Home Entertainment Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes: ‘My father thought makeup was a phase. I’m still going through it 40 years on’

Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes: ‘My father thought makeup was a phase. I’m still going through it 40 years on’

Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes: ‘My father thought makeup was a phase. I’m still going through it 40 years on’

How do you feel about 1982’s Rio album now? Is there anything you would have done differently? DeborahGeller

Not a single thing. It’s part of the pop fabric of that period and we’re all very proud of it. We were kids when we made that record, but we were laser-focused. There wasn’t a day that passed when we didn’t try to move ourselves forward a little bit – and that’s what paid off.

When you first started as a band in the early days of the Birmingham nightclub the Rum Runner, what was your ambition? Have you fulfilled this dream or is there more you would like to achieve? Sparkle22

I think we’ve done OK! There’s definitely a lot more to achieve. New technology is always exciting to me and we have used it since the very beginning. It surprises me that more people don’t use it in the ways that we do: augmented reality, VR. I’m looking forward to seeing the Abba show – it’s something we’ve been talking about for years. They definitely beat us to it.

In California, we’re rehearsing for a Halloween special that we are playing in Las Vegas. We’ve never done this and it’s going to be radically different than any show we’ve ever played before. We’re having a lot of fun putting it together. So, yes, we are always looking for more things.

Duran Duran in 1987, with Nick Rhodes on keyboards
Duran Duran in 1987, with Nick Rhodes on keyboards at the rear. Photograph: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

Duran Duran and others have had incredible longevity. The 80s was a golden generation for nurturing that. Do you think there are artists coming up now that we’ll still be talking about in 40 years? Or was that period a one-off? Toastylechat

It was a golden period of music, I feel very blessed to have been a kid at that time and been able to start a band. Individualism was championed. We were in the charts with bands like the Cure, the Smiths, INXS, Depeche Mode, but then you still had bands like the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith around, and then there was Laurie Anderson, Kraftwerk, and Siouxsie and the Banshees – one of my favourite bands.

Everybody had their own identity. You were proud of the fact that you didn’t sound exactly like somebody else. We would not have thought of making music any other way. Now there’s a load of great music out there but you have to search for it, and a lot of it sounds the same. Billie Eilish is a shining light, Tame Impala made some great records, there are plenty of interesting artists – but I find radio quite difficult.

Would you place A View to a Kill in the top 10 greatest-ever Bond themes? Jay_Murpheus

I can say with my hand on my heart, we’re proud of that one. It’s the perfect blend of Duran Duran and James Bond, which is what we set out to do. It doesn’t use the same Bond chords that everybody seems to integrate into their song – and it is the only Bond song that has ever been No 1 [in the US]. So I’m proud of it – but our favourites were Diamonds Are Forever and Goldfinger, songs as magnificent as a song can be. And Dame Shirley: it’s tough to beat her!

Would you describe Save a Prayer as your most underrated single? If not, then what is? Jay_Murpheus

Save a Prayer has been fairly well acknowledged – I’d say Skin Trade, from 1986. When we were doing the Notorious album – funk, Duran Duran-style, with the help of Nile Rodgers – we all felt that Skin Trade was the strongest song. We thought we’d release Notorious first, so that Skin Trade could blow everybody away. We put it out and it did OK. You can’t ever second-guess what the audience like, but I still feel it’s a stronger song than Notorious.

How did it feel to live through the madness of thousands of screaming teenage girls during the peak Duran chart years? Are you grateful for that level of adoration – or did you hate it? Zelbella

I never hated our fans, on any level – but we were surprised by what happened. We’d started out as an art-school band, playing these cool underground spots to an avant-garde audience. Then, when we put out records, we could see our audience starting to change. John and I went shopping once and we got mobbed and were stuck inside a store. Once we got used to it, it was actually very exciting: the noise of the show, the anticipation was incredible. It was great to have an excited audience and we will forever be grateful. It was just slightly unexpected.

Duran Duran in 1982
‘We were surprised by what happened’ … Duran Duran in Tokyo in 1982. Photograph: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

When did you first start wearing makeup and how did your parents react? Evemitchell

Ha! Probably around the age of 16, when I left school and started the band. It all came out of glam rock, really: David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Roxy Music. It just seemed a good thing to do if you were in a band, and I learned how to do makeup pretty quickly. I’m not sure my father was terribly keen on it but I think he thought it was a phase I was going through. I suppose I’m still going through that phase, 40 years later.

Is it true that you’ve never owned a pair of jeans? Cloggy_Saint

Blue denim jeans, yes, that is true – as far as I remember. I have no objection to them, it’s just not for me and I don’t own any.

Like you and John, the number 50 bus from Druids Heath into Birmingham is still going strong. Can you say a bit about those early bus journeys when you were aspiring musicians heading for the metropolis? SisterSarah

Ha! Yes, there was also a 50E and a 50K, which stopped at slightly different places. We liked the 50, which went all the way to the Maypole, closer to where we lived in Hollywood. It was a great bus service, essential to us, as Birmingham was the centre of our universe. It was punk times, and the atmosphere was so electric and the 50 bus was a big part of that. It was also a little terrifying for John and I when we were 16 or 17, coming home late at night, because there were always some drunk, aggressive people on the bus who did not like the look of us. We often got teased or pushed around, or poked. But we were determined to be ourselves.

You strike me as someone who is incredibly difficult to buy a gift for. What’s the best gift you have ever received from a fellow celebrity and why? LeafyG

It was my birthday in June and Wendy Laister, our dear manager of 20 years now, gave me a gift that I was astonished by. It was a string puppet that must be a metre-and-a-half tall. It’s an exquisitely handmade skeleton, with red lipstick on. It’s got a lot of strings, so you can articulate it really quite well. I’m guessing it’s probably from the 30s or 40s. I thought that was a rather unique and inspired gift.

If you had to change direction from music and art, what would you choose? Sparkle22

I’ve always harboured a desire to make films. It’s taking me far too long, but I’m currently in the middle of doing a documentary on postwar Japanese photography. A proper film, that’s what I would like to do. I’ve just never got around to it. Who knew Duran Duran would last this long? It’s still my day job.

Having taken your name from the original film, what are your thoughts on the recently announced Barbarella remake, starring Sydney Sweeney? Would the band be up for a cameo or soundtrack contribution? McScootikins

I’m fascinated and terrified. It’s an incredibly difficult film to remake. I just really hope it isn’t a sanitised, politically correct Barbarella. Just leave her in peace if that’s the case. You’d never make the movie the way it was, now, but I’m so happy that it exists. It’s a masterpiece of the period. If the new movie turned out to be really cool, and the makers of the movie were interested, then of course we’d look at it.

You’ve indicated your predilection for collecting toys and trinkets and embracing the child within. Do you still collect toys and, if so, what has been the latest addition to your collection? Arcana07

I do. I’m not an avid collector but I’m a hoarder, so I never really throw anything away. I’m still very proud that I still have my original Corgi James Bond car, the Aston Martin with the ejector seat, from when I was about five years old. I’ve still got the original Chartbuster game about pop music that John and I used to play as kids. The latest addition was another birthday present: a Dracula doll. “Get him something gothic, it’s fine!”

Has your 2022 tour felt different from the others due to being post-pandemic? What aspects of playing in front of a big audience did you miss the most? LauraSupernova

It has been joyful. Everyone on stage is thrilled to be back there and I think we’ve really felt it from the audience. We finally played Hyde Park this summer, which we’d been trying to do for the two previous years, and really we could not have hoped for a better day. The weather was incredible and, from the stage, I watched the sun set over Knightsbridge, the sky went orange and I did take a breath and think: “Wow, this is something.”

Nick Rhodes with Simon Le Bon onstage in Birmingham, 2022
Nick Rhodes with Simon Le Bon onstage in Birmingham in July during the summer 2022 tour. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

After a live show, once the lights have gone down and the crowd have left, how do you and the band unwind? Tonytonyc

Like a tightly wound spring! We’re usually in the dressing room together; we talk about the show and have a debrief. We can be critical because you always want the next one to be better. We usually eat after the show, maybe have a glass of wine and a chat, go back to the hotel. And don’t watch the news!

About 16 or so years ago I had the pleasure of fulfilling your red wine order for the band at Astor Wines in NYC. Great choices, especially the Tuscans! We had a Nick Rhodes-inspired wine dinner based on some of them. What are you sipping these days? Winenshine

Oh, my goodness! I like nice wines. It depends where you are. I drink a little bit more white wine than I used to, I suppose. There’s an Italian wine that I really love called Cervaro della Sala – it’s a white and particularly nice, I have to say. And the super Tuscans remain on the menu.

As a technologically inclined person, do you foresee music distribution changing to all-digital in the next five to 10 years? EMcGeeCLE

Well, I did push the button on the world’s first download for sale, which was in 1997, a song called Electric Barbarella. It took until 2003 for iTunes to launch [downloads], so the disappointing thing is that in that six-year period none of the record labels figured out that selling music online was a good idea. I am constantly amazed at how deaf a lot of people in the music industry are to changes in technology. Having said that, streaming is here to stay, but I hope real content still exists – certainly given the reaction to the vinyl that we have been putting out.

Do you plan to follow other artists selling all or part of your music catalogue? Apolloze0

Not at the moment, but you never say never. We have been approached a few times. What I would never do is cede control of our music.

Who has been the most influential person you have worked with and why? Sparkle22

We have chosen very carefully, but Nile Rodgers has been a very big part of our development. We first worked with him on the song The Reflex, then Wild Boys and the Notorious album. I think he’s one of the most remarkable musicians in the world: there’s no other rhythm guitarist like him. I think Mark Ronson’s got great taste. We made a film with David Lynch – he’s had an enormous impact on my thinking.

I love all of your artistic photographs. Could you talk about your process in creating them? Is it similar to your composition of music? SurrealMargaret

Yes. I always look at things as a blank sheet: I love the idea that there is nothing and then, after creation, there is something. I just took a walk down Sunset Strip in Los Angeles with my camera. I don’t like to have to look too hard, just something that inspires a click of a button. I spent lockdown logging 250,000 digital photographs. It was the most painful job I’ve ever had to do, but now I can actually find things.

Which Duran song would you place in an intergalactic time capsule? Espejo

Probably Planet Earth, just because it was the first one we ever released, and the first time we appeared on Top of the Pops. That was surreal in itself to us, because we’d watched our heroes perform on TOTP – then it was our turn and we were in the studio thinking: “Wow, it’s smaller than we thought.” That song was the beginning of all of it so that’s the DNA. But I’d be fine with any of them: Girls On Film, Ordinary World – or The Chauffeur. If you write a song that people want to listen to many years later, you’ve done it well.

Duran Duran’s new docu-concert film A Hollywood High is in cinemas from 3 November. Duran Duran will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on 5 November. The 25th anniversary release of Medazzaland is available now.



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