Interviews: Freddie Mercury: The Bigger The Better '85
Interview with Freddie from 1985
Many of the quotes that we all know so well originated in this interview - many thanks to Daniela Speranza for transcribing.
Freddie: I seem to write songs that I don't think about them at the time but they seem to sort of catch up on me if you know what I mean. So I guess without knowing it it's just sort of psychological. I think they just seem to be why... I think most people just write songs which are inside them. You know I'm not one of those that sort of practices the trends and say "OK, this is trendy today, let's write a song about that". In the end I think what actually comes out in me, and sometimes I don't even know I'm actually doing it and they sort of catch up on me afterwards. Most of the songs I write are all love ballads and things to do with sadness and torture and pain : at the same time it's frivolous and tongue in cheek. That's basically my whole nature, I guess.
Interviewer : What is your attitude to life ?
Freddie: I don't know. Actually I think in this point in time I think I'm just having a good time, to be honest. Before I was very serious and you know I sort of was caught up being successful and being a star and all that and I thought this is the way a star behaves of whatever. Now, I don't give a damn. I just want to do things my way, I want to have fun doing it. To me, I think if I sort of approach everything I do in that way I think it all comes out in the songs and the things I do. So basically I think I've learned to sort of calm down. I'm not as paranoid as I was before and I just hope I've been able to control a lot of things and I'm not afraid to speak out and say the things that I want to do, or do the things I want to do. So I think in the end being natural and being actually genuine is what wins, and I hope that comes out in my songs. I'm not worried about making mistakes I think I'm too old for that.
Interviewer : No, after making 80 million hit records...
Freddie: Have I, dear ?
Interviewer : Yes.
Freddie: Oh, OK.
Interviewer : You've had 80 million sold around the world with Queen. What makes you want to do something like this which is a very big risk for you, isn't it ? To stick your neck out there and stand up alone without other musicians ?
Freddie: That's the way I like to live. Yes, firstly if I didn't do this I don't have anything to do. You know, I can't cook, I'm not very good at being a housewife, it's just in my blood. I seem to have been doing this for so long that it's so in my blood, I don't know what else to do. I'd be very vulnerable and I wouldn't know what to do, so I think I just have to keep doing it. It's not having to keep doing it, of course. I've made a lot of money. I could live beautifully and wonderfully for the rest of my life but, the way I live is I have to be doing something every day. I want to earn my keep and I want to be doing something. I have a nervous energy that needs to be doing something. I can't relax in bed all day and just do nothing. I think it's a waste of time. I hardly read books. I think that is a waste of time. People are going to kill me for this. But it's just a nervous energy that I have and I just basically write music and I want to keep doing that, I have a lot of songs and I enjoy doing them, see, it's come to a stage where before I felt it was my work, it's still my work, now. I just feel it's something I enjoy doing, you know, it's very interesting. There are lots of challenges ahead and like you said earlier on, this is another step for me and a new challenge and I'm, you know, going to receive it with open arms.
Interviewer : You suddenly hit some high notes on this Album, which some of them are pretty astounding.
Freddie: I know, I used the Demis Roussos' method : you get a pair of pliers under the frock and go 'crack'.
Interviewer : You haven't had any operatic training then ?
Freddie: No, not really. I just listened to Montserrat Caballe a lot, you know. No, no not at all. I just have a range depending on what mood I'm in just goes up and down and I think with this Album I've had a little bit more freedom, because I've had more songs. So I've had, you know, a bit of scope to actually try some of my sort crazy ideas. Let's see.
Interviewer : Now you mentioned earlier Michael Jackson, working with him. That was the song 'There must be more to life than this', wasn't it ? What were you trying to say in that one, because it's a very moving song ?
Freddie: Basically it's just a song about people, basically people who are lonely and people... It's basically another love song but it's hard to call it that because it doesn't... It encompasses... It's very generically, you know, and it's all to do with the fighting and basically it's a love and peace song. But I really don't like to write message songs but this the way this one just came out and it's very generically. It's all to do with why do people get themselves with so many problems. It's basically that, but I don't want to dwell on that too much. It's just one of those songs that I had for a while... nearly two years ago and Michael happened to hear it and he liked it and if it worked out we would have done it together, but now it's 85, it's my solo project and I wanted it on there so I did it without his help. He's going to cry.
Interviewer : You mentioned you don't write songs basically giving a message, I think a lot of the fans go to the concerts and events you've done around the world have adopted a number of these songs and they probably read a lot more into them than you ever imagined.
Freddie: I guess, because I mean basically I think if you sort of put them all into one bag I think my songs are all under the label emotion, you know. It's emotion and feeling. So I mean I write songs that a lot of people have written before. It's all to do with love and emotion. I'm just a true romantic and I think everybody's written songs in that field. I just write it in my own way so that they are different... It's a different texture or whatever. So basically I'm not sort of writing anything new but I think I'm writing a lot of things that everyday people go through. So I mean, you know, even though a lot of people have fallen in love and a lot of people have fallen out of love, people are still doing it, so I'm still writing songs about that. In different atmospheres , because I feel I've gone through all those and so basically I'm actually encompassing, I'm actually gathering that research, which is my own and putting them into songs. I can't help it, it's just automatic, I'd love to write songs about something totally different, but they all seem to end up in a very emotional and tragic way. I don't know why but still there's an element of humor in the end, you know. So that's basically what my songs are all about. I'm not sitting here, trying to say that 'look, I've written a song that nobody else has written, you know, though about or written about', but I do it in my own way, you know, and that's the way it is because I think love and the lack of love is always going to go on and there are so many different ways that people fall in love and the way that people fall out of love and I think most of my songs seem to sort of follow that path, you know. I think to actually sing and write about love is actually limitless. I'm a very loving person, you know.
Interviewer : Are you ?
Freddie: Oh, I put myself in that, haven't I ?
Interviewer : But on stage you give this impression that you're quite a formidable individual, Freddie !
Freddie: I am.
Interviewer : On stage or off ?
Freddie: That's just another part of me, that's my whole load, you know, that's me having to do my job and that's the other side of my character that comes across. I'm just very frivolous and I like to enjoy myself and what better way to do it than on stage in front of 300.000 people, you know, I just cook on stage, that's just my nature, that's not what I am like in real life, you know, my character is built up of all kinds of ingredients and this is one element of me, that on stage this is my job and I don't like to go on stage sitting on a stool and do a show, you know, I'm very volatile in that way and I like to actually put a song across in the way it is, it's all part of show-biz.
Interviewer : When you face an audience of some 300.000 people, do you get intimidated by the size of the crowd ?
Freddie: No, the bigger the better, in everything. I think everybody that wants to be successful and is successful, I mean you know, I don't care what they say, I mean they're not going to say 'Oh, I like playing...' I know there was a fashion, there was a trend earlier on a few years ago with the Punk movement and everybody said 'Oh, we want to play to the small audience 'cause we're being intimate' and all that rubbish : I mean everybody who want to be a star wants to play the biggest audiences and inside them, I'm not afraid to speak that out. Everybody wants to play the biggest audiences ever. I want to play to as many people as I can and the more the merrier, 'cause my music is not channeled into any category. I want everybody to listen to it. I don't write music just for Japanese or just the Germans, it's for everybody. Music is limitless, you know, and I'm not an elitist or whatever that says. I only want my songs to be heard by a certain intelligent quota, I just want everybody, 'cause music is for everybody, it's an international language and that's the way it is so as far as I'm concerned I'd like the whole world to listen to my music. I'd like anybody and everybody to come and listen to me and look at me when I'm playing.
Interviewer : How does it affect you when you know that you've won an audience that size ?
Freddie: I always win an audience.
Interviewer : So how are you affected then every night you play to a crowd ?
Freddie: Actually that's the part of my role. I have to win them over, otherwise it's not a successful gig. It's my job to make sure that I win them over and make them feel that they've had a good time. That's part of my role, that's part of my duty that I have to do. I mean this sort of clichè of saying 'Oh, you have them eating out of the palm of your hand', I just feel that the quicker I do that the better, because I feel I can manipulate them or whatever, but it's all to do with me feeling in control and so then I know that it's all going well. Is this doing well ?
Interviewer : Very well, great, but some of your songs like 'We are the champions' are being adopted as anthems at sports arenas and 'I want to break free' has become a political anthem in Brazil. Now are you surprised that they last that long ?
Freddie: Well, I'm a bit surprised, yes, because only from my point of view I just write songs I think should be basically... It's fodder. I told you that before, I just want them to listen. 'Cause I think songs are like, you know, they're like buying a new dress of shirt, you just wear it and then you discard it. I mean people always write new songs. I think, OK a certain few classics will always remain but as far as I'm concerned I write songs and I think, OK it's lovely to hear that we Are The Champions is a song that's been taken up by, you know, football fans 'cause that's a winners' song which keeps coming back, I can't believe that somebody else hasn't written a new song to take it over, you know, but for me it's just, I like to look upon it as writing new material, you know, what I've written in the past is finished and done with, OK if I hear it on the radio or people talk about it, I feel OK, that's great, but to me I'm thinking about what they are going to say about my new stuff. What are they going to say about my solo project, that's more interesting to me right now.
Interviewer : Are you affected by criticism ?
Freddie: Yes, of course, I mean you know, in terms of Press and things, I'm a very hated person, but I hate the press as well. So that goes both ways, but to me I think I've learned to live with it. I'd be a liar to say I'm not hurt by criticism because I mean everybody is, you know, of course I want everybody to say I'm wonderful and they like my songs, but I mean I don't mind actually a sort of genuine well thought out criticism, but I mean of course you're going to get... just... people review our Albums without even listening to them and things like that, but I mean that's the way of the world and before I used to get really mad and start tearing my hair out but now I don't have anymore sleepless nights, so just I learned to live with it. Let them all come.
Interviewer : What about 'Living on my own' ? That sounds very personal because you travel the world more or less in a gypsy style, don't you ?
Freddie: Well, that is 'Living on my own'. Yes, that's like... Basically if you listen to 'Living on my own' that is very me, it's living on my own but having fun. There's a bit in the middle where I do my scat singing and I'm just going... When you think about somebody like me, I mean my life-style, I mean I have to sort of go around the world and live in hotels and that can be very lonely but then... I look upon it and I don't want people to say 'Oh...' you know, I just say that's my life, it can be a very lonely life, but I mean I chose it and so, that song, it's not dealing with people who are living on their own in sort of basement flats, or things like that. It's my living on my own, and they are going to say 'Oh my God, how can he live on his own ?' But I mean, you can have a whole... a shoal of people you know looking after you, but you can be still living on your own because in the end they all go away and you live, you know, you live in a hotel on your own. And so basically what I've got to say is that I'm living on my own but I'm not complaining. I'm just saying I'm living on my own and I'm having a bogey time. Does that make sense, honey ?
Interviewer : It does, yes it does.
Freddie: It's a different kind of living on my own, but I'm just saying that people in my.. with my success can be lonely and can live on their own as well.
Interviewer : So how do you hold on to real friends ?
Freddie: I don't, I discard them. I don't have any real friends. I don't think I do. People tell me though they're my friends.
Interviewer : Don't you believe them ?
Freddie: No, no. Yes and no, I mean, I think what happens is when... I'm not afraid of them, but it is frightening, that's the difference. Sometimes when they get too close I think they seem to destroy me, I don't know, may be it's my nature or whatever. When they get too close they seem to tread all over me, and when I lay myself bare on the floor it just seems to be my downfall. Maybe that's my role in life and so I don't... Yea, I'm very skeptical in terms of that. I seem to be at this point in time I think, I seem to be... make fewer and fewer friends, but life goes on...
Interviewer : So do you live for today rather than for the future or...
Freddie: No, I live for tomorrow. Quite different too, fuck today, it's tomorrow. Oh, that's nice...
Interviewer : That must have been a controversial remark.
Freddie: Somebody didn't like what I've just said ? !
Interviewer : Shall we carry on ? In view of that, Freddie, surely there comes a time when you want to share your life with someone one day ?
Freddie: Yes, but nobody wants to share their life with me. Yes, I do, of course I do. But I think it's... not easy living with me and I think at maybe I'm trying too hard you know, something... Of course, I think about that and in one way I think the more mishaps I have the better the songs are going to be, you know. Once I find somebody, I can find a long lasting relationship, bong goes all the research for wonderful songs. At the end I'm sort of you know, I'm sort of living on past mishaps. Well, anyway having said that, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know what's in store for me.
Interviewer : So we can take it that your songs reflect the state of your life ?
Freddie: I think so, I think so, yes.
Interviewer : And that's why on your songs there is always quite a diverse selection of moods, isn't it ?
Freddie: Yes, it is because that's my character too, you know. How boring to just be, you know, to have just one side of your character coming across in everything you do, you know, I just gather information... I'm a man of extremes, you know, I sort of change from day to day like a chameleon and each day is different to me and I look forward to that, you know. I don't want to be the same person everyday and who knows ?, the way this Album has turned out it's just a whole spectrum of what my life is, to be honest. But I was not 'made in heaven'. A lightening bolt suddenly goes 'crack.
Interviewer : Do you think you're going to get to heaven ?
Freddie: No, I don't want to.
Interviewer : You don't want to ?
Freddie: No, hells much better. Look at the interesting people that you're going to meet down there. You're going to be there too, you know.
Interviewer : Another song 'My Love Is Dangerous' on the Album, is that a warning from you ?
Freddie: Not really, it's just... Well a bit yes. That something that I feel that maybe that's what my love is, you know. I haven't actually analyzed myself and said 'OK, my love is dangerous' I think after all these years I just feel I'm not a very good partner for anybody and I just think that's what my love is. I think my love is dangerous, who wants their love to be safe ? Can you image writing a song 'My love is safe' ? It would never sell.
Interviewer : You talk a lot about love on the Album.
Freddie: Yes, I know, I don't know why.
Interviewer : It obviously means a lot to you.
Freddie: I'm possessed by love, isn't everybody though ?
Interviewer : Yes, I suppose they are. Deep down there in spite of the tough fade you put on, are you a romantic at heart ?
Freddie: Well, I guess so, you know. Well i think, yes I just... I like writing songs about love, because I mean there's so much scope and also they have so much to do with me and you can talk about your kind of lover. It's something that maybe I'm striving for. I'm trying to say that I can be somebody's lover, you know, a good lover, that's another aspect of me too. I expect something different now, come on.
Interviewer : Why do you push yourself so hard ?
Freddie: I've nothing else to do.
Interviewer : Well, you have a very big house back in England that you haven't seen for a long, long time.
Freddie: Yea, I know, well one day I'll see it. When I'm old and grey and, not quite yet, and... that's something that I can say 'OK, when everything is finished' and you know, and I can't wear the same costumes and jig around on stage. Something to fall back on. That's just a house. In the meantime I like outraging people with my new music.
Interviewer : Do you think you could live without fame ?
Freddie: Quite easily. 'Cause I'd still be the same person, I'd still be the same person. My life-style doesn't suddenly stop because... I've always been like this, I've always been like this. Success does help, you know, and I just, you know, it makes easier to be outrageous or whatever. But I mean that doesn't stop me. If all my money ended tomorrow, I would still be the same person, I'd still go about the same way, like I had lots of money. That's what I used to do before. That's something inbred, that's part of me and I'll always, I'll always walk around like a Persian popping-jay and no one's going to stop me, honey.
Interviewer : But you live very extravagantly, that would be hard to do.
Freddie: I know. With or without money I seem to do it, you know. I'm a musical prostitute, dear. I do, I know that's the only way to do it. I like living life to the full, so... that's... that's something that'll always be... That's my nature, you know and just I'm not going to conform or sort of listen to people of how I should react. I do what I want to do. Nobody tells me what to do.
Interviewer : There's a lot of energy in you, Freddie, how do you relax ? Are there times when you can switch off ?
Freddie: Yes, sometimes I'll have to make my own cup of tea, that's a hard work. I can relax. I relax in ways most people can't understand. I can relax by actually just sleeping on a plane when I'm flying for 20 minutes, that's my relaxation. That's all I need. I don't need too much sleep. I don't, you know, I don't need tons of sleep, I can go with 3 or 4 hours sleep every night. That's enough for me. I recharge my batteries in that short a time and I'm up again.
Interviewer : As a songwriter do you ever have a fear that your inspiration may dry up ?
Freddie: No, people have actually... I know people actually talk to me about that because they think that you can dry up. I mean I know people have dried up. But I mean at the moment I just ... I think about that sometimes, I think maybe oh, one day I'm just not going to be able to write as well but I mean it hasn't happened so I mean what can I do I don't wake up every morning and say 'Oh look, have I dried up ?', you know. It's just at the moment I've been very prolific and you know, He's looking after me. So I'm OK, I'm not... No that doesn't worry me. It's just something I don't think about, you know, those things. Other people think about that and when it happens I'll... I'll.. It won't happen. That's all there is to it. I don't think it'll ever happen. I'll die first.
Interviewer : What made you want to go into music and become a rock star ?
Freddie: I don't know. I think I always liked to sing, I wanted to sing and I didn't look upon it as a career but I just, you know. When I was a little baby I was in the choir and things like that and I just, I liked to sing, I don't know, call it natural gift or whatever, you know, I'm not afraid to say it. It's just I like to sing and then I suddenly realized that I could actually write songs and then make my own music rather than before I would, you know, sort of copy Elvis Presley songs and things as I do, then I realized that I could actually write my own songs and do it my own way. Then suddenly, you know, there was a little taste of success so... Everybody wants to be a star, you know, in whatever way they all want to be successful, you know. You look at films where they all want to be a successful actress or actor. So you know, of course I never ever thought I was going to make a career of it. Suddenly I realized that this is the best thing I could do. And whenever it's interesting that's always what you really like doing, isn't it ?, so what I'm doing right now is what interests me and I'm very happy that people buy my records and they like me and the day they stop buying my records I'll go 'Buy some more', or give it all up.
Interviewer : What do you feel it is the hardest part of your role as an entertainer, as a singer ?
Freddie: Thinking of my next costume, what I'm going to wear, cause I've just about worn everything. No, I don't really know, I don't really know about that. At the moment I think it's quite easy, you know. I know most people think... Once you get into the niche and you get into... it's quite easy , you just keep... the hardest thing actually after all these years I have actually to maintain the level of success that you've achieved. That's the hardest thing. Because I think when you go all the way up the only place is to come down, so... that's the hardest thing. You know, how much higher you can go, and it's just... you have to find different things to do, and say OK, there's this little gap that's left, we have to sort of push ourselves in this direction and things like that. That's the hardest thing, the hardest thing is to maintain that level of success. When you first start up, cause you say 'oh !, I've done that, let's go there ?, so when you're climbing, you know the escalator is going up and once you go up there, it's sort of like you tread up, you keep treading at the top cause you don't want to go down. That's a hard thing.
Interviewer : Does the song-writing come easy, or how do you tackle that, Freddie ?
Freddie: Song-writing comes... The structure of the melody comes easy to me, it's the lyrical content that I find hard, cause I'm not a poet, I just like to write nice little catchy tunes that's basically what I like to do. In term of the lyrical content that's difficult. So I have to work on that part of it. The other side seems to come... it's easier for me to write a melody and a structure but in terms of the actual lyric I find that hard because I'm not a poet and I hate writing lyrics anyway. I wish somebody else could do it. I wish I had a Bernie Taupin. Mind you but I'm not like that, I like to do it all myself anyway. I'm a greedy bitch.
Interviewer : How do you like to be remembered in the music business ?
Freddie: Oh, I don't know, I just... I haven't thought about that. Dead and gone. No, I haven't thought about that. I don't really think about, my God, when I'm dead are they going to remember me ? I don't really think about it, it's up to them. When I'm dead, who cares ? I don't.