Duran Duran back with 14th album, featuring Lindsay Lohan cameo
For their new studio album, band called on friends including Mark Ronson, Nile Rodgers - and Lohan - writes Glenn Gamboa
Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon laughs off the idea of the band ever getting credit for the way they brought together electronic dance music and rock. "One thing I've learned is not to worry about getting credit for anything," Le Bon says. "It's all about the moment. It's about the kids who see you play. Those are the things that matter. That's what counts."
And as the band readies their 14th studio album, Paper Gods, for release in September, it's clear they are all about being in the moment, even as hitmakers such as Walk the Moon and Lady Gaga mine their catalogue for inspiration.
"It's been a very exciting year already," says Le Bon, referring to the band's new record deal with Warner to release Paper Gods. "It's made a big difference, too."
Le Bon says the band took their time recording the new album, which resulted in a five-year break between albums, the longest span without new Duran Duran material since they started in 1978. "We were on tour for such a long time for the last album," Le Bon says, explaining the gap. "When we finished, I said, 'I can't face you guys for six months', which is a really good thing to do."
Le Bon, synthesiser whizz Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor started work on Paper Gods in March 2013, with Mark Ronson, who also produced the band's All You Need is Now album.
Ronson started off the sessions but then had to step away to do his own record Uptown Special, which ended up spawning this year's biggest hit so far, Uptown Funk. "We wanted to keep going," Le Bon says. "So we hooked up with Mr Hudson, and we really clicked."
Mr Hudson, best known for his work with Jay Z and Kanye West, worked on several songs including the ambitious title track, a sprawling seven-minute meditation about obsession with material things. "It's my favourite song on the album," Le Bon says. "It reminds me of New Religion. That's the only thing we've ever done like it."
You Kill Me with Silence is another song with echoes of the past that is firmly anchored in the present. It opens with a haunting synth line from Rhodes that harks back to The Chauffeur before layering in other elements. "When everything else comes in to join it, at first, I think Snoop Dogg," Le Bon says. "When the vocal comes in, I think Nancy Sinatra. Then when the chorus comes in, I think 10cc."
When Ronson returned to the project, he had Nile Rodgers in tow. Though Ronson and Rodgers hadn't worked together before, Duran Duran and Rodgers had a lengthy history, reaching back to the Chic co-founder's chart-topping remix of The Reflex and producing the band's Notorious album.
Soon, they had created the funky first single Pressure Off, driven by Rodgers' unmistakable guitar, and that partnership led to the band's headlining appearance at day two of Rodgers' Fold Festival in Long Island recently. "Basically, he said, 'I'll play on this if you do my festival'," Le Bon says. "That's fine by us. I've been looking forward to this so much."
Le Bon has many fond memories of Long Island, of lunches with Jann Wenner and Calvin Klein in the Hamptons. "And then there was that magic-mushroom-fuelled weekend in Montauk that was bonkers," he says, laughing. "In my defence, it was the '80s."
Le Bon is proud of how well Paper Gods turned out. "It's an old-fashioned album - not just a couple of good tracks and filler," he says. "We come from the album generation, where you stacked them on the record player and listened all the way through … We were able to get into the heads of the artists. It made it worthwhile."
That included bringing Lindsay Lohan into the recording process. She offers a dramatic, tongue-in-cheek voice-over for the dance track Danceophobia, which Le Bon says the band absolutely loved.
"It was quite a contentious suggestion to have her do it," says Le Bon, adding that he and Lohan have been friends for years.
"We followed our instincts, and she was an absolute professional. She was also a proper drama queen, arriving in a haze of perfume and cigarette smoke. She sounds amazing on it.
"She has a great sense of humour. Being in the business this long, that's something we all need."
Tribune News Service
FIVE OF THE BEST: ESSENTIAL EARLY LISTENING
Paper Gods (right) will be Duran Duran's 14th studio album and will come after a number of bona fide pop classics - particularly their first five LPs.
Duran Duran (1981)
Released three years after band formed, Duran Duran's self-titled debut announced the band's talent to the world. It contains the signature tracks Planet Earth and Girls on Film.
Coming one year after their debut, Rio showcases a more mature version of the band, and arguably remains their high point. It is distinguished by more complex songwriting on tracks such as Hungry Like the Wolf and Save a Prayer.
Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983)
Duran Duran's only No 1 UK album also gave the band their second and final No 1 UK single, The Reflex. Capturing the band as they moved towards a more danceable sound, the album received a mixed critical reception but eventually went double platinum.
A live album released in the wake of the band's hugely successful 1983-84 world tour, Arena featured live versions of the biggest hits from the first three albums, as well as the new studio track The Wild Boys, produced by disco/funk legend Nile Rodgers.
Returning as a three-piece and with Rodgers in tow as producer, the band's fifth album presented Duran Duran as a funky, dance-rock band - as best heard on the title single.