My interview with the iconic John Taylor of Duran Duran

Q Icon Award last week.  MTV Video Visionary Award tonight in Milan. The global force that is Duran Duran. Time to acknowledge a band that changed everything.

 

Nick Rhodes. Simon Le Bon. John Taylor. Roger Taylor. If you haven’t heard of Duran Duran, that’s unusual. At the recent CD signing in New York, every person who stopped on a busy rush hour street to ask why people were on line when everyone else was heading home, had heard of them. People from different countries, different boroughs, different lifestyles. There was the guy who asked what was going on and then said “New Yorkers. That’s what I love about this city. They’ll wait on line for sneakers, CDs, autographs, they’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want.” Not unlike Duran Duran themselves, who over 35 years of determined longevity, have weathered the” slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as one of their countrymen said. They had it all. Every video you’ve ever seen since the dawn of the MTV age owes it all to their willingness to act up for the camera and their sense of the visual which they initially saw in their glam rock heroes like David Bowie and Roxy Music.

Oddly enough, the 80s seem to be enjoying a resurgence. Luckily enough, Duran Duran don’t care. Having succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, 100 million albums sold, sprawling houses, fast cars, and the whole pinup lifestyle, they don’t need to revisit any territory. Maybe that’s what makes their latest offering, Paper Gods, so brilliantly unexpected. It sounds like classic Duran Duran. It also sounds like the newest of the blisteringly new. And by listening to the lyrics of the title track “Paper Gods”, no one could fail to be struck by Simon Le Bon’s ability to analyze the current atmosphere of distrust and disappointment. In fact, there’s a dark side to this album which is startlingly on point. Perhaps especially so, when you consider it comes from a band that for a lot of people are consistently symbolic of a pleasure obsessive culture.

John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran, detailed the wildness of being at the top with an unexpected eye for detail and metaphor in his autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove – Love, Death, and Duran Duran. So it was a real pleasure when Northern Transmissions had a chance to interview the multi-talented musician. Every Duran Duran hit (like the famous bass line in “Rio”) has featured his subtle, deeply forward, riding-the-groove bass playing that owes as much to Motown and dance music as it does to a punk sensibility of taking all the chances. If you’re looking back to the 80s, there’s nowhere better to start than with the musicians who cut a stylish swathe defining the music and video of the time. If you’ve never appreciated the sheer talent and determination it takes to be riding the wave for over 30 years, have a listen to their new album which is a brilliantly addictive musical path weaving through light and dark. And read Taylor’s autobiography to see how crazy the game of being famous can get. Alice Severin had some questions for John Taylor – and he was as just as fierce and passionate about the music as you’d expect.

NT: How are you and where are you?

John Taylor: I’m a little tired this morning after arriving in New York last night from Los Angeles.

NT: The new album, Paper Gods, is incredible. And now it’s your first top 10 in the States for 22 years, number 5 in the UK. But you threw out everything you had at the beginning and started again. What was that like, and how did you reach that decision?

JT: We wrote a couple of songs with Mr Hudson, ‘You Kill Me With Silence’ and ‘Paper Gods’ and felt they set a whole new standard for what we were attempting to do.

NT: I went to see you play the other week on the Today show. Watching you all play live, there’s a certain energy and excitement that comes through- like you’re not just enjoying what you are doing, you’re energized by the music, by the interactions between all of you on stage.

JT: That’s why we do what we do.

NT: One of my favorite songs on the album is Northern Lights. The bass line, the way it plays with keyboard, coupled with the ethereal guitar of John Frusciante – both atmospheric and driving. Why was it a bonus track?

JT: That was a pre-Mr Hudson track but we all loved John’s contribution so we kept it in the race. When it came down to choosing the album running order it just didn’t feel strong enough as a song, nor did it make absolute sense in the album narrative.

NT: I heard somewhere that you write out and decide on the set lists. Do you see yourself as the band leader, a sort of guiding musical and organizational force? Do you feel a certain responsibility?

JT: In my own way I’m driven to make the show as best as I can. I’m a little obsessive regarding running orders, album sequencing, live shows, but that’s just my thing. The great thing about Duran is the amount of territory we cover between us.

NT: You’ve mentioned James Jamerson as an inspiration. And he was one of the greats – as described by Marvin Gaye, who wanted him for What’s Going On – “the incomparable James Jamerson”. Your playing has a lot of that feel – solid, warm, always driving the song but in a very subtle way. When did you start listening to Motown, and what does his playing mean to you?

JT: Funny, I was listening to ‘What’s Going on’ Sunday. The bass playing on that album is a masterclass in inventiveness, subtlety and rhythm. Motown was huge in the U.K – you heard it everywhere. It was inevitable that the sound would get under my skin.

Duran Duran GQ UK photoshoot

Image result for duran duran photos

Image result for duran duran photos

NT: At the GQ ceremony honoring Giorgio Moroder, you nodded in agreement when Nick Rhodes mentioned the band Chicory Tip. Clearly you’ve this wide range of knowledge about bands and musicians and music. How did you start exploring and is thinking about all music interconnected for you?

JT: Gosh that’s a big question. I’m tempted to say, ‘read my book’! You know, if you’re a music person you understand. You just get it, when your schoolmates are into other stuff, like school work…! and you’re the one daydreaming about the new Bowie album or Kanye or whatever music school kids daydream about today. And I never had to stop. I still get to spend my days obsessing about music. Mine or otherwise.

NT: What were your record shop excursions like? Do you like looking for obscure albums?

JT: Well again, I talk in detail about that in my book. I do like hunting through record stores, there are great stores in Atlanta and Austin (for example) and L.A. I like used vinyl – I like sleeves that have LIVED. Sometimes I go in with a sense of something particular but these days my tastes are so varied I can almost always find something interesting.

NT: Your autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove, was a really fascinating read. Do you think you’d like to write another book? You always come across as a very verbal person, with a flair for wit and description as well as being able to pick the right moment.

JT: Yeah, maybe…if I can figure out what the message of a second book would be.

NT: You’ve said that you’re competitive. How do you balance that with the creativity, or are those two elements compatible for you?

JT: They absolutely are. To succeed in anything you have to have a sense of competition. Maybe there is a way to succeed without it, but I haven’t gotten there.

NT: Are you thinking at all yet about the next album, or is the focus on the tour? Do you ever write down ideas on the road?

JT: Not one bit. I’m all about Paper Gods.

NT: And – five records that you always go back to.

JT: The White Album – The Beatles

C’est Chic – Chic

London Calling – The Clash

Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

Northern Transmissions -John Taylor – click the link

 

 

Mercury Prize Nominees – my interviews with Wolf Alice and Jamie xx

Congratulations to Mercury Prize Nominees – Wolf Alice and Jamie xx. I did interviews with both over the summer. See what they each had to say about their music and why they do what they do.

 

Jamie xx

Jamie xx

Jamie xx

Jamie Smith, better known as Jamie xx, has had a meteoric rise in the music world. He’s accomplished so much already – first with The xx, whose debut album, xx, won them a Mercury Prize, and grabbed top position in a host of end of year lists. Their second album, Coexist, was released to major acclaim, and The xx were in demand. Shows like the limited run series in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory attracted a range of high-profile fans from the art and film world. And Jamie xx has created remixes of artists as diverse as Adele and Radiohead, and worked as a producer with Drake and Alicia Keys. After releasing a number of singles, his first highly anticipated solo album, In Colour, is finally going to be released in June. As he said, “I’ve gone from being a fan of electronic music, admiring great artists and producers, to feeling like I’m a part of their world.” There’s no question that this release will only confirm his status. Northern Transmissions was able to connect with him as he arrived here to prepare big summer of festivals, both here and in Europe and the UK. Alice Severin talked with Jamie xx about the brilliant new album. Soft spoken, he gave the impression of an individual with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical artists and a deep connection to what he does.

I guess when I first play them, I really don’t know how well…basically if they will make people dance or not. I never expected things like “Girl” to work so well live, because it’s not like, it’s not even the same tempo as anything else I’ve played. But it does work. It’s nice, it probably takes people by surprise in a way, it’s a bit different, yeah.

Jamie xx keeps talking – click link

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

London-based Wolf Alice fears no genre. As the repressive need for boundaries evaporates, the four piece has jumped into the fray with an array of songs that casually parades their mastery of the free range. From pop to garage, grunge to folk, the band stamps every song with their inventive energy, like on their first official EP, Blush. Songs like “White Leather” scored them comparisons with The xx. No surprise that right from the start, the band has been one to watch. Now Wolf Alice is due to release their first album, titled My Love Is Cool, on June 23 through Dirty Hit/RCA, and the latest single, “Giant Peach,” was one of Zane Lowe’s hottest records in the world. They’ve been on tour in the US and UK, and are now gearing up for festival season, which gave Northern Transmissions a chance to hear from the hard-working band. Ellie Rowsell, the front woman of Wolf Alice, talked about creativity, challenges, and cute pets with Alice Severin.

We just have a lot of influences and we all have a hand in writing, so it makes sense that our sound is quite varied. It’s important to us as we don’t want to be pigeonholed, and we like the freedom of being able to take our music to different realms.

More right this way…

 

 

 

Katie Monks and Dilly Dally

Katie Monks of Dilly Dally talks about what matters…

Dilly Dally has been kicking around Toronto for a while, but their moment to step under the bright spotlight has arrived. Comprised of Katie Monks on vocals and guitar, Liz Ball on guitar, and newer members Jimmy Tony on bass, and Benjamin Reinhartz on drums, Dilly Dally has found a perfect line up, one that can deliver their spot-on mix of urgent emotion and empowering risk taking. With their debut LP, Sore, coming out on Partisan Records in October, it’s beyond time for the rest of the world to get to know them. The first single off the album, “Desire”, unleashed a powerful sound combining anger and melody. Now the second single, “Purple Rage”, has come out to blast away any end of summer blues or regrets. The band’s been getting play and attention from a lot of different quarters, including Zane Lowe and Noisey. Not a surprise, when Katie Monks’ vocal delivery and fierce energy create an irresistible force field of defiance and frustration. Northern Transmissions wanted to hear more about the band. Alice Severin caught up with Katie Monks in New York City, where they talked about the album and the fight to find your own voice.

NT: How are you and where are you?

KM: I’m in New York. Just waking up and whatever. I’ve had a slow morning.

NT: That sounds perfect. What are you doing in New York?

KM: I’m just hanging with my brother.

NT: Nice. Anywhere in particular you’ve been going, or anything you like to do here?

KM: Honestly, this is my first time chilling here where I’m not like doing band stuff, so. Just been like kicking back, going to the beach today. Pretty minimal, to be honest. A pretty chill version of New York.

NT: That sounds ideal. It’s going to be a good beach day. Which beach?

KM: I think it’s called Rockaway. Apparently there’s water and stuff. (laughs)

NT: So you’ve been doing lots of interviews lately and the band has been getting a lot of attention, which is great. So what’s life been like for you and the band lately?

KM: Life has been chill. We’re just kind of antsy, I guess, because we’ve been working on this band for like six years now, had different members and stuff. It feels like we just have so much energy pent up inside us, and we just want to play shows all the time. Since we’re not on the road at the moment, I think everyone’s just kind of like feeling antsy, and I don’t know, just trying to keep busy with alcohol and working in restaurants and stuff.

NT: You’re going to be touring in the fall, you’ve got a big tour lined up to promote the album.

KM: Yeah, I’m so excited. It’s like our first real big trans-state, and we’re headlining, which is crazy.

NT: Have you got a tour bus? It looks like you will be out West a lot, then you’ll be back here in New York.

KM: Yeah, we’ve got like a crusty band van, that one of our friends will drive, do merch, pretty DIY tour situation. It’ll be a good adventure. But no tour bus yet.

NT: The band’s has been going for a long time, and you’ve got new members. But you’ve said that you feel like you’re all friends. You’ve known Liz for a really long time. Does that make the experience a lot more fun?

KM: Yeah, yeah. Totally. Literally everyone we work with on the band, it’s like if they’re not, if there isn’t like a real personal connection, we’re just not interested. And of course, that is super real with the band. We’re lucky we are all friends. Let’s see what happens in five years, but yeah. (laughs) Who knows? We haven’t been in a band with only each other for as long as we may be so we will see what happens. More to come.
NT: I’ve been listening a lot to the latest song and the video from the new album. What’s the writing and recording process been like? I’m excited to hear the entire album.

KM: Yeah, back in the winter, I quit my job at a restaurant, I was cooking breakfast, and I broke up with a friend I was dating, we mutually broke up. I went back to my parent’s house – I’m 26, it kinda sucks to go back, but just wanted to focus on literally writing as much material as I could before we got in the studio. I find that sometimes the newest songs are like just come out really good when you record them.

NT: That’s really true. And it’s hard to have a voice as a woman, in any business, especially in the music business. It must be strange being asked for the sound bite – ok, define everything in ten words, go.

KM: Yeah. I mean, it would be so easy if I could go, yeah, this record is about when I went to the zoo last week. (laughs) Whatever. Yeah. Definitely that hit me, the fact that I even feel like that anyone has to fight so hard to be heard.

More this way….press the link below

Interview with Katie Monks of Dilly Dally

 

 

Desire