6 questions with Nick Rhodes

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

When Duran Duran’s international fame rose to near-hysteric heights in the early 80s, it was the British band’s harnessing of the then-new music video medium that gave it an edge. Time has advanced, and so has the group. Now the five members have inserted their characters, or avatars, into cyberspace, via the “Second Life” virtual reality game, becoming the first major act to do so. With a new Epic album release expected in early 2007, keyboardist Nick Rhodes says the band is at home in the digital world.

BB: Is “Second Life” part of a wider marketing scheme or just a bit of fun?

R: When I first saw the “Second Life” site, it was a real epiphany for me. I knew this type of technology was developing and starting to flourish, but I had no idea there was a site up there already – which was the size of Luxembourg in virtual acres. I looked at it from a creative point of view and thought, We should do a concert in here, and have our own space in here, and move on from 1/8having a Web presence 3/8 and finally come into 3-D.’ ”

 

BB: How do you plan to pull off a virtual concert?

R: We’re just figuring it out now . . . We’re beta testing all kinds of things. I want to make it as authentic as we possibly can, in that we will perform in a room, or a concert space that we build. As it will be live, there will be several hundred other people’s avatars. Certain things we will need to pre-prepare, but we will push the limits of the technologies and see how we can make the thing magical and mystical.
BB: Do you anticipate a new legion of geek Duran Duran fans?

R: By doing new things, you always attract a different type of audience . . . When you’re in a band for over 20 years, the last thing I would want to do is the same thing all the time.

BB: Would it be economically viable for a less-established band to follow your lead?

R: It depends who you are working with and what the technologies are. Granted, what we are trying to do is actually something quite ambitious. But I’m sure there are some garage bands out there that are already in “Second Life.” Some of these kids are so technology-savvy now that they can just go in and build their own area. If I was forming a new band right now, I’d make sure that there was someone in the band who acted as a videographer, who was onstage doing the filming, the back projections and everything else. The other thing is to have someone within the band who could create Web technology so that you were completely self-sufficient.

BB: Do you think digital is the future?

R: We underwent the industrial revolution in the music business for the first time in many, many years in the last few years. And there were a whole load of music industry executives who resisted it for as long as they possibly could . . . There were many of us, including myself and Duran Duran, who seized the opportunity, as we saw this as the beginning of something exciting and new that would undoubtedly revolutionize what we are doing. And it is still only the tip of the iceberg.

BB: What do you make of virtual synths? Do they spell the end of traditional synth hardware?

R: This is the greatest irony. Here’s me evangelizing about everything in virtual technologies, but the one thing I can’t stand is virtual synthesizers (laughs).