Nick Rhodes, Keyboardist and Financial Head of Duran Duran Seeks enters NFT Universe

In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Línea, the Birmingham band’s cofounder discussed how they made Future Past, the foray into AI and how the pandemic transformed the music industry.

Photo: BMG.
November 10, 2021 | 02:09 PM

Buenos Aires, Argentina — Four decades and 15 albums after Duran Duran burst onto the music scene with a sound that the press called new romantic, today Future Past is released worldwide. It is an album crossed by the pandemic and by the presence of prominent producers such as Erol Alkan, Giorgio Moroder and Mark Ronson, who put their stamp highlighting the sound of the Birmingham band.

Among the guests we can count Graham Coxon from Blur on guitar, Bowie’s former pianist Mike Garson and Lykke Li’s vocals, among others. But if there is something that characterizes the band led by Simon Lebon, it is their intact curiosity. Experimentation is still part of their gene, and it is in Invisible, the first single from the album, where they used Artificial Intelligence (AI) called Huxley to create the video for the song.

According to the band, Huxley was designed based on the functioning of the cognitive and emotional processes of human beings and has its own artificial intelligence brain. It uses a technique called “active inference,” which was originally created by Karl Friston (one of the most influential neuroscientists in history), to explore the dreamscapes he has imagined from the lyrics and emotional tone of the song and translate them into images.

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From Austin, Texas, Nick Rhodes, keyboardist responsible for Duran Duran’s business and contracts, spoke with Bloomberg Línea about the post-pandemic future of a band that never sounds like the past.

Did Duran Duran’s business format change due to the pandemic?

Yes, I think things evolved. For me live shows are not replaced, but all the presentations that happened during Pandemic, they were amazing things, but they were because you couldn’t do anything else. The one I enjoyed the most was the one that Mike Garson did, he did a whole streaming, dedicated to David Bowie, with his songs, with many different artists performing them. We contributed the song Five Years, but the way it was organized during the pandemic, and he got all these artists from all over the world to participate.... I really don’t know, it was almost a miracle. So some things happened like that, I really don’t think the business itself has changed much, other than we’re all on a lot more Zoom calls. That was one of the things that exploded in the pandemic. And actually I think we were all very grateful for that, to be able to at least see people more easily.

Do you like to do business or investments outside of music?

I’m not very good with stocks and things like that. But I invest most of my funds in art. I like to collect interesting pieces. With Duran Duran, of course, we’re doing different deals all the time. And that falls to me within the band, and our manager, Wendy Laister. We’re always the ones reviewing the contracts and the fine print of the agreements and the language that the lawyers have written and whether they understand it themselves. It’s something we spend a lot of time on. I think it’s important for artists to understand the business side of it. Because if they don’t when they’re young, unfortunately, as much as artists suffer, people will take advantage of them. And then when you move on in your career, you don’t realize how important some of those things were in the beginning. Certainly, some of the deals we signed were borderline criminal, because of the things people did to us. But, of course, you live and you learn. I wish I had known a lot earlier about copyright and about publishing and what those things really mean. So I urge all young artists to make sure they get the right advice early on.

Are you interested in the crypto market?

Not much, but I am interested in NFT (non-fungible tokens). I haven’t bought any but I hope some will be created because I think there is a space for digital art. And I quite like the idea of these things becoming more precious. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t have value. Of course, it’s very different from a physical object and having a painting or a sculpture or something like that, but it’s the new frontier and I understand that people like this idea. So yes, I’m fascinated by it. Cryptocurrencies I know it a little bit and obviously I’ve been following it from the beginning. You can’t help but see all the stories and news about it. But I don’t like the idea that if you lose your focus, you lose everything. It doesn’t sound like a risk I’d want to take. I know how I am with passwords.

Will there be a chance to see a Duran Duran NFT?

Yeah, we’re thinking about doing them because we did a video created entirely by an artificial intelligence (AI) called Huxley for the first song on the album that was released as a single and it’s called Invisible; and the AI literally created pieces of art that we edited together. Every frame that it did that we liked, we edited together so that the video was completely done by a machine, apart from the editing. And I think some of that stuff is so extraordinary that it would make a good NFT, so we’ll have to see. But definitely, I’m curious to do some Duran Duran NFTs. There are other artists who have already created them. Some of them don’t sound as good to me and some of them are really interesting.