Interviews: Brian May: Talk Radio '98
Transcribed by Italia De-Santis
Nicky Horne: Brian May was born on the July 19th 1947 in Twickenham. Queen's distinctive guitar sound was fashioned long before the band formed when, as a 16-year old schoolboy, with his father's help, Brian May built his own guitar. After leaving school with 10 O-levels and 3 As, May went on to studying astronomy and physics and London's Imperial College, before rejecting a career in science for a life in music. Having formed the band Smile with drummer Roger Taylor, the pair were joined by vocalist Freddie Mercury, and bassist John Deacon. They changed their name to Queen and released their eponymous debut album in 1973.
NH: Exceptionally prolific, Queen followed their debut with Queen II in 1974, and Sheer Heart Attack in 1975, but it was their fourth album, A Night At The Opera, that catapulted them to international success. The first taste of which, came with the ground-breaking single 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. (BoRhap clip) As successful with singles as with albums, between 1974 and the present Queen have scored 23 hit albums. Nine of which reached the top of the charts. While almost 50 Top 40 singles include the chart-toppers 'Under Pressure', 'Innuendo' and 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives'.
MEDLEY: There Are The Days Of Our Lives, Under Pressure, Innuendo, We Will Rock You, Killer Queen, You're My Best Friend, Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race, Don't Stop Me Now, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Save Me, Another One Bites The Dust, Flash, Radio GaGa, One Vision, A Kind Of Magic, Want It All, Invisible Man, and The Show Must Go On clips
NH: After the tragic loss of Freddie Mercury in 1991, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor committed themselves to raising money for numerous charities, most famously those supporting AIDS awareness. To this end, they staged a Concert For Life at Wembley Stadium, where they were joined by a host of stars including George Michael, David Bowie, U2, Elton John and Liza Minnelli. While it's certain Queen will not continue without Freddie, Brian May has continued the solo career he began back in 1983 with his Star Fleet project. Most notably with the 1992 album, Back To The Light, which yielded the hit singles 'Driven By You' and 'Too Much Love Will Kill You', and his most recent album, Another World. (Business clip) Without doubt, Queen were one of the most successful bands of all time. As writers and musicians, they've recorded multi-platinum records and received numerous awards; while as a live attraction they were second to none, clearly evidenced by their show-stealing appearance at Live Aid. As a guitarist, Brian May is an icon to aspiring musicians and with unmistakable sound, style and technique, Brian May is regarded as the most influencial guitarist of his generation.
Access All Areas, with Nicky Horne
NH: Well Brian, welcome. I have to say
BM: (clapping) That was really good, thank you Nicky.
NH: Well, thank you. Well actually Phil Ward-Large put all that together.
BM: Thanks, chaps.
NH: It's really good to see you again, I have to say.
BM: Thank you.
NH: You have a new album out, and next month you are, for the first time in five years, going to play some live dates here in the UK.
BM: That's right.
NH: Let's start with the new album. A lot to talk about tonight.
BM: Good man.
NH: Another World. Is the album title a bit of a statement from you?
BM: Um, the title is a title. Urm, yes it is a statement in many ways. You're going to ask me what statement it is, aren't you?
BM: (big intake of breath) Erm, well obviously
NH: Moving on?
BM: There is a kind of constant struggle to move on, yes, definitely, er, in every way, and I think that's the real challenge. I don't wake up in the morning and think, 'Whoopee, I was in Queen', y'know, or 'I'm famous' or whatever. I just think, 'What do I have to say today?', y'know, 'What is life about today?' and urm, that is what the album is still about. That's always what I was about, I suppose. I feel the same way as I did when I was, I dunno, 20 and starting off in Queen, y'know. There are things to say, things to do, and problems to solve.
NH: But in fact, when we talk a little later in the interview, clearly where you are now is influenced by where you have been and what you've experienced.
NH: The first thing that really struck me listening to this new album was that it's very different in styles. I mean some of it is very optimistic and some of it is bleaker in mood.
NH: Do you agree with that?
BM: Yeah, I think it covers the whole range, and I think it reflects life as I see it, y'know, like a painter does, y'know, you paint as you see. And also as your mind processes it, yeah, and I see it as a huge range - like an immense rollercoaster, I suppose. So I try to get every emotion on there, and share that as the thing goes along.
NH: But does this mirror your emotions as well? Sometimes very up and sometimes very down?
BM: Yes, definitely. Yeah.
NH: 'Cause in one interview, you said recently, it was an interview with the Daily Record, you said, "I'm a very chaotic person. There are times when I'm very up, and times when I find it very hard to do anything".
BM: To even get up, yes.
NH: To even get up?
BM: (chuckles) Yes. That's right. I do find it hard, um. I think the only thing you can do is experience it all to the full, y'know, there are times when you do feel really bleak and er, that's part of er, part of life, and then you find your way out and I suppose the joy that you get in finding a way out is the more because of that.
NH: OK, well listen, we're going to talk more about that aspect of your psyche a little later. But now I think we'll take a short break and then come back with our first call to you, and also a track from the new album, 'cause I want to play a couple of tracks from it. We'll play 'Business'. Remember if you'd like to talk to Brian May, we have a full board but if you'd like to try and get through, freecall 0500 106989, and we'll be back in a couple of minutes.
NH: My guest on this Sunday evening is Brian May. Steve of Derbyshire, good evening to you, you're on Talk Radio talking live to Brian May.
Steve: Good evening, Nicky. Good evening, Brian.
BM: Hello, Steve. How you doing?
Steve: I'm fine, thank you. Hey, what a pleasure for me to talk to you.
BM: Great, thank you, for me too.
Steve: I actually met Freddie, so this is probably the biggest pleasure since then.
BM: Oh, great.
Steve: Absolutely marvellous. I'd like to thank you really, for years of pleasure and entertainment.
BM: That's very kind, thank you.
Steve: I mean, I grew up with Queen, and you took me through so many ups and downs and whenever I had sort of low times, I always put Queen on, you know, and you pulled me up.
BM: Thank you. I think that's what we would hope for most of all. That's still one of the things that makes me want to make music. I'm glad you say that, thank you.
Steve: Yeah. I hopefully will be at the Apollo in Mancheste, to see you.
Steve: I look forward to that.
BM: Thank you.
Steve: Without taking too much of your time up, could you give us an idea of what Roger and John are doing these days?
BM: Yeah, they're both very busy in their way. I talk to Roger quite a lot. He's a workaholic, like me, and he's been working on an album which will be out at some point, I think the next couple of months or so. Er, I have no idea what's on it because we've been pretty separate as regards musical things recently, um, but we get on pretty well on a personal basis, which is nice. John, is really much more family oriented, and as far as I know hasn't been involved in very much to do with music, except the recent Wycliffe thing. I don't know if you know about that, but this guy did er, he's a rapper and he's done a new version of 'Another One Bites The Dust', which is all over American radio at the moment. I just came back from LA, urm, so John, John, they're both doing fine. Roger and John are both great, and we get on great, and um, that's it.
NH: Well, let's have a listen to a track now. By the way, Steve, thank you very much in deed for your call there. Let's listen to a track from Brian's new album, Another World. This is called 'Business'.
(nearly all of 'Business')
NH: I'm sorry I can't play all of that, but we've got so much to talk about. That was called 'Business'. Brian, did you start off this album with the idea that you would make a rock'n'roll covers album, kind of revisit your roots? Was that the original idea?
BM: Yeah, at some point. This album went through many different stages, and that was one of the concepts at one point, yeah, and it got me through a certain period. Um, I think, erm, I came off, erm, off tour, my own tour last time, um, which was really my sort of therapy after Freddie went. I went all the way around the world with the Brian May Band as it was then, and what we did was go straight back into the Queen area because we made the Made In Heaven album, and at the end of that - which was really two years of hard slog, and quite hard emotional business - um, I kinda didn't know who I was again. You know, I'd made this great step away from Queen on the first album and the first tour, and then here I was back with the Queen hat on thinking, 'What on, what the hell was all that about?' Um, so yes I plunged into doing, into revisiting the things which had made me tick in the very beginning. Like way before Queen, and started looking at all those things which I got excited about as a kid, like Buddy Holly and Little Richard and Elvis records, and all those guitarists who were on there, like Ricky Nelson records and stuff. Urm, and that was my little, that was kind of my project for that moment; and I thought, yes, the album will probably come out as a load of covers. (clears throat) But, um, there came a point where I realised that wasn't good enough, and it just wasn't *me* enough, and so I started looking. The other decision that I'd made was that I'd get out into the world and interact with people. (sniff) And, er, in interacting with like, film people and radio people, TV people, I got a lot of inspiration for my own original material. So there came a point, actually the crisis came when 'No One But You' became a Queen track. 'No One But You' I wrote for this album, and it was really about Freddie, and it was kind of the last hero of the album I suppose, and when that became a Queen track and we put it on Queen Rocks, I realised that I'd lost it for my album. And I thought, well the whole concept doesn't work anyway, and it's probably good thing. So I just focused on the original material and went from there.
NH: Well let's talk about your roots. I mean, you were talking about it there, focusing on your roots. You are an only child. At 11, you won a scholarship to Hampton Grammar School, bright kid, very academic. You got your first guitar when you were seven - was it love at first sight?
BM: Oh yes. Definitely. It was much bigger than I was at the time. (chuckles) Great guitar, I remember getting it and waking up in bed and there it was, this monstrous thing I could hardly get my fingers round. Yes, it was. I loved the thing. I loved the feel and the smell of it. I can still
NH: Smell it.
BM: I still have that in my mind. The sort of new varnish smell of this guitar when it turned up.
NH: And then your father famously made you a guitar which it took two years to build. You eventually went to Imperial College, you got a BSc Honours degree in physics and maths. But you'd kind of already flirted a bit with bands, and you quit university while doing your doctorate to pursue music.
BM: That's right.
NH: The question I'd like to ask about this is did you, at that time, agonise over that decision?
BM: Not as much as I agonise these days, I don't think. I was, I was kinda fatalistic about it, and I just pursued all the courses as far as I could. I was doing three things at once, at that point, which you could call the crisis point. I was full pelt doing my, er, PhD, trying to write it up; I was full pelt teaching at a comprehensive school in Brixton; and I was full pelt rehearsing Queen, and it's OK when you're 21 years old or whatever, you can do that, you know. Erm, (chuckles) wouldn't like to do it now.
NH: Been there, done that.
BM: Yeah, exactly. And then, there just came the point where it got too much or whatever, you know, and erm, and I thought if I don't take this opportunity now to, er, to go with the band then I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life. And it was as simple as that. I don't remember any agony, no, I just went for it.
NH: Your parents, what did they think?
BM: There was a bit of agony there, yeah. They weren't too pleased. But they weren't too pleased anyway, you know. They thought that I was throwing my life away, urm, a by living with my girlfriend who became my wife later on, and by er, um, throwing away all this sequence of academic education apparently, to become what they thought was a pop star.
NH: So there must have been some big arguments?
BM: Yeah, it was a difficult period with my Dad and everything, which I regret. We could have communicated a lot better at that time, I'm sure. But, um, I went for it, I had to. I mean, there really wasn't any choice. I just had it in the blood and had to do it.
NH: You knew that you had to do it?
NH: Course the path of a rock'n'roll band from obscurity to success is never really a smooth one, you became involved with Norman and Barry Sheffield, who owned Trident Studios. You smile, because they were known affectionately as the Piranha Brothers in the business.
NH: They were a bit, kind of East End Arthur Daly-type, I mean they did have this reputation in the business as being kind of Arthur Daly-type figures, wheeler dealers.
BM: Hmm. I'm letting you do the talking.
NH: No, it's OK.
NH: Well, now I'm going to ask you a question about that. Coming from your middle class background, doing a PhD and all that sort of stuff and quitting university, um, with all the angst that went with it with your parents, and you get involved with these kind of East End-types...
NH: ...who we both know.
NH: Um, did you feel comfortable with that relationship?
BM: (big deep breath) Er, it wasn't a comfortable relationship, it has to be said. It, it was blows every day, really, in some way or another. Er, no we were very frustrated. Looking back on it, I guess, I can be forgiving, you know, um, (sniffs) they had their point of view. Their point of view was that they had to make some money out of us quick, and I think they didn't understand that it takes years of investment before you can make money back.
BM: It's probably not their fault. Um, but it was a difficult relationship. We were very frustrated, we felt that we didn't get any artistic control. We were in a situation, also, where the business side was completely tied up by one person wearing a number of hats. You know, when your manager and your record company and your publisher or whatever are one person you don't have a leg to stand on, you know, you, you are, you don't have any representation in a sense. (Deep intake of breath) So I feel sorry for anyone who's in that situation at the moment. It happens to a lot of people; and we had to fight our way out, and... eventually what it amounted to was that we had to buy our way out, because we hadn't been well enough advised when the contracts were made so we virtually gave away the first three albums to get out of that deal.
NH: What I'm kind of getting at, really, is that you came from this middle- class background, an academic background and all that and yet suddenly you get involved in the kind of, um, a sort of underbelly of, er, music very quickly.
BM: Yeah (heavily).
NH: I just wondered how that sort of affected you.
BM: I know what you mean, yeah. Well, maybe not as much as you think, because really the primary relationship was within the group, you know. The people I spent the time with was Freddie, and John and Roger, and we very much had a sort of common cause and a sort of shared passion; and that's where most of the time was spent. There was only odd moments where you would be sort of looking at this management situation and the world outside. We had so much incredible belief amongst the four of us that I think it cushioned us from, from all that in a sense.
NH: Mmm. Then, of course, came the big break, 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. A record unlike any other heard before.
NH: And also a video. Which is now acknowledged as the first ever pop video, um, directed by a guy called Bruce Gowers.
NH: Was that, I've always wanted to ask you this, and I've never asked you this question. Was that an inspired piece of marketing, or was it just a brilliant stroke of unbelievable good fortune? Someone sort of stumbled onto the video idea?
BM: Well it came about because we felt uncomfortable going and miming on 'Top Of The Pops', that's really the root of it. Um, and particularly with this record we thought, 'We're gonna look really stupid if we just stand there and pretend to play it', because it was, it's like a painting on, on tape. It's not something which is a live performance. So it was our idea to make the video, so that we wouldn't have to go on there, really. That was, that was really the thought because I think 'Top Of The Pops' were just beginning to, er (deep intake of breath) to play clips, you know. So actually it was made very quickly and very cheaply, but the ideas were there, you know. We had all these little sections in our mind, um, sort of bringing the Queen II cover to life for the beginning, and then the live section at the beginning. It was all easy to do. We were gearing up for a tour, so the live thing was easy to do - set it all up, set a few smoke bombs off, you know.
Nicky Horne and Brian both chuckle.
BM: And I remember looking at the rough cut in a hotel room on tour, and we just laughed and thought, 'Yeah, it's kitchen sink. Everything's in there, it's just what we want. It's a laugh', and that's it. It wasn't something that we took very seriously as a piece of art, to be honest.
NH: But in fact, when you listen to the record now, in fact we're about to listen to a short snatch of it...
NH: I always get in my mind the images from the video. That's what I see.
BM: Mmm. Yeah.
NH: Let's have a listen to it, just a short - very short - snatch.
BM: Yeah, that's enough!
NH: That's it!
(They hadn't played any yet!!!!)
NH: 'BoRhap' / Brian chuckling quietly!
'BoRhap' plays, but only the first verse up to "Mama..."
NH: Just gone 6.25 on this Sunday evening from Talk Radio. My guest live in the studio is Brian May. Gavin, from Cardiff, good evening to you. You're on the line with Brian May.
BM: Hi, Gavin.
Gavin: Hi, Brian. Could I ask a question?
Gavin: Er, how did you improve your voice on the latest album, Another World?
BM: Ah, you think it improved?
Gavin: Yeah, from Back To The Light. Yeah, definitely.
BM: Ah, thank you, yeah. I spent a lot of time, and I sang and sang and sang; and I think I probably spent twenty times more time actually doing the vocals than I did on the guitars on this album. Yeah, I was just very passionate about getting it right. Um, and I suppose being in the studio, I have my own studio now, so you have the luxury of being able to do it a number of times, then go and listen and get very critical; and day after day you can keep doing it until you think you're making progress. So I sang until I bled sometimes. I was just determined. I mean, very much like Freddie; Freddie didn't find it that easy to sing in the beginning, and he worked on himself, so that's what I'm doing really.
NH: But you obviously have a huge confidence when it comes to strapping on your famous git-ar.
NH: But you do have, you clearly don't have the same confidence in your vocal abilities?
BM: I'm working on it. And I'm glad, you know most people have said, that the voice sounds really strong on this album and that really was my priority. Because, to be truthful, even with Queen, you know, I had the same feelings about what I do now. Number one is the song, if you don't have a decent song - forget it. You know, number two is the singer, because if you don't have a decent singer to put across the song - again, forget it. You know you can play the greatest guitar solo in the world and it doesn't mean a thing. And, er, after those two things you get into the production and the guitar and everything, but I was determined that the voice would be something that would get across the necessary feeling and passion and whatever. So, yeah, thank you for saying that, Gavin.
NH: Well Gavin, thank you for much in deed for your call. Brian May is with us, and we'll be back on Access All Areas here on the main interview in a couple of minutes.
(trailers and adverts)
NH: It's exactly half-past six, and Brian May is with us. Brian, I'd like to go back soon and talk again about the new album, Another World, but to put it into context I'd like to talk a little bit more about your past. Because, clearly...
BM: Oh, OK.
NH: It has a huge bearing.
BM: (chuckles) Alright.
NH: Freddie's illness, and his death obviously had a profound effect on you. And on your work. Um, when did you realise that there was something wrong with Fred?
BM: (Takes a deep breath) Pretty early on, I think; '86 was the last tour we ever did and we finished up with those concerts at Wembley Stadium and Knebworth, and at that point Freddie said, "I can't do this anymore" and that was very unlike Freddie really. So I think that we had a little inkling then. I'm sure he knew all about it by that well, you know, and probably before that. Probably when we were in, um, (sniff) the beginning of that tour, and maybe before that. Um, but it wasn't talked about in the open for a long time, you know, Freddie that was his choice and we didn't want to bring it up if he didn't and it was, I think er, a couple of years later or whatever you know, he finally said, "Look, you probably realise what my problem is"; and at that point we didn't dare, you know, you just didn't want to think about it. It was too awful to contemplate, you know. But there were some signs by then, and he said, "I don't want to talk about this. This is, we're having this conversation now. I don't want it to become what life is about, I don't want to sell records out of sympathy. Let's just get on as if things are normal, and that's what I want to do until I drop".
NH: One of the things that I've always found difficult to figure out is that it was very well known in the business that Freddie was very ill, and yet the band and management always denied it. In fact, not only denied it, but just actually kept shtum about it.
NH: So it created a kind of air of mystery about it. Which then kind of fed on itself.
NH: Um, rather like Pink Floyd refusing to do interviews years ago, this sort of aura of mystery surrounds them. Why not tell the truth? When people like Kenny Everett had talked about it quite openly about, you know, his illness? Why...
BM: Well to be truthful...
NH: Was that decision taken to keep quiet or to deny it?
BM: Er, it was entirely Freddie's decision. Um, you know it was his thing. He's the guy who's suffering.
NH: Sure. (clears throat)
BM: And his point of view was that if he starts talking about it, it becomes what life is about, you know, and towards the end where it was known, his life was a total misery. He had people with telephoto lenses pointing through the toilet windows and stuff, and no, he couldn't get in, he couldn't get out. We couldn't get to see him without sort of running this gauntlet of the press, and it would have been like that for the whole time if he'd, if he'd come out with it at that point. Yes, it was entirely his decision, but I think the right decision. He wanted life to be normal. He wanted to create. He loved making music, and in the studio we had this lovely kind of, um, towards the end I think we got closer and closer because there was this kind of bond; and we refused to tell anyone what was going on. No, there wasn't any feeling of trying to create a mystery; I'm surprised you say that really. Um, it was just necessary to get...
NH: No, I'm not saying it was done deliberately.
NH: But I'm saying just by keeping quiet, an air of mystery sort of surrounded it.
BM: Yeah? (wearily)
NH: Which is, I'm sure, wasn't your intention.
BM: Well. No, I think it's better than that the whole media thing being unleashed. You know, the papers would have been on it the *whole* time, every day. (said with a sigh in his voice)
NH: Can I talk a little bit about your feelings about that? Um, because you then had to make the album Made In Heaven, you made the album Made In Heaven, and knowing this
NH: This huge bond and friendship between you and Freddie
NH: I don't think anyone can really imagine what it must have been like putting that album together?
BM: Mmm. Very strange thing, yeah. It was there in the background, the whole time, and I think Freddie didn't really want to talk about it in his lyrics but he was happy that we did, in a kind of veiled way. Er, and we were all aware of what we were facing, I suppose, but he was the one actually with it inside him, you know, and going through the pain. You know, a lot of psychological pain, and huge amount of physical pain, um, it's the most awful way to die in the world, it seems to me. And we were totally helpless. All we could do was try and share his journey that he was making and, and I think particularly Roger and I tried to put it into words in various ways, and into the music. It was an odd sensation, because obviously you don't want to be completely overt about it, you want to talk about it in general terms, otherwise it begs the question again.
NH: Mmm, mmm.
BM: So, yes, Innuendo has, is all concerned with life and death and a view of it, um.
NH: I wonder what it was like for you, going home after a hard day in the studio, putting this together, knowing that, you know, the situation with Freddie. Your feelings. I'm just trying to get what it was like for you. It must have been...
BM: I don't think I'm even able to tell you, to be truthful. I don't think (intake of breath) it's possible to sort of detail it in a few minutes, um, you go through a lot of different stages. In the beginning, you're still in disbelief, you think it's some kind of game inside you, I think. You think, no this can't be real, you know.
BM: And then you're sort of dealing with death, before it's sort of happened; and, er, you get angry, you get sad, and it was a strange feeling not even being able to tell our nearest and dearest. Like I didn't tell my parents, I didn't tell my kids, um, it was totally utterly private between the four of us. (sniffs) And, er, strange feeling. Um...
NH: A huge burden for you?
BM: Yeah. It had it's great sides as well, I mean, there was great joy there, strangely enough because of what the studio gave us. It had always been a safe place for us. Yes, we argued and tore each other to bits, (chuckles) but, the world was kept out and that was very precious to Freddie through all that time, I think. He loved it, he had a ball, you know. You can hear things like, 'Was It All Worth It' and 'Winter's Tale' and stuff, he's just really flowing out; and, um, in some ways it was a joy to be part of that. Very pure.
NH: I mean, Freddie was such a huge presence, both in life and in death. It must have been quite difficult, I would have thought, for you to move on. I mean in the sense that Freddie was a bit like Banquo's ghost, in a sense.
BM: (chuckles in the sense that he seems to agree with the analogy)
NH: Is that the way of an accurate description?
BM: (sighs) Mmm. I think I feel more like it brings you to come to terms with death as a concept, and in your own life. We're all gonna die, Nicky. It's not like maybe we're gonna die, you know. That's what you think when you're a kid, oh maybe that won't happen to me. You and I, and you know we all know that it's gonna happen, so you start thinking about 'What does it mean?', 'What do I have to achieve before I die?' Freddie's dealing with it right now, in a very positive way. I just hope to God I deal with it as well, when I know when it's gonna come.
NH: OK, one more question on this, and then we'll move on. Because after Freddie's death you became, in your own words, a workaholic, you guested on loads of different albums. One got the impression that it was like the scattergun approach, you know, I'll just do anything, almost like a kind of therapy.
BM: Also, it was a great joy to me, because Queen - wonderful though it was for us, you know, a great vehicle, a great way of going round the world in style and doing everything big, you know. But, it was a very constrictive kind of thing, you know, we weren't able to go out and do anything else. It was completely enveloping. Er, so suddenly Queen isn't there anymore, and I think well the positive thing about this is that I can go out and do all kinds of stuff; and I just deliberately, I just launched into it and had, I had a ball. I had a great time doing it.
NH: 'Cause as I say, one got the impression that it was a kind of scattergun approach. But then, and it was all very diverse, but then of course you started to focus, and we're coming back to your album now. You started to focus on doing this one project.
NH: Was there a sort of defining moment, when you actually thought, right, I've now got myself into a position where I can actually work on my own stuff?
NH: Rather than guesting for other people. Was there something that happened?
BM: Strangely enough, I think it was an experience which, erm, well the Sliding Doors experience kind of focused it for me. I was searching for various things, and I'd done lots of tracks for other people, like computer games, films, I dunno, TVs or whatever, erm, and then this guy who wrote Sliding Doors, who's an old friend of mine, came and said, "Brian, would you write a song for this film?" Gave me the script, I got very inspired and wrote it, and the song was called 'Another World'. Um, I just wrote it kind of overnight and gave it to him, and he was thrilled, he was jumping up and down and said, "This is what we need for the film. This is perfect". Um, to cut a long story short, I never heard from him (laughs) for the next six months. And it didn't go in the film.
NH: That's rock'n'roll.
BM: Typical films, as well, really; because the film got kind of taken over by a music company, and they wanted their own people on it. So my song didn't get used. But - I had my song, and that was a real catalyst for me. I suddenly realised, as often you write a song for something else, but you're writing yourself. You're writing what you feel about life, you know. And I thought well this whole album really has been leading to this place. You know, I sort of put it into words already in the song 'Another World'; and then I thought, well it's time to shut the door and from this point I just make my album. And that was about a year-and-a-half ago, I suppose, and, er, yeah, just focused on my own stuff.
NH: Well, I'm gonna play another track from the album. I'd like to play 'Why Don't We Try Again'.
NH: I'd like to play that in a couple of minutes. We'll be back with that, and also another call to Brian May in a couple of minutes here on Talk Radio.
BM: Very good.
NH: Brian in Lincolnshire is on the phone now. Hello, Brian.
Brian: Good afternoon. Good afternoon, Brian.
BM: Hi Brian.
NH: Hello Brian.
BM: Hello Brian.
Brian: I'm a big fan, and a very nervous fan, I'm afraid to say.
BM: I'm nervous too, don't worry about it.
NH: Don't worry.
Brian: Well before I ask my question, can I just ask you to say hello to Sherrie, who is even a bigger fan.
BM: Hello there, Sherrie. How's it going?
Brian: Ha hah (nervously).
NH: Do you have a question, Brian?
Brian: I do. Um, we were all very sad to hear of the death of Cozy Powell earlier this year, and I hope it's not too insensitive but who's going to be replacing him on the drums? I know he's pretty well irreplaceable, but on your tour future coming.
BM: Yeah, yeah I think the idea is that we can't replace him. But, um, and I actually did some gigs with, um, a percussionist who, erm, kind of avoid the question. But, er, eventually I had to bite the bullet because we actually had the dates booked. I was gonna do 'em with Cozy, as you know, um, it was a horrible piece of news. I, none of us have ever really got over it, er, Cozy was very much about life and just - bang, he's gone one day. Urm, he will be very sorely missed. There was a point where I didn't think I did want to tour without him, but yes, we're gonna, you know, we're gonna honour the commitments, we go out on tour and I think life has to go on. I found this guy called Eric Singer and, I just was lucky enough to see him actually with his last gig with Alice Cooper in LA last week. The guy is phenomenal. And, it's not Cozy, you know, it's not a question of replacing him really. It's something different. The show will be different because of him, and this is the way we move on, I guess. But he's a phenomenon, he's a great drummer and I think he will, he will kick us in the pants and we will change! (chuckles)
NH: Brian, are you going to go see the show?
Brian: We are. My wife and me are off to see you later on this year, and we shall look forward very much indeed to see you, Brian, the rest of the band and your new drummer.
BM: Thank you.
NH: Brian, thank you very much indeed for your call.
NH: As promised, let's hear a snatch now of another track from Another World...
BM: This is the new single.
NH: 'Why Don't We Try Again' - the new single.
(brief, just past the second verse, from 'WDWTA')
NH: That's the brand new single from Brian May's new album Another World, that's 'Why Don't We Try Again'. It's coming up to a quarter-to-seven. Andy, in Leicestershire, good evening to you. You're on Talk Radio with Brian May.
Andy: Thanks, Nicky. Hello Brian.
BM: Hello Andy.
Andy: How's it going?
BM: Very well, thank you.
Andy: Before we get on to a question, can I just say what a fantastic album Another World is.
BM: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Andy: Especially the title track.
BM: Fantastic, thank you.
Andy: Um, you recently mentioned that your musical aspiration is to write a song as good as 'Jealous Guy' by John Lennon.
BM: (chuckles) Yes, that's right.
Andy: Have you any plans to record this track, or play it on the forthcoming tour?
BM: Oooh, I never thought of that! That's a new thought to me. No. (laughs)
Andy: 'Cause I hear you're looking for tracks to play on the tour.
BM: Well, there is an awful lot of stuff. I have more than enough really, er, to be honest. 'Cause I know a lot of people want to hear at least some of the Queen stuff, and you have to do that, you know, and that's part of me. You know, and there's a lot of stuff from the first album, my first album and I, er, also want to perform a lot of the new album obviously, 'cause it's very much in my mind. So there's too much rather than not enough, I suppose.
Andy: (laughs) Make the show longer!
BM: Well, we can try! Let's see how long I can stay on my feet.
NH: How do you actually go about choosing, you know, what to play from *the past*? I mean, there's such a rich catalogue, and of course, you want to play the stuff from the new album.
BM: That's right. Yeah.
NH: It's an embarrassment of riches really, isn't it?
BM: Yeah, um, well we've talked about it for quite a long time; and, er, I have a plan. (laughs)
NH: You have a plan?
BM: Yes, a part of it is it's nice to do old stuff in a new way. That's one of the important things, you know, because everything is alive, you know. This is not a museum piece going on tour, this is a person who's alive and breathing and wanting to find new ground.
BM: For instance, we've been doing 'Hammer To Fall' in a very different way to what it used to be. It assumes, it has a new meaning. It sort of brings the meaning back to you; and I'm always very concerned with the lyrical side, you know. After a while, you hear a song and you don't hear what it's about any more. But if you change things around, and do it in a very direct way, as you feel it at the time, then I think the song can have a new life. So I've been choosing songs that I can do that with.
NH: I was doing a lot of research, I mean, these interviews take a bit of research where we go through stuff on the internet, we go through old magazine articles and I sit there in my study and just...
BM: You work *so* hard, Mr Horne.
NH: No, it's great, 'cause I love finding out more information. One of the things I was reading was Hello! magazine.
BM: Good Lord!
NH: Now you said in a recent interview with Hello! magazine, you said
BM: (interrupting) It was probably OK!, wasn't it?
NH: It was OK! Well it was one of those!
NH: They're the same thing, you know. It was one of those, anyway. With lots of glossy pictures.
NH: It said, this is your quote, "I don't think I'm an easy person to live with. I'm impossible to deal with. I've known that for a long time."
NH: What do you mean by that?
BM: Just what it says. I'm not easy, I know that. Um, I think that in my sort of quiet way I'm impossibly immovable. Erm, I suppose it's because I get ideas in my head and they are so strong, I just wanna fulfill them. So I'm conscious of being manipulative sometimes, and I try and work my way out of that. I try to be open to people's ideas, because you don't get the best out of people unless you do allow them to blossom. So, er, it's something I'm aware of, yeah.
BM: Well, you know, yeah I can get people to do what I want. (chuckles) But, um, for instance in the band, you know, it's easy to get someone in the studio and say 'Look, play this this and this' because I know what I want in my head, you know. I can hear the song in my head. But the trick is to say 'Look, I have this idea but play me how you feel it', you know, and be open to things like if Neil comes in and he says, 'I actually think I should do this on the bass part', I'll go 'OK, let's try it'. If you don't try it at that point, you've lost the guy's input and you're using him as a robot, you know. What you need is to get the best out of people in a personal way, and that's true in every situation in life, I think. You have to be open to people's input, so I try to make myself that way. Instinctively, like I say, I'm a bully. (laughs)
NH: You are, I wouldn't have thought that of you.
BM: Nah, 'cause I come across as a nice guy, don't I, you know. (chuckles)
NH: But you can be a bully?
BM: I think I get very impassioned about things, and I can't see the other person's point of view very often, yeah. I get over impassioned. In some ways it's good, because it's, it's, you know, I follow strong lines. But I want to let people in.
NH: Do you kind of beat yourself up if you don't reach unbelievably high standards?
BM: Yes, I think so. The same is true of what I do now, as always, yeah. Um, I think it comes from my Dad, you know. My Dad said quite simply, if a thing is worth doing it's worth doing well, or doing great, you know. And, er, that's really my philosophy. If you can't do something better than it's ever been done before, why bother? Um.
NH: Yes, but what I'm getting at is, I mean, you obviously have those high standards, but if you don't achieve the kind of level of success in that particular project the way that you see it should be...
NH: Do you then beat yourself up?
BM: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Yeah, and get exceedingly unhappy and depressed. (chuckles) But I suppose that gives you the energy to fight the next battle and make it damn good.
NH: You have said in previous interviews, that you have fought with depression. That you've had some depressive times, and then you've qualified that by saying that it sounds a bit like rock'n'roller like me, I'm very wealthy, I'm very successful, you know, why should I be depressed?
NH: But you have...
BM: Nicky Horne. Do you mean me or you?
NH: No, you.
BM: Me? Oh, right, sorry. (chuckles)
NH: Was I talking about me? I was actually talking about you. You've said you've had your battles with depression.
BM: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Um, well, life can be difficult. And, er, it doesn't matter how much money you've got in the bank or if you were successful yesterday if your Mum dies, or if you're dealing with the loss of a friend or something, none of that is any help. If you're looking for what the hell all this is about, um, again, it doesn't help, yeah. I have had some very hard times. I think truthfully the hardest times are when you don't know where you're going. If you're going some place and it's tough, you get on with it, day after day. At least you know perhaps you made an inch of progress every day; if you don't know where you're going, that's when it's really shit. That is when you get up every morning and think, 'Ah, I didn't get any further because I didn't know which way to go. I didn't know which way to put a foot'.
NH: How does Anita cope with those kind of moods?
BM: That's a good question! She copes with it pretty well. I mean she's an artist, too, and she has her own ups and downs and er, that artists are not easy people to get on with. We all know that. I'm not easy. She's not easy. And, er, that's what, that's the cards you're dealt.
NH: It's OK when you're both up, or one of you's up and the other one's down, but when you're both down, I mean, that can be really quite difficult, I would have thought.
BM: You know what, I think the hardest thing in relationships is when one is up, and the other one is down. I have a friend in America, I was just talking to her about that, and she is very successful, operates on a very high level in the record business and her partner is a struggling musician. He finds it incredibly hard, 'cause no matter how successful he gets in his own world, he measures himself against her - and she's very up, very industrious and *very* successful. So I think that can make problems. If, you know, and there's a see-saw effect. If someone's up, then the other person thinks, 'Mmm, it's alright for you, you know'. (deep breath)
NH: My guest is Brian May on this Sunday evening, here on Talk Radio. I've never, I have to say, I've never seen the phone board so busy.
BM: Great! We love it!
NH: Pete, in Luton, good evening to you, you're on Talk Radio with Brian May.
Pete: Hello, Brian.
BM: Hi, Pete.
Pete: It's a great honour to talk to you.
BM: Thank you.
Pete: I've been a Queen fan since you started.
Pete: Er, it's just two questions. First, the last album you bought out, Queen Rocks, the last track, 'Only The Few'
BM: 'No One But You', yeah
Pete: 'No One But You', sorry. Was that written about Freddie Mercury?
BM: Yes, it was. It was, absolutely, as the centre of it, yes. It's about a few other things, as well, as songs often are. But yes, it was written very much about Freddie, and I wanted to keep it that way. Um, you always make a few compromises once you give it to Queen, that was always my experience, so the original was slightly different; um, but it became a Queen track, and I was thrilled with the performance that Roger and John put on it. Um, and I was actually very pleased with the track, to be honest.
NH: Yeah, it was. It turned out, for my money, to be an astonishing track. Matthew in Huddersfield, good evening to you, you're on Talk Radio with Brian May.
Matthew: Good evening, Nicky.
Matthew: Hello Brian.
BM: Hi Matthew.
Matthew: This is indeed an honour.
BM: Thank you.
Matthew: Well I have got something to show off to my mates now.
(laughter from all)
Matthew: A couple of questions, though. The first one
NH: Just one, actually.
NH: Do you mind just one? 'Cause we're terribly tight for time.
BM: He's such a strict man.
NH: So hard.
Matthew: You said in one of your interviews that you use your guitar to hide behind, um, but when you're on stage with Queen and you were doing your solos, you looked in your element.
Matthew: What were your favourite solos that you did in all your guitar work?
BM: Um, I like the 'Killer Queen' solo, 'cause it had a good balance of spontaniety with structure, I suppose.
Matthew: I think that's a favourite with guitarists as well.
BM: Yeah, I'm quite proud of that one. Um, some of the stuff, a lot of the stuff on Freddie's I like the best. Er, in general, I think I had a freedom with working with his work and an inspiration, so...
Matthew: What, the songs he wrote?
BM: Yeah, so like the 'Rhapsody' solo and a lot of that stuff. I think with my own songs I tended to be a little bit more worried, and try a bit harder. Sometimes if you're not trying, you do better, you know.
BM: No, that's not quite right, not trying. But you're free, with other people's songs you feel free to stick in another element.
NH: Matthew, I will let you ask another quick question.
Matthew: Thank you. You said on the Back To The Light album you're scared of Stephen Berkoff...
BM: Oh, everybody's scared of Stephen Berkoff - because he's a dangerous man.
Matthew: You think so!
BM: (with a chuckle) He's dangerously creative, as well, you know. It's kind of a joke in some ways, but, er, the song was truthful, you know. I *do* get scared of things, and you have to deal with your fear, and that's why.
Matthew: The lyrics are actually posted on my wall!
BM: Brilliant! Really? (chuckling)
Matthew: They do actually reflect me in many ways, you know.
NH: Matthew, thank you. I'm sorry to have to cut you short there, but I want to take one more call because we're running rapidly up to the news, and there's a couple more questions that I'd like to throw in. Elaine in Middlesborough, good evening to you, you're on Talk Radio with Brian May.
Elaine: Good evening, Brian.
BM: Hello, Elaine.
Elaine: Um, I've been a fan for many, many years now, and I go to the conventions.
BM: Oh, yeah.
Elaine: I was just wondering if you were ever likely to put in an appearance, like Spike and Jamie and everybody?
BM: Well, I did appear at one of the, er, it was a Christmas thing, wasn't it? I did do, er, a little cameo
Elaine: I went to those as well.
BM: (chuckles) Oh yeah?
Elaine: (laughing) Yeah.
BM: Yeah, it's possible. Yeah, anything's possible! Yep.
Elaine: Well we'd love to see you there one year!
BM: Yeah, sounds good. It sounds dangerous for me! (laughing)
Elaine: Oh, I don't know, we're very well behaved!
BM: I know you are!
BM: You're great people, and thank you.
NH: Elaine, thank you very much in deed for your call. I gather that your son and daughter, er, Jim and Louisa, are going into music. Is that correct?
BM: Well, (clears throat)...
NH: How do you, as a Dad, feel about that?
BM: Well, number one, I don't like to talk about them too much, because they have their own lives and if I talk about them in public, it interferes with their private lives. Mmm, but in general, er, it's very hard for people who have a famous father. It's much harder than I realise, you know, and they have really tough time with it, it many ways. They kinda don't know who their friends are, why people are friends with them etc.
BM: They have certain things to deal with, and they have preconceptions from people, you know. Some people hate them from the beginning, some people love them from the beginning, and none of it's real. It's like all the unreality that I *have* to deal with, you know, is thrust upon 'em. (intake of breath)
NH: But how do you feel about them going into music?
BM: Mmm, I just want 'em to be happy. If they want to go into music, then wonderful, but I've never pushed it in any way, er, with any of 'em. No, and they have their own paths to follow. Yeah, of course there is a part of me which is thrilled if they want to share my world, um, but, er, as I say, it's nothing I would push. It's *not* an easy life. It's not an easy business to be in. There's a huge failure rate; and there's a huge amount of stress involved, perhaps more than anything else, you know, in a profession that I can think of. Apart from bungee-jumping!
NH: But at least you know, you've been through it, you know, the hard way. You paid your dues, and I'm sure that you can sort of point them in the right direction and hope that they don't make some of the mistakes that you made.
BM: Yeah, you can't live their lives for them, you know. You can't, I think you learn this early on as a parent, you cannot cushion your kids. You can't, erm, you can't save them from having to fall down and find out that it hurts, you know. Life has to be lived impericably, I think, you know. (deep breath) Er, I wish I could, but I long ago realised that I can't. You have to, you have to have the courage to say I am now letting go.
NH: Listen, time has, er, beaten us. Thank you very much, Brian...
BM: Thank you, Nicky.
NH: ...for coming in; and I wish you the best of luck with the new CD, Another World, and I, of course, wish you the best of luck with the short UK tour. It's been great to see you.
BM: Thank you. I'll see you out there folks! And I'll see you, Nicky!
NH: I look forward to it.
NH: Brian May, thank you very much in deed for joining us here on Talk Radio.