Duranalysis: “The Making of Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre”

We’re so busted, done and dusted…

Let’s take a look at this forty-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which was included with some deluxe editions of Duran Duran’s 2007 Red Carpet Massacre album. Misfortune plagued the album from the beginning; for starters, Andy left the band for the second (and presumably final) time under acrimonious circumstances during the recording sessions. The remaining band members were pushed by their label, Sony Music, to work with a slew of different producers, including Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nate “Danja” Hills, to give the album a more contemporary R&B feel. Upon release, the album was a critical and commercial failure; shortly thereafter, Sony dropped Duran Duran from the label.

None of that glum backstory makes its way into this relentlessly cheery featurette, which shadows the band throughout the recording sessions, the filming of the “Falling Down” video, and all the pre-launch festivities. Andy does not appear anywhere in this, nor is his name ever mentioned. Any reservations the remaining band members might’ve had about the direction their label was taking the album are left unspoken, at least while cameras are rolling. What we’ve got here are forty minutes of Simon, John, Nick, and Roger yammering on about the super awesome time they all had while making this album.

It’s still pretty entertaining. Let’s get to it:

Recording sessions! The album was made over the course of multiple sessions with multiple producers in multiple locations, though this featurette makes no real attempt to differentiate between them. Doesn’t matter. Much of what we see is the usual promotional stuff, and much of it isn’t especially fresh or interesting, but it’s still nice seeing candid footage of the Durans looking like they’re having a whale of a good time hanging out with each other.

And occasionally looking like they’re getting a wee bit tired of hanging out with each other.

There are also plenty of shots of various band members strumming acoustic guitars while looking focused and industrious:

You know, the usual recording session stuff.

Everyone’s in good spirits. Here’s Justin Timberlake, airing his mind about collaborating with Duran Duran: “What’s it been like working with Mr. Le Bon? Absolute fucking hell.”

Upon overhearing this, an indignant Simon charges up to Justin, squawking in protest. “He asked me a question, man!” Justin says in his defense.

Nick consults with Timbaland: “No, but is the track skinny or fat? That’s what I need to know.” Timbaland stares at Nick incredulously for a moment before replying, “Oh, it’s fat.”

I have no idea what this exchange means. I’m not altogether convinced Nick and Timbaland know, either.

Nick talks about “Falling Down”, the first and only single released from the album: “I think it’s certainly one of the best lyrics Simon has written in a very long time.”

Oh, dear. Really? Simon, I think Nick just damned you with very faint praise.

Roger gives viewers a concise rundown of the band’s approach to recording an album. He’s very polite and unassuming, as is his wont, though he does use the word “abrasive” twice while describing the working relationships amongst the band members. Would it surprise anyone to hear they squabble a lot? No? Roger continues: “And then we all go out for a drink together, and it’s fine.”

Oh, god, now we’ve reached this interminably long section where Nick talks for about eight years about the Red Carpet Massacre album art, which features his photographs. Nick likes to talk. I mean, he really likes to talk. To followers of these Duranalyses, I don’t think it’s any secret that Nick is my favorite Duran by a healthy order of magnitude; I find him dazzling and fascinating and ridiculous in the best possible way. Even still, that doesn’t mean my eyes don’t glaze over when he gets to talking about his Art. I’m only human. Anyway, Nick launches into a very long explanation about how he and John considered and discarded various approaches to the album design, and how he then he ended up staying in a lavish mansion in Cannes with four friends and their beautiful Russian girlfriends, and how he ended up running out and buying a red carpet and photographing the girlfriends for the album cover.

I mean, it’s a cool cover. He should feel justly proud of it. But by the time he starts gabbing about graphic overlays and font selection and logo placement, I’m done.

Then John tells a shorter, funnier version of the same story: “I called Nick one day and said, why don’t you just do it? … And he’s like, ‘That’s great, because I happen to be in the South of France in this big house with these four beautiful Russian girls.’ You know, typical.”

We then jump ahead to the filming of the “Falling Down” video, which took place at the creepy Linda Vista hospital in Los Angeles in late 2007. I’ve already Duranalyzed the video itself, but the behind-the-scenes footage is fun.

Simon arrives on the video set at six in the morning. He’s whipped up his own tasty breakfast from the craft services truck: porridge with chili sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

Roger stumbles around the set, looking groggy and glum: “It’s now seven AM. … I’m sure we’re not going to be doing anything for several hours, but they like to get you here at seven AM.”

Filming gets underway, with the band members posing as singularly unconvincing doctors treating a gaggle of mental patients, all of whom are played by beautiful models. Between shots, the Durans chat with the very young models, who uniformly seem sharp-witted and fun and game for anything. Still, though, there’s a faint awkwardness to the lightly flirtatious banter between the band members—all of whom are fathers to teen or twentysomething daughters—and the models. You can almost see the cogs in Simon’s brain spinning as he struggles to strike the right balance between rakish and paternal.

And then there’s Nick, who’s hanging out with a pair of models, engaging them in a heavy-hitting discussion about their fancy shoes. He asks them what time they arrived on the set; both have been there since before six. Off screen, someone pointedly asks Nick what time he arrived on the set, whereupon he stammers his way through excuses while the models burst into delighted giggles. So if the other band members arrived for filming at around six or seven in the morning, what’s our guess as to when Nick finally deigned to show up? I’m going to go with… two in the afternoon. Sounds about right.

Update from an increasingly morose Roger: “It’s now 12:15 AM. We’ve been here for eighteen hours.”

Back in New York, the band members attend a big gala to celebrate the launch of the album. The drinks list features Duran Duran-themed cocktails; it’s hard to read it, but all the drinks seem very sensible and tasty (the Night Runner, for example, consists of rum, passion fruit, and lime).

This is all very nice, but come on! If you’re going to base cocktails off of Duran Duran, make them glamorous and ludicrous and inaccessible! Like so:

The remainder of the featurette follows the guys through a bunch of photoshoots and interviews with various media outlets like Details and Nylon. The Nylon spread is shot by Japanese photographer Mari Sarai, who explains that she was expecting the band to behave like rock stars. Instead, she says, they were “very nice.”

We see Sarai directing the boys through a surprisingly rambunctious photoshoot—lots of running up and down staircases—while instructing them to be “more sexy.” “More sexy?” Simon asks, unable to fathom such a thing.

The featurette winds up with more footage of the Durans yammering on about how fantastic the album is going to be. It didn’t quite turn out as expected (quoth John in a later interview: “That whole project was a fucking nightmare"), but even so, it looks like the band members managed to have some fun along the way.

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Ingrid Richter said…
Love this! Your drinks menu was inspired! I'm going to offer up the "Union of the Snakebite" for Roger, with cider, lager and black currant/cassis.
Morgan Richter said…
I can see Roger being a snakebite kind of man, yes... John's drink would be a virtuous glass of San Pellegrino. Served with a lemon wedge, if he's feeling daring.
Anonymous said…
i figured the break was due to thanksgiving, but i'm still glad to see you're back! (i meant to say that when you posted the saturday roundup, but i was busy too. now it's thursday. oops.)

...that opening part of the long arcadia interview before it goes full-tilt bananas is just too long, isn't it? i was expecting you to get to either it or this one next, so i'm not completely surprised, but my money was admittedly on arcadia. i may have an irrational attachment to that interview. (but if you liked doing this one, i'm pretty sure the astronaut equivalent is also findable on youtube!)

i see what you mean with the studio stuff - it's all pretty cute we're-getting-along-without-andy stuff, but what's-his-name the documentary guy* has got to be playing it very safe in terms of what's making it to the final cut. it makes me yearn for those documentary projects that fell through, drama americana and i think the other one's something like "searching for sushi with..."? i see why they didn't get released - i imagine they'd be like three to get ready, lots of disappointment simmering under the surface - but i do hope that once there's a little more distance between the durans and the reunion, they go back and get the documentaries out somehow.

*do you know who i'm talking about? i feel like you would. but just in case, they've got this guy who's been following them for years, trying to extract the perfect documentary and doing stuff like diamond in the mind in the meantime, and i'm almost certain he would've shot this featurette too. only i can't remember his name.

i actually like falling down! though i see what you mean, nick is kind of bagging on astronaut and/or the rest of rcm there. (or if we're feeling more charitable, he could just be bagging on reportage, which makes more sense to me.) i'm one of Those Fans who likes something from every era, i guess. having said that, i'm surprised you didn't go after simon for waxing lyrical about "google-dirty fingers", haha.

on a vaguely related tangent, i feel like it's hard to take john's word on the modern albums, because he seems to go through a cycle with them. when they first release it it's the best thing they've ever done, they go on tour and it's still defensible, and then they move on to the next one and he turns on the previous project. he's even done that to all you need is now! recently i've seen reviews that refer to rcm as an underrated classic, so maybe he ought to stop letting his ambition do the talking. nick may stand by some things in the duran duran discography that i find hard to defend, such as most of pop trash, but at least he comes out looking consistent.

and that photoshoot really was surprising! they could've been auditioning for doctor who. more importantly, i don't think i've ever seen the finished results of it, because i think i'd remember pictures of duran duran running through a fire escape.

last but not least, that corrected drinks menu is amazing. the flaky bandit sounds gross (i guess since it's an andy drink... only real rockers can handle it), but the le bombe sounds nifty (and has bonus cherry-related innuendo).

...that turned out really long. i had a surprising amount to say, i guess. maybe i ought to finally get through rcm's second half... nah, not tonight.
Morgan Richter said…
Anonymous -- I still haven't made it through that Arcadia interview! I'll need to sit down and spend some time on it at some point; totally-high-but-not-on-life Simon was irritating me enough that I bailed pretty early. And I figured since my Duranalysis immediately prior to this one was only Simon and Nick, too, that I should probably mix it up and do something that included the other Durans. But I'll go back and give the Arcadia interview a fair shot.

I will probably never see the appeal of "Falling Down", though I do like the video well enough. And there are other songs on RCM that I find kinda catchy. Yeah, I know what you're saying with John -- he does have a tendency toward revisionist history on their albums. You're right, Nick with his relentlessly positive pro-Duran stance at least comes off as more consistent.

Looks like Mari Sarai has a couple of the photos from that Nylon shoot on her website. Here's one, and you can click through to see one other, plus (bonus!) a darling photo of Simon taking a bath.
Anonymous said…
aw, if it's not your cup of tea, then you don't have to suffer through it. there are certainly plenty of other videos out there to see. (and while i'm more amused than annoyed by high simon, i see your point - that interview must have sucked for everyone else there. as i recall nick struggles to keep things on task for quite some time before giving up, and erica deserves some kind of award for rolling with it as well as she did. not to mention that poor other simon...)

i think one's opinion on falling down is closely linked with one's opinion on justin timberlake, because it sounds like it wants to be a "cry me a river" or "what goes around..." with simon singing most of it. i get the impression sony didn't give them a lot of time to execute their new r&b direction, and at some points in rcm it shows through lack of polish, while at others it's just how the producers' usual sounds are all over the tracks.

i've seen the bath one, but not the other two! thank you! (now i know that the bath came from the same photoshoot, or at least the same person.)

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