Someone has a birthday coming.
Actually, it’s a few people….but for this week, we’re going with one: Nicholas. Today, in fact, is that very special day! So, happy birthday, Nick!! We are celebrating by listening and writing up the highlights to the recent Katy Kafe. As always, I begin with the disclaimer that these notes are written by me after listening, and as such they should not be considered a full transcript of the Katy Kafe. If you want to hear the entire thing, I highly recommend getting a membership to duranduranmusic.com!
Why did the band choose this song as the lead single? Nick began by commenting that the entire thing is a bizarre paradox to him because “Invisible” is now visible! The song grew from being something Simon had written about relationships and how sometimes one person feels like they’re not being heard, into something that has taken on a much more global context. “This past year was probably one of the worst things that could have happened.” That combined with the political climate, it is no wonder why so many people identify with the song. As we now know, Graham Coxon played guitar on this track, and it was produced by Erol Alkan.
Graham Coxon joined the writing sessions, after Nick had met him a few years back during a panel he appeared on to discuss David Bowie. Once the band started discussing a return to the studio, someone from Magus (who has now left the company) suggested Erol Alkan as a possible producer, and when he joined the band to begin writing, he mentioned that he’d heard Nick had been in contact with “his friend” Graham. So, there’s the connection!
Billboard Music Awards
The appearance was filmed in advance at Hammersmith Odeon, and Nick commented that he wished they’d been able to film in front of an audience. Graham played guitar with them since he had co-written the track, but Nick also made sure to say that they would absolutely continue working with Dom. So, anyone who has been sweating about that can relax now.
The video was truly Wendy Laister’s “baby”, Nick says. She’d been talking with people at Nested Minds, an AI company, and saw the project through to the finish. This artificial intelligence is new – just created in 2020. (although in my research, I found a number of other augmented reality and AI named Huxley, likely after the writer Aldous Huxley) The difference between this type of AI and others though, is that many other AI are based through math and logic (cognitive), whereas Huxley is based on the neurological pathways in the brain. It has decision making capability based on emotion, which is something incredibly unique (and frightening if you tend to be wary of computers ever becoming self-aware).
As they were putting together the video, they would show Huxley various images and then the AI would “think” about it and then come back with their own interpretation of the images. So for example, it was shown a variety of different keyboards and came back with a zebra. When it was shown a bass guitar, it came back with a bass fish. Nick commented that for a while, Huxley became obsessed with dogs: dogs with large eyes, large tongues or ears…a variety of different images of dogs, and they couldn’t ever figure out why.
The band then filmed themselves with iPhones as they lip synched the lyrics to “Invisible”, and then Huxley created the images seen in the video of them singing. While Katy had said she thought the video was cool (and Nick called it “delightful”), Katy admitted wondering what the fans would say, and she was very happy to see so many like it. Nick agreed, saying that the “audience expects the unexpected.” The fans are “happy to go on journeys with them”, and it is one reason why they have a close relationship with the fans.
Nick assures that there will be several new singles to come. They are taking a different approach with this album than they have in the past. He “hasn’t the faintest idea” of when we can expect more though, only that it will be sometime before October!
June 20th is the next release day for Astronomia. Nick says he’s enjoying these because waiting five years in between albums is far too long. He quipped that while waiting for Simon to finish a lyric, he wrote four albums. Ouch.) He likes the math involved – 13 tracks released every 13 weeks on a solstice/equinox. While the second album is ready, they are going back and tweaking a few things on the third one, to come in September. Katy commented that it sounded like him, needing to go back and fix a few things, to which Nick replied that he “doesn’t like letting go of anything unless it feels like it is as good as I [he] can possibly make it.”
Live shows and touring
The band does have two gigs coming towards the end of the summer that they’re still hoping go forward, but Nick is mostly cautionary at this point, saying that he figures it will still be mid-2022 at the earliest before touring really gets going. He says, accurately, that they’re still at the mercy of the government as well as the slow (or fast) decline of the virus. Currently there is a June 20 deadline to reopen the UK, but apparently now many are expecting that date to be pushed out a month or more. “The rest of the world is still very far behind the efforts of the UK and the US” and he feels as though the wealthier countries should be helping the poorer ones (with vaccination and care) because until then, the virus will still spread.
Above that, touring will be an act of rebalance. Will there be meet and greets again? Will bands be afraid to mingle with fans? From the sound of it – both Katy and Nick struggled with the idea of that in the future. Additionally, there is the issue of insurance. This is the reason why festivals in the UK have had great difficulty with getting started back up again, because insurance is nearly impossible to come by, and this will take time to work out. The government (UK) has not stepped in to help, nor has anyone here in the US. The arts and entertainment industry worldwide has been stripped to the bone as a result of the closures, and now the after effects, including a lack of insurance, may very well finish off those who were barely left standing by the virus itself.
This marks the second birthday for Nick that has been spent in a somewhat isolated type of situation, and he plans to celebrate by working that day – which according to Katy, is the type of birthday Nick likes! We hope Nick has a wonderfully happy and healthy birthday, and by all means we are wishing for the day that we can all be together again – even if that means only being as close as a stage might allow. Happy Birthday Nicholas!!