The Dutch Go Duran fan interviews: Part 2
Continuing our week were we look back at long-unseen interviews featured in the Dutch Go Duran fanzine, carried out by their editors.
Mandy Jones joined Cherry Lipstick way back in 1993. She was a great contributor throughout until the end of the fanzine in 2001, during which time she became a co-editor of the Dutch Go Duran.In 1997 Mandy was brilliant in supporting the first Cherry Lipstick meet up which featured a charity auction of Duran-related memorabilia which she got the band to autograph (and a poem from Nick!).
This is the first of her three interviews with the band.
November 22nd 1994, "Privacy", London, UK
Mandy remembers (2003): "I was 18 and doing a college course in journalism, which not only gave me plenty of time to see the band but the perfect excuse to ask Simon for an interview. I'd sent him a letter but hadn't got any further in my quest so I went back to the studio ("Privacy", Warren's home studio). Simon arrived and seemed in a good mood so I asked again. 'Oh yes, I've been meaning to phone you about it. You can have fifteen minutes, would you like to do it now?'. I followed Simon into Warren's house, where I sat at the kitchen table while Simon made me a cup of tea. We sat talking in the kitchen for nearly an hour. Thankfully I had my tape recorder with me but as I hadn't expected to do the interview that day I was totally unprepared and just asked the first thing that came into my head…" Mandy: Do you think you've left the release of Thank You a bit late after The Wedding Album?
Simon: No, not really.
You don't think people will have forgotten about you and you'll have to do another come-back?
No. No, I don't think so because we definitely had presence in The States up until last Christmas. We played a New Year show so we had that, so I don't think it's going to be perceived as a gone-away. We left a really good vibe, so...
And how about Britain?
I think that the way Britain is, you don't have to kind of make come-backs at all. You've just got to make good records actually. You've got a situation where if a band's first record is good then it gets into the charts; it's not about building up a fan base. I don't think we've got a very large fan base at the moment. I don't think we would also try and compete with... Who's got a real fan base, so that all the people will just go out and buy their records as they come out? Well, a lot of people actually, but we're not one of those bands at the moment, so we just have to rely on the merit of our work, which, in a way, is quite a healthy thing for us anyway.
So when you write a record who do you think of; do you think of the fans, the critics?
We just write music that we like. We never write to please anybody apart from our own musical ear.
Is that what Thank You is all about then, pleasing yourselves?
Thank You is... Yeah. Well, it was also an exercise in a lot of fun!
It seems to have taken you quite a long time to do it though.
Well, all the tracks were recorded pretty much at the end of the summer. We had problems getting the mixes back so we had to send them off until we found the right person to mix them all.
Do you think it will do well in the charts?
I haven't got a clue. If the single is a success then it will do well in the charts, if it has more than one then it'll do better in the charts. It's like that really.
Are you planning to tour with Thank You?
We will play some shows but whether you'd call it a tour or not. I mean, nothing like the last tour. Definitely, we'll be playing live shows in America.
How about Europe?
Not sure, we're not sure.
You spend a lot of time in America.
Yeah well, America's the place that loves us the most, and you've got to look after your best relationship first and foremost.
Don't you think that's because you spend so much time in America you've got more fans there? Perhaps if you spent more time promoting yourselves in Britain and Europe you'd have a larger fan base?
(very long pause) Maybe. Maybe you're right, yeah maybe.
The feedback I've been getting from fans is that you...
...That we don't spend enough time in Europe, we spend all our time in The States. Yeah well, it just works very well for us over there. I mean that is the bread and butter aspect of it. You can tour America for a whole year and not go to the same place twice. We're just going to do a kind of cursory tour this time. Then we're gonna... That's what we're gonna do! Then we're gonna build it up. We've got another studio album which we're working on now here, which we're going to try and get released probably next autumn.
So you'll tour with that album?
I haven't got a clue. I should think there will be a tour though because we've decided that TV promotion and radio promotion and all that stuff is a bit superfluous for us, we'd rather get up and play our songs.
Why do you think you lost your voice?
Quite simply because of the schedule that we embarked on last summer,. It began with fourteen days of straight rehearsal without a break, then one day off, then our first show in Mexico, and then the whole tour which is a very, very intense performance. Every time I went on stage I could feel that my voice was a little bit more deteriorated and I knew that at some point it would catch up and it just happened at Rotterdam.
On the new album [Medazzaland], what direction are you taking with it?
Well, it's very... at the moment it sounds quite quirky. It's radically different from the last one. It seems to be much more of a knock-it-up-in-five-minutes kind of a thing, do you know what I mean? Which isn't a bad thing at all. Some of the best groups have used that as their kind of philosophy, I'm thinking of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. It's not taking it too seriously, not trying to make it pompous. We're trying to keep it very fresh, very simple. It's all riff-based stuff at the moment. It's not like a finely crafted album, it's more of a 'Look what we can do'.
I got the impression with the Wedding Album album that it was all over the place, it didn't seem to have a theme running through it.
Musically you mean?
Yes, with the other Duran albums if I listen to a song I think, yeah, that song belongs on 'Notorious', it couldn't have come from 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger'. But I think with this album the songs on it were very different from each other, and there was no musical theme running through them.
Oh I see. Yes, I know what you mean. I wish it had got more of a theme, but I think that was because it took so long to make and we were kind of desperate at the time.
With Liberty, in the past you have always said that it failed because people were tired of Duran Duran and they didn't want to hear it, but it seems to me that the fans don't like the record either. Why do you think that is?
(Long pause) Why don't people like it? Well I don't like it very much either and that's the real reason of course. It's got some good things on it, but I just don't think it turned out quite right. I also think that one of the reasons why the fans don't like it perhaps is because it wasn't very successful. You know, a football team tends to be much more popular when they're winning than when they're losing, you know what I mean?
Yes, but your only number one album in Britain was Seven and the Ragged Tiger, and that's my least favourite.
Really? Yeah, I don't like it as much as our other stuff.
Was part of Liberty's failure the reason why Sterling Campbell left the band?
No. Not at all.
You've always been very cagey about why he left.
Yes, because it was a personal thing and I really think that it would be disrespectful of me to make public everything that went on, disrespectful to him, and I'm not going to do it.
I suppose when Andy and Roger left you learnt your lesson about not saying what went on?
It wasn't really like that at all, I mean we never badmouthed Roger. Andy kind of, well Andy dumped us in it a bit so we felt we could say something but it just seems so pathetic and kind of domestic and petty, just petty, it was so petty...
So how did you feel when John announced that he was working with Andy on The Power Station again?
I was quite surprised when I first heard it, but then I started thinking, oh well it makes sense. But I'd met Andy a couple of times and he said he wanted to work with us again. There’s no animosity now, it's not worth it.
Have you seen him with Then Jerico?
Yes, I went to see them.
You said in an interview last year 'Beware of splinter groups, that's when the cracks are beginning to show'. Are the cracks beginning to show in Duran Duran again?
I don't think it's quite the same circumstance this time - it doesn't feel like it to me anyway. I don't think John's doing it because he had to get out of Duran Duran for a bit. I think he did it because he had a bit of time on his hands and wanted to do something with that time. I spent the whole summer bumming around in the Mediterranean, he decided to be productive. For better or worse, it doesn't really matter.
Have you heard the album?
Yeah, it's got some good stuff on it. Robert is really stretching himself, great bass playing, the rhythm section's fantastic, I think Andy's playing much more interesting guitar than he ever played before. It doesn't sound like the old album, it's like, you know, ten years later.
How do you feel about Warren doing solo work?
I'm really happy for him. Warren is, in a way, the most prolific member of the band. He has the ability to make music very quickly, to produce ambient stuff which he can knock up in half an hour, a whole album of it. I'm quite happy for him to do that. I don't really see that as conflicting with the band at all. I think if The Power Station went on tour then that would be conflicting.
So The Power Station aren't going to tour?
No. Definitely not.
That's not what I've heard.
Well at the moment they still don't have a record deal, and the album hasn't been mixed so it's still in its early stages. It's not politically a very happy outfit, by that I mean everyone in the band gets on fine but the managers tend to have a bit of a power struggle on their hands, which is sad really because it might stop a really good piece of music from coming out.
I wondered if the fact that neither you, Nick nor John attended any of Warren's solo concerts meant that you weren't that happy about him doing them?
Well, I didn't because I had a new baby, John didn't because I don't think he was around at the time and Nick didn't because he was definitely tied up in other things.
So you won't be going to the one on Saturday then?
Is there one on Saturday? What's the date this Saturday?
It's at the Wembley Conference Centre.
Where's the Wembley Conference Centre?
Will you go?
Yes, I've been to both of them.
What was it like? Did you enjoy it?
The first one I didn't because it was just so different to what he plays with Duran, and it was turned up too loud as well. But I went to the last one and they'd turned everything down and I liked it because I knew what to expect.
So it was the same show?
Yes, exactly the same show. Have you heard any of his stuff?
I've heard some of his stuff, yeah. I mean, I like some of it but some of it I don't like. But I'm so glad he's doing it outside of the group, that stuff.
It seems strange seeing him on stage with different people.
Yes, I might try to get over and see that. What time is he on stage?
I don't know, you'll have to ask Warren.
Well, I'll see.
You only seem to be working on this album for two or three days a week. Why?
It's just the way we work. It's kind of ideas time so you don't necessarily all want to be in the same place at the same time. For me, I've got to try and write lyrics and get into that kind of thing and I find it quite difficult to be there working on a song A while they're working on song B, so I stay out of the way quite a lot of the time.
What inspires you to write the lyrics, is it the same thing that inspired you ten years ago?
Really boring things, ordinary things, you know like everyday things. Little stories I think of, or just ideas.
Do you ever write personal poetry that nobody else ever sees, or is all your creativity put into the band?
I do write poetry pieces, yeah. If it gets any good then it gets turned into a song!
What would you say was the most personal song you've ever written?
(Very long pause) I think probably Hold Back the Rain.
Your lyrics were always very obscure in the past but they seem to be getting easier to interpret.
They're about to get obscure again actually. I think they're most literal on Liberty actually. They're kind of leaping a little bit further away from that now.
How do you feel about all the bootleg tapes and videos that the fans circulate?
I think it's fascinating that there's a whole bootleg cottage industry that surrounds the band. I think that's very healthy, and I'm quite happy about it, it doesn't tread on our toes in any way. In fact I feel better about that than half the stuff the record company puts out. It's done with that much more soul and feeling, and with much more enthusiasm. And also it's a mark of your success, with all the great bands there are lots of good bootlegs out.
There is a tape in circulation of Liberty demos from that time and it has some really excellent tracks on it that weren't included on the album, such as Worth Waiting For, Bottleneck and Dreamnation. A lot of people think they were the best tracks from those sessions, so why didn't you include those on the album? Do you remember them?
I remember. What was the first one you said? Worth Waiting For, yeah. That was kind of sub-U2 I thought. Bottleneck, how did that go?
Bottleneck was one of them but I can't remember all the lyrics because the sound quality of the tape isn't very good.
What else? Dreamnation. Well I don't think they were that good, that's why they didn't make it to the album.
I think a lot of the fans would disagree with you there.
Yeah, well they always want what they can't have, you know, there's a bit of that in it. I think that when you've been around as long as we have, the whole fan scene gets quite like a soap opera, everybody's got their own opinions. They're much more willing to go, 'Well, I don't think this is so good', you know.
It was interesting to hear that John sang lead vocals on some of those demos. Do you think he'll ever sing lead on an album track, or even live?
With a lot of practice, maybe he will. I'd have no problem with it.
You wouldn't mind?
No. I mean sometimes I've told him, 'look, I don't like your tunes', because sometimes he writes tunes, 'so if you want to do it, you sing it'. He hasn't really had the confidence to do that, and I think he might even think that I'm saying 'you sing it' in the knowledge that he hasn't got enough confidence and in that way I'm vetoing the song, but I'm not. He's got a good voice, he just needs to have more confidence. And tune it, that's quite an important factor.
What's your favourite song to sing live?
On the last tour, I really got into Come Undone. The Chauffeur's always fun. I tend to like the ones where there's not so much loud backing because it's easier for me to hear how I'm doing and tune properly. It was great fun doing Crystal Ship acoustic with just me and Warren, but also one of my other favourites from the last tour was First Impression.
Why did you not include anything from the Big Thing album?
Because we did that huge Big Thing tour and we thought we'd give everything else a chance. I think you can only hold people's attention for an hour and 45 minutes if you don't have an intermission. I went to see Bruce Springsteen once and he was on for four hours, it was a complete and utter bore for the second two hours and I don't want to do that to anybody. So, given that you've only got a limited amount of time, for every song you choose, you've got to take another one out.
I seem to remember hearing Save a Prayer and Hungry Like the Wolf somewhere before too. You've played those on almost every tour you've been on.
Yeah, but we just didn't feel like playing anything off Big Thing. There were good songs on it, I'm not saying they were great, but they were good songs. I mean I love All She Wants Is, I think that's fab. What else do I like? Do You Believe in Shame? Was that on Big Thing?
What was our first single?
I Don't Want Your Love.
I Don't Want Your Lurrve. That's right. But Palomino was great. I think Big Thing has got some really good songs on it, I love listening to it, it's one of my favourites actually. The thing is, you said Hungry Like the Wolf and Save a Prayer, well, can you imagine what would happen at the end of a show if we hadn't played those songs and we did our final number and walked off stage? We'd have a lot of pissed off people. And that's gonna happen one day, that's definitely gonna happen one day.
So one day you won't play what everyone expects you to play?
Yeah of course. And afterwards we'll get people saying, 'you should have played that', all these really irate people, and we'll go, 'oh, fuck off, don't be so stupid, it's up to us what we play, and you damn well like it!'
[picture break] Drowning Man: John wrote it - and it's not crap (see below)
Do you have a favourite album?
Well, apart from the one that is always current, because you always like that one more than the others, because that's your future and you're rooting for that one. I went through a period of really listening to the Notorious album and then listening to Rio a lot. Actually, Rio's probably the one I listen to least, no, Seven and the Ragged Tiger I listen to the least actually. I don't know, the lyrics, I don't know. There are some good songs on there.
Do you often listen to your own albums?
Not that often, no. I always have them when I go away. It's interesting, because you always get really, really excited about your new stuff. I used to love listening to The Wedding Album, I'd just lie there and listen to the whole thing at night and think, Christ, it's great, because it's your own music, something you did yourself.
You always say when you're working on a new album, that it's the best you've ever done.
Yes, but all bands do that. Of course you do, it's natural, but you do believe that.
Yes, but then a few years later you always slag that album off. Take Notorious, at the time you said it was the best thing you'd ever done, and then a few years later, when you were working on Big Thing, you said it was rushed, it was an experiment, but this album's the best, this one's really good.
Yeah, sure. I don't think we'll really slag off our past albums again. It's almost like slagging other bands off, it's stupid, it's pointless. I guess if people compare your new album, which hasn't sold anything, it's always an under-dog and people tend to compare it to past successes. Very rarely do they compare it to past failures, that would be awful, wouldn't it? But because of that, I think we tend to try and put it up against the record that it's in comparison with and sometimes you might think that by putting that album down, you're putting this one up, but that's pretty stupid.
Do you have a lot of fights in the band?
(Voice goes up by an octave!) Oh yeah, lots of fights all the time! Yeah all the time, we're always at each others' throats.
Is there any one person that wins more than the rest? Do you as the singer feel that you have more of a say over what happens?
No, no. I think I'm more prone to completely wild histrionic behaviour than anybody else in the band, I think I'm a little bit more demonstrative. John used to be but he's really calmed down a lot and I think I've taken over, I take things very personally. If you could tape a few of our arguments, they're really funny, really petty.
Are there any bands around at the moment that you think you've influenced in their music?
Oh well I think we've influenced a lot of bands, I mean, just our very presence has influenced them. Whether we've influenced them musically or not, I mean by existing we've influenced Suede. People always tell me that Blur sound like us but I'm not sure I'd agree with that, I think they just sound really good. I think it's a thing about fun though, it's a fun thing that's come across that we've always had, a slightly juvenile approach to everything.
I think that's good though, I don't like these boring bands that are too serious.
I think The Wedding Album was one of our most serious albums actually, very serious. I mean if it wasn't for songs like Too Much Information and UMF, it would have been quite serious indeed and I'm glad we did have the lighter stuff.
What influenced you to write Drowning Man?
John, he wrote it. It was about Britain becoming part of another state of the USA really.
I know a lot of Americans really hate that song because of its lyrics.
So what? I'm not surprised they hate it. It's true that it's about the Bush administration and everything that's wrong with it.
Do you find politics influence you a lot?
They do naturally because politics and what's going on socially are related, and songs are definitely influenced by social values.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a really good idea for a song?
Yeah, and I have to write it down. But I don't get up, I have a pad by my bed.
Do you ever find something you've written in the morning and you don't remember writing it?
Yeah. No, not that I don't remember writing it but thinking, God, that's a load of rubbish, and at the time it seemed so good.
When you're writing a record that's going to do well in the charts, are you aware at the time that it's going to be a hit?
Oh sometimes, I mean when we wrote Ordinary World we just knew that it was a really good song.
Are you also aware when you've written something that's really crap?
We don't write crap, do we?
No, not most of the time. Occasionally.
Well, I don't like Drowning Man, I think that's awful.
Yeah? What, musically and lyrically?
I don't like the lyrics.
I love 'heart of ham', 'you're sinking faster than a drowning man, gun in his pocket and a heart of ham'. That's hilarious, that's a really good lyric.
Does Yasmin tell you if you've written something awful?
If she's thought something was awful she hasn't told me. Oh no, that's not true, yeah she definitely has, oh god yes. It's usually something I don't like anyway. But I think she listens to the way I sing a lot, in the same way that every one of us if we listen to a mix, we hear ourselves: so John will hear the bass parts and Nick will hear the keyboard and Warren will hear the guitar and I'll hear the vocals. We all hear our own parts louder than anybody else's part, no matter what balance they are, you tend to concentrate on your own part. I think my wife tends to hear the way I sing things as well, she can tell if I'm not comfortable with something, and she'll say so, you know?
Do you think your children feel intimidated by all the fans?
No, sometimes they just get really pissed off and they tell them to go away, and they say to me 'Why are the same people just hanging around watching us all the time?' which is exactly the way I tend to think.
Do you mind seeing the fans here at the studio while you're working?
Well, I don't, but I know Warren gets upset because it's his house. But what can you do? When I was at Apollo Place I used to say, 'Look, you can't stay here, it's pissing me off and it's pissing the neighbours off'. I've pretty much got it under control where I live now though, I haven't signed anything or taken a photograph with anybody for over six years in the place where I live.
How do you see Duran Duran in five years' time?
Like The Rolling Stones about twelve years ago: a lot of fun, just a lot of fun. It might be a bit freer, if we're still together it'll definitely be a lot more fun. Not a lot more than it is now, but I think there's a lot more fun to be had.
So what's your ambition?
To grow old ungracefully, to last for longer than Mick Jagger can. Ha ha ha ha!
You can now read the full interview here.
see also: the 1990 interviews
Next: Mandy interviews Warren in January 1995