|duran2.net : reviews|
September 21st, 2007
Duran Duran's RED CARPET MASSACRE marks an all time creative high in the band's illustrious 29-year career. Like all good things, it came to those who waited.
By May 2006, after a two-year tour in support of their previous album ASTRONAUT, Duran Duran had completed 14 songs for a record provisionally titled REPORTAGE. But according to singer Simon LeBon "When we sat down and listened to what we had done on our own, we didn't feel we had a lead track, so we got in touch with Timbaland, who was the only producer out there that we knew we all liked". America's most pop savvy producer was more than happy to help and a session was duly set up at the Manhattan Center Studios in New York in September of the same year. What none of the band realized prior to taking off in this new direction, however, was that one of their biggest fans, Justin Timberlake, was also keen to get involved in the project, so when they arrived in the US he made room in the middle of his album release campaign to spend time in the studio with them.
But as if this new collaboration wasn't enough to really change things up, in the midst of all this, guitarist Andy Taylor split with the band, and with his departure the remaining four band members opted to change tack and start over completely.
"It was a real revelation working with producers that just understood the 'groove factor'", enthuses keyboardist Nick Rhodes "And this really brought back the heart and the spirit of Duran Duran. They're an extraordinary team", he continues. "They have a fantastic chemistry in the studio".
"With these guys on board it was as if Duran Duran had been taken and surrounded in chrome", adds bassist John Taylor. "In the past we always went to the big cities to work with the people that were having hit records on the dance floor", explains drummer Roger Taylor. "When we got to New York last year we found that inspiration again".
With three glorious tracks under their belt (Nite-Runner, Skin Divers and Zoom In), the new Duran left US shores and returned to the UK where they proceeded to make an album that sounded quite different to REPORTAGE with a new production team headed by Timbaland's right hand man Nate 'Danja' Hills and long-time Timbaland collaborator Jimmy Douglass. According to drummer Roger Taylor: "the first time we met Timbaland we were very impressed with this guy sitting in the corner, Nate Hills. Not only was he one of the most incredible beat guys we'd ever come across, he was also a great musician which filled the gap that might otherwise have been left with Andy gone. So after the initial sessions in New York, we basically kidnapped him and took him to London. He's got so many ideas. Talent in bucket loads".
Most of RED CARPET MASSACRE was recorded in three sessions: the first with Timbaland, with a guest spot from Timberlake, at the Manhattan Center Studios in New York; the second phase on the band's home turf, Sphere Studios in Wandsworth, London over Christmas 2006, presided over by Nate Hills and Jimmy Douglass. And the final burst at Metropolis Studios in West London, produced by Hills and Douglass in early '07.
And that would have been that, had it not been for a chance meeting in Birmingham in the Spring when Simon LeBon hooked up again with Justin Timberlake during his UK tour. "Justin asked to hear everything we'd recorded and at the end he said, 'I think you need an Ordinary World to round things out'". Duran's 1992 smash, Timberlake revealed, had been his favorite song when he was a pop crazed 14 year old. And as LeBon remarks, with powerful understatement: "What goes around, comes around".
A few days later when Justin's tour touched down in Manchester, England, Duran Duran and Timberlake got together in Blueprint studio and spent 36 hours writing and recording Falling Down a tune destined to rank as one of the finest pop songs of the early 21st century and now the first single from their upcoming release. Marking one of Timberlake's first solo productions, this 'tempo-ballad' as Justin describes it is "very Duran Duran. He (Simon) wrote some very melancholic/inspirational/cryptic lyrics that are beautiful", explains Justin. "I think it's certainly one of the best lyrics that Simon's written for a very long time", concurs Nick.
Its parent album RED CARPET MASSACRE is consistently bold and adventurous. "We had to let go of most of our old ideas of what it means to be a band making this", notes bassist John Taylor, a point which is expanded by Nick Rhodes: "Most of our producers this time had never worked with a band before, and we'd never worked without a guitarist". "We really had to put our egos aside", adds Roger Taylor. "We've always been very self-contained in the past".
All four band members agree that they have never worked so hard and fast on any album as they did on RED CARPET MASSACRE. The results, however, speak for themselves. A stellar album that is daring and contemporary and yet quintessentially Duran Duran.
"By the time we get to finish an album", explains John. "It always feels to me like 'wow'... there's a book in there. This is another massive chapter in the band's history. We've made a record that we all feel really good about".
JT "This was the breakthrough, the crossover, the song we could build an album around. We set up the gear in the control room and came up with a progressive groove. It ended up becoming the album opener and feels like the perfect track to start our upcoming shows with".
SLeB "It's about looking at life as moments rather than achievements. It's about making one's way through the trials and tribulations of life".
Red Carpet Massacre
NR: "Punk electronica - a bit like Warm Leatherette, the 1979 track by the Normal. Very tongue-in-cheek and very apropos of where we are now in the world with regards to reality TV and the whole 15 minutes of fame existence".
SLeB "It's about Hollywood 'A-listers' having a go at each other about the fantasy of celebrity and the media. It's sex, seduction and glamour - all the things we stand for, which is why we made it the album title. We wanted something with teeth".
Nite-Runner (with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)
NR "This was the first collaboration we did with Justin, Tim and Nate. It felt like we were in a nightclub. When we finished it we knew we were on the verge of something new".
SLeB: "This reminded me of NOTORIOUS when the band first split and we worked with Nile Rodgers".
Falling Down (with Justin Timberlake)
NR: "It's a really beautiful, fragile song. It was so easy. Sometimes that's the mystery of making music and writing songs. It can be just natural and happens there and then, and other times you can struggle for weeks and not get what you want".
SLeB "It's about a crash I had when I was racing a motorbike, the thoughts that ran through my mind before I hit the ground. As soon as I got the chorus, Justin was like, 'That's it!!'"
JT "It's easy to be esoteric. It's so much harder to write from the heart. This is an important song for Duran".
RT "I'd just got back from my honeymoon in St Lucia and the phone rang. Justin was talking about us recording the new Ordinary World. An hour later we were all in a van driving to Manchester".
Skin Divers (featuring Timbaland)
Timbaland: "That one hit me instant".
JT: "This is the song that best captures the sense of Timband meets Duran Duran. It wrote itself during a jam and then Tim finished off his parts a couple of months later when he was in the UK - very late at night, after a gig. He came down to the hotel ballroom and just recorded them on a laptop. Fucking genius. When you are that talented you don't need too much technology to create the magic!"
NR: "This is my favorite track. A real hybrid of Timbaland and Nate's grooves and our live playing. It's riddled with hooks".
Box Full O'Honey
NR "I started playing some chords late one night in the studio and it sort of grew from there".
SLeB "It's my best lyric on the album. I can see the person I'm writing about, my 'queen of tumbledown'. No, I won't say who she is. People seem to be able to really relate to this song. It touches them in an emotional way".
JT "This is the dance party track. It's arms in the air for French discos".
SLeB "Nate Hills said before we recorded this, 'do you wanna go up, or go down?' It's about dance-floor politics".
NR "It was instant smiles as soon as we gave in to our disco temptation. Which is always a good sign. It's like a song inside a mirror ball".
NR "We set out to do something unusual for the live show, a special moment. Usually the instrumental song is the one that doesn't make the album and ends up as a bonus track, so I'm very happy we all liked this one".
SLeB "I was going to do a melody over it but then I thought I'd leave it. This gives me a chance to change my shirt during the concert!"
RT "This takes us back to our roots. 1979, Joy Division, Siouxsie, post punk with a bit of techno".
NR "This is a very cool mixture of electro and rock. It feels very super-cyber-futuristic. The drum track was really one-take, all the way through".
JT "Very Timbaland, very Nate, very New York, a real transition track for us".
SLeB "It's about the Second Life virtual world that exists on the web which Neil Stevenson writes about in his novel Snow Crash, where you can create an avatar. The sound was angular, digital, something from a different perspective".
She's Too Much
SLeB "It's about my 16 year old daughter Saffron. She was in the studio that day and triggered the lyrics. I didn't know I was writing about her until the second line she's everything head first.' It tells a story. It's a soft moment on the album".
NR "This is a key track, a story telling ballad, which touches base with our traditional songwriting".
JT "We built this up in a very textural way around the chords".
Dirty Great Monster
NR: "It's about the elephant in the living room. We brought in a sax player for this one and said to him 'play something that's really 'sick''. And he did and it really made the track."
SLeB: "It's a song without a chorus. It doesn't pay off in the way that everyone expects".
Last Man Standing
SLeB "This one has very soft vocals".
RT "This is one of my favourites. We did a lot of overdubbing with Dom Brown, the guitarist we use for our live shows".
NR "The missing link between this album and our last, ASTRONAUT. Simon is so good at assuming a character".