Thursday, February 25, 2010

CLSA Conference, Tokyo

This evening, Duran Duran performed at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Tokyo as Asia-focused brokerage and investment firm CLSA wrapped up their 7th annual Japan Forum. The financial conference is known for having high-profile entertainers, and Duran Duran was brought back by popular demand after playing the conference in 2007.

At the moment, I am only able to report on the show through photographs. I'll add more details as they come in and everyone recovers from what looks to be an amazingly fun night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Danimals - TED the Lab

Keeping with the theme of Mark Ronson's side projects, commissions by non-musical brands, and never-ending worship for all things John Taylor, today we look at Danimals, the winner of the competition held by Toohey's Extra Dry to come up with a smashingly hip and catchy single for their next national advertising campaign.

Danimals began as a solo project for Sydney artist Jonti Danilewitzand and soon evolved into a five-piece ensemble, revolving around three drummers rotating around a single drum kit and separate synth and percussion stations. An experiment in the fusion of rock and electronic sounds, Danimals focus on rhythms and deconstructing traditional song structures to create some bouncy tripped out experimental music.

I've seen promotions like the Toohey's Extra Dry competition fall flat for numerous reasons, but was obviously intrigued upon hearing the winners would supposedly create something entirely new with John Taylor, Mark Ronson, Santigold, and members of the Kaiser Chiefs and Dap Kings. Contenders were announced early on, Ronson himself chose the winning band in December, and within a few weeks a pretty incredible web documentary of the Danimals journey into wonderland was up.

I implore you to check out TED the Lab if you have not already done so. It provides a sexy yet informative and well-produced look into Danimals impending dream date with the stars. The web site takes a while to load, but it's totally worth your time. Minus five points for not including any shots of John Taylor; plus three points for the scene with Mark Ronson eating a sandwich.

I'm not sure if any "official" release has come out, but tonight, Danimals put the finished track up on Twitter and Facebook. I think it's pretty creamy. It might just be the beer-foam mustache talking, but of course the bass line is killer and I'm kind of in love with those marimbas. It will be interesting to see how Toohey's wraps things up, but yeah... I think they got a winner.

Listen to Danimals "FOX"

Sunday, February 21, 2010


As you all know, Mark Ronson is producing the next Duran Duran album. I think he is an excellent choice. Not only is Ronson one of the best producers and DJs in the business, he has a relentless work ethic and has been a devoted Duran fan for most of his life. I think he gets it, and perhaps just as importantly, the band gets him. Mark has promised to bring back "that classic Duran sound," which is good news for those who cringed with the band's last collaboration with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Personally, I love Red Carpet Massacre, but I do find a disconnect with that production on many levels.

Ronson also has mad skills when it comes to image and promotion, and I think our boys could take a few tips from him. I'll have more to come on that later. For now, let's have a look at one of Mark's latest projects, his somewhat mysterious collaboration with Sam Sparro and Theophilus London, called Chauffeur. You've got to at least love the name.

Chauffeur looks elegantly sexy, sounds disturbingly cool, and undoubtedly smells like money and expensive hair products. It's got a lubricated 80s vibe and is very synth-heavy, an element that Ronson attributes to working recently with Nick Rhodes. Just like Mark himself, Chauffeur is Gucci down to the socks. The group came together as the musical component to Ronson's line of shoes, which he designed for Gucci and is the first product actually endorsed and designed by Ronson. When you buy a pair of the shoes, you get a limited edition vinyl 12-inch of Chauffeur's "Soles of Fire." I do not wear boat shoes or own a record player. I do, however, have an iPhone, and another element to this promotion is a fun little Gucci/Ronson app that Nick Rhodes mentioned in a recent interview.

Thus far, two songs from Chauffeur have come out; the first to debut was the slippery and mentholated "Soles of Fire." Two days ago, Mark premiered the a cover of Sheila E.'s "Glamorous Life" on his Authentic Shit program on East Village Radio. "Glamorous Life" is yet another shining example of Ronson's unfailing ability to do retro with a modern twist. It makes me want to play drums while standing up, swilling champagne and wearing a full-length purple chinchilla coat.

Chauffeur - "Soles of Fire"

Chauffeur - "Glamorous Life"

Ronson is quite simply the king of combination, even down to his trans-Atlantic accent. He mixes exactly the right sounds, artists and aesthetics to create music that is at once exotic and familiar. I think he's got the recipe. Mark Ronson isn't going to make or break this next album... that's of course ultimately up to the band. But I do have faith that this charming alchemist has the ability to form a panacea that, supported with thoughtful and diligent marketing and promotion, will enable Duran Duran to shine once again like the golden gods they truly are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mobile World Conference in Barcelona

On February 16, Duran Duran performed at the Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona. The following day, Nick delivered a fascinating keynote outlining the band's views on mobile technology and beyond.

Set List:
A View to a Kill, Hungry Like the Wold, Notorious, Come Undone, Reflex, Ordinary World, Sunrise, Wild Boys and Rio.

Click here to watch Nick's chat with Ericsson about about being on the cutting edge of mobile technology

Nick's comments from the afterparty and keynote session:

Click here for video of the keynote

"I think there are many great applications for market research from both mobile and online, even down to such simple concepts as finding out which songs the audience would like to hear in a live show. We do look at data, but we combine that with our instinct to find the right combination."

"We are currently in discussions with several phone companies about what type of experience we can provide for our audience when we release the new album later this year. We are always looking for interesting and innovative opportunities and there's undoubtedly some exciting technology out there to both deliver music and engage our fans."

"We actually have a massive war-chest of unused content available that we are re-purposing for the mobile arena. We see this as a great opportunity for all artists as it develops month by month."

"On the next album we will be using mobile to an even greater extent, both for delivery and as a way to connect with our fans and further build community."

“We’ve always looked at technology from the beginning [of our career], whether it was TV, radio or the internet more recently,” he said. “Mobile phones, artists haven’t engaged that much yet. We’ve all had a flirtation with ring tones. We’ve done downloading of tracks and video clips. Possibly, some surveys and polling. But we’ve not got into the integrated 3G system and using the technology to its best yet. For the first time artists are now saying the mobile audience is so much bigger than the online audience. More people have phones than computers in the world.”

“I think the opportunities now are pretty extraordinary with mobile phones,” said Rhodes. “We have the content, but we’re also very interested to see how we can use things in ways that they haven’t been used yet. Sometimes people will look at a technology and ask what use it is. As an artist, we can see, perhaps, how it might be used at a live show where people could tag something and appear on another screen…”

“It’s a brave new world out there. You try things. It’s trial and error. You see what works. Everyone always wants to put something out, say it’s perfect and have it work. As with every new product, sometimes it hits the spot and sometimes, not always for the right reasons, it doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try something new, get out there and see what people think. They let you know soon enough.”

“A lot of people have seen the opportunity and think you have to churn things around more. For people on a creative roll who want to put stuff out and if the audience wants that, it’s giving you a myriad of different options. What I like is the idea that everything is instant. We used to have to put a record out, stick posters up and hope someone walked past them at a certain time. Now you can push a button and it’s all over the phone networks. People can have it and decide very quickly. It works well for artists because we are communicators.”

“On tour it takes 18 months to get around the world. It’s a lot of fun, but exhausting too. It’s hugely appealing that we can proliferate our music out there quickly [using digital media], including to places like India and China where we’ve never played.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Demolition: New Moon on Monday

Continuing our examination of the Seven and the Ragged Tiger demos, let's have a listen to two versions of New Moon On Monday, which is certainly one of the cornerstones of the album. Released in 1984, the tenth single by Duran Duran is sultry, mystical, grandiose, obtuse and kinda dorky... all at the same time.

The first version presented here includes vocals, some mumbled and some amusingly emphatic. Most of the lyrics are complete, although Simon had apparently not yet begun to "shake up the picture with the lizard mixture."

UPDATE: It turns out that these 7ATRT demos have, according to the Duran Wiki, been "denounced as fakes by the band." I've really enjoyed the discussion around this... can anyone point me to some exact quotes from the band about these demos? I find the fact that someone would go to such lengths to fake this stuff to be almost as fascinating as the real thing.

Listen to New Moon on Monday Demo - Version 1

This second version is sans-vocals, but the music sounds more self assured and playful. John's bass line slithers up and down your spine as it should, and you can almost hear Nick smiling as the layers come together.

Listen to New Moon on Monday Demo - Version 2

It's impossible to listen to New Moon On Monday without thinking of the iconic video. Four different versions are in existence. There is a seventeen minute "movie version" with an extended introduction, an extended version with a French prologue that was debuted on MTV, a shorter version without the prologue, and yet another version produced for the Dancing on the Valentine video collection. The latter is set to the extended mix, with slick shots of the band members against the backdrop of a full moon and a silhouette of a woman with big 80s hair being alternately sort of fondled and tortured.

However, my favorite version is the brilliant parody video "Making Fun of Duran Duran 2!" The part about Andy's stupid kite gets me every time.

One of these days I'm going to run around a village in France in the dead of winter, handing out meaningless fliers and lighting stuff on fire. It's going to be awesome.