Andy Taylor thought that Nov. 5, 2022 was going to be one of the greatest nights of his life. After years of waiting, Duran Duran were finally entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The guitarist had co-founded the band back in 1980 and co-wrote many of their biggest songs, including “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but he hadn’t shared a stage with them since 2006, when old tensions resurfaced during the creation of their aborted album Reportage and they parted ways.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was supposed to include a big moment where the classic five-man lineup of the band reassembled, and Duran Duran fanatics from around the world gathered at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to experience it live. But when the band walked up to the podium, Taylor was nowhere in sight. Frontman Simon Le Bon read a letter from the guitarist instead.
“Just over four years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer,” Taylor told the stunned room through his letter. “I’m truly sorry and massively disappointed I couldn’t make it. Let there be no doubt I was stoked about the whole thing — even bought a new guitar with the essential whammy! I’m so very proud of these four brothers, I’m amazed at their durability, and I’m overjoyed at accepting this award. I often doubted the day would come. I’m sure as hell glad I’m around to see the day.”
The five-year survival rate for stage-four prostate cancer is just 29 percent, and the fact that Taylor was four years into the ordeal and too weak to even strap on a guitar and play three songs made his situation seem rather bleak.
But the past year has been an amazing time for Taylor. He’s currently undergoing a new treatment plan that he says has the potential to add years to his life, and he’s strong enough to both guest on the new Duran Duran album and finish a solo LP of his own, Man’s a Wolf to Man. It’s his first solo effort since 1990’s Dangerous, which was a set of covers. The new album veers between the Power Station-style funk of “Reaching Out to Get You,” the David Bowie-inspired “Influential Blondes,” and even a country-rock ballad called “Try To Get Even,” where he duets with Australian singer/songwriter Tina Arena.
We hopped on a Zoom with Taylor to discuss the new album, his health struggles, the history of Duran Duran, his recent reunion with them, and his hopes for the future. He was sharp, vibrant, funny, and lacking any outward signs that he’s spent five years battling cancer. Nearly a year after Duran Duran’s bittersweet Hall of Fame induction, it felt like a small miracle.
It’s great to see you. I really didn’t think we’d be talking talking like this a year after the Hall of Fame.
I missed the biggest night of my life, which led to me finding a treatment that is going to extend my life for around five years, at which point there will be some other treatment. It’s great irony. Prior to that night, I was in a great deal of denial. “I’m going to be able to do this. I’m going to be able to do this.” But just a few days before it, I had to really come clean with myself. In the aftermath, I had an amazing outpouring of help and love and support from people. We really hadn’t spoke about it publicly, but I’ve been dealing with it for five years now.
Then I started to talk to some other medical professionals, and they opened up my eyes to other treatments. And lo and behold, I found a new type of treatment. I was tested for it, and they said it would work really well.
Where are you at with the new treatment?
I started it eight weeks ago. I’ve had two rounds of it. It’s a nuclear medicine, Lutetium-177. It sees the cancer on the cells, on the outside. It doesn’t have to go into the cancer cell to see it. It sees the cancer cell, locks onto it, and kills it, but it doesn’t kill healthy cells. There’s a minimum radiation spread from it.
I had my second round on Thursday. My wife is funny. I was bopping around and she said, “Here we are, Power Andy is back.” It just takes me about four days to recover from treatment. It’s stunningly incredible.
You just learned of it because you decided to go public on the night of the Hall of Fame?
Yeah. After that, I met a British scientist named Sir Chris Evans. He’s a cancer specialist, and a lot of other things as well. The guy is just unbelievable. He said to me, “Can I take a look at it with my team?” I’m like, “Sure. I have all my notes here.”
He did a genomic test on me, which I hadn’t had done. We’re probably a little bit behind in cancer care in the U.K. Turns out I’ve got a gene mutation, a hereditary thing, and they saw how this other treatment could work for me. They said, “This will keep you going for years,” and then after that something else comes along, so you’re constantly chasing treatments. But they said, “There’s now a better likelihood that you won’t die than you will die.”
When it was diagnosed five years ago, I was told that I would have five years, max. I’m still in kind of a little sort of heavenly space of, “Did this really happen? Did I get this lucky?”
Let’s talk about the history of Duran Duran. I was just watching a video of you guys playing “Planet Earth” live on the Swedish television show Måndagsbörsen on Nov. 11, 1981. It’s pretty amazing to see that you had the entire Duran Duran sound at such an early period. It’s like the band was born fully formed.
When I went down to Birmingham to meet the band in April 1980, there was no singer. They told me the singer was on holiday. But there were ideas, and (bassist) John Taylor and (drummer) Roger (Taylor) had a groove. They played together really cool. I went down and then I ended up staying a couple of weeks. Then we met Simon within about six weeks after that. We played our first gig on July 19. We had most of the first album by that point.
“Girls on Film” was different. We did quite a few versions of it. I don’t know if we had “Planet Earth” then, but we had the sound. By the time we got up to the autumn, we got a break supporting Hazel O’Connor. By that time we had all the first album written and demoed. It took us about six months from our first gig to releasing our first single.
When you watch the videos from this time, you can basically see the Seventies ending and the Eighties beginning.
It’s amazing how decades were so definitive. Maybe they’re not quite as definitive culturally now. We were a little bit young for punk, since we were all like 13 or 14 when it happened. And so ours was a kind of glam punk. Everyone else in the band was into Chic. I learned that stuff when I played American military bases before I joined Duran Duran. You had to do six 45-minute sets, so I learned all kinds of material and could do all that.
I was playing covers, but you couldn’t get away with cheating. I learned all these different styles of playing, which was really what was the most necessary thing for guitar to work in Duran. Everyone moved away from guitars and made things synth-dominant with the LinnDrum and the 808. We kept things hybrid, and kept the guitar.
It wasn’t the sort of thing like Angus (Young) or Eddie (Van Halen) where they write a whole guitar part with a solo. There’s layers of guitar. Sometimes there’s two guitars mixed together to sound like one. I learned that from Hendrix since he’d put three guitars together to make it sound like one. On songs like “Planet Earth,” there’s funky guitar in the chorus, and heavy guitar mixed together. I also used a guitar synth, and Nick (Rhodes) grabbed all this keyboard stuff as soon as it came out. And by December 1980, we recorded “Planet Earth.”
A key thing you guys did was tour America hard and do everything you could to break there. Many of your rivals didn’t do that.
We knew that America was the highest bar to get over. We were like, “Madison Square Garden is on our list of places we want to play.” We all had this ambition that was what probably bound us, even though we were all quite different, in every respect. We were all very different individuals, but we were bloody ambitious. And that path had been laid 10 years before us from the 1960s and the 1970s by acts like Elton John and Queen.
The group peaked in popularity with “Rio” in 1983. What advice do you wish you could give the five of you back then?
We were all so young when the band started. We were learning from our mistakes. We had ambition, but not enough experience. We needed more people around us that could have helped us. Somebody should have sat us down and went, “You know what? It’d be really, really cool if we all sat down and talked about how much fucking coke you guys are doing.”
Drugs are the scourge of so many bands. I’m not saying that all five of us were doing them. But we didn’t have anyone with experience and empathy that could have talked to us in an elder-brotherly sort of way. We were all under 25 when Rio came out.
Nobody sat us down and said, “OK, let’s take a deep breath. Let’s have a year off.” By 1984, we’d done three Duran Duran albums, a Power Station record, an Arcadia record, and a live album. That’s six platinum albums in four years. But nobody had the foresight to tell us to take time off.
Roger wasn’t feeling great. John and I drove ourselves into the fuckin’ ground after doing Power Station. Not one elder person, not even my dad, was like, “Why don’t you just take time off?” That’s because nobody wanted to stop the gravy train.
You left the band in 1986. Did you listen to The Wedding Album or any of the music they made later?
Before they made The Wedding Album, I met up with Simon since we both had homes in South London near each other. We had a drink and something to eat. When he was driving me back, he stuck on a cassette of demos with “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” He goes, “What do you think of these?” I was like, “Fuck!” I could hear this brilliant melodic structure we had when we worked together. He’d found it again by working with Warren (Cuccurullo). When I heard “Ordinary World” I went, “That is you! That’s the perfect you!”
After that, I started doing the ill-fated second round of Power Station. But I did think (2010’s) “All You Need Is Now” is a great song. That was the last album I checked out.
A lot of fans are dying to hear Reportage, which they abandoned when you left the band again in the 2000s in favor of Red Carpet Massacre. Do you think it’s ever going to be finished?
I don’t know. How do you finish a record? Well, not the way that they work now. We’d have to do it the way we used to do it. That would be more of an adjustment for them than for me, if you think about it. I’m the one guy in the band that’s worked with lots and lots and lots of people. I’m able to make adjustments for Robert Palmer, Ting Tings, Reef, myself. Over the years, I’ve learned to walk in a room and adjust to what the circumstances are and what the gig is.
It would be easier for me to go, “I know exactly what my role is here. I can play that again.” But can everyone else step back into that shape? It’s like a football team. Can the team get back to the shape it was, so the dialogue is two ways with everybody and the understanding is fundamental? It’s not actually down to music. It’s down to whether you can meet each other in a way where you can get back to the place where you understand it and forget about the rest.
So now you have a new solo album, Man’s a Wolf to Man. How did that project start?
I started when I got a FaceTime call from Hartwig (Masuch), the CEO of BMG. I thought, “I better take this.” He has a love of music that some CEOs don’t quite have, and he’s a big fan of Duran. He had amazing knowledge about me. The call was among the lines of, “I’d like you to make a record for us,” and I’m like, “A record?” He’s like, “Well, maybe talk to John if you want to do a Power Station record or if you want to do a solo record. However it turns out.”
I did have someone call Duran’s office about John, but I think at the time it was just not going to be possible. Not just scheduling, but we weren’t at a place where we could do it. I sort of half-assed started with the idea of maybe doing a Power Station record (on my own), which would’ve been very interesting because the focus of that would’ve been finding a drummer.
The band started with Tony Thompson and his incredible big fuckin’ right foot. Getting a new drummer would have been a challenge. I just sort of said, “Well, look, I’m going to make a solo album,” and they were like, “OK.” That takes a little bit more thought and it’s a different head space, and I just thought, well, how do I want to go about doing it?
They left me to my own devices, which was the only thing I asked them. I was like, “Just let me find my way through this.” I think I was like 56 at the time, which is a great age to get called to do a record. I thought, “Well, I’m not going to say no, but let me get it right.”
What was the original plan for it?
We finished a version of the record. The plan in terms of marketing and release started at the end of 2019, and then got wiped out. At the time, I had been diagnosed with cancer, so I was just like, “You’re going to have to stick this on the shelf for a couple of years.”
I thought maybe BMG was going to just let it go once the pandemic was over. But they didn’t. I picked it up last year about July, knowing that we were going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the end of the year. I thought, “This is great timing.”
Then my health took a turn south. One thing that kept my head on my shoulders was that I spent all this time in a studio in Ibiza. I kept saying to people, “There’s never been a time where music has had more value to me because while you’re feeling shit, you can lose eight hours and you just forget about what’s going on around you.”
It’s sort of an album with two halves. The first half was around the start of the pandemic when I got diagnosed with cancer, and I’m not doing so well. Then I get a new treatment and I get my life extended and finish the record off.
Let’s talk about some of the songs. On the title track, you’re clearly talking about how vicious we’ve become as a society.
It goes back to the British political philosopher (Thomas) Hobbes. The song basically says, “If you don’t civilize and democratize yourselves, you’re just going to keep tribally killing yourselves.” We’ve kind of come full circle. What pissed me off before what might have pissed you off in America was fuckin’ Boris Johnson and Brexit. All of this racism was dug up because of him to fuel the northern vote with generations older than me. I started hearing people talk in a way they haven’t talked since the Seventies. It’s the model of fracturing people. Didn’t Sir Donald Rump basically take the same model in America?
In our country, the divisions are slightly different, but it basically came down to using race as a tool and then the cult of personality. It was the cult of personality that got Boris Johnson voted in. It was the same thing with Trump.
“Got To Give” has a great Rolling Stones vibe to it.
I wrote that song with Mattias Lindblom, who is a songwriter and friend of mine, and Ricky Warwick from the Almighty. Ricky is one of the great rock & roll poets that I know. He took over the Phil Lynott gig in Thin Lizzy. He’s a great friend of mine, but we’d never written together. Some of the lyrics on “Got To Give” are from him. He came up with these really colorful, great, poetic rock & roll lines. And then I turned them into melodies.
“Reaching’ Out To You” is really different since it sounds like Power Station in some ways.
It’s kind of a working-class lyric. I come from Newcastle. Ricky comes from Glasgow. We come from the two roughest cities in the U.K. They’re both port cities. They were both maritime places. He came up with, “We’re closing down…” I was like, “We’re closing down the factories/All our bills are due.”
I was thinking about the Seventies when it happened to my dad’s generation. We had a glorious steel industry and a lot of fossil stuff, which was really poisonous when I was a kid.
People have got a lot of different opinions about that “Rich Men North of Richmond” song. But that shit is true. In the U.K., the disparity between high wealth and poverty is exactly the same as in the Victorian period. In America, you’ve gone Victorian. You have a ruling class that you can’t move. That’s the same as the royal family and the few thousand families that benefit from the British Stock Exchange.
I had an oilman and a banker as uncles. They were middle-class, but they weren’t super wealthy. If they were in the same position now, they’ve be uber-wealthy with those same jobs. I mean, how the hell do you get paid a politician’s salary and amass $300 million? It’s called insider trading.
To switch gears again, it must have really warmed your heart that Duran Duran played that benefit concert for you a few nights back.
Yeah. Simon called me after we’d done some work on the new Duran Duran album at my place. He said, “What are you doing about your treatment?” I said, “Oh, that’s all right. I’ve got it covered.” He’s like, “No, I want to help you. This could go on for years. I want to help you.”
He’s probably one of the few people I would ever trust because he is proper gent. He’s a very, very thoroughly decent person. I love his family. They’re great, (his wife) Yas and the kids. He said, “Look, we can stick a gig in and then work with the charity so we can raise much, much more money.”
This is for the Cancer Awareness Trust, which Sir Chris works on. When Duran joined forces with the charity and put the benefit on to help me, it just raised the whole game. What it really did was give me a platform to talk about it, because I’ve dodged a massive bullet. I want to pass the info along. There’s a lot of wealthy men that can help raise money to men’s health, which is very neglected. Men don’t even talk about it. Men don’t even grow up and go, “Have you had a bit of ED or get a piss in in the night?” Women are very, very open about their anatomy. Men are like…men.
You mentioned the new Duran Duran album. What’s your role on that one?
I play guitar on several songs. And so it turns out I’ve got two albums coming out. I’m trying to respect them and not talk too much about it. But I did it in April, and there’s some cool stuff on there that I play on.
The dream of so many fans is to see you back onstage with them. Is that in the cards?
That’s up to them. The fact that I’m here means that I’m really not going to say no to much. But again, it’s not like I would ever knock on the door and go, “Should we…” If they want to do that, I’m a very open door about it. But really, you have to be asked.
We don’t really sit around and talk much. From time to time, we see each other, but it is not a topic of conversation. And my feeling on the matter is, my opinion, is that after 43 years, this is kind of like round three of Duran, this next wave of fame.
There’s some other things in the works that are actually done and contracted that we’re working on. My attitude and opinion is that we should (play live together). We do owe this amazing fan base who voted the shit out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for starters.
I’ve always thought that going out and playing the whole of the Rio album would be a cool thing. That would be something that’s really special and different. I do think that we should do something on that level, which is purely for the fans, and not that you’ve made an album that you’re trying to promote. It doesn’t necessarily have to be stadiums and money.
It’s cool that you seem to have repaired the friendships within the band. When you left that last time, there was obviously a bit of bitterness there.
It was a sort of bitterness about professional direction and not necessarily how you personally feel about somebody. Of course the two get so melded together when you’re in a band. You don’t know which one is which sometimes.
I’ll be very honest. It’s me. I have a problem being in a band and sticking to the band rules. It’s only because I left the band and then I got used to making my own decisions about projects and being able to do things. And then someone comes along and says, “Hey, do you want to do this with us, Andy?” I’m like, “Oh, no, I can’t because the band’s doing a promo tour in fuckin’ China or somewhere.”
You get to a point where you’ve got kids and grandkids. It can either be your entire life and you can embrace it, and I think they all have, but I couldn’t keep making it a priority. It wasn’t just about Justin Timberlake and Timbaland and doing a different sort of production…. I didn’t want to write songs with Justin Timberlake. I freely admit that. Nothing to do with him. That’s to do with me.
If the band was going to change the rules and be like that, then it was very difficult for me to go in a room with about 10 fuckin’ people when I can do a lot on my own. Then so you just use this tiny little fraction of your mind because there’s so much else going on.
But when the five of us drop the act and go, it’s actually down to us. We’ll finish Reportage when we can go, “There’s no one else in the room but us. And if you don’t like it, tell me, and I’ll tell you when I don’t like it. And if you love it, tell me, and I’ll tell you when I love it.” Right? That’s how it was, and if we got back to that, we’d be able to finish Reportage in a second.
Are you thinking about playing solo concerts at some point?
Yeah. I’ve got to have treatment throughout the course of the year. I’m setting a target for next year. But my first show is going to be on the 30th of September, which I’ll not say where, but the first small show I’m going to try and do will be around that weekend, and probably just a short set. I’m just trying to set myself markers and start the work and rehearse again and build it up.
Do you think you’re better able to appreciate each and every day of your life now after everything you’ve been through?
It makes you really sit back, push a reset button, and go, “OK, you know the things you’re good at. What could you do better?” That’s the thing it gives you. Also, you come out the back end of the dark thing with your family. I want to be my best self for my family after what they’ve been through.
I’ll wrap in a sec, but I really hope Duran Duran brings you back into the touring lineup at some point soon. To me, they are a five-man band and it’s just not complete without you.
Well, there’s the distinct possibility of that happening. They’ve helped me get back on my feet, so there’s another place where my feet could be, and that is…
I wouldn’t say no. I’ve said my door’s completely open, but those guys have to create the circumstances and feel that it’s the right thing to do. But I think all of us have had a unique experience with a phenomenal fan base. And that to me is the driver.
People who are close to us have said, “What would be the problem?” I’m like, “Well, for me there wouldn’t be. It’s just everyone’s got to be attuned to a common purpose. Why are we doing this? It could only be to blow the fuckin’ lid off the fan base.” Also, I’d love to play Madison Square Garden again.