Brian May and Kerry Ellis spoke by phone to Danny Pike [BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey] ahead of their Candlelight Concert tour commencing February 2014.
A number of subjects covered: what to expect at the shows, how their collaboration works, Brian’s work with animals and friendship with Patrick Moore. Also the Magic Tour and Freddie, plus Brian’s current studio work on forgotten Queen tracks with Roger Taylor, and trying not to give too much away !!
Brian and Kerry Danny Pike BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey 270101014 (rec 2301214)
TRANSCRIPT : Extract
by Jen Tunney
And so legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, who lives in Surrey, and singing sensation, Kerry Ellis, are going to perform together once again in a brand new show this February. Candlelight concerts will see Brian and Kerry perform stripped down versions of Queen classics alongside a number of their personal favourite songs – and their coming to the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne on February 25th. So I spoke to Brian May and Kerry Ellis and asked how this collaboration started….
BRIAN MAY: It goes back a long way to the very beginning of We Will Rock You and Kerry created the role of Meat in We Will Rock You and was there for two years and during that time we started recordings tentatively to see what we could do, and it just went from there. We’ve both been ridiculously busy along the way of course, but we just grabbed odd bits of studio time and eventually we got out on tour doing the Anthems tour which was 19…
KERRY ELLIS: 2010 I think
BRIAN: B****y Hell. (laughs)
DANNY: Not as long ago as you actually thought.
BRIAN: No – and we’ve done a lot of shows together and travelled the world a bit, I must say… South Africa, we did stuff for Born Free, and it’s continued and we like doing it, so we’re doing a few more concerts. These are the intimate concerts. These are the ones where we’re very close to the audience, and we tell stories and we sing songs and it’s very kind of stripped down, which we enjoy.
DANNY: And which really kind of exposes your qualities to people – your guitar playing, Brian – Kerry, your voice.
BRIAN: Exactly, yes. It’s very uncluttered. It’s very simple and the songs are incredibly dramatic when we do them this way and we love it. We make a bit of noise at the end of the show, but a lot of it’s acoustic and very moving I think.
DANNY: We’ll play an example of your work together in a couple of moments, but Kerry, I suppose, working with Brian, were you inhibited by not really kind of having, I dunno, I mean Queen started in the mid-70s and for a lot of us we grew up with their music and it’s always been part of our lives. You, being a bit younger than the rest of us, I don’t know whether….
KERRY: I’m not that much younger (laughs)
KERRY: You’re probably asking if I was daunted to work with Brian.
DANNY: In a round about way.
KERRY: I wasn’t really daunted as such, was more excited about it, and I think going in for We Will Rock You it was something, you know, I’ve done theatre my whole life so I was very confident in that, and getting to sing in front of them was more of a privilege than fearful, and … we’ve been working together 12 years on and off now, so now it’s you know, it’s just a pleasure and a joy. We know each other very well in the way that we perform and it’s just fun. We have great fun and it’s something special I think.
DANNY: I’m trying to dissect that chemistry though, because I mean, you, as a performer could have been in the show, you know, got the audition, done the show, gone off to do something else and the two of your paths may never have crossed again, so what was it about Kerry’s voice, or the way she sings… what is it, Brian, that meant the two of you decided to work more together?
BRIAN: Well it’s me really, I think, you know, I was always looking for that voice. I mean, I worked with Freddie all those years and to me music is all about songs and singers and, you know, the guitar playing is great, which I love it as you know, but to me that’s what it’s about. What affects people is a song and a singer and the way it’s put across – the production, the arrangement and whatever, so I needed someone. I can’t do that on my own. Actually I did try for a while. I went out and sang for two whole tours but I actually prefer to work with a singer and that’s when the magic happens. And I just heard in Kerry a voice which is completely magical and she has a way of interpretting which is all her own, so for me to bounce off that is incredibly rewarding.
DANNY: Is that perhaps the unique thing about the voice – it’s something you’ve either got, or you haven’t, ’cause I mean, most people can pick up the guitar – I can play a few chords terribly badly – but I mean, if you pluck the right strings at the right time you can get a tune out of it? That’s not necessarily the case with the voice. Maybe you can sing a tune but it might be really harsh on the ears and horrible and nobody would pay to listen to it.
KERRY: Everybody has their cannon and that’s why Brian is who he is. I sing and what’s interesting about the show we do together is that it is very stripped back is very exposing, but we both, you know, we’re doing what we love doing and it’s the essence of what we do, Brian plays and I sing and it’s something just very special.
DANNY: Okay, let’s here you two in action. I’m gonna play “Dust In The Wind”, a song I’m not familiar with. You introduce it on the Brian, but tell us a little bit more about it before we play the thing.
DANNY PIKE: I didn’t know you had the rescue centre in Surrey, actually. That’s something else I’ve learned today.
ON NEW MUSIC
It’s also where you record your music, isn’t it Brian?
BRIAN MAY: Yup, that’s right.
DANNY: You’ve got some recorded material that you’re putting down at the moment. What are you working on in terms of music to release.
BRIAN: Well, we’re always, Kerry and I, are always working in odd moments so we have a few tracks which will be ready for the next album, when that comes up, hopefully. At the moment I have Queen on the boards and Roger was down there just last night (22 Jan 2014) and we’re looking at some tracks which we found, miraculously. We thought there were none left, but we have a track which we were working on last night – in fact, a couple – in fact – three. (Brian and Kerry laugh)
DANNY: It’s gradually coming out. Really, so when were these recorded?
BRIAN: The track I was working on last night was about 1983. It is incredible and it sounds just as if it was recorded yesterday. Freddie’s there as large as life, having a lot of fun, being very cheeky, and we’re all playing as a band, the four of us. It’s wonderful, you know, and obviously it wasn’t finished so you have to work a bit of magic on it, but you can do that these days, you know. We’re quite used to working with ProTools and weaving spells around what fragments we can find. Now this is a big fragment. This is a big archaeological find, so we’re having a lot of fun with it.
DANNY: So this would have been an old sort of one of those thick, what are they, 24-track tapes or something? One of those, is it?
BRIAN: That’s right. It was a 24-track, yep.
DANNY: And where was it found?
BRIAN: Umm….. DANNY: I don’t know how much you want to say about it now .(Brian and Kerry laugh) In case it all true.
BRIAN: In a dusty attic somewhere, I think. (jokingly)
BRIAN: It just was there, you know, and we all forgot, I guess, you know, and suddenly it’s … and… it’s lovely. It’s a song which I wrote and….
DANNY: What’s it called?
BRIAN: Ah, I see… (all laugh and talk at once) … fell for that one…
DANNY: I can’t help but be intrigued by it. I’ve got to ask these things. I can understand you not wanting to give us everything right now.
BRIAN: Yeah. The great thing is, it’s not been leaked. Everything these days is leaked on the bloomin’ internet, and this hasn’t. It’s there and nobody has heard this, which really excites me, you know, and we can work on it nice and peacefully and carefully, and then when we’re ready, we’ll put it out, and I think people are gonna love hearing this stuff.
DANNY: Wow. So that was ’83, that would be around the time there was so much other sort of music around. Thriller was out. Paul Young was around. Which Queen album was out around that time? BRIAN: You see you’re fishing too much. (all laugh)
DANNY: I’m just trying to place in my mind what else it would have been around, so how it might sound.
BRIAN: We were making I think what became the…. “The Works” album. Is that right? I think we were in…
DANNY: That was Hammer To Fall, I Want To Break Free and all of that which came out in what, ’84?
BRIAN: Now you’re stuffed, aren’t you. i’m on dangerous territory here. (Kerry laughs)
DANNY: I’m looking to you to correct me on all this stuff.
BRIAN: You’re right.
DANNY: Okay, so,… … so that kind of sound we’re talking about.
DANNY: From where you were then. Oh, okay, we’ll leave it at that. Can’t wait to hear that.