The Dutch Go Duran fan interviews: Part 4
Continuing our look back at the classic interviews by the editors of the Dutch Go Duran fanzine.
Part 2: Simon, September 1994
Part 3: Warren, January 1995
November 23rd 1995, "Privacy", London, UK
“Whilst Warren was very approachable, Nick is far quieter. He doesn’t seem to relish the attention like Simon and Warren, and often it’s only once he gets to recognise someone that he’ll really have a conversation. He is always very polite and friendly and will rarely turn down a request for a photo or autograph. He is also very intelligent and does far more behind the scenes for the band than most people realise. He is also the only member of the band to really take notice of the fanzines. He helped Cherry Lipstick hold an auction at a meet-up in ’97. After getting in touch with him, he sent back photos, hand drawn pictures and a signed a load of albums and singles for us to auction.” (Cherry Lipstick, 2001)
"This interview with Nick was the afternoon of my 20th birthday. Nick was eating crisps when I arrived and was constantly trying to read the questions I'd prepared. The thing that struck me the most about him was how very masculine he is! Most people see Nick as quite feminine, but after the interview my view of him changed completely." (The Dutch Go Duran, 2003)
“The interviews were such an amazing thing to do. I was only 19 or 20 when I did them and when I interviewed Nick I was wearing badge that said ‘I love big willies’ or something similar! I also hit my head on the light fitting hanging over Warren’s kitchen table! Good memories indeed!” (2018)
Mandy: How's work on the new album going?
Nick: Which one?
How many are you working on?
Two. The Duran one [Medazzaland] and one with Warren [TV Mania]. The Duran one is going very well, there's about ten completed backing tracks now, except for vocals, and Simon's got about half the lyrics so far, so he's just got to get a little bit faster, and hopefully by Christmas time-ish we'll have all the lyrics and then finish them off in January here. We're very pleased with the way it sounds, it's got a real album feel to it because they were all written at the same time, they're not as disparate as the last record was. The other on is a thing which just happened to come about when Warren and I were playing around with some samples one day. We have an album title which is Bored With Prozac and the Internet, but we haven't decided on the name of the entity we're going to put it under yet.
Is that instrumental?
It's partly instrumental but there's a lot of vocal stuff on it, there's a lot of sampled sound. The television set is the source of a lot of our vocals. But Warren and I are just doing little bits here and there. It's been a nice diversion because the Duran stuff was very intense work.
Do you have any release time for this?
We're hoping the Duran one will be around May . I don't know. There's a possibility our record could even come out before that, it'll certainly be finished before Christmas.
Are you happy with the way [Medazzaland] is progressing?
Oh yeah, thrilled. It's got a lot of energy to it. To me it's more like the stuff we were doing very early on, it's like the first couple of albums more than the other ones. It's much more wild and frenetic.
John described it as 'trance punk'.
Well there's one track on it that I suppose one could describe as that, but it's just a lot more raw, in an energy way. It's not just noise.
Do you ever write any lyrics?
Did you write any for the Wedding Album?
Well I think that spoils it all really, doesn't it? What we tend to do with lyrics is try and get Simon to write most of them, but the odd things come up where there's something that somebody feels strongly about, and one of mine on the last album was lawyers. And er, yes, To Whom It May Concern was... somewhat mine. And Sin of the City was one of John's ideas at the time. Everybody in the band is perfectly capable of writing lyrics. I often feel with Simon that it's better if he writes them because he can sing them with more conviction, but that isn't of course true. There are plenty of singers out there that don't write at all but sing things with incredible conviction, so I think, you know, there'll be several songs on the album that will have had at least considerable input from other members, and I think that Simon will welcome that. Sometimes it's a big burden to write twelve lyrics very quickly.
Would you ever like to sing?
It's not top of my list. I'd be the first to say that I think my voice is not really geared to lead vocals, but I'm doing some things on this with Warren.
I interviewed Warren several months ago and he said you did a great punk impression and if you ever did a punk song, you'd have to sing lead.
(Laughs) Yeah, that's about the standard of my voice.
Were you disappointed with the lack of success of Thank You?
No. No not really. You see to me it was a success because we finished the thing and it came out on vinyl and on CD and cassette. The cover looked great and I thought the mixes sounded good, you know, and that's as far as I can go with it. It didn't sell as many copies as the Wedding Album, sure, I'd like it to have sold twice as many, but it's not... that's a bonus.
Do you find it disheartening when things don't do as well as you'd hoped them to?
No not really. It's not any one factor. If I looked at my record and thought it's not very good and we're going backwards then I'd find it very disheartening. But every time we put out a new record we have a new president at Capitol Records, that's very unhelpful. Commercial success is always very rewarding, but it's not as rewarding as knowing yourself that you've made a great record. We get the most terrible reviews for everything anyway, so the only thing that matters to us is pleasing ourselves and hoping that our fans like what we're doing.
Perfect Day really didn't do very well at all.
Mmm. Fabulous though. I'm so thrilled with that. The thing that meant most to me about that is that Lou Reed thinks it's the best cover of any of his songs. That to me was a real thrill because I'm a great fan of his. So for him to say that, I don't really mind what anyone else thinks. I really would have been quite disappointed if he'd said, 'Oh God, I wish they hadn't touched it'. But we really didn't get any support, didn't get any airplay. It's a shame because it would have been nice for more people to have heard it.
Why do you think that the media and radio stations are so against Duran Duran, particularly in Europe?
I think anybody that's got real conviction is going to provoke a reaction, and we tend to provoke quite intense action and reaction at both ends of the spectrum - very positive one end and very negative the other end and not much in between. I prefer that, there's nothing worse than mediocre. We seem to be a lot more respected by our peers, by all the other bands and musicians, than we are by any of the media. A lot of the media are themselves either failed musicians or wannabe musicians, and I don't think that helps with us, or a lot of other bands. When we first started to happen in England, I seem to remember that we got really good press, as soon as we became successful it stopped. There are very few people who can be both, really.
Why didn't you include Rebel Rebel on Thank You? It sounds great live.
I think that's probably the one that we should have done, yes. There are so many Bowie songs we could have done, it's a tough one. One could have done a whole album of Bowie covers I think.
Do you think you'll ever do another covers album?
I'd like to yeah. I don't know when, it's even harder than doing your own stuff, I think. Everybody at first thought it was going to be easier because the lyrics were written, but for me and Warren and John, it was actually quite a bit to get your head around, because we only did songs that we loved ourselves and we didn't want to be in competition with the original. We wanted to take it somewhere else in most of the cases, and it's much harder to do that with a song that you already love, and to do it with your own style and integrity and produce something good. We worked and worked and worked on those tracks. Some of them came more easily than others, but it was a good learning curve.
Do you think there are any bands around now that you've influenced?
I'm always told by other people, 'you should hear this, it sounds just like you did' or I read in something that there's this band that were like Duran were in 1982 or 1987, so I can only presume yes. To what extent and who, it's difficult to say. Music is such a big melting pot anyway, that everything that goes around, comes around. People always say, 'how were you influenced by David Bowie and Roxy Music?' but I think musically, probably not that much. Stylistically probably quite a lot, because their big breakthrough was in the glam-rock period which was when we were kids, and when you're a kid, certain things always stick with you. I still occasionally want to listen to a Roxy Music song, although I still want to listen to some new dance stuff. I would certainly hope that the generation that grew up with our music have retained good memories of some of the songs.
Do you find you are influenced by any of the new bands that are around now?
I think we're influenced by everything around us, to be honest. Influence is a very difficult thing to explain because it's not something that directly happens, it's something that you might realise a little bit later. Without a doubt I think we're more influenced by each other than anything outside. But I mean, John's the one who's always listened to more dance records, I listen to a lot more classical music, and very varied stuff. I'm not saying John doesn't, but he certainly listens to a lot more dance stuff than me. Warren listens to a lot more world music than any of the rest of us and Simon's got quite eclectic taste. But if you put it all together, you would never notice what any of it was, in our sound. Because we just get in the room and play together, it's never a case of oh, I've just been listening to an album by Dr. X and I come in and say, 'I want it to sound like this'. It doesn't work like that.
Do you find there is any friction between you because of your different musical tastes? Positive friction, yeah. I think that's what makes a band good, when you've got people pulling in different directions and there's a piece of really taught elastic, that's what works. And going against the grain. The one thing I'm most proud of, about this album, is how different it is to the last one, and the one before again. As long as we can keep reinventing ourselves and be happy - this is a very 'up' record, this one.
Do you not think that might be confusing to the people when they listen to a Duran album and it's completely different from the last one?
Yeah, it probably is confusing. It sometimes hasn't done us any favours commercially. When we made Notorious it was a lot of people's favourite record we'd ever done, and then other people just really didn't like it because they thought it didn't sound like the stuff on the last couple of albums. What I always hope with our new records is that it will just inspire people to do different things. There's nothing worse than being stuck in a rut. I mean, without going into specific bands or artists, there are people out there that I... it never ceases to amaze me how they manage to remake the same record time after time. That is the antithesis of what I want to do, of what anybody in the band wants to do.
Yes, I think MeatLoaf is an example of that!
Careful, he's a Left Bank artist! No, I mean there are examples, I mean Phil Collins I cannot abide. He's somebody I'm perfectly happy to name as the King of Mediocrity.
Do you have a favourite Duran album?
No. It doesn't work like that. I'll tell you what's interesting about this, I never listen to our old stuff, as none of us do, because once you've listened to something a hundred times in a row in the studio, by the time it comes out, you don't really want to hear it, apart from when we play it live. That brings me round to the point. When we're discussing our set lists, that's when you realise which ones you like at that particular time, and it's so strange how things come around. If we were doing a live show tomorrow, I'd want to do more stuff off the first couple of albums, particularly the first one. To me, that one, the energy of it, sounds right at the moment. Whereas maybe in two years time, I'll say, well, I really think we should do stuff off the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album, or a couple of things off Big Thing. I saw something in one of the fanzines mention Secret Oktober, which is a song that I wanted to do on the last tour, but we had too many slow sort of things as it was, and we never ended up doing it. But I'd love to do that this time. I know it's an odd song to sort of pull out at this stage, but certain things just feel right sometimes.
Which song is most personal to you?
(Pause) It varies. There are different songs on different albums. One I feel very strongly about personally, which I know everyone in the band does, is My Antarctica. Because I feel that, you know, in hindsight we should have released that as the single. We even had video treatments done for it, which were really good actually. It's like one that got away, it's such a beautiful song, we're really very proud of that one. I know Simon is, because I think his vocal performance on it is one of his best to that date. But different ones on different albums, Big Thing has some of the most interesting stuff for that period of time. Palomino I was always very fond of.
Where did the interludes come from on Big Thing?
Bits messing around, we've always got bits that never get finished. It was actually the guy we were working with, one of the producers, he added a lot to those. He was really into the idea of putting some little sounds together in between. There was going to be more of them, there were going to be five or six of them at the time, but it stopped at two. They were backwards bits of tracks and edited things and stuff.
How do you feel about Warren and John doing solo projects?
I think it's great. I always think that anything somebody can do creatively to keep themselves on the edge is incredibly important. Obviously with the Duran thing, I think what happened in the mid '80s, was we did lose a lot of focus when there was Power Station and Arcadia, it confused a lot of people. I don't think it does anymore, I hope not. There are going to be a lot of different projects coming out because Warren's got his solo thing, John's got his, as well as the thing Warren and I are doing, and they'll all have different names on them. But I think they'll be what they are, and the Duran Duran album will be unmistakeably a Duran Duran album. It's been fifteen years or more, so to us really Duran Duran is like our trademark, and that sound is what we all make together.
So you think solo projects make for a stronger band?
Oh yeah, they don't really interfere with it. As I said, the work that I've been doing, if Simon had actually completed more of the lyrics by now, then this probably would never have happened. So I'm quite grateful that I've had a couple of months to do something different. And it's turning out to be a really different kind of record, it's very diverse, and it's got absolutely nothing to do with the sound of Duran Duran. Warren's not really playing any live guitar on it, it's only guitar loops that we put into the machines, it's a radically different sound.
How did you feel when John worked with Andy again in the Power Station?
Good. I don't have any animosity towards Andy whatsoever. He's not somebody who I think would work well within Duran Duran now because Warren is our guitarist. It was good that John did that project, I'm only sorry for him that it hasn't surfaced yet. I wouldn't rule out working with Andy again on something one day, Roger worked with us on the last album, that was fun. Andy and Roger are both people I spent five or six years of my life with and so obviously there are a lot of things that are quite deep rooted there, and if I hear Andy's doing well with something it always makes me happy. I don't know what he's working on at the moment, somebody told me he's working on something in Spain.
Did you ever consider bringing back Arcadia?
No not really. I mean, god, that record took a long time. I don't think it would now because we work a lot faster, but I really enjoyed making that, it's one of my favourite records that I've been involved with. I went as far as I could go with it with every track and worked and worked and worked on it until everything was right, the mixing took forever. I wouldn't want to do that again, but I'm very pleased with it, and I actually heard Election Day on the radio the other day and I was quite knocked back at how big it sounded. It wouldn't be practical to do another Arcadia album at the moment I don't think, but never say never.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
That's an impossible question. That great Song God in the sky. You can't put your finger on that. I must look up the dictionary definition of inspiration one day, perhaps that would help me! It's impossible to say, everything around me, the silliest things can bring on a song, a telephone conversation, hearing something a stranger says as they walk past you in the street.
Do you ever wake up in the night with ideas and have to write them down?
Yes, all the time. I'm well versed at waking up in the night and writing down my ideas. It's harder to read them in the morning though!
Do you mind people taking photos of you when they meet you, does it bother you?
No it doesn't bother me. It's sometimes a little bit difficult when you're doing things like shopping because it draws attention and it starts turning things into a bit of a circus, but otherwise I don't mind at all. I think I ought to demand photo approval!
What do you think of the fans in general?
It's very difficult to have an opinion of... I mean, I like people, and I like talking to people and I think everybody's got something interesting to say about something, but when I have conversations with fans I have very little time usually because I'm always late. And you never get further into conversation than 'How are you today?' But some of the fans I've known over the years I suppose I have spoken to more, I've had fun with.
You mentioned in a questionnaire for The Dutch Go Duran that you'd like to see psychological profiles of the fans. Are you interested in psychology at all?
Well, obviously that was half tongue in cheek. But I look at things and I think, how on earth does somebody I know buy that, or did that, and how did somebody know I went there? It fascinates me sometimes and other times I might feel slightly uncomfortable about it, but I wonder what exactly... I love surveys; I love knowing what people are about. And it would be interesting to say OK, this person is a fan of ours, they like these groups as well, and they like these breakfast cereals, and they like reading these magazines. Obviously we meet a lot of fans, the most is at the signings, that's when we find out who our audience is, because on stage you can see some people for the first few rows and very little else. So we rarely get to find out who our audience is.
If you could interview a fan, what would you ask them?
I'd send them a questionnaire, that's what happens to me all the time! I think you can tell more about people by the things they like, than most other things. It's very difficult to find out in five minutes a lot about somebody, so that's the easiest way to do it, to take a sample of their handwriting, to know what's their favourite colour, the books they've read lately, what their favourite movies are, you know. You've heard all the questions before, I've answered them all before.
Why do you think some fans get so 'obsessed', and take things beyond reason?
I don't know. Maybe you could answer that one for me. I'm not pointing at you directly, but you probably know which people you think are like that, and are probably better equipped to answer that than me. I don't know.
Well, there are some people and you wonder why they do it, and then you find out about their past... It's some kind of fantasy world.
Yeah maybe. I think that being into somebody's music or movies or whatever it is, is one thing, and being somebody who follows them and wants to know more about it is something else. It's always very important that people maintain a lot of other things in their lives and I never really get into discussions with fans anywhere about everything else they do. But I'm sure most of them have many things going on.
Does it scare you when people become obsessed?
No because I er... No. People don't really scare me. I think there are some very scary people about, but if you start living your life like that then you just become totally paranoid.
What does Tatjana think about you being in a band?
She likes that, she liked sitting on the side of the stage on the last tour, because that was then old enough to take a lot more in. She loves being around the band because there are a lot more kids around now and they're all her little friends. And everybody's really nice to her and looks after her and plays with her. She loves Warren, Simon and John. She's always asking about them, when she calls me after school. It's really sweet I think.
She's getting to the age now where her friends are going to be a lot more aware of what you do. Do you ever think she'll be embarrassed by it?
Oh no I don't think so because I know all her little friends. She likes music, she's had a Walkman since she was about two, I think.
Does she listen to your music much?
Yes she's got some tapes. She used to really like The Doors, which is a very odd choice for someone who's about the age of three or four. She goes through different things, she likes Terence Trent D'Arby, she used to like Neneh Cherry, she just picks up on odd things that someone might be listening to. She likes the Lion King at the moment.
Would you like to have more children?
Yes, one day.
Why did you not all pose nude for the 'Playgirl' photo shoot?
Well I think Warren would probably have been happy to, he's our nudist spokesperson. I don't think Simon, John and I would have subjected people to that.
I remember people saying that on the '88/'89 tour Warren would only let people in his room if they were naked.
That sounds like a horrible rumour to me. Yes, The Privacy Club. I think you'd have to ask him about that, I do recall some of his parties were getting a little out of hand.
How would you describe yourself?
What's your ambition?
I've got a lot. I think my biggest unfulfilled ambition is to direct movies. I've been saying that for a number of years now but it's still true and I really hope I have the opportunity sometime not too far in the future to do that.
How do you see Duran Duran in five years' time?
Still together, but other than that I don't know. I think we've still got a lot of music left in us. What I'd like to see is our album output to rise. Personally I don't have any great interest in doing lengthy tours in the next few years, I'd like to do some dates with this new album but it doesn't interest me at the moment. I'd like to spend a lot more time in the studio.
What would you do if Duran finished tomorrow?
Direct a movie, some kind of thriller.
How would you like to be remembered?
Mmm, I've been asked this before. For what I am and what I've done I suppose. That's for everyone else to decide, when the time comes. As long as it's not journalists that decide, I don't mind.
What's your concept of sin?
(Pause) Um, nice packaging, I think.
Next: TDGD editors Esther and Manon interview John after his first solo show, June 1997; plus best of the questionnaires completed by the band 1994-2002
Top photo by Mandy, July 1995
Bottom photo, Nick with Mandy, Wembley 1998
BONUS MANDY! Another adventure in Duran-land
28th April 1995. Paris.
We spent the morning trying to get tickets for the TV shows but were told by the TV station that they were all gone. However, we discovered that the band were due to rehearse at one of the stations that afternoon, so we waited to see them arrive. There were quite a few French and Belgian fans waiting too, so we didn't get a chance to say much more than "Hi" and get some photos, but Warren asked if we were going to be in the audience for the TV show they were doing that night. My friend said no because we couldn't get tickets, and Warren said he couldn't have that and put us on the guest list!
Being on the guest list didn't entitle us to any more than the people that had tickets, but we were able to bypass the queues and get front row seats. The programme went out live on a station called Canal+. As it was all in French I didn't understand any of the discussions they had during most of the show, but of course when Simon was interviewed it was done in English. The actor Christopher Lambert was a guest, too, and translated Simon's answers into French, and then after the interview, the band performed White Lines live. The show ended after White Lines, but Duran carried on to perform Hungry Like The Wolf, to the annoyance of the TV officials.