Duran Duran – Roger Taylor on “Future Past” and Their Upcoming Arena Tour | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024  

Duran Duran – Roger Taylor on “Future Past” and Their Upcoming Arena Tour

Back to the Future

Apr 20, 2023 Web Exclusive Photography by John Swannell (Design by Patty Palazzo) Bookmark and Share

In 1979 Roger Taylor was a drummer in Birmingham punk band, Scent Organs. Then he met fellow Brummie and bass guitarist, John Taylor (no relation). They would go on to become the rhythm section of Duran Duran, one of the most adored and enduring bands of the modern era.

Duran Duran released their self-titled debut album in 1981 and became a mainstay of the early MTV era, fueled by iconic videos for such hits as “Girls on Film,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “Rio.” In 1985 they teamed up with composer John Barry for “A View to Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name, Roger Moore’s final outing as 007. The band have achieved UK Top-5 albums in five consecutive decades, from the 1980s to 2020s, a rare feat. And in America they had Top-10 albums in three decades (1980s, 1990s, and 2010s). The band also features vocalist Simon Le Bon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes.

Their 15th studio album, Future Past, was released in late 2021 to widespread acclaim and was their biggest commercial success in 17 years since their 2004 reunion album, Astronaut. The band has barely paused for breath in the 18 months following its release. They have headlined the Isle of Wight Festival, British Summer Time in Hyde Park, performed at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, and closed the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in their hometown of Birmingham.

Their headline tour across North America included sold out shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and three nights at the Hollywood Bowl. To top off the year, the band were inducted into the 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November. The band’s former guitarist, Andy Taylor (again, no relation), wasn’t able to attend the ceremony as he is battling stage 4 prostate cancer. The 2023 North American arena tour kicks off in California on May 27. Under the Radar caught up with Roger Taylor about the album, upcoming tour, the Reportage album sessions, and the sustained inspiration of Nile Rodgers & Chic.

Lee Campbell (Under the Radar): Great news on the upcoming tour. Future Past was released in the autumn of 2021. Is there a favorite track that you have enjoyed playing live?

Roger Taylor: They have all been great to play as they all really blend with the earlier material. They have more of an organic quality to them. I love playing “Invisible.” It’s normally the second song in the set that we play. There’s just something about where that song has been sitting in the set. It’s always really exciting to play a new song early, as it says that you’re not just going to be hearing all of the older songs. It’s been going down really well.

You worked with Graham Coxon on the album. I really love his guitar parts on the record. He was so positive about working with you and the guys. What did you think Graham brought to the writing and recording process? What were the dynamics like with a new guitarist coming in?

It had been a long time since we had a guitarist fully in the writing process. Since Andy [Taylor] left, we haven’t really had a guitarist in the room with us from the get-go. That was really exciting. It was a little bit of a happy accident because Erol Alkan, the producer, lives in north London. He’s more or less Graham’s next door neighbor. He asked, “Can I bring my neighbor in to play guitar for the day?” Graham is such a lovely man and he is so creative with the influences and sounds he can draw on. It was hand and glove, a perfect fit. So, over a few weeks we wrote the best material for many a year, and a lot of it is down to Graham coming in. I didn’t realize what a genius he is. I’d no idea he was such a deep-thinking musician. It was a really great experience.

Congratulations on the Hall of Fame induction. It’s great to see you guys up there finally. It’s long overdue. I guess it must have been bittersweet though with Andy being unable to join you on stage?

Yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We were fully expecting Andy to join us. We had the rehearsal room all set up, ready to go. We were very excited about it. We’ve not played with Andy for 17 years. It was a very exciting prospect. We got the call literally the day before the rehearsal. It floored us. A very difficult moment. But, the award and the presentation was also as much about the last 17 years as well as the previous 20. So, we had to put that aside and ensure that the show must go on.

It was a lovely moment to see some pictures of Simon handing over the award to Andy at his home in Ibiza. Did you get a chance to chat with Andy following the award?

Yeah, we’re communicating. He seems quite well and is responding well to the treatment.

The North American tour kicks off in Napa Valley in California at the end of May. I’ve seen the band play half a dozen times over the years. What strikes me is that you all seem to be having such a blast on stage. You seem to be really enjoying the moment. How does it feel being on tour again with the guys?

It’s very exciting. We have a much greater appreciation now of what we do and playing together. After lockdown happened, our world fell in on itself, like every other musician or performer, suddenly it was all taken away from us. So, to be out there playing again, it’s been incredible. I think particularly off the back of the new record, it seems to have really got to people. It’s been an amazing two years. We keep showing up, we keep plugging in, setting up, and when we play together something really special happens. We bring back these songs that are around 40 years old. They come to life when we play them together. It’s one thing hearing these songs on the radio, but to actually go and perform them, people to hear them live and people to be still bonding to these older records, it’s really special.

What do you think is the recipe to still being able to have that fun and excitement with the band on stage?

We’ve always looked forward, we’ve always looked to the future. That’s so important. I think any band that’s been around for a long time, they’ve all invested as much in the present day and in the future as they have in the past. I’m sounding like I am building towards the album title [Future Past] here [chuckling]. We’ve not rested on our laurels too much. We’ve never tried Rio twice. The next record after Rio was Seven and the Ragged Tiger, which was a completely different record, different producer, different studios with a completely different mindset when we were making it. It’s great playing the old songs but we wanna also play the songs that’s been written in the past couple of years. It’s very important for your own self-esteem.

It is great to hear that you will be back in Ireland this year [May 7th]. I was fortunate enough to see you play in Dublin last year. There was brilliant energy and atmosphere at that gig.

It was very special. Definitely the best show that we have ever played in Dublin, and definitely the best audience we’ve had there. It was quite remarkable.

It’s lovely to see and hear “Hold Back the Rain” on the set list. The drumming pattern especially on that track is great.

It’s really fun to play and I recall it was rather appropriate that night, wasn’t it? It was raining a lot.

You played Hyde Park in London with Nile Rodgers last summer on one of the hottest days of the year in the UK.

Yeah, but the weekend after got unbearably hot, so we were quite lucky actually. That was barmy, to play to that many people. The promoter was expecting 30-40,000, and I think in the end it was close to 80,000. It was one of the biggest selling nights of that whole series. Things like that are just mind-blowing. Forty years later to play to an audience of that size—wow!

Chic has been a big influence on you and the guys growing up. Nile will be once again joining you on the upcoming tour with Bastille. Would you have a go-to Chic song that you would put above the others?

Chic has got so many songs. I hear them everywhere. It must be one of the most incredible music collections in history, the Chic catalog. I think “Good Times” has to be their most important record for me. I remember when I first met John [Taylor], I went over to his house in the Hollywood area of Birmingham. I never really listened to Chic before, but he played “Good Times” and he said, “That’s how I would like the rhythm section to sound. Do you think you could play like that?” I said, “Yeah!” I had only ever played punk rock before that. I was in a punk band, but I heard the Chic rhythm sound and I thought that particular song was amazing. Then we built the foundation of Duran Duran upon the Chic rhythm section. They were the architects of our success really. We learned so much from them. It’s amazing to think we are playing with Nile on the same bill now. It’s another top moment. They say never meet your idols, but Nile has never disappointed, he’s always been incredible.

You have Bastille joining you on tour also. That’s quite a line-up.

Yep. Of course in the UK we have Jake Shears. That’s gonna be fun. He’s just released a great record [“Too Much Music”].

He was always a big supporter of Duran and would have quoted the band as an influence.

Yeah, Scissor Sisters were one of the first bands when we re-united in the early 2000s to say that Duran were cool and they ARE cool. They were big supporters, so it’s great to have him performing with us.

What’s in store for Duran after the tour—can you see that far ahead, a new album perhaps?

We’re not really talking about that yet. We are so focused on the tour right now. We’ll get to the end of the touring cycle and ask what we are going to do now. We will be back in the U.S. for the fourth time in recent years by the end of the autumn, but yes, we wouldn’t be surprised if we start another record.

You mentioned the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album earlier. It’s the 40th anniversary this year. Is there a track for you that stands out?

It was the birth of “The Reflex” wasn’t it? It was a great album record, but when Nile re-mixed it, what a moment that was. He transformed it. We took that record into EMI and they said, “Well, it’s a good record but we can’t really hear a single.” They didn’t get “The Reflex” at that point, then, when it came back from Nile it was almost unrecognizable. It became one of the biggest songs of our whole career. I also think that “The Seventh Stranger” is a wicked song. We were playing that on one of the recent tours and it takes me right back to the ’83-’84 tour when we played that every night. It’s definitely one of the greater, deeper cuts from that record.

You left the band in 1985 and returned in 2001. Do you recall what the catalyst was to re-join with the guys again?

It wasn’t one moment. It’s like most things in life, it’s a series of events that lead to the door opening again. I was living in the countryside [in the UK] for a number of years. Then I moved back to London and built a studio in my loft. So, I was kind of getting back into music again, I was making some dance music, I was releasing vinyl, edging back into music again slowly. Then I got the call from John. He was sitting by the pool in LA with Nick and Simon. I told them I would sleep on it and call them back in 12 hours. I knew I was ready. I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Subconsciously, it was always something that lived there inside me. The thought of getting back with the band had always been there. I was ready for the next step back into the unknown, because it really was the unknown at that point. I wasn’t sure that we were going to have a career again. It had been a long time. We didn’t have a manager, a record label, or a publishing deal. Was the world ready for Duran Duran again? Luckily they were. People thought it was probably a no-brainer, it’s gonna work. We had no idea. There wasn’t that much love for the band generally at that time. We moved in so many directions in the ’90s. Dance music, drum and bass was very prominent as well as the whole Mancunian scene [The Stone Roses, Oasis]. It was a long way from where Duran Duran had been. Who knew that there was going to be all of this love for the band again?

Some quick-fire questions for you Roger. Trickiest drum pattern in the Duran back catalog?

“Rio” is just such a fast song, and it’s always at the end of the live set. We’ve been playing for almost two hours, and that song comes along. It was written like we were on speed [chuckling].

Favorite things to do on your day off?

Picking my son up from school. A simple thing, just to be here.

The Duran Reportage album. Will it ever be released?

I think it will actually. It’s something that we always talk about, and when we have the time and patience, we will go back and finish it. It’s a complete record, the record is finished. We just need to go back and check out the mixes, and then put it out there.

Best live band you’ve seen recently and best album?

Judas Priest, especially during their Rock Hall [of Fame] performance. Before that, the last time I saw them live was when I was 16 years old! In terms of an album, Florence and the Machine’s latest [Dance Fever] is great.

All-time Aston Villa FC [soccer] player?

It has to be Jack Grealish doesn’t it? I love super Jack. He almost single-handedly got us from the Championship division back up to the Premier League, so it has to go to Jack.


Duran Duran North American Tour Dates:

05/27 – Bottlerock Festival – Napa Valley, CA^
05/28 – SAP Center – San Jose, CA*
05/31 – Climate Pledge Arena – Seattle, WA*
06/01 – Moda Center – Portland, OR*
06/03 – Vivint Arena – Salt Lake City, UT*
06/06 – Moody Center – Austin, TX*
06/07 – Smoothie King Center – New Orleans, LA*
06/09 – The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – The Woodlands, TX*
06/10 – American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX*
06/13 – Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN*
06/15 – State Farm Arena – Atlanta, GA*
06/17 – Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL*
06/18 – FLA Live Arena – Sunrise, FL*
08/22 - North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre - San Diego, CA* NEW DATE
08/24 – Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, CA*
08/26 – T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV*
08/28 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO*
08/29 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO*
08/31 – Minnesota State Fair – St. Paul, MN*
09/01 – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island – Chicago, IL*
09/03 – CMAC – Canandaigua, NY*
09/06 – TD Garden – Boston, MA*
09/07 – Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA*
09/09 – PPG Paints Arena – Pittsburgh, PA*
09/10 – Blossom Music Center – Cuyahoga Falls, OH*
09/13 – Capital One Arena – Washington, DC*
09/16 – Little Caesars Arena – Detroit, MI*
09/19 – Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, ON*
09/22 – Forest Hills Stadium – Queens, NY**

** w/ Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers & Chic and Bastille
* w/ Nile Rodgers & Chic and Bastille

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