Simon Le Bon vividly remembers Duran Duran’s last visit to South Africa in 1993.
“We arrived on the day that Chris Hani was shot in his own driveway so it was quite dramatic and very sad,” he says on the line from London. “There was a lot going on. I remember there were big protests and marches all through the streets of Cape Town when we were down there.
“And we went and played these shows and they were some of the best shows we’d ever played in our lives – which was incredible that, amidst all this unrest and strife, people were able to separate themselves from that and go out and have a fantastic time at the concerts.”
Despite the subsequent passing of almost two decades, the reunion of the original lineup, and guitarist Andy Taylor’s departure, “actually not a lot has changed to be honest with you,” Le Bon reveals. “The fact that Andy left the group, what, five years ago now, changed it for a while. So I don’t see him so much but I would say we’re still friends though.
“With the other guys, when you’re working together in the studio it can get quite tense and then when you get out on the road and start playing together in front of an audience, it changes again – you become more of a team, a little band of gypsies travelling around the world. We still have a great time. We’ve got a very good relationship – I’d choose their company over most other people most of the time.
“But not always,” he laughs.
If the band dynamic hasn’t changed, then what about their time out on tour? Are they still living it up out on the road like its 1985?
“The reports of what went on and what really went on, there’s usually a big gap between those two things, isn’t there?” chuckles the singer, quickly adding: “I don’t want to blow any legends apart.
“We still have a great time. I think the emphasis has shifted slightly, from the wiggling the bums onstage to the delivery of good, well-played, heartfelt, passionate music, you know. So that’s changed. We enjoy ourselves – we have a great time on tour, you’re free and with your friends, all you have to worry about is making sure you can get up on stage the next day.”
And it’s clear he certainly doesn’t get tired of getting up on that stage and singing the old hits like ‘The Wild Boys’ night after night
“No, I don’t because it’s a good song,” he says candidly. “If it was crap, then I wouldn’t like it so much, but I’m well into it.”
Not that Duran Duran, originally formed in 1978, have any intention of becoming a legacy act, churning out the old songs for nostalgic audiences.
“There’s nothing sadder than seeing some old rocker up there going through the motions because he wants the money,” says Le Bon frankly. “So we definitely try to keep it interesting. We love music so it’s not that difficult and I think it’s one of the main reasons we keep going back into the studio and do the whole thing of making an album which is a habit a lot of artists seem to be dispensing with at the moment. I think it’s the thing that really keeps the new energy in the band is this constantly being able to write new music.”
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding and the group are close to completing their 13th studio album, ‘All You Need Is Now’.
“We’ve been working for two years on it with Mark Ronson, having a great time, and it’s pretty much finished now. I don’t think I’ve much recording to do. There’s a possibility that another song will get finished and stuck on the album but really we’ve got enough already and it’s actually in LA being mixed as we speak,” he reveals.
“I’d describe it as fresh – there’s some fantastic tunes with some poignant lyrics and great beats.”
Clearly the result then of a good working relationship: “Working with Mark has been absolutely fantastic – he’s really kind of one of us. He’s got the same kind of aim when it comes to music, he loves Duran Duran, but he wants to make it something special. He’s very proud of his connection to us, he’s very proud of the band, and it’s great to work with someone like that.”
So will we get to hear any of the new songs in South Africa?
“Yeah, I think so,” smiles Le Bon. “I would also add to that ‘never expect anything’ because that’s one of my mottos for life, but I think you can in this case, yeah. We’re getting some stuff together now.”
- This article originally appeared on EntertainmentAfrica.com.