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The Inquisition: Simon Le Bon

Since their early-’80s heyday as de rigueur New Romantic pinups, DuranDuran have sometimes found chart success as easy as — to borrow one oftheir more memorable lyrics — a nuclear war. However, the band’s 12thstudio album, Red Carpet Massacre(Epic) — featuring production by Timbaland and vocals and songwritingcontributions from Justin Timberlake — aims to return Simon Le Bon andCo. to the top of the pops. “Yes, it’s calculated,” says the48-year-old singer, sipping tea in the massive garden of his SouthLondon home. “We wanted to have a hit record.”

How did you come to work with Timbaland?

We wanted to get played on U.S. Top 40 radio, and it seemed that themost direct route was to exercise our funk muscle. So we said, “Right,let’s get Timbaland.” The session was less than a week, and we came outwith three songs. We thought, “God, if it can be as quick and painlessas that, then let’s do some more.”

Was Duran Duran ever a big coke band?

We tried pretty much anything. By 1980s L.A. standards we were lightweights, but we had a great time.

Are your drug days behind you?

Pretty much, yes. I don’t want to be one of these middle-aged drugusers. There’s something quite sad about that. But I don’t believe insaying “never again.”

If you’re dining out, does how high or low you order from the wine list depend on how the band’s doing?

Yes! Absolutely. [Laughs] My favorite line ever from The Simpsons is when Homer says, “Can I have the second least expensive wine on the menu, please?”

You started dating your wife, Yasmin, after seeing her photo. Did you have any alternates lined up?

No, not at all. Did you think I’d have number one, number two, andnumber three? I didn’t notice any of the other girls in there.

Didn’t getting married defeat the purpose of being in Duran Duran?

No. I wanted to mess around until I found the right one, and I did.I was hoping to be looking for the right one for a bit longer, but whenyou do find the love of your life, you don’t let go, do you?

Have you and keyboardist Nick Rhodes ever come to blows?

People don’t tend to come to blows with Nick. Many have tried. We’renot that kind of a band, really. The worst thing that ever happened wasa pork pie got thrown during an argument in 1980. I can’t say who wasinvolved; that would be unprofessional. I hasten to add that I was anonlooker.

Who tended to get the girls from your videos?

I did a couple of times. [Laughs] Nick claims to. I think we’ve all done that.

How did the ’90s compare with the ’80s for you?

A lot more workmanlike, I think. We weren’t carried along by thiswave of fervor…or favor. We weren’t in favor and there was no fervor.We had a chance to polish our professional skills live because wedidn’t have the screaming thing going on. You used to be able to walkto the front of the stage and just wave your cock around, and it woulddrive the whole audience crazy. Then, in the ’90s, it becameembarrassing to do that, so we learned to perform properly.

Why is it “Hungry Like the Wolf” and not “Hungry Like a Wolf”?

“Hungry Like a Wolf” is a pretty normal thing to say, isn’t it?”Hungry Like the Wolf” makes you ask that question: “Which wolf?” Forme, it was always the wolf inside of me, that hungry predator. Yes,it’s very sexual, that song. It’s about being on the hunt for women.Terribly politically incorrect. You couldn’t do that now.

If you weren’t in a band, do you think you might have let yourself go a bit?

The fact that I’ve got three guys and a manager who all go, “You’reputting on a bit of weight in that picture, your trousers look tight,”keeps me straight. Generally we all know what’s bad for us, whetherit’s booze, drugs, fat, or sugar. I limit my intake of those.

Do you ever feel like you’re getting a bit old for this?

I don’t think there’s an age limit, as long as the music’s good. TheRolling Stones set a great example for us. I don’t see why we can’tgrow old disgracefully like them. They look like mean motherfuckers,don’t they?