At Metro Weekly, we’ve been living with Duran Duran for most of our 22 years.
Anyone who knows Todd Franson — and so many of you know this artist, who has been an integral part of Metro Weekly for 21 years, first as photographer, then as art director — is well-aware of his (wild, not mild) obsession with these legends of pop. It’s a good obsession, the kind that comes with an extreme love of a band, an artist, a filmmaker, one that allows their works to enter your life on a deeper, more significant plane. It’s the kind of obsession that bores deeply into one’s soul, into one’s heart, into the fabric of one’s life. It becomes part of your being, inseparable from who you are.
Sure, it’s fun to watch to Todd connect virtually anything you mention — Mick Jagger, the kitchen sink, a puppy — to Duran Duran, usually in 6 steps or less. And sure, it’s a little jaw-dropping to see Todd’s vast, impressive collection of the band’s vinyl and various accoutrements. (There’s likely a Duran Duran lunchbox lurking in there somewhere.) But it’s impossible not to admire — and be a bit envious, actually — of the deep connection he has forged with this band.
And it’s not just Todd Franson.
As the band’s 57-year-old singer, Simon Le Bon, told Todd during their interview, “We’ve been the kind of band who has always divided opinion, and it’s always been an extreme kind of reaction. We’re not a band that people say, ‘Oh, I like them.’ They say, ‘I love them’ or ‘I hate them.'” We all know where Todd falls.
For years, I would joke to Todd that “One day you’ll get to interview Simon Le Bon,” to which he would merely roll his eyes and lob back a snarky remark. And yet, when we heard the band was coming to Washington in April, a window opened — not only to Le Bon, whose soaring, electrifying vocals on their new album, Paper Gods, proves that there are some elder statesmen of pop who never lose what’s magical about their pipes (yes, we’re looking at you, Elton), but to keyboardist Nick Rhodes as well.
Taken together, we offer two distinct conversations with two of the greatest figures in modern pop music, discussing everything from the state of modern music to what has kept the band together — and relevant — for nearly four decades.
We start with Le Bon, who, Rhodes calls “an amazing human being.”
“I think he’s entirely different than a lot of the public perceive him to be,” says the handsome 53-year-old, who still has a flair for eyeliner. “There’s something about working with Simon that I’ve always loved. I know what chords and musical movements will excite him, and he knows that I won’t be happy until we find something very special to go with. We just push each other until we get there. The same thing with lyrics. We have the most diabolical arguments over lyrics. But even when we fight, we have enough respect for each other about our opinions and musical views. We trust each other’s taste.
“It’s hard for people to understand our characters when all they see is us playing in videos and in a live show,” he continues. “Working together, we’ve laughed a lot, we’ve learned a lot from each other, we respect each other, which is I think one of the important things if you are gonna stick together. We actually inspire each other.”
These interviews aren’t just for Todd, they’re also for all of you Duran Duran fans out there. Even the passing fans. Because, let’s be honest, what’s not to love about Duran Duran? From “Girls On Film” to “Ordinary World” to “Pressure Off” to what is quite possibly the greatest Bond theme song ever — “A View to a Kill” — Duran Duran, named for a character in the trippy 1967 Jane Fonda sci-fi film Barbarella, remains one of those fundamental groups whose greatness, whose innovation, whose defiance of convention yet keen understanding of what makes a song a hit, puts them smack at the top of the pops.
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