Brian May talks “Diableries” and Exhibition with Zoe Ball



 Brian May visited BBC Radio 2 studios and was a guest of Zoe Ball on her Breakfast Show at about 8.30am. They talked about the new Complete Edition of “Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell” book, published just in time for Halloween, and the spooky 3-D exhibition taking place Monday 28 October 2019 at The Century Club, Shaftesbury Avenue, London – from 11am-4pm – admission FREE. No need to book.


Brian May and Zoe Ball talk Diableries 25 October 2019


ZOE BALL: Well I’m not really a legend but I’ll tell you somebody who is. Step back and look out at the landscape of music over the last century when you see the real mountains, the true gents of the pop and rock world. Well, there is one band who stand out amongst the greats. Their name is Queen and our first guest this morning is their legendary guitarist and founder. Good morning and welcome back to the show Brian May.

BRIAN MAY: Good morning, Zoe. Good to be back.

ZOE: So we had a Queen megamix earlier on…

BRIAN: I keep hearing this… nuts … …

ZOE: People have gone crackers for it. Very funny moment where our producer, Graham, through the glass, …. it’s not, it’s not cool for me to air guitar in front of Brian, but you wouldn’t have minded would you, Brian?

BRIAN MAY: No, I don’t mind at all. I don’t matter.

ZOE: Fabulous. So you are here to talk about lots of things this morning but let’s start talking about this incredible exhibition that you’re doing especially for Halloween and it sort of involves as one of your, I guess, a hobby, a fascination. a lifelong passion that you have had. Tell me all, and our lovely listeners, all about the devilish Diableries.

BRIAN: Yeah, the Diableries go back to 1860 and it’s the beginning, it’s almost the beginning of stereoscopic photography but it’s the beginning of this strange kind of devilish culture if you like.

Now it sounds a bit weird but it’s actually fascinating because it has many levels to it. It starts off being rather serious and dark because people actually did believe in those days that if you were a bad boy you actually, or girl, you actually did go to Hell and you got tortured and whatever you know, so it starts off being quite serious but it quickly transformed and metamorphosed into something else. It became humorous, so you get devils playing around, skating on ponds and swimming and stuff you know, and doing weird things to each other. Yeah, but they can’t hurt each other because they are dead. The skeletons represent the departed souls but then it becomes very satirical as well and they’re taking the mickey out of the establishment you know, and the leaders of their day, much as we do today in cartoons in papers.

ZOE: Yeah, amazing. Well, of course, and if we talk about the actual … and what are the machines called that people use?

BRIAN: Well, it’s a stereoscope. It was the age of the stereoscope and I’ve brought it back into the 21st century if you like and we make stereoscopes now. I have a thing called The London Stereoscopic Company, which is the rebirth of the stereoscopic company which actually existed in Britain at the time and they boasted a million views in their shops in London. So it’s all kind of past history but now it’s very present because it’s still relevant, this stuff, so this is what I do. It’s one of the things I do. I

publish stereoscopic books and this is one of them. The “Diableries” book and it’s the first time that the complete collection of 187 I think it is, Diableries, ever have actually been in one book.

Now I published a few years ago and we weren’t able to find all the cards. They’re very rare, a lot of them, but over the years since we published I think, it’s 2014, we found one of the missing cards and 2018, finally, we found the last Diablerie. So to celebrate we’ve done a new edition of the book and this is what the exhibition is about. It’s about this is what happens in the land of Hell.

ZOE: Yeah… I mean I’m imagining you know this has been a lifelong passion for you. I think It’s like over 25 years for collecting all these cards and putting it all together, Brian, if I’m right was it quite emotional when those last cards came, you know, you found them?

BRIAN: It really was actually, yeah. Yeah, I’ve lived with it most of my life ever since I went to Portobello Road and found one of these amazing cards and looked at it for real in the stereoscope. I mean I wish, you know, it’s hard on radio to communicate, they communicate, what it actually is. It’s even hard on TV actually because these things are stereoscopic so you need the viewer to see them but also they’re wonderful things to hold because they’re tissues they’re beautifully photographed and printed on tissue paper and then they’re coloured on the back so when you hold it up to the light all the colours come through. It’s very magical and they prick the eyes and put little coloured gels – red gel -so the eyes glow at you. These things are really demonic.

ZOE: And this is, this is before anyone had … television and Netflix, you know. These are, this was entertainment back in and in the Victorian days.

BRIAN: That’s right. This is their TV and movies and Internet and everything else.

ZOE: Well there’s an exhibition to celebrate devilish Diableries, which is taking place at Soho’s Century Club in London, Monday the 28th of October. Brian, you’re gonna be there. People will be able to come and get their book signed but also there’s a film that goes with this, isn’t there? The Diableries film “One Night In Hell”, which has been put together by Jason Jameson and James Hall.

BRIAN: That’s right.

ZOE: You’ve done some special music for the film?

BRIAN: Yeah I went to Prague and recorded with the Symphony Orchestra there and we did a special version of the “1812”, which is kind of fused with ‘We Will Rock You’ in a strange way. Don’t know how that happened, but it’s never been on radio so if you want to play it…

ZOE: Yes. Can we play it? We’ll play it for you now Brian May so this is like from “One Night In Hell”. Thank you, Brian.


ZOE: How good is that? How good is that? Brian May ‘We Will Rock You’ with the Tchaikovsky mixed in as well. That is huge. It’s dramatic and it is taken from the film “One Night In Hell” and you can see all of this going on at the Soho Century Club in London.

Century Club Exhibition