I read a lot of Duran Duran interviews, reviews, articles, and whatnot. Most of them feel and seem like the same old information repeated over and over again. There is always the inevitable section on the band’s long history, a paragraph or two or three about which famous person did what on the album, and that’s about it. Every once in awhile, you see a quote from one of the band members that resonates with you or catches your attention. I continue to read articles solely for THAT. I read for the one or two sentences that are interesting, meaningful or different. After all, who wants to read what you already know about. I mean…I’m all for repetition as a learning tool, but for band information and promotion, not so much. That said, every once in awhile, you run across a magazine article that pulls you in, offers real insight and leaves you wanting more. For me, that is the interview with John Taylor in Bass Player magazine. I was very tempted not to even look at the magazine simply because I’m not a bass player. Will I understand it? Do I know enough? Will I learn anything beyond John’s instrumentation? I decided to get it because…I knew that I had a long plane ride coming up and would need something to look at! Plus, John Taylor was on the cover! I was super glad that I had purchased it, too, as soon as I read it!! (If you haven’t purchased it yourself, do so, while you can! I’m obviously just talking highlights here.)
The article starts off common enough with a very brief history and mention of the new album along with all of the collaborations on it. Yet, by the end of the first paragraph, you know that the article is going to dive deep and ask the questions that many, many fans want, and maybe need, to know. The article acknowledges that the “signature JT bass” can be found in tracks like “Pressure Off”, “Only in Dreams” and “Paper Gods”. There is also an acknowledgement that John is also behind a synth part of the time. This, of course, is what worries fans. Where’s the bass? is a common question amongst Duranies these days. They don’t seem to hear the same bass in the album, Paper Gods, compared to the previous album, All You Need Is Now. These fans don’t want John on synth. They want him on bass. Why make it so electronic, fans want to know? Perhaps, there is a little fear in there that if John’s bass playing isn’t needed, that maybe HE isn’t needed anymore either. Thankfully, this article addressed this issue immediately and spends literally the first five questions on some element related to electronic bass or synth.
John’s answers to these five questions brought a real insight to what he was thinking both in making the album and the results. As someone who does tend to appreciate the traditional JT bass sound, I completely appreciated how open he was with his responses. For example, when asked about keyboard bass, he stated, “My mentality is to keep my ‘enemies’ close.” He goes on to say, though, “…we all might have to go from being bass players to bass experts” by using the keyboard bass. Therefore, John is admitting that the times are changing when it comes to bass in popular songs. His choice is either to get left behind or adapt. I can definitely appreciate that. He goes on further to talk about how his choices regarding bass really depended on the songs themselves. He gave two examples. In “Last Night in the City,” he gave up his bass guitar parts but in “Paper Gods” he took his bass line lower. John made it very clear, though, that he wasn’t going to allow his signature bass to be gone entirely. Two things struck me as I read these answers. First, it was clear that he had thought a lot about where he fits, how he should sound on the album, etc. Second, I respect that he really thought about the SONG and what was needed for each individual track rather than letting ego or close-mindedness get in the way. He found the balance between his signature sound and what the song needed.
From there, the interview turns to process, including how he chooses the best sound for each song, favorite lines on the album, transferring to the live show, etc. Again, I continue to be fascinated! The interview isn’t about Lindsay Lohan or other collaborations. It isn’t about the band splitting into two groups in 1985. No, this is a real interview about subjects that aren’t covered and matters to a lot of fans. Out of those questions, the answer that peaked my interest the most was about the favorite lines from the album. Can you guess? Any clue? “Pressure Off” was one of the two mentioned. For that song, he talked about working with Nile in the studio and how Nile got him working really hard. He also mentioned “Paper Gods.” Why? According to John, “It’s a good mix of electronic and electric bass.” Hmm…
The interview finishes with a discussion about his style and training. Here’s the one situation in which I don’t mind the history lesson (ironic since I’m a history teacher, right? I think so!) He talks about how busy the bass was in the beginning of their careers because he wanted so desperately to get noticed but then the rest of the guys would do the same thing creating very “busy” songs. When asked about changing his style, John admits that he tried to back away, almost to where he was “almost invisible.” Could this be one of the reasons that I’m not a big fan of Come Undone?! I wonder…What is more interesting to me is a follow-up line to that one, “I need to be able to do what I was doing in 1981, but I also need to be open to other things. The tendency is that when you get older, you get a little lazy and look for shortcuts, so I make sure I keep exploring.” I think these sentences capture it well. This is what John was doing on the new album. He was exploring. He was willing to mix traditional with contemporary. He kept his signature sound but allowed the songs to just be what they were going to be. He didn’t force them to fit into some formula.
This interview was an eye-opening one for me. I knew that I liked the album before. I did and have said so many times and in many places, but I also felt a little guilty for doing so. Why? The answer is simple. I’m a John Taylor fan. I have been since I was 8 years old. I could hear that his bass was different on many tracks and even pretty much nonexistent on others. How could I, a big John Taylor fan, be OKAY with that?! Wouldn’t that be like betraying him or saying that I don’t think he is all that important?! Yet, I was sort of betraying him by not trusting him. I should have known. I should have figured that he would have thought about all these issues already and carefully considered what he should do and why. Based on this interview, I can feel 100% confident that John Taylor knows that he is right with how he approached his role and his playing on this album. If John can love it and love what he has done on the album, then, so can I!!!