.  The project has never seen the light of day, officially, but I know that there was a demo floating around sometime.  It seems to me that the project will be a lot like Medazzaland in that it was experiential, to say the least.  Now, when this project finally surfaces, Rhonda and I will give it a shot and review it as we do many/most Duran related projects.  I know that there are many fans who are really excited by this and I’m happy for them!  I can’t say I’m as excited as I wasn’t a big fan of the Medazzaland era but I hope that I’m pleasantly surprised!

Roger Taylor is Alive!
Apparently, Roger has been on vacation in Peru and enjoying the beautiful weather!  It is nice to know that he is alive and well.  I think many of us are a bit jealous of the vacation as I stare out the window of my still covered by snow environment despite warmer than normal January temperatures.  I also noticed that Roger was encouraged to write a postcard for all of us to read.  I second that idea!!

John Taylor’s Guest Vocals:
Koishii and Hush, a trance duo, just released a new single, C’est Tout Est Noir, which features some vocals by Mr. John Taylor.  According to Duran’s facebook, John approached it like he did the recording of the song, I Do What I Do, which, to me, meant that it would be almost like a spoken vocal.  Now, that I have heard the track, I think my assessment with that was right on.  Unfortunately, because I have been so busy I haven’t seen/heard much in Duranland about who got the single, what people thought, etc.  Perhaps, a lot of people didn’t download the track.  I did.  I feel like I should give everything a chance even though trance is not my favorite thing.  I have to admit that I thought it was a really good dance track.  I would definitely dig it in the right club setting.  Plus, I really like John’s vocals!  

Duran Duran Update:
Monday saw an official update from the band.  The update, which can be found on dd.com, basically stated on the guys are still on vacation but plan to return to the studio with Mark Ronson in March to begin working on the next album.  The update indicated that the band was pleased with the result of working with Mark on All You Need Is Now and can’t wait to see what they would come up with next.  The reaction to this news, from what I saw, was exactly as I had expected it.  Most people were excited!  There were, as always, a few Duranies that were fine with it but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were excited.  Many others pointed out that this isn’t really news as this information has been out there for awhile.  My thoughts about it?  I am THRILLED with this.  I couldn’t be happier.  To me, AYNIN felt like essential Duran.  It didn’t feel dated but it did FEEL like them.  It is easily one of their best albums, in my opinion.  Thus, I can’t wait to see/hear what they come up with next!!!

You know what surprises me about this week in Duranland?  I am surprised that for Duran downtime there was so much going on!  It also says to me that this works well for fans.  Duran is always there, always present even when they are not officially working.  It is like a check-in, of sorts.  It doesn’t have to be much, I don’t think.  It just needs to be something to say this is what they are working on or what they are doing.  I have no doubt that it was keep the fans from doing something drastic!  

-A

 

Winter Marches On (Ok, so it’s barely Autumn….)

Is it just me or does summer feel like it was a long time ago…and next summer seems like a mirage out in the distance?

Stay with me here, I’m not talking about the weather, of course. Today in SoCal is pretty much the very first “rainy” day we’ve had in, well…many months.  I’m actually in long sleeves AND enclosed shoes!!! (I am an admitted flip-flop wearer. Style be damned. I’m casual and I like it!) Thank goodness for my grey Chuck Taylors.  I’m talking about the band, of course.

Today I read a great little interview on John Taylor in Guitar World magazine. Haven’t read it yet?  Let me do you the favor of passing it on right here. (Guitar World)  John explains why he wrote the book, why he chose to do it now, and what’s coming up next for the band…which has the rest of the Duraniverse, myself included, on the edge of our seats.  We know they’re headed back into the studio to work with Mark Ronson again in March of 2013, and that is great news. Mark seems to know how to give the band the confidence they need in order to own their own place, and that in turn is the recipe for the band creating their best work.  Synergy can be powerful once placed in the right hands.

March.

I’m not going to lie.  I’m a fan just like the rest of you.  I want to hear news from working on the album tomorrow because that’s what keeps me going.  I want our book done tomorrow, too. That just isn’t possible…on all counts…and we know that.  They finished the tour just what – six weeks ago or so? I suppose it does seem a bit like a slave driver to start cracking the whip just yet, so I will refrain. No really, I promise!

It’s really no better where I sit. My schedule is crazy, Amanda’s schedule is even worse. We’re talking about meeting somewhere and shutting ourselves in a hotel room until our book is done. (Ok, really just for a weekend – but I like the idea of not coming out until it’s done.  My husband though?  Not so much!)  So on that note, I can understand how this works.  I also completely understand the excitement of being a fan, missing the band, wanting new music, and continuing the journey – because that’s what this is really all about, isn’t it?

However, there was another sentence in that interview that continues to give me a small ray of hope.  A little something about touring in the summer…

I tweeted a little note to Duran Duran HQ this morning.  Let’s begin the chant, shall we?  Repeat after me: Summer. Shows.  I love those words, do the rest of you?  Let’s make them work for us.  Let’s keep that little ray of sunshine going through what might very well be a long winter.

-R

 

My Response to Nick!

For the past two days, I had professional development, which means that I sit and listen to the latest and greatest idea in education.  I’m not very good at these type of things because, as a teacher, I’m used to doing.  I’m used to moving and talking constantly throughout the day.  I am not good at listening and NOT responding as I have many things to say about any/every idea presented.  Perhaps, this is part of the reason I chose to do this blog so that I could respond to what is going on in Duranland.  Tonight, the boys are playing their second to last show in Boston.  Yesterday, I became aware of an article/interview with Nick from The Boston Phoenix.  The article can be found here and my responses to the answers are here!  Obviously, some questions did not get my attention as much as others.

In the beginning of the interview, Nick is asked where he is to which he responds about how he is Chicago and says the following, “Actually in Chicago we’ve spent quite a bit of time.  I’m sure I’ll find some trouble to get into.”  As someone who was in Chicago, I have to ask.  What did Nick do?  I know that John and Dom went record shopping but what about Nick?  What about Roger or Simon?  Next time, I think the band should let Rhonda and I know their plans.  It would make our lives more interesting and fun!

Shortly, Nick gets asked about the new album. 

SD: So 2011 has been a pretty big year for you guys, although, not without ups and downs.NR: Yeah, it’s been one of the most exciting years in the Duran calendar in our three decades, I have to say. It all started with the release of All You Need is Now, which we worked on with producer Mark Ronson. I think when you have something that you feel very confident in musically and artistically, it gives you the energy to go forward and do other things and it helps to unfold the origami, because things start to happen when you have something other people are excited about too. We made the film with David Lynch. That’s certainly one of the highlights throughout our career so far. He’s been someone we’ve admired for many, many, many years, so when the opportunity came up to make a film together, that was a complete thrill. We started out playing in America at the SXSW festival. We talked about going there for years, because the spirit of Duran Duran has always been that of an independent band. Even when we’ve made records that have been enormously successful commercially and we’ve been on major record labels, we’ve never lost the spirit that we started out with.” 
My response:  I’m thrilled that they feel confident about AYNIN, musically and artistically, and that should be a highlight of the year.  Yet, the interviewer asked about the ups and downs.  Why not acknowledge everything that Simon went through?  Everything the band went through?  Everything the fans went through?  It could be easily acknowledged and done in a way in which tells how Duran is stronger, better because of it.

Later in the interview, after discussing how other bands had been “borrowing” from Duran, the interviewer asks about the fanbase, which as a student of fandom got my attention!  “SD: I think one of the reasons that you guys, and you know, this is me postulating, you can tell me what you think about it, one of the reasons you’ve maintained this fan base is because Duran Duran is kind of like it’s own little culture, it’s own little land. From the earliest interviews with you guys, you’re always talked about different art and culture, and I think in America, especially kids living in the middle of nowhere, to hear about Andy Warhol, to see Keith Haring on television, to hear about Cocteau and Patrick Nagel, and all these people. This was a big deal for a lot of people who didn’t have access to that kind of culture.NR: Well, I hope so, because I know what other artists from all spheres have given to me over my life. It’s food for me, for my imagination. Nothing makes me happier then sitting in a cinema or going to an art gallery. John, Simon and I all went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art the other day, because I’ve been there several times before and neither of them have actually visited there. I said, “Look, we have a day off, let’s go.” They were both completely up for it. We all left there just floating because seeing the collection that has been that well curated over so many years. I mean they have some of the greatest artworks ever made in there. They have the ultimate Marcel Duchamp collection, including The Bride Stripped Bare, the Nude Descending a Staircase, the Urinal, the Bicycle Wheel, each absolutely extraordinary. But then you sort of wander down the corridor and they’ve got one of the greatest Van Gogh Sunflowers. They’ve got a couple of the best Matisse’s that I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. You know, if you can bring a little of that information to other people in, I don’t know, in the form of suggestions, or images, or just the notion of it. Then I think that’s great.”
My response:  First, I completely agree that Duranland is its own little culture, which I have addressed before.  I think that Duran has influenced many of us to check out musicians, artists, fashion, etc. that we would not have ever considered.  As much as I was destined to check out art because my mom is an artist, I doubt I would have cared as much if it wasn’t for them.  I also find it amusing that Rhonda and I are like them as well since we try to check out art museums when we can!

This question about the year leads to questions regarding Mark Ronson.  “SD: Back to the new album briefly, I have to ask, I think a number of people have asked, and I know you guys obviously don’t have any plan or anything. But as a big music fan, like you guys are, I’m sure you can think of any number of sequels or trilogies of records that bands have made with producers. I know a lot of people are wondering if you guys might work with Mark again. It’s been a while since you’ve done two in a row.NR: Of all the producers that we’ve ever worked with, I have to say, Mark is the one that I think suits Duran Duran best. We’ve worked with some amazing producers, we really have, we’ve been very lucky. Sadly, the first few albums produced by Colin Thurston, and then the third album by Alex Sadkin, who have both passed away, but they were extraordinary teachers.
SD: For me as well…
NR: Yeah, amazing, amazing, amazing people. But, of the people we’ve worked with in the last couple decades, Mark just suits us better. He has an understanding of so many genres of music. He has incredible style and great taste and he really, really gets what Duran Duran is about. So, I sincerely hope we work with him again. We stay in constant touch. We’re so fond of him on a very personal level, as well as musical level. He’s really something.”
My response:  I completely agree with Nick that Mark is the producer that suits Duran best.  I think he gets THEM and I think that he gets US (the fans).  Thus, I, too, hope that they work together again.  🙂

Of course, this leads to brief discussions about both Red Carpet Massacre and Reportage.  “SD: I like the last record, I like Red Carpet MassacreNR: Me too.
SD: …I actually think it’s great Simon record.
NR: Yeah, a few people have said that. John and Roger feel that their presence was diminished on the album, I understand that.
SD: I feel like maybe the fans kind of felt like that. It felt a little anti-climatic post-reunion?
NR: Maybe. It was very programmed. You see, the genesis of that record is quite interesting because we made an entire album with Andy Taylor. Which is called Reportage…”
My response:  I’m not surprised that John and Roger felt like their presence was diminished.  It felt that way to me, too.  Thus, it didn’t feel like Duran to me no matter the quality of the song.  It wasn’t what I think of when I think Duran.  I also agree that it was very programmed, which again makes it anti-Duran to me.  Of course, Duran can, has and should use technology but it should have something organic, something more musical. 

The interview continues to say:  “SD: Which is coming out when?NR: It may come out, it would need mixing, it would need finishing a few things, but then what happened was we were just literally going to do a couple tracks with Timbaland and we got in there and Andy didn’t turn up for those sessions, and so we ended up doing them without a guitarist, we obviously added guitar to the tracks later, but we recorded them without guitar, wrote them without guitar. That set the mold, really. Had Andy been there, I think those tracks would have probably started to sound a little different in the first place.
SD: They sound really cool, and if that record had come out in, like, ’99 no-one would’ve batted an eyelash, but I think when you have this sort of legendary rhythm section back together it felt like, you know, they are a little bit under utilized on that record, theres just little moments…
NR: Yeah, I understand. For me, that album was an experiment. For everyone in the band, that album was an experiment. It was how to merge the Timbaland beats with Duran Duran. And the expense of us doing that was the rhythm section became different. Obviously they both played on the album. They played synth bass on some of them. Some of the drums were programmed by Roger…
SD: There’s some of that on the new album too…
NR: Yeah.
SD: It’s not like it’s unlike Duran Duran to have some synthbass.
NR: Yeah, but on that one it was largely the makeup of the sound and I think we definitely sacrificed something but we work as a unit and whatever we feel is right for Duran Duran, and I mean honestly, if we decided we wanted to make an album that was just guitars and strings and we decided, no, we’re not gonna use any synths on this, we would do it. It’s a case of the time and we felt with Tim that he was one of the most interesting people out there making contemporary music at that time. We’ve always loved dance music and so…”
My response:  Obviously, I have no idea about the quality of the songs on Reportage, how much work it would be to finish or even if they can finish it and release it, legally, but I would still love to hear it.  It might also be a good way of releasing another album sooner rather than later, if there aren’t legal issues with it, as most of the writing and recording appears to be done.  Nonetheless, it says something to me that if Nick, who was RCM’s biggest supporter, is saying that “something sacrificed” when they made RCM. 

Nick goes on to make a really good point and one that I must remember: “And certainly, the other point about working with Timbaland is that had we not made that album, I don’t think it would have lead us to make this new album with Mark.”  If this is true that Duran needed to work with Timbaland and needed to make RCM as a step before working with Mark and making AYNIN, I am grateful it happened.  I do think that sometimes things need to be one way before things are able to go a different way.  Maybe RCM was the lesson they needed to learn.

Then, of course, the interviewer turns to the current tour and the current setlist.  Oh boy.  “SD: I have it on good faith that you guys are gonna be playing “Shadows On Your Side” in Boston. Can I put that in print?NR: (laughs) We haven’t played it on the American tour at all yet. The trouble is with set lists, and I’m sure you could talk to any artist, you must know this yourself, if you have have a lot of material, it’s hard enough to condense it into something that is a little less than two hours. But when you want to put in a song that is possibly a real fan favorite, but maybe not with the broader audience, it’s hard to find places in the set to put them in. For example, recently we have been playing a song “Tiger, Tiger” from the third album which is instrumental. And the reason we started playing it was to create a little three minute spot for people to Tweet live during the show onto the screen. And it has been a fascinating moment in the set.
SD: Gives Simon a rest.
NR: So we thought, perhaps we’ll replace it and we’ll do “Secret October” instead because it has a vocal on it and we said we would play this song. And of course, Simon said “I don’t want to do it and have Tweeting going on whilst I’m singing.” Whereas musically, we are just creating a soundtrack and I think that’s fine, visually. And so we took out the Tweets and we did the song, and the song went down really well. But then we realized that a lot of people were missing the Tweeting thing because a lot of it was interactive and thats part of modern shows. So you have all these things …all I’m really doing is making excuses for you. We probably won’t. We could play it instead of a number of things but I’m not sure what would give.”
My response:  Clearly, they don’t want to put in anymore “fan favorites” than they already have for these US dates.  Obviously, they feel that they need to appeal to the “broader audience”.  As Rhonda and I have both mentioned, I think this is lame.  If you play enough hits, that “broader audience” will be happy.  Duran should worry about keeping us dedicated fans happy and keeping us going to shows.  Then, to hear Nick talk about the discussion surrounding Tiger Tiger versus Secret Oktober, I got even more frustrated.  Yes, I can understand Simon’s point of view of not wanting people to tweet during him singing.  I tweeted during Tiger Tiger but that felt uncomfortable, too, as I’m ignoring the band playing.  If you want to have the tweet thing in do it when the band is not on stage.  Have people tweet while waiting for the encore to start but don’t let that get in the way of the fans hearing a song they desperately want to hear!  Ugh!

Speaking of Twitter, the interviewer asked about the band’s involvement.  “SD: It is interesting. I think both Simon and John have been doing it since around the release of the record. It is interesting to kind of follow along…NR: I think John particularly loves it. I think its really something that he’s been able to focus some of his energy on. I know he’s always taking little photos and putting them up when we’ve arrived somewhere, or we see something interesting. He was tweeting from the Museum the other day. I’m all for that. I have a concept for tweeting which would be very much against the grain of what people like it for, so people may really not like the idea of what I might want to do with it, and I keep threatening to do it. For me, it would be a complete experiment so I would enjoy it, and I think there may be some people out there that would see what I was getting at, but it’s much more of a one way street. It would be that I was really just publishing certain things and not really getting involved in conversations about them. I’m not sure if that’s in the spirit of it, but I may do that.
SD: Well it’s difficult, I think, to have in-depth conversations. I think John tries to answer peoples’ little questions and things from time to time, but I don’t think you can get too in depth. The other side of it is, I think for some people, and I don’t know if you fall into this category or not, but some people see that artists being on Twitter constantly, kind of affects their mystique a little bit. Where it was so hard to get information about somebody ten years ago but now it’s like…
NR: Well I feel that way very generally anyways. We were talking about when were growing up as kids and the photos of artists we used to see, whether it was David Bowie or Iggy or the New York Dolls or Lou, they had a real mystery to them because there weren’t that many photos. You might see the occasional live photo from a concert or you’d see David Bowie and Iggy Pop in Moscow together or a picture of a couple people on a train having lunch and this was really as far as you got into their world and you had to then use your own imagination as to what else they might be doing or what it was like in the studio and what they were recording. Now I do feel with web cams everywhere and everyone with a mobile phone during the show, every second of everything is recorded from all these different angles and published everywhere, it’s an overwhelming amount of content. In a way, you definitely lose focus because people are watching dreadful live videos with dreadful sound quality and then saying, “Oh well that was that, wasn’t it.” As opposed to something that was being produced with beauty and care. And its not that I’m completely against it because this is a very modern world where this is what’s happening and that’s that, but as regards to what it has done to mystique, yeah, its shattered it into a million pieces.
SD: Yeah that’s true, it’s a strange game. I can’t think of a band, current day, that can maintain that exactly. You have to, obviously, evolve with the times somewhat, but it’s interesting with some groups, it might not be in their best interest to be too involved with that.
NR: I think you have to embrace new technologies and use them to the best of your ability, and use them artistically. With our online presence we’re always looking to do different things. We launched Second Life some months ago which was initially launched as a completely non-commercial project. It was literally an arts project. We built a universe for people go in as Avatars and communicate with each other, really. And so far I have to say I’m thrilled with the results because it seems to be a really good breeding ground for ideas and for artistic statements. The costumes that people are wearing in there are spectacular. It’s worth going in to look at that alone. When they have parties in there it really is pretty remarkable, it’s an utterly surreal world where anything goes and they’re having an amazing time. So, you try to do these different things with the website we’re going to relaunch that soon, so its version 2.2 or 3.3 or wherever we are now, and there have been some huge improvements there. The live stuff and the Tweeting. During the live shows I take pictures of the audience every night which has now become quite interesting because there’s a whole section on the site where you can see the audiences from my point of view from the different shows. We’re always looking to do things and find ways to make it a bit different. Everybody out there is putting everything up they can.”
My response:  I can definitely see Nick’s idea of tweeting being VERY different than what is normal, common, expected.  My guess is that Nick fans would eat it up!  Yet, ideally, fans would want some conversation and it doesn’t seem like Nick does, for whatever reason.  I also agree with Nick that technology should be used and embraced but that it does have its drawbacks and has taken some of the mystery out of life.  That said, I still don’t get Second Life.  I don’t understand why he is so thrilled by it.  He says that it is filled with artistic ideas.  Really?  Someone who is involved in it tell me how. 

The interview ended with a question about John’s book.  “SD: Have you seen any advanced writing in Johns book?NR: No, nothing. I think it’s probably best that I don’t and I’m sure John would feel the same. I guess eventually there will probably be a full set of books. I don’t know when I’ll be doing mine. I don’t know when Simon will be doing his but I imagine there will be a set, and that will give you all the different perspectives as to why Duran Duran is what it is.” 
My response:  I’m thrilled with the idea of one day having a set of autobiographies from the band members.  Maybe then, we would have a good idea of what went down and how it was!

So, readers, read the entire interview, and come back and tell me your responses!  Were there questions that I didn’t focus on that I should have?  Were my responses different than what you would have said?  I would love to know!

-A

Album Updates (or lack thereof…)

We have a new banner to our blog, to the right of this entry.  Duran Duran’s official site as well as their twitter account has been advertising the new banners with the album release date being March 21/March 22.  What is interesting to me is not that this is the magical date, but the fact that there has been no official announcement made about the album beyond these banners.  (There seems to be a theme lately in my blog posts, doesn’t it?!)  I wonder why.  Clearly, the date is set, if they are encouraging people to use the banners.  They want those dates out there for promotional purposes.  So, why hasn’t there been a full page press release on dd.com?!  The only clue I have relates to the track listing of the album.

The track listing in the UK is as follows for the deluxe edition, according to Amazon UK is:
Track Listings
 1 All You Need Is Now
 2 Blame The Machines
 3 Being Followed
 4 Leave A Light On
 5 Safe (in the heat of the moment)
 6 Girl Panic!
 7 Diamond In The Mind
 8 The Man Who Stole A Leopard
 9 Other Peoples Lives
 10 Mediterranea
 11 Too Bad You’re So Beautiful
 12 Runway Runaway
 13 Return To Now
 14 Before The Rain
 15 Networker
 16 All You Need Is Now Youth Kills Mix

The track listing for the deluxe edition on Amazon US is:
1.  All You Need Is Now
2.  Blame the Machines
3.  Being Followed
4.  Leave a Light On
5.  Safe
6.  Girl Panic!
7.  Diamond in the Mind
8.  The Man Who Stole A Leopard
9.  Other Peoples Lives
10.  Mediterranea
11.  Too Bad You’re So Beautiful
12.  Runway Runaway
13.  Return to Now
14.  Before the Rain
15.  Networker Nation (bonus track)

Obviously, both editions have a lot in common but there are some differences.  First, the UK version still has the record label being Tape Modern whereas the US one has S-Curve Records.  Interesting.  I’m not sure what that means, if anything.  Could it mean that they are only doing the distribution deal in the US?  I wonder what the rest of the world looks like, in terms of label.  The track listing is basically the same except for 2 little differences.  The UK version has an additional song, a mix of All You Need Is Now by Youth Kills, that the US doesn’t have at all.  The bonus track is on both but with a slightly different name.  For the US, it is Networker Nation and, for the UK, it is just Networker.  I wonder why.  Are they still trying to decide on the final name?  If so, they better hurry as that release date is just over a month away.  Then, what happened to the idea of having many different versions with different tracks on each of these different versions?  Did they not finish enough songs?  Did they decide to stick with 2 basic editions, one with a DVD and one without?  If so, why? 

According to my calculations, there is at least 5 new songs on the physical release.  Of course, there are many speculations that Diamond in the Mind and Return to Now are just different versions of All You Need Is Now.  If so, are they giving us enough new material to make the physical album worth it?  It is for me, but, then again, I have purchased an album for just one additional song before.  Plus, of course, that the deluxe edition comes with a DVD of some footage or another.  I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be.  I guess I could assume it would have the video for AYNIN and maybe what used to be called the album’s EPK.  As for the rest, I don’t have a clue.  Live footage?  Promo activities?  Other videos?  Your guess is as good as mine. 

Now, some fans have expressed concern over these new songs.  Their worry has to do with two things:  1.  Album flow and 2.  Quality of these songs.  It is absolutely true that many, many fans love AYNIN the way it is.  We have gotten used to it being as it is with Runway Runaway following TMWSAL.  Will new songs interrupt that?  I don’t know.  It is impossible to say, in my opinion, until these songs have been heard.  For me, it will absolutely depend on the quality of them.  If they are quality songs that were written and recorded like the rest of the album, I would suspect that they will fit in just fine.  If they weren’t, then, I think there is reason to be concerned.  It seems to me that they continue to work on some of these bonus songs.  Will they be the same if Ronson wasn’t there?  I’m hopeful.  I’m always hopeful when it comes to Duran.  You would think that I wouldn’t be after some of the not-so-great moves that they have done over the years, but what can I say.  I’m a fan.  Still.  Thus, I prefer to think that these songs are going to be on the same quality as the original 9.  Then, March 22nd is a day that I will really be looking forward to!!!

-A


Thanking Ronson

Last night, I was battling insomnia so I was online rather late, trying to catch up on the news of the week (and by news, I admit I’m talking purely about Duran Duran news!).  I came across two articles that mention Roger Taylor’s thoughts on working with Ronson, and his thought process on the new album.  (All You Need is Now, available on iTunes as of 12/21!)  Links to the two interviews are here (this one is less “kind” and maybe not worth the plug I’m freely giving…)  and a better one here .

What I find the most interesting is the quote directly from Roger where he admits there was a certain amount of pressure coming into the writing of this newest album.

He said: “We all knew it was a very important album for us, it was do or die actually.

“After our last record didn’t perform that well, we thought: ‘The next one better be good, because it could be our last.”  


I think that as a fan who was deeply disappointed by Red Carpet Massacre in many ways – I know that *I* felt that way.  I’ll even go as far as to say that there was a time where I wondered if there really would be a new album.  When I saw them two years ago (two years ago yesterday I saw their show at MGM Foxwoods in Connecticut, today would have been the Atlantic City show, and tomorrow would be Montclair, New Jersey) – I remember walking away from the show thinking that although the performance was solid, there was something very clearly lacking.  It wasn’t so much that I thought the band looked defeated…maybe they were just a bit tired?  Maybe it was that they seemed as though they were getting bored by the process?  I’m really not sure.  I just know that they weren’t the same band I was used to seeing.  I also know that my own attitude was pretty nasty coming into the show.  I dreaded hearing some of the songs off of RCM, (although I still say, and will go to my grave saying that Red Carpet Massacre, the song that is, is one of the few outstanding moments on the album!) and I wondered if *I* was getting tired of the same old, same old at the shows.  I forced myself to have a change in attitude for the following night, and as a result, I enjoyed the show much more…although I swore after that night that I’d never wear heels to a show again!  Fashion be damned!  I digress….

So while I was a little surprised by Roger’s comment because I wasn’t expecting to ever really read how close to calling it over and done they might have been, I have to wonder why so many other fans seem to be reading the comments and reacting in anger, shock, surprise and even awe.   There are moments in my own fandom where I sit back and wonder what the hell the rest of the fans are thinking, and this is one of those cases.  I went to those same shows in support of RCM.  I saw them at the fan show back at Hammerstein – the performance that night was NOT of a band that was at all sure of themselves. I don’t care what Simon says, they may have made what he calls “a cracking album” – but they had no idea how to sell it to their fans, and make no mistake – that’s EXACTLY what a band does when they take to the stage.  I think that was the first real sign of problems. (never mind Andy’s departure, because although I’m sure RCM would not have been Andy’s first choice in albums to complete – much less the process with which it was completed, I firmly believe that the seed for his leaving the band had already been planted.  Can’t blame that album for everything, can we?)  Shoot ahead two years (give or take) to the shows on the east coast in 2008 and while it was obvious they were more confident with the material, they still looked very lackluster, very tired, very….well, NOT Duran Duran.  Not only that, the band didn’t even react to the fans the way I’d been used to.  There was very little “after the show” hanging out in a nearby club or bar – it was as though they played the show and got out of town as quickly as they could to go back to the relative safety of New York City.  Yes, that could have been as much about circumstance as it was anything else, but I say that when enough signs are pointing to problems – best not to ignore them, even if 90% of the fan base doesn’t see them.

So here we are, close to dawn on the new album…and Roger thanks Mark.  I think that’s a fair statement.  No, Mark didn’t write the songs (to my knowledge), he didn’t play every instrument, he didn’t write and perform the lyric.  However, he DID give the band back some confidence…and for that, why shouldn’t he be thanked?  It makes zero difference….read the words and believe them, dear fellow-fans…it makes zero difference whether the album sells one copy or 1,000,000 copies…if Mark gave the band back some of the confidence that I truly believe they lost after the last album, even if it was only by standing in a corner and being their head cheerleader, then yes he should be thanked.  Don’t we as fans WISH for the day when the band comes out and thanks us for sticking by them for 30 years?  It’s the same thing.  No, I don’t think they’re giving Mark all of the credit, although rest assured if the album does anything at all the press will certainly make Mark out to be the only reason why.  It’s just very clear to me that the band recognizes a certain amount of debt and gratitude that they owe Mark.  

Some fans may say that Mark owes the band, that they are in fact giving him his own shot.  Some feel that Mark took the band back to simply re-do what they’ve already done once.  I think that’s unfair, but there are some fans that will never be happy.  I don’t know what they’re looking for, I don’t know what they’re expecting, and it doesn’t really matter.  At the end of the day it comes down to our own musical tastes.  On our own blog we’ve seen very different opinions on the album, and we could spend an awful lot of time and energy getting angry, defending our opinions and getting nowhere in the process.  I encourage everyone to listen to the single, to buy the album when it becomes available and enjoy having the opportunity to form your own opinion!  

-R

Behind the Music

I apologize for the late blog entry today.  I wanted to wait to respond to the airing of Behind the Music, which aired tonight in the U.S.  First, let me say that I always enjoy watching shows featuring Duran and I especially like documentary-type programs.  It is pretty funny that I do since I feel like I could tell the history as well or better than the typical documentary, especially since they are pretty predictable.  Most Duran documentaries feature the following:  Why Nick and John formed the band, getting Andy from a Melody Maker ad, Simon’s audition in the leopard skin pants, the use and success from videos, Nile Rodgers, Power Station and Arcadia, Roger and Andy leaving, Ordinary World, John’s drug use, John’s leaving and now the reunion.  This was the first one I have seen since Red Carpet Massacre, however.

The original Behind the Music was one of my favorite Duran Duran documentaries as I felt like they had captured most of the important elements of their history, but, more importantly, they had captured the hysteria of the fandom and placed Duran in their rightful place, historically.  That said, I was dubious about how this new remastered one (interesting that they call it “remastered”, by the way) would be.  I enjoyed the program and was pleased to see that some of the more annoying elements of the original had been removed, including the bad rumor about Simon almost drowning during the making of the Wild Boys video.  I, of course, loved the new parts just because I’m dying for any and all footage of the band in their current state.  That said, I thought that the show’s editing and production could have been better.  They kept parts that I don’t understand.  For example, why keep Simon saying that he missed John?  That statement is out of date.  Why didn’t they ask Roger anything from their early history?  During the original, Roger did not appear but now his voice was noticeably missing.  Certainly they could have edited in some statements from him.  Overall, I just don’t feel like they blended the two parts together well.  They wanted to make it a smooth program but ignoring the fact that some interviews were done in 1998 and others in 2010 seems stupid.  Why not just have a part one and a part two?  Obviously, part one wouldn’t necessarily end the way the original ended but they could have ended part one right before the reunion and start part two at that moment.  It is a logical separation. 

The new part was mixed for me.  It started with the reunion and how the idea formed after John left.  Nick and Simon commented about how they had to tell Warren that he wasn’t a part of the future of Duran.  Simon, in particular, seems reflective about this.  Then, Rob Sheffield, the Rolling Stone writer, commented about how this was bittersweet for the fans as we had gratitude towards him.  Obviously, there were and are fans who love Warren and then there are others who were happy to see him go.  I’m not sure that Rob’s comment captures those feelings.  Then, the show moves forward to talk about their plan to tour and to show record companies that there was a demand for them.  This part did remind me of the excitement that the reunion, Astronaut and the tour, that followed, had.  From there, the show skimmed the surface of the controversial topics of the rejection of Reportage, Andy’s departure and RCM.  The narration did not dive into those issues and stuck to the least problematic versions.  While I understand that, in a way, I would have loved for the producers to go further, to go deeper like a real documentary.  Obviously, some interesting statements were made, but not enough to draw a serious conclusion.  First about Andy, Simon said that he was becoming very difficult to work with and that the whole band felt that.  Then, Roger said that it was a “ticking bomb” that they had all been feeling for over a year.  John ended the discussion by saying that they were moving in different directions.  Hmm…As for Reportage and RCM, the Sony executive said that they need an album with a “vibrant beat”.  Simon said that the record label didn’t “get” Reportage and the fans didn’t want RCM.  He isn’t wrong, at least when it comes to the two authors of this blog.  The show ended at the present day with Duran working with Mark Ronson on AYNIN.

I loved the ending of the show and admit to being terribly excited by what I have heard about and from this new album.  Ronson does seem to match Duran well and, clearly, he is an “ultimate Duran Duran fan”.  😀  Of course, the show leads the viewer to think that this is the time for the next wave of Duran success, whatever that might mean.  I obviously have no idea if this is true or not and won’t know for awhile.  What I’m hoping for is that this album is one that they like and are proud of.  This will help the fans to return as well.  One thing I noticed tonight was the number of fans watching and talking about it on message boards and social networking sites.  Clearly, the fans are starting to pay attention and are starting to get excited!

-A