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Duran Duran share ‘Black Moonlight’ video and tell us about ‘Danse Macabre’

Go behind the scenes with Duran Duran...

By Nick Reilly

As Duran Duran share the spooky Jonas Akerlund-directed video for ‘Black Moonlight’, the iconic group have told Rolling Stone UK about the creative process behind the elaborate visuals, as well as the genesis of Danse Macabre – the album from which it is taken.

The group’s sixteenth studio album arrived last month, their 10th UK Top 5 LP, and saw the group taking on a Halloween theme, rather fitting for a record that was released only four days before the main event.

But for all the exploration of the dark and spooky, there’s some lighter collaborators on board too. Nile Rodgers and Mr Hudson can be heard on the record, as well as a selection of guitar lines from Duran Duran’s ex-guitarist Andy Taylor, marking his first work with the group since 2006.

You can check out our exclusive Q&A and photos, shot by Stephanie Pistel, with the group below.

Danse Macabre feels like a statement – Duran Duran are embracing their dark side.

Roger Taylor: That was the idea behind the album really; to tap into the dark side of Duran Duran. We often talk about the pop songs and the groove songs and the radio-friendly songs, but there’s always been a dark element.

Nick Rhodes: Sometimes in life I think you just have to follow your instincts. It can lead you astray, but in this case, it led us to Danse Macabre! A Las Vegas show came up, fortuitously, on Halloween, my favourite day of the year. We said, ‘Yes! Let’s play a show on Halloween’. I suggested, why don’t we do a couple of covers, maybe Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads.

Simon Le Bon: Spellbound, Ghost Town and Paint It Black – they were important covers for us.

Nick Rhodes: We also rehearsed new versions of some of our songs – Shadows On Your Side and Secret Oktober. So we played the show in Vegas on Halloween, and filmed it, and it turned out to be rather special. After the show we started looking at some of the footage which we were very pleased with, and that will be released as a full-length concert film at the end of next year. But we also started to think – we should put out an album.

John Taylor: Nick said, I want to reboot Nightboat and Secret Oktober. Two songs of ours that he felt would really give the album some shape.

It’s like you reconnected with the original spirit of Duran Duran in these sessions. You  must have worked really quickly to create this record in under one year?

Nick Rhodes: Albums can often take us three, four, five years. The last time we did an album in three months was the very first Duran Duran record! It’s amazing when you have the seeds of an idea how quickly the tree can grow. Simon said he’d like to redo the vocals on a couple of things, and I was thinking, I’d like to add some more textures and sounds.  And so it came to pass that we re-recorded all of the cover versions that we had done for the Halloween show. We re-worked about six or seven Duran Duran songs. We added some cover versions, notably Bury A Friend by Billie Eilish, and then we wrote three new Duran Duran tracks for the album.

John Taylor: We had a very limited amount of time to make these recordings. We wanted one new song, you know, two new ones would have been lovely, but we got three!

You’ve been working with Nile Rodgers on and off since The Reflex, what did he bring to the Danse Macabre sessions?

John Taylor: Nile being Nile, he got off the plane from Hawaii, came straight into the studio in London and gave us all a masterclass in the three minute pop song! He said ‘right, let’s go’. So, he just started playing in the way that only Nile plays – a machine like precision with his rhythm guitar. As an appreciator and as a performer, he is unique.

Simon Le Bon: Whenever we do anything with Nile, sparks fly. Magic happens. And we come up with great music. Nile definitely gets the best out of Duran Duran and I think we get something special out of Nile, because he loves being part of a band and we welcome him into Duran Duran.

Roger Taylor: I think the great thing about Nile is he’s never judgmental and he is always trying to encourage us to play our best parts.

‘Black Moonlight’ is like Duran Duran’s answer to Thriller, it’s totally instant.

John Taylor: It’s called Black Moonlight and it’s a spooky party song!

Simon Le Bon: Nile was the person who said Black Moonlight! He just said those two words. I said, “Nile, We’re going to use that if that’s okay with you.”

Nile Rodgers: The great thing about Black Moonlight is the hook. I always like to write the chorus first. And if I feel that chorus is strong, then the rest of the song makes sense.

Roger Taylor: It’s difficult to write a song that’s up-tempo, that’s still dark!

Nick Rhodes: You have to start somewhere when you’re writing a song, and there’s nowhere better than a drum loop from Roger. Then John’s always able to navigate a rhythm and find the best possible place to land those notes. If you look at a song like a painting, it’s a blank canvas. Then you start to put the background in. You give it tone, colour, then the detail develops. A guitar part, chords, a synth sound, and then, some lyrics. You’re forming a shape on the canvas and before you know it, you have a finished painting.

The music video for the title track, Danse Macabre, is amazing, how did you bring it to life?

Nick Rhodes: We are still drawn towards innovation for videos, and right now the heart of that is with AI. It’s come a long way since we made the INVISIBLE video just a couple of years ago. For Danse Macabre we used a remarkable animation programme that was really bleeding edge, at the time. We were able to create these incredible creatures that became the Danse Macabre family.

And the song itself sounds like classic Duran Duran but with a real dark curiosity.

Nick Rhodes: I love the energy that the backing vocals bring to this whole record. It was in fact Anna Ross and Rachael O’Connor from our touring band who sang back up on this. And Simon did a spectacular job with the vocal arrangements. I had the title in my notebook quite early on. It seemed like the perfect mood!

Can you tell us about the artwork?

Nick Rhodes: It’s actually made from photographs I bought.  The pictures are of one of the last known seances in the UK in the 1940s. There were rolls of film and we had them developed and printed some of them. I just thought, there is a real charm and authenticity to this – the fact that people were going to all these lengths to try to cleverly fake these apparitions and ghostly happenings!

Who else are you collaborating with on the Danse Macabre album?

Nick Rhodes: It was amazing having all our significant guitarists back on one album all together. Obviously Andy’s input, the first for a very long time, but then Warren. Warren Cuccurullo, back in the house! And Dom Brown – who has been our touring guitarist for almost 18 years now. 

When we were writing the new songs, we felt we should bring in some people to work with, just to add a little more electricity in the room and keep us on our toes. Mr. Hudson was in town in London, so he came and worked with us on a couple of songs. And we’ve been working with Josh Blair now for almost 20 years. He’s an essential part of the Duran Duran machine.

Roger Taylor: Josh is really an incredible person to have in the room. And he was kind of let off the leash for this album.

Mr. Hudson: It was a curveball when I heard that we were doing a darker themed record. It was more just a mood and something we could hint at harmonically and sonically. I haven’t seen any pointy hats!  We’ve created a new genre of underworld, mythological, prehistoric, kind of cavernous music. I don’t even know what this is. It’s ancient and futuristic at the same time.

John Taylor: On Confessions In The Afterlife, Dom Brown’s solo is the emotional highpoint on the album. It’s nice to represent Duran Duran’s story of guitarists on this record, and Dom plays the most emotionally charged solo on the whole album.

Maneskin’s Victoria De Angelis plays on the album too?

John Taylor: She’s probably the most important electric bassist out there right now. I met a couple of the guys from Måneskin at a party and they said, “you’ve got to meet our bass player.” She’s such a dynamo! I was like “what inspired you?” and Vic said, “Tina Weymouth”. So when Psycho Killer made the cut for the album, I thought, “I’m gonna ask her if she’d like to have a bass-off!”

Victoria, how did this collaboration come about?

Victoria De Angelis: It’s such a wild honour to get asked by John Taylor and the guys to play on their album. I met John at a party, and we immediately bonded talking about music and bass. I told him Tina Weymouth was my absolute pinnacle of cool, attitude and incredible musicianship all rolled into one, and he told me he also started playing bass inspired by her and she was one of his music idols.

I then got a call from John months later saying he was working on a cover of Psycho Killer, and he wanted to ask me first about playing on it. It was insane being asked by one of the greatest bass players ever to play one of my favourite songs with Duran Duran. Absolutely insane. I’m so grateful and honoured, it was so much fun recording together with John and he was so sweet to me and encouraged me to express myself and play it my own way. I’ll always remember that day.

Warren, why was now the right time to work with Duran Duran for the first time in over two decades?

Warren Cuccurullo: It’s been 22 years. Can you believe that? Why would I do the new Duran Duran project? Well, it enticed me from the very beginning! The concept of taking these spooky themed songs and redoing them for 2023 and having the original band members play on those songs and hey, even a new song popped up called Danse Macabre!

Could you pick a favourite of the three new songs?

Nick Rhodes: The lyric on the title track, ‘Danse Macabre’, is one of my favourites that Simon has ever written.

Simon Le Bon: Danse Macabre; I would consider it more to be a spoken word vocal using intonation as the tune. So it goes “Halloween girl seize the day. Brothers and sisters lead the way”, you know, it’s like it has a tune but it’s understated, and that is spoken word.

Talent: Duran Duran 
Photographer: Stephanie Pistel
Director: Jonas Akerlund
Producer: Holly Wolfers
Exec. Producer: Martin Roker
Production Company: Black Dog Films
Production Designer: Charlie Hippisley
Hair & Make up: Carol Morley
Hair: Elvire Roux
Assistant Makeup: Chloe Pack
Assistant on Hair: Katy Harris
Styling: Rebekah Roy
Styling Assistant: Majka Loevendahl

Photography assistant: Rob Parker @assistlondon 
Post production: Stephan Lesger

Made possible in part by Casamorati Dama Bianca by Xerjoff