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The Dutch Go Duran fan interviews: Part 1

The Dutch Go Duran was a Duranzine that ran for 18 years from 1988 to 2006 – an incredible achievement for a fan-based quarterly publication. It was the longest running ‘zine, and deservedly so. It was a deceptively unassuming publication that gave voice to fans’ opinions, published the latest news (“the new album has now been delayed to next Autumn”), and – tellingly and uniquely - had a succession of editors that kept the quality and quantity going.

None of this is easy. As the editor of the Cherry Lipstick fanzine, I was particularly taken with the friendliness of the editors who supported CL through some difficult early months as we were getting established, with none of the tension or rivalry that you might either expect, or have experienced, from other elements of the fandom.

The other thing that set TDGD apart were its amazing fan-interviews with the band. They were republished in the 15-year anniversary edition in 2003, and are available in full on the website. Additionally, they had their famous questionnaires that were sent to the band and then returned by the band member.

As a whole, these intervies offer a new perspective on the band’s history in the 1990s. Here are the questions WE want answered, with the band knowing they are answering to the fans directly, rather than a generic magazine audience. They talk about Liberty, The Wedding Album, Thank You and Medazzland.

Cherry Lipstick is grateful to two of the ex-editors – Esther and Mandy – for giving permission for us to re-publish extensive extracts of those interviews here, hopefully for a new audience. They will be published over five posts:

1. September 1990, Simon, John, Nick, Sterling, Warren (below)

2. November 1994, Simon

3. January 1995, Warren

4. November 1995, Nick

5. June 1997, John; and the questionnaires 1994-2002

Adam, CL Editor


September 22 1990, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Interview by Amanda Kragten (TDGD editor 1988-1992); Mona (co-editor).

Amanda remembers (2003): "Sometime in September 1990, the phone rang at TDGD headquarters. It was Charna, EMI’s press officer. This was surprising enough in itself, but the question she asked was even more shocking. Did I want to do an interview with Duran Duran? As it turned out – she was serious! As soon as I hung up the phone, panic struck. How do you do interviews with pop stars?

"The first interview was with John and Sterling. EMI’s press officer took us down a couple of steps into a small room with a table and some chairs. The stairs were the only way in or out and when John came down them, I was feeling quite trapped. Fortunately, John turned out to be friendliness personified and our nerves soon calmed as we talked to John and a very ebullient Sterling." What is in your opinion the best song on the album Liberty?

Sterling: My favourite is Serious. John: Yes mine is too. At least today anyway.

If it were still possible to change anything on the album, what would you change?

Sterling: Maybe the way it sounds. Some of the songs could sound a bit rougher, some of it sounds too mainstream, too ready for radio. So we want to dirty it up a bit.

Despite all the negative attitudes from the press, a lot of people still remain loyal followers of Duran Duran. How do you feel about that?

John: Grateful.

There is a lot of opposition, not only from the press, but also from other people around you.

John: We know. Sterling: It can only make you stronger though. It is frustrating to hear things like that. I turn on MTV and I see music that is going to last until next week. And here we are, putting our bloody guts into it and are almost trivialized. That’s not what anybody is here for. That’s not what our album is about. It’s not even given a chance, so it does get frustrating. But at the same time we say, ‘okay, maybe next time’. When we go out on tour we’ll show them.

Do you already have any idea when this next tour is going to be?

John: It depends. There is plan A and plan B. It really depends on how the record does, how Serious does. We’re going to finish an album first, that’s for sure.

We think that’s great. It will make the shows a lot more interesting, not having to play the same songs again. How do you like having to do The Reflex again?

John: Fine. I like The Reflex.

When did you decide to record another album before touring again?

John: We decided that on the last tour. I just felt that we had to put some distance between… I mean, if there is anything we really have to do to prove to people that we are of value, it is delivering a greater amount of music. It’s easy just to tour, you can become like a hundred million cabaret bands, tour and tour and tour, but I just felt we had to deliver a gob of work. In the sixties, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, everybody released two albums a year. And there’s Prince now. We just got to be more prolific. And I felt that every tour was taking a step down and down and I wanted to stop that. I think if we play the Paradiso next year it’s not going to be full and the year after that it’s going to be less. I’d rather go off in a different direction. To me the way of really turning that around is working hard on the music and showing musical growth. Sterling: The Rio video can come on and that’s how people look at the band now. That’s how ignorant people are. They don’t even listen to the music. I really want to change that.

John: We’ve got a solid base of support that runs out and buys the records the day they come out. But we’re simply not as popular as we were, there are not as many fans and we don’t get played on the radio like we used to.

How do you think to change that?

John: Make better records. Become unignorable.

What would you like to achieve with Duran Duran in the future?

Sterling: I would just like to kill the stigma. I want to be respected as what we are: I think we’re good musicians and write great songs. We’re being compared to New Kids on the Block. That’s just completely irrelevant. I knew there was negativity involved, but I didn’t know it was at that level. That people would just completely ignore the music and read the British tabloids and judge a band like that.

When did you first start to notice this negativity?

Sterling: When I started doing interviews. Some of the questions being asked had nothing to do with the music. I don’t see the point. We’re not as popular as we used to be, so what’s the point of writing about us? That’s what I don’t understand. Why are they trying to dig a hole? There are other people who are bigger than us that they can rip apart. Leave us alone!

John, what would you still like to achieve with Duran? Back to the top?

John: Of course. I don’t care where we play, but the place has got to be full. And the new stuff has got to get a fair crack. Sterling: I want more than that. I definitely want to see people’s mouths drop. I want somebody who listens to Soul II Soul to come to our show and just go ‘wow’. And I know we can do it. I am completely confident.

Which band member is the most stubborn during the recordings?

John: Nick, I would think. Sterling: Nick has to be it. That’s not only about music, but about everything. Sometimes he does it just because everybody else agrees. It’s just not possible that everybody agrees. Unless he comes up with the idea. John: Actually Warren can be quite pigheaded too. He will say ‘I’m not doing that’ and that’s that. Even if the four of us go, ‘Warren, we should…’ – ‘no’.

Do you often disagree during the recordings?

John: We were very safe with each other on this record. It was the first one and we were just feeling each other out. Sterling: I won’t be safe with the next one, that’s for sure. There were things I wanted to say but didn’t say with this record. Not from a playing standpoint, but to somebody else like the producer, or to Simon or Nick. I can’t say John, because he’s here… You see, we’re still playing it safe! When I look back there are so many things I wouldn’t have done on this record. When I was there for the mixing and I would say ‘no’ and everybody else would say ‘yeah, it sounds good’ I would just go with it and not stick to my gut feeling. Like Hothead, I don’t like the way the drum sounded, it should have sounded completely different. I still like it a lot, but it’s not the right sound.

How do you like it when fans start a fanzine?

John: I love it. It’s the bloodline of our support. I love the fanzines. When they come through the door I really study them. I find it very complimentary. There are a lot of bands that are taken more seriously by some people but they don’t get this kind of thing happening to them. It’s one of the things that make me feel better.

Amanda remembers: "Before the interviews, I’d called a local journalist, Ton de Jong for tips. He offered a warning about Simon. He said that while a good-humoured Simon could be a lot of fun, he did have his quirks, and could be difficult. That didn’t rally calm the nerves…Leaving John and Sterling, we followed the press officer like meek sheep ready for the slaughter through several rooms before she found the correct one. Another small room, with a table, chairs and his, presence taking up most of the space, Simon.

We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and although Simon was polite, he also slouched back in his chair, clearly wondering what he had done wrong to be subjected to interviews with fans. As expected, the interview got off to a rough start. How long can twenty minutes last? Then we started discussing Simon’s lyrics. And the man’s demeanour changed before our eyes. Apparently, that was the secret button to push."

What is in your opinion the best song on the album Liberty?

Simon: I think My Antarctica, because it has certain emotional qualities that just come rushing out of it. Because it affects me… Of course it’s a personal thing. It’s the strongest on the album emotionally. It affects you really deeply.

What would you change on the album if it were still possible to change anything?

Oh, some sounds, maybe the bass drum louder in this song… The list is as long as my arm by now. We finished it in March, so it’s given us so many months to listen to it and really pick it to pieces. That’s what you do when you have remixes, you’re gonna get that second chance. We hoped that we’d find something that really worked for Violence Of Summer on the dance floor. And I honestly don’t think we found the right thing. I kind of liked the Story Mix.

Duran Duran has played both the large stadiums and the small clubs. Which do you prefer?

I like both. I like playing in small clubs because you get a great sound and you really feel close and you get a great groove going on. But it’s tough because you’re really confronted by individuals as well and that puts you in a spot. It tends to make me much more nervous when I am singing in front of people this close rather than people who are thirty feet away. I’m quite shortsighted so I can’t see people more than a hundred yards away. I can’t see their faces that clearly. I can’t see if they’re pulling faces at me or if they’re enjoying it. I can only see the first twenty, no I can see further than that. I’d be falling off the stage…

Why is it that the last few albums didn’t contain the lyrics? They are quite important, aren’t they?

Yes, I know… We decided that for a number of reasons. John said he felt that we were opening ourselves up to criticism from the press if we put down lyrics in the album. I didn’t understand that at all. I think really, we just felt that they were unnecessary, we didn’t think it was important. We felt that the words are there in the songs and you can understand them.

Sometimes it is very hard to understand and sometimes we simply don’t know the words and can’t find them in a dictionary.

That’s probably because I make them up.

But then it is very difficult for us to understand because English isn’t our mother tongue.

Yes, I know. Okay, fine, we’ll put the lyrics on the next album*. I think we realised the mistake we made quite some time ago. You’re not the first person to mention it, so we’ll do something about it in the future… With Notorious it was definitely a graphic thing. We decided we didn’t like to have typed lyrics with the album. With Big Thing we did put lyrics with the album. On Liberty they’re really straightforward and easy to understand. It is pretty confusing because I don’t write proper English. It’s just a question of communicating an idea.

*they did

Despite all the opposition and negative attitudes from press and others, a lot of people are still loyal followers of Duran Duran. How do you feel about that?

Great! I’m so happy that we’ve got people we can rely on. It makes us feel really good.... it’s our security. That’s a great thing. But having said that, we’re not stupid enough to think that if we made shit music we’d be able to hold onto it, because I just don’t think we would. We know why we have a following and that’s because we’ve got something to offer.

Liberty gives rise to a lot of dissension. With this album the critics seem to have accepted Duran Duran as more than teen idols. But the fans are not wholeheartedly enthusiastic about it.

The fans are not enthusiastic about the album?!

Not wholeheartedly, no. To some it’s just too heavy. Some parts…

What I think it is, that’s the way band is moving. We’ve got a new guitarist, a new drummer and they’ve changed the sound of the group.

The fans don’t say ‘I don’t like the album’, but they only like a few songs, like Serious, Liberty, Violence of Summer…

But not Downtown or Read My Lips.

Especially Read My Lips and First Impression we think. Some fans told us that they thought First Impression was such a standard song, not original at all.

You can’t make an album that everybody likes. If you think about that all the time you end up probably not doing anything. You’ve got to make music that you like. You’ve got to make it for yourself first. I mean, I love Read My Lips and Downtown. It’s just a matter of taste. The important thing is that it is our taste that’s on the album.

Every fan likes the Big Thing album without question. But with Liberty that’s different because the song one fan likes is the same another might strongly dislike.

I think it’s interesting to raise controversy like that. Funny, Big Thing was a very confused album to me. But that’s me and I made it and I was confused. It was made in a confused way. We’d go down to the studio and play all day in the room and by the end of the day we’d think, ‘What have we got? Where are we now?’. Whereas with this it was very straightforward: okay, we go in the room and we do it. We’d have something at the end of the day, or maybe two things or three things and that’s great! We felt like we were getting on somewhere. It took us a third of the time to write this as it did to write Big Thing. A third! For us that’s a big improvement.

The critics seem to have accepted Duran Duran as more than a teen idol group. The reviews are very positive.

I’ll tell you what I think it is. I think it is a more mainstream album. Although I say Big Thing was confused, it was way out there. If you were not into the group you just thought, ‘what the fuck are they going on about?’ With this I think it’s more accessible to people who aren’t Duran Duran fans because it maybe complies to more conventional standards. And maybe that’s why some of the fans don’t like it. That’s what you are saying about First Impression. And that’s true. I think it is more mainstream and I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think we’re heading way out there with the next one. In a way, because it was the first album of the new band… The most important thing was that we could work and actually make it work together, because we did not know, we never worked together. We were so pleased that we said about the songs we liked, ‘that’s great, don’t touch it!’ We didn’t think about anything else. When we were all ready and listening to it we were thinking, ‘we can go a lot further out there with the next one’.

How does a new Duran Duran song come into existence? All we see is the finished product.

Usually music first, like one riff, just one theme. Then we’ll play around that and get together and I’ll start singing ‘blah blah’ until a phrase comes into my mind. Or if it doesn’t, I’ll take a piece of paper and think about what I wanted the song to be about. We just develop them, we just grow them. It’s almost like a little plant. You tend it, and water it, and you grow it. You grow other things off it. You graft on other bits like musical movement, like a bridge or maybe you have written a chorus for something, but you don’t like the verse of that song, though you think the chorus is really good you’ll see if you can stick it on to the other one. But on the other hand, sometimes you write a song from start to finish. I’ll write a total song on my own. Violence of Summer was something that Nick and me did almost totally… actually, we wrote the verse and then Warren came in.

During the recording sessions, which band member is the most stubborn?

Oh, we all get very stubborn. I know I do, I know John does. Did you ask John this question? What did he say?

According to John, Nick was the most stubborn during recordings. But he later admitted he tends to get real stubborn too.

Yeah, we all do. Nick tends to make more noise about it. He gets real grumpy and goes ‘grmm grmm grmm’ (Simon demonstrated to us what a grumpy Nick looks like. Unfortunately this cannot be described in words.)

What would you like to achieve with Duran Duran in the future?

I just want a hit record for a start. That’s a good place to start!

Amanda remembers: "I was so tired after the first two interviews that I left most of the questioning of John and Warren to Mona. I also don’t remember most of it; it’s mostly a blur of disjointed images. I do remember that they were joking a lot, and were very friendly."

What is in your opinion the best song on the album Liberty?

Nick: My favourite is My Antarctica. I think it’s the best slow song we’ve written since Save a Prayer. It is the most unique of all the songs on the record.

Warren: I’m in between Antarctica and Serious. They’re both very emotional songs and I think it’s a great thing that music can bring out the emotional side of a person.

What would you change on the album if it were still possible to change anything?

Warren: We should change the title to Listen Without Prejudice and call George Michael’s album Liberty.

Nick: I don’t think I want to change anything really, because it was what we wanted to do at the time. I can find many things wrong with it now but we’ll just put them right with the next one.

Warren: I don’t think the things you find wrong with it would be found by the normal average listener. It’s personal.

During the recording sessions, which band member is the most stubborn one?

Nick: I think you and I, Warren, probably take that. We’ve had our arguments about Can You Deal With It.

Warren: Yes, but we have the biggest sounds in the band. We add all the colours and all the textures. Nick will lead the chords or I’ll lead the chords; he’ll lead the melody lines or I’ll lead the melody lines. We have to decide what’s more important there. I might be really set in what I did and he might be really set in what he’s done, so we say, ‘okay, which is more important in this song?’

Warren, what did you think of Duran’s music before getting involved with it?

Warren: I was impressed. The quality of production and the structure of the songs were always right up there with the rest as far as hit singles were concerned, and great videos. When I was in Missing Persons, Duran were our competition. We were on the same record label and we wanted to sell as many records as them. All bands look at other bands to gauge how successful they are. Now we’re a better band and a lot of people should start listening to what we’re doing now. I think we’re an important group for this new decade.

In an article it was said that playing with Frank Zappa gave you instant professional credibility. Do you think this credibility will reflect on Duran’s image?

Warren: I hope it does, but I think when they see the name Duran Duran they just don’t pay attention to anything that’s going on. Until we make a song that is going to completely suck these people in that are anti-Duran Duran, I don’t think they will even notice who is in the band. I don’t know what puts people off about the band, because I think the records have been consistently good. There has been nothing musically done that deserves that kind of negativity. I just want people to start taking notice of what we do and listen to it seriously.

Despite the negative attitudes of the press, a lot of people remain loyal followers of Duran Duran. How do you feel about that?

Nick: Very good. It’s a good job they do. It enables us to keep making the records and it is important for us to know that we’re making somebody happy out there. We make records that we’re happy with first of all, but we obviously want to communicate with other people and give people entertainment.

Warren: It’s great to have people who stick by you and care about and listen to the music. It doesn’t matter how many people there are. It almost outweighs the negativity, just knowing that you can reach someone with the music. That's why we’re in a band.

You all behave differently towards the fans. Do you ever talk about them amongst yourselves?

Warren: Only the ones we’ve slept with…

We could have expected such an answer...

Warren: I suppose we do. Everybody has got their own little fan stories.

Nick: There’s a couple that made it onto the album. There’s Claudia, she’s on the album and an Italian fan, Sylvia. She’s on the album too. That was fun.

How important are the fans in your lives?

Nick: It’s very important. That’s what keeps the whole thing going. The one thing I would say about our fans is that, more than any other band that I know, once we seem to get hold of somebody’s interest, they seem to be very loyal, very loyal. There are examples, Elvis Presley. You think of Elvis Presley fans being there forever. It’s great; of course, it means a lot.

Don’t you ever get tired of fans following you around everywhere?

Warren: If they stop following us around, I don’t think things would be too good at that point. No, not really. No one is very… people know when to stop. Most fans respect it if you say, ‘please, I want to be alone’. We’re all human and everybody knows that when you’re not feeling good you want to be alone and should have your space.

Duran Duran have played the large stadiums, but also the small clubs. Which do you prefer?

Nick: It depends. The Big Thing show that we had for arenas was a lot more interesting than the club show, but musically the club show was more intense.

What would you like to achieve with Duran Duran in the future?

Nick: I think we’ve just got to continue making great modern records and continue to do some live shows. It would be nice if more people start realizing how good the records are, that’s something we ought to try to achieve during the nineties. We should put out more records, that’s very important. I don’t think we put out enough recorded work in the eighties. We spent too much time touring. When we go on tour it won’t necessarily mean that we’re going on a world tour. Maybe we just do Europe. Or just do America, then make another record and then do the next bit. I don’t see the tours being as extensive and worldwide as they were before. Maybe once in the nineties.

You can also now read the full interviews:

Next: the interview at home with Simon, from November 1994

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