2 April 2016 by Fiona Hicks
Stereoscopy, music, astronomy, animals… is there a subject the legendary Queen guitarist Brian May hasn’t mastered? We caught up about his latest project, a book about the humble crinoline.
“Everybody seems to think I’m a rock star,” says Brian May, chuckling. “It comes at me in odd ways. I was at dinner with my daughter the other day and having some trouble deciding what to eat. She said, ‘Dad, you’re a rock star, you can have whatever you want.’ I take it all with a pinch of salt, to be honest.”
Brian with a Crinoline, and his new book
Softly spoken, thoughtful and unfailingly humble, it’s true that Brian the man can be hard to reconcile with Brian May the icon. And yet an icon he is: consistently voted one of the world’s best guitarists, he was a founding member of Queen, has toured the world for the past four decades and sold upwards of 200 million records. Throughout, of course, he’s also maintained the same iconic hair.
However, as a self-confessed “person of too many passions”, you could argue that the rock-star moniker actually undersells Brian. His latest venture is certainly an atypical side project for a musician.
Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster is a beautiful tome released in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear Fashion” exhibition.
“Everybody seems to think I’m a rock star… I take it all with a pinch of salt.”
It’s his fourth published work of this nature and an outlet for one of Brian’s many esoteric interests – stereoscopy, a type of 3D photography that was popular in the Victorian era.
“Stereo photography goes right back to my childhood,” says Brian enthusiastically. “When I was about 11 years old, you would get toys in cereal packets – it’s a great shame that kids don’t have that pleasure today – and in Weetabix packets they gave away little stereo cards. I sent off my one and sixpence to get the viewer, and it arrived in the post. I put my card in the view and suddenly, I remember it so well…
“I felt like I could walk through the window and touch the picture of the hippopotamus. I thought, Why do people insist on having flat pictures when you can take pictures that have real depth? The magic and joy of that stayed with me all my life.”
Such is his enthusiasm for the medium that he carried a stereo camera all throughout the Queen tours – and he hints that he’ll soon be producing a Queen-in-3D book, “hopefully by Christmas”.
Brian is also a keen campaigner for animal welfare issues
When he’s not gazing at stereo photos, Brian can also be found lecturing on astronomy. In another unconventional move, at the age of 59 he went back to complete a PhD that he’d started almost 40 years previously.
“It was very tough, I have to say,” claims Brian. “All my notes from the old days were handwritten, so I started by typing all of them into my laptop. I had to clear the decks for a year – I didn’t do anything except work on that thesis.”
The result was “A Survey of Radical Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud”. It’s all very impressive—but it rather seems Brian, or Dr May as he’s now officially titled, never stops. What on earth (or beyond) drives him?
“I don’t know what it is,” he laughs.Read the full interview in the April edition of Reader’s Digest magazine