Annie Zaleski Q&A

January 10, 2022
Annie Zaleski believes Duran Duran belongs in the Hall of Fame.

“I’m always a fan when I’m interviewing people I admire, but I always say that the word ‘fan’ isn’t a pejorative—and this was especially true for this book. The way I look at it, being a fan informs my interviews in nothing but a positive way. Because I have deeper insights into the music or subject matter, I can come up with more interesting questions that push the conversation in deeper, or different, directions. For this book, I brought decades of Duran Duran fandom to the table, so I had baseline knowledge of the album and era and could ask more pointed questions.”

 

Is it hard not to be a fan when interviewing musicians you admire?

I’m always a fan when I’m interviewing people I admire, but I always say that the word “fan” isn’t a pejorative — and this was especially true for this book. The way I look at it, being a fan informs my interviews in nothing but a positive way. Because I have deeper insights into the music or subject matter, I can come up with more interesting questions that push the conversation in deeper, or different, directions. For this book, I brought decades of Duran Duran fandom to the table, so I had baseline knowledge of the album and era and could ask more pointed questions. I get nervous talking to musicians, but I always keep in mind that at the end of the day, they’re regular human beings. It’s not necessarily a fan-rock star dynamic, but one of two people having a chat. Coming in at that level also goes a long way to having a good conversation.

You go into detail about John Taylor’s underrated bass playing. Should he be considered in the pantheon with John Entwistle and Paul McCartney?

Absolutely. John Taylor is notorious for being a massive music fan, and he brings that knowledge and passion to his bass playing. He’s cerebral about playing without being stuffy, which is difficult to pull off.

Do you think the success of the videos and all that mega fame hurt them with critics?

It was partly jealousy from critics — after all, the band members were all good-looking and confident — but back then especially there was this lingering idea that successful pop music is somehow “less than” other forms of music. I mean, look at the Beatles early on, when they were at their teenybopper-ist. Plus, when something is famous, there’s the tendency to want to bring it down a few pegs – the idea of a backlash to something popular, which we still see all the time now. It’s difficult to imagine now, since our society is so video-driven, but videos and music together were also this massive curiosity, and the concept was looked at with skepticism. Duran Duran were occasionally called a “video band” — which is such a strange nickname, as if it’s like they didn’t exist outside of the TV. Even though a video like “Rio” had some humor in it, people saw them being glamorous on vacation, and that really drew attention away from the music. But, you know, videos worked for them: Reading archival interviews, Duran Duran’s videos did help them raise their reputation in the U.S., and paved the way for what came next.

You dissect their great early albums. What do you think blended so well together?

Part of it is their influences. The band members all shared an affinity for certain things — Bowie/Roxy Music/glam, most notably—but also brought unique loves to the table. Andy Taylor was a classic UK hard rock fan who loved AC/DC, Keith Richards and the like. Nick Rhodes was into Kraftwerk, Blondie, Human League, and Talking Heads. John Taylor and Roger Taylor loved punk but also disco, especially Chic. Simon Le Bon once saw a double bill of the Cure and Joy Division. All of those influences poured into the band’s sound. Beyond that, however, they were all aligned on a work ethic — they all worked hard on performing and songwriting — and they were all ready to do what it took to become successful. Being on the same page goes a long way to getting things done.

The band today is as big as ever. How are they live?

Totally exuberant. Their sets are a joy. What’s great about them is they tend to have a good mix of expected hits, some cuts for fans, and the kind of sequence that never makes shows lag. I hope we see some U.S. dates in 2022.

How many times have you seen them?

I believe, unless I’m missing a date, seven times.

You’ve said that a case can easily be made for the band in the Hall of Fame. Do you think this can happen?

It’s difficult to predict what the HOF might do, but I am holding out hope that the band will be nominated — they’ve never been — if not inducted soon. They certainly deserve to be, as they have the indelible catalog, are a massive influence and are commercially popular. When you look at other bands inducted in recent years — the Cure, Depeche Mode, Roxy Music, The Go-Go’s — Duran Duran certainly measure up.

You’ve said you’re now working on a B-52’s book. How is that coming?

On the docket for finishing in 2022. I have tons of research to synthesize.