Brian May News 24 phone Interview from La Palma 24 July 2007
News 24 Presenters Joanna Gosling and Matt Frei, spoke to Brian, on telephone from La Palma, Canary Islands.
BRIAN MAY INTERVIEW
BBC NEWS 24
Tuesday 24 July 2007 – shortly before 9.00pm GMT
Brian May on phone from Observatory of the Roque de Los Muchacho, La Palma.
MATT FREI: You might not know this, but guitarist, Brian May, from the legendary rock band, Queen, was actually destined to a career in astronomy.
JOANNA GOSLING: (female preenter) Thirty-six years ago he packed in his studies at Imperial College, London, telling his tutors he was joining a band. Well it went on from strength to strength of course, but his career in astronomy was put on hold until now. He’s gone back to the thesis and he joins us now on the line from an observatory in La Palma in the Canary Islands.
Good evening to you.
BRIAN MAY: Good evening.
JG: Why’ve you decided to go back to it after so long?
BM: Ah… with a kind of calling. I think you have to go where your heart tells you and it’s a combination of circumstances really. It was always in my mind. It was unfinished business, all that work that I did from 1970 to 1974 and I packed it all away into suitcases and it’s been sitting there ever since. Finally I had the opportunity to get it all out and neaten it all up and finish it, and I’ve spent since last September doing that. I had to drop everything else for it. It was actually a pretty tough project.
MF: And did you, waited for 36 years. Now, that’s a long time. Did you find it difficult to get back to that kind of academic discipline?
BM: It was – in the beginning – yes. I’ve had the help of some great friends, and Michael Rowan-Robinson, the Head of Astrophysics at Imperial College has been fantastic. He’s been very tough on me but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy ride. I didn’t want an Honorary PhD. I wanted the real thing, which I worked for. So yeah, I had to really – really, really focus down and it’s a joy though. It’s been a lot of pleasure to me.
MF: Do you find it more rewarding than music?
BM: No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s just very different and I enjoy having different facets to my life. In fact one really refreshes the other, I find. It’s nice to exercise your brain in different ways.
JG: So no regrets then for dropping the astronomy in the first place to go into Queen?
BM: No. I’m sure it was the right decision. I always used to say in answer to that question, that astronomy benefited from the fact that I took up music. (All laugh)
MF: You could’ve been a really famous astronomer.
BM: (BM laughs) Well you know, it’s funny, I think, my conclusion is that you have to take big steps, not small steps, ‘cos if I hadn’t wholeheartedly plunged into music and made a success of that, then I am sure I wouldn’t be here now.
JG: So what are you gonna do now? How much time will you continue to dedicate to astronomy? Will you still have time for music?
BM: Oh yeah. I’ll still have time for music, yeah. I’m not sure how it’s gonna pan out in terms of time. I really did go for it the last few months and I haven’t done much music recently, but we’re in the studio with Paul Rodgers in October, pretty intensively for a month or so, so I’ll be heavily back into it. I’m also doing music for the astronomy world, because I’m planning a concert out here in La Palma for the inauguration of the biggest, what will be the biggest telescope in the world, so I’m writing music for that and we’ll be performing. I don’t know quite who ‘we’ is, but it’s in the planning stage at the moment.
PJG: Oh, right. Well it’s good to talk to you and I look forward to talking to an astronomy story coming up and we can interview you as an Astronomer… (Brian chuckle)… but Brian May, it’s good to talk to you tonight. Thanks…
Transcript by Jen Tunney.