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Save A Prayer...For Duran Duran!
Everyone seems surprised that Duran Duran has lasted as long as it has. I, however, am not. Back on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour I witnessed first-hand the thing that is Duran Duran at the Roanoke Civic Center. The band had that certain showmanship, that certain flair, that you know, deep down, this band will be around for sometime to come. Maybe not as much flair as Madonna or Prince, but certainly they can be seen as the '80s Styx-they know how to put on a show and have enough creativity that they can 'comeback' every few years. To be fair, part of what keeps the machine running these days is new blood. Warren Cuccurullo joined the band just in time for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Big Thing album (although he was a guest on the Notorious album). Lexicon had a chance to talk with Cuccurullo about the next Duran Duran and his days in the seminal pop band Missing Persons.

Listening to the new album, you guys seem to be moving more into the 'E'-word area of music.

We've always been 'electronic'. Nick [Rhodes] has always been Mr. Electronic. He doesn't think in chords, he thinks in sounds. In this room right now there's every good cheesy synth from 1978 on that we could find. I've always been that way with the guitar too, Mr. Effect. I have racks the size of refrigerators, 67 inches of pedals. We've also been using a lot of guitar samples with these things called 'Jam Mans.' Our whole approach to constructing a piece of music has changed so drastically over the past five years.

So you guys mainly record in your home now?

For the past five years, yeah. All the overdubs are done here. If we are going to use a live drum set we might go into a live studio.

Does the whole band work together or does Simon record his vocals and then you and Nick just go at it?

Warren CuccurulloWe do it all different ways. Back in August of 95, during the early stages of Meddazzaland, John Taylor, Steve Campbell, our drummer, and I cut about 16 tracks, just the three of us. They would come in from about 12 to 7 p.m. and they would record the two tracks I had on the sheet for that day. Then I would stay and fiddle with the tracks until like four in the morning. Only about four of the those tracks are left on the album. We've written a lot since then. The recent songs were done completely differently I put them to a click track. I'll work on different chord progressions and then think of all the variations that would for DURAN DURAN work with those chords. That's how 'Electric Barabarella' came about.

Does Simon still write all the lyrics?

No. He used to really want to take on writing all of the lyrics. He hit a brick wall with the lyrics on this album. In that time we were waiting for lyrics a lot went on. John was working on solo projects in LA, and Nick and I were doing keyboard overdubs. We were just waiting for lyrics that we thought were good enough for songs. In the past we have suffered from not having the lyrics as good as the track. You have a 9 track and a 3 lyrics, you end up with a 5 or 6 song.

The critics have always commented on the band's lyrics in the past.

Well, we'll have to see what they say about this one, because Nick wrote about half the lyrics. It was good because Nick and Simon kick each other's ass to get the lyrics up to snuff.

It seems like this album has been promised for a long time. Was there a delay?

Since all the changes went down, the writer's block and John leaving, Nick and I were working daily together. We actually ended up starting a whole new entity called TV Mania, which is a band and a production company. We wrote and produced some tracks for Blondie, two songs for the new Blondie album. We were looking for different things to do. The whole thing made us sit down and look hard at what we had for an album. Is this a good enough album? We ended up sorting through the tracks and discarded about half of them. So we decided to write a bunch of new ones. We actually had a few new one going that we played for Simon, and he was like 'Wow those are great!' So all of a sudden things got moving again.

Did you find it hard to come into an established, successful band?

Naw, I needed a job. I thought, great, a good paycheck, lots of girls. It was great. Very interesting, though, because the first person I met in the band was Nick. That first night when we spoke he wastalking about the tour and then he started talking about the future. That was amazing. You never know what people are going to be like in the long run, but here I was just as a guitarist hired for a few shows. I didn't start writing until later. Unfortunately, the first album I did writing on was done in such a disjointed way. We were all in a barn, just jamming. That stuff might work for a retro blues band but it doesn't work when you're trying to make innovative modern pop music. There was a lot of misses on that album, but we did hit a couple of things. The real change happened when we decided to work here at my house.

You were in Missing Persons. Does the continuing popularity of the band surprise you? Everyone from Smashing Pumpkins to No Doubt sites Missing Persons.

I think I was surprised when the Pumpkins did 'Destination Unknown.' We were a cultist type band, but it's nowhere near as popular as you might think. It's very 'bubbling under.' I just finished compiling an album of old live material from 1981 that I'm putting out in Japan in a couple of months. There's one song on there, a demo that we never released, called 'Action Reaction.' It's a studio track from 1980.

Were you in the band from the beginning?

Oh yeah, I founded the band. Dale and I had to talk Terry into doing it. We'd all three of us go out to restaurants or the movies and people would ask us, 'What band are you guys in?' We began to think, what the hell, maybe we could do something. I had an idea for a song called 'I like Boys.' I thought it would be a great idea if Dale sang that. We made a tape and brought it to Terry while he was on the road. It was a weird song, but in a normal way, normal-like Flying Lizards sort of normal.

Guess the band never was hugely successful. Is that why you guys broke up in the end, or was it the split between Dale and Terry?

I think we peaked in 1983. Whatever we had was at its best at that point. It's too bad. There were a lot of songs that we had demo-ed that never got recorded. I think that the way we looked and the way Dale looked, the melodies, we weren't too serious. The naivetÚ paid off on the first album, but after that we got all analytical and tried to compete with other stuff out there.

So, yeah, as the marriage began to deteriorate and the music became less popular, because people didn't want to hear that kind of music at that time, I think the novelty wore off, sonically speaking. She has a great voice, but there is only so much of it at once that you can take. It's like love it or hate it. People were coming up like Annie Lennox. How could she compete? It's a shame really. Never get in a band with married people. That last album we made was a horror show.

How did you make the transition to Duran Duran, then?

When Missing Persons broke up, Andrew Taylor (former guitarist for Duran Duran) was living in LA and doing a soundtrack song. He needed a rhythm section to do a couple of tracks and heard that Missing Persons had broken up, so he got Pat and Terry to do guitar and drums. I kinda panicked„never had been out of a gig. But I had a very short list of people I wanted to work with and Duran Duran was one of them. When Arcadia came out and I heard 'Election Day' I thought: this is something like what I would do. I liked it, but I never thought I would ever be in the band. I called them and sent my tapes. Three weeks later I got this call saying that Andy had left, but everyone had loved my tapes and could I come out and do some work.

What is your favorite Spandau Ballet song?

'True.' I'm not a fan of the band, but that song, especially when it was sampled in PM Dawn's song. Made you realize how good a riff it is. I once saw a bit of a live show from them and just didn't get it. I couldn't compare [Spandua Ballet] with Duran in any way. I think Duran has consistently written good songs, well into the 90's. Having said that I do miss music from the '80s, I miss the Talking Heads records. I looked forward to getting the next one. I miss Prince albums like that. I can't remember the last time I brought a Prince album. It's depressing. It was so inspiring to hear things like Sign of the Times or Around the World. All those albums were just like 'Wow.'

What's your favorite Duran Duran song then?

It changes. I love 'Hungry Like the Wolf.' 'Save A Prayer' is another. I love Arcadia. My favorite song right now is 'Ordinary World.' That was the 'birth' of the new Duran Duran.

Do you ever get flak from fans of the band for not being one of the 'original' members?

It doesn't really matter to me. I came in as a guitar player for hire. If people didn't accept me I wasn't ever aware of it. I feel now that anyone who says that doesn't know what's going on. If I wasn't there those new songs wouldn't exist. People who like Duran Duran now like it in part because I'm there. Its as solid as it was in the beginning now, even though there's only three of us. This is probably the best album we've ever made.


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