Friday, October 30, 2009

Too Much Information

Yesterday, I watched John Taylor speak on a panel at the "40th Anniversary of the Internet" conference at UCLA.

While it was lovely to see him, I couldn't help but find his words to be a bit stodgy and closed-minded. He warned us of his Luddite leanings early on, stating that he does not facebook, myspace, or twitter. Fair enough, as the man clearly has better things to do.

John spoke about how the abundance of the Internet has brought music from across the ages into young peoples lives. At the same time he commended youngsters for listening to music from the past, he also said that this is "causing innovative nature to slow down." I found this interesting coming from someone who's music has clearly borrowed from different genres and ages, particularly since the new Duran Duran album is consistently referred to as trying to recapture the early Duran sound of "Rio."

More off-putting was his position on how the Internet has affected the relationship between fans and artists. John spoke about the "immense power of restriction" and how he believes that these days, by putting their personal lives and thoughts on the Internet, "artists are diluting their magical attraction and power over their audience." There is no doubt this power of restriction was once quite magical, even in the days when Duran Duran was just starting out. There was no YouTube... we had to sit through lame Tom Petty and Dire Straits videos in hopes of catching Planet Earth or Rio. I remember taking photos of the TV screen in an effort to savor the images longer. I remember eagerly anticipating the next issue of Tiger Beat in hopes that there would be a new pin-up or more information on Simon Le Bon's favorite flower (Rhododendron... swoon!) or the constant reiteration of Roger's "Froggy Barnacle" nickname. Keeping themselves high on that pedestal worked in that day and age. Those were good times, and I can certainly understand the sentimentality of his statements.

Today, I would love to look deeply into those big brown eyes and whisper ever-so-sweetly to our blessed Bass God that the times, they are a changin'. If Duran Duran wants to position themselves as more relevant and less retro, they must do so in a logical, forward-thinking, profitable manner. The high pedestal that John referred to magical artists sitting atop is now seen as more of a reluctance to engage due to insecurity and apathy. John described "Trust the Process," his once flourishing solo site where he was highly engaged with fans as "hard work," and his stumble about how it was a "great way to interact, uh, I mean, SELL directly to fans" was awkward. Selling and interacting are not mutually exclusive, as he should know, and hard work is what it takes to survive, especially with the Internet constantly changing the way people discover, listen to and buy music. There is a mind-boggling amount of music out there these days, and hiding in an ivory tower will no longer endear you to increasingly music-savvy fans who, thanks to the Internet, have become information junkies for better or for worse.

John said that "energy and inspiration will keep you afloat and enable you to ride out these changes." This is very true, and many successful artists are finding that energy and inspiration by connecting with their fans via the Internet. An excellent example is Imogen Heap, an outspoken advocate of using new technology to interact and collaborate with her fans. Imogen is constantly finding ways new ways to connect with her listeners via twitter, video blogs and online chats. She has dared to bring fans into all aspects of her craft, from songwriting to creation of the album artwork. By doing so, she has enjoyed chart success and Grammy nominations while developing deep loyalty within her fan base and positioning herself as a technological and music industry maverick.

John spoke about how it's important to "know the rules so you can break them." He clearly set forth his personal rules for how musicians should deal with the Internet. If Duran Duran are to continue to stay relevant and be the forward-thinking band that they've always claimed to be, I would like to see them break a few rules of their own.

Opening statement:

Q&A session:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Authentic Shit

Just a few minutes ago I was listening to Mark Ronson's weekly show on East Village Radio, "Authentic Shit". Mark played a tiny but delicious taste from the unfinished new Duran Duran album, which he is producing.

And here it is.

Listen to the unreleased and in-progress Duran Duran

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

faith in this colour

There's been lots of exciting news this week, the most joyous being the report that EMI plans to re-release three more Duran Duran albums: the first album, Notorious, and Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

"If you think the Fab Four sound great check out the sound on the Fab Five’s new edition of Rio, we think it’s the best one yet, and don’t miss the Live at Hammersmith DVD. We hope you all enjoy it. Oh and before we forget, we’ve got some real treats coming your way with special editions of the first album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger and Notorious in the first half of next year.
Love and kisses, The Duran Torch Carriers at EMI."

While both the first album and 7ATRT have already been remastered, Notorious is long overdue for a sonic overhaul. EMI has done a fantastic job with the recent Rio re-issue, with luscious packaging, a booklet, and 2 CDs with treasured demos. (I've had the audio for some time but am waiting with the rest of the US until it comes out here on October 6, along with the Hammersmith Odeon '82 video.) If EMI puts the same effort into these upcoming releases, they will be a real treat. I'm especially excited about 7ATRT... perhaps the mystery of that alleged "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" demo supposedly sung by Andy will be laid to rest. Here's to hoping the re-issues will be as thoughtfully assembled as Rio and will actually be released next year.

Another interesting tidbit from this week is the announcement the Simon has contributed to a new book called "The Atheists Guide to Christmas" by Ariane Sherine. Simon states at, “There was a campaign in England, about a year ago, which caused quite a big stir. There were signs on buses that said “There Probably Is No God.” This, of course, was very controversial. I read some interview with the girl who started the campaign, and she said she’d done it because there was a radical fundamentalist group going around saying something like, if you don’t believe in God, you’re damned and will be going to hell, so she thought she’d have a go back at them. Suddenly, she had all these death threats, and it became quite a story. When I saw her on telly I thought “Hang on, I know her!” – she used to hang outside of Warren’s house in 1996 when we were making a record! I remember I really liked her and thought she was smart – so I wanted to get back in touch to lend my support. When the News mentioned she was also a contributor at the Guardian, I called up and left her message there. She called me right back and told me all about the book, and all the people she was speaking to – celebrities, authors, comedians, the great thinkers of our time, etc. I offered to do an interview with her, and that’s how I ended up as a contributor to THE ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS by Ariane Sherine. I’ve also done a vocal for the audio book version. I am a concerned Agnostic – which means I sit on the fence a little bit because it’s too arrogant to say there is no God. I am willing to become a believer if someone could prove it to me, but I am not going to take other people’s word for it. A lot of my thoughts are in this book and it will make a great Holiday present for people – the book is quite funny and intelligent and it will get you thinking."

Given that my personal faith revolves around Duran Duran, I am very interested to hear Simon's views on faith. By no means am I saying that Duran Duran are gods... clearly they are mortal, have flaws, and make mistakes as we all do. However, apart from the love of my friends and family, the knowledge that Duran Duran are making another album and planning another tour is what keeps me ticking. Faith is faith, and I feel that we need find it in whatever we can. Mine happens to have great hair and dodgy dance moves, but still perfectly valid as a personal motivator and comforting in times of need.

Perhaps the book will show that Simon shares a similar view. In the Red Carpet Massacre on Broadway playbill, it said, "Although confirmed in the Anglican Church, Le Bon describes his spiritual standing variously as "a confirmed atheist"; "godless to the bone"; "not actually sure"; "if there's free wine involved — count me in"; and "I never really did like pork anyway, and if it's good enough for Esther (Madonna) — call me Isaac."

How Simon became involved in this book is also intriguing, as it reminds us of how influential the fans are on the band. The things we do and say makes a direct impact on how they behave and what they produce. Knowing that the survival of our object of faith is directly affected by our behavior is the source of many tizzies and conundrums within the fan community. Before I get too deep, I will save those thoughts for another post. Instead, I will leave you with some photos of Nick looking really fabulous at London Fashion Week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

this is how a road gets made

They say that the average person has between 150 and 475 thoughts about Duran Duran each day. It is possible that my pendulum swings towards the high end of that estimation. No one can really say for sure. I do know that I have much to say about them. So much, in fact, that I'm afraid it necessitates a blog.

For instance, today I came across some recent photos of Simon Le Bon. He appears to be in the throes of some kind of errand. Simon performs his daily business in a sporty silver Audi, dressed in a casual-chic-yet-sporty sort of outfit and wearing the whitest shoes I have ever seen. His hair looks like maybe he didn't wash it that day, but it only serves to make one imagine that it smells extra good like that. Simon is holding a plastic shopping bag, an element of the picture that does not seem right somehow... the bag is too common, too flimsy... but I will not begin to surmise what is in it. That would just be getting carried away. I do have limits... but this is my blog, and I will set them.

Figure of eight... it was our year... it always was.