While continuing to support the 2004 comeback Epic album "Astronaut," veteran British rock act Duran Duran is planning to begin work this summer on its follow-up studio set. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes te

While continuing to support the 2004 comeback Epic album "Astronaut," veteran British rock act Duran Duran is planning to begin work this summer on its follow-up studio set.

Keyboardist Nick Rhodes tells Billboard.com that preparation on the forthcoming album will start with a string of songwriting sessions this August through to mid-December, before the band hits the studio in January. Tentative plans are for an early summer 2006 release.

While the project is at an embryonic stage, band members are already fleshing out producers with whom to collaborate. "I enjoyed working with Dallas Austin on a few tracks [for 'Astronaut']," Rhodes says. "He was super high-energy and good to have around. I'd like to work with a groove-master."

"Nice" is currently being serviced to radio as the potential third "Astronaut" single. "To me that's a really traditional Duran Duran track," says Rhodes. "It could almost have been on any of our albums. It's very identifiable as us -- uplifting, simple, beautiful melody, cool groove. And it just felt like a good summer song." A release date for the single has yet to be penciled in.

Duran Duran is in the midst of an extensive world tour that plays Vienna tonight (June 7). On July 2, the band will participate in the Rome edition of Bob Geldof's Live 8 concerts, intended to influence world leaders into prioritizing African debt relief as a key political issue. Twenty years ago, the group performed at Geldof's historic Live Aid event.

"The band's in great shape -- we've played a lot of shows," notes Rhodes. "We did 45 shows across America in the first three months of the year. We're ready."

Aside from duties with the band, Rhodes is deeply engaged in an interactive Internet TV channel dubbed "Monkey Me." More than two years in the making, Rhodes is looking to secure additional funding for the initiative. "If we can make it happen I think it will be extraordinary," he adds. "It's the next leap for artists."

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