‘Performing is in our DNA’: Duran Duran’s Roger Taylor talks lockdown, Lytham Festival, and childhood holidays in Blackpool
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“I wanted a complete change, so I bought this farm which had this lovely big wine cellar and put my drums in there and played most days,” says Taylor. “It had the most amazing sound because of the ambience of the room, so I’d take myself down there and play. Then, when we came back after lockdown, I could still play, which some people were surprised by!”
We’ll talk comebacks in a moment. First, Roger is concerned.
As soon as the Zoom audio crackles into life, he asks if I’ve had Covid, a hint of sympathy in his voice. Covid-free since January and slightly worried that my complexion is looking particularly unhealthy, I assure him I’m fine. A PR person jumps on the call to let Taylor know that it was another pesky journalist who’d come down with the case of Covid. This is a healthy one.
“Oh, good,” he says. Onwards.
It’s hard to start anywhere but lockdown. A born performer who has lived life on stage as a member of one of Britain’s biggest bands since the late-’70s, Taylor says that the sudden closing of society’s maw around everything normal was ‘a real shock’.
“We’ve been around for a while and none of us had experienced anything like it before,” he says. “It was just like someone had suddenly barricaded up your front door and you couldn't leave the house right while we were in the middle of writing a record and then getting ready for the next tour, which is a cycle we’ve been on for the last couple of decades.
“That was just switched off,” he adds, pausing as he casts his mind back to that sudden full-stop which halted us all in March 2020. “But you have to accept it pretty quickly and life had to become simple: it was about walking the dog and seeing what you could find in the supermarket for dinner that night. And, after a while, it was okay, actually. A nice break.”
But you get the sense that the niceness of the break was short lived in Taylor’s mind, hence the solo studio sessions amidst the rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Did he miss performing?
“Not performing was really difficult because performing is a big part of our DNA,” he admits with a slight sigh. “Whatever it was that attracted us to do it as kids has been something we’ve been able to indulge at will for all our lives, so to have that switched off meant that a big part of your ego, I suppose, is suddenly taken away.
“That was very difficult, as I’m sure it was for all performers,” he adds. “I just wanted things back; I wanted my normality and my reality. Like everyone, that was my main wish. And, apart from when I left the band for a few years, I don’t think I’ve ever really gone more than a month without seeing my bandmates, so six months was strange.”
As soon as restrictions allowed, Duran Duran were back in the studio. Since first storming the music scene in 1981, the band have sold more than 100 million records, have had 18 American hit singles, 21 UK Top 20 songs, and have performed to huge concert audiences around the world for more than four decades. What was it like being back together?
“Everything clicked straight away,” says Taylor, 62, immediately. “We grew up together, we learned to play together, we learned to write songs together, so when we get together, there’s an instant chemistry. Even when the original line-up broke up, when we got back together again, it was like ‘wow’. Nothing had changed; it was like we’d never been away.
“As soon as we were allowed to have six people in a room together again, we were straight back on the record and I think that time away was actually good because we could come back and look at things objectively,” Taylor explains. “And it gave us a sense of appreciation which runs through to performing as well. We realised how much we missed it.”
Having returned to stage late last year, Duran Duran have just kicked off a mammoth 12-country summer tour which will see them perform dates deep into September. One of those pit-stops brings them to the North West, where they’re scheduled to headline Lytham Festival on July 1st in front of what will be a sell-out crowd of 20,000.
Taking place at the Main Proms Arena on Lytham Green from Tuesday June 28 to Sunday July 10, the festival will also play host to headline performances from the likes of Diana Ross, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Simply Red, Elbow, The Strokes, Tears for Fears, Paul Weller, and Nile Rogers and Chic.
And, what’s more, Lytham Festival is also set to see Taylor return to the Fylde coast for the first time in over 50 years.
“The last time I went to Blackpool, I was about six years old. My mum and dad took me to this little bed and breakfast on the front,” he says, smiling. “It’s always stuck in my mind as an amazing experience; I think it was my first holiday, actually. We’re really looking forward to the show and we’ve always found the further north we go, the better the audience is.”
Aside from northern crowds, another thing Taylor is looking forward to is catching up with long-time friend Nile Rodgers.
“It’ll be great to see Nile and the band - they’re amazing. He’s part of our history because we grew up on those late-’70s, early-’80s disco records of which Nile was the king,” he explains. “We did a whole US tour with Nile and the band and they were hard to follow every night, which made us up our game because following Nile Rodgers is a tough feat, I have to say.
“It’s great to have him on stage - he usually comes and jams on a few songs with us, which makes for a really fun evening.”
Speaking of fun, Taylor is hopeful that the time away will have instilled in us all an appreciation for the simple things which were taken away during lockdown. Things like having fun with friends, live music, and… “Aeroplanes - I used to hate aeroplanes,” he says. “I never wanted to get on another aeroplane ever again but, the first time I got on one after lockdown, I thought ‘wow, this is cool!’”
Away from air travel, Taylor has described Duran Duran’s return to the stage as ‘almost like a rebirth’ and, after admitting to some initial nerves, says he and the band are now filled with nothing but optimism and joy at the prospect of the four months ahead.
“The energy coming from the audience has been incredible wherever we’ve played,” he says. “The reaction has been incredible - after being locked up for two years, it has almost been hysteria. As soon as you see that, you think ‘okay, this does work’.
“Thank God it’s back.”
For more more information and to buy tickets, please go to www.lythamfestival.com