Getting ready for the Rum Runner party a few weeks ago, I started talking to Big Leo from Italy about some of his Duran Duran remix work and he graciously sent me some for my set. Anyone who follows him on Twitter (@leonardo_zardi) knows he has a heart of gold and he is a massive Duran Duran fan. So, I asked if we could chat about the band, music, and life. It’s also an opportunity to share some of his incredible work paying tribute to Duran Duran starting with this cover of My Antartica.
When did you first discover Duran Duran?
It was 1981, I was 11 and attending to a friend’s birthday party. My friend’s older brother was deejaying using their home HIFI set and all of a sudden I hear this song, this refrain, guitar and synth, a disco drum beat, hand claps and that rolling bass…it was like anything I heard before…I ran to the Dj and asked the name of the band and the title of the song: he handed me Planet Earth’s 7″ sleeve. That was my very first time.
I didn’t become a die-hard Duranie until Arena…but that’s another story.
Have you seen them live?
Unfortunately I was (and still am) living in the wrong country when Duran Duran reached stardom in 1984 and missed the first three albums’ tours. I had to wait until 1987 to see them live for the first time, in Florence during the Strange Behaviour tour. I saw them live again in 1988 (Big live thing), 1993 (An acoustic evening with), 2005 (The Astronaut tour), 2008 (Red Carpet Massacre tour), 2012 (All You Need Is Now tour) and 2016 (Paper Gods tour). I was also very fortunate to meet & greet them in 2015 for a CD signing in a bookstore in Milan. That’s when my wildest dream came true: I had Arcadia sign my copy of So Red the Rose before my eyes (plus a cameo by John Taylor) ^_^
Favorite album from the band?
Well, I’m a weird kind of Duranie. Usually I’d say the first three albums, but actually my all-time favourite albums are Arena, Liberty and All You Need Is Now. The first is a live album, but it’s THE album that changed my life forever: I was not much into Duran Duran before Wild Boys, but that song and most of all that video really blew me away. Only after Arena I bought the first three albums, weird right? The second is Liberty, the most hated DD album by fans and band alike: don’t ask me why but I ADORE it! More than Notorious, Big Thing, The Wedding Album, and others. All You Need Is Now finally brought back MY Duran Duran, that sound I was missing so much after RCM, Medazzaland and Pop Trash. For that reason it’s one of my all-time favourites. Dom Brown did an amazing job as a writer on that album btw.
What is your background in music?
I started loving music at a very early age, thanks to my mother who was always listening to the radio. Back in 1977 I was 7 years old and I constantly listened to Boney M, ABBA, Rockets, Kraftwerk, KISS and asked my parents to buy me their records and cassettes. But the artists who got me started in actually recording music were Duran of course, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, Deep forest, Enigma, Vangelis, The Alan Parsons Project, David Arkenstone. As a singer, there’s no doubt I was massively influenced by Simon Le Bon, Dave Gahan and Tony Hadley.
When did you start doing DD remixes?
Actually, I started remixing Duran Duran just very recently, when I could find acappellas of Simon online. Before that, I used to record DD songs from scratch, playing all instruments and singing all vocals by myself, making them more reworked covers than remixes. I did my own versions of New Religion, Late Bar and Careless Memories during the early 90s, when I finally could afford to buy me a Korg drum machine, a Roland keyboard, a Teac 4-tracks cassette recorder and an Amiga PC with a sampler…years later I managed to buy a Mac computer so I could record and mix digitally using Cubase and virtual instruments. I’m not a pro, I’m a self-taught musician and singer, I’m just lucky to be born with a very good ear.
How has music helped you during the pandemic?
Well, music has helped me throughout all of my life. I cannot breathe without it. I’ve recorded more music during this pandemic than the last 10 years 🙂 Of course I miss going to live gigs at pubs and stadium concerts, but thanks to the internet I can have music wherever I go, and I can talk about music with people everywhere, and I can create and record music at home and share it with the world. This is amazing to me, since I started using Twitter I feel I am part of an incredible, worldwide family. Especially by meeting incredible Duran Duran fans and fellow musicians who are deeply influenced by the band, like me.