Duran Duran is eyeing a May release for its second Epic album since its original quintet reunited in 2001. But, as previously reported, the set will feature minimal contributions from guitarist Andy Taylor, who left the band in October to pursue other projects. It will, however, include three tracks produced by Timbaland, one of which, “Night Runner,” features Justin Timberlake.
“I’m always personally really inspired by working with urban producers, moreso than rock producers,” keyboardist Nick Rhodes tells Billboard.com. “They really bring something to the songs that we don’t have completely covered, whereas with rock producers, often I find [they suggest] things we’d do ourselves naturally anyway.”
The Timberlake collaboration is one Duran Duran has been trying to engineer for quite some time and finally materialized in September in New York. “All of us have admired his work, particularly on his first solo album,” Rhodes says of Timberlake. “He’s a real talent. It was quite natural for him and [Duran Duran frontman] Simon [LeBon] to be working together on vocal arrangements and melodic structure.”
“What we did is definitely Duran Duran, but it’s new,” Timbaland right-hand-man Nate “Danja” Hills tells Billboard.com. “It will put them right in with what’s going on today. Simon sounds better than he’s ever sounded. He didn’t miss a beat at all.”
The as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2004’s “Astronaut” will also feature the reggae-tinged “48 Hours Later” and “Transcendental Mental,” which Rhodes says takes aim at “new-age frauds. It’s one of the funniest lyrics Simon has written in many years.”
The other Timbaland-produced tracks are “Skin Divers” and “Zooming In.” Asked if the disparate sounds of those cuts compared to the album’s more guitar-driven songs may be jarring to the listener, Rhodes says, “With [the Timbaland tracks], you can tell there was another hand in them for sure. Although they are a slight change of direction in that some of the others are a bit more guitar-heavy or indie-sounding, Simon is the glue that holds them all together.”
Rhodes adds that he doesn’t think the album “will suffer” for the dearth of Taylor’s contributions. “With Duran Duran, we’ve always accepted change. Music evolves, or sound has evolved and this is a new phase we’re moving into now, and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” he says. “I truly wish him well. You never say never with these things. We may end up playing with Andy another day in the future. For now, we’d done another five years together and I guess that seems to be our attention span. It was five years the first time and five years this time.”
The group will launch a summer tour in conjunction with the album. “I always think it’s much more fun when you can go out with material that isn’t more than a year old,” Rhodes says. “Last time, we were playing material, as new material, that to us was already three years old.”