By Kristine McKenzie
British pop band Duran Duran formed in 1978 and went on to be one of the most successful bands of the 1980s. The band was known for their stylish looks, innovative music videos and their legions of female fans. Over the years they have enjoyed a string of hit songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Girls on Film,” “Wild Boys,” “The Reflex,” “Rio” and “Save a Prayer.” They continue to make music today and will be in town at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel Sept. 30 to promote their current album, “All You Need is Now.”
VEGAS.com had a chance to talk to Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran’s keyboard player, about the band’s upcoming visit to Vegas, as well as some past visits, what keeps the band together after more than 30 years and more:
Q: Do you have anything big planned for your show in Vegas?
Well everything in Vegas is big, isn’t it? It’s difficult to battle with what’s outside the concert hall but we’ll try our best. It’s a bigger production we’re taking out this time than with the last couple of shows. It’s actually really beautiful. I’m thrilled with the way it looks. The show’s obviously going to include a lot of songs that people are hopefully familiar with and introduce some of the songs from the new album and there’s a few surprises in there. Some of it’s quite dramatic this time – I have to say the lights and the screens and things are a little more dramatic than usual.
Q: You’re playing at the Joint at the Hard Rock, which is a more intimate venue than some of the bigger places that you’ve played. Do you like playing at smaller venues?
This is a funny tour because that’s probably one of the smaller venues this time and then we end up at Madison Square Garden, so it’s a bit of a mixture. I like that room – we’ve played there a few times. The thing is with Vegas, when you play there you could play there so many times a year because you have such a transient population, as well as the people who live and work there. It’s sort of like playing 300 cities in the same night.
Q: You guys have a very devoted fan base. A lot of the fans who used to go see you back in the ’80s are still going to your shows now. How does it feel to have such loyal fans?
Fantastic. We’re very grateful for our fan base and they have been extraordinarily loyal. But with all artists what you need to do is keep growing as well, so we’ve been very lucky because we’ve now crossed over several generations. When I look at the audience I can see people that have clearly been following us for many, many years and some of them have brought their family with them. Other ones are kids who are still teenagers who have recently discovered us on the internet or through people we’ve collaborated with. Then you’ve got people that maybe we’ve picked up along the ’90s with songs like ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Come Undone’ and other people who came along when we put together the first reunion so, yeah, it’s quite a mix now.
Q: Do the girls still get as crazy as they did back then?
Oh, we insist! Our shows are pretty crazy, really. People always come knowing that they’re going to have a good time. We don’t like anyone to leave our shows without a smile on their face. We like to lift people’s spirits and take them on a bit of an emotional journey. For me, music is a very powerful emotional factor in our lives so if you can use that to take people somewhere then I think you’re doing something right. When I listen to other people’s music that I like it really has an effect on me – a positive effect. Now whether it makes me want to smile or makes me want to cry or makes me want to dance or whatever it is – as long as it’s doing something and stimulating something I think that’s good.
Q: Your band has been together for more than 30 years – how have you managed to stay friends and continue to make music all these years?
I think because we have a very common goal together. We have a similar taste in music and we all want to make Duran Duran the most interesting band in the world and so we strive to do that. Obviously for a lot of people I’m sure they’d say that’s not what we find the most interesting band, but we have to try to make it that for ourselves and we have to do that for the audience to get what we’re trying to do. And if we didn’t believe in that –and I’m sure most bands would tell you the same thing – it is really about trying to make the thing the best you possibly can and to squeeze out everything you have in there to make it that little bit better and that little bit different than everything else out there. That desire has never really gone away and because of the closeness of the band and because we’ve all lived together like a family for more than three decades now, we are very, very close. We get along, we protect each other and we really care about each other. Some bands start to fight with each other and fall out and have all kinds of nightmares about their families and everything else. We’re sort of the opposite of that. If anything we’ve gotten closer and closer in that we’ve appreciated the personalities and the different ways that people are and ways people behave within the band – and both the strengths and weaknesses in that – and accepted it.
Q: Your musical influences can be heard in many popular groups today. Brandon Flowers from The Killers has said you were an influence on them. What does that feel like knowing that your music was an inspiration for other artists?
With Brandon and the rest of The Killers I’m thrilled because I think they’re really great. When Simon and I heard their first song, Simon played it to me and said, ‘you’ve got to hear this, you’ll love it’ and we both looked at each other and smiled. At this time we had no idea they were fans but we did know there was something in their sound that we related to. When we found out later that they were fans, that was great. Brandon and Dave came and performed with us years ago when we did a little show in Vegas. They did ‘Planet Earth’ with us and we’re friends with the band so I’m always happy to see them doing well and I think they’re one of the most interesting bands to come out of America in the last decade or so for sure. So when they’re like that, perfect. We have had a lot of artists say very kind words about us.
Q: Who has inspired you guys?
I would say our collective influence, where we all meet in the middle for sure, was David Bowie. Kraftwerk were very important to me, The Velvet Underground, The Beatles to all of us for sure. Then there were bands like Chic from the disco side that influenced John and Roger more on the rhythm tracks. And then the Sex Pistols and The Clash for the pure energy and rawness that they brought. We were lucky we grew up in the ’70s – it was a remarkable time for music.
Q: Do you remember the first time you ever played in Vegas?
Yes. It was in one of the hotels in a fairly big indoor venue and yeah, it was insane because the first time anyone sees Las Vegas it’s quite an overwhelming experience. There isn’t anywhere else on the planet quite like Vegas. Having said that, it’s changed an awful lot in the last 30 years since the first time I went there. There wasn’t the skyline like there is now. Landing on this alien planet in the middle of the desert and then suddenly finding out what’s there was pretty amazing. It was a crazy, crazy show. I remember it very, very well. We didn’t go out so much. I’m glad to say I’ve been to Vegas so many times that I think I’ve explored most of the Strip and the hotels and the neon graveyard and many other treasures – the Liberace Museum, may it rest in peace.
Q: My next question was going to be if you ever get to do anything fun while you’re here and it sounds like you have.
The neon boneyard – I love that. It’s just something that’s so unique and again, you can’t find that anywhere else in the world. And there’s something alarmingly beautiful about those signs. Vegas is just always fun, isn’t it? The crazy shows there – I saw several of the Cirque du Soleil shows. I saw KÀ the last time I was there, which I thought was quite astounding. The Beatles ‘Love’ is spectacular too. Vegas – it’s a wild and wacky world you have there. You can always find some trouble and some fun.