Brian May and Kerry Ellis interview Weekend Wogan 02082015
– and full programme on BBC iPlayer till 31 Aug 2015
Dr Brian May & Kerry Ellis perform live on Weekend Wogan – 2 August 2015
I Who Have Nothing
TRANSCRIPT by Jen Tunney
E&OE (some parts indistinct)
TERRY WOGAN: Anyway, welcome, and I’m very glad of your company. I need you to lean on.
Fabulous to see top matchmakers Bryant and May on today and they’re going to be singing ‘If I were a Rich Man’ from “Fiddler on the Roof”. Look stop it, I mean Queen – it’s master musician Brian May and soaring soprano, Kerry Ellis. A musical treat indeed.
I’m thrilled to say that I have some very distinguished musical guests, even as we speak, sitting very close to me and “Bamboozled” says “Lovely to see top West end star Jessica Ennis on your heptathlon today. Can you ask her to sing the Ring of Kerry, no, this is being deliberately obtuse. (Kerry laughing) Who have you gotten on your show today. who’ve you invited to play? Oh go on tell us is it Kerry Ellis and guitar master, Brian May? Surely is.
BRIAN MAY: Maybe.
TERRY: Oh yeah. How nice to see you both again.
BRIAN MAY: And to see you Terry, very good.
TERRY: The last time we were together I think was in, in the Union Chapel.
BRIAN: In the bitter cold.
TERRY: In the bitter cold. It’s nice and warm here in fact, not really. It’s the fact that it’s the size of a matchbox. There’s about 20 people in here.
KERRY ELLIS: (laughing) Amazing.
TERRY: Tell us all. Hold nothing back. This ‘One Voice’, this new single, what’s that about?
BRIAN: Well, it was brought to me actually. It was written by Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys and The Wailin’ Jennys are an American country band, but the song really got to me ‘cos it’s about using your voice and if you use your voice and you combine with someone else who’s not afraid to use their voice, then eventually it adds up to something great and actually and it, to me, it was absolutely perfect for the run-up to the election ‘cos so many people were saying, “Oh, don’t let’s bother to vote”, you know, and it was saying “You have a voice, use it.” So we – Kerry and I did a version of it, which I’m very proud of actually and we put it out as a kind of anthem for that, which was great, but it actually meant at the time that no one was allowed to play it on the radio ‘cos it was viewed as a political song, though it wasn’t really. It was like politically neutral in a sense, but yeah, love the song. We’re not gonna play that for you right now, are we?
TERRY: No you’re not, ‘cos you’ve suddenly decided you’re not gonna bother playing it. (laughter)
BRIAN: But we will play it later on.
TERRY: You are always difficult, Brian.
BRIAN: Oh yes.
KERRY: But we could sing “Happy Birthday: to you, though.
TERRY: No don’t.
KERRY: Isn’t it your birthday tomorrow?
BRIAN: We heard a rumour.
TERRY: I’m trying to keep that a well-kept secret. (Reads): A little bird told me it’s your birthday tomorrow. How fortuitous was that, says this letter. A reminder to put my sprouts on in time for Christmas. I turned out to be good for something in the end. (laughter) So it’s it’s been a few years since you met. Ten years ago isn’t it?
KERRY: Even longer, isn’t it.
BRIAN: Twelve or thirteen years since Kerry went into “We Will Rock You” and created the part of “Meat”. Yes we’ d done a lot of stuff over the years. Of course we’re both fairly busy so we don’t get THAT many windows.
TERRY: Have you had a lot of satisfaction watching Kerry’s career grow?
BRIAN: Yeah, I mean, it was meant to be. She’s an amazing performer, amazing. I mean I think unique, and yes, it was meant to be. She’s now getting some recognition.
TERRY: And have you, Kerry, watched his career grow? KERRY: Absolutely. (laughing)
TERRY: And are you pleased with it?
KERRY: He’s doing very well.
TERRY: He is doing well. KERRY: He has a lot of promise… fabulous. Yeah, ‘course I’m proud.
TERRY: Do enough people call you “Doctor”?
BRIAN: Not enough, I find. Not enough really. You work so damn hard to get to be a doctor, you do not want to be called “Mister”.
TERRY: Excuse me, a PhD in Astrophysics! You should be called Doctor.
BRIAN: Well I think so too. People saying, you know, “I’ve got a terrible problem with me knee, Dr May”, you know – it all becomes pear-shaped at that point.
TERRY: Yeah. Now you starred in a variety of West-end shows obviously, and then you decided to lower your sights and accompany Brian. (laughter)
KERRY: Well, yeah, I mean, kinda if our careers or my musical career has kind of run alongside the music I’ve been doing with Brian, so I kind of had this parallel career and I’ve been doing just a bit more of that in the last few years, which I love.
TERRY: And you met at a performance of “My Fair Lady”?
KERRY: We did.
BRIAN: Yeah I went to see…
KERRY: We didn’t meet, though. Brian came in to see the show and I didn’t actually know that he was in the audience until after and then I got… TERRY: Well he’s hard to see in the audience – to pick out. KERRY: I know. I should’ve known, shouldn’t I. And then he asked me to audition for “We Will Rock You”, which I did, seven times. (laughs)
TERRY: And did you eventually pass?
KERRY: I did.
BRIAN: Exactly. I don’t remember this seven times – I don’t think I was there.
TERRY: It’s funny the things people resentfully remember.
KERRY: Fourteen years later….
TERRY: Now you gonna sing two songs for us. We thought first of all it’d be a good idea if you did “I Who Have Nothing”, which is really a magnificent song.
KERRY: Thank you.
BRIAN: It’s a wonderful song. It started… it is an Italian song in the beginning and was adapted to be an English song and that’s how we came to it, ‘cos we do a lot of stuff in Italy. But a very dramatic song and we do it absolutely plain, simple, cut down, so every word and every syllable and every ‘uh’ and ‘ah’ comes across to you, I think, so this is how we do it. TERRY: Do you mind if I lie down?
TERRY: It might be a bit emotional for you…
<SINGS/PLAYS: “I Who Have Nothing>
TERRY: Do you mind if I continue lying down? (laughing) That was sensational. Beautifully played, beautifully sung. We’d expect nothing less from both of you, and oh, there’s someone coming behind you… Somebody’s stealing your guitar.
BRIAN: It tunes rather differently for the next one.
TERRY: Oh I see. Well we have a treat in store, ‘cos there’s going to be ‘One Voice’. But let’s go back because in 2008 the pair of you sung at the Royal Variety Performance. Do you remember that?
BRIAN: Yes I do. It was quite traumatic.
TERRY: Was it?
BRIAN: Well we did it totally live which is actually quite rare.
TERRY: You’e just done this live. It was only the radio, of course.
BRIAN: Yes it was at that point quite a stretch really and we had a wonderful young drummer. It was his first public appearance really. It was Roger’s son, Rufus, who’s amazing drummer but he was petrified.
KERRY: He was like 17 at the time wasn’t he? I think 17, 18.
BRIAN: Yeah, amazing. He went on an absolutely killed it.
TERRY: And then another little signpost in 2013 – your live album, “Acoustic by Candlelight”.
BRIAN: Indeed. Yeah, we discovered – we were doing lot of big stuff with big orchestras in big bands and stuff and then in working on songs in the studio we generally started off just with an acoustic guitar and voice, sort of mapping them out – and we discovered we like them that way ‘cos they seem to come across very strong, like the song we just did. It’s so pure. There’s so little going on that the song really comes, comes forth in a very clear way, I think. So we decided to take it out on the road and it was a very nice experience. We we very intimate with it, with the audience – and we had candles…
KERRY: And video screen.
BRIAN: Video to show some, to make some points and we were actually doing it for Born Free as well, so that was a nice element to it of animals and because we both do a lot of work for to try to, you know, give animals a voice. So the whole thing came together and it was the acoustic by candlelight Born Free Tour, I guess.
TERRY: Yeah, I remember, yeah. That was when you came on the Union Chapel.
TERRY: We’ll be seeing you – will you flee Brian and get back on the stage.
KERRY: Well I was recently, I did a little stint in “Cats”. I took over the lovely Nicole Scherzinger, and I did a quick stint in that, which was fabulous, and I dropped back into “Wicked” for three months quite recently as well so, yeah, it’s kinda nice to drop back in when, when they need me, but I’m loving doing this.
TERRY: In the end you come fleeing to Brian
KERRY: I do, I do. I really enjoy this ‘cos we get to be expressive. I get to be myself and and it’s just really enjoyable and I absolutely love it .
TERRY: Can I just ask Brian, where did you get the t-shirt, that says “GEEK”?
BRIAN: It came from NASA, you know. T his is a sort of spoof on NASA and the guys, I guess, it’s a way of sending themselves up, instead of, you know, you have the blue thing with with the orbiter…
TERRY: Yes of course.
BRIAN: … instead of saying “NASA” it says “GEEK”. It just tickled me pink and I thought it was funny. I just spent some time with the New Horizons guys, who sent the probe to Pluto, and it was just magnificent, fantastic fun. Course they’re all rock stars these days – all these astronomers and astrophysicists all play guitars, so we had a brilliant time in Laurel, Maryland.
TERRY: Do you still take an interest? Obviously you do in Astrophysics.
BRIAN: I do a lot, yes, and was great they invited me. I was quite shocked, actually, but they invited me as a sort of collaborator, which is great, and I was able to put together the first ever stereoscopic picture of Pluto. See when we were kids it was a dot in the sky and nobody had any idea what it looked like. Suddenly you have these wonderful images coming back from the New Horizons probe as it scuds past it at 31,000 miles an hour, and I was there when these images came in, and was able to put a couple together. So it was real thrill for me.
TERRY: And now we’ve got a matching planet some 25 million light years away.
BRIAN: They keep saying this. I don’t think is really a matching planet. You know, everybody jumps on these things. “Ah, there might be life there”, but, you know, so far no, … we don’t really see it.
TERRY: Do you think we’re alone in the Universe?
BRIAN: You know, I’m probably gonna be very unpopular for saying this. I think is possible that we are alone. I think it’s possible that the life event was a one-off and there’s this thing called “The Drake Equation”, which has all different components to it – the probabilities of things happening – but one other probabilities is actually a molecule of DNA spontaneously creating itself, and that’s a very very very low probability thing. So nobody knows. Yes, there’s billions and billions of stars in the galaxy; probably billions planets, but nobody really knows for sure.
TERRY: So we don’t know if ET will phone home.
BRIAN: Oh, there might be another Terry Wogan in another…
BRIAN: We don’t know this. “We just don’t know”, as Patrick would say.
TERRY: We might be very lucky. I wouldn’t be a doppelganger. So tell us – ‘One Voice’, you’re going to do this for us next. It’s gonna be a new single?
BRIAN: Yeah, it’s a single. We love it and I think the song’s rather beautifully put together. It starts off with once voice, then two voices to show what happens when two voices sing together, then three voices in harmony, which is something special,
TERRY: Hang on…
BRIAN: … then it’s all of us.
TERRY: … we’re surrounded.
BRIAN: We brought this enormous choir.
BRIAN: And it’s about using your voice and your voice can be heard. Your voice can make a difference.
TERRY: Who are our choristers here?
(IN BACKGROUND – indistinct: Emily, Anna, Jay…(?)
TERRY: We look forward to hearing it – you’ll be great. And on the keyboards
BRIAN: Mr Jeff Leach, who is an absolute genius.
TERRY: Hidden in a corner of this huge studio. BRIAN: We rescued him from “Strictly Come Dancing”.
TERRY: (Laughing) Everybody needs to be rescued. ‘One Voice’ it is then.
BRIAN: (in background) Do you know how to play this thing?
<SINGS/PLAYS ‘ONE VOICE’ with choir>
TERRY: That was lovely – really lovely.
<IN BACKGROUND: Hurrah.> Clapping
TERRY: Kerry Ellis, Brian May, assembled choristers, pianist, everybody – thank you.
KERRY: Thank you very much.
TERRY: That was terrific.