Duran's new tour to feature surprises

RICHARD JOHN

, Last Updated: 4:39 PM ET

Friday, November 14, 1997 By RICHARD JOHN --

It's been a trying time for Duran Duran.

The band's previous album, an all-covers affair, stiffed (1995's Thank You), they've endured the departure of founding member and bassist John Taylor, put out a controversial video for their current single, "Electric Barbarella", that was almost banned on MuchMusic ("because of the hoovering apparently", claims Simon LeBon, tongue firmly in cheek), and ticked off a chain of record stores that refused to stock Medazzaland, their first album of new material in almost five years.

Duran are also about to embark on a tour for the first time since the 1995's mini-radio station festival outing. LeBon, on the phone from New York City, admits he feels good getting back on the road. "I'm a little apprehensive, but I always am at the beginning of tours. A bit of a scaredy cat really."

Asked about the set list for the tour, LeBon offered a cryptic run-through. "We're obviously going to be playing stuff from the new album. There's also songs from the first album, as well as Rio. One thing off Thank You, and a couple of songs off The Wedding Album."

Is it going to be the 'reworked hits' set list of recent tours?

"We really didn't want to run through the same old hits that we always play ... you won't hear The Reflex on this tour." He added, "We're going to be playing things that people haven't heard in years, which makes it a lot more interesting for us and the audience.

"We did enjoy reworking our early material, but if you spend a lot of time rearranging the old stuff, you don't get around to writing any new stuff," he said, alluding to the five-year gap between The Wedding Album and Medazzaland. "This time, we're going to play the songs as they're recorded, original versions, and write new stuff instead of constantly reworking stuff."

Any interesting song selections in the set list?

"There's going to be plenty of album tracks. We're going to play "Friends Of Mine" (from Duran Duran). Lots of stuff to surprise you. People have been asking us for years to play "My Antarctica" (from Liberty), so we're going to play that."

[[+3]]

Set-list from the 'warm-up' show Nov. 12 in Uncasville, CT.

Medazzaland

Big Bang Generation

Hungry Like the Wolf

Who Do You Think You Are

Electric Barbarella

A View to a Kill

Out of my Mind

Michael

Save a Prayer

Be My Icon

Is Anyone Out There

Buried in the Sand

Come Undone

Friends of Mine

So Long Suicide

Careless Memories

for the encore:

Secret Oktober

Ordinary World

Rio [[-3]] LeBon grows animated when the subject of "Serious" (the second UK single from the Liberty album) is brought up. Asked why it was dropped from the set list half way through the Wedding Album tour, LeBon offers, "We're quite aware of how much of people's time we're taking up. I don't like shows that last too long. I don't like albums that last too long, either. Seventy-five minutes is like a bloody prison sentence. With Medazzaland, we were aiming for an album length that wasn't a complete investment of your life, if you had to listen to it in the car. You don't have to drive to bloody California to listen to the album."

While there are those that would like to write Duran Duran off as a relic of the '80s, the band itself is constantly trying to remain relevant in the ever changing pop music world.

Case in point: To kick-start this latest comeback, Duran Duran and North American label Capitol recently participated in a ground-breaking Internet venture. The single version and a special Internet-only mix of "Electric Barbarella" were made available for purchase and download over the Internet, cutting out the record store middleman.

Fans could download Liquid Audio, a program that promises "CD-quality" audio over the internet. Songs were then downloaded as Liquid Audio files and played back with the program. Both Duran Duran tracks were available for the small sum of 99 cents and once downloaded could be transferred to a recordable CD.

Did the venture pay off?

LeBon had much to say on the subject. "The Liquid Audio thing was great, it was interesting. I also think it turned on a lot of people to us who may not have been at all interested."

On the other hand, "the sound quality wasn't good enough for what we wanted".

There was also the politics of the situation to contend with. From the downloads being unavailable for purchase outside of the United States, to having "a whole chain of record stores refuse to stock our album because of this. The politics that went down were unbelievable." He adds, "I like record shops. I actually like walking away with a lump of plastic under your arm."

The past five years has not been a strictly Duran Duran affair for any member of the band, LeBon included. In the last few years, he has set up the music company SYN along with wife Yasmin and friend Nick Woods, "who I met the day I met my wife".

What is the company doing at the moment? "A lot of jingles, Japanese soundtracks recorded for different artists. We've written songs for lots of people like Maxi Priest and Dr. John.

"We're slowly building the company up. Now, Nick is off to L.A. to work on our first Hollywood production. Basically that's the story."

One of the first releases from this fledgling venture was a Nescafe coffee sampler CD which featured a version of The Who's "Magic Bus" by LeBon. Will there be more of this type of solo material?

"There's certain things I'm not allowed to do without permission from my record company. One of them is record for other record companies," LeBon says, over restrainted laughter. "It's understandable, actually."

No North American release then?

"Not at the moment, no, but things can change very quickly ... maybe a Japanese SYN EP with "Magic Bus" and "Grey Lady Of The Sea." (a solo track originally recorded for the Drum around the world boat race video and ep in the mid-80s).

The other two members of Duran Duran, Nick Rhodes and Warren Cucurrullo, are also hard at work with their production company TV Mania. Their first venture, coincidentally, was the production of the new Duran Duran album, which Simon LeBon and SYN executive produced. LeBon offers, "Their new stuff is great. Particularly the stuff they've done for Blondie. They've written and recorded two great songs for Blondie." "Pop Trash Movie" and "Studio 57" are from the upcoming Blondie reunion album, "Deborah Is Rival".

Duran Duran have had a long and varied career. In the last 15 years, which collaborator has LeBon found the most useful or impressive?

"The most useful collaborators were Nile [Rodgers, producer of Notorious and ex-member of Chic] and John Barry [co-writer of "A View To A Kill" and longtime James Bond composer]. However, Pavarotti was one of the pinnacles of my career."

LeBon, along with a number of other prominent musical acts performed with Pavarotti to benefit the War Child benefit. LeBon sang "Ordinary World with Pavarotti and "Linger" with one time tour-mates The Cranberries. He adds, "If you're talking about name dropping, he's one of the biggest names you could drop, Pav-The-Man."

LeBon, along with bandmates Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo are set to play Montreal (The Metropolis) this Saturday and Toronto's Warehouse on Sunday.

The band (l-r: Warren Cuccurullo, Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes) in a still from the controversial Electric Barbarella video.


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