After 12 Duran Duran Albums, Guitarist Strikes Up His Own Band
INTERVIEW JOHN TAYLOR
When Duran Duran releases its new album "Medazzaland" this summer, a familiar name may be missing from the jacket cover. Bass guitarist John Taylor, after playing 20 years with the major teen-pop band of the '80s, has decided to go solo.
His debut album, "Feelings Are Good and Other Lies" (B5 Records), released on the Internet in 1995, is just now available on CD. He worked on this album while he was still with Duran Duran but officially broke all ties a few months ago.
During a recent telephone interview from his recording studio in Santa Monica, Calif., Taylor said he released his album on the Internet first because he wanted "complete and absolute control."
"I was doing a very personal record," he says, "so I put it out on the Internet because I thought that was a sure way of getting directly to my fan base."
No longer just a sideman, Taylor now writes his own lyrics and fronts his own band. He took voice lessons to strengthen his voice but says his vocal chords need to get stronger before he takes his act on the road.
"I feel that I was born to sing. I had to cut through a wall of low self-esteem because I was raised in a family that was the most unmusical family. My grandma had a piano, but it was never in tune. [Music] has never been pushed on me ... I had to make my own way there," he says.
The words he sings and the music he plays are quite different from the upbeat dance music Duran Duran is known for. It's evident from the lyrics that Taylor has done some soul-searching - mainly as a result of recent marital troubles. (For instance, in the song "Losing You" he sings, "Lady - let me love you once again/ I've found life's been so much harder since you been gone"; and in "Look Homeward Angel" he sings, "Don't disappear on me and I won't leave on you."
"My marriage is falling apart," Taylor says, "and I don't know how typical I am, but I had a lot of my identity invested in my wife.... I was also in a 12-step [Alcoholics Anonymous] program, which influenced the bookends for 'Feelings Are Good.' "
The 12-step program, he says, brought the word God back into his vocabulary, and he learned that God can mean "anything you so choose it to be."
"That kind of worked for me because it takes the emphasis off one's self. I can't be responsible for everything that's going on."
Taylor's life has also calmed down a bit since the fast-paced, frenetic '80s. With Duran Duran, fans would scream at the sight of Taylor and his band members. Pictured in countless teeny-bopper magazines, he quickly became a favorite pinup boy.
"In the beginning of the '80s, it was crazy," he said. "It was like a return to that Beatlemania thing. It was OK for teenage kids then; it was fun.
"The second half of the '80s was far more sensible and environmental and political. Then grunge came along. Music fans [just aren't that crazy] anymore. This generation sort of looks down upon that now."
Originally from Birmingham, England, Taylor now lives in Venice, Calif., and has a five-year-old-daughter, Atlanta. "I'm trying to be a good father, and I'm trying to come to terms with separation and divorce and not let it blight my daughter's upbringing," he says.
After making more than 12 albums with Duran Duran, he says he is content being on his own and has no plans for returning to the group. Instead, he is back in the studio recording another album.
This time, Taylor says, the music is more upbeat and celebratory.
"It's a bit of a journey," he says. "I focus mainly on identity and how you find yourself through what you do.
"The songs form a pattern. The hero lives to fight another day. That's me."